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Sex, Drugs and Acupuncture

By Sara Calabro

That’s not the little blue pill up there. It’s a stand in, since I didn’t have any Viagra in the house.

But a lot of people do have Viagra in the house. The New York Times recently reported that sales of erectile-dysfunction drugs reached $5 billion last year. And usage of ED medications, already up 6.9 percent in 2010, is poised to grow even more—Viagra loses patent protection in 2012, making way for lower-cost generics that will eliminate price as an access barrier.

ED drugs are popular for the same reason they’re problematic. Keep reading

The Heart of Insomnia

By Sara Calabro

Sleep matters, and yet so many of us struggle to get it. Insomnia is rampant throughout society, leaving many people fatigued and cognitively impaired throughout the day or dependent on sleep medications.

Fortunately, there seems to be a growing recognition that insomnia stems from an underlying imbalance that is impervious to Ambien.

Acupuncture, along with behavioral therapy, is gaining popularity as a non-prescription treatment for insomnia. People crave a natural night’s sleep, making insomnia one of the most common complaints seen by acupuncturists. Keep reading

Allergies Have Sprung

By Britta Van Dun

Spring is here: Seeds are sprouting; bare branches are starting to show buds; the earth is warming. There is a thrill in the air, perhaps even a lightness to your step.

Spring brings revitalization and new beginnings. It also brings allergies.

For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, spring can feel like a disheartening blur of symptoms: runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, headaches, fatigue, difficulty breathing, and coughing. Allergic rhinitis, an inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages, may lead to sinus infections or sinusitis. Many people don’t know that seasonal allergies also can exacerbate depression, digestive issues, and joint pain.

Rather than temporarily alleviating these symptoms the way allergy medications do, acupuncture addresses the underlying imbalance that’s causing symptoms in the first place—allowing you to enjoy the outdoors all season long. Keep reading

Blood Pressure Beyond Numbers

By Sara Calabro

For people who are concerned about blood pressure, it’s been a confusing month.

First, an analysis suggested that even people with normal blood pressure could benefit from taking antihypertensive drugs. Then, less than a week later, a separate analysis showed that “normal” may be higher than was previously thought. Finally, a report debunked the theory that body shape—whether someone is an “apple” or “pear” type—can increase heart-disease risk, a key factor in determining eligibility for blood-pressure meds.

The further we dig into medical research, the less cut-and-dried things seem. These recent findings on blood pressure do little to help people determine the risk-benefit ratio of going on medication—if anything, they muddle the picture even more.

The only thing that emerges clearly is the need for a broader perspective on hypertension, one that asks why blood pressure is high in the first place. Acupuncture achieves this by looking beyond the numbers to remedy the underlying imbalance. Keep reading

The Lupus Puzzle

By Sara Calabro

The FDA last week approved the first new drug for lupus in over 50 years.

This is potentially great news for lupus patients, who have not seen an effective treatment advance since steroids and an antimalarial drug were cleared for the disease in 1955.

However, the time it took to get even this far—the new drug, Benlysta, has many imperfections—highlights the inherent challenge of treating chronic, systemic diseases within the biomedical paradigm. Keep reading

Environmental Awareness

By Sara Calabro

Researchers from Belgium and Switzerland recently looked at the relationship between environment and disease. They found that air pollution is just as likely as widely known risk factors, such as physical exertion and alcohol consumption, to trigger a heart attack.

Reporting on the findings, TIME said, “The study raises interesting questions about widening the focus on heart attack triggers—away from a narrow consideration of individual risk factors, which are certainly important, to include more universal ones.”

This is not news to acupuncturists. Keep reading

Mind-Body Split Fatigue

By Sara Calabro

Study findings released last week are intensifying the debate over the relationship between emotions and physical health. The new research found that psychotherapy and exercise can “moderately improve outcomes” for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

This is a feather in the cap for people who think CFS is a stress-related, psychological condition. It’s a blow to patients who are awaiting confirmation that CFS is viral in nature, potentially treatable with antiretroviral drugs. And it highlights the ever-growing need for therapies like acupuncture, which are premised on the dynamic interplay between emotions and physical health, to become better understood and more accessible. Keep reading

Hormone Regulation Therapy

By Sara Calabro

HRT is hormone replacement therapy. Acupuncture is hormone regulation therapy—which, in light of last week’s health headlines, is clearly a better option for treating menopause symptoms.

Big news came out of the U.K., where a large study of over one million postmenopausal women took place. The findings, reported on Friday, show that women who took HRT in the early stages of menopause were at higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who took it five or more years after menopause began.

This is a big deal because popular belief was that younger women who began HRT earlier into menopause had little risk of developing side effects. In other words, the women who were thought to be at the lowest risk were found to be at the highest. Keep reading

Think Twice Before IBS Antibiotic

By Sara Calabro

What does irritable bowel syndrome have in common with ear infections and sore throats? All three now represent tempting opportunities for doctors to unnecessarily—and often dangerously—put people on antibiotics.

New research, published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine, shows that a two-week course of antibiotics helped IBS symptoms in 41 percent of patients. Although the findings are neither impressive (30 percent got better with placebo), comprehensive (patients with constipation were not included), nor unbiased (the studies were sponsored by Salix Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s maker), they provide doctors, finally, with something to offer patients.

IBS has proven especially tough for mainstream medicine to gets its arms around. Stress is known to play a significant role, leading many doctors to prescribe anxiety or depression drugs, but a clear physiological explanation remains elusive within biomedical parameters.

Acupuncture, because it considers the interdependent relationships of anatomical structures and how they’re affected by emotional and environmental factors, is a more sensible approach than medication for IBS. Keep reading

Seasonal Affective Not a Disorder

By Sara Calabro

Holidays, whether fun or stressful, are nothing if not distracting. With them now past, people may notice the return of emotional symptoms that surfaced just before the holiday season began. The biomedical community calls this SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, a condition that describes mood shifts associated with changing seasons.

Acupuncturists call it normal. Keep reading