Acupuncture and Incontinence

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

Urinary incontinence can be surprising, inconvenient, and embarrassing.  From leakage due to coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting to sudden urges to urinate followed by involuntary loss of urine, over 25 million adult Americans and 200 million people worldwide suffer from some form of urinary incontinence.  75-80% of those who suffer are women.

Acupuncture can safely and effectively treat this condition.  Several recent clinical trials show that acupuncture can help reduce both leakage and frequency of urges at least as effectively as some conventional medicines.

Urinary incontinence occurs when urine unintentionally leaks from the urethra. The two most common types of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

  • Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a type of urinary incontinence that occurs during physical activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting. Stress urinary incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence affecting women.
  • Urge urinary incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine caused by a sudden urge to urinate. The etiology of the urinary urgency that causes urge incontinence is not known. Some believe that it could be related to peripheral nerves, as well as the central nervous system, which would cause muscle hypersensitivity and the reduced effectiveness of smooth muscle relaxation.

Possible Causes include:

  • Stretched pelvic muscles during pregnancy and childbirth
  • Diabetes, especially gestational diabetes
  • Low estrogen levels in women
  • Enlarged prostate in men
  • Medication side effects
  • Chronic or recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Constipation
  • Being overweight
  • Diseases that damage nerve pathways from the bladder to the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or multiple sclerosis
  • Weakened muscles that control urination, such as urethral sphincter and pelvic floor muscles
  • Hip dysfunction and prior hip surgery

Conventional Treatment:

Currently, conventional treatment includes pelvic exercises (i.e. Kegels) for mild symptoms, which help to strengthen pelvic muscles and sphincter muscles at the neck of the bladder. Pharmaceutical medications are also used as a treatment modality.

Chinese Medicine Diagnosis and Treatment:

Chinese Medicine looks at the majority of incontinence conditions as Spleen-Kidney Yang deficiency.  The main goal of treatment would be to fortify the Spleen and tonify the Spleen Qi, tonify the Kidneys and invigorate the Yang. As we age, our Kidney and Spleen Qi get weaker.  This causes our body to become weaker which results in an inability to hold.  Examples other than incontinence would include wrinkly skin, sagging muscles, and increasing risks of a hernia.  Incontinence related to conditions such as diabetes and UTIs may present different patterns and are treated according to their presenting pattern.

Other things that you can do on your own to help:

  • Eat cranberries and blueberries because they contain substances that keep bacteria from sticking to the bladder in the case of urinary tract infections. However, some people with overactive bladder may find that cranberries irritate their bladder because of the acidic nature.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and tobacco.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Not drinking enough water can irritate the bladder and make incontinence worse. So, thinking that avoiding your water intake would help is definitely not the way to go.
  • Some foods may make urge incontinence worse for some people, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, caffeine, and carbonated sodas.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.

Acupuncture is a technique used by practitioners of Chinese medicine where hair-thin needles are strategically inserted just under the skin to promote the flow of Qi throughout the body.  Under the regular care of a licensed acupuncturist, you can expect to increase energy, calm your moods, fight off illness more efficiently, sleep more regularly, reduce cravings(food, drugs, and alcohol), digest your food more efficiently, and gain an overall balance in your body, mind, and spirit.  Regular care is typically one to three acupuncture treatments per week depending on the severity of your symptoms.

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH. (603) 352-3625


Acupuncture and Bipolar Disorder

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans every year.  The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years (NIMH). However, bipolar disorder can begin in childhood and sometimes doesn’t manifest until a person is much older – in their 40’s and 50’s.

Bipolar disorder is an illness in which people will see extreme changes in mood, thought, energy, and behavior. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because a person’s mood can alternate between the “poles” of mania and depression. These changes in mood, or “mood swings,” can last for hours, days, weeks or months.

While western medical treatments typically include medications to help curb patient’s symptoms, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes an approach that addresses the underlying patterns.  In fact, bipolar is not specifically found in Chinese medicine texts.  The disorders that Chinese Medicine does address are mania and depression.  The TCM practitioner then treats based on the patterns appearing at the time of treatment. Typically, mania is given more attention as its symptoms can be more dangerous or obtrusive to the individual and the general public.

Chinese medicine always seeks to identify the patterns causing the imbalance.  Treatment aims to bring the patient back into balance. Chinese medicine considers both mania and depression disorders of the spirit mind. Both can be caused by excess emotions, particularly excess anger and joy.  However, a comparison of Chinese behavioral symptoms highlights the opposite behaviors displayed between mania and depression:

Patterns of Mania vs Depression in Bipolar

Once the Chinese Medicine practitioner determines whether the patient is presenting symptoms of mania or depression they can further customize the diagnosis based on the distinct patterns within the broader category of either mania or depression.

Patterns of the Mania Phase

Chinese medicine differentiates mania into four distinct patterns: Heart-Liver fire; phlegm fire harassing the Heart; Yang Ming bowel heat; and blood amassment.  While there are many similarities between patterns, there are also important distinctions that help the practitioner differentiate the treatment.

Patterns of Mania Phase


Patterns of the Depressive Phase

The depressive phase of bipolar disorder also has four main patterns: Liver qi stagnation; qi stagnating with phlegm, Heart-Gallbladder qi deficiency; and Heart-Spleen disharmony.  As with the mania phase, while there are many similarities between patterns, there are also important distinctions that help the practitioner differentiate the treatment.

Patterns of the Depressive Phase

 As you can see, Bipolar Disorder has a lot of commonalities between the different patterns.  This is why bipolar disorder is not really seen in the classical texts where mania and depression are.  The patient will present with the same underlying pattern regardless of what phase they are in and that is what should be treated, the pattern not the manifestation of symptoms.

It is important to recognize that mania, depression, and Bipolar disorder are not a weakness or a personality flaw of an individualThey are merely a manifestation of an imbalance that has occurred.

A licensed acupuncturist can identify this pattern of imbalance and develop a treatment plan that can help manage the imbalance and very possibly correct it.  It is also very important for anyone with this disorder to have a therapist and support system in place.

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH. (603) 352-3625

Fall and Your Health

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac. – Co-founder and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

As the fall season comes around the corner, we must be aware of what the change of season means for our health.   Our bodies have become used to the summer warmth and freedom to express ourselves.  Just as the weather and sunlight changes at this time of year, so must our focus and attention.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fall is a time to start buckling down and completing the projects we started in the spring.  The fall harvest is a perfect example.  While this is a tangible external expression of our food growing cycles coming to completion, there is more to look at.  Completion also applies to the projects that we have going on internally—personal changes we are making within ourselves.  By drawing our awareness to season change, we become conscious of the Qi that flows within us and the cyclical patterns that it reveals.

In TCM, the body is made up of various channels or pathways that Qi flows.  These correspond to organ systems and have, over the years, been associated with certain characteristics.  For instance, the Lung and Large Intestine systems are associated with the fall.  The emotion of the Lung/Large Intestine is grief or “letting go”.  Many times people complain of a depression that comes at the end of the summer or beginning of fall as the air gets a little cooler and the days begin to get noticeably shorter.  We have trouble “letting go” of the summer and we have a small grief process that goes along with that.  Supplementing and caring for our Lungs is very important to combat this grief.

The proper flow of Qi from the Lungs is a downward direction.  In the fall, the Lung Qi is instable.  This may cause the Lung Qi to ascend or become “rebellious”.  If the Qi is not descending, we see symptoms like coughing or wheezing.  The Lungs are the uppermost organ and in being so, are the most vulnerable to Wind and Cold.  This is why it is so important to start dressing warmer in the fall.  The Lungs also control the Wei-Qi, a protective barrier that we have to protect us from colds and flu.  It resides between the skin and the muscles and serves to keep us warm.

Some things to consider during the fall months in order to support the Lungs so they can do their job to protect us include:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Avoiding foods that may cause phlegm
  • Dressing in layers
  • Using a netti pot or some type of sinus wash to keep the nasal passages clear of mucus
  • Practicing some type of self cultivation exercise like Qi Gong or yoga that focuses on pranayama or breathwork.

Getting more sleep conserves Lung Qi which helps keep the Lungs healthy and increases energy.  Striving to avoid phlegm producing foods is essential because excess phlegm will cause the Lungs to become blocked. When the lungs are blocked, the body will have difficulty using Lung Qi efficiently.  This could lead to heat which can manifest into a sore throat, sinusitis, and even bronchitis.

Phlegm producing foods are foods such as milk, cheese, creams, and sugar.  Also, raw foods should be avoided because they tax the Spleen.  A weak Spleen will not transform phlegm properly.  Improperly transformed phlegm will be stored in the Lungs.

Instead, try adding foods that will benefit the lungs such as: ginger, garlic, horseradish, onions, and mustard.  These should be consumed in moderation.  Also, taking advantage of the many wonderful local farms in our area is a fantastic way to eat seasonally.  If it grows this time of year, you can bet that it will benefit your body.

Above and beyond doing what I have already explained, it is a good idea to seek professional help in strengthening the Lungs.  In addition to the things you do at home, regular acupuncture treatments during the fall can keep your Qi balanced and curb illnesses before they become severe.

Remember, a good immune system does not mean you never get sick.  It means you overcome illnesses more quickly thus preventing them from being more serious.  A perfect example is getting over a simple cold before it becomes bronchitis or pneumonia.

I hope that this article has been interesting to you and I also hope that some of this information serves to help keep you healthy this fall.

How can Acupuncture Help with Interstitial Cystitis?

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 700,000 people in the United States are affected by interstitial cystitis (IC).  Also known as painful bladder syndrome (PBS), it is a chronic condition that causes bladder pressure, bladder pain, and sometimes pelvic pain.  The pain ranges from mild discomfort to severe and can have repeated flare-ups from time to time. While there is no cure for IC in the conventional medical system, Chinese medicine can greatly benefit those who suffer from this syndrome.

This article will address:   

  • Signs, Symptoms, and Conventional Medicine Approach
  • How Chinese Medicine Looks at IC
  • How Acupuncture Can Help

Signs, Symptoms, and Conventional Medicine Approach

The bladder is the organ in the human body that stores urine.  When the bladder is full, it signals your brain that it’s time to urinate by communicating through the pelvic nerves. This is what creates the urge to urinate. With interstitial cystitis, there is something confusing the urinary bladder system.  The person feels the need to urinate more often and with smaller volumes of urine than most people.

The signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary from person to person. If you have interstitial cystitis, your symptoms may also vary over time, periodically flaring in response to common triggers, such as menstruation, sitting for a long time, stress, exercise and sexual activity.

Interstitial cystitis signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain in your pelvis or perineum (chronic or acute)
  • A persistent, urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination, often of small amounts, throughout the day and night (sometimes up to 60 times a day)
  • Pain or discomfort while the bladder fills and relief after urinating.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.

This sounds similar to a urinary tract infection but there is usually no infection. However, symptoms may worsen if a person with interstitial cystitis gets a urinary tract infection.

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis isn’t known, but it’s likely that many factors contribute. For instance, people with interstitial cystitis may also have a defect in the protective lining (epithelium) of the bladder. A leak in the epithelium may allow toxic substances in urine to irritate your bladder wall. Other possible but unproven contributing factors include an autoimmune reaction, heredity, infection or allergy.

These factors are associated with a higher risk of interstitial cystitis:

  • Up to 90% of people with IC are women.  Symptoms in men look like interstitial cystitis, but they are usually associated with an inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis).
  • Skin and hair color. Having fair skin and red hair has been associated with a greater risk of interstitial cystitis.
  • Most people with interstitial cystitis are diagnosed during their 30s or older.
  • Existing chronic pain disorder. Interstitial cystitis may be associated with other chronic pain disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia.

Interstitial cystitis can result in a number of complications, including:

  • Reduced bladder capacity. Interstitial cystitis can cause stiffening of the bladder wall, which allows your bladder to hold less urine.
  • Lower quality of life. Frequent urination and pain may interfere with social activities, work and other activities of daily life.
  • Sexual intimacy problems. Frequent urination and pain may strain your personal relationships, and sexual intimacy may suffer.
  • Emotional troubles. The chronic pain and interrupted sleep associated with interstitial cystitis may cause emotional stress and can lead to depression.

While there is no real cure for IC in conventional medicine, it symptoms tend to temporarily subside after a period of time.  Conventional treatment is mostly to ease the symptoms and can include physical therapy, NSAIDs, anti-depressants, and certain pharmaceutical products that coat the bladder epithelium to help with inflammation.  Surgery is usually not an option as it could cause other complications.

How Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for IC Can Help

Chinese medicine is useful for treating IC because it not only alleviates the symptom discomfort naturally, but it helps balance the underlying conditions that have caused the symptoms in the first place.  Regular treatment with a Chinese medical approach reduces the frequency of flare-ups and sometimes eliminates the condition altogether.  Of course, this also requires regular maintenance to keep the imbalances from getting to this point again.

Diagnosis and treatment in Chinese Medicine takes a multi-faceted approach.  Chinese Medicine characterizes IC as Lin Syndrome, which means a frequent urge to urinate. Your acupuncturist will also characterize the Lin Syndrome by the type of Lin presented: heat, stone, blood, Qi, or turbid. Diagnosis does not stop here. Chinese Medicine goes even further, knowing there are always multiple pieces of the puzzle.

In addition to the above, the acupuncturist will diagnose the underlying patterns within the body.  Some common Chinese Medicine patterns that can lead to IC are: Damp Heat, Spleen Qi Vacuity, Blood Stasis, Kidney Yin or Yang Vacuity.  These underlying patterns affect more than just the IC.  They not only cause or contribute to IC symptoms but they may also cause or exacerbate additional issues a well.

This is where Chinese Medicine excels.  A patient can go to their acupuncturist with a certain chief complaint and the treatment they receive will most likely help with many other symptoms that were not even the primary concern but are similarly troublesome.  For example: Someone with a Spleen Qi Vacuity pattern may not only be experiencing lower abdominal pain or IC-like symptoms but also experience issues such as fatigue, dizziness, and loss of appetite.

To treat IC and the underlying conditions, an acupuncturist may use a combination of treatments including acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas, and dietary suggestions.  No two treatments for IC are exactly the same and will depend on the specific factors of the patient’s diagnosis. In all cases, consistent and regular treatment combined with following recommended diet and life-style changes are the keys to successful treatment.

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH. (603) 352-3625

Healing of One Veteran’s Child

by Tricia “Satya” Hurley
M.Ed., Reiki Master Teacher, & Co-Founder of Cup of Life Healing Center

At a time of year when many of us have just spent a day celebrating our nation’s freedom and independence, I am reminded of all those who have served and sacrificed to bring us these freedoms. It is from this place and a place of personal connection that I share with you the incredible work of The Warrior Connection (TWC), an organization that holds retreats to help both male and female combat veterans overcome PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and/or MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

This is the story of why Cup of Life Healing Center supports TWC.  It is the telling of a journey that comes from my authentic heart and something I’ve never shared so publicly before.  It is a story of a little girl who longed for her daddy to heal.  She found deep healing, understanding, peace, and inner wisdom through the work of TWC.  That little girl lives inside me.

I am the child of a Vietnam veteran and I tell this story for children of veterans and veterans everywhere in hopes that they too may know that deep healing is possible and literally just a phone call away.

I want to be very clear from the start – I hold no ill regard for my father.  On the contrary, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that he always did the very best he could with the tools he had at the time. My heart embraces him with the greatest and warmest regard, with unconditional love, compassion, and respect.  I will always be thankful that he unknowingly taught me the true value of this work.

Like many young men from the Vietnam era, my father responded to the call of the draft.  He served in the US Army Special Forces Group, a Green Beret.  Like so many who have seen combat, he returned from war with internal wounds that run deep to the core.  One of my strongest childhood memories is experiencing the intensity of the flashbacks and nightmares that haunted his dreams. Witnessing these and other pains impressed upon my heart, the utmost desire for my father to be freed from these inner demons and my own inner longing to understand.  As a young child, I did not know his wounds were not my burden to bear.

Just over two years ago, I sat for 5 days in cardiac ICU, watching my father on full life support, after 8 hours of open heart surgery.  I’ve sat by my father’s hospital bedside many times in my life for varying medical issues. But in these 5 days, I truly did not know whether he would live or die.  This initiated a healing process that continues to this day.  In those 5 days, I resolved to show my father my unconditional love and acceptance, even though I did not understand what he’d been through.  I had no idea at the time, that this was just the beginning.

18 months later, this past October, I received a call from one of my Reiki students who happened to be a graduate of TWC.  She told me Reiki healers were needed at one of the men’s retreats. I knew in an instant that I must go.  I had no idea saying “yes” to that one simple request would spark not one, but two inner callings.  First was the calling to do my own deeper healing work around this aspect of my life, to move beyond acceptance to a true understanding. And second, a calling to share healing work with veterans, to be a part of the solution.

When I arrived at TWC for the first time, I had no idea what to expect.  What I found blew me away, left me speechless.  I met a room full of veterans from varying branches of service, having seen combat in many different wars and conflicts.  It was no mistake that there were two Vietnam veterans among the group, one of which had served in a very similar capacity to my father.  What I experienced the moment I walked through the doors of TWC was a room full of men, all with opening hearts and clearly in the process of deep soulful healing–veterans on a path to discovering deeper peace and inner wisdom!  The sight instantly challenged my idea of the depth of healing that is possible.

I found myself caught off guard, surprised, and choked up for words when simply mentioning that my father had served.  Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that I have rarely spoken about this part of my childhood, much like my father rarely spoke of his experiences in Vietnam. I knew right then and there, that I must pursue this work and support this organization.  I knew in my core that something magical was going on in this beautiful home in rural Vermont.  I have been volunteering in some capacity ever since.

After many months of volunteering behind the scenes, the pull to do even more was so strong; I could no longer ignore my heart’s desire.  So, I entered into the process of training to become a certified TWC Retreat Facilitator. I participated in a men’s warrior retreat as a Level I facilitator trainee.  Not only did I witness the incredible, deep healing of a group of veterans, but my own personal healing journey began to unfold as well.  This continued throughout the second phase just this past weekend when I attended the official facilitator training course.

It was during this second training weekend that I discovered and healed the hole in my little girl’s heart; one I had not consciously known was there.  I experienced fully some of the very processes the veterans do during the TWC retreats. As a result, I was given a gift, a piece of my Soul back that I didn’t even realize was covered.  It is from this newly whole place that I share this story and from this place that I am honored to continue to serve those who have served.

This is my story and how I and Cup of Life have come to wholeheartedly support the incredible work of TWC

TWC’s motto is “No Soul Left Behind.”  They say, “While the mission is over, the inner journey continues…”  This truly is a place that serves the overall well-being of veterans and their families. The retreats are all done in a small group setting and virtually at no cost to the veteran. This is one of the most authentic greater good organizations I have ever seen!

****About The Warrior Connection****

The Warrior Connection (TWC), is a Vermont-based, Veteran lead nonprofit.  TWC’s mission is to improve the overall well-being of our Veterans and their families.  TWC hosts residential retreats and provides services to our Veterans and their families, helping them recover and heal from the invisible injuries incurred while in uniform.

Since 2010, The Warrior Connection has been working diligently with Veterans to decrease the negative impacts of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD), Military Sexual Assault (MST), heal moral injuries, and reduce both suicide and divorce. 

For more information about TWC, donate, or to inquire about their healing retreats, please contact Aaron Phillips, TWC’s Executive Director: or call 866-278-3155.

Summer and Your Health: Put Your Plan into Action

by Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-founder and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

Ahh! Finally!  Summer is almost here!  While spring is a time to start planting seeds for our plan for this year and to start to see them grow, summer is about abundance and happiness.  We see the fruits of our labor flourish.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the summer season. How does the season affect your overall well-being? What can you do to ensure good health in the summer?

According to TCM, the element of summer is fire.  Our organ systems most affected are the heart and small Intestine systems. The emotion associated with these organs and therefore summer, is joy.  While these are the areas that are ripe to be nurtured and flourish in the summer, they are also the ones that can end up falling out of balance the most easily during the season.  Just as gardens must be weeded with care if our fruits and vegetables are to grow well, we must also give extra attention and care to the parts of ourselves most affected by the season.

First, let’s look at the element of Fire.  Fire is the most Yang of the elements.  When we think of Fire, we think of heat, outgoingness, and expression.  We want to cultivate this fire within us, but not to excess. We should keep this in mind when we think of how we are taking care of ourselves.

As opposed to winter where we hibernate and rest, summer is a time of going out and having funThe key for good health in the summer is connection.  We should be meeting with friends and family because that love connection nourishes our hearts.  Like the spring, this is an exciting time, and staying indoors will suffocate the heart and promote depression.

When the heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we enjoy peaceful sleep. A balanced heart is also more motivated to engage in cardiovascular activity.  So, if you’re feeling unmotivated or experiencing restless nights, these may be indications of imbalance. Agitation, nervousness and insomnia are also indicators that the heart may be imbalanced.  In this state, making a few key changes can make all the difference.

Another thing to keep in mind is summer’s effect on existing conditions. One thing that my patients will hear me say often is that our bodies, and minds, are a microcosm of the world we see around us. People will complain of aches and pains being more pronounced when it is cold and rainy outside.  They are often disappointed when I tell them it is because the weather is exacerbating the already present dampness in their bodies.  In the summer, it gets hot.  That heat is also can also show up within our bodies and minds as rashes and agitation.  So, we need to be proactive to keep that in balance.

Below are some recommendations to help you achieve or maintain summer time balance:

To nourish the Heart, we want to clean up our diet.  In regards to foods, eat lots of red foods as red is the color of the fire element.  The taste of the fire element is bitter.  Bitter foods stimulate the Heart Qi so try adding bitter foods into your diet.  Examples of bitter foods are dandelion greens, coffee, wild cucumber, and asparagus.

Some examples of other foods that are good for the summertime but may or may not necessarily be specifically beneficial to the heart include: watermelon, cucumber, corn, mint, dill, watercress, lemon, and green leafy vegetables.  It is not coincidence that many of us have always enjoyed these foods during the summer.  They keep you cool by releasing excess heat from your body and nourishing your Yin.  Drink from a glass of lemon, mint, or cucumber infused water by you as much as you can.  Try to avoid greasy and heavy foods.  Eat in moderation and try not to become too full, especially if you still have daytime activities to perform.

We require less sleep in the summer, so don’t be afraid to stay out with friends a little later.  At the same time, try not to sleep in so late in the morning.  This may be a good time to try introducing early morning exercise especially since it will start getting hotter as the day goes on.

If you get tired, try to take a rest in the middle of the day.  Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  Remember that Fire is heat so you may be more susceptible to dehydration.  Also, try to avoid conflict that would make you angry.  Stay even-tempered.  Don’t worry, be happy should be your mantra.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and I hope you enjoy the new season.  Remember to visit your acupuncturist regularly to prevent illness and injury.  Please try to eat locally.  It not only helps out local farmers but the food will be in season and in tune to you and your surroundings.

How Can Acupuncture Help with Diabetes?

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2012, 29.1 million Americans had diabetes.  It is estimated that about 208,000 of these people are under the age of 20.  Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. To give an idea on the enormous prevalence of diabetes: In 2012, the total sales of worldwide diabetes medicine were nearly 35 billion US dollars.  Standard and Poor’s estimated that the total sales would be more than 58 billion US dollars in 2018.

While the above may be common knowledge, what may surprise you is that acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used to treat diabetes for over 2000 years. Traditional Chinese Medicine describes diabetes with the term “Xiao Ke” or, in English, “wasting and thirsting disease”.  Xiao Ke is discussed in great detail in a classic Chinese medical text, the Nei Jing, which was compiled around 100 B.C.  This text describes the patients’ symptoms.  Examples include: excessive hunger and thirst, frequent urination, and rapid weight loss.  These, of course, are all common symptoms of diabetes that we are familiar with today as well.

Western medicine breaks down diabetes into three main forms:

  • Type 1 Diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes): Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10% of people who have diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the person has a total lack of insulin. The body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that release insulin until, eventually, the body stops producing insulin.
  • Type 2 Diabetes (formerly called adult-onset or non–insulin-dependent diabetes): Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95% of people who have diabetes and can develop at any age.  It most commonly becomes apparent during adulthood, but type 2 diabetes in children is rising. In type 2 diabetes, the body isn’t able to use insulin the correct way.  This is called insulin resistance.  As type 2 diabetes progresses, the pancreas may make less and less insulin leading to insulin deficiency.
  • Diabetes Insipidus: This is an uncommon disorder characterized by intense thirst, despite the drinking of fluids (polydipsia), and the excretion of large amounts of urine (polyuria).  In most cases, it’s the result of your body not properly producing, storing or releasing antidiuretic hormone, but diabetes insipidus can also occur when your kidneys are unable to respond properly to that hormone.  On rare occasions, diabetes insipidus can occur during pregnancy (gestational diabetes insipidus).

As I have written in a previous blog post, the primary goal of acupuncture is balance.  As an acupuncturist, I evaluate four interdependent aspects:  Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood.  The balanced flow of Qi is essential for overall well-being. Qi needs to flow freely into the body for all the organ systems to work together in balance and harmony.

Xiao Ke (diabetes) is caused by an imbalance of the flow of Qi within the meridians and organ systems –specifically, the spleen/pancreas (which are considered interrelated in Chinese medicine), stomach, and the intestines. Because food and water are not effectively processed, this ultimately blocks the flow of Qi. This particular imbalance produces heat that depletes the body’s fluids and Qi causing symptoms such as: fatigue, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, polydipsia, polyuria, polyphagia, poor wound healing, infections, irritability, and blurry vision.

Treating Diabetes:

While treatment approaches differ between Traditional Chinese and western medicines, both systems agree: It is essential for people to make healthy lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, and other health habits.  Diet changes are by far the most important that can be made.  The key is to avoid sugar and high calorie diets. Also, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends most patients with diabetes engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic physical activity on a weekly basis, with strength training at least two days a week.

In treating Xiao Ke, Chinese medicine offers a way to address each patient individually to eliminate the symptoms associated with diabetes and reduce the need for insulin medications.  Overall treatment focuses on regulating the circulation of blood and Qi and balancing the organ systems to improve pancreatic function and address internal heat and the depletion of fluids. The practitioner may choose to use a variety of techniques during treatment including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations, and Qi Gong. Regular care is typically one to three acupuncture treatments per week depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Taking Charge of Your Health with Acupuncture

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

In last month’s article, I discussed the steps you can take, as an acupuncture patient, to ensure the optimal results from your treatments.  This month, I will focus on what actions and changes you can make in between acupuncture treatments.  These are actions that will empower you to take charge of your own health so that therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and even western medicine become supportive to your health as opposed to paramount.

To put it another way, a large majority of people’s health issues can be traced back to habits in their current lifestyle.  While everyone will receive some benefit from regular acupuncture, the greatest, most long-lasting benefit will occur when you play an equal role and take responsibility to begin changing the key factors in your life that are causing or exacerbating your condition.

So, in the days around your treatments, you will want to be working on making the necessary lifestyle changes to optimize your health and well-being. While there are many factors, the most essential are sleep, diet (I do not mean fad dieting), and exercise.

Many people tell me that their bodies only need four hours of sleep per night, as if they are super-human.  Yet, these are the same folks coming to me with chronic pain or depression or the ones who get a sinus infection every time the season changes.

Getting enough sleep is essential to your overall health and well-being. During restful sleep, our bodies are busy actively restoring and rejuvenating, growing muscles, repairing tissue, and even synthesizing hormones. During this time your brain is also sorting and storing information, replacing naturally occurring chemicals needed for our functioning, and solving problems.

On a mental/emotional level, studies show sleep deficiency can cause difficulty with decision making, problem solving, controlling emotions and coping with change.  Studies have also linked lack of sleep to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Sleep affects the physical body too.  Chronic sleep deprivation is connected to increased risk of disease such as: heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke as well as increased risk of obesity.  Last, but not least, lack of sleep can also lead to a depleted immune system, making it more difficult to ward-off and/or fight common infections.

Sleep is essential. Every adult human needs 6 to 8 hours of sleep on the norm per night. Children need even more. If you are having difficulty sleeping at night, consider implementing a relaxing nighttime routine; avoid heavy meals in the evening; and avoid electronics right before bed.

Your diet is very important as well.  While it is okay for most to indulge themselves around holidays or special events, it is important to keep things in moderation.

You will want to limit sugar, especially added sugar.  While it may be obvious to limit sodas, cookies, and well-known sugary items, it is easy to forget that manufacturers add sugar many items. Get in the habit of checking the ingredient labels. You’ll be surprised to find how many everyday items have high amounts of sugar, fructose or other sweeteners added.  This is especially true of highly processed and fast foods.  It is also common in foods we tend to think of as “healthy” such as protein bars or yogurt.

Eat lots of vegetables.  It is virtually impossible to eat too many vegetables.  Try to keep a balance of colors with you vegetables too.  This will ensure you are getting a good variety of nutrients.  Vegetables will also help add more water to your diet which is, of course, my next point.

You should try to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.  That is water, not tea or any other beverage.  Any other beverage should not count toward your 64 ounces.  Some people say that you should drink even more water than that depending on your size or activity.  I say, if you normally drink 24 ounces per day and you bump it up to 64, you will be doing much better.  Remember that water is going to help everything in your body work better.  For coffee drinkers, you should add an 8 ounce glass of water to that 64 for every 6 ounces of coffee or caffeinated tea that you consume.  Caffeine is a diuretic which will cause you to lose water so it must be replaced.

People should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.  However, this is another area that needs to be kept in moderation.  This 30 minutes could be a post-dinner walk or an intense athletic workout.  If you tend toward the latter, you absolutely need to be sure to increase your sleep as well as your food and water intake to support this.

Remember that your goal is to be balanced.  Exercise is a Yang activity so the more Yang activity you perform, the more Yin activity you need to perform to balance that out.  When I talk about Yin activity, I am referring to sleep, meditation, etc.

I know that not everyone is accustomed to exercising intentionally so I will list out a few forms of exercise to get you started.  Some forms that you can safely do on your own are walking, running, hiking, and riding your bike.  The following forms of exercise I recommend seeking instruction to ensure your safety and optimal benefit.  These are weightlifting, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, and martial arts.

Of course, these are not the only forms of exercise that exist but I wanted to give you some options to start you off.  The key is to pick something that you will enjoy doing and do it safely because otherwise it will simply be another stress in your life.

This concludes this series about what acupuncture is and how you can use it to your benefit.  I do hope that you found it useful.  Please do not be afraid to ask me questions.  I may not have time to go in depth at the time of your appointment but we can certainly schedule a time to talk on the phone or email.

Acupuncturists love what they do and we also love educating people about what they can do to help themselves.  It truly is a People’s medicine and the more empowered you are as a patient, the more successful we consider ourselves as practitioners.  If you have not already, please read the previous two articles in this series, Understanding the Goal of Acupuncture and Get the Most from Your Acupuncture Treatments, to catch up on any information you may have missed.

Next month, I will start a series of articles about common western health conditions and how Chinese Medicine looks at these as well as what I do or would do to treat a patient with that condition.  I will start off with some common conditions but if you have a condition that you are curious about, common or uncommon, tell me and I will certainly write an article about it in the future.

Get the Most from Your Acupuncture Treatments

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

In last month’s article, I discussed the proactive approach acupuncture takes to managing overall health as well as some components I look at in my patients when they come in for treatment.  This month, we’ll focus on how to get the greatest benefit from acupuncture and what to do the day of an acupuncture treatment to help optimize its effectiveness.

Understanding Your Treatment Plan:

Simply put, you will get out of acupuncture what you put in to acupuncture.  What I mean is: If you follow your treatment plan given to you by your acupuncturist and concentrate on one or two issues at a time, you will most likely be very happy with your results.  If you only seek a couple of treatments for an issue that requires several treatments or come in for treatment too infrequently, you will very likely be disappointed in your results.

One analogy many people can relate to is to think of your acupuncture treatment plan in the same way you would consider prescribed medication.  If your western medical doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics for an infection and you took it only one or two times, likely the infection would not go away or may even get worse.  The same goes for acupuncture, which is most effective when it is received regularly and as prescribed by your acupuncturist.

It is very common for a treatment plan to include two or more treatments per week for several weeks.  While this varies based on an individual’s condition, in my practice, I typically ask patients to come in twice per week for four weeks to start.  Often, this is all a patient needs provide relief for the condition they originally came in for. However, in many cases, conditions require much more.  A general rule of thumb is that younger patients and more acute conditions require less treatment than older patients and more chronic conditions.

Role of Healing Phases and Treatment Frequency:

We often share the above image explain how we approach treatment frequency.  Remember, acupuncture is always working to address the underlying cause of issue.  So, we look at treatment in terms of phases in a healing process and the frequency of treatment is directly related.

  • Relief Stage: In the initial treatment of an issue, the goal is to provide relief. During the relief stage of healing, treatments are most frequent and often spaced relatively close together.
  • Healing Stage: Once symptoms are relieved, acupuncture treatments focus more deeply on healing the underlying cause of the issue. At the healing stage, the treatment plan often includes tapering back on the frequency of visits.  Patients should still come in at the frequency recommended by their acupuncturist to bring healing and balance to underlying causes.
  • Maintenance Stage: This stage is where the proactive nature of Chinese medicine makes a big difference! When you are in this stage of healing, you are overall relatively healthy.  During this phase of treatment, the goal is to continue to optimize your overall health and balance.  The treatment plan includes regular, but usually much less frequent visits to help proactively bolster the immune system.  Our patients who receive regular acupuncture at this phase often tell us that they are amazed that their immune system is strong enough to prevent illness or find the duration of an illness is limited.

Optimal Post Treatment Practices:

How you care for yourself both immediately following treatment and in your overall lifestyle can make an important difference.  Here are few things you can do after your appointment to increase the benefits of your acupuncture treatment.

It is important to rest.  After acupuncture, you will want to avoid vigorous exercise or other strenuous activities.  While naps or spending the rest of the day in bed are not necessary afterward, you will want to take it easy.  So, putting some thought into scheduling your treatments is helpful.

You will also want to make an effort to avoid stressful situations.  I realize that sometimes this cannot be avoided.  However, I also realize that often times it can.  What I mean is that it is helpful to become aware of and learn how to work with your own energy boundaries.  Doing so can help you deflect and/or release any negative energy you may take on during difficult moments.  This becomes especially important if you tend to take on negative energy when spending time with certain individuals or in certain situations.

Temperature is another factor to consider.  Temperatures can get extreme here in the Northeast.  You will want to dress accordingly and try to plan your day so that you are not exposed to extreme temperatures after an acupuncture treatment.  When it is very hot or very cold outside, these are stresses that your body will need to deal with and may throw off the balance that we have attained.  It is best to try to avoid prolonged exposure to either right after an acupuncture treatment.  It’s not something to panic over but rather something to be aware of.

I am also often asked about timing other self-care appointments. I will hear, “It is alright to get a massage or go to a chiropractor before or after an acupuncture treatment?”  I always say yes.  In fact, if you were to do all three in one day, in my opinion, it should be acupuncture, massage, and then chiropractic.  The acupuncture will make the massage therapist’s job easier and then the chiropractor will be able to make adjustments that he or she may normally not be able to do.

I hope the above helps you more fully understand what you can do to attain the greatest benefit from acupuncture.  In my next article, I will discuss things you can do to help yourself in between treatments, especially if you are in the maintenance phase of treatment.

Understanding the Goal of Acupuncture

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

For a vast majority of people, we’ve been taught to call the western medical doctor only when we are sick, hurt, need medication or perhaps need an operation or are contending with a life-threatening illness.  In other words, we’ve become accustomed to seek out healthcare on a reactive basis.  When it comes to understanding acupuncture, however, we need to revise our definition of healthcare.

Yes, it is true, acupuncture can provide healing and relief for a wide range of medical conditions. The World Health Organization provides a comprehensive list of conditions shown to benefit from acupuncture.

At Cup of Life Healing Center, we regularly treat: chronic pain, arthritis, migraines, depression, addiction, and many other common ailments.   We also find many people seek out acupuncture as a last resort, out of frustration, after exhausting a long list of other attempts for elusive and chronic conditions.  Yes, acupuncture can be a key part of the answer in these situations.  However, the goal of acupuncture is much broader than this.

In eastern approaches such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, a proactive approach to healthcare is used.  The primary goal of acupuncture is balance.  As an acupuncturist, I evaluate four interdependent aspects:  Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood.  Yin is our substance.  It is what we can see and touch on our body.  Yang is what gives us function.  Qi is the “energy” flowing through us.  Blood is what we all know as blood.  When any one of these aspects is out of balance, disharmony occurs in the form of disease or pain.  It is my job as an acupuncturist to see where these four aspects are out of balance and treat them accordingly.  This may involve a course of acupuncture treatment, herbs, other lifestyle considerations, or any combination of these.

When the four aspects—Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood—are in balance, our bodies function as they should. For example, many of my patients who come in every week or every other week, often are elated to tell me that they are “not getting sick.”  They say they have always “gotten sick” in the winter when they are around others who are who are ill.  They are amazed that their immune system is strong enough to prevent illness or find the duration of an illness is limited.

A holistic life-style, including regular acupuncture, is a proactive way to bolster the immune system.  A healthy immune system reduces the severity of illness to a level that our bodies can manage naturally.  So, while it is normal to feel under the weather from time to time, bodies in a more balanced state are strong enough to recover quickly.

In the future, I will write more articles delve into greater detail on the ways to achieve balance including: frequency of treatment, dietary guidelines, and lifestyle suggestions all from a Chinese Medicine perspective.  As you will see, it is a little different than what we are accustomed to here in the west and in America specifically.