Friday, February 26, 2016

Treating Asthma with Acupuncture

Asthma has become more and more prevalent. Causes can range from air pollution, to food or other allergies, to illness to insufficient Vitamin D. Some asthma is temporary (like due to respiratory illness), but most asthma is chronic and can be life threatening if not properly controlled.

Acupuncturists have been treating asthma for thousands of years, and while I don't recommend giving up your rescue inhaler just yet, there are many ways that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) can help you need it less often, if at all.

According to TCM, there are many types of asthma. The type typically associated with illness is usually an "excess" form, where there is too much phlegm in the Lungs for the body to get rid of and you have wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest. Two other forms are due to "insufficiency" where either the Lungs or the Kidneys (or both) are too weak to properly move the air in and out of the body. According to Chinese medical theory, the Lungs take in the air (Kong Qi) and the Kidneys "grasp" the qi then send it back up to the Lungs for dissemination through the body. If the Kidneys are weak and fail to grasp the Qi you have asthma with difficulty inhaling. If the Lungs are weak and fail to disseminate, you have asthma with difficulty exhaling. Shortness of breath is also associated with the Lungs, as they are unable to pull the air in properly, but there is often a Kidney weakness present with that as well.

Asthma often appears first in childhood and can be due to any of the above causes. Any Kidney or Lung weakness is often congenital, passed down from parents with weak Kidneys or Lungs; the parents may or may not have asthma themselves, but might have symptoms like weak/injury prone lower back or knees, urinary frequency, long standing fear, trouble sleeping, poor stress management or salt cravings. Any imbalances that the parents have when the child is conceived will be passed on to the child, like DNA. Life choices, like diet, exercise, stress management will either improve or exacerbate the presentation of the passed on imbalances in the child.

Asthma can be exercise induced (often with vigorous exercise), where the strain of the exercise is taxing the Kidneys. As soon as the exercise ceases and the person recovers, the symptoms often disappear. Getting enough sleep and managing stress can often help prevent this type of asthma. Acupuncture can help support the Kidneys so that they can properly Grasp the Qi and withstand the strain of exercise.

Adult onset asthma, that is not caused by illness or environmental pollution, can sometimes be caused by long term grief. Grief and sadness affect the Lungs; while these are  normal emotions for humans to have, they are supposed to have a finite time span. When grief and sadness become chronic (like after the death of a loved one that you can't get past, or multiple losses in a short period of time), it can take its toll on the Lung Qi and can lead to asthma. People with this type of grief often stand with a sunken chest/ rounded shoulder type posture that makes it physically challenging to take a deep breath. Certain yoga poses that open up the chest can help improve breathing, like those in this blog post.

There are many Chinese herbs and herbal remedies that can be very helpful for controlling asthma, however you need to get a proper TCM diagnosis from an acupuncturist or Chinese herbalist to ensure that it is the right herbal remedy for you.

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