Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Treating High Blood Pressure with Acupuncture

There are a variety of therapies and treatments, including medicines, natural treatments and alternative therapies that have been used to treat high blood pressure. Acupuncture is the most common of these alternative high blood pressure treatments.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is among the most widespread health conditions, primarily resulting from a stressful lifestyle. However, it is also connected with growing older, being overweight, smoking, and abusing alcohol, along with being associated with certain other health problems.

High blood pressure is a health issue where bloodflow begins to exert too much pressure against the walls of arteries. This constant pressure of on blood vessels can damage the capillary lining resulting in a condition known as arteriosclerosis or, more commonly, a "hardening of the arteries."

People who suffer from high blood pressure have symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, tiredness, irritability, and blurry vision. If the condition can not be brought under control, then it often results in severe problems including strokes, blindness, heart attacks, or renal failure.

High blood pressure is often treated using a variety of traditional treatment methods, however, medicines used to treat high blood pressure often cause a number of side effects. This is one of the primary reasons why many patients seek out alternative treatments, including such therapies as relaxation techniques and aromatherapy.

Acupuncture is thought to be useful for treating high blood pressure the following way. According to recent research, acupuncture has been found to lower high blood pressure via acting to block beta-acceptors of sympathetic nerves, and by causing stimulation to the adrenaline angiotensin system.

Acupuncture, when combined with electric stimulation, may also aid in treating high blood pressure. This is known as electro-acupuncture. When low level electricity is ran thorough reugular acupuncture needles, a noticable lowering of blood pressure has been seen. The needles are connected to a system that creates tiny electrical impulses which are kept at a low level.

This treatment consists of the insertion of sharp thin acupuncture needles into meridians, or trigger points, located in the arms, legs and wrists. This causes a stimulation of particular brain chemicals and results in a reduction of the excitatory response of the cardiac system. This results in a decrease in cardiac activity and the body's oxygen requirements, which causes a lowering of blood pressure.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Acupuncture Relieves Hot Flashes

A recent study has reported that traditional Chinese acupuncture can help relieve the severity of hot flashes and other symptoms related to menopause, The study was published in March in Acupuncture in Medicine.

The researchers used 53 participants, all who were postmenopausal, meaning they had ceased having periods for at least one year. Their menopause symptoms including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, and mood swings, were measured utilizing a 5 point scale (MRS).

Twenty seven of the participants got traditional Chinese acupuncture two times a week for a period of ten weeks, with acupunture needles kept in place for twenty minutes with no manual or electrical stimulation. The remaining participants received fake acupuncture.

Hormone levels were also measured prior to the start of the study, including estrogen, FSH, and LH. These levels were also measured after the first and final sessions to measure any changes.

The results found that the participants who were given traditional acupuncture had substantially lower MRS scores for hot flashes and mood swings, but not for vaginal and urinary, symptoms at the conclusion of the ten weeks than the participants who received the fake treatment. The symptom measuring the greatest reduction in severity was hot flashes.

Additionally, the positive effects appeared to be cumulative, with better results being seen after the last sessions.

Estrogen levels were also seen to rise, while LH levels were lower in the participants who recieved acupuncture. Reduced levels of estrogen and elevated LH and FSH levels are a typical sign of menopause, as the ovaries cease to function.

The researchers suggest that the reason that the severity of hot flashes reduced could be due to acupuncture increasing the production of endorphins, which may play a role in regulating body temperature.

The researchers state that their study was small-scale and that they didn't continue to measure how long relief of symptoms lasted, but the study does suggest that traditional Chinese acupuncture may be a useful alternative therapy for women who can't or don't want to use hormone replacement therapy to treat bothersome menopausal symptoms.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Yoga May Help Teens with Weight Loss

A new study which was presented at the American Heart Association's 46th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, investigated the effects of practicing yoga on the BMI (body mass index) of teenage study participants. A scientist from Hampton University (Virginia) conducted either a forty minute yoga and breathing class or regular activities (which served as the control group), to thirty teenage boys and girls.

The yoga group did about forty minutes of yoga and yoga breathing 4 times per week for a period of twelve weeks. The teenagers' dietary intake was not modified. The scientists measured their body mass index both at the beginning, and at the conclusion of the study.

The scientists discoevered that the body mass index of the yoga group decreased by about 5.7 percent, while the body mass index of the control group actually increased slightly. The mean body weight loss for the yoga group was about six pounds. There were no restrictions or rules regarding caloric intake on either of the groups. The weight loss in the yoga group may be due to a couple of factors: the breathing and yoga exercises themselves, and possibly lowered caloric intake by the yoga group due to a decrease in stomach size.

Dr. Shetty, the author of the study, has recommended about half an hour of yoga and yoga breathing (pranayama) 3 or 4 times per week. He is of the opinion that practicing yoga can be effective at helping to prevent obesity in teenagers and should be an integral component of physical eduction programs in schools.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Placebos as a Viable Treatment

A study performed by researchers at Harvard University has shown that placebos can be an effective treatment even when patients are not deceived into thinking they are taking actual medicine. The scientiests divided the 80 participants - all sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - into two groups. One group was a control group and didn't receive any kind of treatment. The other group was given pills to take two times a day, however the scientists explained to the group that the pills were similar to sugar pills. The participants were never told that the pills contained any medicine, and even the container was labeled "placebo."

At the conclusion of the study, about thirty-five percent of the people who received no treatment at all reported an improvement in symptoms. Unexpectedly, nearly sixty percent of the participants who recieved a placebo reported an improvement in symptoms. Additionally, the placebo group graded their improvements similarly to the improvement generally reported by people who take IBS medications.

Two medications, Lubiprostone and Alosetron, have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of IBS, but they are used only as a last resort as they have a number of unpleasant or unhealthy side effects.

If a harmless placebo can have the same result, it is a better alternative than taking medications that may make patients feel worse than their actual illness. A number of other studies have reported between thirty and forthy percent of people who took placebos had an improvement in their conditions, but that was under deception, when the patients didn't know that they weren't taking actual medication.

And these findings are not only relevant for for IBS sufferers. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that placebos have virtually identical effects as widely prescribed antidepressants on patients who suffer from mild to moderate depression.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Using Ginger to Treat Stomach Problems

Ginger could be used to effectively treat functional dyspepsia, reports a small-scale study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. A stomach condition which is characterized by pain in the abdomen, functional dyspepsia is often responsible for a painful, uncomfortable feeling of fullness after ingesting food (much like the symptoms associated with indigestion).

For this study, 11 participants who suffer from functional dyspepsia took either a ginger supplement or a ginger placebo before eating meals. Among the participants who were took ginger, the researchers reported faster gastric emptying (the amount of time it takes for food to exit the stomach and go into the intestines). However, taking ginger didn't seem to improve the gastrointestinal symptoms.

Ginger could be used to help treat other stomach-related problems. For example, research has shown that the anti-inflammatory herb ginger has been used to help relieve nausea caused by morning sickness. Some evidence also exists that ginger may used to help relieve upset stomach experienced by those who are undergoing chemotherapy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Many Who Have Brain Tumors Use Alternative Treatments

Many patients who have incurable brain tumors utilize alternative treatments, including taking vitamins and using homeopathy, on top of their standard treatments, according to a study published in the December 14, 2010 issue of Neurology®.

Nearly forty percent of patients with brain tumors who took part in the study utilized alternative treatments, such as homeopathy, taking vitamin supplements, and psychological therapy.

The study included 621 patients who had incurable grade II to grade IV gliomas who filled-out a questionnaires regarding their use of alternative treatments. Alternative treatments were defined as methods or compounds not generally utilized in routine clinical procedure, and which are not scientifically tested.

Younger patients, women, and those who were more highly educated had a higher likelihood of using alternative therapies than older people, men and those who were less educated.

Answering from a compiled list of reasons why people utilized alternative therapies, the most popular answers were "to support conventional therapy," "to build up body resistance" and "to do something for the treatment by myself." The least popular answers were "because I am afraid of the conventional methods" and "because the physicians don't have enough time."

Of the patients who utilized alternative therapies, nearly forty percent used homeopathy, almost thirty percent took vitamin supplements and about thirty percent utilized various types of psychological therapies.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lemon Grass to Treat Headaches

Griffith University researchers have discovered that native lemon grass, which is used by native Australians as part of their traditional medicine, has some ability to help relieve headaches and migraines.

The findings of this five-year research study were published in the academic journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Headaches and migraines can result in abnormal activities within the body, including changing serotonin levels or disrupting normal function of blood platelets. Platelets form clumps for repairing wounds, but they may also create dangerous internal clots that starve the brain of oxygen and possibly result in a stroke.

Extracts of the lemon grass were tested on human blood platelets. The compound eugenol displayed similar functionality as aspirin. Eugenol appears to inhibit the clumping of platelets as well as the release of serotonin.

Serotonin plays a role in the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction, and a variety of cognitive functions.

Generally, traditional medicines have not been researched in-depth and many unstudied plants may have as yet unknown therapeutic and healing properties.

This research project also collected a number of other traditional Australian medicinal plants to study, including Cymbopogon Ambiguus which is found in the Northern Territory.