By: Rachel Gorman, MAOM, Lic.Ac.
Have you seen the shingles vaccine commercial? As animated nerve cells light up across the screen in what you have to assume is terrible pain, an ominous-voiced narrator says “If you’ve ever had chickenpox, the shingles virus is already inside you.” Every time I see it, I shudder. Hopefully you haven’t had shingles, and if you have then I’m sorry you had to go through it! But most people know at least one person who’s had shingles and have heard how painful the rash is. At best, the vaccine only reduces the risk of getting shingles by 50%, and it’s only available to certain demographics (for instance, I was told I was too young to get it). But did you know that acupuncture and herbal medicine is amazingly effective at treating shingles? It’s true!
First, a quick lesson on shingles: Shingles is the common name of the virus Herpes Zoster. It is due to a reactivation of the Varicella Zoster virus, aka chicken pox. Most people have had chicken pox and as that commercial described, if you’ve ever had chicken pox then the shingles virus is already inside you. After your body fights off chicken pox, the virus lays dormant in your nerve cells. When your body’s immune system is weak (often due to periods of high stress, and/or poor eating habits, and/or other illnesses), the virus can take advantage and shows up as shingles. It is usually felt as tingling pain 1-5 days before the rash appears. The rash itself is usually unilateral, affecting one side of a person’s flanks or trunk, although occasionally it will affect the head or other areas of the body. It can range from mild to severe, and generally lasts around 3-5 weeks, even with antiviral medications. Most doctors only prescribe the antivirals if you catch it within the first few days, as after that window they are considered ineffective. Some people are left with nerve pain that lasts months or even years after the rash disappears.
I can serve as a case study for you—I’ve actually had shingles twice. Both instances followed periods of extended stress (the more recent was during my acupuncture licensing board exams). The first time I had shingles was before I had ever experienced acupuncture. The second, I was about to graduate after studying and practicing TCM for 3.5 years. There’s some amazing differences in my two experiences:
That’s a pretty significant difference! In TCM, rashes like shingles (burning, stinging, painful, red, raised, blistered, etc.) fall into the category of Damp Heat Invasion. Interestingly, shingles almost always affects one of the two Shao Yang meridians along the sides of the body. So the TCM diagnosis is (almost always) Damp Heat Invading the Shao Yang Channels. The treatment principle for acupuncture, herbs and diet then becomes to Clear Heat, Drain Dampness, and Regulate the Channels. In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, I have added two western/biomedical elements to what I call my Shingles Treatment Protocol. The first is the supplement L-Lysine, and the second is dietary changes to increase lysine in the body. Lysine is an amino acid and it has a partner, Arginine. Lysine inhibits the replication of the virus, while arginine promotes it. So loading up on lysine and lysine-rich foods, while minimizing arginine-rich foods, can also make an enormous difference in your experience with shingles. Not only have I learned this myself through my own experience, but I’ve been able to treat several patients with shingles who saw their symptoms resolve within 1-2 weeks.
The Shingles Treatment Protocol
And there you have it! I sincerely hope no one reading this EVER has shingles, but if you or a loved on do end up with shingles, come in for treatment as soon as possible to minimize the duration and severity of the virus.
By now, most of us have at least heard of some benefits of meditation, such as; improved memory and attention, reduced stress and anxiety, increased energy, awareness, and compassion, boosted immunity to illnesses. In fact, a growing body of research suggests that we can’t afford not to meditate – for our own health and sanity.
Let 2017 be the year that you commit to a regular meditation practice, or even take your current practice to the next level. Join Lisa Lopes in a series of mindfulness-based guided meditations. The emphasis of a mindfulness practice is awareness without judgement. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, designed the most popular form of mindfulness meditation in the United States called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). In addition to the benefits of meditation listed above, MBSR was originally designed to help patients with chronic pain manage their pain symptoms. This workshop series will incorporate MBSR, Kundalini (with an emphasis on chakra energy), and Buddhist (emphasis on breath) meditation practices.
Each class will include a guided meditation and either a pranayama (controlled breathing) or a mantra (chanting) exercise.
In addition to being an Ayurvedic consultant, Lisa completed a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training and as a regular meditator, is passionate about bringing this incredible technique into the lives of all who are interested.
WHEN: Series begins on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017, from 7:00PM – 8:00PM, and runs for 6 consecutive weeks.
Sign-up for one or all six classes.
COST: $25 per class or $120 if you sign-up for all 6 classes in advance. Preregistration is recommended due to space limitations.
By Rachel Gorman & Eileen DePaula
Stress is linked to so many health concerns, and I’m sure we’ve all read plenty of articles and studies about it at this point. We are seeing more and more teens with conditions symptomatic of a chronically too-high stress level: anxiety/depression, fatigue, insomnia, poor concentration, digestive problems, migraines and headaches, high blood pressure, and even autoimmune illnesses. I suppose it’s not surprising, considering most teens are juggling school full time, sports teams or exercise classes, music/art/extracurricular lessons, tutoring, part time jobs, applying to colleges…not to mention a social life. So how can we help teens manage their stress levels better? There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news: teens in general are overscheduled and often exhausted, and a lot of this is just the fact of being this age. College applications, school projects and homework all have concrete deadlines. Jobs, teams and other extracurricular activities have their own requirements and schedules. Social pressures are often at an all-time high…This is the part we have to accept.
The good news: there ARE things that can help manage stress levels, and we can help. Here’s some of the main things I recommend to teen patients or parents of teens:
And remember, we are here to help if you need us!
This recipe has been modified to be both delicious and diabetic friendly. The almond flour is low carb, and the sweeteners have a zero glycemic index. These are wonderful!
Stir in last:
*Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, similar to xylitol and sorbitol. The main difference is that it is processed and absorbed in the small intestine, so there are no adverse digestive symptoms associated with it. It is also granulated like sugar. It has a zero glycemic index and doesn’t cause an insulin spike. It can be substituted for sugar in most recipes, however, you will want to use less than what is called for.
NOTE: if you don’t have blood sugar issues, you can replace the Erythritol with 1/4 cup of honey.