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Earthquakes and Acupuncture

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One woman’s personal story about her own flight or fight response and how acupuncture can help! *Excerpt from “The Joy Of Acupuncture”

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck off the west coast of Vancouver Island, with tremors felt as far away as Kelowna.

Since the earthquake, most of us who experienced it have recounted our “where were you when it happened” stories via text, fb, twitter, or phone with friends and family.

I want to dissect the second that I realized it wasn’t me that was wobbling, it was the whole building.

I was in my home office calendarizing while listening to the video game my neighbor’s kid was playing. All of a sudden, my heart was pounding, my eyes widened, and I sprang into action. Embarrassingly, my “action” was a ridiculous series of darting from room to room looking for what sounded like a rumbling truck out the window while trying to remember when the last time I ate was (“Are these the low blood sugar shakes? Quick! Banana to the rescue!”).

After the quake stopped, I could still feel the adrenaline rush that had flooded my body. This natural set of physiological effects is called the Fight-or-Flight or Stress response. Here’s what happens in your body in a state of stress:

  • Pupils dilate
  • Hair stands up
  • Heart pumps harder
  • Respiratory rate increases
  • Digestion slows
  • Bladder and bowels constrict
  • Endorphins are released
  • Brain activity moves to survival mode

This response is healthy IF we’re actually in a situation that is threatening our life (not if a spreadsheet won’t open or traffic is moving slowly). This response was only meant to last 90 seconds. The problem is, many people are feeling this stress response all day every day. When your body is in fight-or-flight mode, it leads to lack of sleep, lack of sex drive,  lack of balanced metabolism, lack of optimal immunity, and lack of emotional satiety.

The book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers paints the picture of zebras getting this adrenaline rush when they see a tiger. If they escape the tiger’s dinner plans, they stamp off the anxiety, shake their manes, and return to chilling with their fellow zebras. Your body is also meant to return to a normal resting state too, and stay there most of the time (gasp).

The good news is that you can help turn off the inappropriate fight-or-flight response by breathing. When you inhale deeply while pushing your belly button way out, your lungs expand, taking in more oxygen your cells need to function properly. Your lungs also push your diaphragm down, sending the signal up your spinal cord that your nerves are OK. Take 3 of these big breaths like this and your body will go “oh yeah, I don’t see a tiger running after me”.

After the earthquake, when I felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins, I remembered the zebras – I shook it off, waved my mane, and logged online to check in with some buds (maybe it’s our virtual wading pool). If you’re still on edge about the quake, a trip to your local acupuncturist can help calm your nerves, as well as some nice easy big belly breathing.




Autumn: Time for Sour Flavors

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Autumn marks the turning point between the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The cooling weather ushers in the harvest and heralds the dying cycle in nature. The seasonal change also causes the respiratory system to constrict, leading to cough, asthma, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. Chinese medicine has always associated autumn with the lungs and large intestine. The Yellow Emperor advises early to bed and early to rise, practice breathing exercises, avoid pungent flavors but increase sour ones in the diet, drink fluids and eat soups, and remain calm and relaxed to avoid the diseases typical of autumn.

Some Important Autumn Foods


The apple, a universally loved fruit, has long been a symbol of passion and temptation – and now, scientists have confirmed that it also contributes to a healthy heart. Eating two to three apples per day results in decreased cholesterol levels, thanks to the fruit’s rich pectin content. Pectin also helps prevent colon cancer, which ranks among the top causes of death in adults over the age of sixty.

Sweet Potatoes and Yams

These powerhouse foods contain higher amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin C than carrots, more protein than wheat and rice, and more fiber than oat bran. Sweet potatoes and yams also happen to be a rich source of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). This is a precursor hormone – a substance that remains latent until it converts into a hormone that the body needs. DHEA can become estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone, all essential for your body’s ant-aging defenses to work. As one ages, however, the body’s level of precursor hormones like DHEA drop precipitously.


Oat bran, the outer coating of oats, contains high concentrations of soluble fibers, which help trap cholesterol and move it quickly through the intestines. Unfortunately, most people eat their oats in the refined form, which contains very little of the precious bran that contains beta-glucan and saponins. Whole oats are also rich in the antioxidants that stop cholesterol oxidation, the process that enables it to stick to artery walls.

More benefits: oats prevent colon cancer by binding toxic minerals and acids; they balance the body’s blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates; and the saponins in oats increase production of “killer cells,” a critical part of the body’s immune surveillance system. Try substituting a warm bowl of whole oats for your cold cereal in the morning. Your body will thank you – for years.

Excerpts from Dr. Maoshing Ni’s book, Secrets of Longevity Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100

Article By Dr. Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D. via

Jenn King, CHt Clinical Hypnotherapist & Birth Professional

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Jenn became a clinical hypnotherapist specifically for the purpose of working with women from conception through postpartum.  She has been passionate about everything birth and babies for more than a decade now and when she learned about the applications for hypnosis in this field, it was an easy path to follow.  Her experience as a childbirth educator & birth doula as well as from working at a Midwifery clinic in Vancouver and serving on the Board of Directors for the Doula Services Association of BC has provided Jenn with a valuable education and gives her a very unique skill set and ability to truly understand the needs of childbearing women.

HypnoMammas is a full suite of hypnosis services dedicated to meeting the needs of these women.

Hypnosis offers a natural and extremely effective option whether
– trying to conceive: improving natural fertility or dealing with infertility and ART, miscarriage
– pregnant: nausea, lifestyle changes, childbirth preparation
– postpartum: sleep, breastfeeding, traumatic birth healing

Jenn also offers a variety of general hypnosis sessions promoting overall health & wellness.  Please go to for more complete information about the programs mentioned above, hypnosis and how it can help you.

The Credentials…
Jennifer had the privilege of learning from one of the greatest minds in the field of hypnosis: world-renowned Gerald Kein, director of the Omni Hypnosis Training Center in DeLand, Florida.  “Having trained thousands of hypnotists and hypnotherapists worldwide (in over fifty countries), he is widely recognized as one of the leading instructors of clinical hypnotism. … He serves as Executive Director of the National Board of Hypnosis Education and Certification… is also a contributing author to The Journal of Hypnotism, and serves on the Advisory Board and on the Certification Board of the National Guild of Hypnotists.”

Since achieving these basic certifications, she has not stopped learning; Jenn has taken numerous courses on various hypnotic applications and has completed the Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapist training offered at the Coastal Academy of Hypnotic Arts & Sciences.  She completed the birth doula training and breastfeeding support course through Douglas College.  Jenn is also a certified Painless Childbirth Specialist, a Certified Hypno-Doula, as well as a Certified HypnoFertility Specialist,  having trained with Lynsi Eastburn – an established leader in the field of hypnosis for fertility, author of It’s Conceivable: Hypnosis for Fertility and recipient of the Hypnosis Research Award from the National Guild of Hypnotists.  She will be completing more fertility training in September 2011 with James Schwartz, Board Certified Hypnotherapist and author of the Mind-Body Fertility Connection.

Jenn is very proud to have been the very first Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructor in Canada.  Hypnobabies is a highly successful 6 week complete childbirth education course using Gerald Kein’s Painless Childbirth techniques instead of simple relaxation, breathing or guided imagery; Hypnobabies uses the same hypnosis techniques people employ when preparing for surgery.  Hypnobabies also provides expecting couples with all the valuable information they need to make informed decisions for their unique birthing; this IS your prenatal class and is recognized as such by an international certifying body for Doulas or professional labor assistants (DONA International).
Hypnobabies offers high quality, complete childbirth education plus a toolbox of comprehensive, in-depth childbirth hypnosis tools.
Classes are being taught in downtown Vancouver at Bloom Community Midwives as well as in Squamish at Sky High Lifestyles, Naturopathic & Chiropractic wellness clinic.  Please contact Jenn for more information or to register.


To contact Jenn

Jenn is very excited to be joining the team at Glow.  Please don’t hesitate to contact her for more information or with any questions you may have about the services she offers.

Scans prove that acupuncture induces clear metabolic brain changes that eliminate pain

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(NaturalNews) New research adds more evidence proving that acupuncture is effective at reducing and eliminating pain. Presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the new findings include functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that clearly show a positive change in the metabolic activity of patients’ brains receiving acupuncture treatment.

“Functional MRI gives us the opportunity to directly observe areas of the brain that are activated during pain perception and see the variances that occur with acupuncture,” explained lead researcher Nina Theysohn, MD, from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology at University Hospital in Essen, Germany. “Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture.”

Eighteen volunteers agreed to participate in the study, and all were observed using fMRI technology. Researchers applied electrical pain stimuli to the participants’ left ankles and observed their brain activity both with and without acupuncture treatment. The team found that the pain activation centers in the participants’ brains became less active and even deactivated in the presence of acupuncture treatment.

The findings also challenge some notions that acupuncture works primarily as a placebo. While certain brain responses to acupuncture indicate facets of a placebo response, others clearly highlight specific mechanical activities in the brain that demonstrably reduce pain symptoms.

“Acupuncture is supposed to act through at least two mechanisms — nonspecific expectancy-based effects and specific modulation of the incoming pain signal,” said Theysohn. “Our findings support that both these nonspecific and specific mechanisms exist, suggesting that acupuncture can help relieve pain.”

Acupuncture has also been found to help improve fertility, increase heart function, and assist in helping people sleep.

To learn more about acupuncture, visit:…


Classical Five Element Acupuncture

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Glow’s own Sabeeha T. Kurji, R. TCM.P practices a rare form of Acupuncture called Classical Five Element Acupunture. Below is an article written by her teach Professor Neil R. Gumenick where he offers suggestions on tending our own inner fires, and living in harmony.

TENDING OUR FIREWe experience Fire, one of the elemental powers, most fully in the season of summer, the time when young energy that arose in the spring expands to its maximum potential. We, who are part of Nature just as surely as all that surrounds us, can enhance our own health by understanding the special functions of the hottest of all the seasons. Through this awareness we can help balance our own Fire energy.

When Nature’s energy flourishes and blossoms in the summer, it is time to enjoy the fruit from the seeds we have planted and the visions and plans we have made. If a tree doesn’t flower and bear fruit, there can be no harvest; for us, similarly, if we do not allow ourselves to flower during this season, we will deprive ourselves of a late summer harvest to carry us through the year. Autumn, the season of letting go, will be all the more difficult for us if we haven’t experienced the fruition of our hopes and plans.

THE SEASON OF EARTHOnce summer has reached its height, the year’s cycle begins its inevitable decline into the season of late summer – the season of Earth.

To us, late summer seems a welcome relief from the intense heat and brightness of summer. From the Chinese perspective, it is a season unto itself with a unique energy and function in the cycle of the year. The Chinese associated the power of “decrease” with late summer and, at the same time, referred to it as the period of abundance. With the coming of late summer, nature returns the fruits it has made, which are ripe and ready to be picked. A good harvest fills the larder. It means autumn and winter can be survived without scarcity, and that energy can be conserved during the cold period when outer growth ceases.

As it is for the seasons of the year, so it is for life’s seasons. The work done on ourselves during the earlier part of our lives – the growth and strengthening of the body, cultivating meaningful relationships, challenging and developing the intellect, spiritual practice – all determine the quality of the harvest we reap – and what we have to share with others. Whether at the breast of the physical mother or the breast of Mother Nature, the earth and the archetype of Mother have always been connected – survival would be impossible without the nourishment both freely give. Though most of us today may not grow our own food, we ought to keep sight of the fact that prior to being put in packets and stacked in supermarkets, the food we consume is nonetheless a gift from the earth. Despite the abuse it has to endure, the earth is forgiving and continues to feed and provide for us.

The Chinese associated the power of “decrease” with late summer and, at the same time, referred to it as the period of abundance. Physically and spiritually, this period of late summer is a time for slowing down and gathering in. It is a time when we recognize and hold the fruits of our labor.

In our spiritual lives, the Earth element grants us the ability to internalize the mother by learning to nourish and care for ourselves. Imagine a child who hasn’t experienced the security derived from being properly loved and cared for; an imbalance in the Earth element may well be a result of this lack of mothering. The infant nursing at the breast, receiving the milk and (as importantly) the love of its mother, is the very perfection of Earth.

But mothering does not stop in infancy. The patience and compassion that come from the mother are needed for years, as we grow and learn how to care for ourselves. What if this essential teaching and nourishment are missing? A preoccupation and search develops for the mother that we lacked. If we have had no nurturing, there is a feeling of being deprived and misunderstood. We are in continual need, seeking from the external that which is lacked internally. Unless the imbalance caused by this trauma to the Earth element is resolved, a search for mothering may continue right through life.

The emotion associated with the Earth element is sympathy, an important emotion when expressed in appropriate circumstances. Compassion and empathy arise spontaneously when the moment is right. I marvel at how my six-year-old knows in an instant just how to comfort a friend who is hurt or crying.

As well as the ability to express sympathy toward others, however, we must be able to receive it, too. It is necessary that others understand how and when we hurt, that others know what we are going through. When a child is in pain, it calls immediately for its mother, the source for sympathy and understanding. But with an Earth imbalance, the need for sympathy can become excessive and insatiable; or, in its opposite manifestation, sympathy may be completely absent. We all know people from whom we can expect no compassion, regardless of circumstance. And there are also those who cannot receive sympathy or help at all – the sort who say, “No, I can do it myself.”

An identical imbalance can be created by over-mothering, which can stunt a child’s capacity to care for itself and to learn from its own experience. In either extreme, rather than expressing real needs, a person develops manipulative ways of relating to others – exaggerating, over-complaining, whining to attract sympathy, or keeping silent and denying real needs, distrusting other people’s motives, and feeling that no one understands.

In our bodies, the earth is represented by the stomach and spleen, the organs that receive food and enable us to be nourished by its essence. As the process of digestion begins in the mouth, food should be chewed thoroughly and mixed with saliva, the bodily secretion of the Earth element. Icy cold foods and drink should generally be avoided, as extreme cold strains our Fire element (whose job it is to maintain a normal body temperature). The period between 7 and 9 a.m. is the time in which nature gives the stomach a measure of extra energy, so that this is the optimum time to take in nourishment. Yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day – we should instinctively begin the day as we did when we were infants, with fuel in the tank.

The Chinese did not view the vital organs as physical entities only, but also as officials, with functions that manifest on a non-physical level. Parallel to body functions, how information and feelings are taken in and “digested” is largely a function of the Stomach official, seen as the agent who receives and processes emotional and mental “food.” A failure of this function means that thoughts and feelings churn endlessly, ultimately developing into obsessions that can’t be processed and rendered useful.

There are forty-five acupuncture points on the stomach meridian (energy pathway). Each point has a unique and specific purpose in restoring balance and harmony to the stomach function as Nature ordained it, healing in ways that are often suggested by the name of a point. The following is an example:

Stomach 20: “Receiving Fullness”
The experience of an inner harvest may be unknown and unavailable to someone whose Earth element has been traumatized. Feeling barren, such a person seems to bring nothing to fruition. Even in the presence of caring friends with helpful ideas, or in any other nourishing environment, nothing can be received or made one’s own. For a person in such a state of depletion, Stomach 20 can open the empty storehouse so the person can begin to receive the abundance that Nature offers to us all.

The other Earth official, the Spleen, according to Chinese medicine is the official of transport. As such, it takes what the stomach has prepared and moves it on to nourish the cells in the body. A healthy Spleen not only nourishes us at the physical level, but also makes sure the nourishment reaches our minds and spirits. In the following example, we see how an acupuncturist may use one of the twenty-one points on the Spleen meridian to assist in restoring health to body, mind, and spirit.

Spleen 8: “Earth Motivator”
This point gets the official of transport moving. Even if the granaries and storehouses are full, we will starve if the means of transportation fail. “Earth Motivator” invigorates and prepares the earth within us for planting. Imagine scattering seeds on hard, unyielding soil – few, if any, will take root. Like a bulldozer, this point breaks up, moves and turns the soil within us. Then new growth can occur, promising a richer harvest. A new vitality begins to be felt. Hardness and stubbornness, which manifest as selfishness and lack of sympathy, are transformed into greater thoughtfulness and care in relations with others.

We can see that if the Earth element is out of balance, we may be prone to digestive disorders – as well as illness in any other organ or function of the body, for all are dependent on the stomach and spleen for nourishment.

Consider these everyday expressions, heard but often unnoticed, from someone whose Earth element could be in distress: “I just can’t stomach it… I can’t digest it… Let’s get down to earth… The ground was pulled out from under me… Stand on your own two feet… I have to care for everyone else but nobody takes care of me… I’m always hungry… Nothing fills me up.”

In summary, every process must invariably pass through its period of harvest, grand or small as it may be. Physically and spiritually, the period of late summer is a time for slowing down and gathering in. It is a time when we recognize and hold the fruits of labor. Imagine the farmer filling the silo after the harvest: Now that the heavy work is over, he can reflect contentedly on all that has brought him to this moment and this season.

It is appropriate for us, too, to acknowledge this stage of our own life cycle. From the harvest of our experience, we develop a natural inclination to share and serve others. Well nourished ourselves, we can recognize where needs exist and how best to fill them. Exercising our compassion, we can become caretakers of the earth.

Suggestions for living in harmony with the late summer season

  • Enjoy the abundance of fruits and fresh vegetables
    Be aware of their special qualities, each succulence different from the next. Carrots are crisp, cucumbers cool, tomatoes luscious, peaches sweet. Look at the seeds, and reflect on the fact that within each harvest lie the seeds of the next.
  • Be thoughtful of how you can nourish others.
    In this season when nature gives her bounty, we also rejoice in giving, with attention to the special needs of others. You need not wait until you can give a “great gift.” A word, a courtesy, a thoughtfulness – given today – is a great gift.
  • Be conscious of the harvest of your life.
    Think about yourself, your relationships, and your work. What parts of your life are bearing fruit? Where is the harvest rich? Where do you find it stunted?
  • Consider what you need to do to make ready for the letting go of autumn.
    Holding your harvest in mind, ask what is overgrown or unneeded. What distracts you from your dearest concerns? What might you wish to simplify in yourself or in your life?

Copyright 1997 by Neil Gumenick

What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of healing known to mankind. It originated in China nearly five thousand years ago. The fact that it is still being practiced today speaks much for the efficacy of this treatment and for the laws and principles on which it is based. These are nature’s laws and principles that underlie all of creation and apply to every human being.

How does it work?
Chinese medicine recognizes that there is a vital force (called Chi energy) in the body which controls the working of every organ and system. This energy must flow freely and in the correct strength and quality if the body is to function correctly. In all illness, the flow of vital energy is impaired. Acupuncture directly affects this energy at special points located on the energy pathways (meridians). When gently inserted into these acupuncture points, the needles produce various effects. According to the manipulation of the needles, energy can be drawn to a deficient organ, an excess dispersed, blockages removed, and so on, according to the individual need of the patient. As the balance and harmony of the vital energy is restored, symptoms of illness disappear. If all of the functions and organs of the body are working properly and harmoniously, there can not be sickness within the body or mind.

Sometimes, points are heated with a special herb, Artemesia Vulgaris Latiflora (called moxa), which resembles a brown colored wool. Usually, a tiny cone of moxa is placed on the skin over an acupuncture point, ignited, and removed when the heat is felt. Like needles, moxa revitalizes, reinforces, invigorates, and restores balance and harmony to the vital energy.

Are the needles sterile?
Yes. Only the highest quality stainless steel disposable needles are used. These come in pre-sterilized sealed packets and are discarded after use.

Does it hurt?
Because the needles are about the thinness of a hair, insertion is often hardly felt at all. There may be an occasional sharpness or a dull ache, but these sensations are only momentary and far less unpleasant than a western injection.

What happens during the initial examination?
The initial examination takes up to two hours and includes a thorough medical and personal history, description of complaints, a review of the functioning of the systems of the body, and a physical examination. This includes the taking of the Chinese pulses [usually felt at the wrist] from which your acupuncturist can determine the state of the energy in each of the major organs and functions. Using the diagnostic tools of classical Chinese medicine, which include analyzing a patients predominant facial color, vocal sound, emotion, and odor, your acupuncturist can assess the condition of the Chi energy and determine the underlying cause of the condition. From all of this information, a treatment plan is developed, unique to the individual patient.

How many treatments are necessary and how often?
This varies from person to person and one cannot be guided by the experience of other patients. Much depends on the severity of the disease, how long the patient has suffered from it, as well as the lifestyle and other factors contributing to it. Typically, treatments are given once per week for the first six to eight weeks. As the patient improves, visits are reduced to once every ten days, two weeks, once a month, and so on. As classical acupuncture is a preventative system of medicine, as well as curative, it is advisable for healthy patients to come in periodically for checkups and maintenance, as the pulses can reveal if anything is going wrong in the body long before it manifests itself as a visible symptom. Most of us don’t wait for our cars to break down before taking them in to be checked. We should not pay less attention to our bodies!

How long does a treatment take and what actually happens?
Appointments are generally scheduled for one hour. Prior to each treatment, patients have ample time to talk about how they’ve been, how they feel, and what’s happening in their lives, which is essential information for me to determine exactly the treatment that is called for at that time. The pulses are read and moxa and/or needles are applied. The response to the treatment will be assessed by reading the pulses. Often, after treatment, the patient will spend a few minutes simply relaxing, lying on the treatment table, to allow the energetic changes to settle in. Dietary and other lifestyle recommendations will be discussed at appropriate times throughout treatment.

Can acupuncture treatment help with non-physical problems?
Yes, indeed. It must be emphasized that classical acupuncture views the body, mind, and spirit as a whole. All physical disorders will cause an imbalance in the mental outlook and spirit of a person. This may manifest as depression, anxiety, anger, sadness, and the like. Mental disturbances, stress, and emotional conflict will cause effect in the physical body such as insomnia, lack of appetite, fatigue, menstrual disorders, migraines, susceptibility to disease, aches, pains, and any labeled disease one can imagine. Any imbalance must manifest on all levels, all part of the whole. All classical acupuncture treatments aim to restore the harmony of body, mind, and spirit. Thus, the physical and non-physical sides of a patient are treated together.

What about medication and other medical care?
Classical acupuncture may certainly be used in cooperation with other medical care. It is important to your practitioner to know what medication a patient is taking as this is taken into account in the planning and assessing of treatment. As acupuncture treatment progresses, the need for certain drugs may well decrease and it may be appropriate to reduce or discontinue medication, but this should be done with the cooperation and approval of the prescribing doctor. For medical emergencies, ones personal physician or an emergency service facility should be contacted.

Will acupuncture benefit someone who is very skeptical?
Yes. The healing process will not be affected in any way by the patient’s skeptical attitude.

Is acupuncture effective on children?
There is no age limit. Often, young children respond quite well to moxa alone or with a very minimal use of needles. There are also special pediatric acupuncture devices which merely tap the skin surface and are quite painless.

To find out more about Professor Neil   R. Gumenick please visit

Visit Glow Acupuncture & Wellness Centre to book your appointment with Sabeeha T. Kurji today!

An Inspiring Article by our own Vassilena Johns

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Beauty inside

August 16, 2011 by Vassilena Johns

Hi all,

I recently attended a Conscious Diva Date Night in West Vancouver and was so inspired by the beautiful energy of the amazing women in attendance. Whether they were realtors, chefs, small business owners or stay at home moms, they all had one thing in common, a passion for life! This passion is not something you can pick up in a bottle at the local beauty counter, this passion is authentic. Each one with her own story of inspiration to ignite a spark within. Our beauty truly shines from the inside out. It is priceless and only gained through inner personal work. I encourage everyone to look at themselves and listen to what their heart truly wants. When we tune into our intuition there is no limit and no stopping the heights we can reach.

So I leave you all these questions of insight…What makes you rise in the morning? What are you passionate about? Are you living your full potential?

Happy journey!


Coaching, Counselling and Style!

Acupuncture More Effective than Medication for Headache Relief

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By: Duke Medicine News and Communications Acupuncture is more effective than medication in reducing the severity and frequency of chronic headaches, according to a new analysis conducted by Duke University Medical Center researchers.

The National Institutes of Health recommended acupuncture as a viable treatment for chronic headaches a decade ago and, while research in this field has increased, there have been conflicting reports about its efficacy.

“We combed through the literature and conducted the most comprehensive review of available data done to date using only the most rigorously-executed trials,” says Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan, MD, a Duke anesthesiologist who lead the analysis.

Researchers analyzed data from only randomized controlled trials evaluating acupuncture for adults with chronic headaches and were conducted for more than four weeks.

“Acupuncture is becoming a favorable option for a variety of purposes ranging from enhancing fertility to decreasing post-operative pain because people experience significantly fewer side effects and it can be less expensive than other options,” Gan says. “This analysis reinforces that acupuncture also is a successful source of relief from chronic headaches.”

While everyone experiences an occasional headache, more than 45 million Americans (one in six) suffer from chronic headaches, 20 million of whom are women. Medication remains the mainstay of treatment with varying levels of success.

The Duke team looked at studies that compared traditional acupuncture to either medication or a control group who received sham acupuncture. Similar to traditional acupuncture, the sham therapy entails inserting needles into the skin but the acupuncturist avoids meridians or areas of the body that Chinese medicine teaches contains vital energy associated with achieving balance needed for good health.

Researchers analyzed more than 30 studies to arrive at the findings published in the December issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia. The studies included nearly 4,000 patients who reported migraines (17 studies), tension headaches (10 studies) and other forms of chronic headaches with multiple symptoms (four studies).

In 17 studies comparing acupuncture to medication, the researchers found that 62 percent of the acupuncture patients reported headache relief compared to only 45 percent of people taking medication. These acupuncture patients also reported better physical well-being compared to the medication group. In 14 studies that compared real acupuncture to sham therapy, 53 percent of acupuncture patients responded to treatment compared to 45 percent receiving sham therapy.

“Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years but only recently has started to become more accepted as an alternative or supplement to conventional therapies,” Gan explains.

“One of the barriers to treatment with acupuncture is getting people to understand that while needles are used it is not a painful experience,” Gan says. “It is a method for releasing your body’s own natural painkillers.”

Acupuncture therapy is becoming widely available nationwide and a typical course of treatment for chronic headaches requires 30-minute sessions. Many people begin experiencing relief following five to six visits.

Gan also has conducted research to determine the effect of acupuncture on post-operative pain, nausea and vomiting. His research has found that acupuncture can significantly reduce pain and the need for pain medications following surgery. He also found that acupuncture can be as effective as medication in reducing post-operative nausea and vomiting.

The research was conducted in collaboration with Yanxia Sun, MD. The meta-analysis was supported by Duke’s Department of Anesthesiology.

For more information and articles please visit