How acupuncture works…

Many times acupuncture is not well understood because it is explained and supported by Chinese Medicine theory.  It makes for an easier explanation to say that we move “Qi & Blood” without getting into the technical side of bio-medicine.  Here is a quick overview of some possible mechanisms-of-action that occur when we needle.

Here are a few prevailing theories.

1. Acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels. This is called the “Augmentation of Immunity” Theory.
2. The “Endorphin” Theory states that Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the brain and body (specifically Enkaphalins).
3. The “Neurotransmitter” Theory states that certain neurotransmitter levels (Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by Acupuncture and Acupressure.
4. “Circulatory” Theory: this states that Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels in a regulating bi-phasic manner. This may be caused by the body’s release of Vasodilaters (such as Histamine), in response to Acupuncture.

5. One of the more popular theories is the “Gate Control” Theory. The perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous system which regulates the impulse, which will later be interpreted as pain. This part of the nervous system is called the “Gate.” If the gate is hit with too many impulses, it becomes overwhelmed, and it closes. This prevents some of the impulses from getting through. The first gates to close would be the ones that are the smallest. The nerve fibers that carry the impulses of pain are rather small nerve fibers called “C” fibers. These are the gates that close during Acupuncture.

In the related “Motor Gate” Theory, some forms of paralysis can be overcome by Acupuncture. This is done by reopening a “stuck” gate, which is connected to an Anterior Horn cell. The gate, when closed by a disease, stops motor impulses from reaching muscles. This theory was first stated by Professor Jayasuriya in 1977. In it he goes on to say:

“…one of the factors contributing to motor recovery is almost certainly the activation of spindle cells. They are stimulated by Gamma motor neurons. If Acupuncture stimulates the Gamma motor neurons, the discharge causes the contraction of Intrafusal Muscle fibers. This activates the Spindle cells, in the same way as muscle stretching. This will bring about muscle contraction.”

Let’s not forget about the nervous system and the sympathetic/para-sympathetic response “fight or flight.”

Or maybe it is the induction of micro-trauma that facilitates a healing response of the body.

There is also hormonal changes that come with acupuncture and the needling.

Or what about the therapeutic relationship of the patient and practitioner?

As you can see there are many explanations, so it is easy for us to put it under the umbrella of the “Qi” effect.

Today’s Reflection

I post often about my walks with Finnegan, they are one of my favorite things. It gives me time to to reflect, improve my posture, relax, get some fresh air and gets me to tune-out.

I think in the spectrum of things we do some really good work at our acupuncture clinic. But it is also in the context of health spectrum–we offer pain relief, relaxation, decrease in inflammatory conditions, fertility support. But none of these things are as important as the other 167 hours of the week, how do you spend them?? NOTHING trumps a bit of exercise, good food and good rest and strong social support at home!

Somedays we are seeming saviors and other days we are icing on a cake…

I post about my dog walks not because what we do is that impressive but more as a subtle gesture in hopes that you will share in the fun:)

It is your day, right now, so make it a good one!

Sunset in 2011

Chronic Inflammation

Acupuncture May Be the Solution

When you have a limb that is swollen, red, and painful, you’ve got an obvious problem with inflammation.  Sometimes, though, inflammation can occur long-term, at a much diminished level in your body.  The traditional medical treatment for this condition is drugs – and lots of them!  However, many homeopathic solutions for acute and chronic inflammation are now showing that they are as effective as medications, and these treatments don’t have the side effects that are so common with anti-inflammatory drugs.

Acupuncture is on the forefront of homeopathic remedies for chronic inflammation.  It has shown in numerous studies to decrease the markers in the body that indicate inflammation, and it is also known to decrease the pain that inflammation is so often known for.  With more research, the future may see acupuncture as the go to treatment for all types of inflammation.  If you are wondering if acupuncture is the right for you, you may be surprised to learn that it is proven effective in decreasing inflammation.

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Inflammation

When people talk about inflammation, some of the facts can get lost in translation.  Since it is such a popular term, you may be confused about what is actually going on in your body.  Inflammation is the body’s chemical response to any injury or insult.  The common signs of classic inflammation are pain, heat, redness, and swelling.  For instance, if you sprain your ankle, your body will react with inflammation by causing pain and swelling at the site.  This is from the various chemicals your body releases when it experiences some form of harm.

These chemicals are important in detecting inflammation.  Some inflammation is not as apparent as a swollen, painful ankle.  You might be experiencing low-level inflammation from your diet or some disease process, and not know about it.  A blood test that measures c-reactive protein can tell your doctor if you have some underlying inflammatory process.  C-reactive protein is a chemical processed by the liver, and it is released in great numbers when you have inflammation, particularly of the heart muscle.

Another test your doctor can use to determine your inflammation level is ESR, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and if this is combined with elevated white blood cells and low blood proteins, or albumin, your doctor can diagnose inflammation.  However, there is a vast number of markers that can show inflammation, such as cytokine levels, interleukin levels, and von Willebrand factor that can clue your doctor into a problem.

Dangers of Chronic Inflammation

When your body is constantly pumping out chemicals to deal with an injury and create inflammation, it can actually harm the healthy tissues in your body.  Different chemicals are released when the body is in chronic inflammation, and one of the hallmark signs of this condition is damage to other tissues.  Chronic inflammation causes harm that causes more inflammation.  It is a dangerous cycle that is often difficult to break.

Many disease states are caused by chronic inflammation.  For instance, asthma, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are diseases caused by a chronic state of inflammation.  However, conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, hardening of the arteries, and possibly Alzheimer’s are thought to stem from a state of chronic inflammation.  More research is needed to find out the exact extent of damage from inflammation, but what doctors know already is enough to make you want to avoid this state as much as possible.  The scary part is that you may have chronic inflammation and not even know it.  Only a blood test can tell you for sure.

Understanding Acupuncture

One of the best ways to help heal inflammation naturally is through the use of acupuncture.  This is another type of treatment that you may have heard a great deal about without knowing exactly what it is or what it does.  You may even be frightened of the needles that are used in the procedure.  The traditional view of acupuncture is that the body consists of a number of flowing meridians filled with the life force, or qi.  If these meridians become blocked, it does not allow the life force to flow to all the parts of the body naturally.  Without qi, your body becomes diseased and does not function as it should.

You may be thinking that this talk of life force and blocked meridians is too out there for you.  However, modern medicine has also looked into acupuncture and found that it works for healing certain problems.  No scientific evidence has ever been found for meridians or qi, but studies show that acupuncture still works.  It is thought that the needles stimulate the nervous system and this causes a cascade of chemical reactions that speed healing and decrease the disease process in the body.  Recently, electricity is applied to the needles to further enhance the stimulation of the nervous system and the release of these helpful chemicals.

How Acupuncture Relieves Inflammation

How does sticking needles at certain locations of the body decrease the amount of inflammation you experience?  Well, researchers are still sorting out the particulars, but it is thought that the needles directly impact immune system cells, such as T cells and B cells, that are important in the inflammatory response.  Acupuncture influences these cells by keeping them from releasing the inflammatory response chemicals, such as cytokines and interleukin.

Acupuncture is also thought to reduces all the chemicals that create inflammation in your body, and by interfering with these chemicals, it keeps them from destroying healthy tissue.  It was found that merely accessing an acupuncture point, such as through acupressure or massage, the chemicals are reduced.  However, needling and applying small currents of electricity to those needles produces the most profound effect and decreases inflammation the best.  In addition, acupuncture is thought to increase the amount of naturally occurring opiods and endorphins in the body, and this helps to decrease the pain from inflammation.

Studies on Acupuncture and Inflammation

Many studies exist to show the positive influence of acupuncture on inflammation, and this proves that it is a viable treatment method if you suffer from inflammatory diseases.  For instance, a study published in Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2007 shows that mice that are subjected to the mouse form of rheumatoid arthritis show a decrease in inflammation markers when they undergo electro-acupuncture at certain points.  This diminishes the amount of destruction to the joints and decreases pain.

A study published in the Journal of Pain in 2001 shows that rats who had their back paw injected with a substance to induce inflammation had less pain with acupuncture than those who did not.  Success was determined by how often the rat would withdraw its paw, the measurement of inflammation chemical mediators, and the presence of redness and swelling.

This is all well and good for rats and mice, but what about people?  A study published in 2003 in the journal Urology found that acupuncture safely and effectively decreased the amount of inflammation in the condition prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate.  It was found to reduce both pain and swelling in these men.

Another study published in the journal Rheumatology in 1999 showed that elderly patients with osteoarthritis of the knee experienced greater pain relief when treated with acupuncture than the control group who only used traditional treatments.  Finally, a study published in Neurobiology of Disease in 2010 showed that spinal cord patients who underwent acupuncture experienced less cell death of neurons.  With healthier neurons, the patients kept more of their functional abilities.

If you suffer from inflammation or suspect that you have a condition caused by inflammation, you should have your doctor check your blood levels for the chemical markers of this condition.  Once you know you have an inflammatory disease, you can start a treatment of acupuncture that will help to decrease these harmful chemicals, decrease your pain, and restore your body to health.

Just because acupuncture is complementary medicine with an ancient track record of benefits does not mean it should be completely dismissed out of hand.  Even modern medical science is showing that acupuncture is a benefit to people with inflammation and can help when other treatments fail.


Linus Pauling Institute; Two Faces of Inflammation; Victoria J. Drake, Ph.D.; 2007

Institute of Traditional Medicine; An Introduction to Acupuncture and How It Works; Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D.; November 1996

American Journal of Chinese Medicine; Acupuncture Analgesia: A Review of Its Mechanisms of Actions; Jaung-Geng Lin and Wei-Liang Chen; 2008

Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Electro-acupuncture at acupoint ST36 reduces inflammation and regulates immune activity in Collagen-Induced Arthritic Mice; Yun-Kyoung Yim, et. al.; March 2007

The Journal of Pain; Electro-acupuncture attenuates behavioral hyperalgesia and selectively reduces spinal fos protein expression in rats with persistent inflammation; Lixing Lao, et. al.; April 2001

Urology; Acupuncture ameliorates symptoms in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome; Richard Chen and J. Curtis Nickel; June 2003

Rheumatology; A randomized trial of acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy in osteoarthritis of the knee; B.M. Berman, et. al.; 1999

Neurobiology of Disease; Acupuncture-mediated inhibition of inflammation facilitates significant functional recovery after spinal cord injury; Doo C. Choi, et. al.; September 2010

Rise of Grains and the Fall of Man

We’ve all heard it before: that a diet rich in whole grains is good for your health and your waistline. Grains like wheat and corn are supposed to provide vital nutrients, curb the appetite and help the digestive tract. But it seems like more and more evidence is showing there may only be a grain of truth in all that hype. The rise of grain may very well be the fall of Man.

Enter ‘FrankenGrains‘–GMO seeds bred for yield, not health.

Although there is a wide variety of whole grains like amaranth, rye, teff, millet, bulgur, buckwheat and barley that can offer a diverse assortment of nutrients, people around the globe are primarily chowing down on highly processed wheat and corn products. According to Cardiologist and Wheat Belly author William Davis, M.D. years of plant hybridization along with genetic modification have created wheat that no longer comes close to resembling the wheat consumed by our forefathers.

Many foods now have wheat, corn and other highly refined foodstuffs blended in. Unless you’re carefully reading food labels, most of us don’t even realize that wheat flour, wheat gluten, corn or high fructose corn syrup have been slipped in. Take a look through your cupboard. You may be shocked at what you will discover.

These “FrankenGrains” are now wreaking havoc in our bodies by causing an upward trend in obesity, diabetes, increased inflammatory response, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease. Davis also contends that the wheat we now eat in our bread, bagels, muffins and cupcakes creates a fat-storing insulin response that causes metabolic dysfunction, causing you crave even more food.

There’s also been an upswing in celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that is triggered by consuming gluten products. In 2010 The Mayo Clinic reported that celiac disease was on the rise. Studies are showing the incidence of celiac disease is four times greater than in 1950. “Many of the processed foods we eat were not in existence 50 years ago,” says Mayo Clinic physician and celiac disease research Dr. Joseph Murray. Murray speculates that wheat-growing methods may also play a role in the rise of celiac disease. That’s why he’s hoping to someday compare legacy wheat to modern strains to see if there may be a firm connection.

Corn is King

Los Angeles Time journalist Jerry Hirsch wrote that “corn is king.” Hirsch points out that while you may not be eating corn on the cob every night, the beef, pork and chicken on your table were all derived from corn-fed animals. Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietician with the Mayo Clinic says that high fructose corn syrup is the most commonly added sweetener to processed foods and drinks. Like wheat, corn and its by-products are creating an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart problems, dental woes and other illnesses.

Walking Corn Chips

University of California-Berkley plant biologist Todd Dawson told CNN that for some of us, more than half of our diet is corn-based. “We’re like corn chips walking because we really have a very, very large fraction of corn in our diets,” he said. “We actually can’t help it because it’s an additive in so many of the foods we find on the market shelves,” he added.

The problem? Energy-dense foods like super-sweet sodas and snacks are making it more and more difficult to tighten our belts. And its not just a problem in affluent countries. Developing nations are also seeing alarming trends in obesity and food-related diseases. Processed snack foods, instant meals and sugary sodas are fattening up the earth’s population.

Sowing the Seeds of Illness

The Barcelona-based nonprofit GRAIN says that grains problems start with the seeds. They accuse Trans-national corporations with tinkering seeds so that small, independent farmers are weeded out. GRAIN says that only 10 major corporations control fifty percent of the global seed market. This lack of diversity is one of the contributing factors to increased illness and bulging bellies seen around the world. Companies like Monsanto and Cargill are all fiddling with world-wide grains to reap profits instead of nutritious food.

So what’s the answer? We need to be more vigilant when it comes to our food choices, especially when it comes to grains. Start reviewing food labels and discover what’s really in the products that you eat. Do some research to determine which products are genetically modified and which are virgin. Once you start looking you may not like what you see, but at least you’ll be able to make an informed decision when it comes down to what’s on your plate.

5 Reasons John Travolta Struts….so should u:)


At my acupuncture clinic I am huge advocate for daily walks.  That is walks with an ‘S’ the more the better, here is something to keep in mind to keep them even more effective for your health.  I am not a physiologist or bio-mechanic expert but these are things I see and are easy to put into practice for a few strides a day.

Why Strut?
1.  Walking with deliberate steps increases stride length this effectively turns-off overly facilitated hip-flexors while simultaneously recruiting the  posterior chain more properly.  This improves desk jockey/couch surfing posture that is so prevalent today–so a bit of swagger addresses tight psoas muscles and glute amnesia all-in-one.
2.  Strutting further improves posture by projecting confidence, pulls the shoulders back, opens the lungs.  This improves oxygen uptake and allows the lower lung lobes to do their job.  Thus better and more efficient breathing, always a plus.
3.  Proper strutting encourages heel, ball, big toe drive when you step you get a more proper foot mechanics.  This will activate a slight internal rotation of the femur, internal rotators stabilize the sacrum and ”unlock’ the SI Joint for better pelvis motion….do 1 n 3 together and viola’.  Feel that lower back pain dissipate!  All the sudden your pelvis moves like it should and your lumbar will stop rotating to compensate for the locked hips.  (Found this thru personal experience)
4.  Swagger gives you upper body reciprocal sway.  In our world my patients tend to be fearful and constrained, nothing like a little sway and proper left/right gait counteraction to free and relax the mind….if u want to feel better, move better….if u strut no matter your mood…it will improve!!  Have fun with it :)
5.  Disco…how can u not like that–it is like cornbeard for Chris Rock!
Ah, ah ah ah staying alive.
So we are all grooving together my man in New Jersey and movement expert Dr Perry Nickelston DC at Stop Chasing Pain had this to say…
 ~The deliberate intent of movement swagger will help optimize hip extension and gluteus Maximus activation. So you get a properly functioning extension pattern, increased tone in the glutes, and a few more stares. Whats not to love?~
Feel better and give yourself a little swagger the next time you go out for a stroll!
Mason McClellan LAc

Infographic on the Issues with Wheat Consumption


Great article written by Dr Mark Hyman MD…I summed it up here:)



How do we balance Yield, Profits and Health?

In economics there is the assumption that each entity is out for their own best interest, so how do we “create” some sort of Nash Equilibrium, popularized by Russell Crowe in the movie Beautiful Mind.  There needs to be some sort innate cooperation of all parties to pull this off.

In this time of fast/convenient food, it is difficult to imagine not eating breads, pastas, tortillas and cereals much of the time, but that is just what people did not that many years ago. With the rise of mega-agribusinesses such as Monsanto and Cargill, and the development of commercial farm across the country, we have begun consuming far too many grain-based products to the detriment of our health.  Whole-grain “cholesterol-lowering” oatmeal has replaced the old standard bacon and eggs.

Grains are the foundation of the Standard American Diet, yet wheat is not very healthy for us. On paper, whole wheat has a decent amount of fiber and a few essential nutrients, but most people consume too much, too frequently.   Wheat that has little to no nutritional value–and for many it is an anti-nutrient–(read damaging to our health).  Add to that fact that most of the wheat grown today has been genetically modify or raised on megafarms using toxic chemicals that ensure abundant harvests with fewer weeds and pests and we have a recipe for disaster. As these biotech advances produce enormous harvests, we have been encouraged to eat more and more wheat. This is filling the coffers of the agribusinesses and megafarmers alike, while providing a cheap food source for consumers. However, our health has suffered. Nearly one percent of Americans have celiac disease, which is intolerance to the gluten protein found in wheat. That is three million Americans, 97 percent of which are yet undiagnosed. The elevate rate of celiac disease is a result of this modern-bred wheat in the average American’s diet.  Not too mention as Dr Davis suggests in WheatBelly, the wheat we are eating is not your grandma’s wheat.  The genetic differences of new-wheat vs old-wheat is wreaking GI havoc on our health.

The other grain pushed by giant agribusinesses is corn. As I say if you want a fat cow, feed it corn.  (FYI–cows are meant to eat grass.)  That should Corn itself is may not necessarily be the problem–heck Native Americans ate it at the first Thanksgiving if my third-grade history is accurate, but the by-products of corn that are found in nearly every processed food and beverage on the market are. High fructose corn syrup is making America very sick. It is a staple in the processed food. High fructose corn syrup or HFCS is listed as an ingredient in not only sodas and sugary breakfast cereals but also in breads, soups and sauces. HFCS contributes greatly to the widespread obesity we see in America today. This high rate of obesity is causing Americans many more health issues. The rate of diagnosed cases of diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions, fatty liver disease, and many more is astounding. Limiting damaging food sources, such as those containing HFCS–implicated here, is the best way to reduce the risk developing these diseases.

Let’s not even mention soy at this point…

Reducing the consumption of grains should be a goal of a healthier lifestyle. Turning to a more paleo-diet of meat and veggies, free from grains, may be the best thing you can do. Yes, Monsanto and Cargill may potentially suffer if people not only understand the consequences of their food choices but do something about them–(probably not–people still smoke, right??) but hopefully fewer farms turn to them for biotech seeds, toxic chemicals, and huge harvest contracts.  Or more consumers continue the trend of local/co-op/farmer market shopping for their food.

Hopefully more small farmers will be able to increase their bottom line by increasing their offerings of nutritious, organic foods that are better for our health. As more and more farms change to natural foods, the price to consumers will gradually drop, allowing low-income earners to eat an affordable, healthy diet that is free of these more damaging grains.

More to come…lots to cover with these topics!

Top 4 reasons I like walking..

Hopefully you see the redundancy in my FB posts and other stuff on the importance of walking.  I just got back from my standard lap with Finney that is about 1.2 miles.  I try and do this 4x times a day.  Not all of them are the full 1.2 miles but I get two for sure, especially in the summer.  This is nothing fancy but here is what I do and some reasons why…


On the trail at sunset March 2011

1.  Walking improves posture…we are all subjected to the world of sitting whether we like it or not.  We drive too much, desk-jockey 8 hours a day or more, watch TV, go to restaurants.  All of these habits cause a couple issues.  Forward head posture, short hip-flexors, slumped shoulders.  Walking is a natural method to reset a more ‘ideal’ posture.  When you walk your mind will wonder but go  for moments of focus where you elongate your spine, increase your stride and almost strut a bit, and take deliberate steps.  You will improve your profile, release your hips and improve your breathing all without trying too much.  Pretty good bang for the buck!

2.  Great for digestion…if you are walking you are not eating, hopefully.  That is a benefit unto its own.  You will further improve gut motility and inhibit ‘food retention’ as we say in TCM.  It will get things moving along without having that full felling.  So walk after every meal–even if it is only 5 minutes.  Not too mention it will force your body to utilize that energy.

3.  Alleviate aches and pains…similar to acupuncture and that walking promotes bloodflow.  That is certainly a good thing.  Notice how you are more stiff in the morning??  Improvement in circulation and oxygenation out to the limbs is going to help reduce pain due to ischemia (old injuries, scar tissue, age, etc).  So get moving!

4.  Clears the mind…I am not much of a meditator/tai chier/sit quietly and say ommm kinda guy.  But nothing beats a nice walk with Finnegan to help clear my mind, sort out my thoughts and reflect on my day.  I always feel better after a quick walk.  Fresh air, sunshine, a cool breeze brushing the skin on your face.  What could be better.

Now it is your turn, all it takes is a step to get going, literally.

Finney, my walking buddy!


What does your tongue look like?

Think of the tongue as a barometer for the whole body!

A quick intro…

In Chinese Medicine we want to know 5 basic things about your body.

Is it too??

Hot, Cold, Dry, Damp or Stagnate/Stasis/Toxic…the tongue tells us that.  And that is how we come up with our diagnosis and treatment plan!

Look at how we map the tongue:

Each element represents an Organ System or Pattern of how your body constitution is!