A Calmer Ever After using Acupuncture and Functional Medicine
Anxiety: Calming Intense Fear with Integrative Medicine
A review featured in the Annals of General Psychiatry published in 2021 evaluated the effects of acupuncture therapy on anxious patients and published their findings.
A total of 20 randomized clinical trials handled by various teams compared patient symptoms before and after acupuncture treatment. All studies concluded that acupuncture provided positive outcomes for those struggling with anxiety – each trial’s statistics proving its efficacy!
The World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry published a new review in 2022 to update positive evidence-based uses of nutrient-based and plant-based treatments for mood and anxiety disorders.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a state of excess fear and unease that can often leave you feeling overwhelmed.
You may experience physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, tension in your body, difficulty focusing, or even an accelerated heart rate (palpitations).
Some people refer to it as fear–but anxiety tends to stem from worrying about future events rather than occurring during the moment itself. These emotions have been known to stay with someone for long periods of time and grow more intense with each passing day.
If you or your medical professional suspect that anxiety is at play, it’s vital to examine your history in more depth. Some common symptoms can include:
- Persistent, excess fear or worry
- Restlessness, on-edge, irritable
- Avoidance of certain situations or people
- Sense of impending doom
- Depression-like symptoms or diagnosis
A discussion on anxiety includes revisiting certain decisions and particular events. Other elements include cultural influences, medication taken previously, and any prior experiences which might be connected with traumatic conditions – all of which contribute to how an individual will respond to future predicaments most often by overestimating the potential danger.
Conventional Thought: Overlaps of Anxiety and Depression
Conventional thought on anxiety has similarities and differences with depression. Causes and medications used might often be the same, making it difficult to distinguish to two conditions. The chemicals norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are significant mediators of anxiety and how it presents in the individual.
A key difference between the two conditions is their undertones. Depression has an undertone of sadness. Anxiety has an undertone of fear, with feelings of worry and nervousness.
Brain anatomy is another piece of the anxiety discussion. The amygdala is a complex structure involved in emotional regulation and memory. The amygdala also plays an important role in fear. One study shows electrical stimulation can evoke a fear and anxiety response, another study shows the amygdala can enlarge during anxiety as well as depression.. Just like other brain structures the amygdala does not act alone; interacting with other structures such as the hypothalamus.
Functional Medicine on Anxiety
Functional medicine is about the body’s chemical makeup and lifestyle habits. It looks at the blood, nutrients, electrolytes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and more.
A functional medicine visit does a review of all 11 body systems (12, if we divide the reproductive systems). Remember that all body systems communicate with each other to some degree, especially during chemical exchange. Possible findings from functional visits include:
- Higher or unregulated levels of cortisol
- Deficiencies of certain vitamins or minerals like vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium
- Lower caloric intake
- Certain foods irritating the digestive tract
- Past or current environmental exposure
The Chinese View on Anxiety
Chinese medicine defines anxiety as it relates to fear. Furthermore, the Chinese outlook encompasses a person’s entire demeanor and expression when assessing anxiety. This view is best explained by the question, “How does their anxiety show itself?”
The answer: Their anxiety will show itself through movements of the Qi.”
A core concept in Chinese medicine, Qi must always move. It must move in specific directions in a healthy individual. The state of Qi is evaluated by the operations of different organs and body systems.
The Qi in the Stomach usually moves downward. If it moves upward, it will create symptoms like acid reflux, burping, or an urge to vomit. An upward Qi movement also creates the sensation of an object stuck in your throat. A sensation many people have felt during anxiety.
This sensation is coincidentally one of the primary symptoms in a few of the Chinese medicine diagnoses matched to anxiety.
Utilizing Qi movement and behavior as a tool, Chinese medicine providers will carefully observe this sensation along with the rest of the individual’s body to identify which diagnosis is most accurate. This practice serves at the core of holistic clinical practice for Chinese Medicine.
Some of the mechanisms behind acupuncture for anxiety involve the release of endorphins and the regulation of neurotransmitters, chemicals released by nerve fibers.
The presence and balance of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin have multifaceted roles in mental health.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbs can used alone and in combination with acupuncture to promote relaxation, improve blood flow, and regulate body chemicals, similar effects to acupuncture.
Acorus has a special interest in herbs, especially since the clinic’s name comes from the herb used for cognitive purposes, Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii (Chinese: shí chāng pú 石菖蒲).
A major advantage of Chinese medicine for anxiety is the customization of treatment to the individual. Different people respond to different points and herbs. Combined with your regular visits to primary care, you are on your way to better health.
Acorus treats anxiety with respect and individual attention that every patient deserves. We also understand the importance and difference between the patient and provider perspectives. In doing so, we keep a clear line of communication vital to effective mental health treatment.
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