Acupuncture, Exercise May Ease Breast Cancer Pain

In the years that I volunteered at the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, I was blessed with the task of supporting women through their breast cancer treatment.  It was a wonderful experience and it was amazing to see how much the acupuncture helped women feel both emotionally and physically better during a very trying time in their lives.

Treatment-related discomfort, swelling helped by the approaches, studies find

Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Breast cancer patients who experience pain and swelling related to their treatment may find relief in acupuncture and exercise, new research suggests.

In one study, acupuncture helped reduce joint pain by up to 40 percent, said study author Dr. Jun Mao, director of the integrative oncology program at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

And it didn’t matter if people thought it would work or not, he found.

While other studies have found acupuncture is effective for a variety of symptoms, including joint pain, fatigue and sleeping difficulties, Mao wanted to see the role a person’s expectations of the treatment would have.

He studied 41 breast cancer survivors, assigning them to a sham acupuncture group or an electroacupuncture group, and compared them to a “control group” that got neither treatment. Electroacupuncture uses a small electrical current passed between two pairs of acupuncture needles to stimulate certain points on the body. The women did not know whether they were getting the real treatment or the sham one.

The women had stiffness or joint pain, which are common side effects when taking aromatase inhibitors, a hormonal therapy used to help treat breast cancer.

“What we found is in the real acupuncture, the response was not dependent on whether the patient believed acupuncture to work or not,” Mao said. “However, in the sham group, the response seemed to be driven by the higher expectation of acupuncture to work.”

Those in the real acupuncture group had a consistent level of pain reduction, Mao said. In the sham group, if there was a low expectation, no change in pain was reported. “For those [in the sham group] with extremely high expectations, their effect was as strong as 80 percent,” he said.

Pain relief from real acupuncture is often dismissed as a “placebo effect,” Mao explained. “Our results demonstrate the opposite,” he said. In real acupuncture, expectation plays no role in pain reduction. “The real acupuncture group, regardless of expectation, everyone had about a 40 percent reduction in pain,” he said. A decline of 30 percent or higher is viewed as meaningful, he added.

What this means, Mao said, is that “real acupuncture will work for anyone, whether you believe it or not.”

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.

In the same journal, University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at how a community-based exercise program could help women affected by lymphedema (a swelling of the limbs), muscle problems and decreased body image that can occur after breast cancer.

In a previous study, the researchers had found the program worked in a research setting. But, they wanted to test it in a community setting. The program is administered by physical therapists and included a group-based exercise class and a program for patients to continue at home or at the gym.

In all, 67 breast cancer patients completed measurements of the effects after a year. These participants had improvements in symptoms, body image and muscular strength. The results in the community setting were similar to those that were found in the research setting.

What this means, Mao said, is that “real acupuncture will work for anyone, whether you believe it or not.”

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.

In the same journal, University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at how a community-based exercise program could help women affected by lymphedema (a swelling of the limbs), muscle problems and decreased body image that can occur after breast cancer.

In a previous study, the researchers had found the program worked in a research setting. But, they wanted to test it in a community setting. The program is administered by physical therapists and included a group-based exercise class and a program for patients to continue at home or at the gym.

In all, 67 breast cancer patients completed measurements of the effects after a year. These participants had improvements in symptoms, body image and muscular strength. The results in the community setting were similar to those that were found in the research setting.
Continue reading below…

However, the researchers did note issues that were encountered in getting the program operational, including payments, the need for advocates and how to get patients referred so it would be covered by insurance.

The acupuncture study is a solid piece of research, said Leslie Bernstein, director of cancer etiology at the City of Hope Cancer Center, in Duarte, Calif.

However, she said, it’s important to point out that acupuncture won’t work for everyone. “But, on average, it will work,” she said, based on the study results.

The exercise study showed the challenges that come with taking a program that’s been tested and found effective in research settings and putting it into practice, Bernstein added. “It highlighted the issues that one would meet in what works as an intervention, and taking that into the community.”

Among the common issues, she said, are finding someone to administer such programs, paying for them and getting insurance coverage and approvals.

Source: WebMD News from HealthDay
By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay Reporter

The benefits of congee, a savory porridge

When I went to China for two months during my acupuncture study program, I often had congee for breakfast.  It was so warm and nurturing.  It makes you feel great.  It is kind of like having a hearty chicken soup, but the rice in it makes it more filling and satisfying.  Check out this article about congee posted by Three Stone Hearth.  Three Stone Hearth is a wonderful store in Berkeley where you can buy wholesome, nutrient dense meals and bone broths.  It is very good for people in a hurry who don’t have time to prepare substantial meals.

Congee is one of those “foreign” foods that deserves to be as well known in the U.S. as hummus and salsa. Congee, also known as jook, is a savory porridge usually made from long-simmered rice. Eaten extensively throughout East Asia–often for breakfast–congee is universally celebrated for its digestibility and restorative properties. The first mentions of it in Chinese texts date back at least two millennia. It is often the first food fed to a baby after months on a diet of pure mother’s milk. If you are ill, elderly, or infirm you will be plied with congee.

There are endless variations on this classic healing food. Sometimes it is very plain, other times it is dressed up with meats, eggs, herbs, or vegetables. These may be stirred in, sprinkled on top, or served on the side so that eaters can customize their congee to their heart’s delight. Congee can be made with other grains instead of rice, like millet or barley, and it can also be cooked with traditional medicinal herbs to enhance its healing properties.

There are also ceremonial forms of congee, such as Laba, which is eaten on an annual festival day (the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar) and often includes dried fruit or beans.

So… why isn’t congee yet a household word in America? Not quite a soup, not quite a stew, congee is a savory breakfast porridge eaten with meat and vegetables trying to make it in a culture that has a limited imagination when it comes to breakfast foods. We think of sweetened cold cereal or eggs and toast. But for those of us hungering for nourishing, easily digested, warming meals, congee is deeply satisfying. It’s great for lunch and dinner too. Check out this week’s Pork Congee with Shiitakes and Tatsoi. Then try making your own —maybe with some Three Stone Hearth bone broth. And if it clicks–spread the word!

Heir foods are great for anyone in a debilitated state such as someone post partum or post surgery.

Nourish Your Kidney Yin

As we move into the colder months, it is important to conserve your energy.  Read these tips from Master Liu He:

As we enter the Winter season, people may experience more yin depletion. Master Liu He  advises all students at this time to nourish your Kidney Yin and not bother your Kidney Yang. With sufficient Yin energy, just as in a stage of pregnancy, the Yang can then give a healthy birth in Spring. Winter is considered a time for storage, just as nature and animals take this time to hibernate. She stated, if you do not preserve your Yang Qi,  all the Spring diseases will occur such as: cold hands & feet, Yang Qi will not be able to rise the entire year, difficult digestion, allergies, etc.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Think less and slow down your daily activities/lifestyle.
2. Eat warm and cooked foods. Avoid cold and raw foods.
3. Eat chicken soups and oysters.
4. Go to bed early and get up late.
5. Shower/bathe less – no more than 3 times per week (especially not a sauna – excess sweat)
6. Soak your feet in hot water with sea salt for 20 minutes at night.

With healing Qi,
Master Liu He