Thursday, December 24, 2009

Supporting Childbirth With Acupuncture

By Joshua Herr, L.Ac.

A documentary on the state of childbirth in the United States was released this year. “The Business of Being Born” was produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein. In 2006, CNN reported, “The US has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.” In all other countries, midwives attend 70-80% of births. In 2003, midwives attended approximately 8% of births in the United States.

The rate of cesarean section has increased as a result of the majority of births occurring in hospitals instead of birthing centers or homes. The pharmaceutical pitocin is often used in the hospital to speed the process of labor by increasing the strength and frequency of contractions. This induction of labor can be too soon or too strong for the mother or child and lead to cesarean as the next intervention. To help prevent this cascade of events, choose a care provider who induces labor only for medical reasons.

In 1998, the journal Gynecologic and Obstetrics Investigation published a study titled, “Influence of Acupuncture on Duration of Labor.” Beginning at week 36 of pregnancy, they gave 4 treatments once per week with acupuncture. The comparison group consisted of women who delivered closely before or after the women who were receiving acupuncture.

What they found was that the acupuncture group had a significantly shorter time of first stage of labor, which they defined as 3-cm dilation to full dilation. The average time of the first stage of labor for the acupuncture group was 196 minutes, which is a little over 3 hours. The average time of the first stage of labor in the group that did not receive acupuncture was 300 minutes, which is a little over 5 hours. There was no change in the duration of the second stage of labor, full dilation to delivery. This study suggests that acupuncture is useful in preparation for childbirth and can shorten Stage l of the laboring process.

We are grateful for many of the advancements in science and technology that have saved the lives of premature babies and mothers of high-risk pregnancies. However, the advancements in scientific knowledge do not replace the inherit knowing of the woman’s body.

Midwives recognize this inherit ability of the mother and know how to encourage it emotionally and spiritually during the process of labor. They are also trained on how to assess the need for medical intervention to ensure that the mother and newborn are not in danger during the birth process.

In Germany, many midwives are trained to perform acupuncture in the context of pregnancy and childbirth, because they recognize the benefits.

The practitioners at CAC are well equipped to work with pregnant patients and have many resources to offer including relieving pain during pregnancy, labor induction, assisting with turning a breech baby, and late stage acupuncture for preparation for child birth.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sugar, Sugar Everywhere. Not Sure What To Eat?

By Rachel Nowakowski, L.Ac.

Eliminating sugar from the diet isn’t easy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the per capita consumption of sugar is 44.2 lbs per year! Sweetened items on special occasions and in moderation can make life a little more fun, but there are alternatives to refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

In Chinese Medicine, the sweet flavor is associated with the Spleen energy. The Spleen energy benefits from a small amount of the sweet flavor, as found in whole grains and vegetables. In large quantities, sweet foods weaken the Spleen, impeding the digestive function and causing dampness to accumulate in the body. Just because something is “naturally sweetened” does not necessarily mean it is any better for you. As a general rule: the less sweet, the better. When we read labels on natural food products, we see a variety of different sweeteners.

Here are a few:

Grain Malts like rice syrup, barley malt, and amasake are mildly sweet and do not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. These sweeteners are considered to be among the healthiest sweeteners in the natural food industry.

Stevia is an all-natural substance derived from the leaves of a South American shrub. It has virtually no calories, doesn't raise blood sugar levels, and does not appear to have the same dampness-producing quality of other sweeteners when used in moderation. But because it is considered to be 300 times sweeter than sugar, an overconsumption can lead to Spleen weakness.

Molasses is a thick syrup by-product from the processing of the sugarcane or sugar beet. Black Strap Molasses contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals and is the least sweet of the varieties. It is considered a Blood tonic because of its high iron content.

Honey is as sweet as sugar. Research has found that honey enhances growth of specific strains of Bifidobacteria, beneficial bacteria in the colon. Honey neutralizes toxins, activates the Lung and Spleen meridians, and nourishes Yin.

Sugar Alcohols (Mannitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol) are derived from the fibers of fruits and vegetables. Excess consumption can have a laxative effect and may produce gas, which implies that they do impact on the Spleen qi.

Many people turn to artificial sweeteners in an attempt to cut sugar from their diet. But what are they really made of? Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) breaks down in the body and converts to formaldehyde! Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low) is a petroleum-based compound, which was temporarily banned in 1977 when a study suggested saccharine caused bladder cancer. Sucralose (Splenda) is chlorinated and other chlorinated substances are known to contain pesticides. With these sweeteners, you may get more than just a little sweetness.

With all the options readily available to us, why not go for more natural, less sweet foods? The best source of sweetness is whole foods, chewed well to bring out their natural flavors.

Baked Apples

2 red apples, cored
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place apples in a baking dish.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all other ingredients.

3. Bring to a boil, and drizzle equally over apples.

4. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cover, and continue to bake for 10 minutes, or until apples are tender. Serve warm.