Ever wonder where acupuncture needles came from, how they evolved, and how they’re used today? Here are some highlights from the history of these ancient healing devices, which are still widely and effectively used today:The earliest acupuncture devices were made of stone. These were not used to pierce the skin, but rather to press on acupuncture points.
Historians presume that before metal needles; thorns, bamboo slivers, or sharpened bone were used to stimulate acupuncture points.
The oldest acupuncture needles found date to A.D. 600. These needles were made of bronze, copper, tin, gold, and silver.
In the fourth century A.D., China began using steel. Once steel was discovered, it became the most favored material for crafting acupuncture needles because it is both very strong and can be used to make very thin needles.
In the 17th century, Waichi Sugiyama – a famous blind acupuncturist from Japan- invented the guide tube which resulted in the development of much finer needles.
The acupuncture needles most commonly used in present-day practice are made of stainless steel of a very fine diameter (approximately 0.015″). These are pre-packaged, sterilized, and disposable.
In The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (one of the original Chinese medicine textbooks), nine different types of needles are mentioned as being used for acupuncture treatments. Each one had a different tip and a precise length and width.
Studies have shown that acupuncture points have significantly more electrical conductivity than areas of skin without acupuncture points.
In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified acupuncture needles as medical instruments, assuring their safety and effectiveness.
According to a National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the past, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.
Usually needles are inserted from 1/4 to 1 inch in depth. Depth of insertion will depend on the patient’s size, age, constitution, and the nature of the condition being treated.
A popular acupuncture point for treating sciatica is located on the buttocks. An acupuncture needle is usually inserted three to four inches into this acupuncture point.
Acupuncture originated in China but has spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, and America. Different styles have developed over the centuries based on different opinions as to theory and technique.
Talk to your practitioner about his/her particular style and learn as much as possible about the treatment being proposed. While the basic theoretical principles of acupuncture remain the same, different styles of acupuncture differ greatly in technique and diagnosis. There is no evidence that one particular style is more effective than another, but you should know what you are getting into.
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (TCM)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the most common form of acupuncture studied and practiced in the United States.
Japanese Style Acupuncture
Japanese style acupuncture takes a more subtle route than TCM. Fewer and thinner needles are used with less stimulation.
Korean Hand Acupuncture
Points in the hand correspond to areas of the body and to certain disharmonies.
Points in the ear correspond to areas of the body and to certain disharmonies. This system is commonly used for pain control and drug, alcohol, and nicotine addictions.
When a Western Medical Doctor performs Acupuncture; it is defined as Medical Acupuncture. Acupuncture requirements for Western doctors are generally more lenient than for non-MD’s. Choose a physician who also a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.). If there are none near you be sure that the M.D. or D.O. is a member of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture; it requires a minimum of 200 hours of training for membership.
Today, veterinary acupuncture is an acknowledged and respected field of medicine which requires formal training and certification in order to practice.
In most States, provinces and countries, veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure that, legally, may ONLY be performed by a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine.
Look for a veterinarian with formal training in the practice of animal acupuncture. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is an art and a science that takes years to master. While any licensed vet can stick needles into an animal, for a positive experience and results, find a veterinary acupuncturist with experience treating a similar condition (with acupuncture) to what your animal has.
If you’re thinking about trying acupuncture, there’s a few things you should know if you’re a new kid on the Chinese Medicine block.
1) Your acupuncturist may ask you questions you haven’t heard before.
To a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, the big picture is extremely important. We want to know what your mood is like, how you’re sleeping, and if you tend to run hot or cold. And we want to know everything about your digestion. EVERYTHING. Even what happens in the bathroom.
Some of these questions may seem unrelated to the symptom that brought you into the office that day, but from a Chinese Medicine perspective, everything is connected. These seemingly unrelated questions give us insight into what organ systems, channels, and energetic mechanisms are out of balance and need to be addressed.
2) The physical exam is a little different too.
You’ll notice that your acupuncturist will feel your pulse on both of your wrists for a pretty long time. The pulse is key in making a correct Chinese Pattern Diagnosis. Your practitioner isn’t just feeling the rate and rhythm of your pulse, but is also paying attention to the quality, intensity, and size of your pulse.
While assessing your pulse, your practitioner may have additional questions for you. And you might just feel like they’re reading your mind when they ask you about a piece of information you forgot to mention
Your acupuncturist will also want to look at your tongue. They will be looking at the size, shape, color, and any indentations or cracks on your tongue. Like the pulse, the tongue gives us more information about your organ systems and energetic health.
3) Your treatment will address the symptoms that are bothering you, and much more than that.
Your symptoms, pulse, and tongue are all clues to your acupuncturist about the type of energetic imbalance that needs to be addressed. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the mind, body, and spirits (in Chinese Medicine there are 5), are all related. Each organ has a physical, mental, and spirit function. (For example, the Liver is responsible for moving qi, is associated with anger, and when the spirit of the Liver is unrooted, it can cause insomnia.)
Your treatment will address your mind, body, and spirits to relieve your symptoms and to address the energetic cause of your symptoms so you can move back into balance and health.
4) You will feel the needles. And you will like it.
Acupuncture works with the qi of your body. Qi is the life force that powers every organ and cell in your body. You might not feel very aware of it on a regular day, but you will learn to recognize it.
The sensation of qi is different for everyone, but you might experience it as a tugging feeling, a warm and tingly feeling, a dull achy feeling, or some other feeling I don’t know about, because my qi is different than yours.
You might feel qi around the needle site or radiating to another part of your body. Patients often describe the sensation traveling through the acupuncture channels, even though they don’t know where they are.
Some points you may not feel at all, but some points will hurt. If there is pain, it will usually go away in a few seconds. That’s the qi moving out of a place it was stuck. If the pain is too intense or doesn’t go away, let your acupuncturist know so they can adjust or remove the needle.
5) Your life will never be the same.
Once you’ve experienced acupuncture you will notice some side effects. You may want more acupuncture. You may become interested in what your acupuncturist is doing and learn to speak Chinese Medicine. You may want to go deeper with your treatment and ask your acupuncturist for herbs, lifestyle, and diet recommendations. You may become more aware of your energy and the people, places, and activities that effect you.
Picture a world where human relationships are challenging, narcissism and self-centeredness are on the rise, and there is disagreement on the best way for people to live harmoniously together.
It sounds like 21st-century America. But the society that Michael Puett, a tall, 48-year-old bespectacled professor of Chinese history at Harvard University, is describing to more than 700 rapt undergraduates is China, 2,500 years ago.
Puett’s course Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory has become the third most popular course at the university. The only classes with higher enrollment are Intro to Economics and Intro to Computer Science. The second time Puett offered it, in 2007, so many students crowded into the assigned room that they were sitting on the stairs and stage and spilling out into the hallway. Harvard moved the class to Sanders Theater, the biggest venue on campus.
Why are so many undergraduates spending a semester poring over abstruse Chinese philosophy by scholars who lived thousands of years ago? For one thing, the class fulfills one of Harvard’s more challenging core requirements, Ethical Reasoning. It’s clear, though, that students are also lured in by Puett’s bold promise: “This course will change your life.”
His students tell me it is true: that Puett uses Chinese philosophy as a way to give undergraduates concrete, counter-intuitive, and even revolutionary ideas, which teach them how to live a better life. Elizabeth Malkin, a student in the course last year, says, “The class absolutely changed my perspective of myself, my peers, and of the way I view the world.” Puett puts a fresh spin on the questions that Chinese scholars grappled with centuries ago. He requires his students to closely read original texts (in translation) such as Confucius’s Analects, the Mencius, and the Daodejing and then actively put the teachings into practice in their daily lives. His lectures use Chinese thought in the context of contemporary American life to help 18- and 19-year-olds who are struggling to find their place in the world figure out how to be good human beings; how to create a good society; how to have a flourishing life.
Puett began offering his course to introduce his students not just to a completely different cultural worldview but also to a different set of tools. He told me he is seeing more students who are “feeling pushed onto a very specific path towards very concrete career goals” than he did when he began teaching nearly 20 years ago. A recent report shows a steep decline over the last decade in the number of Harvard students who are choosing to major in the humanities, a trend roughly seen across the nation’s liberal arts schools. Finance remains the most popular career for Harvard graduates. Puett sees students who orient all their courses and even their extracurricular activities towards practical, predetermined career goals and plans.
Puett tells his students that being calculating and rationally deciding on plans is precisely the wrong way to make any sort of important life decision. The Chinese philosophers they are reading would say that this strategy makes it harder to remain open to other possibilities that don’t fit into that plan. Students who do this “are not paying enough attention to the daily things that actually invigorate and inspire them, out of which could come a really fulfilling, exciting life,” he explains. If what excites a student is not the same as what he has decided is best for him, he becomes trapped on a misguided path, slated to begin an unfulfilling career. Puett aims to open his students’ eyes to a different way to approach everything from relationships to career decisions. He teaches them that:
The smallest actions have the most profound ramifications. Confucius, Mencius, and other Chinese philosophers taught that the most mundane actions can have a ripple effect, and Puett urges his students to become more self-aware, to notice how even the most quotidian acts—holding open the door for someone, smiling at the grocery clerk—change the course of the day by affecting how we feel.
That rush of good feeling that comes after a daily run, the inspiring conversation with a good friend, or the momentary flash of anger that arises when someone cuts in front of us in line—what could they have to do with big life matters? Everything, actually. From a Chinese philosophical point of view, these small daily experiences provide us endless opportunities to understand ourselves. When we notice and understand what makes us tick, react, feel joyful or angry, we develop a better sense of who we are that helps us when approaching new situations. Mencius, a late Confucian thinker (4th century B.C.E.), taught that if you cultivate your better nature in these small ways, you can become an extraordinary person with an incredible influence, altering your own life as well as that of those around you, until finally “you can turn the whole world in the palm of your hand.”
Decisions are made from the heart. Americans tend to believe that humans are rational creatures who make decisions logically, using our brains. But in Chinese, the word for “mind” and “heart” are the same. Puett teaches that the heart and the mind are inextricably linked, and that one does not exist without the other. Whenever we make decisions, from the prosaic to the profound (what to make for dinner; which courses to take next semester; what career path to follow; whom to marry), we will make better ones when we intuit how to integrate heart and mind and let our rational and emotional sides blend into one. Zhuangzi, a Daoist philosopher, taught that we should train ourselves to become “spontaneous” through daily living, rather than closing ourselves off through what we think of as rational decision-making. In the same way that one deliberately practices the piano in order to eventually play it effortlessly, through our everyday activities we train ourselves to become more open to experiences and phenomena so that eventually the right responses and decisions come spontaneously, without angst, from the heart-mind.
Recent research into neuroscience is confirming that the Chinese philosophers are correct: Brain scans reveal that our unconscious awareness of emotions and phenomena around us are actually what drive the decisions we believe we are making with such logical rationality. According to Marianne LaFrance, a psychology professor at Yale, if we see a happy face for just a fraction of a second (4 milliseconds to be exact), that’s long enough to elicit a mini emotional high. In one study viewers who were flashed a smile—even though it was shown too quickly for them to even realize they had seen it—perceived the things around them more positively.
If the body leads, the mind will follow. Behaving kindly (even when you are not feeling kindly), or smiling at someone (even if you aren’t feeling particularly friendly at the moment) can cause actual differences in how you end up feeling and behaving, even ultimately changing the outcome of a situation.
While all this might sound like hooey-wooey self-help, much of what Puett teaches is previously accepted cultural wisdom that has been lost in the modern age. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do,” a view shared by thinkers such as Confucius, who taught that the importance of rituals lies in how they inculcate a certain sensibility in a person. In research published in Psychological Science, social psychologist Amy Cuddy and her colleagues found that when we take a power stance (stand with our legs apart, arms thrust out, taking up space), the pose does not only cause other people to view us as more confident and powerful; it actually causes a hormonal surge that makes us become more confident.
At the end of each class, Puett challenges his students to put the Chinese philosophy they have been learning into tangible practice in their everyday lives. “The Chinese philosophers we read taught that the way to really change lives for the better is from a very mundane level, changing the way people experience and respond to the world, so what I try to do is to hit them at that level. I’m not trying to give my students really big advice about what to do with their lives. I just want to give them a sense of what they can do daily to transform how they live.” Their assignments are small ones: to first observe how they feel when they smile at a stranger, hold open a door for someone, engage in a hobby. He asks them to take note of what happens next: how every action, gesture, or word dramatically affects how others respond to them. Then Puett asks them to pursue more of the activities that they notice arouse positive, excited feelings. In their papers and discussion sections students discuss what it means to live life according to the teachings of these philosophers.
Once they’ve understood themselves better and discovered what they love to do they can then work to become adept at those activities through ample practice and self-cultivation. Self-cultivation is related to another classical Chinese concept: that effort is what counts the most, more than talent or aptitude. We aren’t limited to our innate talents; we all have enormous potential to expand our abilities if we cultivate them. You don’t have to be stuck doing what you happen to be good at; merely pay attention to what you love and proceed from there. Chinese philosophers taught that paying attention to small clues “can literally change everything that we can become as human beings,” says Puett.
To be interconnected, focus on mundane, everyday practices, and understand that great things begin with the very smallest of acts are radical ideas for young people living in a society that pressures them to think big and achieve individual excellence. This might be one reason why, according to the Chronicle for Higher Education, interest in Chinese philosophy is taking off around the nation—not just at Harvard. And it’s a message that’s especially resonating with those yearning for an alternative to the fast track they have been on all their lives.
One of Puett’s former students, Adam Mitchell, was a math and science whiz who went to Harvard intending to major in economics. At Harvard specifically and in society in general, he told me, “we’re expected to think of our future in this rational way: to add up the pros and cons and then make a decision. That leads you down the road of ‘Stick with what you’re good at’”—a road with little risk but little reward. But after his introduction to Chinese philosophy during his sophomore year, he realized this wasn’t the only way to think about the future. Instead, he tried courses he was drawn to but wasn’t naturally adroit at because he had learned how much value lies in working hard to become better at what you love. He became more aware of the way he was affected by those around him, and how they were affected by his own actions in turn. Mitchell threw himself into foreign language learning, feels his relationships have deepened, and is today working towards a master’s degree in regional studies. He told me, “I can happily say that Professor Puett lived up to his promise, that the course did in fact change my life.”
A new recently published case study highlights the efficaciousness of acupuncture for the treatment of hypertension, high blood pressure.
Researchers measured several key improvements as a result of acupuncture treatments. The patient had a significant reduction in blood pressure, fewer side effects from antihypertensive medications and an increased sense of well-being. The goal of the study was to measure the effects of acupuncture on hypertension for a patient having difficulty tolerating medications for the condition. The researchers concluded that acupuncture has a synergistic effect when combined with antihypertensive medication.
The patient highlighted in the study began with a blood pressure reading of 160/100 mm Hg. The first step of his treatment regime began with medication therapy, which was able to reduce his blood pressure to 150/99 mm Hg. However, he experienced flushing, palpitations, diarrhea, fatigue, decreased sexual function and a variety of other clinical disorders.
Acupuncture was added to the regime and the blood pressure lowered to 128/85 mm Hg. By the seventh week of acupuncture treatments combined with medication therapy, the blood pressure averaged 130/80 mm Hg and the antihypertensive medication side effects completely disappeared. The patient no longer suffered from issues such as impotence, fatigue and diarrhea.
The acupuncture points used in the study were: LI4, LI11, ST36, ST9. Acupuncture needles were inserted bilaterally and perpendicularly to a depth of 0.8 to 1.0 cun. Tonification needle techniques were applied to LI11, ST36, and ST9 using a twirling technique for a duration of 1 minute. LI4 was stimulated with a twirling, reducing method for 1 minute. The total duration of needle retention per acupuncture treatment was 30 minutes. Additional points were added to eliminate the side effects of the blood pressure medications: CV4, CV6 and SP6. An intensive schedule of 60 acupuncture treatments over the course of 12 weeks was administered.
The authors of the study note that abundant research supports the use of acupuncture points LV3, LI11, GB20, ST36 and ST40 for the treatment of hypertension. The researchers chose the acupuncture point prescription for this patient based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) meridian theory. Yangming channel acupuncture points such as LI11, ST36 and LI4 were chosen for their ability to ‘reconcile qi and blood.’ Additionally, ST9 was included for its specific function in regulating qi and blood and because it is a meeting point of the Stomach and Gallbladder meridians. The authors also note ST9’s proximity to the carotid sinus and its specialized ability to regulate blood pressure.
Zhang, Lili, Pengfei Shen, and Shu Wang. “Acupuncture treatment for hypertension: a case study.” Acupuncture in Medicine (2013): acupmed-2013. – See more at: http://www.healthcmi.com
Trigger point therapy involves inserting a needle into a particular point on a muscle to stimulate the nerves and help relieve patients’ pain. Sounds like acupuncture, doesn’t it? The relationship between trigger point therapy and acupuncture can be confusing for patients.
Trigger point therapy, which is also sometimes called myofascial pain therapy, was developed as a method of treating pain that originates in muscles. Trigger points are areas of hypersensitivity that occur in bands of muscle tissue. These tender areas appear in consistent patterns and have been mapped and studied and proven through modern science to exist. There are three types of trigger points:
Active – An active trigger point is one that is painful, even when the patient is at rest.
Latent – A patient may not realize that a latent trigger point hurts, until someone finds it and touches it. Latent trigger points often refer pain to other areas of the body. The points of referral have been mapped as well, so someone well-versed in trigger points will know where to look for a latent trigger point based on where the pain is occurring.
Satellite – Trigger points act as a web in some ways. A latent trigger point may be referring pain to another area of the body, causing an active trigger point to develop there. The active trigger point, in turn, could be referring pain to a third area which is known as a satellite trigger point.
A few decades ago, medical practitioners discovered that myofascial pain could be treated by inserting a needle and injecting various fluids into the muscle. The type of fluid varied depending on the doctor, the pain being treated and other factors. Corticosteroids, saline and magnesium sulfate, among others, have been commonly injected as a part of myofascial pain therapy.
Researchers then discovered that the same pain relief could be attained without the injection and a practice known as dry needling was born. While trigger point therapy and acupuncture are not the same thing, you can see how closely related they are.
Researchers have created “maps” of the body that show where trigger points occur and also where they refer pain, and of course, acupuncture points have been mapped for many generations. There is a substantial overlap between the two, yet there are some differences.
Acupuncture is a far older and more developed method of treatment than myofascial pain therapy. The word “myofascial” refers to muscles and the bands of tissues surrounding and separating muscles, and trigger point therapy is used only to treat pain originating from those tissues. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is used to successfully treat muscle pain and a host of other, often more complex, conditions.
For those who feel that the ancient and clearly successful use of acupuncture must be somehow sanctioned or approved by Western science, the development of trigger point therapy does exactly that in cases of myofascial pain. There are many other conditions that have also been shown through various studies to respond to acupuncture but trigger point therapy is unique in that Western medicine developed a treatment that so closely resembles acupuncture but gave it a different name.
People who suffer from myofascial pain usually do not care what the treatment that brings relief is called. They care about being pain-free and healthy. Regardless of whether you are receiving acupuncture, dry needling, trigger point therapy or myofascial pain therapy, as long as your practitioner is properly trained and your body is responding to the treatment, the name is unimportant.
Acupuncture is an effective treatment modality for COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. New research examined multifaceted approaches to clinical assessments and treatments and discovered that acupuncture reduces dyspnea, difficulty with breathing, and increases exercise capacity for patients with COPD. Acupuncture also showed demonstrative improvements in quality of life scales and overall pulmonary function.A total of nine clinical trials were reviewed in the meta-analysis of acupuncture for the treatment of COPD. Two of the trials used electroacupuncture and seven of the trials used manual acupuncture needle stimulation. The results showed improvements for patients with COPD and the investigators recommend additional research based on these findings.
There have been several new studies showing similar results since the very first placebo controlled, randomized study was published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine. That groundbreaking study concluded “that acupuncture is a useful adjunctive therapy in reducing” breathlessness in patients with COPD. That study showed acupuncture improving exercise capabilities, arterial blood gas, rib cage motion, respiratory function including forced vital capacity and respiratory muscle strength. Acupuncture also demonstrated a significant positive impact on the activities of daily living score. Additionally, acupuncture improved the body mass index and pre-albumin levels of patients with COPD.
Classic acupuncture points were used in this very first placebo controlled study. Manual stimulation at each needle for 3-5 minutes was performed until a de qi sensation arrived. The acupuncture points in the study were: LU1 (Zhongfu), LU9 (Taiyuan), LI18 (Futu), CV4 (Guanyuan), CV12 (Zhongwan), ST36 (Zusanli), KI3 (Taixi), GB12 (Wangu), UB13 (Feishu), UB20 (Pishu), UB23 (Shenshu). The researchers note, “We demonstrated clinically relevant improvements in DOE (dyspnea on exertion) (Borg scale), nutrition status (including BMI), airflow obstruction, exercise capacity, and health-related quality of life after 3 months of acupuncture treatment.”
Mounting scientific based evidence now supports acupuncture for the treatment of COPD. The new research is helpful in quantifying the benefits of acupuncture for COPD patients and for setting realistic expectations regarding clinical improvements.
Sweating is the body’s mechanism to cool itself and in most cases it is a natural and healthy response. But some people suffer from what is called hyperhidrosis- frequent or constant excessive sweating, much more than is needed to maintain a normal body temperature.
Sweating is a normal reaction of the body when it becomes overheated. By sweating, fluids evaporate on the surface of the skin and extract warmth from the body. When this process happens spontaneously, without need, it is called excessive sweating. Usually this happens on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and the underarms, and may also happen on the head or the chest. It usually occurs at least once a week and for no obvious reason. It can be an embarrassing thing in public and makes people nervous and therefore even more prone to sweating.
Sweating is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system. When the sympathetic system is overactive or no longer in balance with its opponent, the parasympathetic system, excessive sweating can be the result.
There are two kinds of excessive sweating: focal hyperhidrosis and generalized hyperhidrosis. Generalized hyperhidrosis affects large areas of the body and happens suddenly. This type of hyperhidrosis is part of an underlying condition such as menopause, hormonal imbalance, low blood sugar, some diseases, or thyroid problems. Treating the underlying condition or adjusting medication often solves this problem. Focal hyperhidrosis is excessive daytime sweating on the palms, soles, and sometimes the armpits, for no apparent reason. The cause of focal hyperhidrosis is unknown and it is not due to any underlying condition. This type of excessive sweating is much more of a mystery to western medicine.
Treatment in Western medicine consists of antiperspirants, iontophoresis (applying electric current on affected areas to block the action of the sweat glands), medications, botox, and in extreme cases, surgery (cutting nerves of the sympathetic nervous system or removing sweat glands). These therapies can sometimes be successful in moderate cases of hyperhidrosis, but are often not the final solution.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sweating can have many causes. Sweating occurs as a result of internal heat (too much heat in the body), a deficiency of energy failing to contain body fluid, or an internal injury/weakness. A differentiation is made between spontaneous sweating and night sweating. Spontaneous sweating, which is a tendency to sweat in the daytime with no obvious cause, is due to a yang qi-energy deficiency, whereas night sweating, which is sweating at night that ceases upon waking, is most commonly associated with a yin deficiency. There are many areas a person can perspire from, and understanding the nature and location of the sweating can provide more diagnostic details in understanding the cause. Determining this underlying cause is what gives acupuncture its effectiveness in treating conditions and providing relief of symptoms.
According to more modern insights, acupuncture helps balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions of the autonomic nerve system, responsible for sweating. It does this by activating certain parts of the brain. Acupuncture influences the body’s internal systems to bring them back to their normal state of being, which is often the way in which acupuncture promotes healing- by correcting a bodily function that is caught in a state of dysfunction.
The advantage of acupuncture over conventional treatment methods is that the therapy is natural, non-aggressive and often very effective. Acupuncture is definitely a valuable alternative in treating this annoying and embarrassing condition and has shown its value many times over in the past.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.
The human body relies on a balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to function properly. If the scales shift too far off the mark in a particular dietary direction, signs of improper nutrition can crop up — and sweat that smells like ammonia is one of those. Luckily, if exercise leaves you smelling somewhere between industrial strength cleaner and fresh cat urine, there’s a pretty easy fix.
Carbohydrates are the powerhouses of energy production in the body, and fats work as their supercharged backups. Proteins are also incredibly important for proper bodily function — including kicking in some extra juice if needed — but it’s best if they’re mainly left to cover their other responsibilities. Some examples of proteins’ many roles include forming structural components like collagen and connective tissue, inducing muscle movement, regulating bodily mechanisms and transporting substances about the body. It’s enough to keep any amino acid busy.
A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is generally what leads to sweat stinking of ammonia. Basically, it works like this. When someone with this sort of diet begins to exercise, his or her body is quickly forced to turn to proteins for the necessary energy. To do this, amino acids are broken down into various components, parts of which are converted into glucose. Other elements that come out of the process are waste products, and if the body can’t handle everything being sent its way, the leftovers are excreted out through the skin. Ammonia is one form that ready-to-go waste can take.
Typically, ammonia (very bad in large amounts) would be converted into urea (less bad in large amounts) and safely expelled through urine. Too much ammonia, and the body falls back on its old detoxifying fail-safe: sweat. And stinky sweat at that. Otherwise, an overload of ammonia can impair neurological functions and cause muscle fatigue.
If cutting the protein and upping the carbs doesn’t completely do the trick, try drinking more water. Water will dilute the ammonia, as well as make it easier to excrete. Keep in mind too — if an ammonia aroma is emanating from the mouth, is unrelated to sweating and exercise or is accompanied by other severe symptoms, it could be a sign of something serious like severe liver disease or impending kidney failure. A doctor should be consulted ASAP.
If you’re looking to run a marathon or engage in some other exhaustive athletic activity, it might be difficult to avoid smelling like ammonia when you cross the finish line, since prolonged and draining exercise make the body particularly susceptible. But hey, you just ran a marathon, right? Don’t worry if you smell a little funky afterward — it’ll pass.
Oriental Medicine (OM), sometimes known as Chinese Medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine, is one of the world’s oldest professional systems of medicine. OM is a sophistocated science that has been constantly refined for the last 3,000 years. It is a complete medical system that includes a wide variety of therapies including acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, medical massage, and Qigong.
Unlike other forms of medicine, Oriental Medicine treats both the underlying cause of a disease as well as its symptoms. At its core, TCM seeks to restore dynamic balance in the body as all diseases are understood as a departure from homeostasis and normal physiological functioning. Community Acupuncture of the Berkshires offers the benefit of the accumulated experience of Chinese medical knowledge in a professional setting relevant to today’s patient.