How Acupuncture Can Help Treat Autoimmune Disorders

How Acupuncture Can Help Treat Autoimmune Disorders

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys your own body’s cells, tissues, and organs.

Some common autoimmune disorders include: Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease, SLE/Lupus, Psoriasis, Sjogren’s disease, Alopecia, and Multiple Sclerosis

The exact cause of autoimmune diseases is unclear. It has been suggested that they are cultivated by the perfect storm of genetic mutations, stress, poor diet and gut health, environmental pollutants, and unresolved chronic infection.

These factors create a state of chronic systemic inflammation in the body and eventually trigger an autoimmune attack.

In traditional Chinese medicine terms, this autoimmune inflammation is seen as a combination of the following patterns (1):
– Yin deficiency
– Blood stasis
– Phlegm damp accumulation

Yin deficiency causes symptoms of heat and dryness. Nourishing yin can be understood as protecting the cells and tissues from attack and destruction. Clearing heat and transforming damp can be translated as reducing fever and inflammation. Dispersing blood stasis is equivalent to enhancing blood circulation, which nourishes tissues with an increase of oxygenated blood and delivers anti-inflammatory immune factors.

Bringing all these concepts into one treatment with a few well chosen acupuncture needles can have a powerful impact on autoimmune conditions.

Getting regular acupuncture treatments will not only ease the symptoms of the various autoimmune disorders, but will also regulate the body’s physiology to correct underlying dysfunctions.

Here is how acupuncture specifically affects the body’s physiology: –
– Reduces inflammatory markers (2)
– Enhances the autonomic nervous system (3)
– Increases neurotransmitter receptors (4)
– Increases healthy gut bacteria (5)
– Reduces auto-antibodies (6)
– Regulates pituitary hormones (7)
– Alters expression of genes related to immune function (8)
– Regulates T helper cell activity and the T cell subset balance (9)
– Reduces early cellular apoptosis (10)
– Promotes blood circulation (11)
– Alters neuro-function to reduce stress and anxiety (12)

If you are struggling to control an autoimmune disorder, consider adding acupuncture treatments as an adjunct to your existing care.




1. Hou, W., Xu, G., Wang,H. Treating Autoimmune disease with Chinese Medicine. 1st ed. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2011.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2015 Jul-Aug;21(4):26-34.
2. Targeting NF-κΒ and TNF-α Activation by Electroacupuncture to Suppress Collagen-induced Rheumatoid Arthritis in Model Rats. Li J, Li J, Chen R, Cai G.
3. Unique immunomodulation by electro-acupuncture in humans possibly via stimulation of theautonomic nervous system.Mori H, Nishijo K, Kawamura H, Abo T. Neurosci Lett. 2002 Mar 1;320(1-2):21-4.
4. Neural Regen Res. 2016 Mar;11(3):465-8. “Warming yang and invigorating qi” acupuncture alters acetylcholine receptor expression in the neuromuscular junction of rats with experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis. Huang HP1, Pan H2, Wang HF2.
5. Acupunct Med. 2013 Mar;31(1):116-7. Effect of acupuncture treatment for weight loss on gut flora in patients with simple obesity. Xu Z, Li R, Zhu C, Li M.
6. Zou Y et al. [Experimental study on action of acupoint embedding thread on ANCA in the rat of ulcerative colitis]. Zhongguo Jiu . 2005;25(7): 509-12.
7. Regulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity and immunologic function contributed to the anti-inflammatory effect of acupuncture in the OVA-induced murine asthma model.Wei Y, Dong M, Zhong L, Liu J, Luo Q, Lv Y, Mo S, Sun J, Liu F, Xu F, Yan C, Dong J. Neurosci Lett. 2017 Jan 1;636:177-183.

8. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2017 Jun 25;42(3):209-16. [Hypothalamic Transcription Profiles Associated with Twirling-reducing Needling in Rats with Stress-induced Prehypertension].[Article in Chinese] Sun QS1, Guo QY1, Jia WR1, Jin ZY1, Ji Z1, Guo QL1, Yang FY1, Zhan H1, Wang H1, Liu QG2.
9. Zhao C et al. Moxibustion and acupuncture ameliorate Crohn’s Disease by regulating the balance between Th17 and Treg cells in the intestinal mucosa. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;938054.
10. [Effects of electro-acupuncture on neuronal apoptosis and associative function in rats with spinal cord injury]. Li CM, Xie SJ, Wang T, Du WB, Yang ZB, Quan RF. Zhongguo Gu Shang. 2015 Aug;28(8):733-8. Chinese.
11. J Tradit Chin Med. 1998 Jun;18(2):134-9. Effects of electroacupuncture at neiguan on myocardial microcirculation in rabbits with acute myocardial ischemia. Cao Q1, Liu J, Chen S, Han Z.
12. Manual Acupuncture at PC6 Ameliorates Acute Restraint Stress-Induced Anxiety in Rats by Normalizing Amygdaloid Noradrenergic Response. Zhao Z, Kim SC, Liu H, Zhang J, Wang Y, Cho IJ, Lee BH, Song CH, Lee CW, Yang CH, Zhao R, Wu Y. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4351723.

Getting to the Root of Acid Reflux

Many Americans suffer from acid reflux and frequently use acid suppressing medications to manage their symptoms. Acid reflux is caused by gastrointestinal dysfunction and poor diet. When we eat unhealthy foods such as sugar, breads, dairy, greasy or processed foods, and eat heavy, rich meals our stomachs can have difficulty with digestion.
Taking a pill to ease symptoms in the short term or using a preventative daily acid suppressing medication may seem like a good idea, but it actually causes many long term problems. It also does not address the root cause of the acid reflux. Surprisingly, acid reflux is often caused by LOW stomach acid!
Excess acid is often not the problem, but rather minimal acid back up into the esophagus due to poor digestion, overeating or sphincter dysfunction. Continuing to eat unhealthy foods and taking acid blocking medication for years or decades is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Since the medications are working to further reduce possibly already low stomach acid, they make the whole situation much worse and can lead to serious chronic conditions.
Let’s take a closer look at low stomach acid, what causes it and why it is a problem.

What are the causes of low stomach acid?
– Natural decline after age 50
– Long term use of acid suppressing medications: Pepcid AC, Pantoprazole, Tagamet, Zantac, Prilosec, Mylanta, Tums
– Hypothyroidism
– Over use of antibiotics or NSAIDs
– H.pylori infection
– Poor diet causing chronic inflammation
– Stress

What are the consequences of low stomach acid?
– Protein and fiber can not be broken down into vital nutrients
– When foods are not properly digested, they fester in the stomach, back up into the esophagus and damage the lining
– Decreased absorption of vitamins and minerals especially B vitamins, Zinc, calcium, iron
– When proteins are not broken down, they can slip through a leaky gut lining, causing systemic inflammation and lead to autoimmune disorders
– Stomach acid kills bacteria, low acid increases bacterial overgrowth and risk of dangerous infections
– Increased risk of stomach cancer

What are the symptoms of low stomach acid?
– Acid reflux
– Indigestion, bloating, gas
– Skin issues: acne, eczema, rosacea
– Weak nails and brittle hair or hair loss
– Chronic GI infections
– Osteoporosis
– Anemia

What supplements can help with digestion?
– Betaine HCl w/Pepsin
– Digestive enzymes
– Probiotics
– B vitamins
– Vitamin D
– Essential fatty acids/omega 3s

What other ways can I aid digestion?
– Reduce dairy, sugar, coffee, alcohol, soda, and smoking
– Eat smaller meals
– Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly
– Don’t lay down soon after eating
– Don’t eat on the go while running around
– Reduce stress
– Cut out icy drinks and reduce raw foods
– See an acupuncturist and herbalist

Acupuncture can help relieve stress and enhance digestion. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine combined has been shown in research to significantly reduce esophageal acid reflux, relieve GERD symptoms and improve quality of life. The same research has also shown that when taking 40mg/day of pantoprazole, patients experienced worsened symptoms. Click here to read that research study:

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. Please see a trained professional before making any medication or supplement changes. It is never a good idea to abruptly quit medications or to do so without proper supervision.

Importance of Blood Sugar Regulation

Blood sugar regulation is vital to the proper functioning of all major body systems. Blood sugar plays an especially important role in digestive, adrenal, immune, thyroid and brain health. Chronic dysglycemia, or poor blood sugar regulation, could lead to obesity, hormone imbalances, adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, and much more. When it comes to dysglycemia, the two main areas of concern are hypoglycemia and insulin resistance.

Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. This usually happens in response to an insulin surge from eating a meal high in sugar or carbs. These insulin surges and subsequent glucose drops are problematic if they happen repeatedly throughout the day causing blood sugar levels to constantly swing from high to low. If you skip meals or you are not eating enough protein and fat as fuel, only relying on sugary foods, you will notice repeated crashes in energy and cognitive functioning.

On the other hand, if you are constantly eating excessive amounts of sugar, the body has to constantly pump out insulin to process the glucose and get it into the cells. After an extended period of time, the body gets to a point where it just doesn’t take this message seriously anymore, starts to ignore the signal, and the cells become resistant to insulin. When glucose can’t get into the cells to provide energy, proper cellular functioning fails, symptoms begin and the excess sugar in the system gets stored as fat.

Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia and insulin resistance.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia:

  • cravings for sweets
  • becoming irritable or light headed when meals are missed
  • dependency on caffeine for energy
  • eating to relieve fatigue
  • feeling shaky/jittery
  • easily agitated or nervous
  • poor memory
  • blurred vision

Symptoms of insulin resistance:

  • fatigue after meals
  • constant hunger
  • craving for sweets that is not relieved by eating them
  • Always craving sweets after meals
  • large waist girth, wider than hips
  • frequent urination
  • increased appetite and thirst
  • difficulty losing weight
  • migrating aches and pains

It is possible to have a combination of the two issues and having hypoglycemia could lead to insulin resistance.

How we eat and what we eat is so important and central to improving and maintaining good health. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is setting us up for failure. Americans have become much too addicted to sugar and much too reliant on fast food and processed/packaged foods. These foods are low in useful nutrients and very high in sugar, refined carbs, and harmful chemicals.

So where do you begin in getting your blood sugar under control? First figure out where you currently stand.

  1. Look at the symptoms above and decide if you are dealing with hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, or both.
  2. Buy a glucometer and check your blood sugar upon waking. Ideally, you want the number to be between 85-99 mg/dL. Write that number down and start tracking it every morning.
  3. Get blood work done to check your A1C. This measurement reflects a 3 month average of your blood sugar and will tell you if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic. Ideally, this number should be between 4 and 5.6%.

Once you’ve identified a problem, start making positive changes.

  1. Change your diet! This is a must. Don’t put the temporary pleasure of a sweet treat above a lifetime of good health. Reduce or cut out grains, sugar, packaged foods, fast food, soda, fruit and fruit juices. Eat more vegetables, meat, nuts, beans, and healthy fats like avocado, olives, and coconut oil.
  2. Intermittent fasting is a good idea for the insulin resistant group (not the hypoglycemic group). Intermittent fasting is when you only eat for 8-10 hours/day. For example, only eat from 12p-8p every day. If you get hungry late at night or in the morning, you can have a tablespoon of coconut oil. This lets the pancreas and digestive system rest and restore and reduces the insulin response.
  3. For those with hypoglycemia, make sure you eat regularly. Have small meals every few hours, especially protein upon waking and never eat sugar or carbs alone, always pair with protein and fat.
  4. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity daily, think walking, hiking, yoga, swimming. These activities will burn fat and lower blood sugar levels.
  5. Book an appointment with a holistic health care provider who can work with you on diet, interpreting blood work, and prescribing supplements and herbs.
  6. Get regular acupuncture treatments! Acupuncture has been shown in research to reduce A1C, regulate hormones like insulin, and help the body process glucose.

Completely changing the way you eat and breaking bad habits can be very difficult and kicking the sugar addiction can be as challenging as a drug addiction, but that highlights how important it is. You do not need any food or substance to have that kind of hold over your life and your health. You also don’t want to go down the road of diabetes and lifetime of medications and side effects, nerve damage, kidney failure, loss of eyesight, amputations. It’s not a pretty picture and is unfortunately the reality for too many Americans right now. Get help today to start making positive changes in your life. Contact Dr. Gaffney through the Connect tab for an appointment.

Chinese Herbs Found in Your Grocery Store

Chinese Herbal Medicine You Can Find In Your Local Grocery Store
You may have thought you didn’t know much about Chinese herbs, but really herbs are just any food or plant substance with a medicinal property to treat ailments and there are some herbs you might already be using. In the pharmacy, these herbs are dried, ground up and mixed into herbal formulas to treat a variety of conditions, but you can also simply eat these foods to reap the benefits. The following are herbs that can easily be found in your local grocery store and a little about when and how to use them.
Chinese Herb name: Bo He
Latin name: Menthae haplocalycis herba
Properties: cooling, expelling, aromatic
Treats: hypertension, cough, common cold, viral and bacteria infections, headache, dry/red eyes, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea
Benefits: potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C and A, iron
How to use: wash and tear leaves up, steep in hot water for 10 minutes, then drink
Chinese Herb name: Cong Bai
Latin: Allii Fistulosi bulbus
Properties: spicy, warm, expelling
Treats: common cold, nasal congestion, stomach flu, bloating, promotes sweating to purge toxins (so avoid if you’re already sweating profusely)
Benefits: antioxidants, fiber, flavonoids, Vitamins A,C,K
How to use: clean, chop, can eat raw or cook into a soup or rice dish
Chinese Herbs name: Jiang Huang
Latin name: Curcumae Longae Rhizoma
Properties: spicy, bitter, warm, invigorating
Treats: pain, inflammation, poor blood circulation, cramps, viral and bacterial infections
Benefits: antioxidants, dietary fiber, Vitamin B6 and C, calcium, iron, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium
How to use: peel and chop, add to any dish, soups, vegetables, rice, etc.
Cinnamon bark
Chinese Herb name: Rou Gui
Latin name: Cinnamoni cortex
Properties: Hot, sweet, spicy
Treats: pain, bacterial infections, diabetes, diarrhea, blood clots or poor circulation, wheezing, toothache
Benefits: antioxidant, immune boosting, cardioprotective, fiber, manganese, calcium, iron, vitamin K
How to use: in tea, curry, stew, soup, mulled wine, slow boil for at least 20 minutes on medium to low heat, use 1 stick per 1 cup of water
Chinese Herb name: Da Suan or Xie Bai
Latin name: Allii Sativi (or macrostemi) bulbus
Properties: spicy, warm
Treats: stomach flu, bloating, diarrhea, viral and bacterial infections, parasites, high cholesterol
Benefits: antioxidant, flavonoids, zinc, selenium, iron, manganese, vitamins B6 and C
How to use: peel and chop, use in any dish, stir fry, soups, stews, add to rice, vegetables, etc.
Fresh ginger
Chinese herb name: Sheng Jiang
Latin name: zingiberis rhizoma
Properties: warm, spicy
Treats: cough, common cold, bacterial and parasitic infection, inflammation, vomiting, diabetes, indigestion, nausea
Benefits: antioxidants, potassium, B vitamins, copper, magnesium
How to use: peel and slice and add to stir fry, soups, and stews, for tea, boil in hot water for 15 minutes, add honey for taste
White Rice
Chinese Herb name: Geng or Jing Mi
Latin name: oryzae semen
Properties: sweet, cool, tonifying
Treats: weak/poor digestion, diarrhea, fatigue, thirst
Benefits: Protein, iron, zinc, manganese
How to use: Steam and eat! Slow cook with lots of water to make a rice porridge.
White rice is an easy to digest food, great to eat after food poisoning, stomach flu or on a regular basis if you have a sensitive stomach.
Chinese Yam*
Chinese herb name: Shan yao
Latin name: dioscorea rhizoma
Properties: sweet, tonifying
Treats: fatigue, cough, wheezing, diarrhea, poor appetite, diabetes, sweating, hot flashes, frequent urination
Benefits: fiber, potassium, Vitamin A and C, iron, antioxidants
How to use: chop up & stream
*This one might be a little more challenging to find; you might have to go to an Asian market. There are so many varieties of yam and fortunately they all have similar medicinal properties. The one pictured here is a Garnet yam.
This blog is for educational purposes and does not constitute medical advice; please make an appointment with Dr. Gaffney for individualized care and herbal prescriptions.

Acupuncture for Weight Loss

With summer around the corner, I get asked almost daily, “Can acupuncture be used for weight loss?” The answer is yes, but it may not be in the way you think; it’s a bit complex. The needles themselves don’t make the pounds melt away and there are no “weight loss points”. The way acupuncture aids weight loss is by harmonizing any underlying imbalances in the body and by promoting the best environment for weight loss to be possible. The benefit of weight loss would come secondary to a balanced body. The following are some of the variety of ways acupuncture indirectly promotes weight loss.
– Acupuncture regulates hormones such as insulin, cortisol and thyroid hormones which may be negatively affecting metabolism, fat storage, and cravings.
– Acupuncture calms the mind and relaxes the body which improves mood, desire and motivation to exercise and diet. Relieving stress also lowers cortisol which when raised leads to excess abdominal fat.
– Acupuncture relieves back, neck, hip, and knee pain that may be interfering with exercise.
– Acupuncture promotes digestion which helps reduce bloating and constipation.
– Acupuncture can also boost energy which has many obvious benefits.
If you feel you are working hard to lose weight and not getting any results, acupuncture would certainly be a beneficial addition to your program. But if you aren’t eating healthy or exercising, don’t expect a miracle, the results will be minimal.
Eating healthy is the most important factor in weight loss. Keep your diet plan simple and not too restrictive. Cook at home more and cut back on packaged/processed foods. Focus on increasing fiber, protein, and healthy fats. It has been a long disproved myth that eating fat makes you fat. Modern research promotes eating mono and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, avocado, salmon, tuna, olives, and flaxseed to lose weight.
In TCM terms, acupuncturists say avoid “damp” inducing foods such as raw, cold foods like salads, smoothies, fruit, dairy, and icy drinks. Eat more foods that are warm and gentle on your digestive system such as steamed veggies, white rice, soups and stews. Too much damp in the body leads to fatigue, sluggish digestion, and weight gain.
To boost your weight loss plan consider adding one or two of the following supplements.
– Omega 3s increase metabolism and reduce belly fat.
– Vitamin D has a role in telling cells to burn fat.
– Green tea, an antioxidant, reduces appetite and boosts metabolism.
– Fiber supplements, probiotics, and digestive enzymes all promote healthy digestion.
Don’t over do it on supplements, use as directed. More does not equal better. If you are taking medications, talk to your acupuncturist before starting supplements.
As with any acupuncture treatment plan, it’s important to commit to frequent and recurring treatments for better and faster results.

Experience Bone Broth

Bone broth has been growing in popularity lately and there’s a good reason for it! When you cook bones for a long time, you release all the juicy goodness inside which is made up of cartilage, bone marrow, amino acids, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Both the western world and eastern world agree bone broth has many health benefits, but for different reasons. For instance, westerners say the stem cells in the bone marrow are good for supporting immunity and they say cartilage supports joint health and improves inflammatory conditions.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), we say bone broth tonifies Qi and blood and boosts Kidney jing(or essence). It’s important to keep Qi and blood strong because they are the basis for every energetic system in our bodies. In TCM there is an important connection between bones and KD jing and so by ingesting the essence of the bones, you are boosting your KD jing. Jing is important because it a special source of energy that we are born with and diminishes as we age and can be burned out faster with poor treatment of our bodies such as with overwork, overpartying, lack of sleep, poor diet, and excess physical exertion. This is the kind of stuff we all do every once in a while so it’s important to help boost that jing whenever we can!

If you’re wondering how to make bone broth, I’ve got some advice to keep it simple. When I make it, I just buy some raw chicken legs and, when I’m lucky enough to find it in the meat department, I add cuts of beef marrow bones (pictured below).


Put those in a crockpot with some veggies and herbs of your choice. I like adding green onion, garlic, ginger, and carrots. Then cover it all with water and let it cook all day or night for about 8 hours. When it’s done, just drink the broth like a soup one or two times a day.

It’s especially a good idea to start your day with a cup of bone broth because it’s warm and easy to digest, so it’s a nice wake up call for your spleen. I usually make bone broth every few months when I’m feeling run down or when people around me are getting sick, but if you do it regularly you will definitely notice an improvement in health and energy. So if you have any kind of digestive issues or joint disorders, or low energy or if you are trying to recover from an illness, ditch the breakfast smoothie and make yourself a nice warm bowl of bone broth!