TLC Acupuncture & Natural Medicine | (970) 485-9811


Acute Mountain Sickness

With running, hiking, biking and water sports season at its peak during the summer for both athletes and visitor alike, we need to take into consideration acute mountain sickness.  When a person travels from sea level to 9,000 feet and immediately goes running, hiking, climbing or mountain biking, he or she has the potential to develop early symptoms of acute mountain sickness.  Risk factors include home elevation, maximum altitude, sleeping altitude, and rate of ascent, age, gender, physical condition, level of exercise, pre-acclimatization, genetic make-up, and pre-existing diseases.

Upon quickly climbing to 10,000 feet, a person can develop headaches and sleeping problems, which are the first signs of AMS.  Then AMS can progress onto shortness of breath, loss of appetite, light-headedness, nausea, weakness and tiredness, dizziness, clumsiness.  When the disorder progresses even further, severe symptoms include disorientation, tremors, vomiting, ataxia or loss of consciousness, blue lips and fingertips.  The physiological effects include the lungs taking in less oxygen and this means less oxygen is available to transfer into the blood, tissues and organs.  Our bodies will counterbalance low oxygen by increasing the heart and respiratory rates, allowing more blood to be pumped through the body.  When the respiratory rate is increased then the carbon dioxide is not being expelled, leading to respiratory alkalosis.

There is research being done on the increasing number of visitors to mountain towns and ski resorts at moderate elevations and the use of oxygen for mild and severe cases.  If the symptoms are mild, one should rest, drink water, eat light carbohydrates and monitor oxygen levels with a finger pulse oximeter.  In Summit County we prefer oxygen saturation to be above 90%.

In Western medicine, if the symptoms of AMS are bad enough, emergency services should be called in.  Most likely an ambulance would be utilized to resolve to lower elevations with intravenous fluids and oxygen given.  Two of these potentially fatal complications that emergency services should be called are high-altitude pulmonary edema or (HAPE) and high-altitude cerebral edema or brain swelling (HACE).

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complimentary treatment for altitude sickness, because there are excellent herbal medicines and acupuncture protocols for mild symptoms.  There are two trials that compared prescriptions of TCM used alone compared with Western drugs.  The analysis showed a significant beneficial effect of Chinese formulas used alone compared with western drugs in decreasing the score of AMS.

To determine what route to go for a treatment plan we take a look at the patterns.  The symptoms from an Eastern Medicine approach put into categories would look as simple as: qi, blood and body fluids.  The first is spleen qi deficiency along with blood deficiency, which shows some signs as poor appetite, abdominal distention after eating, tiredness, pale complexion and loose stools.  . The spleen’s function of transportation and transformation decreases and creates accumulations internally.  A Chinese herb called Dong Chong Xia Cao, or Cordyceps is used to warm the body and boost yang qi and give the ability to regulate water metabolism and resolve dampness. This reinforces the spleen and stomach, to calm the heart, which alleviates insomnia.  Cordyceps is a mushroom that is known to grown on the bodies of worms and insects in the Tibetian pleateu.   Traditionally, cordyceps is used for asthma and allergies, cancer support, and certain types of pain and fatigue.  At times, athletes have also used it as a energy booster.

People who live at high altitude, experience changes in their blood that help compensate for the low oxygen levels.  There are more red blood cells retained in circulation and more hemoglobin to carry oxygen.  These changes take about a week or two at high altitude to develop.  Most mountain climbers do no spend this much time at high altitude and thus have to deal with only acute reactions to altitude.

Being aware and educated about altitude differences and how the body responds physiologically and energetically can prevent altitude sickness. If an individual does get altitude sickness, steps can be taken that can provide a speedy recovery without spoiling the fun.   At TLC Acupuncture & Natural Medicine, we can help you get back to your summer enjoyment and feeling your best!

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What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in China over thousands of years. As a TCM practitioner, I use herbal medicine to treat and prevent health issues or as a complimentary health approach.


When I first started working with Traditional Chinese Medicine, I was amazed at all the various types and categories. It truly is learning a different language. One of the most important and famous books on Chinese Medicine in TCM history is Shang Han Lun, (the Treatise of Febrile Disease Caused by Cold). It was written in 196 AD, in the Han Dynasty. The importance of this book is that it categorizes diseases caused by Cold into six stages from the most superficial i.e.: common cold to internal deficiency at the deepest level. Another book of importance in TCM is Wen Bing Lun, the Treatise on Febrile Disease written in 1667-1746 AD, which discusses four levels of external pathogens. Febrile diseases could be as simple as a common cold or flu eventually affecting the internal such as fever, a hemorrhage, to severe as meningitis for instance.


Just to give a quick overview, there are different parts and actions of each of the individual herbs such as flowers that are ascending and act as a guide to the head and upper body. Leaves, peels and barks influence the skin and respiratory by working close to the body’s surface. For example, a peel or in TCM, Xi Gua Pi (watermelon peel/rind) is a mild diuretic to reduce edema. Stems or vines act on or guide to the channels, whereas roots go to deeper levels. Shells/minerals are anchoring for qi. Animal based herbs are warm and salty and tend to be stronger than their plant counterparts.


My office, TLC Acupuncture & Natural Medicine located at the Backcountry Herbal Apothecary, inventories several of the western herbs as well that can be used as teas. Many of these western herbs translate into Chinese herbs. An example of this is Licorice Root. In TCM, it is called Gan Cao and has a pharmaceutical name of Glycyrhizae Radix. In general, Gan Cao is tonifying and harmonizes with other herbs in formulas, but if used improperly it can lead to edema or bloating and it also has incompatible and antagonizing herbs that it cannot be combined with.


When we discus common aliments such as insomnia, anxiety, menopause, back pain, the common cold or flu, there are various patterns. Looking at insomnia, basically there are four types:


  1. For many people, eating a big meal with rich, heavy and spicy foods too soon before bed can undermine the quality of sleep or cause insomnia due to indigestion. Not surprisingly, when the digestive system is very active, the body will be restless and it will be hard to fall asleep.
  2. Insomnia due to blood deficiency is an inability to properly digest food and produce enough healthy blood. With insomnia due to blood deficiency, it may be hard to fall or stay asleep, and the cause is typically due to worry or overthinking.
  3. Insomnia due to yin deficiency is the classic case of burnout. If yin “runs out”, the body overheats, leading to symptoms like afternoon fever, night sweats, and insomnia. The kidneys are the body’s natural reserves of cooling fluids and are depleted after long hours of work and standing for long periods. This is a recipe for bad sleep, manifesting primarily as difficulty staying asleep and night sweats.
  4. The final pattern of insomnia is due to too much stress. When there is constant exposure to stress it can agitate the nervous system leading to heat in the liver and heart. Irritability is often a sign of heat in the liver, or an agitated nervous system. In Chinese medicine, the Liver is the primary organ that works on the smooth flow of qi throughout the body, so this type of insomnia is identified as a type of liver qi stagnation.


Chinese medicine can have serious side effects, interact with drugs, or be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions. Therefore again, it is important to see a licensed practitioner to get the correct formula and to get to the root of your cause.

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I Don’t Feel Good-itis

Many people come to me when they have the “I don’t feel good-itis”, after they have gone to many other doctors’ offices with little results. For instance, a headache after a concussion a year from the incident, a backache that won’t improve, overall weakness and tiredness, stomach issues, infertility, etc. So what do we do? We focus on the diagnostic portion, and everything that is spiritual, emotional or mental becomes secondary. Our bodies are incredible and the healing of one’s body has everything to do with the faith and health of a strong mind. By focusing on the diagnostic portion we are looking at the frequencies of a biofeedback scan to find out where your body is out of alignment or in stress. Think of it as a natural CT scan, MRI or blood test combined and of course we know it’s not the same as going to the hospital or clinic to receive those images or tests, but there is a place and time for them.


The biofeedback scan is designed to provide the most accurate diagnostic results because it focuses on the source, the brain. The mind is where we begin accumulating the changes that occur in the body. Each and every change at the cellular level will be detected and identified, whether the issue is a bacteria, virus, parasite or any ‘dis-ease’, it will be detected by recognition of its unique frequency with the software in order to obtain this data, to decode it and to create an onscreen display in the form of three-dimensional models of organs, tissues and cells.


A report published in Mental Health in Family Medicine states the biofeedback definition as “a mind–body technique in which individuals learn how to modify their physiology for the purpose of improving physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.”  There are a multitude of biofeedback devices in our technological computer era that work on energies in the body, but ultimately we want to know, what can biofeedback do for me? An initial appointment takes an hour and a half to scan, address and go over the information that came up in the scan, which we call a balancing session. A balancing session is about balancing bio-energy or homeostasis. This concept is similar to what I do with acupuncture when I balance a person’s Qi. The word Qi means energy or vital life-force energy. The Western definition of homeostasis is physiological balance in the face of an external or internal environment. In a balancing session we look at your energy system and in some places it might be hyper or hypo. Either condition would mean an imbalance within the body’s energy system. Our goal in a balance session would be to restore balance in those areas that need it. Homeostasis is about proper energy balance.


To really break this down on a personal level, my daughter was having stomach pains so I suggested we take a look at the scan and see what comes up. What we found was that she had an allergy to gluten products and cow’s milk, but not some cheeses. My son on the other hand, fell and got a concussion after basketball. I had done a scan prior to the fall, after the fall and then after treatments. The biofeedback scan had brought up the brain inflammation and some specific supplements that his body was lacking for proper healing. After addressing those needs the results were astonishing for him and his recovery time frame.


Next time you have the “I don’t feel good-itis” and are not sure what to do, come in for a biofeedback scan and let’s look at a holistic or natural approach to healing your body. Visit TLC Acupuncture & Natural Medicine for an entire analysis while not having to wait weeks for results.

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Plastic is Still Toxic

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Leaky Gut, Inflammation and Autoimmune Disorders

“According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, more than 27 million Americans suffer from thyroid dysfunction, half of which go undiagnosed. Of the detected cases of hypothyroidism, more than half are due to an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s disease, in which the immune system attacks and destroys thyroid gland tissue.”

Have you gone to multiple doctors, only to hear everything is within range on your labs and still feel exhausted, depressed, have abdominal distention, brain fog and weight gain? According to Datis Kharrrazian in “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When my Lab Tests Are Normal”, this can begin with inflammation of the gut, which is the immune system’s response to antigens from viruses, bacteria or foods. You may have heard about leaky gut syndrome, where there is excess permeability in the intestines. When a person can’t digest proteins such as gluten-grains or casein-dairy, these antigens trigger the immune response. Therefore eating triggering foods on a regular basis will lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body.

All too often patients are put on thyroid hormone supplemental medication to help them remain in functional range, although the thyroid gland still remains swollen. The symptoms of insomnia, palpitations and fatigue may remain. This is the core reason with thyroid conditions of why simply taking a thyroid medication and forgetting about Hashimoto’s thyroid has no real effect on the autoimmune disease itself. The immune system will continue to attack the thyroid more and more, year after year, leading to adjusting the thyroid medication up and as the thyroid gets destroyed it will decline. Meanwhile the body is creating autoimmunity to its own tissues. Once you get one autoimmune disease you are likely to get others for the fact that you are activating the genes to make antibodies to your own tissue and those genes don’t turn off very easily. We need to be able to reduce the inflammation and all the genes that have turned on the cytokines so that the body does not create new autoimmune diseases.

In 1999, the Gastroenterology Department of Pediatrics, University of Trieste, stated that “The prevalence of autoimmune disorders and celiac is in relation to the duration of exposure to gluten.”

The first step is to reduce the immune response and slow the attack on the thyroid gland. At TLC Acupuncture & Natural Medicine, our prescription to healing is not the easiest or the quickest, which is why we ask our patients to commit to following our suggestions for at least 6 months. Inflammation and leaky gut can be neutralized and healed with nutrition, supplements and Chinese Herbs.

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