Emotional health-Finding peace Family health General

Angina and Acupuncture

A recent study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 29, 2019) reported that adjunctive acupuncture reduced angina frequency and pain intensity in those suffering from chronic stable angina (CSA). It was found to be more effective than antianginal therapy alone. Acupuncture treatment also resulted in better regulation of anxiety and depression within the treatment period. 
The findings of the current study reported that the benefit is the result of acupuncture causing “autonomic remodeling by improving the balance between the vagus nerve and sympathetic nervous system during treatment.”
All participants in the study received 12 sessions of acupuncture treatment (3 times a week for 4 weeks). The acupoints needled were PC6 and HT5.

Yours in wellness,

Mary Clark

Family health General

Microbiota and Circadian-Metabolic Axis

There is an emerging amount of evidence in gastrointestinal research that associates gut microbiota with factors that impact host circadian-metabolic axis, such as light/dark cycles, sleep/wake cycles, diet, and eating patterns. 
Researched published in the journal Microorganisms (January 31, 2019) outlines how “gut bacteria possess their own daily rhythmicity in terms of composition, their localization to intestinal niches, and functions.”
“Current evidence indicates an increase in total gut bacterial mass and firmicutes, in response to the food ingested during the waking/eating phase, and an increase in bacteroidetes, proteobacteria and verrucomicrobia during the sleeping/fasting phase.”
The research discusses the importance of adhering to a healthy diet. It also stresses that a regular eating schedule and adequate sleep (quality and quantity) are essential for maintaining gut microbial balance.
NB: We want to see higher bacteroidetes and lower firmicutes as higher firmicutes are associated with elevated intestinal pH, decreased levels of short chain fatty acids, increased dysbiosis, weight gain, obesity, metabolic disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression and a higher incidence of gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS and IBD.

Potential Role for the Gut Microbiota in Modulating Host Circadian Rhythms and Metabolic Health

This article reviews the current evidence associating gut microbiota with factors that impact host circadian-metabolic axis, such as light/dark cycles, sleep/wake cycles, diet, and eating patterns. We examine how gut bacteria possess their own daily rhythmicity in terms of composition, their localization to intestinal niches, and functions.

The Gut Microbiota Clock: the close connection between gut microbiota, dietary patterns and the circadian rhythm

The circadian rhythm regulates our body’s energy expenditure, appetite and sleep. In simple terms, it is our internal clock.

Wishing you wellness,

Mary Clark

Family health General

Are Energy Drinks Safe?

Energy drinks are a growing industry with a market value predicted to reach $61 billion by 2021. 

Although commonly promoted as supplements that can boost performance and cognition, it is well known that excessive consumption of energy drinks can result in numerous and detrimental side effects.
It is estimated that about 30% of teenagers between the ages of 12 through 17 years in the United States consume energy drinks on a regular basis. Many teens admit to consuming more than two energy drinks a day. The research reported that a high percentage of teens consume 32 oz cans, which on average, contain 320mg of caffeine. Two or more cans equates to 640mg of caffeine which significantly exceeds the FDA recommended safe dose of 400 mg.

The research found that although a high level of caffeine intake can carry its own risks, it is the combination of caffeine and additional non-caffeine ingredients which are the greatest cause of concern. 

The reason for this is that energy drinks are considered to be arrhythmogenic – producing or tending to produce cardiac arrhythmia/ irregular heartbeat, and have been associated with cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, spontaneous coronary dissection, and coronary vasospasm. This association is strengthened with studies showing increased platelet aggregation, increased systolic blood pressure (SBP), and QTc prolongation which places additional pressure on the heart.
The greatest message in the current research is that energy drinks should be used with caution. 

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Energy drinks increase BP and disrupt the heart’s electrical activity

Consuming caffeinated energy drinks leads to a prolonged QT interval and an increase in blood pressure, according to a study of young volunteers who had their hearts tested after drinking either energy drinks or placebo. “Further investigation is warranted on whether an individual ingredient or a unique combination leads to the observed electrophysiological and hemodynamic changes,” wrote Sachin A.

Wishing you wellness,

Mary Clark

Family health General

Vitamin D and Hypertension

Is there a link between low vitamin D levels and resistant hypertension? 
A study published in the journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypertension (April 2, 2019) believes that there is, and found a statistically significant association between Vitamin D deficiency (levels lower than 20 ng/ml) and resistant hypertension (a blood pressure >140/90 mmHg despite the concurrent use of 3 antihypertensive agents of different classes). 
Based on my research, an optimal level of vitamin D is between 60-80 ng/ml, but most labs will consider a Vitamin D above 30ng/ml as within normal range. l encourage my patients to aim for optimal rather than the low end of the range. 
As always, my message is: please be mindful when supplementing. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and over supplementing can result in toxicity. Please discuss your supplementation regime and lab work with your primary care provider, functional medicine doctor or other health professional.

The association between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of resistant hypertension.

Clin Exp Hypertens. 2020;42(2):177-180. doi: 10.1080/10641963.2019.1601204. Epub 2019 Apr 2.

Wishing you wellness,

Mary Clark

Family health General

What Does Moxibustion Feel Like?

Because I work at a holistic health center, people ask me regularly what the different treatment modalities feel like. So, like last week’s post about acupuncture, I’m going to give you an idea of what moxibustion feels like.

If you’ve ever walked into an acupuncture office or holistic wellness center and smelled smoke and wondered what it is, chances are pretty good that it was burning moxa, which is called moxibustion.

Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy in which dried Moxa (mugwort) is burned on or very near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi in the body and dispel certain pathogenic influences. When burned, it smells a little bit like marijuana, though it’s not related. It comes in several different forms, from a sort of compressed charcoal looking stick, to little capsules that rest on the skin. You can even put it into what looks like a little birdhouse to warm larger areas (see pictures below).

Note: normally, you wouldn’t be wearing all of this clothing and you’d be draped with towels, but we were taking pics just for this post, so…

So what does it feel like? Warm. Deliciously so. The warmth starts locally but kind of spreads out around the area. It doesn’t hurt, and I actually like the smell. I have a little bit of a phobia about fire, but the way the moxa is used isn’t scary. When used on my forehead in particular, it’s soothing and could easily put me to sleep. Honestly, even if it weren’t effective in helping treat various conditions, I’d still like it done just because it feels good.

So my opinion on moxibustion? Um, yes please!

Wishing you wellness,


Family health General

What Does Acupuncture Feel Like?

As someone who works for an acupuncturist (Hi everyone, I’m Emily, the office manager!), I am frequently asked what it feels like and what will happen during treatment? People’s biggest concern is that it will hurt. I totally understand that concern, so let me break down what my appointments have been like. Please keep in mind that everyone experiences physical sensation differently, so what is true for me may not be true for you, but it’ll help you get an idea of what one lay person has experienced in her treatments.

Let me preface this by saying I have chronic illnesses that cause me a fair amount of daily pain, and I’ve had all sorts of treatments done to me over the years, including Western medicine (which usually just means medication). So a little extra pain from a needle doesn’t bother me if it means I’ll feel better after it and have to rely on medication – with all of it’s side effects – less.

That being said, most of the time the needles don’t hurt. Every once in awhile, I’ll have one feel like it’s burning a little or feel a small prick at the moment it’s inserted. When that happens I let my acupuncturist know, and they adjust it and it goes away. It does NOT feel like going for a shot at the doctor’s office or like giving blood or getting a tattoo. That deep pain just isn’t present with acupuncture needles, in my experience.

Sometimes, the points the acupuncturist inserts the needles into will cause a sort of electrical feeling through the muscle. It might twitch a little bit, but it’s not painful – just sort of weird. Honestly, it cracks me up to watch a toe or finger or something twitch without me doing anything. And I’m always blown away by the fact that the acupuncturist might put a few needles in my feet to cure my headache, or in my knee for abdominal pain. It’s crazy, but really cool because it works.

Usually, the relief from whatever pain I’m feeling is pretty immediate. When it’s not, I let the acupuncturist know, and they make adjustments. Once they’ve put several needles in, they’ll let you lay there for a bit, and check in periodically to see if the sensations have shifted at all, and again, they’ll make adjustments as needed. I generally try to meditate, but 9 times out of 10, I end up napping, which feels pretty luxurious in the middle of the day. It’s the perfect way to let go for a bit and “just be” – something I struggle with most of the time.

Because I work for an acupuncturist, I don’t have to wait for an appointment to get treatment for acute symptoms like a migraine. A major benefit! I can sit at my desk with needles stuck in me and go about my work. Not as relaxing, but certainly efficient and it keeps me functional.

This is what is often hiding under my desk at work!

Again, everyone will feel things a little differently, but I don’t think of acupuncture as being painful. Admittedly, it can feel a little odd in some spots, but well worth it for the functionality I gain.

Wishing you wellness,



Meet Michael Dunbar N.D., L.AC., LMT

We’re so pleased to introduce you to our newest team member:

Michael Dunbar is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist at Awakenings Health. In addition to private treatment sessions, Michael also does community acupuncture.

He was born and raised in Raleigh, NC before going to UNC-CH and graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health – Nutrition.  Michael then moved to Oregon to pursue a dual degree of a Naturopathic Doctorate and Masters of Acupuncture. During his time at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR, he also received his Oregon massage license specific to Shiatsu (acupressure) massage.

His path began with a desire to find treatments that did not just mask symptoms but instead help cure disease or avoid becoming sick all together.  This search is what led to the significant study and personal testing of a number of dietary regimen. He’s settled on a whole food based approach which can be customized to the needs of each individual.

At NUNM, Michael’s education led him to understand that certain lifestyle factors including nutrition, sleep, exercise, and stress management are the keys to health and by focusing on these basics many of the health issues people experience can be avoided or reversed.

Another basic principle Michael has incorporated into his healing practice is the healing power of mindfulness.  Michael has cultivated mindfulness through meditation, chi gong and Tai Chi, and uses this moment to moment awareness to inform his massage and acupuncture treatments.  This mindfulness is how he “gets out of the way” to create a healing space for his patients.

In his personal life, Michael enjoys Contra and Blues dancing, weight lifting, and travel.  He looks for a balance to maximize health and happiness in each day.

Family health General

What To Expect from Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture

Last week we introduced you to facial rejuvenation acupuncture, and we received several inquiries about what to expect throughout the course of treatment. Here’s a little more information on how it works:

Patients will experience optimal results when treatments are completed as part of a series of weekly treatments for a period of 10-12 treatments. The information provided below is a general outline of what patients can expect with Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture treatments.

Week 1 & 2: Clinically, it is not uncommon to see hydrated, softened and glowing skin. Muscles of the face may appear more relaxed, and tension in the brow and jawline can decrease. There is often an increase in color and a brightened complexion.

Week 3 & 4: Often a lifting and tightening sensation can be reported in weakened and droopy muscles. The skin continues to feel softer and large pores may start to minimize.  Fine lines may begin to soften.

Week 5, 6 & 7: The stimulation of collagen will become most evident during weeks 5-7. The skin around the mouth and cheeks may feel tighter and the lines around the mouth begin to soften. The face may look and feel lifted, plumper and brighter.

Week 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12: The face will continue to feel firmer, hydrated and taut. The complexion may feel more even, large pores may be even smaller and any redness diminished. The folds off the nose (nasolabial) and corner of the mouth (marionette) will often decrease.

Maintenance: The results achieved after a series of 10-12 treatments will vary and depend on age and the body’s ability to respond to the stimulation that Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture treatment provides. It is generally accepted that the healthier you are, the more optimal the results will be. The results of Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture, like general acupuncture are cumulative. This means that benefits will often continue to improve with each treatment. Maintenance sessions are recommended every 4-8 weeks and will depend on age and skin type. The results achieved, when maintained, can last for years.

Family health General

Is Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture Right For You?

What is Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture?

Often referred to as Cosmetic Acupuncture, Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture is focused on improving the skin naturally. It promotes a healthy glow, from the inside out, and is a gentle, effective and safe way to combat the signs of aging. Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture is an alternative to conventional cosmetic treatments such as Botox and collagen injections, fillers, micro-dermabrasion, photo rejuvenation, chemical peels and other harsh processes designed to ‘reverse the signs of aging’.

How does Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture work?

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture aims to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as address other skin issues such as acne, rosacea and melasma/chloasma (hyperpigmentation).

The face has 57 muscles that gradually lose their tone and mass. Collagen, which is an integral component of connective tissue, helps keep the skin firm, plump and supple, and will decrease as we age. Via the insertion of thin needles locally, on the face, head and neck, and distally, on the body, acupuncture facilitates collagen and elastin production. The “micro-trauma” created by the needles encourages the body to go into repair mode. In reaction to this stimulation, the skin will respond by producing collagen, which softens the lines on the face. Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture not only tones facial muscles and improves blood flow to the face, but it also fosters circulation throughout the entire body and aims to treat the underlying cause of any blemishes and age spots.

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture is more than just a cosmetic procedure targeting the face. Patients at Awakenings Health are offered a personalized treatment addressing their individual and specific skin concerns and overall health. During the initial consult, the Acupuncturist will take a full medical history. The Acupuncturist will perform a pulse diagnosis, look at your tongue and examine your facial features and discuss any concerns that you may have. A thorough treatment plan and realistic expectations will be discussed with you during the first appointment so that the number of treatments and expectations can be addressed.

If you wear make up, we will help you remove it with a gentle make up remover during the treatment, or you can bring your make up kit along, and apply it after treatment. The Acupuncturist may also use Facial Cupping and Gua Sha during a Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture treatment.

What can Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture address?

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture can address many of the following conditions:

  • Fine Lines and Wrinkles
  • Aging Skin and Age Spots
  • Crow’s Feet
  • Sagging Skin
  • Droopy Eyelids
  • Dark Circles or Bags Under the Eyes
  • Dry and Sun Damaged Skin
  • Pigmentation Issues and Uneven Skin Tone
  • Open Pores
  • Acne Prone Skin and Scarring in General
  • Jowls and “Double chins”
  • Poor Muscle Tone
  • Eliminate or Decrease Puffiness

What’s involved in Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture?

During treatment, thin needles are placed on the outside of the ear to promote relaxation and body points are used to address the internal perspective and specific conditions. Needles are then placed on the face, in acupuncture points as well as directly into wrinkles. After the acupuncture treatment, the Acupuncturist may incorporate the use of Facial Cupping and Gua Sha.

Patients should see a wonderful glow with improved circulation and walk away feeling a general sense of relaxation. Patients may also see improvements in sleep, digestion, have more energy, feel less stressed and generally better overall.

The initial appointment, which includes consultation and treatment, is 110 minutes in duration. All return appointments are 90 minutes long.

Facial Cupping and Gua Sha

Cupping has been practiced in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for over 3,000 years. Today, cupping is regularly used in over 60 countries. Facial Cupping decompresses the muscles and fascia, brings nutrients, new blood and fluids into the treated area, and results in healthier, better-nourished tissue.

The techniques used in Facial Cupping are very gentle. The cups are very small and are designed for use on the face and neck only. The cups are moved along the facial skin and only left in a stationary position for a few seconds, therefore alleviating any potential bruising. Facial Cupping promotes an increase in local circulation to the skin, reduces puffiness and dark circles and serves to augment absorption of lotions, creams and serums. TMJ and sinus allergies, as well as rosacea and melasma can be effectively treated with Facial Cupping.

Facial Gua Sha is a technique where smooth pieces of jade are used to stimulate the skin and encourage blood supply to the region. A gentle massaging technique is used. Facial Gua Sha can also be used to treat skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, melasma and dark circles.

Both Facial Cupping and Facial Gua Sha can be used as a standalone treatment or in addition to a Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture treatment.

When is Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture Contraindicated?

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture is contraindicated if you have any of the following:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Problems with Bleeding or Bruising
  • Severe Migraine Headaches
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis
  • Vertigo or
  • Recent Microdermabrasion, Laser, Botox or Dermal Fillers (Restylane, Juvederm, Radiesse etc.)

The Acupuncturist will not administer treatment during:

  • Pregnancy
  • Cold or Flu
  • A Herpes Outbreak
  • If you have Allergic Reactions or any Skin Diseases
  • Or under Extreme Stress or Tension
Emotional health-Finding peace Family health General

Is Spinal Fusion the Solution?

Is spinal fusion the solution? 

Despite an increase in the number of fusion surgeries in both Australia and the US there is: 

~”Inadequate high-quality evidence to support the use of spinal fusion for most back-related conditions, including spinal stenosis.

~ Surgeons continue to disagree on when spinal fusion surgery should be performed.

~ There are no studies comparing spinal fusion to a placebo procedure, so we still don’t know whether spine fusion is effective against placebo.

~ We also know that spine fusion surgery is expensive and associated with complications and that the surgery often fails. Around one in five patients who undergo spine fusion will have revision surgery within ten years.

~ Most patients having spine fusion surgery under workers’ compensation won’t return to the usual job, will still be having physiotherapy and be on opioid medication two years after surgery.”

Needless treatments: spinal fusion surgery for lower back pain is costly and there’s little evidence it’ll work

From time to time, we hear or read about medical procedures that can be ineffective and needlessly drive up the nation’s health-care costs. This occasional series explores such needless treatments or procedures individually and explains why they could cause more harm than good in particular circumstances. Back pain affects one in four Australians.

Physical therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and massage help many people with their back pain, and are significantly safer and less expensive than surgery. Before undergoing surgery, talk to your doctor about trying these less invasive treatments first.

Wishing you wellness,

Mary Clark