Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Problem with Painkillers

Pain is unpleasant and sometimes a pill can be the difference between bearable and unbearable suffering.

No simple description of pain can be very useful. There are many causes and many types. Pain can be acute or chronic; it can be stabbing, diffuse, sharp or dull, dragging or intermittent. The quality of pain is very helpful to an acupuncturist in diagnosing a patient’s condition and formulating treatment.

When there is an injury, pain receptors send pain messages to the brain. Painkilling medication works by inhibiting these messages, either at their source or in the brain itself. However there is a point of view, and one that is in tune with my treatment philosophy, that pain messages should be listened to and heeded. Rest or a change in habit can give long term relief and resolution of pain symptoms but may take longer to provide relief than medication.

Most painkillers are derived from two naturally occurring substances: aspirin and opium. There are a number of effects associated with taking painkillers other than the relief of pain, and these effects are often greater with long term use.

Ibuprofen can cause a number of side effects. For this reason, take lowest possible dose of ibuprofen for the shortest possible time needed to control your symptoms. Common side effects of ibuprofen include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion and abdominal pain. Taking it for extended periods can increase risk of stroke and heart attack.

High dose side effects of aspirin include ulcers, stomach bleeding and tinnitus.

Paracetamol has no anti-inflammatory effect but can reduce temperature and relieve mild pain. It is generally thought to have few side effects but overdosing can cause severe liver and kidney damage.

Opiate painkillers can be addictive. They can cause side effects including constipation, drowsiness, dry mouth, and difficulty urinating

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that are our body’s own opiates. “Endorphin” is a contraction of “endogenous morphine”. They are produced when we experience stress. Endorphin release from neurons increases during exercise and this is thought to promote a feeling of well-being. Endorphin release has also been linked with acupuncture, providing natural pain relief during treatment.

The relationship between our own pain and our use of painkillers is a personal one and I believe that is as it should be. However, I do ask my patients during each treatment session how many painkillers they have taken since the last session as this is a fairly objective measure of how effective treatment is. If a patient is taking fewer painkillers it is usually a sign of an improvement in their condition.

Five Foods to Avoid

A patient asked me during treatment the other day what I thought the five worst foods were. I could easily think of two: Bananas and grapes. Most people think of these as healthy foods and indeed they do have many healthy properties. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, soluble fiber, and contain moderate amounts of vitamin C, manganese and potassium. Grapes are regarded by many as almost magical, containing health promoting phyto-nutrients such as poly-phenolic antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. However these are the two foods that I most frequently advise patients to avoid. I added dried fruits, alcohol and coffee to complete my top five foods to avoid.

My reason for choosing the first three and my initial thinking behind compiling the list was that most prevalent food-related problem that I see in patients is weight control. It is one thing to advocate balance and moderation, but quite another to practice it if it leaves you hungry all of the time. The problem with bananas, grapes and dried fruit is that they have a very high glycemic load ( and due to the way that sugar metabolism works, in simple terms, the more of them you eat, the hungrier you feel.

Alcohol, for all its other failings is essentially liquid sugar and so explains that need to snack when returning from the pub. Coffee is a stimulant and removes sugar from the blood, leaving one hungry and looking to replenish supplies.

I firmly believe that managing the Glycemic Load of the food that one eats is the key to a trim waistline while at the same time not being plagued by hunger pains. I can thoroughly recommend Patrick Holford’s book “The Holford Diet” to anyone who wants to lose weight based on the GL principle.

However, on reflection, this is a pretty poor list. I have focused on whole foods because that is what I am familiar with. But the curse of modern life is processed food. So, the next person that asks me I will probably say: Cake, Biscuits, White bread, white rice and ready meals.

The Lotus Flower

The Lotus Flower – This design is as symbolically important in the East as the Rose is in the West.


The lotus figures prominently in the Creation Myths of Indian and China, and Buddha is said to have risen at the center of a Lotus Blossom. The Water Lily plays a similar role in Egyptian culture as the Lotus does in Asian cultures..

The Lotus flower is symbolic of rebirth, but in addition to its religious meaning, the lotus is also a symbol of all that is true, good and beautiful, representing good fortune, peace and enlightenment.

The lotus is a symbol of healing and enlightenment and as such is highly suitable as a logo for my clinic