ACUPUNCTURE, PAIN & S.A.D.
Modern Nutrients & Ancient Wisdom Meet the Standard American Diet.
What we still don’t know, exactly … is how.
This is the story of how I began to realize just how much of the physical and emotional pain my clients have brought me over the years was a function of modern industrialized diets.
An early lesson: acupuncture works much better when the body has a rich supply of the basic micronutrients it needs to do everything it needs to do.
It seems a modern, industrialized Standard American Diet (SAD) fails to give us enough of the basic micronutrients we need to heal. And perhaps to prevent developing pain in the first place.
If you’d prefer to just cut to the chase and get my Basic Micronutrients Ebook (if you’re reading this on a large screen, check the right column) that tells you exactly which products decades of clinical experience have shown me work the best (& at the best price!) you can have it right now.
But you’ll be missing a good story …
There were three of us who gravitated towards each other in my acupuncture class back in the late 70s. Acupuncture was brand new to the US. Not much was known about it.
Certainly not our teachers, who’d apparently driven their own teacher away.
That hadn’t stopped them from from taking his notes and deciding to open a school. They taught what he’d taught them exactly the way they’d been taught it … by their non-native English-speaking master coming from a culture steeped in Confucianism … rote memorization.
One of us three was a retired rocket scientist. Seriously. Another had done well selling cutting-edge pain-management equipment to neurologists. I had a background in massage and the early organic foods movement.
For years we memorized and were tested on our knowledge of which points on the limbs and body would help which symptoms and diseases. Eventually the day came when it was time to go into the clinic and start our internships.
Things didn’t quite go as planned.
People weren’t getting better very fast, if at all. Or if they did … their symptoms and pain often returned quickly once they’d stopped treatment. Not always, but more often than we liked.
We three looked at each other one day. Acupuncture didn’t seem to work the way we’d been taught. But we had too much skin in the game by that point to quit.
First Clues: The Miracle Acupuncture Patients
We put our heads together. After a few (very few, as it turned out) clinical trials we determined that bracketing an injured area with acupuncture needles and running microcurrent electrical stimulation through it seemed to produce the best results. Patients got better and we all passed our boards.
Eventually the rocket scientist was hired by UCLA. He thought he’d been asked to open what had been a very closed medical-fraternity door to acupuncturists. Most doctors of the time had about the same level of respect for their local acupuncturist as for their local curandero.
But no. They kept him around for a year or two, milked him for all they could, then kicked him to the curb and started teaching courses in “medical acupuncture.” The kind that ignores all the rich tradition, history and accumulated experience gained over thousands of years of practice in the east.
Even so … I found, as I opened my practice, that working in this rather obvious way … treating the area where the patient felt their pain … seemed to produce the most rapid, lasting and thorough results.
I settled into a routine of healing backs, shoulders and assorted limbs in this way. It typically took three treatments to see the first results; perhaps three to five to stabilize minor injuries of recent onset. Twelve to twenty would frequently stabilize older injuries, especially ones that hadn’t responded to earlier forms of care. If no noticeable improvement, even temporary, was seen in three treatments I’d typically refer.
There’s a vibrant immigrant community here. Many come from a part of the world some consider a developing country.
Cultured and gracious people, they accepted acupuncture without a second thought at a time when many others did not.
One day one of them, a middle-aged woman, came to me complaining of vague gastro-intestinal complaints. She’d been everywhere … and no one had been able to help her (common in my line of work.)
I didn’t much like needling the abdomen … so I worked in the old ways. I needled points far distant from her pain in her arms and legs, instead of where she felt her pain.
She seemed better after the session and scheduled a second appointment later that week. So I was surprised when she cancelled without explanation. Oh well. No one bats a thousand in this business.
But early the next week my phone rang and it was her again. She wanted to bring in her sister, with similar complaints, for a consult.
Apparently … my single treatment had knocked the ball out of the park as far as she was concerned. Pain that had been completely resistant to multiple attempts to address it had apparently been permanently banished, it seemed, after just one of my sessions.
She thought it was me.
I knew better.
So when I had them both in my office a few days later I had to quiz them. It was crucial to determine what was unique about them, what was different from all the other patients I’d treated up to that time. I needed to know why the old ways had worked on them when they’d apparently been so much less successful with so many others.
One thing stood out. They had both grown up in a rural area without electricity, grocery stores or refrigeration. Local farmers trucked their wares into town every day and sold it in the town square. One shopped for that day’s meals, took one’s groceries home and, for the most part, cooked it up and ate it before it could spoil.
For a few years the sisters were simply an oddity. Another interesting case to file away in those mental folders that hold the things that only happen once, that one really has to see to fully believe.
Real Food: Real Results.
But then … it happened again. A few years later I had another patient respond miraculously. She, too, had grown up on a diet that didn’t come out of supermarkets.
Eventually I had another. Then another.
The day came when finally I encountered a patient whose decades-long complaint responded in one treatment … but, when asked whether she’d eaten food that hadn’t come out of supermarkets told me, “No … I grew up in the projects in Chicago!”
But an hour later … on her way out the door … she stopped. “Wait! Every summer … they used to send us down to live with our grandparents on the old farm. And yeah … there we used to eat really fresh food all summer!”
Clearly something profound had changed. Maybe all the old point indications I’d memorized back in school had worked like miracles ages ago, long before electricity, flood control, refrigeration, air freight. Maybe acupuncture was a miracle only for people who’d never known the Standard American Diet. Or at least had had the chance to eat real food when they were young.
Because it didn’t seem to matter so much how people ate when they were older. Even folks like me … original, died-in-the-wool crunchy granola organic health food nuts (at least, before I had to drop wheat) … it seemed even folks like me responded only marginally better to acupuncture than people with an In-n-Out Diet.
It was the people who’d grown up on real food … they were different. They were the ones who saw miracles.
As a general rule it’s usually easier to talk someone into changing their religion than changing their diet. And we weren’t about to turn back the hands of time.
We’d need to see how close we could get to those miraculous outcomes with micronutrient supplements alone. Things like B vitamins, trace minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids. But which ones?
Trust being so crucial, I never sold anything I recommended. Patients had brought me too many horror stories over the years.
Years went by. After endless testing of various combinations of products to see which ones worked best, I eventually hit on a set of four products that seemed to get us close.
You can learn about them by downloading the Basic Micronutrients Factbook.
I got to test this approach during three years as an acupuncturist at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic’s pain management center. There, where the patients who’d failed to respond to surgery and medications came as a last resort, it became clear as day. The patients I could convince to take Basic Micronutrients got better, and their results held. The people I couldn’t convince … their results rarely lasted. If they got better at all.
Now how would that work? Why would extremely small amounts of things like B vitamins, trace minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids do anything at all? And why would some products work so much better than others … but only in combination?
Today we understand that nutrients are far more than simply raw materials that the body uses to make things and run command and control systems. Nutrients are also information: they interact directly with the same networks cells use to talk to each other. The systems that turn inflammation up and down, that we use to feel and think, even the the switches that turn genes on and off, our epigenetics.
The richer the mix of nutrients in our systems, the more our genes get to express themselves and the healthier we are. It’s not much of a stretch to say the world talks to our genes through the nutrients we consume, telling our genes which part of their ancient instructions to bring to life, which parts of our ancestors get to come out to play.
Each of us gets to decide how complex, profound and entertaining that conversation will be. One clue: eat the rainbow.
Still … as one who’s been eating the rainbow for decades (and has special neuroendocrine needs, to be sure) it’s always seemed to me that even the best organic diets are improved by intelligent supplementation, especially as we get older.
Download the Basic Micronutrients Factbook.
Or get in touch if you’re interested in what comes after the Basics.