Acupuncture Improves Insomnia In Pregnant Women – Brisbane
Michelle Blum practices Acupuncture and Naturopathy in the South Brisbane suburb of Moorooka. She has a special interest in women’s health and sees many pregnant women in her clinic for an assortment of pregnancy related conditions.
Michelle wishes to share the results of a recent research trial conducted on pregnant women in their third trimester. The trial ran for a duration of three weeks and involved 72 pregnant participants with insomnia. The women either received 10 sessions of actual acupuncture or 10 sessions of sham acupuncture along with sleep hygeine recommendations.
The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) was used to assess sleep quality in addition to the measurement of melatonin urinary metabolites which assesses the secretion of melatonin, a neuro-transmitter that effects sleep quality.
Both were measured at the beginning of the trial and then again at the end of trial.
The women in the actual Acupuncture group showed a significant improvement in both PSQI scores as well as melatonin urinary metabolites at the end of the trial which was said to be consistent with the findings of prior research studies.
Researchers noted that the effects of the Acupuncture may have been due to its regulatory effect on various neuro-endocrinological pathways.
The impact of poor sleep quality in pregnancy can at times be serious, with possible outcomes including:- pre-mature delivery; a reduction in fetal growth as well as an increase in post natal depression.
There are many pharmaceutical and natural treatments for insomnia, however most of these are not recommended during pregnancy, due to their potential side effects. This is why Acupuncture becomes a safe, risk free option for women needing relief from sleepless nights not to mention other ailments commonly experienced during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and are suffering from sleeplessness or other pregnancy related conditions, feel free to contact Michelle Blum Natural Health here to discuss possible treatment options.
Michelle Blum is a Naturopath in the Brisbane Southside suburb of Moorooka. She is also an AHPRA registered Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner. In this latest blog, Michelle discusses the gut health benefits of probiotics and fermented foods, and includes an easy Kombucha recipe to try at home.
A Healthy Gut
As humans, our bodies – and gut, in particular – house a combination of good and bad bacteria. Under normal or “balanced” conditions, a widely diverse selection of good bacteria in the gut outnumber the bad. A lack of bacterial diversity and/or increased unfriendly bacteria can lead to a range of health problems. Lack of sleep, high levels of stress, consumption of high-fat and high-calorie food such as junk food, and a lack of prebiotics in the diet can all contribute to an unhealthy gut. So, how to reverse the effects of modern life?
The Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics – a name which means “for life” – are thought to be able to significantly help improve gut health and balance.
“More and more, we’re learning about the value of bacteria and probiotics to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms in our digestive systems,” Explains Stephanie Maxson, MS, RD, a senior clinical dietician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre.
There is evidence to suggest that they could protect us against harmful bacteria by crowding them out in the gut, stimulating the immune system to fight them off, and naturally creating growth inhibiting acids. They are also believed to improve digestion and our bodies ability to absorb food and nutrients.
Fermented Food for a Healthy Gut
Probiotics can be introduced to the body in many ways, but one common and easy method is the regular consumption of naturally fermented foods. Foods that go through a natural fermentation process gain probiotic properties. These include common products such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha. A good indicator of whether a food could contain probiotics is if the label advertises live cultures and/or natural fermentation.
Finally, if probiotics don’t always prevent illness entirely, then they are also a great way of rebalancing your gut after a dose of antibiotics. Learn more about natural health solutions here.
Easy, immune-boosting Ginger, Honey and Green Tea Kombucha Recipe
Makes: 1.5 litres | Time: 40 minutes plus fermentation time
A 1.7 litre (or larger) vessel
A Cheesecloth or similar mesh material to cover plus an elastic band to secure with
Clip top fermentation bottles
100g ginger peeled and finely chopped
20g loose leaf green tea
180g sugar of your choice or alternative sweetener (honey, etc)
150g previously made or bought live kombucha, or the liquid your new SCOBY came in
In a medium pot, bring the ginger and 300ml of cold water until to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for roughly a minute, so it’s just off boiling, and add the loose leaf tea. Allow this to steep off the heat for 10 minutes, covered. Strain the tea carefully and while it’s still hot add the sugar or sugar alternative. The sweetened tea must now be left to cool to room temperature before moving on.
Once cooled, add the sweetened tea to your fermentation vessel along with the 150g of previous kombucha, the remaining water and a SCOBY. Be careful not to introduce harmful bacteria to the SCOBY by handling it without gloves or using unclean kitchen equipment. Cover the vessel with a mesh cloth, using an elastic band to secure it – the SCOBY needs oxygen to survive, so it’s important not to cover with a non-breathable material – and place it in a relatively warm, dark location.
The fermentation will take roughly between 6 and 10 days, depending on your personal preference to taste and the environment it is in. Once finished, remove the kombucha from the SCOBY and transfer it to a clip top bottle to carbonate for a further 24 – 48 hours.
In this weeks blog, Michelle shares some new research that shows how certain healthy lifestyle habits used in conjunction with one another, have been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, by up to 60 %.
Dementia, a condition affecting over 44 million people world-wide, is a general term meaning that the brain is no longer able to function properly.
Alzheimer’s disease is a very common form of dementia which involves progressive and irreversible damage to the brain. Memory and cognition are severely affected as well as the ability to implement the simplest of tasks.
Most sufferers will first experience symptoms from their mid 60’s.
Some of its main features include abnormal clumps known as amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fibres causing a loss of connection between neurons. Eventually, the majority of the neurons in the brain are killed off with subsequent shrinkage of brain tissue.
New research shows that certain healthy lifestyle modifications can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by 60 %.
The main findings of this new research involving over 2,500 participants show that the following combined activities lower dementia risk considerably:-
Engaging in over 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week
Engaging in late life cognitive activity
Following a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.
Consuming light to moderate amounts of alcohol ie up to 15 gms of alcohol for women and up to 30 gm of alcohol for men per day.
It was noted that the higher the number of adopted lifestyle factors, the lower the risk of dementia. For example, the risk was 37% lower for those adopting two to three healthy lifestyle habits and was 60% lower for those adhering to four or five of these.
To date, there is no real effective treatment for this most debilitating and distressing disease. Knowing however, that there are certain healthy lifestyle principles that can significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease is most encouraging.
Omega 3’s for Mental Health – Naturopathy & Acupuncture Moorooka
A preliminary nutritional study involving patients with bipolar disorder found that an increase in particular fatty acids such as Omega 3’s appeared to reduce mood swings and irritability when used as an adjunct to traditional pharmaceutical drugs.
The study involved 41 participants between the ages of 20 and 75. Patients were treated over a 12 week period. In particular, an intake high in omega 3s and low in omega 6’s, in addition to usual care led to a reduction in irritability, mood swings and pain and an increase in energy in Bi-polar patients.
Some of the nutrition that was provided to the the patients included fatty fish such as salmon and tuna as well as a blend of olive and macadamia nut oil. The subjects in the study were also made to reduce their consumption of red meat and were given specially formulated snack foods.
It is thought that fatty acids in the brain perform two main functions. They :
Are an important component of cell membranes of neurons in the brain and
Form an important role in the cell signalling throughout the brain and the body that interacts with the immune system and the inflammatory system.
It is said that patients with Bipolar Disorder who are pharmaceutically medicated, will often need additional treatment to help achieve total stability of moods. Fatty acid therapy is now being considered a very effective adjunct to traditional care.
The use of fatty acid therapy has also been used in the treatment of migraine headaches, which is thought to have some overlaps and co-morbidity with bipolar disorder. Furthermore, Omega 3’s have been explored in various conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatological conditions and a wide range of other psychiatric disorders.
Some of the richest and best sources of Omega 3’s include anchovies, sardines and fresh salmon. They are known as having anti-inflammatory effects on the body as opposed to Omega 6’s which are pro -inflammatory.
For more information or to organise an appointment with a Naturopath please contact Michelle Blum here. Her Acupuncture and Naturopathy clinic is based in the Brisbane southside suburb of Moorooka.
Acupuncture for Migraines in Moorooka, South Brisbane
Michelle Blum, is a Naturopath and Acupuncturist based in the South Brisbane suburb of Moorooka. In her latest blog she looks at a recent study that validates the effectiveness of treating Migraines with Acupuncture.
There are more than 1 billion people throughout the world who experience migraines which can have an enormous impact on quality of life.
Whilst drug therapy is an effective option for some, it isn’t
always everyone’s cup of tea.
Did you know that a recent study in China which has been published in the British Medical Journal, compared manual acupuncture with sham acupuncture along with usual care ?
There were 147 patients in the study who averaged around the age
of 37. All of whom, had a history of migraines without aura.
The conclusion was made from the study, that those patients who received manual acupuncture experienced fewer migraine days as well as fewer migraine attacks than the other two groups.
It has been suggested that Acupuncture should be a preventative treatment offered to patients by doctors given that 90 % of migraine sufferers, generally have no preventative treatment available to them.
How do I treat migraines in my Acupuncture clinic ?
It is interesting how many clients visiting the clinic for migraine treatment expect that needles will be placed on their scalp or head region. Many do not realise that Acupuncture involves a complex set of meridians or energy pathways that run throughout the whole body. Often needles will be placed in parts of the body like the legs and feet to treat the head or upper body.
When assessing a patient who is suffering with migraines, I will always look for any structural mis-alignment affecting the neck and address this if it seems to be the causative factor.
I will also always be sure to ask the client if they have any head injuries or trauma and if so, I will treat accordingly. The reason for this is that past head trauma, no matter how long ago, can act as a driver for migraines and headaches, possibly causing disturbance at a later stage down the track.
In Chinese Medicine, it is thought that migraines and headaches are a symptom belonging to the Wood element which involves both the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians. These pathways are highly sensitive to stress and can easily fall out of balance giving rise to upper body heat and pain.
A Japanese style Acupuncturist will usually identify such a pattern using the neck, abdomen and pulse reading. Then needles will be gently inserted to address what the skilled practitioner deems to be the underlying cause.
Herbal medicines that address the Liver and Gall Bladder Qi may also be prescribed.
In the world of Naturopathic and Nutritional Medicine, supplements such as Magnesium will be recommended due to their effect on the muscular and nervous systems. Be sure to ask your Naturopath for the right type and dose of magnesium that will best suit your personal presentation. The oral form of magnesium is by far the more effective form with magnesium salt baths, sprays or oils being less so.
As a holistic practitioner who integrates Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Naturopathic and Nutritional Medicine, I will often ask my clients to bring into the clinic any recent blood tests that have been conducted. If these have not been done, I may send them off for testing to ensure that everything is as it should be.
If you would like more information about whether Acupuncture or Naturopathy treatments may be suitable for your health condition, feel free to contact the clinic here.
Diet and cardiovascular Health – Brisbane South Naturopath shares the latest research
Brisbane South side Naturopath and Acupuncturist, Michelle Blum looks at evidence based dietary interventions for cardio-vascular health.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of illness and death in Australia. Such prevalence results in a landslide of well-meaning but conflicting advice and misinformation, particularly online. The risk factors for cardiovascular disease when identified and addressed early, can make all the difference for preventing a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or a heart attack.
Naturopathic in-clinic screening methods for
cardiovascular disease may include:
Monitoring your blood pressure and pulse
Analysing your iris, tongue and nails
Checking your waist circumference
Testing your blood circulation and respiratory health
Exploring other risk factors such as diet, exercise
and physical environment
To assess your risk of cardiovascular disease, your
Naturopath can also interpret routine blood test results and explain the
relationship between markers such as
Cholesterol / triglycerides and the importance of
C-reactive protein which is a marker of inflammation
Vitamin B12, B6 and folate levels
High homocysteine levels can directly contribute to
the development of cardiovascular disease, by increasing the damaging effect of
cholesterol on the blood vessel walls. Homocysteine levels can become elevated
if you are not getting enough vitamin B12, B6 or folate in your diet, or if your
ability to absorb these nutrients isn’t quite up to scratch.
the best diet for preventing cardiovascular disease?
The results are in – a 2019 study followed over 16 000 adults and found that those who followed a mostly plant-based diet were at a lower risk of heart failure than those who followed a diet high in processed or fried foods and consumed sugar sweetened beverages1<sup>1</sup>. The plant-based diet group were at 41% lower risk for experiencing heart failure. Unsurprisingly, the fried diet group were evaluated as having a 71% increase in risk of heart failure1.
A plant-based diet is also less likely to result in the
formation of trimethylamine n-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite produced by gut
bacteria which plays a role in how fats are processed in the liver2. Higher levels of TMAO are often
found in cases of cardiovascular disease. Because TMAO is formed during the breakdown
of certain nutrients found in red meat, egg yolk and full fat dairy products,
limiting these foods can help to reduce risk. Interestingly, choosing balsamic
vinegar and olive oil can help negate the effects of TMAO2.
about a vegetarian diet for stroke?
When assessing over 13 000 people for a link between
diet and risk of stroke, researchers found that those on a vegetarian diet, enjoy
a 74% lower risk of stroke3. It is important to note that a
strictly vegetarian diet can result in inadequate intake of important nutrients
like vitamin B6 and B12. Deficiency in these vitamins can elevate homocysteine
levels which as mentioned above, can increase your risk of cardiovascular
disease. The solution? Consider decreasing your intake of animal products and
increase the quality of the products you’re choosing! Still include some high
quality animal products but choose organic or grass-fed options for your meat
oil or coconut oil – which is healthier in for the heart?
Many people are choosing coconut oil over other
cooking oils such as olive or canola oil. However, a recent study found that
coconut oil does have the ability to raise levels of LDL cholesterol, which is
problematic for those at risk of cardiovascular disease4. This study was based on the
consumption of 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day – an amount most people
aren’t going to be eating on a daily basis.
A 2020 study found that replacing just a teaspoon of
margarine, butter or mayonnaise with olive oil per day, reduces risk of
cardiovascular disease by up to 7%5. The study was conducted in the
United States over 24 years and determined that those who consumed ½ a
tablespoon of olive oil per day were 14% less likely to develop cardiovascular
disease and 18% less likely to develop coronary heart disease5.
The key points:
A plant-based diet decreases risk of heart failure, while a diet featuring fried or highly processed foods and drinks has a higher risk of heart failure
A Mediterranean style diet with a range of plant fibres from vegetables, legumes, nuts and fruits with a daily dose of high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar can help to mediate the effects of animal products in cardiovascular disease risk
Don’t overdo the coconut oil and replace high fat condiments with olive oil
Contact Michelle Blum Natural Health if you would like to book an appointment or discuss how Naturopathy and/or Acupuncture can assist you with your particular health concern.
1. Lara KM,
Levitan EB, Gutierrez OM, et al. Dietary Patterns and Incident Heart Failure in
U.S. Adults Without Known Coronary Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019.
2. Senthong V, Wang Z, Fan Y,
Wu Y, Hazen SL, Tang WHW. Trimethylamine N-oxide and mortality risk in patients
with peripheral artery disease. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016.
3. Chiu THT, Chang H-R, Wang
L-Y, Chang C-C, Lin M-N, Lin C-L. Vegetarian diet and incidence of total,
ischemic, and hemorrhagic stroke in 2 cohorts in Taiwan. Neurology.
4. Eyres L, Eyres MF, Chisholm
A, Brown RC. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutr Rev. 2016. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuw002
5. Marta Guasch-Ferré, Gang
Liu, Yanping Li, Laura Sampson, JoAnn E. Manson, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Miguel A.
Martínez-González, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett QS and FBH. Olive Oil
Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk in U.S. Adults. J Am Coll Cardiol.
The meaning of Autumn in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture – Moorooka – Brisbane South
Michelle Blum, Brisbane south side Acupuncturist, Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Naturopath talks about the seasonal shift from summer to Autumn and what this means in Chinese Medicine.
Well it’s March already, which means that Autumn is upon us !
Despite the fact that in South East Queensland, autumn doesn’t really commence until late March/early April, according to Chine Medicine philosophy, it is still important to respect this seasonal transition.In Chinese Medicine each season is classified into elements, that being the metal element for the season of Autumn.The metal element relates to the lung and large intestine organs and their affiliated meridians. The nose is the orifice pertaining to the metal element and its associated emotion is grief or sadness.The metal element is also about letting go of the expansive, active and joyful phase that is associated with summer and embracing the contraction and more quiet and reflective aspects of the approaching winter. This process can itself engender feelings of grief and sadness.The climatic conditions associated with the metal element are dryness and coolness which can give rise to symptoms such as asthma or eczema. In terms of our diet, Chinese Medicine principles guide us to consume food and beverages that are warming, preferring cooked foods over cold foods such as salads and smoothies. This would be especially recommended at breakfast and dinner time when the air is cooler.
Stewed pears with cooked oats or quinoa flakes and a non dairy milk would be a perfect autumnal breakfast.
Below is a lovely autumnal dinner recipe that you may wish try at home. Let me know how you go by sending me a message on the Michelle Blum Natural Health Facebook page though perhaps you may need to like the page first.
Autumnal Vegetable and Apple Stew
Ingredients 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped 200g pumpkin, roughly chopped 4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped 4 parsnips, roughly chopped (or 2 medium potatoes) 1 onion, roughly chopped 2 green apples, cored, peeled and roughly chopped 2 cups roughly chopped silverbeet ½ cup roughly chopped parsley ½ tsp sea salt ½ tsp ground black pepper ½ tsp ground cumin ½ tsp ground cinnamon 3 cups vegetable stock
Method Add all ingredients except for silverbeet into slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.Turn heat off and add silverbeet, stir through until wilted. May be served alone or with a dollop of plain coconut yoghurt.
If you liked the recipe or would like to know how Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine or Naturopathy may help you, please drop me a line here
Naturopathy and Acupuncture for Depression Brisbane
Michelle Blum, who practices Acupuncture and Naturopathy is Brisbane’s south, lists some evidence based lifestyle modifications that can improve outcomes for depression.
Depression is now considered the second leading cause of years of life lost to disability (YLD), trailing just behind cardiovascular disease1. It is highly likely that either you experience depression personally, or are close to someone who does. As rates of depression rise, the ripple effect expands outwards from the individual to the families, friends, social and medical systems that support those affected.
Whilst depression can have various underlying causes, the influence of
diet and lifestyle on mood is undeniable. Fortunately, we have the scientific
evidence to back this up.
An interesting link between depression and cardiovascular disease is
that systemic inflammation has been identified as both a risk factor and an
exacerbating factor driving their development2.
A 2017 trial wherein participants adopted a Mediterranean style diet in
addition to omega-3 fatty acid supplementation demonstrated positive results for
depression at both the three and six month mark3. Indeed, 60% of participants
reported experiencing less severe depression, 72% experienced less anxiety and
69% experienced less stress after following a Mediterranean style diet.
Importantly, there was also an emphasis on the social and lifestyle elements
that feature in a Mediterranean lifestyle – those participants who cooked and
ate together reported improvements in other measures of mental health as well3.
Wouldn’t it be nice? Chocolate has long been proclaimed as being able to
increase levels of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. Further research is required
to establish a causal mechanism, however psychoactive compounds found in
chocolate may induce feelings of euphoria by acting upon the endocannabinoid
system4. A study that was based on a
survey of over 13 000 people found that those who did not consume any dark
chocolate were more likely to experience depression than those who regularly
consumed dark chocolate4. So for now, the link between
chocolate consumption and reduced rates of depression is one of association,
rather than one of causation.
Deficient levels of vitamin D are a frequent finding in depression
sufferers. To validate her positive observations of vitamin D supplementation
in depressed patients, Marissa Flaherty MD, conducted a review of the
scientific evidence. An analysis of five clinical trials confirmed that vitamin
D supplementation does lead to improvements in depression. One trial showed
that vitamin D in combination with fluoxetine yielded better results for
patients than fluoxetine alone, meaning that vitamin D can be administered
alongside conventional pharmaceutical treatment5. Getting sunshine in addition to
having your vitamin D levels checked could make a significant difference!
mindfulness – powerful tools for managing depression
Those with a regular mindfulness or meditation practice will not need
any convincing when it comes to the benefits of these techniques. There is a
reason such practices have persisted for thousands of years – now there is
modern-day evidence to prove why. Most of the population will experience a mild
depressive episode at some point, with a percentage of people going on to
develop major depression6.
For many patients, treatment with anti-depressant medications does not
lead to complete remission. Recently, a study found that when combined with
usual depression care, online mindfulness-based cognitive behaviour therapy had
better outcomes for patients compared to usual depression care alone7.
The study found that patients were less likely to relapse if they were
also provided with web-based ‘Mindfulness Mood Balance’. The same group also
experienced reduced levels of anxiety, more frequent depression-free days and
better mental functioning7.
An earlier trial of people with sub-threshold depression (who didn’t
quite meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression) were provided with
behavioural activation mindfulness treatment (BAM) for 12 months. They received
training in mindfulness, body-scanning, lifestyle planning and walking
meditation in addition to guided meditation tapes for home practice. Another group who received only usual care,
without the mindfulness treatment were also studied as a comparison. At the end
of the trial, the BAM group were less likely to have developed major depression
(10.8% compared to 26.8%) and reported slightly higher improvements to
The best part?
These research-backed lifestyle modifications are of low cost and can be
safely implemented for many people who experience chronic depression. They also
provide a solid foundation for wellness and disease prevention in those without
a mental health condition.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and would like to discuss some natural options please do not hesitate to contact Michelle Blum Natural Health here.
1. Mendis S,
Armstrong T, Bettcher D, et al. Global Status Report on Noncommunicable
Diseases 2014. World Health Organisation.; 2014. doi:ISBN 9789241564854
2. Dowlati Y, Herrmann N, Swardfager
W, et al. A Meta-Analysis of Cytokines in Major Depression. Biol Psychiatry.
3. Parletta N, Zarnowiecki D,
Cho J, et al. A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish
oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A
randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED). Nutr Neurosci. 2019.
4. Jackson SE, Smith L, Firth
J, et al. Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of
depression? A cross-sectional survey of 13,626 US adults. Depress Anxiety.
5. Khoraminya N, Tehrani-Doost
M, Jazayeri S, Hosseini A, Djazayery A. Therapeutic effects of vitamin D as
adjunctive therapy to fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder. Aust
N Z J Psychiatry. 2013. doi:10.1177/0004867412465022
6. Wong SYS, Sun YY, Chan ATY,
et al. Treating subthreshold depression in primary care: A randomized
controlled trial of behavioral activation with mindfulness. Ann Fam Med.
7. Segal Z V., Dimidjian S,
Beck A, et al. Outcomes of Online Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for
Patients with Residual Depressive Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA
Psychiatry. 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.4693
America officially recommends Acupuncture for low back pain… Will Australia follow suit? South Brisbane Acupuncturist Michelle Blum explores.
Low back pain is one of the most frequently reported pain conditions in
adults world-wide. In the United States (US) alone, 25% of adults reported
experiencing low back pain in some capacity within the last 90 days1.
Whether it’s a dull ache, shooting pains down the leg, numbness or acute
injury, lower back pain hurts. In
those suffering, reaching for pain killing medications and anti-inflammatories
is often second nature.
The pharmacological arsenal for the day-to-day management of lower back
pain includes; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) acetaminophen, opioid
drugs, skeletal muscle relaxants, systemic corticosteroids and medications that
act on the nervous system such as benzodiazepines, anti-depressants and even
Whilst the burden of the opioid epidemic cannot be understated, household
drugs such as NSAIDs are an understated risk factor in the development of
kidney disease, gastrointestinal ulcers3, leaky-gut syndrome4 and liver damage5.
The effects of lower back pain are far reaching, with negative
consequences for workplace productivity, loss of wages and costs to the
healthcare system. On an individual level, chronic pain conditions such as low
back pain are associated with reduced quality of life and higher rates of
depression6 in many people.
Never has the need for an effective, safe treatment for low back pain
A systematic review conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and
Quality (AHRQ) examined the evidence and efficacy of common treatments for
lower back pain including:
They evaluated each treatment in regards to the following outcomes:
elimination in of low back pain
mobility and function
quality of life
Return to work
Frequency of low
back pain episodes
Acupuncture perform in low back pain?
In acute and subacute cases of low back pain, acupuncture demonstrated a
decrease in pain intensity with an increase in overall improvement compared to
NSAID therapy. That means improved pain outcomes, without the risks associated
with pain medication2.
In chronic low back pain, acupuncture reduced pain severity immediately
following the treatment as well as for up to 12 weeks after the session2. When evaluating changes to
low-back function, researchers found that acupuncture was associated with
improved function compared to NSAIDs, analgesics and muscle relaxants and the
placebo (non-penetrating acupuncture needles)2
Based on the review of evidence, The American College of Physicians (ACP) developed the following recommendations for clinical treatment of low back pain:
that most patients with acute or subacute low back pain improve over time
regardless of treatment, clinicians and patients should select nonpharmacologic
treatment with superficial heat (moderate-quality evidence), massage,
acupuncture, or spinal manipulation (low-quality evidence). If pharmacologic
treatment is desired, clinicians and patients should select nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs or skeletal muscle relaxants (moderate-quality
evidence). (Grade: strong recommendation)2”
“For patients with chronic low back pain,
clinicians and patients should initially select nonpharmacologic treatment with
exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based
stress reduction (moderate-quality evidence), tai chi, yoga, motor control
exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser
therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation
(low-quality evidence). (Grade: strong recommendation)2”
“In patients with chronic low back pain
who have had an inadequate response to nonpharmacologic therapy, clinicians and
patients should consider pharmacologic treatment with nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs as first-line therapy, or tramadol or duloxetine as
second-line therapy. Clinicians should only consider opioids as an option in
patients who have failed the aforementioned treatments and only if the
potential benefits outweigh the risks for individual patients and after a
discussion of known risks and realistic benefits with patients. (Grade: weak
recommendation, moderate-quality evidence)2”
Australia does tend to take its lead from the US – will health care
providers take these recommendations into consideration when addressing the
four million Australians who experience back pain?
In the meantime, consider booking an acupuncture treatment to relieve your low back pain.
1. Deyo RA, Mirza
SK, Martin BI. Back pain prevalence and visit rates: Estimates from U.S. national
surveys, 2002. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006.
2. Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean
RM, Forciea MA. Noninvasive treatments for acute, subacute, and chronic low
back pain: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of
Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017. doi:10.7326/M16-2367
3. Marcum ZA, Hanlon JT.
Recognizing the risks of chronic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in
older adults. Ann Long-Term Care. 2010.
4. Bhatt AP, Gunasekara DB,
Speer J, et al. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug-Induced Leaky Gut Modeled
Using Polarized Monolayers of Primary Human Intestinal Epithelial Cells. ACS
Infect Dis. 2018. doi:10.1021/acsinfecdis.7b00139
5. Sriuttha P, Sirichanchuen B,
Permsuwan U. Hepatotoxicity of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: A
Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Int J Hepatol. 2018.
6. Sheng J, Liu S, Wang Y, Cui
R, Zhang X. The Link between Depression and Chronic Pain: Neural Mechanisms in
the Brain. Neural Plast. 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/9724371
Naturopath Brisbane Southside – The low down on Calcium, Dairy and Osteoporosis.
Michelle Blum who practices Acupuncture and Naturopathy in Brisbane’s south, discusses all things Calcium, Dairy and Osteoporosis in this latest blog.
Calcium is synonymous with three things; strong bones, strong teeth and dairy. They fit nicely together when it comes to selling milk and dairy products, but is it all really that simple? With the rates of osteoporosis on the rise in the western world, despite regular consumption of calcium-rich dairy, it’s time to review the role of calcium.
Calcium and bone health
Yes, calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth, with 99% of the body’s calcium stored in these connective tissues. The intake and absorption of dietary calcium is critical for the mineral deposition in bone as well as bone growth and repair1. Outside of bone tissue, calcium also helps to regulate muscle contractions and movement1. To read this study, click here.
Does calcium actually lower the risk of Osteoporosis?
If you are a woman in your post-menopausal years, chances are that you have a little bottle of calcium in your medicine cabinet. If you don’t, your elderly parents probably do. Maintaining bone mineral density (BMD) is a key measure in preventing osteoporosis, and calcium supplementation aims to support this.
The evidence between average calcium intake from milk consumption and the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures is limited. A Harvard-led study found that men and women who drank one glass of milk or less per week were at no more risk of fracture than those who drank two or more glasses of milk each week2,3
A large analysis of the available evidence concluded that there is no significant association between calcium intake or supplementation and the risk of fracture in men and women4. However, the study acknowledges that the form and effects of supplemental calcium in some of the trials was not assessed4,
Not all calcium supplements are created equal
Over the counter calcium supplements often contain calcium in the form of calcium carbonate. Which actually has the same chemical structure as chalk!
A recent trial administered 60 post-menopausal women either calcium carbonate, calcium hydroxyapatite or a control for two years, to determine the effects of calcium supplementation on BMD5. The hydroxyapatite form resulted in less than 1% loss in BMD at the two year mark, compared to almost 4% BMD in the calcium carbonate group (Figure 1)5. This confirms that for the purpose of maintaining BMD, calcium hydroxyapatite is likely to be superior to supplementation with calcium carbonate5. These findings supported those of an earlier trial in Figure 26.
Figure One: Calcium Hydroxyapatite Reduces Bone Loss5
Figure Two: Calcium Hydroxapatite Reduces Trabecular Bone Loss6
Is dairy the best dietary source of calcium?
Calcium has been dairy’s selling point for, well, ever. While dairy does contain calcium and is a convenient source for many people, the correlation between dairy consumption and disease prevention is not strong. At present, the recommended dietary calcium intake for adults is upward of 1000mg per day. To meet this target through dairy alone would require drinking 2-3 glasses of milk daily. This can present other health challenges in terms of:
Bloating, gas, pain and diarrhoea from excess lactose consumption
The effects of lactose and casein as proteins that can trigger the immune system
Saturated fat intake particularly in populations already consuming animal products
Possible increased risk of ovarian7,8 and prostate cancer9,10
The best non-dairy calcium sources11:
Firm Tofu – 1 cup delivers 832mg
Sardines – a 90g can delivers between 330-486mg
Pink salmon – a 90g can delivers between 183-279mg
Red salmon – a 90g can delivers between 175-203mg
Mussels – 100g delivers 173mg
Snapper – 1 fillet delivers 163mg
Silverbeet, boiled – 1 cup delivers 174mg
Figs, dried – 6 figs delivers 160mg
Soybeans – 1 cup delivers 106mg
Tahini – 1 tablespoon delivers 66mg
A word on the environmental impacts of milk…
There is an emerging concern that the recent demand for plant-based milk substitutes is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of land. Currently, it is still more environmentally friendly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and land use, to grow almonds than it is to produce dairy milk12.
Unfortunately, the current agricultural paradigm means that the farming of most crops is having detrimental effects on the climate and environment. When choosing your milk, whether it is dairy or plant-based, consider purchasing an organic brand or do some research and find a source that has been bio-dynamically farmed.
Ways to maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis:
Keep active – using your muscles also strengthens bone tissue13
Get plenty of sunlight – vitamin D helps to regulate calcium in the body to prevent fractures14
Avoid Cola – cola soft drinks contain a lot of phosphorous, which has been associated with loss of bone mineral density and weaker bones15
For Acupuncture and/or Naturopathy bookings or enquiries please visit Michelle Blum Natural Health here, located on Brisbane’s south side.
1. Harvey NC, Biver E, Kaufman JM, et al. The role of calcium supplementation in healthy musculoskeletal ageing: An expert consensus meeting of the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO) and the International Foundation for Osteoporosis (IOF). Osteoporos Int. 2017. doi:10.1007/s00198-016-3773-6
2. Owusu W, Willett WC, Feskanich D, Ascherio A, Spiegelman D, Colditz GA. Calcium Intake and the Incidence of Forearm and Hip Fractures among Men. J Nutr. 1997. doi:10.1093/jn/127.9.1782
3. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: A 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997. doi:10.2105/AJPH.87.6.992
4. Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Dawson-Hughes B, Baron JA, et al. Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and women: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007. doi:10.1093/ajcn/86.6.1780
5. Castelo-Branco C, Pons F, Vicente JJ, Sanjuán A, Vanrell JA. Preventing postmenopausal bone loss with ossein-hydroxyapatite compounds: Results of a two-year, prospective trial. J Reprod Med Obstet Gynecol. 1999.
6. Rüegsegger P, Keller A, Dambacher MA. Comparison of the treatment effects of ossein-hydroxyapatite compound and calcium carbonate in osteoporotic females. Osteoporos Int. 1995. doi:10.1007/BF01623655
7. Genkinger JM, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Dairy products and ovarian cancer: A pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-05-0484
8. Ganmaa D, Sato A. The possible role of female sex hormones in milk from pregnant cows in the development of breast, ovarian and corpus uteri cancers. Med Hypotheses. 2005. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2005.06.026
9. Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Risk factors for prostate cancer incidence and progression in the health professionals follow-up study. Int J Cancer. 2007. doi:10.1002/ijc.22788
10. Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Wolk A, et al. Calcium and fructose intake in relation to risk of prostate cancer. Cancer Res. 1998.
12. Poore J, Nemecek T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science (80- ). 2018. doi:10.1126/science.aaq0216
13. Borer KT. Physical activity in the prevention and amelioration of osteoporosis in women: Interaction of mechanical, hormonal and dietary factors. Sport Med. 2005. doi:10.2165/00007256-200535090-00004
14. Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Willett WC, Wong JB, Giovannucci E, Dietrich T, Dawson-Hughes B. Fracture prevention with vitamin D supplementation: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Med Assoc. 2005. doi:10.1001/jama.293.18.2257
15. Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, Hannan MT, Cupples LA, Kiel DP. Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham osteoporosis study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006. doi:10.1093/ajcn/84.4.936