Q: Do you think that acupuncture could
help restore a taste and smell disorder?
Wu writes: The answer is yes. From a TCM perspective (five element theory), both
taste and smell have their own unique attributes related to specific zang-fu
organs (e.g., Liv/H/Sp/L/K relate to respectively to
rancid/scorch/fragrant/putrid/rotten and sour/bitter/sweet/pungent/salty). Based
on this, the acupuncturist can rationalize his/her therapeutic approach by
adjusting meridians or points associated with the zang-fu organs involved. These
measures should be complemented with eight principle diagnostics, to balance the
patient's yin-yang based on syndrome pattern presented by the patient in regard
to excess/deficiency, hot/cold, exterior/interior. In general, one should pay
more attention to the Spleen and Lung systems because they are more closely
related to the dampness and phlegm that might impede taste and smell functions.
Certain taste and smell problems result from expression
(branch) of the root of the disease. For instance, (1) low thyroid functions or
hypothyroidism, (2) trace metal metabolism disorders (esp. copper, zinc, calcium
and magnesium), (3) flu/seasonal allergy with congestion and hypersecretory
conditions, (4) deficiency of growth factors for taste buds and olfactory
receptors that lead to degeneration of these sensors and (5) drug-induced
conditions (e.g., beta-blockers) or head trauma. It is also known that salivary
and olfactory mucosa's secretory functions may be impaired in patients following
x-ray or neutron irradiation therapy on the head/neck area (e.g., thyroid
cancer) and in patients with Sjogren's syndrome (autoimmune disease against
moisture-producing glands). Thus, the acupuncturist should approach the problems
by taking into consideration the root of the diseases.
In practice, Spleen/Stomach meridians or related points for
dampness or indigestion should be considered (Sp 4, S 40 etc).
Certain experiential points have used for bitter taste including G 38. LI 19 (Yingxiang)
(and LI 20) can be tried because its name indicated for smell function. In
addition, local regular channel points on the facial (nose, mouth) area and
local extra points such as bitong (also called Shangyingxiang), Juquan (EX-HN8),
Jinjin-Yuye (EX-HN6&7), and a distal extra point called Sweet-Tasting Point
(midpoint between L 7 and LI 5) can also be considered.
Electroacupuncture should be encouraged as stimulations at
different frequencies have been shown to improve neurotransmitter levels,
especially serotonin, which was shown to be involved in gustatory (and possibly
Q: I have colonic inertia, which means
the nerves of my colon do not work, thus I have chronic constipation. I will
need to take prescription drugs for the rest of my life to deal with this
condition. Can acupuncture help or cure this condition?
writes: The Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis for colonic inertia is
"Stagnation of the Large Intestine Meridian." The first order of business with
"stagnation" or lack of flow, in the colon is to drink more water. You need to
drink 1/2 ounce daily for every pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 160
pounds, you need to drink 80 ounces of pure water, not with meals, daily. You
don't want to dilute your digestive enzymes. Also, increase the fiber (oat bran,
celery, apples, ground flax seeds) in your diet. Avoid refined sugars. Sweets
create "sticky poops" (according to TCM), which are much more difficult to pass.
The ideal poop half floats/half sinks, wipes clean easily and occurs at least
The best acupoints for constipation include Large Intestine
4, Liver 3, Stomach 36, Stomach 25 and Spleen 14. The first set, LI 4 and Li 3
are collectively known at the "Four Gates" and open the channels for elimination
of toxins. LI 4 is particularly useful because you can readily massage the point
yourself. LI 4 is also a major treatment point for headaches; many "toxic"
headaches can be "cured" simply by stimulating a bowel evacuation. Stomach 36 is
a lower leg point that stimulates the "central Qi". Although stagnation of any
kind generally presents locally, as relative excess, the patient is likely to be
suffering some kind of constitutional deficiency. Stomach 36 is specific for
"toning" the system digestive deficiency while reducing excess "locally". St 25
and Sp 14 are on the abdomen and require longer needles and usually somewhat
more vigorous stimulation. Ideally these points would produce borborygmus (gut
gurgling) when placed.
About our Doctors:
Kuei-Meng Wu is the author of "Coretext of Acupuncture" and an
instructor of two CME-credited courses entitled "Chinese Acupunctology" and
"Chinese Herbal Pharmacology" at the FAES graduate school in NIH. Wu specializes
in pain management. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-564-9618.
Emily A. Kane was raised in North Africa. She graduated from
Bastyr University in Seattle where she completed both the Naturopathic and
Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Kane is a former senior editor of the
Journal of Naturopathic Medicine (1989-96), the scientific, peer-reviewed
journal of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.