Acupuncture for Medication Withdrawal

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM

Have you been told about the effects of eliminating your psychiatric medications? Detoxing from medication can be a very uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating experience. People are not often offered much for withdrawal support, which leaves individuals “white knuckling” through a rollercoaster of physical, emotional, and psychological distress. Not to mention, the psychological aspect that comes along with the decision to stop taking a medication that can be terrifying. Life may feel like an eternity as each moment passes during a medication taper experience. Utilizing acupuncture can help achieve a state of harmony during this process and promote a level of balance in your body that minimizes the intensity of these symptoms.

Acupuncture is an under utilized modality that can help ease the emotional, mental, and physical manifestations during this time. The body is in a state of disharmony and shock from the absence of certain chemicals that it was accustomed to receiving. It needs time to return back to its homeostasis. There is a real sense of urgency when in the transition period of a tapering plan and acupuncture can make this transition less intense.  

Acupuncture ultimately helps restore balance through the stimulation of specific points. By stimulating these points, we improve the movement of Qi (energy) and of blood to help relieve pain, increase circulation, stimulate the liver, and speed up lymphatic drainage to ease the negative effects of withdrawal. Your practitioner will target specific meridians and acupoints that are connected to your specific withdrawal symptoms and bodily imbalances.

Acupuncture during medication withdrawal can help with agitation and restlessness, muscle aches and pains, insomnia, nausea, vertigo and dizziness, headaches, depression, temperature fluctuations, and what patients describe as “brain zaps.” A rebound effect may also be experienced during tapering where the original symptoms return and are worse than they were before.

Many are unaware that endorphins are released from the brain during acupuncture. Endorphins are our natural pain killers which also have a calming and positive effect on our mood. The release of endorphins also help relieve those pesky body aches that may be experienced. Using acupuncture, you can take advantage of the body’s natural chemicals to calm your brain and provide relief that will promote staying sober.

Withdrawal can cause uncomfortable body temperature changes, especially from alcohol and opiates. Alcohol usually causes an increase in temperature while opiates may cause fluctuations between sweating and feeling cold. A study has demonstrated that in combination with electrical stimulation acupuncture reduced this unpleasant withdrawal side effect.

Acupuncture has been known for centuries to help relieve nausea and vomiting from pregnancy, chemotherapy, and postoperative cases. Medication withdrawal is no different. Acupuncture speeds up the elimination process and improves detoxification pathways to allow the chemicals from medications to be expelled out of the body more efficiently.

In the case of experiencing depressive symptoms from alcohol, opiates, or even antidepressant withdrawal is common. In Chinese Medicine, depression causes a stagnation or seizing up of liver energy. These drugs falsely stimulate the energy from the liver causing it to flow more freely throughout the body. Once these drugs are stopped, that liver energy once again becomes constrained based on the Chinese Liver System. Additionally, your Liver energy can move erratically when these medications are stopped causing something called “internal wind” in Chinese Medicine. Internal wind is a sense of movement where there should be stillness. This internal movement is similar to akathisia and is also considered to be a rebound reaction. This effect manifests symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, restlessness, tremors, and the brain zaps.  

The current common approach to medication elimination sets us up for failure. The process of medication tapering can feel overwhelming, discouraging, and impact our mental and physical body’s to a point where we decide it is not worth the effort. Acupuncture is built upon a foundation of ancient knowledge that can promote balance in your body and provide you with the stability that you need to take your withdrawal head-on and minimize the impact of resulting physical symptoms. Psychiatric medications can have an enormously positive impact on an individual’s life.  When a person is ready to move on without those medications, it is crucial that there is support provided to create a confident and successful transition toward independence.

Managing Chronic Inflammation

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac.

Systemic chronic inflammation is becoming more prevalent due to poor diet choices and lifestyle habits. Continuous exposure to environmental pollutants, toxic household and beauty products also overwhelm our bodies and contribute to inflammation.

Inflammation is a necessary, innate immune response against harmful stimuli such as infections, tissue injuries, or toxins. Stress, whether physical or mental, can also activate this response. As inflammation continues to disrupt our homeostasis, this is when it becomes detrimental to our health. Chronic inflammation causes a transient decline in tissue function which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases. One major cause in the rise of inflammation and chronic disease is due to the mismatch between a modern environment and evolutionary processes. Our environment is changing much faster than our bodies can adapt. Stone Age bodies and the realities of the modern world are fueling a paradox of greater longevity and chronic disease.

Acute or short term inflammation helps clear out debris, causing the destruction and clearing of cells that are considered to be a threat. It initiates repair to block further inflammation and restores homeostasis in a damaged area. Failure of an initial immune response leads to a failure of the body to respond to destroy and remove harmful cells. This leads to the release of toxins or foreign substances inside the cells which create “danger signals.” The immune system is then stimulated causing oxidative stress and the release of toxic byproducts known as free radicals. Over time, this eventually leads to chronic inflammatory diseases including autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and neurological disease. Chronic health conditions account for 70% of all deaths in the U.S.! Also, as we age, an imbalance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways begins to occur so it is vital that this innate immune response be switched on when needed and switched off when not needed.

There are numerous lifestyle changes, herbs, and other modalities that can help reduce chronic inflammation, but consistency and compliance are key to getting positive results. Chronic inflammation does not occur overnight, instead it is an ongoing process that took months or even years to develop. Supporting the immune system, enhancing our natural barriers, improving microcirculation, managing pain, aiding specific organs and tissues, and supporting HPA-axis are all beneficial towards recovery.

HPA-axis is is an abbreviation for a subsystem in your body called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and is known to be our central stress response system. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands constitute the HPA-axis and make up our neuroendocrine system. There is a bi-directional communication and feedback between the HPA-axis and our immune system. The HPA axis controls the adaptation response to stress and regulates many physical processes, including digestion, the immune system, sexuality, mood, and energy storage and expenditure.

Below you will find herbs, foods, and other modalities that are beneficial towards healing chronic inflammation. Nature provides us with numerous options, but start where you are. Begin by adding one or two options to your daily regime. If you overwhelm yourself in the beginning, you put yourself at risk for failure. Add what you can and try to be consistent.

Immune Support:

  • Astragalus root

  • Echinacea

  • Elderberry

  • Turmeric

  • Boswellia

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin D

  • Omega 3

  • Probiotics

  • Colloidal silver

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Ginseng

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Frankincense

  • Myrrh

  • Oregano

  • Olive leaf

  • Andrographis

  • Cat’s claw

  • Hemidesmus

  • Sweet wormwood

  • Licorice

  • Thuja

  • Sarsaparilla

  • St. John’s Wort

Enhancing Natural Barriers:

  • Wearing a scarf and hat during the cooler months

  • Acupuncture

  • Avoid allergen prone foods

  • HEPA filter

  • Goldenseal

  • Licorice

  • Meadowsweet

  • Slippery elm

  • Bitter herbs

  • Chamomile

  • Thyme

  • Fennel

  • Mullein

  • Garlic

  • Turmeric

  • Boswellia

  • Cinnamon

  • Gotu Kola

  • Grape seed extract

  • Eyebright

Microcirculation Support:

  • Infrared sauna

  • Lymphatic massage

  • Castor oil packs

  • Dark chocolate

  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds

  • Walnuts

  • Avocado

  • Pomegranate juice (fresh, no added sugar)

  • Fish oils (DHA and EPA)

  • CoEnzyme Q10

  • Reservatrol

  • Horse chestnut

  • Gingko

  • Butcher’s broom

Tissue and Organ Support:

  • Milk thistle

  • Artichoke root

  • Dandelion root

  • Schisandra

  • Boldo

  • Willow bark

  • Baical skullcap

  • Celery seed

  • Ginger

  • Devils claw

  • Gymnema

  • Rehmannia

  • Bupleurum

  • Licorice

  • Gotu kola

  • Hawthorn

  • Beets

HPA-Axis Support:

  • Regular sleep

  • Ashwagandha extract

  • L-theanine

  • Magnolia bark extract

  • Maca root extract

  • Holy basil leaf extract

  • Eleuthero root extract

  • Licorice root extract

  • Vitamins B1, B2, and B5

Pain Management:

  • Infrared sauna

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage therapy

  • Turmeric

  • Ginger

  • White willow bark

  • Feverfew

  • Clove

  • Blueberries

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Salmon

  • Tart cherries

  • Virgin olive oil

When battling chronic inflammation, the health of your gut should be your number one concern. What we eat is 100% in our control and an easy place to start when trying to heal from inflammation. It is important to stick with organic produce as much as possible. Check out your local farmers markets to get better deals. Small farms may not be able to afford USDA organic certification, but always be open to asking about farming practices. Pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics in our foods contribute to further inflammation. Eating mostly warm, cooked meals, small portion sizes, eating about every four hours, and practicing mindful eating can help reduce the stress that is placed on our digestive systems.

Find your local Chinese or Ayurvedic herbalist who has the expertise in herbal medicine and looks at the entire body as a whole--mind, body, and spirit. Rochambo and Stone Creek are great local Milwaukee spots offering excellent tea selections. Tippecanoe Herbs and Apothecary offers crafted herbal items from organic and locally wildcrafted plants, custom formulas, consultations, & classes in Milwaukee!

Begin your healing journey today!