Category Archives: digestion


The earliest that acupuncture can be traced back in human history was approximately 5,000 years ago. In the Ne Jing Su Wen, otherwise known as the Yellow Emperor Classic, it is clearly stated in this ancient text that acupuncture was at that time already considered very old, surely making it one of the great mysteries of the ancient world.

So what do we know about it? Firstly the places on the body that acupuncture needles are traditionally applied have a slightly hollow feeling due to the reduced skin surface tension directly on top of these acupuncture points (tsub’s). These same points also exhibit greater electrical conductivity than the surrounding skin- this is scientifically verifiable and detectable with instruments such as Kirlian cameras and skin galvanometers.

The Yellow Emperor’s  physician Chi Po when asked, explained that acupuncture came from a time when people lived more than a hundred years, lived in accordance with nature and could see acupuncture points with the naked eye. So how did these electrically anomalous skin spots become a therapy? just why would a bunch of early humans go jabbing themselves with sharp things to see what would happen and eventually discover it was good for them?

It is a question we may never know the answer to but  develop it did, into the most frequently used therapy in the world today. It is even recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation) for dozens of applications and not just as pain relief; bronchitis, constipation, indigestion and nausea are other WHO endorsed uses of acupuncture. Even IVF clinics are now recommending acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for female infertility.

All this from an industry without lots of money to research and advertise, even in it’s native country China, acupuncture was almost completely eradicated in the mid 1950’s by chairman Mao. Mao was then forced to bring it back because nothing worked as well and as cheaply, perhaps the only thing he ever backed down from. I discovered it like a lot of Westerners do- when other things didn’t work.

Most acupuncture points are said to be joined by 14 invisible lines (meridians) that are not so easy to scientifically validate as tsubo’s are. It has been speculated that the meridians are really major veins and arteries which is interesting because students are taught NOT to needle over large blood vessels.

Whatever the case acupuncture has survived and is still quite effectively used today and not just for the physical, acupuncture can help relax people too and calm them down. Doctor Leon Hammer a psychiatrist, uses it with his psychiatric patients and wrote a fascinating book about it called “Dragon Rises Red Bird Flies” Hammer even states in his book that he finds acupuncture quite compatible with psycho therapy.

Many chiropractors and osteopaths use acupuncture too and kinesiology is based on it also and many doctors of medicine use it too. Acupuncture was in a large part first taken to the rest of the world by Jesuit missionaries in China who were so impressed with what they saw they wanted to tell everyone else about it.

If you are a bit scared of needles you can always try shiatsu or acupressure which work the same way but without the needles.


It is hard to find a more common place and popular physical activity as walking. Walking is an aerobic (cardio) exercise, the faster you walk the more rapidly your heart rate increases and the rhythm of walking sustains it.The steeper the walk the more strengthening the effect on your legs, walking is then a cardio and strength exercise (but not stretching this must be done separately).

If you cannot go outside to walk you can do it indoors on a treadmill or step machine. Walking is easier with a straight upright posture, focussing on your breathing as you walk can help  you stand straighter and walk faster.Walking up hills can give you a good cardio and strength workout but walking down hills is much harder on your feet, knees and even your back because of the gravity factor.

An effective walking exercise strategy is to walk faster and harder up hills but take it slow and easy walking down hill to get your breath back. Please try to avoid walking fast or running down hill not only because of how landing jolts your joints and your spine but also because you are less likely to twist an ankle on uneven ground.

When you walk your digestive organs gently rub up against one another, walking can actually assist your digestion because your internal organs massage each other while you are in motion. Walking for many is an active meditation, away from your worries, in the fresh air, looking at and smelling lovely gardens along the way listening to the birds. Experiment a bit with your walking speed to find the best rhythm for yourself.

Walking is often good thinking time and will help you think more positively and creatively because of the endorphins and serotinen released during a good walk.

If you have a dog take him with you, if you feel safer walking with a dog but don’t own one borrow your neighbour’s dog. Community notices in local newspaper classifieds often advertise walking groups if you don’t want to go alone.

Bushwalking has even greater benefits because it helps your balance and sure footedness as well as your cardio fitness. You can distribute leaflets to earn some money as you go or just to inform your neighbours about community events.

Some of the best memories I have of my father was all the bush walks he used to take me and my brothers on, it is a great thing to share with your kids and grand kids. We used to go catching frogs and lizards and when we told our friends they wanted to come too. Bushwalking is like a nature excursion for kids and is a great way to keep them active and away from video screens, it has been statistically proven that kids who are not overweight as teenagers are less likely to become obese as adults.

Reiter’s Syndrome/ Reactive arthritis.

Reiter’s Syndrome and Reactive Arthritis are often considered to be the same disease. Reiter’s 3 classic symptoms are arthritis, urinary tract infection and inflamed eyes although Reactive Arthritis can result from a gastro-intestinal illness or food poisoning too.

RS (Reiter’s Syndrome) or RA (Reactive Arthritis) in either case are auto-immune diseases, an inappropriate response of one’s own immune system to a disease or food poisoning in a completely different part of the body. The symptoms can form quickly or develop over weeks. Usually it is over by 6 months but in a third of cases it can last for years, RS/RA mainly affects men in the 20-50 age group.

The joints of the legs and feet (particularly the achilles tendon) are usually the worst affected but arthritis of the upper body joints can occur too. Skin rashes are common and your joints can get very painful and swollen. Men are thought to be more susceptible to RS/RA because they are more commonly affected by Urinary Tract infections (UTI’s) and sexually transmitted diseases (SDI’s) than women are. Of these UTI’s, chlamydia is thought to be the most common.

In the UK one in 14 people are thought to possess the HLA-B17 gene, with 75% of all RS/RA sufferers in the UK possessing this gene a hereditary link is strongly suspected. Some reference sources claim that RS/RA is rare but others state that up to 1/100 UTI’s and 1/100 Gastro Intestinal Infections go onto develop arthritic symptoms.

Treatments include drugs such as methatrexate, voltarin and analgesia. Alkaline and non-nightshade diets are sometimes helpful. Acupuncture, physio, chiropractic, osteopathy, traction, stretching and massage are all mentioned as useful interventions in the RS/RA chat-rooms online too.

RS/RA sufferers often report that keeping their joints warm and not sitting too still for too long helps ease their pain levels. Eating well, adequate hydration, meditating, good stress management and sufficient sleep are all highly recommended strategies from experienced sufferers of RS/RA.

Despite the fact that a UTI or dysentry may be easily treated with an antibiotic, Reactive Arthritis can still persist long after the bug that precipitated it passes. One in 10 cases of  RS/RA are said to result from an unknown bacteria or virus which raises the question how such cases can even be considered to be RS/RA given there is no definitive test for it (just a positve ESR which may also be indicative of PMR or Haemachromatosis).

You may need to try combinations of different treatment in order to manage your own symptoms. Do whatever exercise you can but approach with caution because inflamed cartilage does not respond well to sudden move or even moderate impact, stretching can be tricky too.

Remain posture conscious and use Self Massage in the places your muscles are stiff.


Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints and it has many causes. Insufficient dietry fibre (roughage), dehydration, drug side effects, pregnancy, stress, not enough exercise and back pain are all major contributors to constipation.

To properly understand the importance of regular bowel movements it is important to consider what your bowel is supposed to do which is getting rid of the worst of what your body contains.

It is not common for most of us to trade notes about our excrement with one another so what you think as being normal may not be normal at all. I have met people who only pass feces once every three weeks and thought everybody else  did too. For the average person once or twice a day is a good regularity and the stool should have the consistency of soft clay.

People who do not eat enough fruit and vegetables run a high risk of constipation and get a lazy colon if this eating habit continues for a long period of time. When your colon becomes flaccid constipation is not the only, nor the worst thing that can happen to you. Diverticular disease can be a very distressing condition to suffer from and it can shorten your life, it is more likely to happen to you if you suffer from chronic constipation.

For many constipation sufferers their stool will be dry and hard, if there is not enough water entering your body it may be part of the cause. Lower back pain sufferers often find that when they get acute pain, bearing down can be painful and they might hold back because of it. If you take pain killers that have opiates (codeine, morphine) in them these will slow your bowel down too. Heroin addicts can have a devil of a time with constipation.

When you move about alot your internal organs tend to rub against each other and massage one another and this helps your digestion. If you are usually sedentary and worse still if you sit in a hunched position  your entrails get cramped for room. Inactivity does not help your blood circulate throughout your body and this includes circulation to your  intestines.

If you are a big drinker of fruit and vegetable juices but do not eat fruit and vegies you get vitamins but no roughage. Whole fruit and vegetables are a much healthier option than their juices alone.

Constipation (along with child birth, heavy lifting and anal sex) can give your hemorroids, this happens because of straining too hard. Learning to use your abdominal muscles in a downward wave-like motion like belly dancers do will put way less strain on your rectum if you need to do some pushing. Getting therapuetic massage can help alot too especially if your massage therapist shows you how you can do it for yourself.

Laxatives can assist constipation but taking them long term can cause problems with over excitation of the bowel wall. Prevention can be way less drastic than cure.

PMR (Polymyalgia Rheumatica)

As the name suggests PMR effects our muscles (myalgia) and joints (rheumatica). PMR is one of the 80+ auto immune diseases that can strike without warning, with no easily discernable cause and can be very debilitating. The symptoms of PMR vary from person to person although it does seem to be universally agreed that the larger joints in your body are the worst effected particularly your shoulders. Other symptoms may include a sudden inexplicable weight loss, jaw tension headaches and pain in other joints including your fingers, wrists, elbows, spine and toes. A blood test would reveal a high ESR, more women than men suffer from PMR,  50+ is the typical age demographic and the symptoms of PMR can be similar to the symptoms of other auto immune disease such as fibro myalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

PMR tends to be episodic, for most the symptoms  start in the shoulders and are most severe first thing in the morning. Raising your arms above your head when your shoulders are acute can be very painful and restrictive, though fortunately they usually respond well to anti-inflammatory drugs… long as you have no high blood pressure or stomach ulcers. Corticosteroids such as prednisone can lessen the symptoms significantly though apart from being contra-indicated for hypertension and stomach ulcers you may experience weight gain using this drug aswell as severe mood swings and an inability to relax. The original onset of symptoms can last from 12 months to 4 years but if it recurs it is usually of less intensity than the first time.

Unlike muscular problems where you get a little warning before you get into a painful position, PMR can suddenly feel very intense and stop you in your tracks the moment you bend a joint even a little too far. Potentially the most serious symptom of PMR is Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA), it is this that causes the jaw tension headaches which, if left untreated can blind you.

Some PMR sufferers try an alkaline or nightshade free diet and find they do not help, others who try claim such diets definately do work. In either case you can still take your medications if you want to use both, so long as any food you eliminate from your diet has it’s nutritional values replaced by some other food. Many who get diagnosed with PMR find alot of relief from acupuncture, ice packs, massage, osteopathy and chiropractic, these therapies can be used in conjunction with pharmacuetical treatments too.

For a previously active and able bodied person the onset of PMR can be scary and demoralising, any exercise at all in the early acute stages may prove impossible, even having sex may require some adjustment. Practising meditation and relaxation techniques can help you cope with PMR as will planning what you do when you go out, if your knees are affected you might find that stairs are best avoided and getting into and out of coats can be embarrassingly difficult too. Like many other health problems that effect your abilities your facility to distract yourself and remain positive is an important part of  managing PMR.