Japanese Acupuncture for Depression by Bart Walton
In the United States, acupuncture has become popular as an effective treatment for a wide range of physical problems. But most people don’t realize that acupuncture also has a long history in the treatment of mental and emotional disorders. For depression, Bi-polar Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), acupuncture combined with nutritional supplements can be very effective, either as an alternative to drug treatment or as a supporting therapy.
The ancient physicians of China and Japan considered depression to be a form of Qi deficiency or Qi stagnation. The Qi, or Life-energy is either deficient or not flowing evenly throughout the body. The result is a subjective experience of weakness, fatigue, lack of motivation, sadness or even despair. In this ancient system of medicine, the lungs and the organs of digestion are considered the most important organs involved in the generation and distribution of Qi. Therefore, in treating depression, we focus attention on the Qi meridians associated with these two organ systems.
It’s interesting to compare this ancient perspective with western science which views depression as a deficiency or imbalance in brain chemistry…with particular emphasis on the neuro-transmitter serotonin. The importance of serotonin is underscored by the fact that almost every anti-depression drug is designed to increase serotonin levels in the brain. But if we ask how serotonin is produced in the body, we get a surprising answer…one which points back to the ancient physicians of China. Researchers have found that as much as 80% of our serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, as a by-product of digestion.
Likewise, a common characteristic of depression is fatigue, which we know to be a combined function of digestion and respiration. Again, this supports the ancient view, that lungs and the organs of digestion are the foundation of mental health.
In Japanese style acupuncture, we use specific points and acupuncture techniques that lift the spirits and re-establish a normal flow of Qi in the body. In addition, there are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes that can help to increase energy and elevate the mood. If you suffer from mild to moderate depression, here are a few suggestions that can make a significant difference within a few weeks.
- Take a concentrated fish oil supplement which provides at least 5 to 1 ratio of Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) to Eicosapentanoic acid (EPA). DHA is a major building block of brain tissue and has a proven track record as a safe and effective treatment for depression and ADHD. In Great Britain and Europe, many doctors are using DHA supplementation to replace conventional drug therapy for mild to moderate depression.
- Aerobic exercise for 20 minutes, at least 5 days per week, is extremely valuable to help balance blood chemistry and remove toxins. If regular exercise is not part of your daily routine, it is important to begin carefully and build up to 20 minutes gradually over 2 or 3 months. Discuss exercise with your health care professional in order to design a program that is best suited to your condition.
- Certain prescription and OTC drugs can contribute to depression. If you are taking a pharmaceutical drug, find out if depression is one of the possible side effects and discuss with your doctor.
- Likewise, recreational drugs are major causes of depression for many people. Marijuana, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, narcotics, cocaine, amphetamines and alcohol, can all disrupt normal brain chemistry and deplete serotonin levels.
- A diet for depression has to be specifically designed to fit each individual. But in general, it would be helpful to eat more fruit and vegetables and reduce sugar, fried foods, junk foods and highly processed foods.
Precautionary Note: Severe clinical depression is a serious disorder. If you believe that you may be severely depressed or have difficulty working and maintaining your daily routine, consult with a medical doctor who is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of depression.
Bart Walton, M.Ac. is an Oregon State licensed acupuncturist and shiatsu practitioner with a private practice in NW Portland. Bart specializes in Japanese Acupuncture and Shiatsu as well as the use of herbs, diet and lifestyle in traditional Asian medicine. Phone: 503/939-5805 Web: www.JapaneseHealingArts.com