January, 2008

Jeanne RustLetter From the Founder

Dear Friends,

I hope you all had a peaceful and blessed holiday season. I spent mine very happily babysitting my grandson, Kai. Kai is learning how to feed himself and the process is fascinating (as well as really messy!). If only we could all eat as freely and naturally as this tiny human being!

As we age, stress and trauma can undermine our natural instinct to eat what we need, when we need it. Fortunately, equilibrium can often be restored by applying the wisdom of oriental medicine. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation, and massage have been used successfully for thousands of years to heal body and spirit. Acupuncture is especially helpful in the treatment of eating disorders because it provides relief from the most common emotional and physical symptoms.

Physical symptoms of an eating disorder can include disruption of the digestive system resulting in abdominal bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. Acupuncture has proven very effective in addressing these symptoms, easing the distress of recovery until the body remembers how to function on its own. It can also decrease mental and emotional agitation, speeding the return to a natural state of balance. This has profound implications for the client's ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life.

I am proud to offer acupuncture as part of Mirasol's alternative approach to the treatment of eating disorders. I know I speak for everyone at Mirasol in wishing you abundant health and happiness in this new year!

Jeanne Rust, PhD

Oriental Medicine at Mirasol

photo of Diane NotarianniThere once was an anthropologist who sat bolt upright in bed with the realization that she wanted to go back to school to study oriental medicine. "You're crazy!" declared her husband when she roused him from a sound sleep to break the news. But it wasn't as radical a career transition as it might seem. Diane Notarianni, an anthropology professor at Northern Arizona University, had spent more than a decade working with the Hopi Indians, and her work included developing a program for people with disabilities that combined Native American and Western medicine.

"When you live in another culture, your assumptions about the world change, and you achieve a much more global perspective," says Diane. After four years of commuting to Phoenix, Diane earned her degree, moved to Tucson, and opened her practice. Today, as Mirasol's staff acupuncturist, she applies her knowledge of both anthropology and oriental medicine to the treatment of women with eating disorders.

"The genius of oriental medicine is the diagnosis," says Notarianni. Practitioners of oriental medicine believe that everything about the way we live — and the way we have lived since childhood — has an influence on our health. "We don't just look at the symptoms, we look at the whole person, including her way of conducting herself in the world and her relationships with the other people," she says. And that sounds a lot like ... anthropology!

Diane laughs when you ask her if treating eating disorders requires a different approach. "Women with eating disorders present with the full spectrum of physical and emotional symptoms that you'd find in the community at large," she says. "The only difference is that it takes them less time to develop a longer list of problems!"

photo of Diane Notarianni performing acupunctureLike any good anthropologist, she spends a lot of time getting to know her clients before beginning treatment. The first session will include an inventory of physical symptoms. For example, a combination of low back pain and knee pain indicates fear, while fullness in the lungs is a sign of sadness. Notarianni then does a "body check", examining the client's posture, skin color, the brightness of her eyes, and even the texture and color of the tongue, which she describes as a "mini map of what's going on in the body".

But her most important diagnostic tool is the pulse — all 18 of them! According to traditional oriental medicine, there is a universal life energy called "qi" or "chi", which is present in every living being and which flows along body pathways called "meridians". If the flow of this energy is blocked in any way, illness occurs.

Each acupuncture meridian is associated with a pulse. Notarianni measures these pulses at six different locations and three depths: a superficial, middle and deep level. These three levels of the pulse indicate the level of chi in the pulse and suggest the pathological conditions that might be present.

photo of Diane Notarianni performing acupunctureFor example, in a healthy person, the left middle pulse will be relatively soft and smooth, indicating that the liver and gall bladder energies are balanced. If the client is experiencing migraine headaches and her pulse feels harder or tighter than normal, she may have excessive liver energy rising up the gall bladder channel to her head.

The body's energy can be rebalanced by applying fine needles at points on the meridians. Notarianni checks the pulses repeatedly during treatment to make sure that she is achieving her ultimate objective or "helping the body heal itself by recalling what it feels like to be healthy".

The medical establishment remains skeptical of the use of acupuncture in the treatment of eating disorders. For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center web site, insists that "no scientific literature supports the use of acupuncture for bulimia." However, in eight years of treating women with eating disorders at Mirasol, we've found that acupuncture helps relieve digestive problems and food allergies and as well as reducing cravings. It's also extremely effective in helping a client detox from sugar, alcohol and drug use.

For more information about acupuncture and oriental medicine, visit www.acupuncture.com

Research sources for this article include, "Fight Eating Disorders with Chinese Medicine" by Norah McIntire.