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Butterfly News July 02


Welcome to the July issue of Butterfly News. This month's article is from the new book "New Hope for People with Lupus", and is reprinted here with permission from the publishers. A review of the book follows the article.


Virginia Carpenter was diagnosed with lupus after her first miscarriage. She struggled through the next 15 years with many lupus- related health problems, then landed in the hospital after a major flare up. Her doctors told her that her lupus would next move to her brain, and she had perhaps a year left to live. This was harsh news, especially considering that Virginia was a widow with two young children she didn't want to leave orphaned.

A friend encouraged Virginia to see an acupuncturist in Santa Fe, which was 65 miles from her home in Albuquerque. Although Virginia knew next to nothing about acupuncture, at that point she was willing to try anything. Unfortunately, at the time, Virginia felt so weak and fatigued that travelling 65 miles was something akin to climbing Mount Everest. She made and cancelled several appointments until finally she was able to travel to Santa Fe and being acupuncture treatments.

"It saved me," she says simply. Today, Virginia inline skates, works out at the gym, and has 20-minute Japanese acupuncture sessions once a week. And, most important, she has outlived the prediction of her death by a decade and a half. Conventional science can't confirm that acupuncture is an effective treatment for lupus, but Virginia is absolutely sure it has helped her.

"The whole idea is that you are helping to activate healing mechanisms within the body," says Robert Hayden, an acupuncturist in Evanston, Illinois, who specialises in Japanese acupuncture (the type Virginia uses) and has treated many people with lupus. "It's not just for pain - it acts on the body's inner mechanism, to adjust itself back into a balanced state of health."

Acupuncture was little known in the United States until 1971. Following President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China, New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about the procedure that helped alleviate abdominal pain after Reston had surgery in Beijing. Since then, acupuncture has grown in popularity dramatically in the Western world. A 1993 FDA report estimated that Americans spend $500 million on 9 to 12 million visits to acupuncture practitioners annually. In 1995, there were an estimated 10,000 nationally certified acupuncturists, according to the National Institutes of Health, and that number is expected to have doubled by now. And most interesting, currently an estimated one-third of certified acupuncturists in the United States are medical doctors.

How Acupuncture Works
According to the traditional Chinese medicine model (in which acupuncture is a primary treatment), your life energy, called qi, is made up of spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of life, and travels through your body via pathways called meridians or channels. Blockages at certain points along the meridians correspond to the health of specific regions of your body. The theory is that acupuncture needles unblock obstructions and re-establish the healthy flow of qi.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believe that if the flow of your qi is interrupted, the forces of yin and yang become unbalanced, and illness may result. Taoist philosophy says that yin and yang are opposite forces; when they are working in harmony, a body is healthy. If the balance is upset, disease can result. "You can think of yin as things in your body that keep it cool, and yang as the ones that keep it warm," says Al Stone, a licensed acupuncturist in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, California. "In traditional Chinese medicine, lupus is associated with a deficiency of yin," he explains.

In acupuncture, hair-thin needles are inserted shallowly into the skin at specific points on the body (called acupoints). Japanese acupuncture includes moxibustion, in which therapeutic herbs (often mugwort) are burned atop the acupuncture needles. This form of acupuncture is more hands-on that standard Chinese acupuncture, in which needles may simply be inserted and left for periods of time. "In Japan, acupuncture and bodywork or massage therapy are often practised together," Robert Hayden explains.

Some researchers theorise that the pain relief or anaesthetic effect from acupuncture results from a natural response to the insertion of the needles. Some evidence indicates that your body releases endorphins (the body's natural painkillers) when acupuncture is performed, or that acupuncture somehow influences other body chemicals. Other research suggests that acupuncture alters blood circulation, increasing your blood flow to the thalamus, the part of your brain that relays pain messages. By whatever mechanism, acupuncture is a well-established method of pain management.

Safety Guidelines for Acupuncture

Acupuncture is generally safe, but as with any therapy, you should be cautious. The following guidelines are adapted from the Arthritis Foundation's Guide to Alternative Therapies:
-Get a diagnosis from a medical doctor before undergoing acupuncture to make sure you don't have a condition requiring prompt medical attention.
- Don't stop your medications without consulting your doctor. Acupuncture can work with, rather than instead of, conventional medicine.
- Tell the acupuncturist about all health conditions, including pregnancy. Stimulating certain acupuncture points, particularly those on or near the abdomen, can trigger uterine contractions and could induce premature labour and possibly miscarriage.
- Tell the acupuncturist about all medications you are taking. Some herbs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and, of course, anticoagulants, can cause you to bleed easily even when thin acupuncture needles are inserted. You should also consult your physician before having acupuncture is you are on such medication.
- Don't take muscle relaxants, tranquillisers, or painkillers right before acupuncture because acupuncture can intensify the effects of these drugs.
- Because you have a compromised immune system, be sure the acupuncturist uses disposable needles.
- Electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles, which is sometimes used to stimulate acupoints, could cause problems for people with pacemakers (as can magnets).
- If you have diabetes, the practitioner should insert needles into your limbs only with extreme caution. Even a small skin cut in a person with diabetic neuropathy can turn into a severe infection.
- Tell the practitioner right away if you experience pain. Acupuncture shouldn't hurt after a possible initial sting with the needle's insertion.
- Do not automatically take herbs offered by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. They can interact with prescription drugs.

Taken from "New Hope for People with Lupus," used with permission.

Finding an Acupuncturist

Ask your doctor for a referral to a practitioner or contact one of the national acupuncture organisations for a referral. Check if they are certified by the national acupuncture organisation, e.g. National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the US.

For a list of accredited acupuncturists, contact the following organisations:

National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Phone: (703) 548-9004
Website -

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture
This organisation offers a list of medical doctors and osteopathic physicians.
Phone: (800) 521-2262
Website -

British Medical Acupuncture Society
Website -

British Acupuncture Council
Website -


New Hope for People with Lupus

"Now you can take control of lupus and begin living a healthier, better life - today! This thoughtful, cutting-edge book can help you manage the flare-ups, symptoms, and side effects of lupus and put you back on the path to a more enjoyable, active lifestyle."
Quite a claim!
So does this book live up to it? I think I've read just about every book on lupus in print, and most of them concentrate on the ins and outs, whys and wherefores of lupus. Few actually look at practical steps that lupus patients can take to improve their quality of life. That's where this book fills the gap. "New Hope for People with Lupus" is indeed "your friendly, authorative guide to the latest in traditional and complementary solutions."
The book starts by taking an easy-to-understand look at lupus, symptoms, diagnosis and conventional treatments. But then goes one step further and gives advice and information on complementary therapies, nutrition and exercise, living well with lupus, and the mind-body relationship. Ending the 283 page book is a look at what the future holds for lupus.
All in all it's a book that I'd highly recommend to anyone with lupus, whether newly diagnosed or a long-time sufferer. And, no I'm not biased because I've contributed to the book!!

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