The 30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge was created by @cfs_zombie. I first heard about it when someone reblogged the information into my Tumblr dashboard. Each day, there is a new topic that deals with some aspect of chronic illness.

Day 9: Have you ever tried any alternative therapies? If so, what? Did they work?

This is my favorite topic of the 30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge!  Yes, I have tried alternative therapies, and yes, they are working for me. I have been receiving acupuncture treatments for a variety of health issues. The photo at the top of this blog is of me.

Originally, I decided to seek out acupuncture treatments for my hyperhidrosis. In “plain English” it means “excessive sweating”. I’m not sure that it qualifies as a chronic illness, but it is definitely something that is difficult to cope with and beyond one’s control. It’s not just a matter of being too warm or too nervous.

My hands and feet would sweat to the point where they were dripping. I’d been that way my entire life, had no idea what caused it, or how to fix it. If you (care to) look closely at the photo, you can see beads of sweat on my feet.

According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment for hyperhidrosis includes medications and/or surgery. I didn’t like either of those options.  I called a local acupuncturist and asked her if she could treat hyperhidrosis.  Later, I learned that acupuncture can help with so much more than that one health issue!

My acupuncturist practices a Japanese form of acupuncture. For my first appointment, she had me fill out a lengthy questionnaire that included lots of questions about every aspect of my health. She learned about my allergies, borderline anemia, and a bunch of other stuff that I think I will leave out of this blog.

She also took a look at my tongue (both the top and the underside). This gives her more information about my overall health and what I am experiencing that day. I really liked that she wanted to know about my health history and that she had the time to spend discussing it with me. That’s more than I can say most of the doctors I’ve seen in my life!

I go for an acupuncture treatment when I need to. At first it was every week. Then it was every two weeks. Now, it ranges somewhere between two and three weeks. She and I discuss what health problems I would like to focus on for a treatment session. Every session starts with questions about my health, my symptoms, my chronic illnesses, and an examination of my tongue.

I’m not trained in acupuncture, so I cannot give specific details about exactly what all of the needles that have been used on me do. What I can tell you is that some points are especially good for dealing with digestive issues (including bad reactions to gluten exposure). Some of the points on my head, face, and neck alleviate sinus pressure. Specific points on my feet and legs are great for helping the liver to detox, for moving energy around, and/or for helping my lungs to function properly.

My acupuncturist listens to my pulse and carefully selects exactly which point to place a needle in. She gains a lot of information about what is going on with different parts of my body and this guides treatment.  The needles do not hurt.  They are small and thin.  Once in a while, a needle will be placed into a sore spot, which can be a little uncomfortable for about a second or two.  It quickly becomes comfortable again.

Acupuncture is just one part of the treatment. I’m also taking some herbal medications and vitamins that help with certain health issues. The simplest way that I can explain it is that, all together, acupuncture is helping me to have more “good days” than I ever hoped to have before I started treatment.

I should also point out that I still take “regular” medication that has been prescribed by my doctor. This includes over-the-counter antihistamines, and the need to carry around an Epi-Pen and an asthma inhaler. The “regular” ways to treat allergies wasn’t doing enough for me. The acupuncture is filling in the blanks that the other type of medicine missed.

Over time, the acupuncture, the “regular” medicine, the herbal remedies and vitamins, and the continued effort I put into trying to avoid allergens, is helping. The overall goal is to improve my immune system so that I can be stronger and better able to fight off things like colds and sinus infections. I no longer get a sinus infection or bronchitis multiple times a year.  (It’s down to once a year now.  Sometimes, I am strong enough to fight it off before it requires antibiotics.)

It has been a long time since I’ve had symptoms of hyperhidrosis. My hands and feet are now (usually) dry.  I cannot adequately explain how much this has improved my day to day life.

Whenever a person encounters something that he or she is allergic to, it starts a reaction. Part of the reaction includes inflammation. This is one reason why the medical community is starting to consider allergies to be a form of autoimmune disease. So, part of what the allergy medications and the acupuncture do is alleviate inflammation.

This is an extremely brief explanation, and I encourage those of you who are interested in seeking out acupuncture treatments to do some research about it (or to speak with an acupuncturist). Ask questions.

I’d also like to point out that even though acupuncture is an excellent supplemental treatment for a variety of health issues, it isn’t a “cure”. It would be irrational for a person to presume that acupuncture treatments (all by itself) would cure their cancer. That being said, acupuncture can help alleviate pain and help with the nausea that comes from chemotherapy. This is just one example.

My acupuncturist has been noticing (for quite some time now) that my adrenals are always extremely low.  She suspects that I may have chronic fatigue syndrome.  This does not surprise me – I am always tired (and often exhausted).  In previous blogs, I mentioned that I would pretty much pass out after school and could easily sleep through to the next afternoon.  If I have chronic fatigue syndrome, it appears I’ve had it for years!  Somehow, none of my doctors have ever noticed it.

This year, I intend to see my doctor and see what she thinks.  I suspect I will be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  I may as well have her figure out if I have chronic fatigue syndrome, too. Neither one of those chronic illness has a cure.  Even so, I think it would be a good idea for me to find out, for certain, exactly what is wrong with me.

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