Acupuncture Sisters Real Talk: Anxiety


Claire Norton

Traditional Acupuncture

I had the pleasure of speaking with Claire Norton from Claire Norton Acupuncture about our own mental and our journey into acupuncture. Which we discovered was very similar. We have shared some home truths with each other and we want to share this with you too. Find my answers to Claire’s questions in a link below. Enjoy and remember to fill your happiness bucket daily. It’s OK to talk.

Q. Claire how does anxiety manifest in our lives?

A. Anxiety is the term used to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It is a natural human experience; however when the feelings become more prevalent in our day to day life for a prolonged period of time it can lead to more serious health conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension). Both anxiety and stress causes the body to release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which in turn can cause physical symptoms such as a pounding heart beat, palpitations, faster breathing, loss of appetite, needing to urinate more frequently, butterflies in the tummy and feeling sick. Psychological symptoms of generalised anxiety include restlessness, feeling ‘on edge’, irritability, excessive worry, a sense of dread and difficulty concentrating. Others may experience obsessive/ obtrusive thought patterns which are both unpleasant and exhausting.

Q. Claire, when we spoke. We both realised that we discovered acupuncture through our own personal experience with anxiety. Can you share your experience with us please?

A. In 2007 I was unfortunate enough to have my own experience of anxiety. I experienced my first panic attack whilst driving, it stopped me in my tracks and I had to pull over. I can picture it vividly, I was driving back to Kettering from Newcastle and a wave of bodily sensations came over me. I had difficultly breathing, my hands were clammy. I felt ‘detached’ from my body and couldn't focus on the road as everything began to blur. I felt faint and extremely unsafe. I pulled over and called for help as I truly believed that I was experiencing a heart attack and managed to get home with the help of friends. I jumped in the car the very next day to experience the same sensations and the cycle repeated itself again and again until my driving became completely limited. At that time I worked in motorsport, can you imagine telling your 'racing driver boss' that you are scared to drive to work? Rapidly anxiety rippled through my life effecting every aspect of day to day living until I felt house bound and unrecognisable. The thought of socialising, taking a trip to the dentist, spending a night alone or even leaving the house filled me with dread.

Q. What did you do relieve these feelings of anxiety?

A. This experience resulted in me trying many interventions, actually anything that was recommended I gave it a go. This is when I first discovered acupuncture, a friend recommended it and I was surprised due to my misconception that acupuncture wasn't just for pain symptoms. After my first session I felt more grounded, confident and more recognisable as the woman I was before the anxiety. Bit by bit, session by session, the anxiety dwindled away and I felt like myself again. This experience blew me away, I had to understand this magical treatment and help others; so with that I enrolled on a degree in Five Element Acupuncture at the College of traditional Acupuncture. I found that this experience has helped me to understand anxiety first hand and therefore help others that suffer from the condition; this awful condition finally served a meaningful purpose for me.

Q. Do you treat a lot of anxiety conditions with acupuncture?

A. Anxiety is currently the second most common complaint that I see in my practice, following back pain. The following recent experience of acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety was kindly written for me by one of my patients…

"At the time I considered acupuncture I was suffering with severe anxiety. I didn't actually realise how long I'd been suffering with this, or quite how much it was adversely affecting my life until I started treatment. I'd had this throughout most of my adult life. Many days I found it challenging to leave the house, this would involve several conversations with myself, changes of clothes due to perspiration and then often going back after leaving the house to check everything was switched off and ok. I would feel stressed regularly and find it hard to communicate under pressure as my breathing would become erratic and I was also prone to random emotional outbursts which sometimes scared me.

After just a few treatments I noticed a huge change to the way I felt both physically and emotionally. The built up tension which I sometimes felt physically in my chest area had gone. With this I felt stronger, more confident, and taller. As I became able to deal with situations that had previously caused me to have anxiety I felt more able to cope with my life and now my outlook has completely changed. Acupuncture has certainly made a big positive impact in my life."

Q. How does acupuncture work to reduce anxiety?

A. Acupuncture involves the relatively painless insertion of ultra fine sterile needles in to various parts of the body. These points are determined by the acupuncturist after taking a full health profile and history; lifestyle and dietary advice may also be given if appropriate. This ancient system of healing has been developed over 2,500 years and originated in China.

Acupuncturists have degree level qualifications and adhere to codes of safe practice and professional conduct in order to be registered and insured by the British Acupuncture Council. In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. This results in biochemical changes that influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Research suggests that acupuncture de-activates the ‘analytical brain’ responsible for over thinking and worrying thus promoting relaxation. Acupuncture is a safe adjunctive therapy which you can use safety whist taking medications and could even help lessen the unwanted side effects.

Q. Claire sometimes anxiety requires a multi discipline approach. What other actions do you recommend to your patients?

Firstly I would recommend visiting your GP to rule out any other underlying conditions/ deficiencies. They may recommend medication or Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) if your GP feels it may be beneficial.

Remove all caffeine from your diet such as tea, coffee, some soft drinks and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided if you are experiencing anxiety.

Breathing techniques can be wonderful especially for those experiencing panic attacks who have a tendency to shallow breathe. Belly breathing is my favourite and is very easy to do, simply place your hands on your belly and breathe slowly ensuring your breathing into your entire diaphragm; your hands should rise with every breath and sink on each exhale. Those that are shallow breathers may find it difficult to do however only five minutes of belly breathing a day can help and when comfortable you can use this technique when you are feeling anxious.

Claire Norton Acupuncture:

Trish’s answers to Claire’s blog post:

Preparing your mind, body, and spirit for Autumn.

Preparing your mind, body, and spirit for Autumn.

The practice of tuning into nature, harmonizing with seasonal changes, as well as connecting to the elements are all part of both the ancient Taoist way and traditional Chinese medicine.  

Failing to take the time to connect with the season of autumn and its element—which is metal, is what leads to experiencing the feeling of being out of balance. Understanding how to properly attune your mind, body, and spirit to the season and connecting with any element that might not come natural to you, requires a level of guidance. 

Here are a few ways you can tune into the energies and qualities of both the element of metal and the autumn season through these lifestyle, diet, and spiritual health practices. 

5 reasons to try cupping at your next acupuncture appointment

5 reasons to try cupping at your next acupuncture appointment

Pain relief is one of the main reasons my clients use cupping therapy. Cupping zones in on those painful points and areas of swelling. While increasing blood flow and providing muscles with important nutrients, energy, blood and oxygen.

Cupping helps release painful, stiff and tight muscles, to ease pain.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the high number of Mets baseball players using cupping. Mets player Daisuke Matsuzaka started the cupping trend within the Mets, was reported to say "As an athlete, I want to play as long as possible, in order to do that, I need to find ways to protect my body. I'm always looking for something that might be better."

Cupping isn’t just for celebrity athletes, it’s beneficial for everyone.

The Acupuncturist's Guide: The Sunshine Vitamin

Overview of Vitamin D

(the sunshine vitamin) 

Despite it's sunny deposition! Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is actually an steroid hormone with big health benefits. Our bodies make vitamin D, through the sun's UVB rays.

In Ireland and the UK, it is possible to absorb enough vitamin D from the sun between March and September, by simply getting outside. This is especially true for more Southern regions. Brighton, England is 5,635 km from the equator, where as Belfast, Northern Ireland is 6,052 km.

During Autumn and Winter it is recommended, to get our Vitamin D from food or supplementation. However what does this mean in terms of vitamin D, our location and susceptibility to certain diseases? Let's find out by firstly determining your risk of having a vitamin D deficiency. 

Are you at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?

If you can answer yes, to any of the following risk factors. It is advisable to have your Vitamin D levels checked by your GP, especially if you experience any of the additional signs & symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency discussed further into this post. 

Risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency

  • Being elderly

  • Living far from the equator

  • Eating little dairy or fish

  • Staying indoors

  • Being overweight

  • Always applying sunscreen before leaving home

Why does our location have a role in in Vitamin D deficiency?

It has been proven, that when we live far from the equator we are more vulnerable to certain diseases. Type 1 diabetes is one of the diseases that varies by location. A Finnish child is 400 times more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than a Venezuelan child. This evidence is based on a 30 year study that followed from birth, 10,000 Finnish children. The children who did receive Vitamin D supplementation during infancy had a 90 per cent lower risk of not developing Type 1 diabetes during childhood/adolescence. 

Researchers noticed an interesting relationship between geographic location and colon cancer deaths. Individuals who live at higher latitudes (where the sun's UVB rays are weaker), had a higher incidence of death from colon cancer than individuals who live closer to the equator. Please note: this research is still on-going. Findings do not necessarily mean taking Vitamin D supplements will lower colon cancer risk. 

Researchers also suspect that chronic vitamin D deficiencies may be one reason why, Multiple sclerosis (MS) rates are much higher far north (or far south) of the equator than in sunnier climates. Not only has Vitamin D deficiency been linked to increased risk of getting MS, but also more frequent relapses and further disability in people who have MS. We do know that you are higher risk of getting MS if you live in Scotland compared to if you lived in England. Possibly as Scotland is further from the equator than England. Our birth month can sometimes determine our risk of being diagnosed with MS. In the UK, more people with MS will have been born in April or May than October or November. If you were born after winter your mother may have had lower vitamin D levels, than someone born in the Autumn. Which does raise this question. Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to take Folic Acid before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects. Shouldn't it be just as important to inform and advise pregnant women, about the risks of Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy on their child's health later in life such as with Type 1 diabetes and MS?! 

How can we tell ourselves that we may have a Vitamin D deficiency?

Keep an eye for the following troubling sign & symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:

  • Becoming sick or catching bacterial/viral infections often

  • Chronic fatigue or tiredness

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Slow wound healing after injury or surgery

  • Bone loss (low bone density)

  • Back pain or joint pain

  • Hair loss

  • Muscle weakness & cramps

  • Gait (walking) disturbances

  • Blood sugar issues

  • Low levels of calcium in the blood

UK Guidelines of Recommended Vitamin D dosage

As the significance of Vitamin D is becoming more important to public health, the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition set recommended guidelines for the first time. This means every person in the UK should be taking the recommended amounts of Vitamin D either through sun exposure, some foods and/or supplementation. However it important to note, that many experts agree that the human body needs more Vitamin D than the dosages below but this is the recommended guidelines for the UK. 

  • Infants from birth to 1 year - 8.5 to 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • Children from 1 year to 4 years - 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • Anyone age 4 years and older - 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women - 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • 10 micrograms is equivalent to 400IU

  • If you have a certain condition that requires you to take more than the recommended amount of Vitamin D, your health professional should inform you. If in doubt ask.

Sunscreen is highly recommended to prevent skin burning, however it does block vitamin D absorption. It is advised that a person gets between 5-30 minutes of natural sunlight exposure twice a week. For young children and people with very fair skin (arms, legs or face), 5 minutes should be enough without the risk of sunburn.

People with darker skin may not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight due to the skin pigment (melanin) and it's inability to absorb as much UV radiation as fairer skin.   

Vitamin D Foods

Vitamin D rich foods include oily fish, red meat, liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Also some foods and beverages have been fortified with Vitamin D: breakfast cereals, cow's milk, orange juice, soy milk, almond milk and yogurt (some brands may not add Vitamin D, please check the labels).  

Vitamin D also has an important role in regulating levels of calcium, phosphorus and in bone mineralization.

Our body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vitamin D helps our intestines absorb calcium from the food that we eat, therefore keeping our calcium levels at optimal levels.

Vitamin D deficiency is a global concern, even for industrialized countries. Within in the UK, GPs are seeing a worrying resurgence of Rickets among children. Rickets is a crippling condition thought to be long eradicated due to an increase of 'Vitamin D fortified foods' over the years. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis in adults.

Immune Function & Vitamin D

Vitamin D can help protect against chronic illnesses/conditions. Most of Vitamin D's health benefits are primarily due to it's ability to influence genetic expression, making it essential for the proper functioning of our immune systems. Vitamin D research shows it may help protect against disease progression or associated 'flare ups' of many autoimmune disorders, including but not limited to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Type 1 Diabetes, lupus, Alopecia Areata (AA). Vitamin D supports are immune system in it's fight against infectious diseases such as tuberclosis, Flu and the common cold. 

We love the sunshine vitamin!

Have you been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency? Please share your story in the comment section.

Your Acupuncturist's Guide: Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia

Just realised the links are not working for finding an acupuncturist in the infograph. Please find appropriate links below

British Acupuncture Council

Acupuncture Council of Ireland