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Center for Integrative Medicine, Winter 2012

Welcome, Year of the Dragon

Of the 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac, the Dragon is said to be the most potent. It is considered to be good luck to be born under the sign of the Dragon. The year 2000 was the most recent year of the Dragon.

Chinese New Year is a major holiday in the countries that celebrate it. The Chinese calendar is based on the phases of the moon, so Chinese New Year is often referred to as the Lunar New Year. So, the exact date of Chinese New Year changes annually depending on the phases of the moon.

One of the most dramatic and meaningful components of the Chinese New Year celebration is the dragon dance. Held during the parade that accompanies many festivals held that day, the dragon dance involves several people who don the costume of a large, red dragon.

Other traditions, which are also thousands of years old, involve food and fireworks. Families prepare and eat dumplings to celebrate the New Year, with the belief that fuller dumplings signify a longer life. Fireworks are popular and abundant, and are used to ward off disaster and evil spirits.

The color red, which is seen throughout Chinese New Year celebrations, is also very symbolic. To ensure good luck and wealth in the new year, it is customary to decorate with red, and to give children money in red envelopes. Legend has it that a child dressed in red scared away a mythical beast who came to destroy crops and villagers on the first day of each new year, so red holds special significance for this annual celebration.

Another long-standing Eastern tradition is the practice of acupuncture. To celebrate The Year of the Dragon, learn more about the many benefits of acupuncture, including stress, migraine and sinus problem relief, and treatment of the symptoms of numerous disorders.

The Center for Integrative Medicine offers acupuncture in both individual and group settings, and at numerous locations in the Cleveland area. Many insurance companies now cover the cost of acupuncture treatments; you are encouraged to contact your insurance provider to understand your coverage for this service.

To learn more about acupuncture and all the services offered by the Center for Integrative Medicine, call 216.986.HEAL (4325), or visit

Leaky Gut Syndrome: It May Be What Ails You

Do you suffer from digestive upsets or a chronic unwell feeling that seems to persist no matter what you eat or drink, or how you feel in general?

If so, the source of your discomfort may be a problem that many doctors now refer to as “Leaky Gut Syndrome.”

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome? This relatively new term, also known as increased intestinal permeability, may be the root cause behind a host of maladies that are now diagnosed as other things.

The intestines have a lining which is made up of cells that are packed together like a well-made brick wall. This creates the barrier lining the gut. When properly functioning, the entire intestinal tract actively absorbs the nutrients we need from the food we consume, and keeps waste and toxins in the intestines to be eliminated.

When these cells are damaged, openings may develop between the cells or “bricks” of the wall. Toxins and bacteria can then cross the intestinal barrier and enter the bloodstream. The microvilli that usually work hard in our intestines don’t work properly and those things that normally pass through our intestines to the outside of our bodies are absorbed instead.

As a reaction to these invaders – mostly proteins and bacterial polypeptides to be specific – the body’s immune system does what it’s designed to do – it reacts and attacks. A patient may experience digestive distress, fatigue, achy joints and other symptoms as a result.

“The medical profession has taken a greater interest in this phenomenon over the past decade or two,” says Brenda Powell, MD. “The theory currently holds that substances such as antibiotics, birth control pills, processed foods and steroids contribute to Leaky Gut Syndrome. And, as is the case of so many other maladies, it is believed that stress plays a role.”

Many times, patients are diagnosed with a condition that exists within the current medical nomenclature. A patient’s medical record may reflect a diagnosis of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, or even a condition related to allergy, such as celiac disease, or even an infection.

“Fortunately, leaky guts can be soothed and repaired,” says Dr. Powell. “A change of diet can go far toward symptom relief. A diet consisting of unprocessed foods that is low in fat and rich in soluble fermentable fibers, also known as prebiotics, is a great place to start. And, stress relief is always a wise choice.”

It’s important to identify the source of the underlying disturbance. In many cases, something caused a disruption in the balance of the “good” bacteria with the “bad” bacteria that usually inhabit our intestines. There are a few legitimate “good” bacteria supplements, termed probiotics, that have been shown to relieve negative intestinal symptoms that can occur from taking antibiotics. Symptoms are presumed to be relieved by restoring the balance of good-to-bad bacteria.

Another method to restoring the “good” bacteria is by providing them with the food that they desire: prebiotics. Eating foods that are high in these fermentable fibers helps supply the “good” bacteria with their nutrients so that they can thrive and replace the bad bacteria. In some cases, digestive enzymes may help to reregulating the functions of the intestines.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are an anti-inflammatory oil in fish, nuts and seeds. These are also a great addition to the diet, especially in the form of fatty fish (e.g., salmon, sardines). Seeds and nuts such as walnuts and flax or chia seed are good choices that are readily available.

If these tweaks don’t seem to help alleviate leaky gut symptoms, or if the condition worsens, contact the Center for Integrative Medicine at 216.986.HEAL (4235) to schedule an appointment.

Welcome, Christine Spiroch

While not new to Cleveland Clinic, Christine Spiroch, PhD, PA-C, is new to the Center for Integrative Medicine. Her specialty interests include food allergies, gluten intolerance and celiac disease, and nutrition. She helps patients manage chronic health conditions and strive for wellness. In her role as a “medical detective,” she helps patients identify underlying imbalances that manifest as symptoms of disease.

Relax! It May Help You Attain Your Life Goals!

Services offered through the Center for Integrative Medicine not only make our patients feel good in the short term, but help promote overall wellness and health, and relieve stress. Good health can help you achieve other goals in life, such as running a marathon, or becoming pregnant.

Not only do acupuncture or the practice of guided imagery provide stress relief right after those treatments take place, but sustained practice of relaxation techniques makes the procedures necessary for medical procedures such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization easier to bear. And, taking the time for you also works wonders on the mind as well!

Guided imagery consists of a trained practitioner leading you through a series of mental exercises, or a series of images, with your eyes closed. The practice is conducted in a calm environment, with other sounds and sources of distraction eliminated.

Acupuncture, a centuries-old practice, uses extremely fine needles, placed by a trained professional, into a set of locations on the body. It is believed that certain points on the body correspond to sources of natural healing that the body can tap into itself. Treatments can be given while the patient lies prone on a table, or in a reclined, seated position. These treatments are also administered in a calm and soothing environment.

The Center for Integrative Medicine also offers Reiki and massage. The number of locations offering massage recently expanded, so be sure to review the schedule for all of these great services – one may be closer and more convenient than you think! These practices also can help relax you when life just gets too hectic, or you find yourself too caught up in life’s demands to take time to maintain your own health. Who knows? If you begin to live a less stressful and more healthful life, you may run that marathon with ease!

For more information about services offered by the Center for Integrative Medicine, call 216.986.HEAL (4325), or visit

Web Chat Transcript now Available

With a nod to Valentine’s Day, the Center for Integrative Medicine hosted a web chat about the role acupuncture can play in enhancing libido.

Drink to This: Anti-Aging Cocktails

In the dead of winter you may be craving the fresh taste of a tomato, and all the health benefits that fruit provides. Why not enjoy tomato juice instead? And, with the inclusion of some other nutritional powerhouses like ginger, turmeric and vegetables, a classic cocktail can become a health booster!

Tomatoes and their juice are sources of lycopene, a potent antioxidant. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, and has shown promise in treating several forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And, ginger helps soothe digestive issues and can help fight colds, flu and migraines.

With the right ingredients, you can make healthy choices for your body while still having a fun night out. The Center for Integrative Medicine’s Tanya Edwards, MD, offers this anti-aging Bloody Mary that is guaranteed to help you feel and look younger.

Memory-Boosting Bloody Mary

Makes 1 cocktail

1 tbsp kale
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 oz vodka
4 oz tomato juice
1 celery stick, for garnish

  1. Purée kale, using a blender or food processor, and grate ginger into a bowl.
  2. Combine puréed kale, ginger, ground pepper and turmeric into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  3. Add vodka and tomato juice, and shake. Strain over glass filled with ice, and garnish with celery before serving.