Dr. John Aguilar, Jr, DAOM, EAMP

Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

It Takes a Warrior

In General on September 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

It isn’t easy. Being healthy, living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet, making those changes we know we would feel better for doing… It just isn’t easy. It can be a battle. You have to fight for what you know to be the right thing to do. It takes a warrior to find true health.

I was having a talk with a good friend several weeks ago. Both of us have spent many years studying and training in kung fu and our conversations often end up on that very topic. During this talk, however, somehow the conversation went from the struggle and effort required for good kung fu to how that same struggle shows up in trying to live a healthy life. It really is quite similar.

Too often, we find ourselves questioning what is the right thing to do. We have conflicting influences – many (way too many) coming from the outside, and all the internal voices aren’t that much more clear. If we’re honest with ourselves, though, if we simply breathe, relax, and feel… we know what to do. There is that inner voice (often the most quiet) that has that certain “ring of truth” to it. Maybe not all the time or every time, but quite often, we know what to do. The hard part is living true to it.

We have to stand up for, and to (interestingly) ourselves. We have to not give in to the common story we have lived in the past, or the played-out script it seems so many are following. At some point, we have to say “no more”, not this time. Maybe yesterday we didn’t listen, and maybe tomorrow we’ll ignore it again, but today, right now, I am doing this for me.

It’s just too easy to go along, with what the external world seems to insist on – eat this, watch this, believe this – and what the inner voice demands – “come on, it’s easier to just do this…” But every time we do, every time we fold over, we die a little inside. And we know this. If we’re honest with ourselves, the result of caving in is always a temporary, superficial moment of feeling good (kind of, anyway), and a deep, inner, distant sigh uttered under a now increased burden.

It takes a warrior to stand up, to resist that weight, that momentum. We may not have all the answers, but we have enough that, if acted on, would genuinely improve things, make our lives more whole, bring about a true sense of peace, and lead to further answers. But it is difficult.

I urge you to fight. Find that little voice inside – truly your best friend – and say “Yes, this time we do it. This time we fight. This time we do not simply mutter a sheepish ‘ok’ and just accept a little more darkness in our hearts, in our souls.” Fight for what’s right. Fight for the beauty and peace that is your birthright. Fight for better heath, real health. The only thing you have to lose is all that stands in your way.

I am here to help, to reduce or remove inner obstacles, to help find that inner voice, to stand up alongside you in this, the greatest battle of your life, the only battle worth waging, the battle for life – a true life – itself.

Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com


Half Off Initial Consult

In General on September 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

Have you been considering acupuncture, but keep putting it off?

Curious about what acupuncture or Chinese medicine has to offer you?

Come on in! We’ll do a full intake and evaluation of what’s going on in your life, and see what we can do for you.

The initial consult generally lasts one and a half to two hours and includes an acupuncture treatment. Come see what it’s about and we’ll give you half off! (Initial treatment is typically $80. Only $40 with this offer).

For more information on the medicine and my practice, check out www.DenverChineseMedicine.com.

Free Tai chi!

In Tai Chi on September 25, 2010 at 7:46 pm

The private practice of John Aguilar, Jr, L.Ac., M.S.TCM is now offering free Tai chi classes, three days a week!

We will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6-7:30 pm, and Saturdays 10-11:30 am (except Oct 9th). We’ll begin and end every class with meditation, and practice qi gong and yoga for our warm up.

The catch? You have to be a regular patient (combining acupuncture and Tai chi is ideal – both benefit tremendously).

Not a patient? Set up an appointment and get way more than your money’s worth, with Tai chi and meditation thrown in!

Starts up October 2nd. Contact me for more information.

Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

Acupuncture Research – Food Allergies

In Research on September 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Food allergies seem to be more and more common. From a biomedical perspective, food allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a protein in some foods, producing immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. Symptoms can vary significantly from patient to patient. Some patients may get a tingling sensation or itchiness in the mouth, lips or throat, while some have more digestion-related symptoms, such as cramping, pain, and diarrhea. Yet others may suffer from respiratory-related reactions, such as runny nose, congestion, and shortness of breath.

Chinese medicine, being a patient-oriented medical system, versus disease-oriented, does not have a single disease category that corresponds to  “food allergy”. As can be seen from the above list, patients experience food allergies in very different ways, where entirely different systems may react. The Chinese medical practitioner bases the diagnosis and treatment on the individual patient’s presentation (as opposed to giving a treatment for “food allergy”, regardless of the individual manifestation).

That being said, food allergies, along with a closely related (and often confused) condition, food intolerance, most likely incorporates a significant weakness of the body’s digestive ability (pi wei xu, “Spleen and Stomach vacuity”, in Chinese medicine). This may likely present with significant “Damp-Heat” or “Liver Qi Stagnation”. (Forgive all the “likely”s. Without an actual patient present to provide any context, I am left to speak to general tendencies or possibilities…)

The idea of digestive weakness underlying food allergy/intolerance makes sense when you look at the poor eating habits in our country and the prevalence of diseases related to poor dietary habits. It seems we may be taking our ability to digest whatever we eat for granted, and paying for it with issues like these. (You may wish to refer to the section on my website dedicated to diet. I give a relatively short list of basic guidelines for healthy diet.)

Based on my research (sources listed below), the commonly recommended “treatment” is avoidance of the offending food or foods. While I would agree this is important, I would advise one to seek actual treatment to address whatever underlying disorder is prohibiting you from properly digesting food. I’m betting in 95% of the cases, there are at least a half dozen other symptoms you may be suffering that are directly related to the cause of the food allergy, but are not being acknowledged as such – if you treat one, you treat them all.

I urge people to not simply give-in to limitations on their health, as seems to be common with food allergies (eg. just accepting they can’t eat certain things). It may be that the problem is un-curable, but it is, in my opinion, worth trying to recover full health.

As far as research is concerned, I found a study coming out of China, where twenty patients where treated with Chinese herbal formulas tailored to the specific symptom presentation of each patient. Of those twenty:

  • fourteen were cured (defined as “complete disappearance of indigestion, abdominal distention and pain, and diarrhea, with lowering of IgE values to normal, a negative skin patch test, and no recurrence on follow-up after one year with an ability to eat the previously allergenic food”), and
  • five were improved (“disappearance of the preceding symptoms, normalization of IgE levels, a positive skin patch test, and some allergic symptoms after eating the allergenic food or foods”).


Zhang Xin-Cheng, et al. (2002). The Treatment of 20 Cases of Food Allergy Gastritis with Chang Min Kang (Intestinal Sensitivity Health). Xin Zhong Yi (New Chinese Medicine), 9, 59-60. Retrieved from www.bluepoppy.com/cfwebstorefb/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.display&feature_id=753

Further Resources:

University of Maryland Medical Center (www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/food-allergy-000063.htm)

Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-allergy/DS00082/DSECTION=alternative-medicine)

Bastyr University (bastyrcenter.org/content/view/307/)

MedlinePlus (A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health) (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000817.htm)

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) (www.foodallergy.org/section/about-food-allergy)


Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

Please note – The above is not intended as a scholarly review of the respective study. For full details follow the reference link.

*** No individual study constitutes ‘proof’ of the effectiveness of any therapy, and no guarantee of treatment outcome can be made. Please seek an individual consultation with a qualified practitioner for information on a personal health issue.

Acupuncture Research – Cardiac Arrhythmias

In Research on September 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm

In this literature review, coming out of the University of Minnesota, eight studies revealed that 87% to 100% of participants converted from irregular heart rhythms to normal sinus rhythm, thus leading the authors to conclude that acupuncture is effective in treating several cardiac arrhythmias.

To further build the evidence base, the authors recommend “more rigorous studies”, “with standardized treatment protocols, diverse patient populations, and long-term follow-up.”


VanWormer, A., Lindquist, R. & Sendelbach, S. (2008). The effects of acupuncture on cardiac arrhythmias: a literature review. Heart and Lung, 37(6), 425-31. Retrieved from www.heartandlung.org/article/S0147-9563%2807%2900213-0/abstract


Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

Please note – The above is not intended as a scholarly review of the respective study. For full details follow the reference link.

*** No individual study constitutes ‘proof’ of the effectiveness of any therapy, and no guarantee of treatment outcome can be made. Please seek an individual consultation with a qualified practitioner for information on a personal health issue.

Acupuncture Research – Physiological Response to Needling

In Research on September 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm

The two studies discussed, here, aren’t about treating disease directly, but rather on investigating the immediate, tangible, physiological response to needling.

In my private practice, I typically asses the effect of a treatment immediately after inserting the needles, through pulse diagnosis. However, for those who are new to acupuncture, and have a hard time believing inserting such thin needles into the hands and feet, for example, “does” anything, these types of studies may be very interesting.

The first (Takayama et al., 2010) showed that the blood flow volume felt at the wrists (the radial artery) decreased with technical stimulation of an acupuncture point on the foot (Tai Chong, Liver 3), as measured by a high-resolution ultrasound echo-tracking system.

In the other study (Lee et al., 2010), it was demonstrated that the acupuncture point Tai Bai (Spleen 3), also located on the foot, “modulates the autonomic cardiovascular responses by enhancing parasympathetic function”. Specifically, it decreased the maximum systolic velocity, and effected heart rate variability.


Takayama, S. et al. (2010). Radial artery hemodynamic changes related to acupuncture. Explore, 6(2), 100-5. Retrieved from www.explorejournal.com/article/S1550-8307%2809%2900391-7/abstract

Lee, S. et al. (2010). Short term effects by acupuncture to SP3 on the autonomic blood flow control. Neurological Research, Suppl 1, 37-42. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20034443


Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com


Acupuncture Research – Quality of Life and Musculoskeletal Complaints

In Research on September 19, 2010 at 3:46 pm

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines health related quality of life (HRQOL) as “a person or group’s perceived physical and mental health over time.” (1)  A patient’s HRQOL speaks to their overall, day-to-day well-being, as opposed to the more strictly defined, narrow parameters defining the nature and severity of their specific illness.

The goal of this observational study, published by the British Medical Acupuncture Society, was not to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture on  musculoskeletal disorders, as with randomized controlled trials (RCTs), but, instead, to investigate how receiving acupuncture treatments affected the overall quality of life of patients.

This study compared the HRQOL of patients with a sampling of the general population (n = 1,063) and observed the change in HRQOL during acupuncture treatments.

The HRQOL of the patients, before any treatment was given, was significantly lower (poorer), compared to the general population, including the following areas:

  • physical limitations (p<0.001)
  • pain (p<0.001), and
  • social functioning (p<0.005).

During treatments, the scores increased significantly, including the following areas:

  • physical functioning (p<0.001),
  • role-physical functioning (p<0.001),
  • pain (p<0.001),
  • social functioning (p<0.001), and
  • vitality (p<0.001).


1. Center for Disease Control (CDC), Health Related Quality of Life website (www.cdc.gov/hrqol/)


van den Berg, I. et al. (2010). Health-related quality of life in patients with musculoskeletal complaints in a general acupuncture practice: an observational study. Acupuncture in Medicine, 28(3), 130-5.  Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20643729


Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

Please note – The above is not intended as a scholarly review of the respective study. For full details follow the reference link.

*** No individual study constitutes ‘proof’ of the effectiveness of any therapy, and no guarantee of treatment outcome can be made. Please seek an individual consultation with a qualified practitioner for information on a personal health issue.

Acupuncture Research – Insulin Resistance

In Research on September 19, 2010 at 2:18 pm

As noted by the authors, insulin resistance (IR), where the body’s insulin becomes less effective in lowering blood sugars, is closely associated with:

  • obesity,
  • type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM),
  • hypertension,
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS),
  • non-alcohol fatty liver diseases (NAFLD) and metabolic syndrome,
  • and is also a risk factor for serious diseases such as cardiovascular diseases.

In this review of 234 studies, it was determined that there was clinical evidence supporting the use of acupuncture for IR. (Though, the evidence is limited. Further, well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are needed.)

It was further noted by the authors that acupuncture can correct various metabolic disorders that contribute to the development of IR, such as :

  • hyperglycemia,
  • overweight,
  • hyperphagia,
  • hyperlipidemia,
  • inflammation,
  • altered activity of the sympathetic nervous system and
  • insulin signal defect.


Liang, F. & Koya, D. (2010). Acupuncture: is it effective for treatment of insulin resistance? Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, 12(7), 555-69. Retrieved from onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1463-1326.2009.01192.x/abstract

Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com
Please note – The above is not intended as a scholarly review of the respective study. For full details follow the reference link.

*** No guarantee of treatment outcome can be made. Please seek an individual consultation with a qualified practitioner for information on a personal health issue.

Tai Chi and Quantum Physics

In Quantum Physics, Tai Chi on September 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Once you see it, you see it everywhere. I think that basic statement holds true for a lot of things. Once you grasp some fundamental in one thing, you see it all over the place. That same, basic “mini-truth” in one area of life, pops up in others.

This is why, and how, I am able to move freely from Chinese medicine, to Taoism, to yoga, to Tai chi, to quantum physics, even, briefly, through web development and, believe it or not, contract and constitutional law – It’s all the same thing! Kind of 😉 There are, simply, basic truths out there that are applicable in a lot (all?) fields.

This morning I had a little epiphany of a basic similarity between learning Tai chi and an essential difference between classical and quantum physics. (If you haven’t, already, you may want to read my post on quantum physics and Chinese medicine. It gives a very quick intro/review of physics, as it relates to Chinese medicine.)

For those of you who don’t know, Tai chi (Tai chi chuan) is a martial art that incorporates a style of training that involves slow, continuous movement of the body through a set of postures, all together referred to as a Tai chi “form”. The form takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes to complete.

Tai chi is one of the most powerful martial arts out there. It is, actually, in a class almost by itself. As a side effect of the training, health improves tremendously. Hence, its popularity for use as an exercise for health.

Learning Tai chi is a challenge. That’s the trade off. Its martial ability is far beyond the vast majority of martial arts out there, but it’ll take you, at least, ten years to train to that capability (whereas with the other styles of martial arts, you attain combat ability within a year or two of training).

It’s the same with the health benefits. Daily proper Tai chi can cure all kinds of diseases, lengthen life by many, many years, and improve the quality of life to a level, literally, unimagined before. The downside, of course, is you have to be training properly, doing Tai chi correctly – and that takes a lot of time and effort.

This morning, I was working one-on-one with a young woman who has been studying Tai chi for years (She actually holds a black belt in kung fu.) She knows Tai chi, and can move through the form with skill. It was her skill that allowed us to take the training to a new level. To an outside observer, it would appear we were getting “nit picky” with the details, and in those details I found a great example of an essential difference between classical and quantum physics. That difference, being a “fundamental”, can be seen in many areas of life, as well.

The move we were diving into is basically stepping and, while shifting weight from one leg to the other, moving the hands through a certain movement. As is typical of many Tai chi movements, there are tons of things happening within that single move. It’s very tricky to get all the parts of the body to do all the things they are supposed to be doing in a coordinated, smooth fashion.

In order to learn the move, it has to be broken down into smaller steps. You practice those steps repeatedly, and even have someone demonstrate the full thing to you, so you can try and mimic them. At one point, she did ask to watch me step through the movement. It was in her watching me and commenting on how I was effecting the move, that I realized, you simply cannot break down the move into little pieces. You just can’t. And – boom – there it is.

You can take this complex Tai chi move and break it down into smaller pieces, in order to practice it. However, those little pieces do not constitute the move. There’s the dangerous illusion. You have to reduce the move into smaller parts (just as classical physics does with nature, in an attempt understand it), but the move is not contained within those parts. They can only approximate it. And that is a core realization that came with the discovery of quantum mechanics.

Physicists thought that classical physics was accurately describing the world “as it is”, or was getting really, really close to doing that. But then there were some events that classical physics simply could not explain. Its theories were woefully inadequate. Through much experimentation and “out of the box” thinking, led in part by Einstein, eventually it was discovered that physics, of the time, wasn’t as accurate as once thought.

The world described by the formulas of classical physics, it turns out, is only basically correct. They’re close enough to allow us to do a quite a bit, but when you look closer, when you start looking at things at the atomic level and smaller, the world appears very, very different. Importantly, the “rules” of classical physics, the rules that we all pretty much agree the world follows, break down at the level of the very small, the realm described, specifically, by quantum physics.

I’m trying, desperately, not to get too terribly side tracked, here, but the basic idea is that the world, on the surface, day-to-day, level appears to follow certain basic principles. For instance, things appear quite distinct and separate. Clearly, this laptop is not this table. Causality holds pretty well, to. If I push this coffee mug to the edge of the table and further, it will (most likely) fall off the table and shatter. We have these basic “laws of nature” in effect, right? Well, kind of, but not really…

That way, above, we understand the world isn’t completely accurate. It’s pretty close, but, to get really picky, the above “laws” are only typically how things work. They describe the general tendency of things. (This is a specific point of distinction with the new physics. The world isn’t truly causal, with specific, accurate predictions able to be made. Such causality is replaced with probability.)

So the new physics says the old way of looking at things gives you a good impression of the world, but not it, exactly. With Tai chi, I can break down the movements, but even if we did so, and those steps were followed exactly, it’s still not Tai chi. Tai chi doesn’t exist as the sum of a collection of pieces.

For those who haven’t seen Tai chi in action, think of dancing. Imagine a dancer intentionally executing a list of moves, one after the other. It kinda looks mechanical, doesn’t it? It doesn’t flow. There’s something essential to the dance missing. Dancing is much more than just doing the correct moves in the correct order.

That something missing, that certain thing that brings the dance, Tai chi, reality, itself, alive, cannot be known through the strict logical, reductionistic ways of the old science. That old way gets you close, but it can’t get you there.

Interestingly, another similarity just popped up. Just as you can’t break Tai chi or dance down into isolated movements, reality can’t be broken down into little, indivisible pieces. The idea of atoms as being the basic building blocks of all matter has fallen apart. A world based on that idea approximates reality, but it isn’t it, exactly.

Instead, the new understanding places emphasis on the interaction between pieces of matter. It’s the movement, the dance, of those particles that is of importance. (Well, you may think, that is still using the idea of “particles”. The difference is, however, whenever you try to isolate any individual one, to try and get to know more about it, the less real or tangible, “knowable”, it becomes. It loses definition, meaning, when removed from the context of a specific interaction. It ceases to exist when you look at it by itself. That is, the only “real”, knowable thing is the interaction, the movement, the dance.)

Also, in both dance and Tai chi, there is something essential about the flow of the  movements. They only really come alive when you “lose yourself”, the intentional execution of specific moves, one after another, disappears, and the movements just happen. Again, with classical physics, you had little pieces of matter interacting, and that just doesn’t quite cut it. Physicists have been forced to acknowledge that particles are better understood as energy, and not so much as solid, inert matter. Just as dance moves can look mechanical, the world actually appears to be like a big machine, when you try to understand it as made up of a bunch of little pieces. If you think about the world as made up of energy in constant interaction, you get something much better resembling reality.

To me, this extends to so many other things in life. The logical analysis always seems to fall short of truly capturing the nature of the thing described. It’s only in the direct experience that you can truly “know” a thing, any thing, the most important things… And, yet, we value logic as a describer of reality so highly. We demand things “make sense”. We demand strict, rational “proof” before acknowledging or accepting something new… but I am in danger of digressing… again. 😉

I honestly thought the idea for this post was gonna go for maybe three paragraphs. It seemed so simple! 🙂

Thanks for indulging me on this one. More later…

Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

Acupuncture Research – Insomnia

In Research on September 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

In this systematic review, where several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were evaluated for their quality, and those of sufficient quality reviewed:

  • acupuncture was found to be beneficial,
  • acupuncture was superior to medications, regarding “number of patients with total sleep duration increased >3 hours”, and
  • acupuncture with medications was better than medications alone, for total sleep duration.
  • Additionally, there were no serious adverse effects with the acupuncture treatments.

Forty-six randomized trials were included (3,811 patients). The methodology, as far as randomization, blinding, and “intention-to-treat analysis”, was deemed “generally fair”.


Cao, H., Pan, X., Li, H. & Liu, J.(2009). Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(11), 1171-1186. Retrieved from www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2009.0041

Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com
Please note – The above is not intended as a scholarly review of the respective study. For full details follow the reference link.

*** No guarantee of treatment outcome can be made. Please seek an individual consultation with a qualified practitioner for information on a personal health issue.