TCM and Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that disrupts normal function of the epithelial cells in the body.  Epithelial cells line the passageways of many of our vital organs, including the lungs, liver, kidneys, reproductive system and the skin. Those who have cystic fibrosis have a defective gene that impairs epithelial cell function. This can lead to a buildup of sticky mucus throughout the body that may eventually lead to lung damage and chronic coughing, affecting how patients with cystic fibrosis breathe and filter air, digest their food and absorb the nutrients from that food. In the United States alone, there are nearly 12 million people who suffer from this disease. Unfortunately, there is no known cure and most of those affected with the disease only live into their 20s and 30s. Current modern medicine treatments focus on increasing the quality of life by managing symptoms.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, can help cystic fibrosis sufferers. This medical system uses multiple modalities to treat the symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Everything from acupuncture to cupping can be utilized to help the patient and decrease the buildup of mucus throughout the body.

From the 400-plus acupuncture points on the human body, many are especially helpful for expelling phlegm and mucus, decreasing pain and helping to calm the central nervous system, all of which are symptoms of cystic fibrosis. If a cystic fibrosis patient is suffering from chest pain due to excessive phlegm buildup in the lungs, then regular acupuncture treatments can help decrease that pain and make it easier for the person to breathe.

In traditional Chinese medical theory, people are born with a limited amount of Qi (pronounced “chee”) or vital energy, and over time it is depleted. However, Qi can be regenerated by incorporating healthy living choices, like regular exercise, proper sleep and a healthy, balanced diet. Those who suffer from cystic fibrosis begin life with a smaller supply of Qi and this means it is vital for them to save as much Qi as possible. Because cystic fibrosis attacks the lungs and gastrointestinal tract, these areas immediately become deficient and weak. Regular acupuncture treatments can help by stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms to preserve Qi.            

Another modality frequently used in TCM is cupping. To perform cupping, oxygen is sucked out of a vessel, often a glass cup, creating negative pressure and then that vessel is placed on the body. The negative pressure will act like a suction cup and it will draw oxygen-rich blood into the tissues, which facilitates healing. Cupping can also draw out toxins and create drainage, which can help break up any phlegm in the lungs, thus decreasing pain in the chest area.

For those suffering from cystic fibrosis, combining TCM with conventional medicine can be a huge blessing, improving patients’ overall quality of life.

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