Acupuncture 101

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is part of an eastern medical system called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). With TCM, acupuncture is thought to alter the body’s flow of energy called Qi (pronounced chi). An acupuncturist or naturopathic doctor will correct imbalances of Qi by needling different meridian points on the body.

Acupuncture is also used in a western medical setting to treat pain and tight muscles. This is often referred to as dry needling or trigger point release. There are two proposed theories on why acupuncture reduces pain. Current research proposes that acupuncture releases endorphins, which produces an analgesic effect. Another common theory is called the “gate theory,” which hypothesizes that acupuncture activates the inhibitory pain nerve fibers that produce short-term pain relief.

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture can help with a variety of health concerns including:

  • Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats)
  • PMS including breast tenderness, mood disturbances, menstrual cramps
  • Amenorrhea (lack of period)
  • Infertility
  • Arthritis
  • Pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • IBS and digestive issues
  • Post-operative nausea and vomiting
  • Stress
  • Insomnia

Is it painful?

Acupuncture should not be painful and most patients do not feel the insertion of the needle. However, a quick “prick-like” or “pinch-like” sensation can be felt when the needle breaks the skin.

How many treatments do I need?

The number of treatment varies based on health condition. Typically 4- 10 treatments are needed to see results.

What are the side effects?

Common side effects include bruising and sore muscles post-treatment. More serious side effects include infection and pneumothorax. However, these side effects are rare with proper needling techniques and hygiene.

What is the number one factor that influences a women’s age of menopause?

This is a question I commonly get in private practice from both young and middle-age women concerned about fertility as well as hormonal changes. Many women want to know if lifestyle choices can influence their age of natural menopause and at what age they should start to prepare for the transition. Women are also interested in learning about natural approaches to help with menopausal symptoms and are concerns about side effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)- this will be discussed in an upcoming blog post.

The number one factor influencing menopause is GENETICS! The age your mother experienced menopause is one of the strongest indicators of your menopause age. However, some women may experience natural menopause earlier than their mother. This usually occurs before the age of 45 and it thought to be due to a one-time genetic mutation or inherited issue.

The biggest lifestyle factor that influences age of menopause is SMOKING, which damages the ovaries. Women who smoke more than ten cigarettes per day have a 40% increased risk of earlier menopause [1]. Women who have three or more children experience menopause approximately 1 year later than women without children (nulliparous) [1]. Other factors that can influence age of menopause include high BMI (later age), heart disease (earlier age) and ethnicity [1,2].


[1]. Ikuku K et al. Prospective Study of Factors Influencing the Onset of Natural Menopause. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 1998. 51(12): 1271-1276.

[2]. Gold EB et al. Factors Associated with Age at Natural Menopause in a Multiethnic Sample of Midlife Women. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2001. 153 (9): 866-874.

Is Wild Yam Cream Effective for Menopausal Symptoms?


Is Wild Yam Cream Effective for Menopausal Symptoms?

Wild yam is known in the scientific community as Dioscorea villosa, but most people confuse wild yam with the orange vegetable that we consume during the winter months. Wild yam is actually a vine that grows in North America, and is a popular natural treatment for women looking to treat hormonal imbalance and/or menopausal symptoms. Often these products are marketed as creams or gels that can be rubbed onto the skin (transdermal application) to absorb progesterone.

Why Wild Yams?

Wild yams contain a chemical called DIOSGENIN that can be made into various sex hormone like estrogen, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and progesterone. However, the body does not have the ability to convert diosgenin into a steroid hormone, and this can only occur through laboratory procedures [1,2].

A double-blind, placebo controlled, cross-over study looked at the safety and efficacy of wild yam extract cream with regards to the management of menopausal symptoms over a 3 month period [3]. The study looked at 23 healthy women, who were provided wild yam extract cream and placebo in random order. Efficacy of treatment was monitored through diaries (self-reporting), blood and saliva testing. The study found no statistically significant difference between wild yam and placebo cream. The wild yam cream appeared to have no major side-effects with short-term use; however, long-term use is associated with side effects like nausea and vomiting [1,3]. There is limited data that supports the efficacy of wild yam, and further research is needed. However, based on currently evidence, wild yam does not appear to have any benefit for reducing menopausal symptoms and should not be use to offset the effect of conjugated estrogen (Premarin) on the uterus.

Some over the counter creams may actual contain synthetic progestin (called medroxyprogesterone acetate) even though the products are marketed as natural wild yam creams. Individuals may want to be cautions with these creams, unless being medically supervised by a qualified healthcare practitioner.

In health and beauty,
Dr. L

Works Cited

American Cancer Society. 2008. Wild Yam. Available at: [December 17th, 2014].
Medline Plus. 2014. Wild Yam. Available at: [Decemebr 17th, 2014].
Komesaroff PA, Black CV, Cable V and Sudhir K. Effects of wild yam extract on menopausal symptoms, lipids, and sex hormones in healthy menopausal women. Climacteric. 2011: Jun; 4(2): 144-50.

Photo Credit:

Easierlifestyle. 2014. Sex and the City’s Samantha goes wile for JASON Yam creme. Available at: [December 17th, 2014].

A place with no acne…. actually it’s two places!

I’ve recently came across an interesting article published in the 2002 Arch Dermatol journal called Acne vulgarism: a disease of Westernized civilization.

Some interesting facts where that 79-95% of adolescents in Western societies experience some form of acne, and approximately 40-54% of adults will experience some degree of acne [1].

The study looked at two nonwesternized tribes, Kitavan subjects in Papua New Guinea and Ache hunter and gather tribe in Paraguay. The study found no acne cases present in these two tribes. The study followed the Ache tribe for 843 days and did not find one acne case!!!!

Possibly explanations include genetics, low glycemic index/load diet and dairy-free diet. I think it’s an interesting study, as it demonstrates the impact of diet on skin health.

[1] Cordain L et al. Acne vulgaris: a disease of Western civilization. Arch Dermatol. 2002 Dec; 138 (12)” 1584-90.

Hormones and Weight Gain- The Basics


Ever wonder if your hormones are affecting your ability to lose weight?

If you have any concerns about your hormones, you can book an appointment with Dr. Lukasko ND. A saliva hormone panel can be requested to identify hormone imbalances that can contribute to weight gain or make it difficult to shed those extra pounds.

Let’s start with the basics… What is a hormone?

A hormone is a chemical that is released from a gland in one part of our body and travels to another part through the bloodstream. For example, estrogen is produce by the ovaries and has biochemical effects on breast tissues. There are a number of hormones being produced by our body, and different hormones interact with each other. Many health issues are often a combination of multiple hormone imbalances rather than just one.

Hormones that effect weight loss and weight gain

Low thyroid hormone can play a role in weight gain. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which our thyroid gland produces low amounts of T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones). People who suffer from hypothyroidism may have dry skin, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, cold intolerance, and difficulty losing weight. Low thyroid function can be due to nutritional deficiencies, stress, thyroid surgery, medications, or autoimmune disease.

Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland when the body is under stress. Cortisol is needed when we are confronted with acute stressors; but long term stress can be damaging to the body. Cortisol is one of the key hormones that is responsible for weight gain around the abdomen (belly).

Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose (sugar) enter the cells. Elevated insulin levels could indicate a diet high in carbohydrates/sugars or that the body is becoming resistant to insulin. If you body isn’t able to bring glucose into the cells, the remaining sugar in the blood will be stored as fat.

For menopausal women, low levels of sex hormones like estrogen can make losing weight difficult.

photo credit: sherrie smith

Fall skincare tips via SKIN ND (Pure Health Centre)

Check out these simple skincare tips for fall. Remember that sunscreen is like that little black dress, it never goes out of style and should be worn all-year long!

In health and beauty,
Dr. L