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.

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].

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

How to Detox in the Fall

The weather in Vancouver is cold and rainy, so I’ve had to alter my detox to contain more warming foods. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, our Spleen helps us digest food. The (TCM) Spleen favours warm foods, so I’ve increased my consumption of soups and warm herbal teas. I also add cinnamon and ginger to my smoothies (which are cold in nature) to add some warmth. With a fall detox, it’s also important to eat what’s in season- choose hearty root vegetables and delicious apples.

I’ve been eating of lot of butternut squash soup, ginger and carrot soup, and also curried pumpkin soup… so good!


delicious curried pumpkin soup

Mind, Body, Clean: My detox update

I’m almost done my first week of the mind, body, clean detox. It’s been a hard week because I’m surrounded by people that can enjoy all the sugary foods I wish I could eat! Chocolate, pumpkin spice lattes, and delicious dishes at the Friday night market.

I’ve realized how hard it is to break a sugar addiction, especially when we are bombarded with fast, easy, and cheap food. Sugary foods are part of our social structure. In order to detox from sugar, we need our friends and family to also detox from sugar. It’s like quitting smoking- it’s so much harder to quit when everyone around you smokes.

In health and beauty,
Dr. L

How to protect your child from sunburns this summer

Check out my post on Northshore Mama’s blog:

7 ways to protect yourself and your child from sunburns this summer- without compromising your health due to the chemicals.

Some great organic sunscreen brands include Green Beaver and Badger, but check out EWG guide to sunscreen: It’s a great resource to help you choose the right sunscreen for you and your child.

How Naturopathic Medicine Can Help Treat Your Migraines

Migraines are a neurovascular disorder that produce a number of symptoms including:

  • moderate to severe pain on one side of the head that is worse with physical activity
  • throbbing sensation
  • nausea, vomiting
  • sensitivity to light, sound or smell
  • an aura, which is a focal neurological symptom before the migraine (i.e. double vision)

Migraines can last from 2-72 hours and can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Often people turn to over the counter or prescription pain medications, which help relieve symptoms. However, some individuals may experience adverse drug reactions.

Migraines have a genetic component that make an individual more susceptible to internal or external migraine triggers. These triggers include: fluctuation in hormones, certain foods or food additives, stress, bright lights, perfumes, sleep deprivation (including jet lag), physical activity, changes in barometric pressure and certain medications. Naturopathic medicine can help to identify your personal triggers and provide natural solutions to help reduce the severity and occurrence of migraines.

Here are a few ways naturopathic medicine can help:

  1. Identifying food sensitivities (IgG) and food triggers. Certain foods can trigger migraines. Common food triggers include red wine, dark chocolate, caffeine, and food additives. Your naturopathic doctor can perform lab testing to identify food sensitivities and provide an individualized dietary protocol to reduce the severity and occurrence of your migraines.
  2. Detoxing and balancing hormones. Many women experience migraines before or during their menses. Estrogen levels decline prior to menstruation and can trigger migraines in predisposed individuals. Acupuncture and supplements can help reduce migraines associated with hormone fluctuations.
  3. Balancing blood sugar. Missing meals can lead to a hypoglycaemic states that is accompanied by a migraine. Try eating 5-6 small meals during the day.
  4. Improving sleep. Individuals that are sleep-deprived can experience more migraines. Your naturopathic doctor can help identify factors that are affecting your quality of sleep and provide natural solutions.
  5. Reducing stress. Coping mechanisms, acupuncture and supplements can be beneficial in supporting your body during stressful periods. Stress can also lead to hormonal imbalance and vitamin deficiencies.


Dr. Christina Lukasko is a naturopathic doctor practicing at Ocean Wellness in North Vancouver. She has a general family practice with a focus in skin conditions and hormonal health. She has clinical experience treating a variety of health concerns, including digestive and autoimmune conditions.


Please note that this information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice nor does it replace the advice of your medical doctor or other healthcare practitioner. Never delay seeking medical assistance.