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Men's Health Series: Sleep Apnoea, Sinus Congestion & Mental Health

International Men's Day is this week on 19/11/22, and to recognise and raise awareness of all issues related to men, below are common & less discussed men's health conditions that we see in our clinic, and how we manage them through a TCM approach.

1) Sleep Apnoea Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing pauses at night, because the throat becomes partially/ fully blocked at night for a short time while asleep. Men are 2x more likely to have sleep apnoea compared to women, and are more common with older age and being overweight. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common treatment for sleep apnoea, however, its poor compliance restricts its clinical use and effectiveness. TCM is a non-CPAP alternative that can be explored to manage this condition.


According to TCM theory, the Spleen & Stomach are responsible for transforming nutrients from food and fluids into Qi (life energy), which is then delivered to the Heart & Lungs. In TCM, sleep apnoea is often related to Phlegm & Qi stagnation, which is similar to many conditions related to fatigue and insomnia. When Phlegm builds up and becomes stagnant in the Spleen, the Lungs are not able to receive the Qi required. This condition of Phlegm and Dampness will often cause people to feel heavy and bloated.

A meta-analysis of over 200 randomised controlled trials involving the use of acupuncture to treat sleep apnoea concluded that acupuncture was more effective overall than CPAP treatment, regarding improving breathing and oxygen levels.

Specific TCM herbs have also been shown to reduce inflammation and improve oxygen levels in patients with sleep apnoea. Chinese herbal formulations can further reduce snoring and daytime fatigue.



2) Sinus Congestion /Sinusitis

Sinus congestion is another common problem that we see at our clinic that commonly affects men. It can be triggered by anything that irritates/ inflames the nasal tissues, such as colds, flus or allergies. There are many different types and causes, including bacterial or fungal infections, inflammation, polyps or immune cell changes. Standard treatments range from salt water washes to various medications and surgery, however, chronic sinusitis can still remain difficult to manage.

In TCM theory, sinusitis is triggered by Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold, in which an external pathogen disrupts the person's defense system. The different types would cause different symptom presentations, such as Wind-Heat including symptoms like thirst, sore throat and thick yellow mucous. Wind-Cold symptoms include runny clear-yellow nasal mucous and headache at the back of the head. If these are not cleared, Phlegm and Dampness can develop and cause stagnation and blockage.


Research has shown that TCM herbs such as Xin Yi Hua (Flos Magnoliae) has a long history of clinical use for treatment of rhinitis, sinusitis and headache. Xin Yi Hua consist of various bioactive compounds that have a wide range of actions, including anti-allergic, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activity.


3) Mental Health- Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety and depression are mental health conditions that affects both men and women, however, it is less discussed within the male population. On average, 1 in 8 men will have depression, and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety sometime in their lives. Symptoms of anxiety & depression in men may include: excessive sweating, restlessness, insomnia, frequent worrying, fatigue, loss of sex drive or alcohol or drug use.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, depression & anxiety is related to the disturbance of the Heart- shen (spirit). When the Shen is disturbed, this would manifest as a feeling of a lack of meaning in life, an inability to connect with other people, or lack of energy. When Qi/ energy is stuck in the body, there may be trapped emotions such as fear, anger or guilt. Chinese Medicine can assist with treating these conditions by promoting the smooth flow of Qi/energy to alleviate these feelings of being stuck emotionally & spiritually.


Acupuncture works by bringing the body back into a relaxed state, downregulating the sympathetic nervous system and reducing cortisol stress hormone levels. A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of acupuncture on anxiety disorder found that acupuncture worked faster in relieving anxiety within 6 weeks compared to longer treatments, and that anti-anxiety medications and other interventions took a slower effect that showed efficacy after 6 weeks. This suggests that acupuncture can be used in the early stages for relieving anxiety, and has a faster effect compared to conventional drugs and therapy. The study also found the dropout rate for the acupuncture group was <20%, had good compliance and a safer treatment compared to the control treatment.

The most frequently used TCM herbal formula for treating various depressive conditions for over thousands of years is Xiao Yao Tang (XYT), which has various actions including regulating the Liver and strengthening the Spleen in TCM theory. Studies have found that depression is related to the overexpression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in hippocampus as well as the cortex of the brain. Studies suggest that XYT's curative effects may involve its significant increase in BDNF in the serum, hippocampus and cortical area.


For further information on how we can help you with your health concerns, feel free to contact us on 0450 328 804 or email yli.tcmclinic@gmail.com.

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