When I first graduated from acupuncture school I practiced in a hormonal health clinic where the MD would prescribe “natural” hormonal replacement therapy for women going through menopause and experiencing extreme hot flashes and night sweats. I gained years of critical clinical experience treating abnormal sweating patterns using Chinese herbs and acupuncture and can tell you from experience that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is excellent at treating what is referred to as “hyperhidrosis”, and I now apply these theories to opioid recovery treatment protocols.
Those stopping opioid use expect hot and cold sweats during withdrawal but are often surprised to find that they are still experiencing abnormal sweating many months afterward. There are 3 main patterns of imbalance that can cause this, and it is not unusual for patients to have more than one pattern causing sweats:
1.) Spleen Qi Deficiency-According to TCM theory, abundant Qi is required to hold the pores closed so that bodily fluids do not “leak” from the body. This type of sweating can be observed anytime of the day or night and would be experienced in the absence of physical activity or high temperatures. The reason it is so common among those recovering from opioid misuse is because many taking opioids do not have much of an appetite and do not nourish themselves well. Therefore, they become deficient from chronic undernourishment.
2.) Wei Qi Deficiency-In TCM theory, the Wei Qi circulates on the most outer areas of the body at the skin level and helps to regulate the body temperature. Wei Qi is said to protect the body from external pathogens and is often associated with the immune system. Recent studies have shown that opioids directly and indirect opioid modulation of the cells of the immune system suppressing immune functions. This type of sweating pattern would be accompanied by someone who easily catches a cold, is intolerant of temperature fluctuations, suffers from multiple environmental or food allergies, or has other indications that they have a poor immune response.
3.) Kidney Yin Deficient-Stress consumes Yin, and being dependent on opioids is very stressful; either a surgery or trauma led to opioid use which is disruptive in one’s daily life, or your addiction has disrupted your life completely. Yin in this application refers to the actual degradation of cellular substance of the muscles, organs, skin, etc. This type of sweat would occur mainly at night or around 3 PM in the afternoon. Also patients are often unusually thirsty, especially at night.
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