Q. How does acupuncture work?

Studies show that stimulating "acupoints" causes multiple biologic responses. For example, this stimulation can prompt the release of the body's natural pain-killing endorphins.

By the third century B.C., the Chinese had documented a medical system that is based on qi (pronounced "chee"), a concept of vital energy that is believed to flow throughout the body. Qi is said to regulate a person's physical, spiritual, emotional and mental balance.

Advocates of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), say qi is affected by yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). When the flow of qi is disrupted and yin and yang are unbalanced, the condition leads to pain and disease, according to TCM.

To correct the flow of qi, acupuncture uses superfine metal needles inserted into the skin at more than 2,000 acupoints along pathways known as "meridians." It is believed that there are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians. The points can also be stimulated with heated herbs, magnets, mild electrical current, manual pressure, low-frequency lasers, or even bee stings.

The World Health Organization recommends acupuncture for more than 40 conditions as diverse as asthma and nausea from chemotherapy.

Q. Any ideas about how to deal with motion sickness?

Motion sickness is caused by conflicting messages arriving at the central nervous system. For example, suppose you're below deck in a storm. Your body is getting information that the boat is moving violently. But your eyes see the unmoving walls of your cabin. This is a common scenario for nausea and vomiting.

Here are some tips to avoid motion sickness:

Always ride where your eyes will see the same motion that your body senses. For example, sit in the front seat of the car and look out the windshield to distant scenery; don't stare at the rapidly passing telephone poles outside the passenger window.

If you're on a boat, go up on deck and watch the horizon.

On an airplane, sit by the window and look outside. Also, choose a seat over the wings where there is the least motion.

On a train, take a seat near the front and next to a window. Face forward.

Minimize head movement.

Avoid strong odors and spicy or greasy foods.

Don't overeat.

Don't smoke or sit near smokers.

Take motion sickness medicine recommended by your physician.

Q. How can you tell if someone is an alcoholic?

Alcoholism is a disease with four primary symptoms: craving or compulsion to drink, the inability to limit drinking, high alcohol tolerance, and physical dependence.

The American Medical Association publishes the following list of physical symptoms to diagnose alcoholism. If an older person shows several symptoms, there is a high probability of alcoholism.

Ÿ Bruises, abrasions, and scars in locations that might suggest frequent falls, bumping into objects, physical altercations, or other violent behavior.

Ÿ Cigarette burns on the fingers.

Ÿ Flushed or florid faces.

Ÿ Jerky eye movement or loss of central vision.

Ÿ Damage to nerves causing numbness and tingling.

Ÿ Hypertension, particularly systolic (the first number).

Ÿ Gastrointestinal or other bleeding.

Ÿ Cirrhosis or other evidence of liver impairment, such as swelling in the lower extremities, and other signs of fluid retention.

Ÿ Psoriasis.

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