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Beat jetlag the traditional Chinese way

From: British Acupuncture Council,

Beat jetlag the traditional Chinese way

We’ve all been there - wide awake in the middle of the night, asleep on your feet during the day, disturbed digestion and a loss of appetite - jetlag is all too often a bad end to a great holiday.

It’s fairly common knowledge that jetlag occurs when your internal body clock is out of sync. However, looking at the Chinese body clock, as used by acupuncturists, can help further explain some of the more common problems suffered by travellers.

Acupuncture is based on the theory that Qi - the body’s motivating energy - flows in a 24 hour cycle, and that the body’s functions are tied into this, much the same as the biological clock recognised by western medicine. For example, the best time to eat breakfast is between 7-9am when Qi is concentrated in the stomach. Between 1-3am when Qi is concentrated in the Liver you should be asleep, as the Liver is responsible for regulating Qi, effectively allowing your body to ’re-charge’.

When you travel across time zones, your body clock falls out of sync and in trying to readjust, people often carry out activities, such a eating, exercising or sleeping at a different time than the one dictated by their body clock. In Chinese medicine theory, certain organs are more easily affected by changes in time zones, with those associated with sleep, digestion and bowel function most likely to be affected. This explains why digestive problems and trouble sleeping are the most common symptoms of jetlag.

Resetting the body clock using acupuncture - by stimulating the flow of Qi around the organ for the time zone you are currently in - can help mitigate jetlag symptoms.

James Thirlwall, acupuncturist and member of the British Acupuncture Council explains: “I’ve seen acupuncture work particularly well for patients coming in from the States on an overnight flight. The ‘red eye’ that leaves New York at 7pm and lands in London seven hours later throws your body clock out of sync as your body will think it is 2am - the time when Qi is concentrated in the liver and you should be sleeping.

In reality, its 7am London time so you need to reset your body clock to the local time. At 7am, Qi is concentrated in the stomach and you should be having breakfast and starting your day. However, eating in the wrong time zone is likely to cause digestive problems. By resetting the body clock, it is possible to reduce the impact of jetlag.”

In order for acupuncture to be most effective, you’ll need to visit an acupuncturist within 24 hours or so of landing, but there are steps you can take on your journey to minimise the effect of jetlag:

  • Carry out the appropriate activity for the time zone you are going to. For example, when you board the plane, if it is the middle of the night in your destination, try and get straight to sleep.
  • Try some relaxation techniques or breathing exercises to reduce tension in your body. Being relaxed will minimise the disruption to your body clock, lessening the effects of jetlag .
  • Applying pressure to the points that relate to certain organs as they come into play during the journey can help put you in the right place when you arrive. This is something you can do yourself, although you’ll need an acupuncturist to show you where the points are located.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and orange juice on the flight, especially the latter as it blocks your sinuses and makes sleep difficult.

To find an acupuncture practitioner in your area, contact the British Acupuncture Council.

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The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of over 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture. BAcC members practise a traditional, holistic style of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment based on a system developed and refined over 2,000 years. To find a qualified acupuncturist in your area, contact the British Acupuncture Council on 020 8735 0400 or visit

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