Interview with Avigail Cohen, Owner of Ballard Acupuncture Center

Tell us about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up?

I am the first-born American citizen in my family. My mother is Irish and my father is Israeli. I have aunts, uncles & grandparents who were born and raised in Ireland, England, Israel, Cuba, Sweden, Latvia, Germany and Australia. We are a large and close family. I was born in Queens, NY but mostly raised in Great Neck, NY where I lived with my sister and parents. Since we had family all over the world we always traveled a lot. As a child I spent summers in Europe and Israel visiting family when my parents worked. I moved to Seattle in 2000 to study acupuncture and have stayed since. I now live in Ballard with my husband and 2 children. My son Noam is 13 and my daughter Bnaya is 11.

(Photo Credit: Ballard Acupuncture Center)

What made you decide to get into acupuncture?

I always knew I wanted to work with people and their health in an alternative way. I studied Kinesiology for my BA at The University of Colorado. I looked into Physical Therapy and even did internships at NYU Medical Center and Tel HaShomer Hospital in Israel. While they were both enjoyable experiences it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. At this point I studied massage therapy while living in Israel. I knew it would be a stepping-stone while I figured out what I really wanted to do. I then started looking into Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. I really liked the idea that you treated the root of the problem and not only the symptoms, while spending meaningful time with each patient. I liked that many different aliments could be treated successfully with no side effects. After practicing acupuncture exclusively for 11 years, I became introduced to functional medicine when trying to find help for my own health concerns. I had traveled a lot through Southeast Asia and picked up some intestinal critters. I was treated with antibiotics when I returned 15 years ago but, over time, with stress, school and kids, unresolved issues came back in force. I was fatigued, bloated and had stomach pain constantly. I was at a Professional Fertility Seminar in Vancouver, BC when I heard Dr. Kalish speak about functional medicine – he was describing my symptoms exactly. He taught a mentorship program and I decided to enroll in that was life changing. Not only am I getting the help and results I was hoping for, but also I can now offer this to my patients in conjunction with acupuncture.

(Photo Credit: Ballard Acupuncture Center)

What services does Ballard Acupuncture Center offer and what type of licenses do you have?

We offer acupuncture, Chinese herbs, supplements, NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique) and functional medicine. I am a licensed acupuncturist and I have a functional medicine certificate from The Kalish Institute. Functional medicine, rather than targeting individual symptoms, focuses on the optimal functioning of the entire body and its organs. It utilizes targeted lab testing to assess your body systems and help you find the root cause of your condition.

What makes Ballard Acupuncture Center different from other acupuncture services that are out there?

It is the connection I have with my patients. I have been practicing for more than 13 years and I use a variety of different tools to treat patients. I often use NAET when treating allergies. The combination of acupuncture and functional medicine enable me to create powerful programs to address not only acute conditions, but also chronic ones as well such as constipation, fatigue, anxiety, stomach pain and bloating. I am able to change people’s lives in a sustainable way by giving them the tools they need to get informed about their health and educate them in ways to be responsible for their own healthcare and participate in their long-term journey of healthy living.

(Photo Credit: Ballard Acupuncture Center)

What inspired you to help people from a holistic standpoint?

I felt the time given to patients wasn’t enough in the Western Medicine setting. I wanted to be able to give more time to patients and really be able to connect with them, so they felt that their concerns were heard. I also didn’t like the idea of people taking medication for every ailment, as it didn’t feel like a long-term solution. A holistic standpoint has people take control of their lives and make healthy lifestyle changes to feel better.

What type of client ailments typically come through the center?

I would say the 5 top conditions I treat are Weight Gain, Fatigue, Depression, Digestive Problems and Female Hormone imbalances. Female hormone imbalances also include Fertility issues and any women’s health concerns such as fibroids, menstrual cramps or irregular cycles. Pain management is another area that I often treat with patients. Some of the common areas I treat are low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain and migraines.

(Photo Credit: Ballard Acupuncture Center)

Walk us through how you work with a client from the moment they walk into the center and until they walk out?

Once a patient walks into our office they enter into a calm and serene environment. We offer them tea and water prior to entering one of the treatment rooms. We discuss the issues they are coming in for, along with their sleep, digestion, energy, pain & stress levels. The whole body is connected and all of these things affect each other. I will look at their tongue and feel their pulse. Then I will have them get on the acupuncture table, where I identify the acupuncture points to address their concerns and swab them with alcohol before inserting the needles. The needles are very thin, and it is a very relaxing treatment. Often people even fall asleep during the treatment, which lasts between 25-30 minutes. During this time they will relax in a dimly lit room with soft music and a heating lamp over their feet. I then come back in at the end of treatment and remove the needles. When they are ready I have them come out to the front desk where we can check them out and schedule other appointments.

Some people feel that acupuncture is not a “real medicine.” How do you address those concerns?

I tell them acupuncture is an ancient system of healing that has been around for over 3000 years. Ancient physicians have discovered a system of specific energetic pathways in the human body. Acupuncture points are located along these pathways. Each point has a predictable effect upon the vital energy passing through it. Modern science has been able to measure the electrical charges at these points, thus corroborating the locations of the meridians mapped by the ancients. It is a treatment that is recognized and reimbursed by major insurance companies in WA State. This shows that it is an effective healthcare option.

(Photo Credit: Ballard Acupuncture Center)

My sister recently won a battle with breast cancer and the oncologists at Mass General in Boston would do acupuncture on her while she was going through chemo. I sat with her during one of her treatments and was fascinated by the use of it. To me, this showed the benefits that acupuncture provides to patients. What are the health benefits that you have seen of acupuncture?

I have witnessed many patients recover from surgeries and car accidents much quicker with acupuncture treatments. Often patients come in and say that their doctors are surprised at how quickly they are recovering. One of the most rewarding aspects of treating patients has been working with women and fertility. It is often an emotional journey, but once they become pregnant it is quite an amazing experience. Acupuncture is very effective in improving egg quality, regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle and helping with ovulation. Acupuncture and functional medicine work so well together as with the personal example of my 13 year old son Noam who was struggling in school. He was getting C’s & D’s on his report card. It was a nightmare trying to get him to do his homework. He was experiencing brain fog, hard to focus and concentrate in school and at home and a constant stomachache and bloating. At this point I decided to do an Organics Acid Test to check his neurotransmitter function, brain function, inflammation, energy, fat and carb metabolism. I also did a stool test to look for any parasites, bacteria & yeast. When the tests came back I saw that he had several parasites & bacteria that were causing the brain fog. We started him on amino acids that helped to clear the brain fog, other supplements to clear the digestive issues and we dramatically changed his diet. The results were amazing in just a few weeks. He is able to focus in school more easily and is now getting A’s & B’s on his report card. This had a huge influence on my family and myself personally. I have also treated adults in my clinic with similar symptoms that were struggling in their personal and professional lives. The results they experienced were life changing.

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