Blink and it's December. While this month maybe a little different than previous holidays, it is still a season for candy-canes, frosted sugar cookies, and chocolate. Unfortunately, we know that sugar is not our friend and should be avoided.
However, according to Chinese medicinal food therapy, the nature of sweets is more nuanced than simply being good or bad. Here are nine things to know about sweets according to Chinese medicine:
1) Each organ system has a flavor associated with it, where a little bit of that flavor strengthens the system but too much overwhelms it. The flavor of sweetness is linked to your spleen and stomach, your body's system of digestion.
2) It's natural to crave something sweet after a meal because the sweetness acts as a digestive aid. So, a piece of fruit or square of dark chocolate can help you relax and digest your food. You get into trouble when you try to satiate the mildly sweet craving with a large slice of chocolate cake topped with ice cream. It completely over-burdens your digestive process.
3) When your digestive system is overwhelmed with sweets, the most common result is something called dampness. This is the digestive process getting bogged down and not metabolizing fluids very well, which is an example of a little is good but too much is bad.
Your body needs fluids to be moist, but when your digestive process slows down, it becomes too damp and the resulting moisture collects in puddles. Concerns like water retention, yeast infections, bladder infections, and even excess body fat are examples of damp puddles.
4) It gets worse. If that dampness lingers, it stagnates and becomes hot. In biomedicine, this translates to inflammation, seen in conditions like gout, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, and sinus problems. In Chinese medicine, this is considered to be damp plus heat.
5) If you have crazy, out-of-control cravings for sweets, it is a sign that your digestive system is weak and struggling. Unfortunately, giving into those kinds of craving will only make the problem worse.
6) The sweeter the food, the more dampness is added to your body.
7) Good news! Foods that are slightly sweet are truly nourishing because eating those foods and digesting them well will replenish your body's energy, blood, and nutrients. But is is only a little sweet and the right kind.
8) The right kind of sweet flavored foods are warming and nourishing, and include complex carbohydrates, rice, fruit, sweet potatoes, and root vegetables (think yams or carrots). Empty sweets are the ones to avoid or eat only in small amounts. They tend to be cooling and moving, and include simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, honey, and artificial sweetener. They only offer empty calories, are not very nourishing, and bring on dampness.
9) Sadly, the types of things your body craves when your digestive system is weak or your energy is low are the empty sweets- cake, candy, chocolate, doughnuts. However, its the full sweet foods that your body needs to satisfy those cravings to make them go away.
Full disclosure, I will have something that's an empty sweet every week- usually in the form of a dessert or sweetened drink. Chinese medicine is all about moderation, however, the bloated and tired feeling I get afterwards reminds me of why I don't eat them more often.
Can you believe summer is almost here?! Perhaps you've already noticed feeling more social, having more energy, and just being in a better mood all-around. From a traditional Chinese perspective, that's totally expected. Summertime is when Yang energy is at its peak. Yang is characterized as active, bright, enthusiastic, and extroverted.
In traditional Chinese medicine, you cannot separate a person from their environment. Summer is related to the element of Fire, the Heart, and over-excitement. These factor significantly into a diagnosis and treatment plan. So, how does this change how you feel in the summer? And what can you do about it?
We all know people who thrive in the heat. They run around in 90 degree weather with energy to spare. Usually, these people also tend to be playful, charismatic, are quick to connect with others, and enjoy intimacy. This is someone who has a strong and balanced Fire element.
Then, there are others who constantly complain about the heat and feel drained in the summer. Sometimes, these people can be perceived as distant, easily overwhelmed, introverted, and self-centered. This is someone who has a weak and under-expressed Fire element.
On the flip side, someone with an over-abundance of Fire will express symptoms similar to mania, like racing thoughts, difficulty paying attention, decreased need for sleep, inappropriate elation, or markedly increased energy.
If you're someone who tends to have an under-expression of Fire, it is important to focus on encouraging the following qualities in yourself throughout the summer. If you think you have an over-abundance of Fire, your focus should be on appreciating these things, but remembering to keep them in check.
5 Tips To Maximize Your Summer:
Exercise will be easier in the summer, thanks to that Yang energy. Take advantage of this boost and move everyday! You'll improve your metabolism, protect your health, and better your mood. If you tend to have a strong or high level of Fire, be cautious about overdoing the exercise.
Talk With Strangers
Noticing you want to strike up a conversation with a stranger or spend a few extra minutes chatting with the grocery bagger? That's your natural Fire coming out to play! Connection is important this time of year, so don't overthink the urge to talk with someone you don't know.
See Your Friends More
What better way to engage in the Fire characteristics of connection, communication, and intimacy than hanging out with your pals? So have a bonfire, hike in the mountains, or just stay up late into the night chatting. Nurturing relationships not only makes summer more fun, but it will also smooth the transition into fall.
The sound of the Fire element, and therefore the sound of summer, is laughter. So when you're hanging out with people, crack inside jokes, tell embarrassing stories, appreciate others' jokes, and tell the embarrassing stories again. Keep laughing and your fire burning bright!
Hang Out At A Lake
Or any body of water, really. All the elements are inter-connected, and no relationship is more easily understood than Fire and Water. Since summer is all about the Fire element, being physically near water can help balance out Fire's heat and rising energy.
Have a specific question about yourself? Let me know! I'm happy to answer your questions.
What is cupping?
Cupping is a suction technique designed to pull toxin build-up and muscle-spasm from the body's deep tissue to the surface of the skin. It can shorten the healing process by weeks, even months, in a way that acupuncture, massage, and other forms of treatment cannot.
Physical pain implies poor circulation through a particular area. When toxins and metabolic waste stagnate in the muscles or joints, it can be very difficult for the body to get rid of the waste, causing further stagnation and discomfort.
By using cupping, we are able to pull the toxins and waste out of the deeper tissues and move it to the skin's surface. This is what causes the circular marks on the skin. Once at the surface, it is much easier for the body to eliminate the toxins and waste via the capillary system.
In only ten minutes of cupping, not only can we pull toxin build up out of specific areas, but we can also pull the fresh, new blood into those areas. This will promote healing and restore proper blood flow.
Why choose cupping?
Cupping is therapeutic and diagnostic. It tells us three basic things:
First, cupping tells us the kind of problem we are dealing with. If the cup colors, that means we are dealing with toxin/waste buildup or muscle spasms. If there is no color, this indicates nerve or bone issues.
Second, cupping tells us exactly where the problem is. The area where the skin colors indicates a painful area from muscle spasm or metabolic waste build-up. Practitioners will usually cup an area slightly larger than the painful area to ensure that it is completely covered.
Third, cupping will tell us the severity of the problem. Light or moderate stagnation in the deep tissues will cause the skin to color pink or red and may take a day or two for the color to go away. Severe stagnation causes the skin to color a deep scarlet, purple, or even black. It may take seven to ten days for the dark color to disperse.
All of this information is helpful in making an accurate diagnosis and providing an effective treatment.
Is cupping painful?
The cupping sensation can be a bit strong for the first 60 seconds, the time which most of the toxins are removed. It is helpful to try and relax into the process of being cupped and to acknowledge and tolerate the sensation.
It is important not to get cupped on an empty stomach. Inhale and exhale only through the nose. This will slow the breathing and help to prevent you from getting lightheaded or dizzy.
Patients typically experience immediate relief upon removal of the cups, making the initial discomfort well worth it. Rarely, when skin turns deep purple, there may be more intense discomfort which goes away in 24-48 hours.
Keep the cupped area covered, warm, and out of the wind and drafts for the following three days to make sure the muscles do not tighten and spasm.
If there is lasting discomfort, over-the-counter pain relief medication may be used.
Drink plenty of water to help clear the toxins and waste through the body's normal excretory system.
Take it easy after the cupping treatment and for the day after. Avoid hot tubs and cold plunges to prevent getting chilled. Avoid any strenuous activity, especially if there is residual soreness.
Remember, your skin has not been bruised or traumatized. The coloration shows toxin release.
If you still have concerns, call your practitioner.
There are many different factors that contribute to difficulty losing weight, such as lifestyle, nutrition, hormones, sleep patterns, and possibly genetics. For many, maintaining a healthy weight is a daily task. It is important to note that a person's healthy weight and "ideal" weight may be worlds apart. Traditional Chinese medicine can help steer you towards your healthy weight, and I'm here to talk with you a little bit about what might be standing between you and your healthy weight.
Introducing the traditional Chinese medicine term Phlegm.
Traditional Chinese medicine views weight gain and weight loss resistance differently than how biomedicine looks at it. At the root level, weight gain is excess Phlegm which comes from the Spleen, aka the gut. Quite simply, if you can't assimilate your food and drink properly, this can cause many issues such as weak digestion, nutrient deficiencies, and stagnation in the body.
With this in mind, you could have the cleanest diet on the planet but your body isn't getting what it needs because you are not able to digest well. This can cause issues like weight gain because we need to overeat in order supply our body with adequate nutrients to survive. This begins a vicious cycle: If we don't eat to nourish ourselves, our systems become imbalanced because our bodies don't have the building blocks to help us thrive. As the digestive system (Spleen) continues to weaken, the body begins to produce and accumulate "phlegm," making it feel sluggish and heavy.
From a biomedical point of view, our metabolism slows down.
Your body likes a state of constant flow. The accumulation of Phlegm doesn't stop with symptoms of weight gain or weight loss resistance. It also shows up as feeling tired, sluggish, heavy, unhappy bowels, or emotional upset. There's nothing to lose by addressing Phlegm.
The idea of weight loss can seem overwhelming. Mindset is oh so important for this. Rather than focusing on "weight loss" and driving yourself crazy, try focusing on "health gain." This means focusing on lowering insulin, lowering inflammation, healing your gut, and getting proper fuel so your body will have the ability to heal itself. Weight loss will be a byproduct of protecting your health.
Nevertheless, traditional Chinese medicine has a few tips to address Phlegm that will have a big impact on your health:
These simple additions to your day can have a profound impact on your body and help you move towards a healthier you!
According to a new review of existing research, complimentary and alternative medicine may help men manage premature ejaculation. For the full review, click here.
The authors reviewed research on the effectiveness, safety, and evidence for acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurvedic herbal medicine, and a Korean topical cream on premature ejaculation.
Results showed that acupuncture delayed ejaculation by 30 seconds compared to a placebo, Chinese herbal medicine delayed ejaculation by about two minutes, Ayurvedic herbal medicine by nearly a minute, and the topical cream by more than eight minutes.
In one instance, the combination of Chinese herbal medicine and SSRIs (a common drug intervention) delayed ejaculation by two minutes longer than SSRIs alone and nearly three minutes longer than Chinese herbal medicine alone.
There are no approved treatments for premature ejaculation. While there were limitations due to the weakness of the studies being evaluated, this review shows complimentary and alternative medicine is an option for men who do not want to visit the doctor, take drugs long-term, or be on a waiting list for counseling.
If you want to try something different, call up your acupuncturist. They will be happy to answer any questions you have and find an herbal formula to help!
The following are some tips and tricks for the neurotic insomniac (like me). After lots of trial and error, I finally feel like I have an ideal routine for relaxation and sleep. Enjoy!
Start this one hour before bedtime:
A few more tips not related to the evening:
*NOTE: I am sure my fellow acupuncturists are cringing at the thought of recommending exposing the upper neck to freezing cold water. The premise is that briefly and regularly exposing the body to natural stressors (such as cold water) enhances health. It's the same concept behind acupuncture and intermittent fasting. To read more, click here, here, and here.
How did this work for you? Any other tips to try? Let me know in the comments.
May you sleep in heavenly peace.
Trigger points can be a real problem.
Not only are they painful, but trigger points also decrease range of motion, weaken the muscles, and produce excessive muscle contraction. They are formed when the process of muscle contraction and release is disrupted. Persistent muscle contraction, strain, or overuse causes the muscle band to contract too tightly, increasing metabolic demand and squeezing off the supply of blood and oxygen to the area. This consequently prevents the muscle from releasing.
This the the bad news: trigger points can severely impact athletic performance and quality of life. The good news? Acupuncture can help!
Think of a trigger point like a knot in a rubber band. The rubber band is your muscle and the knot is the trigger point. Stretching the rubber band will increase movement, but it will not release the knot. To restore full range of motion, you must first unwind the knot.
A muscle with a trigger point is too painful to stretch fully, and forcing a stretch will most likely result in muscle strain.
Acupuncture is an effective way to release a trigger point.
The acupuncture needle provides a disruption to the trigger point, stopping the cycle of contraction causing a lack of circulation, and therefore, preventing release. It can reach the depth of a trigger point without irritating the hyper sensitive tissue around it. Restored to its full length after being released with acupuncture, the muscle recovers its normal blood supply and metabolism and function.
And its usually immediate. A needle inserted into a trigger point will elicit a twitch followed by reduced muscular tension and increased range of motion.
Tips to prevent trigger points from forming:
It's that time of year when nights become longer, colors change, and nature shows us the beauty in letting go. Autumn is a season where we find ourselves a little more serious than the carefree energy of summer. In traditional Chinese medicine, this is a time for putting things into order, communication, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. It's also a time for beginning more introspective and indoor projects.
The Lung and Large Intestine are the internal organs related to autumn. The Lung is associated with the feeling of sadness or a difficulty in letting go. It is considered a tender organ, meaning it is the uppermost internal organ and very susceptible to wind and cold. The Lungs also control the circulation of our protective energy, similar to immunity, which helps defend us against colds and flus.
Pressing at the Lung's source point on the wrist is a wonderful way to help with the transition from summer to autumn, as well as to strengthen the functions of the Lungs. To find this point, have your palms facing up and locate the slight depression at the wrist crease closer to your thumb. The point is between the radial artery and the tendon (abductor policis longus). Press here on both wrists for a few minutes per day. Some indications for this point are cough, asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, wheezing, or heavy feeling in the chest.
If you're feeling like this isn't enough for you or your finding it difficult to let something go, schedule an appointment with your acupuncturist to tune up your energy and provide extra support!
Did you know that your brain has 100 billion nerve cells and 1000 trillion synapse? Every synapse is used to pass information around your brain and body.
Your brain changes constantly, instantly, and efficiently in response to messages from your body. The messengers are our senses, thoughts, beliefs, memories, emotions, and movement. Diseases, traumatic events, and stress also influence the brain. The process by which these changes take place is called neuroplasticity.
Every time we learn a new skill, visualize, or recall a stressful or traumatic event, we are literally changing our brains based on the new pathways that are created via the electrical and chemical signals in our cells. Repetition reinforces the strength of the pathways, causing a genuine anatomical change.
With chronic pain, our brains change due to the constant pain signaling loop between the brain and the body. We may suffer significant losses: loss of function, loss of quality of life, loss of purpose, and loss of any sense of control over our bodies and lives. This may leave us feeling isolated, worries, helpless, and out of touch.
The challenge is to reverse the brain in pain. To accomplish this, we can use thoughts, images, sensations, memories, soothing emotions, movement, and beliefs to harness the power of our brains to modify the pain.
Some tips to slow down the runaway brain in pain:
If you're not getting the results you want to manage your pain, please consider traditional Chinese medicine as an alternative to hopelessness.
An excellent resource on neuroplasticity is neuroplastix.com
I have been seeing more infertility in clinic recently. Most everyone questions, "What causes infertility?" and "What can I do to help myself?" Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are excellent as a stand alone therapy, or as a complement to modern fertility treatments. Acupuncture can help by regulating your body's systems, which aides in blood flow to the reproductive organs and stabilizes hormone levels. This will increase ovarian function in women as well as sperm production in men.
The origins of infertility or difficulty conceiving, according to traditional Chinese medicine, are related to upbringing and lifestyle. These origins are:
In traditional Chinese medicine, infertility occurs when the body cannot produce an egg, the egg cannot be fertilized, or the fertilized egg cannot be nourished. When diagnosing infertility, your acupuncturist is differentiating between deficiency or excess. For example, we are trying to determine whether a woman cannot conceive because her body is failing to nourish the uterus since there is a lack of energy or because there is a pathogenic factor blocking the uterus and preventing fertilization.
Luckily, once an appropriate diagnosis and differentiation is reached, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are excellent resources to balance out the body so an egg can be produced, fertilized, and nourished into a healthy baby!
If you have been diagnosed with infertility, here are some tips to help take care of yourself:
If you have more specific questions or would like to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how traditional Chinese medicine can help your specific condition, please reach out to me! I would love to chat with you! (303) 349-4575, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine, 2nd ed.; G. Maciocia
Thoughts and practical tips to help you look and feel your best based in the wisdom of Chinese medicine.
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