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.
Headaches are nasty, annoying, and way too common. That's why I want to help you beat them!
First, we need to talk about the different kinds of headaches in Chinese medicine. Not every headache is created equal and it's important to know what you're dealing with. When you have a headache, make sure you pay attention to onset, time of day, pain location, pain quality, and what makes it better or worse. This record will help your Chinese medicine practitioner make an accurate diagnosis and come up with an effective treatment plan.
Onset: If the headache comes on suddenly with a short duration means its coming from an external invasion, such as a cold or flu. A gradual onset with a long duration means there is an internal imbalance to address. Also, a headache that occurs around menstruation has an underlying hormonal imbalance.
Time of day: Headaches that begin during the day indicate a deficiency of Qi or Yang, whereas headaches that begin in the evening are typically due to a deficiency of Blood or Yin. Headaches that start at night during sleep or before menstruation indicate blood stasis.
Location: Back of the head (Bladder, Small Intestine, or Kidney channel imbalance), top of the head (Liver or Pericardium channel imbalance), forehead (Stomach or Large Intestine channel imbalance), temples and side of the head (Gallbladder channel imbalance), behind the eyes (Liver channel imbalance), or whole head (Kidney channel deficiency or external invasion).
Quality: A dull ache usually indicates deficiency whereas a sharp or throbbing pain indicates excess. A dull ache with the head feeling like it was wrapped in a band and/or a feeling of heaviness indicates Dampness or Phlegm. Headaches that are felt "inside" the head are usually due to a Kidney deficiency.
Ameliorating or aggravating factors: A chronic headache that is improves with rest, lying down, or eating are due to deficiency. Headaches that are improved by exercise are due to excess. Headaches that are aggravated by lying down or eating are also from excess.
Triggers: stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, certain foods (look for dairy, chocolate, soy, citrus), hormones, low blood sugar, sex, weather and lighting changes, rebound from painkillers.
Basically, there are lots and lots of different patterns that can cause headaches. Luckily, Chinese medicine is wonderful at balancing out the body and helping you with the frequency and intensity of your headaches! Once a diagnosis has been reached, the treatment method will focus on bringing all parts back into balance.
At Herbs & Acupuncture Clinic, I will do a combination of things for a headache. Typically, I find a custom herbal prescription, bloodletting (not as scary as it sounds, promise), acupuncture, and ear seeds will have an immediate effect on headaches. Continued treatments lengthen the period of relief, as well as decrease headache intensity. For headaches that have lasted longer than three months, I usually recommend a series of 10-15 treatments, and 6-8 treatments for headaches that have lasted less three months or less.
There's no foolproof way to stop a headache, but there are definitely some things you can do outside of a Chinese medicine treatment to lessen its impact. These are some things I talk about in clinic:
-essential oils- peppermint and lavender are great, and eucalyptus will help a sinus headache
-protect your neck with a scarf, esp in windy weather
-use heat or ice, or alternate 5-10 min heat, 5-10 min ice, and always end with heat
-head, face, and neck massage on tender points
I've helped lots of people manage their headaches or migraines, or get rid of them completely! I offer a free in-office or phone consultation, so please get in touch if you want to look and feel your best. I'd love to help you!
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!
Giving is a gift. So is receiving. They are two sides of the same coin. For every giver there must be a receiver, and for every receiver there must be a giver. But receiving can be challenging because it creates a moment of deeper connection between people, shows a more vulnerable side since the gift is out of our control, we may feel a pressure to reciprocate, we may believe it is selfish to receive, or we may fear we are unworthy or undeserving.
We are taught it is better to give than to receive. But how can you give if there weren't someone or something there to receive your gift? Since genuine giving and receiving must always equal each other, they must also be of equal importance.
How does it feel to give? Most agree that giving feels wonderful and fullfilling. On the other hand, how does it feel when you want to give and the other person isn't willing to receive? It feels terrible. So know this: if you are not willing to receive, then you are denying the joy and pleasure that comes from giving to those who want to give to you.
So, what to do? How do you become a good receiver?
First, begin to nurture yourself. People are creatures of habit and you will have to conciously practice receiving the best life has to offer. Second, go crazy with excitement and gratitude anytime you find or receive a gift. If you are fully willing to receive anything and everything that comes your way, you will!
Also, once you are truly open to receiving, the best of your life will open up. You will receive more money, fulfillment, happiness, love, and peace. Because how you do anything is how you do everything. If you're a poor receiving, you're a poor receiver in all areas of life. When you become an excellent receiver, you'll be an excellent receiver and open to all the universe has to offer in all areas of your life.
Now, the only thing you'll have to remember is to keep saying "Thank you" as you receive all your blessings.
I hope your Christmas is merry and you are able to fully experience oy giving and receving.
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
Thoughts and practical tips to help you look and feel your best based in the wisdom of Chinese medicine.
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