From an acupuncture perspective, your body is made up of lots of different kinds of Qi, or energy. These different types of Qi have specific physiological functions in the body. One essential type of Qi is the Wei Qi. Roughly translated as “immunity,” the Wei Qi is your body’s natural strength and ability to fight off pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
The Wei Qi, also called “protective Qi” flows in the space between the skin and muscles, and is the first line of defense against sickness (after your skin). The Wei Qi also controls the opening and closing of the pores, so spontaneous sweating is a sign of a weakness in your protective Qi.
When the Wei Qi is not strong enough, we are not able to fight off outside pathogens, and we get sick.
A number of other energetic imbalances can weaken our Wei Qi:
So, how do you make sure your Wei Qi is healthy and strong?
We’ve all been there - you have the best of intentions to do something positive or productive (go to the gym, make healthy dietary changes, start working on a new project around the house, finish a work assignment, study for an upcoming test) - but you end up spending hours procrastinating, making excuses to yourself and not doing the thing you need to get done. Why is it so hard to get motivated sometimes?
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, lack of motivation may stem from multiple different types of energetic imbalances in the body - and how to overcome that lack of motivation depends on what type of imbalance is holding you back.
You are stuck.
In TCM theory, the liver energy system is in charge of the “smooth flow” of Qi, or energy, throughout the whole body. When liver Qi flows smoothly, we are physically and mentally healthy, vibrant and on top of our game. But when liver Qi gets stuck, a whole lot of problems can ensue, such as neck and shoulder tension, headaches, irritability, impatience and lack of motivation.
This type of lack of motivation is the kind where it is hard to get something started...but once you start, you feel so much better and have no problem continuing. A perfect example is wanting to exercise, but having a really hard time motivating yourself to get out the door because you feel tired and angsty. However, if you overcome that feeling and push yourself to exercise, you will notice your problem with motivation decreases drastically, and you’ll feel like a different person when you come back home. This is because the original problem was that your Qi was stuck - and exercise got it going again.
The liver energy is also related to our ability to plan, create a vision for the future and set goals. When the liver energy is stuck, it is harder for us to see how our daily tasks relate to the future we want for ourselves.
Physical movement helps motivation problems connected to Qi stagnation. Push yourself in your workouts to clear your head and overcome the stagnation, or take a break at work and go for a walk to regain your motivation and focus.
You are damp.
Dampness is a concept somewhat unique to TCM. It refers to an abnormal processing of fluids in the body. These fluids coalesce in various places – for instance, when dampness accumulates in the joints, there may be joint pain that is worse in rainy weather. When dampness accumulates in the mind, it can lead to a lack of motivation.
This type of problem with motivation is associated with a lack of mental clarity, foggy-headedness, a general feeling of sluggishness and an inability to keep focused on any given task. Dampness is slow and cloudy, and creates a haze over our mental functioning. This extends into our ability to start tasks, as well.
To overcome a lack of motivation associated with dampness, it is important to look at environmental factors that may be making you damp. Are you living in a damp house? Are there things you can do to clean up that aspect of your living area? For instance, consider using a dehumidifier if you live in a basement apartment, or adding houseplants and natural sources of light to your space.
It is also very important to look at your diet. If you are struggling with dampness, avoid dairy, sugar, and fatty or greasy foods. Also eat warm, cooked foods as much as possible, and limit your intake of raw or cold foods, which tax the digestive system and can lead to dampness.
7/31/2019 0 Comments
by Emma Grace Brown (thank you!!)
The concept of self-care is thrown around a lot these days, but when you stop and think about it, what is self-care? If you think of self-care as pampering or indulgences, it probably feels like something you don’t have the time or money to do very often. Occasional indulgences are nice, but true self-care is much more than that. Instead, consider this alternative approach to self-care that’s all about discovering the everyday choices that you truly need.
Ages and Stages in Life
To find the self-care practices that work for you, it’s important to recognize that our needs tend to change over time. We all have the same basic health needs, such as eating a balanced diet and being active, but you may need more or less of some things at different points in life. For example, seniors have specific exercise needs, like maintaining balance for fall prevention and strength training to prevent loss of muscle mass.
Anyone can exercise at home, but joining a group exercise program is a great way to make sure you’re targeting specific needs. Many people who have a Medicare Advantage plan have coverage for SilverSneakers, which gives you access to 13,000 fitness centers that participate in the program nationwide. Along with targeting your fitness needs, joining a program like SilverSneakers is a great way for retirees to get out of the house and meet other seniors who also care about healthy living.
Besides fitness habits, we all have routines that feel comfortable, and sometimes we don’t even think about how small changes could help us live better — whether that’s improved physical health or increased happiness. For example, Health.com points out that many women in middle age get in a rut with their wardrobe, continuing to wear clothes that don’t fit well or that just don’t make them feel great. For young professionals, a common example is how busy you may get while focusing on your career. When this happens you may forget about your adventurous side or to set aside a little time for relaxation.
These are just a few examples of how we unintentionally ignore small changes that could help us feel better. In this case, self-care is a simple examination of whatever is keeping you stuck. Do this self-examination periodically so you can find easy solutions for getting unstuck.
Beyond the Necessities
To help identify what may be holding you back, break down the basics you know you need (exercise, a balanced diet, sleep) and see if there’s something missing. Along with addressing those specific exercise needs, nutrition is another area where many of us can do a little more.
Your body may be telling you you’re deficient of some nutrients, but you just don’t know the signs. Mind Body Green explains how these signs can be emotional symptoms like anxiety or physical symptoms such as exhaustion, digestive problems, or lack of sleep. A simple solution is to try these tips from The Kitchn for eating more fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
Make It Fit Your Lifestyle
Focusing on easy changes that fit your lifestyle is what this holistic concept of self-care is all about. Take a tip from Inc., which boils it down to four key factors that self-care should meet: simple, quick, repeatable, and affordable. So, if what you need is more targeted exercise, start by adding one new workout to your routine, and set a goal for completing it that works for you. Or, with the example of finding your adventurous side, instead of waiting for your next vacation, find more adventure through a hobby you can do on a regular basis, like rock climbing or hiking.
Rock climbing probably doesn’t sound like the idea of self-care that you’re used to, but that’s the point! What everyone needs from self-care is different, but it all comes down to simply caring for ourselves on a daily basis. Whether that’s rock climbing or finding the right exercise program, the goal is to create new habits that make the right self-care goals fit into your everyday life.
Photo via Pexels
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, setting goals is one way to help you get there. Often, when people have no goals, they lack motivation, focus and direction. Setting goals also provides a benchmark to determine whether or not you are succeeding.
But how do you set goals if you’ve never done so before? Or what if you have set goals in the past, but you didn’t achieve them? Do you just give up and tell yourself that goal setting doesn’t work? That’s one option, but let’s put things into perspective.
1. Set goals that motivate you. The goals you set for yourself should be important to you, making you feel there is value in achieving them. Make sure you’re able to identify why each goal matters to you, otherwise it will be hard to take action.
2. Break the larger goals down into smaller, more specific goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose 60 pounds over the next year, break that down into smaller more achievable goals. For example, set a goal of losing five pounds per month for the next 12 months. This makes the larger goal more feasible and accessible.
3. Write down your goals. The physical act of writing down a goal makes it tangible and real and adds a sense of accountability to the goals. Pay attention t the wording you use. In place of “I would like to” use “I will” to give your goals more power.
4. Make an action plan to achieve your goals. In other words, don’t just focus on the end result. Spend time working on the steps it will take to get you to your ultimate goal.
5. Adjust your goals periodically. Goals may change as you age or as you start to change. Your goals should be adjusted accordingly, allowing for flexibility and growth.
6. Tell someone close to you what your goal is. Like writing your goals down, saying them outloud to someone makes them feel more real and helps to hold you accountable for achieving them.
7. Don’t give up. Many times, when we are faced with failure, we tend to give up on our goals. Some of the most successful people in history failed numerous times before they got it right. And they all had to stop, adjust and reevaluate their goals as they went along, but they ultimately succeeded because they stayed the course.
Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM is all about balance. In this ancient system, the key to health is to move through the world in such a way that our bodies can remain in homeostasis, in balance. This idea connects to sleep patterns, what we eat and ultimately the flow of Qi, or energy, throughout the body. For that reason, healthy eating in summertime, according to TCM, is all about using cooling foods to balance out how hot it is outside. In other words, we can find homeostasis from the inside out.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for healthy foods to keep you cool and active all summer long.
Fresh fruits like watermelons, strawberries, tomatoes and pear are cooling and have strong yin energy. Summer meals should be predominately fresh fruits or vegetables, according to TCM. These food groups have the strongest yin energy, balancing out the fierce yang and fire energies of summer.
Fresh vegetables that are in season in your region are also a great choice, especially cooling vegetables like cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, peppers, celery, raddish, carrots and cauliflower. Vegetables have the second highest yin energy, according to TCM.
Summer herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley and mint are a great, healthy addition to most recipes. These herbs are also natural diuretics and heavy-metal detoxifiers, which flush excess waste from the body.
The best foods to eat vary with geography. If you live in a place where summer days are long, but not very hot and the nights get really cool, incorporate more neutral or even warming fruits and vegetables into your summer smorgasbord. These fruits and vegetables can include most varieties of squash, especially pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash, lentils and legumes, whole grains like brown rice and root vegetables like beets, potatoes and parsnips.
In places with cooler summers, or during late summer, the fifth season according to TCM, diet is about prioritizing self-nourishment so it can be utilized as energy. Late summer is the time to choose smart sugars that won’t clog up the spleen pathway, including apples, carrots, dates, figs, grapes, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes and squash. These smart sugars also regulate the body’s blood sugar, which decreases the strain on the pancreas.
For those whose summer climate is hot, here is a recipe for a cooling, detoxifying water you can drink all summer long to keep yourself in balance.
Cooling detox water:
One of the most wonderful things about being an acupuncturist is the ability to stimulate points on my own body when I need to. If I get a headache, or feel a cold coming on, I can always hop up on my table for a quick tune-up with some needles. Even when I’m not at the office, the magic of acupuncture can still work for me – as long as I know where the points are and what they do, I can press on them and get results.
So, what points do acupuncturists use when they need to chill out? There are so many points on the body that help to calm the mind and bring us down from our stresses and anxieties. My top three, however, are pericardium 6, liver 3, and stomach 6.
Liver 3 is a point located between the first and second toes. If you slide your finger between the toes up until you hit the junction of the two bones, you will find a very tender spot. This is a great point for so many things: irritability, headaches, TMJ, anxiety...the list goes on. If you think about these four issues, they all have one thing in common: they result from the energy in the body rising upward. Liver 3 is a very grounding point. It channels the energy downward. When we are in a state of anxiety, it’s so hard to get out of our heads, but this point will help.
Pericardium 6 is a point that is commonly used for stress and nausea. You have probably seen the bands some pregnant women use around their wrist for morning sickness. These are designed to put pressure on this point, quelling the queasiness. The point is located between the two tendons on your wrist, two fingers up from the wrist crease. Pressing on it is immediately calming. It helps to open the chest, as well, so if your anxiety comes with a side of chest tightness or shallow breathing, this is your point.
Stomach 6 isn’t typically on the top 10 list of acupuncture points for stress, but it is my favorite. If you clench your teeth, you can find it by going one finger width anterior and superior to the angle of the mandible at the belly of the masseter (jaw) muscle. Like many people, I hold a lot of tension in my face and jaw. Massaging this point creates an instant release for me. Once I feel the muscles in my face release, it brings a sense of relaxation into my entire body. Try it for yourself, it feels great!
In addition to the 12 main acupuncture meridians that flow along the surface of the body, there are also deeper channels of energy in the body called the Extraordinary Vessels. You can understand the relationship between the primary acupuncture channels and the Extraordinary Vessels by thinking about what happens when it rains: first, small ditches become full – these are the collateral vessels that break off of the 12 main channels. Next, the reservoirs become full, which are the 12 primary channels. When they are full, they overflow into the Extraordinary Vessels, which are deep and vast lakes of energy within the body.
The Dai Mai, or Girdle Vessel, is one such Extraordinary Vessel. It is unique because it is the only channel - primary or extraordinary - that flows horizontally. The Dai Mai originates at a liver meridian point on the lateral ribs, descends to the waist line and then encircles the waist like a belt. In the back, it connects with a side branch of the kidney meridian.
The Dai Mai divides the body into two halves, and it has the essential function of keeping energy flowing effectively between those two halves. If the Du Mai is too tight, then energy can’t flow properly, causing pain, sluggishness or a feeling of heaviness through the whole body. It can also cut off energy circulation to the legs, causing pain, cold legs and tense outer leg muscles.
If the Dai Mai is slack or weak, then energy can’t rise properly, which can cause many different health problems. When the Dai Mai is too weak or loose, fluids and dampness can pool in the Lower Burner, causing symptoms such as difficult urination, cloudy urine and excessive vaginal discharge. A weak Dai Mai also means energy can’t flow properly into the channels of the legs, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy. When the Dai Mai is weak, it can’t adequately hold the kidney’s essence, which depletes many other Extraordinary Vessels. When the Dai Mai is slack, energy cannot rise through the body, leading to such problems as hernias, organ prolapse and recurrent miscarriages.
The Dai Mai is closely related to the liver and gallbladder energy systems, based on its trajectory and what points it overlaps with. It helps to regulate excessive energy in those systems. This makes it useful for treating symptoms such as temporal headaches, migraines, anger, gallbladder pain and chronic neck and shoulder tension.
Based on its pathway, the Dai Mai can also be used to effectively treat abdominal pain, low back pain and hip pain. It can be treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tai chi, qi gong and many other forms of exercise.
A study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies looked at the efficacy of acupuncture to control the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea. The study examined 60 women who were split into two different groups: the study group or the control group. The women in the study group received acupuncture for 15 days per month over a 90-day period.
The women in the control group did not receive acupuncture. At the end of the study, it was concluded the women receiving acupuncture experienced far fewer symptoms with less severity than those who did not receive acupuncture. Symptoms such as cramps, pain, mood changes, diarrhea and fatigue all were reported less frequently in the study group. This study indicates that acupuncture is a viable tool for treating dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea, also known as painful menstruation, is the most commonly reported gynecological problem in women who are menstruating. Dysmenorrhea is a subgroup of pelvic pain that can manifest as painful menstrual flow. The cause of dysmenorrhea is not specifically known by conventional medicine, but it has been determined that women suffering from this pain have increased levels of the hormones prostaglandin, oxytocin and vasopressin. These three hormones stimulate pain fibers in the uterus, leading to increased overall pain that can last for several hours or days.
To help determine if a woman is truly suffering from dysmenorrhea, a monthly journal is usually kept to note any similarities from one period to the next. Typically, dysmenorrhea is diagnosed through the use of a pelvic exam, blood and urine tests and possibly a pelvic ultrasound or x-rays. Conventional medicine treats dysmenorrhea with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and hormonal supplements, like oral contraceptives. But these are not without their side effects.
Eastern Medicine, however, considers the whole person when diagnosing and treating. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the patient holistically, considering all aspects, including the mind, the body and the environment of the person. Diagnosis of a person includes inspection and observance of the expressions, colors, appearance, smells and any idiosyncrasies that may be present.
TCM also looks at the patient’s tongue and pulses on both wrists. These two practices are the primary diagnostic tools used in TCM. The tongue and pulses can reveal quite a bit of information about what is going on internally. Different areas of the tongue correspond to body systems and energetic pathways. For example, the tip of the tongue can show irregularities related to the heart and the mind. The rear of the tongue can show irregularities related to the urinary bladder and kidneys and is associated with the emotion of fear. The pulse is also broken down into six locations, three on each side, all of which correspond to a body system and the related energetic pathway.
With dysmenorrhea, the liver energetic pathway is the most commonly involved. When the liver pathway is involved, it is most commonly due to emotional issues, rather than physical problems. However, over time, emotional issues such as anger, irritability and frustration can lead to physical problems in the body, including breast tenderness, large blood clots during menstruation, headaches and high blood pressure.
Acupuncture is one of the tools used by TCM practitioners to help bring balance back to the body. Studies have shown that women who receive regular acupuncture tend to have fewer symptoms of dysmenorrhea or their symptoms are less severe over time. This is because acupuncture helps decrease pain and inflammation, while also calming the mind and digestive tract. Many women who receive regular acupuncture treatments also take power naps while the needles are in place, which can help with the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
To treat dysmenorrhea, a licensed acupuncturist may use several tools, including acupuncture, herbs, nutrition and possibly even mind body practices like meditation. It all depends upon the severity of the condition. To find out more, contact a practitioner in your area.
Most acupuncture points are located on the 12 primary channels that flow along the surface of the body. However, there are eight Extraordinary Vessels that flow more deeply in the body, and are perhaps even more powerful that the 12 primary channels. The Extraordinary Vessels regulate the 12 channels, and are deep lakes of energy, which can feed the 12 primary channels when they are depleted.
Chong Mai is one of the most important Extraordinary Vessels, and some texts place it as the nexus of the whole Extraordinary Vessel network. It has numerous branches throughout the body and has even more physiological and energetic functions.
The Chong Mai, also called the Penetrating Vessel, originates in the space between the kidneys, along with Extraordinary Vessels Du Mai (Governing Vessel) and Ren Mai (Directing Vessel or Conception Vessel). Its internal branch descends through the uterus and emerges in the perineum. Its descending branch flows down the inner leg to the medial foot and big toe. Meanwhile, its abdominal branch flows upward through the abdomen, following the kidney meridian, and spreads out throughout the abdomen and chest. The head branch further extends through the throat, chin and eyes. While the spinal branch flows along with the Du Mai up the spine.
Based on its pathways alone, it is easy to see why the Chong Mai is such a powerful vessel, as it covers so many areas of the body and touches so many of the 12 primary meridians and organs.
The Chong Mai is called the “Sea of Blood,” making it incredibly important in treating gynecological conditions. It is said to transform kidney essence into menstrual blood, and plays a key role in maintaining healthy menstruation. Particularly concerned with adequate movement of blood throughout the body, it can be used to treat any sort of blood stasis pattern, including certain gynecological, circulatory, musculoskeletal and hormonal pathologies. The Chong Mai is particularly linked to heart blood, through its action of dispersing through the chest. Therefore, the Chong Mai is related to heart rhythm, cardiac function and emotional issues such as anxiety and panic attacks (as the spirit resides in the heart blood, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.)
Chong Mai helps to keep energy and blood moving throughout the whole body – when there is stagnation or pain, the Chong Mai isn’t functioning optimally. By maintaining flow throughout the primary channels, the Chong Mai also is closely tied to the correct directional flow of energy in each system. The Chong Mai also has a close relationship with the stomach, so for nausea as well as other stomach symptoms, treating the Chong Mai can help.
The Chong Mai doesn’t have any points that lie on it directly – rather, it is opened through certain points on the wrists and feet. The Chong Mai can thus be stimulated with acupuncture, but also with Chinese herbal medicine and techniques to direct energy such as Taiji and Qigong.
The kidneys are vital organs that allow our bodies to process waste and turn it into urine and filter our blood of toxins before it gets back to the heart. The kidneys also maintain our overall fluid balance and create hormones that regulate blood pressure, support bone health and produce red blood cells. To support your kidneys, it’s beneficial to stay plenty hydrated and avoid extra salt in your food.
Jam-packed with vitamins and healthy fats and low in sodium from all the fresh fruits and veggies, this smoothie is a kidney-boosting wonder!
Cranberries are often praised for their bladder-healthy benefits. They are also full of Vitamin C and fiber and have anti-inflammatory effects. Walnuts are a great source of healthy fat and also benefit the kidneys, according to traditional Chinese medicine. You can make this smoothie with water or almond milk for an extra calcium boost. Making sure you have enough calcium in your diet can help to prevent kidney stones. Lastly, ginger is always a great smoothie addition, making the flavor more dynamic and contributing to the smoothie’s anti-inflammatory effects.
To make, combine the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!
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