Spring is a time of renewal, regeneration, growth and energy. The plants and animals awaken from the slumber of the cold winter months. The vital nutrients that have been stored in the roots of the plants and the bodies of the animals, comes to the surface and life becomes more vibrant and fluid. Human beings are no different. Humans tend to stay indoors more during the winter months and sometimes pack on a little extra weight in the process. As the weather warms, humans become more gregarious and spend more time outside enjoying nature. This is just a natural process.
Therefore, it makes sense that what was observed by the ancient Chinese should still hold true today. Humans are supposed to take their cues from nature. As a species, humans should be more active during the warmer spring months. And to do this, we need proper nourishment. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is sometimes translated into energy. This Qi is the vital substance that keeps our bodies functioning until the day we die. To keep the Qi plentiful, we need to eat the proper foods at the proper times.
During the spring, we should be eating foods that have upward energies, such as green, sprouting vegetables. But we also need foods that will provide the extra nourishment needed for the increased amounts of activity that accompany the season of spring. This is where sweeter foods play a vital role. But be careful not to overdo it. Too much sweet can overload the body and make it sluggish.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, spring is the season of the liver and the gallbladder. These organs regulate a smooth flow of energy throughout the whole body. However, they are prone to stagnation because we do not take proper care of ourselves. This can manifest as anger, irritability, depression, insomnia and even pain. Stagnation can occur when people eat too many foods of poor quality that may be full of chemicals.
Here are some foods recommended to eat throughout the season of spring.
1. Green Foods: During spring, it is recommended to eat foods green in color and rich in chlorophyll that help accelerate rejuvenation of the liver. This includes things like spirulina, chlorella, parsley, wheat grass, kale, Swiss chard and collard greens.
2. Radishes: Pungent in flavor, radishes are perfect for the spring time. They help move liver Qi and open up the liver meridian.
3. Sour Citrus Fruits: Foods like lemons, limes and grapefruit are all good choices that help cut fats that may have been stored up in the body during the winter months, while also keeping the liver Qi moving smoothly.
4. Bitter Leafy Greens: Spring is the appropriate time for liver cleansing, which is what the bitter flavor does. So adding things like dandelion greens, arugula, radicchio, mustard greens and spinach will help tremendously.
5. Chicken: Ever heard the term “spring chicken”? Well this is the appropriate time of year to enjoy pasture-raised, locally grown chicken. And pairing chicken with some of the aforementioned foods can make for a very healthy and liver happy meal.
Contact us if you are curious about how to eat according to the seasons. We can guide you along your healing journey through the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine and nutritional counseling.
A study published by Europe PMC was used to compare the clinical effect of acupuncture plus herbs and Western Medicine with just a normal Western Medicine treatment in determining which is better for treatment of cirrhosis of the liver. The researchers divided the 80 participants into four groups. Two of the groups used both Eastern and Western Medicine, while the other two groups only used Western Medicine. After 30 days of treatment, the two groups that were treated with both Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine showed overall effectiveness rates that were much better than just Western Medicine alone. Those in the combined treatment groups had decreased symptoms at a much higher level. This study confirms Traditional Chinese Medicine can be a wonderful addition to the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver.
Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the human body quite differently than Western medicine does. In TCM, there are energetic pathways associated with specific organs in the body. When these pathways or meridians, and the energy flowing through them, are out of balance, then the body may become diseased.
In TCM, the liver and its corresponding meridian are responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”) or energy, blood and emotions. The liver is easily affected by excess stress and uncontrolled emotions. The liver is paired with the gallbladder and the two work very closely as a unit. When one is imbalanced, the other may display the symptoms. For instance, if a person is consistently stressed, this may cause the liver Qi to become blocked. When this happens, the gallbladder may become affected. It is not uncommon for people in high stress jobs to end up with gall stones. This happens because the liver becomes blocked and the emotions remain bottled up inside, which then manifests in pain and possibly stones.
Anger is the emotion commonly associated with the liver and gallbladder. If a person is frequently irritable, gets angered easily, has difficulty relaxing or letting things go, and is unreasonable, it is safe to guess that the liver Qi isn’t functioning properly. There are many methods of balancing liver Qi and returning proper energy flow throughout the body. Learning to stay calm and channel one’s anger appropriately is a good place to start. Practice some deep breathing, meditation, yoga or even take a walk. All of these things are great for balancing stagnant liver Qi.
Another way to smooth out liver qi is a technique known as dry brushing. Using a hairbrush with rounded bristles, one can lightly brush down along the liver energetic meridian, which runs along the inner thighs and calves, all the way down to the inside corner of the big toe. This can be done for about five minutes per leg and it gently stimulates the liver meridian, allowing the Qi to flow more freely and relaxing not only the liver, but the whole body.
Acupuncture is another great way to balance the liver energies. Regular acupuncture treatments help balance the body holistically and without any real side effects. Acupuncture can increase the flow of Qi throughout the body, remove blockages and stagnation and allow the liver to function properly, which will ultimately allow the body to detox more effectively.
Most people look forward to spring. It means new life, longer hours of daylight and depending on where one lives, warmer weather. This transition allows for the ability to get more done and spend more time outdoors, possibly shedding those extra pounds gained over the holidays and reconnecting with nature. But as with any seasonal change, there are organ systems that need specific attention. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine excels in helping make a smooth transition.
In TCM, the season of winter is associated with the element of water and it corresponds to the kidneys. The kidneys house our life force or jing and therefore, they must be constantly fed and replenished, as jing dissipates over time. Winter is the perfect time to do this. It is done by sleeping more, eating hearty, warming seasonal foods and avoiding excessive sweating or exercising.
The season of spring is associated with the element of wood and it corresponds to the liver. As everything around us blossoms in the spring, so too should we embrace this time. But the liver tends to be a bit of a bully for many people and it must be kept in check. Often the winter months leave some stagnant feelings, which can manifest in different areas like relationships, work or even our bodies. If there is frustration, physical pain or sadness, it may be a sign that energy is not flowing properly or optimally.
One way to make the transition from winter to spring easier is by engaging in some spring cleaning. Getting rid of some of the clutter that has built up during the winter months may help with the underlying frustration or sadness. Tossing out old clothing, magazines or just going through that one junk drawer we all have, will create an empty space that will then allow for growth throughout the spring season.
Eating according to the seasons is very important in TCM. As the weather gets warmer, most people gravitate towards healthier food options in an effort to lose some of the winter weight. But according to TCM, eating lighter, more natural foods actually gives the liver a chance to repair itself and that alone can help us feel more energetic and improve our clarity of thought. The immune system also functions better when excess sugar and dairy are removed.
Acupuncture is one of the tools in the TCM toolbox that can also help make the transition from winter to spring easier. Acupuncture can balance the body as it reacts to the changes in the weather and activity levels. Regular acupuncture treatments have also been shown to boost immunity. Spring can also cause flare ups associated with seasonal allergies and acupuncture treatments can help with the inflammation, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes that accompany the allergic reactions. But most of all, acupuncture can help regulate those emotional imbalances that are often common during this transitional period.
As with any health care regiment, always be sure to seek out a fully licensed and properly trained professional. By incorporating acupuncture into your life and utilizing the suggested tips given above, you may just have a more enjoyable metamorphosis from winter into spring.
A recent study published by the National Institute of Health looked at the effectiveness of treating chronic kidney disease through the use of acupuncture. Specifically, the researchers were looking at the effects on renal function, by evaluating the levels of serum creatinine and estimated glomerular filtration rate. The study was performed on 53 patients who suffered from chronic kidney disease. Each patient received acupuncture plus electroacupuncture once per week for 12 weeks. The study determined regular acupuncture treatments can lower creatinine levels and increase glomerular filtration rates, which ultimately decreases the symptoms of chronic kidney disease. This allows the patient to lead a more normal life.
Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, with an estimated 31 million people suffering from chronic kidney disease. Decreased kidney function can be either acute or chronic. Acute kidney injury can be caused by a sudden drop in blood flow to the kidneys, damage from medications, infections or a sudden blockage that prevents urine from flowing out of the kidneys. Chronic kidney damage can be caused by autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders, sexually transmitted diseases or even chronic urinary tract infections. Regardless of the cause, decreased kidney function can be deadly if not detected or left untreated.
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers multiple methods to help battle decreased kidney function. The kidneys function to filter and purify blood throughout the body. Inadequate blood flow to the kidneys can lead to a host of problems. The most prevalent form of TCM is acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow into areas lacking, thus allowing the transport of vital nutrients that keep the tissues healthy and functioning properly. Acupuncture can help relieve clinical symptoms of kidney disease, such as fatigue, back pain, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
According to TCM, the kidneys are the source of yin and yang. Yang is fire and yin is water. When the fire of yang is weak or the water of yin is not nourishing the body, then the kidney function must be addressed. The kidneys also house essence or jing in TCM. Jing is similar to our DNA. Since the kidneys are the most deep-seated of the internal organs, they are responsible for providing the tools to fulfill the deepest needs, such as survival and reproduction. While the kidneys house the deep reserves that fuel the body, they are also the organs damaged the most by stress. The body’s bones and marrow are governed by the kidneys in TCM. This means that even illnesses like osteoporosis can be related to the kidneys and as such, when treating a person with these ailments, the kidney meridian must always be included in the treatments.
Regular acupuncture treatments can greatly improve the health of the kidneys. But it is also important to keep stress levels at a minimum. This is where things like meditation, tai chi and qi gong come into play. All of these practices help calm the mind and relieve stress. It is also recommended fear be avoided or managed, as it can deplete the energy of the kidney meridian. Physically, the kidney meridian manifests in the lower back and knees. Therefore proper stretching and exercises to strengthen the back and leg muscles are extremely helpful in supporting overall kidney health. Certain foods can also help improve kidney health. In particular, dark foods like black beans, black walnuts, as well as seafood are all excellent kidney tonics.
All of the aforementioned items can be provided by a properly trained and fully licensed acupuncturist. So if you or somebody you know is suffering from decreased kidney function or kidney disease of some sort, it would be beneficial to contact me today. TCM coupled with Western medicine can help anybody suffering from these kinds of issues. The two modalities complement one another nicely and allow for the patient to lead a more normal life.
The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that produce multiple hormones. The adrenals are located directly above the kidneys and they are vital to human existence. The hormones produced by the adrenals are particularly important during times of stress. Adrenaline and naturally occurring steroids such as aldosterone and cortisol are made by the adrenals. These hormones help the body control blood sugar, burn fat, react to stressors and regulate the blood pressure. This makes the adrenals extremely important.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views things differently than Western medicine, but the adrenal glands are still an important part of the body. TCM treats the adrenal glands as part of the kidneys and the kidney energetic pathway. This means the adrenal glands are part of the water element. The kidney area is seen as a key role player that determines the quality of life in TCM. This is because the kidneys control the internal Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is considered the body’s life force.
The body is a complicated machine that has a very efficient self-regulating system. When the body is depleted of quality food or sleep, then it will not be able to function and carry out all the important functions. This is why many people experience eating binges or extreme fatigue accompanied by excessive sleep when they are under severe stress.
Everyday stress can drain the body of energy, nutritional reserves and Qi over time. When this occurs, the body may experience a breakdown, a drop in immunity or great fatigue. If this continues, adrenal fatigue may develop. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenal glands become weak and then produce insufficient amounts of the hormones needed for everyday life. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include low libido, food cravings, general malaise, emotional problems, weight gain, low immunity, difficulty concentrating and thyroid issues.
TCM offers a couple of possible solutions to treating weakened adrenal glands. Acupuncture treatments and moxibustion can greatly help the adrenals. Regular acupuncture treatments can strengthen the kidneys. Over time, the adrenals/kidneys will regain some of their Qi, thus helping the body to fuel and heal itself. Acupuncture is so effective because it helps reduce stress and it turns on the relaxation part of the nervous system. When the relaxation side of the nervous system is turned on, the heart rate will return to normal, digestion will improve and sleep will become deeper and more restful.
Moxibustion is another tool in the TCM toolbox that can help heal the adrenal glands. Moxibustion is the burning of a dried herb, specifically mugwort. The mugwort is placed on specific acupuncture points that are known to tonify or improve the Qi associated with the kidneys/adrenal glands. Both moxibustion and acupuncture can be performed frequently to help bring the body back into balance.
Incorporating healthy eating habits, regular exercise and restful sleep can also keep the adrenal glands performing well. But when we are stressed, many of the things we know are good for us, tend to get moved to the back burner. This is where getting regular acupuncture treatments can be very beneficial. So if excessive stress is a factor in your life, consider adding acupuncture treatments that can help you relax mentally and keep you healthy physically.
The major responsibility of the heart in TCM is housing the mind and controlling the shen. “Shen” can be seen as the overall healthiness of the mind. When you look at a healthy person in good spirits, you know how you can see that in their eyes? There is a certain bright clarity and sense of health that shines from within. We acupuncturists would say that this person has good shen.
Have you ever looked into a person’s eyes and noticed they seemed, well, not all together? Maybe their eyes were shifting from side to side, or maybe they just seemed cloudy and dull, as if they were not really in the present moment. Perhaps they seemed dazed or confused. This is poor shen. Sometimes mild depression or distraction can cause this shen disturbance; if very severe, it can manifest as mental illness, such as schizophrenia.
A Chinese Medicine professor once described the heart’s job as maintaining appropriate timing in life. He used an example of a person wearing a bathing suit. If this person wore the suit out to the pool in the summer, his heart was doing its job. But if he put the bathing suit on for a business meeting, it meant the heart was not allowing him to make the right choice for the circumstances. In short, the Heart is all about maintaining the correct behavior for specific situations. Think about behavior patterns you might see in the case of mental illness: inappropriate speech or tone of voice, making unsafe decisions, misjudging situations and social cues.
The heart is not about moderation; it is an organ of extremes, from wild joy to crushing lows. Extreme joy may seem like a positive thing, but this is the type of joy unsustainable and it burns out quickly. Think of manic-depression: manic highs, followed by deep depression. Both depression and anxiety are linked to the heart. ADHD is also considered to be a result of heart imbalance; the hyperactivity is a result of the heart not properly controlling the mind.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is the organ most closely linked to emotion. Think about all the terms we use every day to describe our state of mind: “heartsick,” “heartbroken,” “heartache” The heart is not the director of subtlety; the emotions it encompasses seem to always be on the far end of the spectrum, either extreme sadness or extreme joy.
The physical job of the heart in TCM is very close to what we know it to be in Western medicine. It controls the blood vessels, and also controls the sweat. If the heart is healthy, the heartbeat will be strong and regular, without palpitations. The blood pressure will be normal, the blood will circulate well, and the heart will settle back into its regular rhythm shortly after exertion. You may notice people with heart issues tend to sweat more than the average person. Excess sweating is a sign the heart needs to be tonified (built up and supported). Heat signs in general, such as facial flushing, might be a sign that the heart energy is out of balance. On the other end of the spectrum, if the energy is deficient, a person may present with a complexion that is pale or chalky.
The heart energy also controls the tongue. When this organ is working effectively, your tongue will work to help you taste your food, and to assist normal, clear speech. Stuttering, loss of words and other speech difficulties can result from a deficiency of the Heart. If someone talks incessantly, this can also point to an imbalance of the heart. If there is excess heat in the heart, it may show up as sores on the tongue, and the tip may be red or painful.
When the heart is balanced and healthy, it results in an easy transition into sleep. When we acupuncturists learn you have insomnia, we often treat the heart. Difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and sleep terrors can result when this organ is unhappy. If you are the type of person who lies in bed forever, unable to fall asleep because your mind is racing, acupuncture can help to settle the heart energy and give you a great night’s sleep.
2/28/2018 0 Comments
The common cold is something everybody deals with and there are a thousand different suggestions on how to avoid catching a cold. Everything from megadoses of vitamin C to increasing your sleep time. And while some of these are not bad ideas, there is not a lot of proof they can prevent a cold. Some people have stronger immune systems than others and this plays into how often they get sick. Also, there are many environmental factors to account for. And while nothing is going to work every time for every person, there are still ways a person can prepare for cold season.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for nearly 3,000 years and it utilizes many different tools to help people stay healthy. According to TCM theories, there are six causes of disease: wind, cold, summer heat, dryness, dampness and fire. The human body has to adapt to changes in these elements in order to remain healthy. The main cause of the common cold is wind and it is often associated with sudden or abnormal changes in the weather. Wind frequently combines with other forces to cause different types of illnesses. The most common are wind cold and wind heat.
Wind cold invasions cause the types of colds that are usually experienced during the snowy winter months. Wind heat invasions cause the types of colds that are commonly seen during the warmer months, when the seasons change from spring into summer and summer into fall.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been very successful in treating people who suffer from frequent colds. Every person has an immune system that usually fights off invasions of bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, when a person is under a lot of stress or doesn’t sleep well or doesn’t eat right, then that immune system can become compromised and a cold may develop. TCM emphasizes prevention through the use of acupuncture, herbal formulas and diet.
Regular acupuncture treatments can increase a person’s immunity, making it easier to fight off any foreign invaders. Herbs such as Angelica root is also frequently prescribed to rid the body of viruses. Andrographis or Chuan Xin Lian in Chinese is another herb that is frequently used because it reduces the severity of cold symptoms while strengthening the immune system. Forsythia fruit or Lian Qiao, is another herb that is used frequently to treat the common cold.
There are other things that can be done to prevent the common cold and they are not specific to TCM, but they are recommended. For instance, covering the back of the neck is very beneficial. The nape of the neck is thought to be the entry point for many viruses. Therefore, keeping this area covered up especially when it is windy, may help keep a person from getting sick. Also, it is recommended to eat according to the season. So as the weather gets colder, one should eat more warm and cooked foods.
One last thing that may be very beneficial in the prevention of colds is exercise. To keep energy flowing throughout the body, it is necessary to move. This is where incorporating a daily practice of tai chi or qi gong might be helpful. Both tai chi and qi gong are very easy to learn and the practices are low impact. Tai chi is even being used around the globe in senior homes to help the residents regain balance and keep them healthy, both mentally and physically.
Consider adding Traditional Chinese Medicine to the toolbox when a cold comes on. A licensed acupuncturist and herbalist may be very beneficial to your health and well-being. Lucky for you we have both... ;)
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that dates back nearly 4,000 years. Auricular acupuncture was first mentioned around 500 B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which is the equivalent of the Bible for TCM practitioners. However, the method in which auricular acupuncture is practiced today is actually based upon discoveries that occurred in France in the 1950s. Modern auricular acupuncture is based upon the work done by Dr. Paul Nogier of France.
Auricular acupuncture is the stimulation of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. These health conditions may be taking place anywhere throughout the body. The stimulation of these acupuncture points can be done manually, with an acupuncture needle, a laser, magnets or ear seeds. Regardless of the means of stimulation, auricular acupuncture can be a very powerful addition to regular acupuncture treatments.
The current form of auricular acupuncture came about after Dr. Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. When he inquired about the scar, he found out a local practitioner had been treating his patients for sciatica pain and she was cauterizing this specific area on the external ear to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted similar tests on his own patients and found their low back pain was also relieved. He tried using other means of stimulation as well, such as acupuncture needles and found it to be just as effective as cauterizing the area. So Dr. Nogier theorized if an area of the upper external ear is effective on treating low back pain, then perhaps other areas of the ear could treat other parts of the body. This led to the model now used when teaching auricular acupuncture. The ear is thought to represent the whole anatomical body. However, it is upside down in orientation, so the head is represented by the lower ear lobe, the feet are at the top of the ear and the rest of the body is in between. According to history, the Chinese actually adopted this model of auricular acupuncture in 1958.
Auricular acupuncture is considered a microsystem, in that the ear is like a microcosm of the whole body, meaning one part of the body, the ear in this instance, represents the whole body. Microsystems also appear on foot and hand reflexology, facial acupuncture and scalp acupuncture.
This system has been practiced in Asia, albeit in a different form, for over 2,000 years. Auricular acupuncture has been used in Europe for the past 40 to 50 years. And it is finally starting to take root in the United States. The U.S. military, over the past 5 to 10 years, has started utilizing auricular acupuncture for its battlefield personnel. This form of battlefield acupuncture is used to help soldiers deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) brought on by being in combat.
Since auricular acupuncture allows for every part of the external ear to connect through the microsystem to every part of the body, many conditions can be treated using only a few very tiny needles. Not only can PTSD be treated using auricular acupuncture, but also things like chronic pain, drug addiction, high blood pressure and nausea. And for those who are a little needle-shy, auricular acupuncture is a great way to treat them because they will never see the needles and they will still get the help they need to achieving health and wellness.
Everyone feels cold sometimes, but some people are perpetually chilled to a point where it interferes with their lives.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, there are two different kinds of cold in the body: full cold and empty cold. Full cold refers to a condition where there is an excess of cold-type energy in the body leading to a feeling of cold, and most likely other health problems, as well. The other kind of cold is empty cold. This means there is not an abundance of cold energy but rather a weakness of the warm fiery energy. When there isn’t enough warmth in the body, you will feel cold – not because the cold is so strong, but because you don’t have enough fire to balance it out.
As mentioned, a full cold condition refers to an over-abundance of cold type energy in the body. This is often an acute case and may relate to being outside on cold weather, or exposing a certain area of your body to cold water, cold wind or cold weather. Symptoms really depend on the location of the cold in the body.
For instance, you might feel really cold when you are coming down with a cold virus. From a TCM perspective, this is cold being trapped under the skin or in certain channels on the back of the neck. Other associated symptoms may be a stiff neck, a runny nose or an occipital headache.
Full cold can also lodge itself in the digestive system – this may happen following a meal of cold food, drinking cold beverages in a cold environment or following exposure to very cold temperatures. Full cold in the digestive system can lead to a feeling of cold, as well as painful cramping, diarrhea or loose stools and pain in the abdomen.
Another common site of a full-cold condition is the uterus. This can be from exposure to cold temperatures such as swimming in cold water or sitting on a cold surface. Certain gynecological procedures can also introduce cold into the uterus. This type of cold manifests as a feeling of cold, particularly with the period and very painful cramping before and during the period. There will likely also be clots and possible problems with fertility.
All of these full-cold conditions can be avoided by limiting exposure to cold environments and cold foods. Also introducing heat internally through teas, soups and warming herbs can help.
In TCM, health is a state of balance between yin and yang. Yin refers to the cool, watery, passive parts of our physiology, whereas yang refers to the hot, fiery, active parts. When the yang energy is weakened, there isn’t enough fire to balance out the cool and watery yin. This leads to a pervasive feeling of cold that is hard to shake, even with lots of blankets and warm drinks. This is someone who always feels chilled, no matter what. There may be other symptoms, as well, such as loose stools, a lack of energy or motivation, wanting to sleep all the time or fluid accumulation. Yang deficiency cold often requires use of herbal medicine, acupuncture, and moxa to treat appropriately.
While these are the main reasons for feeling cold, there are two other energetic imbalances that can also lead to feeling cold – Qi stagnation and blood deficiency. When Qi is stuck, circulation is impaired and heat can’t get to our extremities effectively. This kind of cold often manifests as very cold hands and feet. It can be helped by regular exercise, reducing stress and limiting heavy foods. A weakness in the blood energy of the body leads to a low-grade constant feeling of cold less severe than a yang deficiency cold, but still pervasive and consistent. It can be helped with getting enough sleep, reducing stressors and eating a well-balanced diet of blood-nourishing foods.
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