According to Eastern Medicine thought, there are many paths up a mountain. In this article we will be discussing headaches and how both Eastern and Westerin medicine view headaches. The Western (aka Biomedical) approach is reductionist and relies on empirical observation and symptom differential. The Eastern approach is dynamic, holistic, personalized and also relies on a symptom differential. However, that process looks quite different from the conventional approach. Here we discuss both approaches and how they differ.
How does a Western Medicine Clinician View, Evaluate and Treat Headaches?
According to conventional western medicine, a headache is quite simply defined as the experience of pain in the upper neck, head or face. According to Western Medicine, the most common types of headaches are vascular (think migraines), or involve muscle tension and stress.
Primary and Secondary Type Headaches
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two classifications of headaches, primary and secondary. In primary headaches, there is no identifiable underlying disease process that is the cause. Primary headaches are most common and are categorized as migraines, migraines with aura, tension and cluster headaches. Here we will briefly discuss the two most common primary headaches, tension and migraine.
Primary headaches are mainly due to lifestyle factors that trigger the headache. Examples include stressful events, poor sleep, poor posture, specific foods, skipping meals, alcohol, hormonal fluctuations, certain smells or bright lights.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. These account for 90% of all headaches and are usually felt on both sides of the head and can affect the eyes, scalp, neck as well as the head. Tension headaches are most commonly caused by chronic stress or a stressful event.
Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying disease process or illness. The list of causes is extensive but includes such things as sinus infections, influenza, infections, dental problems, glaucoma, hangovers, etc....
A Western doctor will classify your headache as primary or secondary by assessing your symptoms and by doing a medical exam. If necessary, you may need blood tests or an image of the head or neck. However, primary-type headaches are most common and usually do not require more than an in-office exam.
Western Treatment of Headaches
Treatment is determined based on your diagnosis. However, most people with primary headaches will be given over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or NSAIDs like Ibuprofen.
If the headache is a migraine, treatment may include a prescription medication used specifically for migraines. The most likely scenario is that you will leave your clinician’s office with some advice to rest and a prescription of some kind.
How does an Eastern Medicine Doctor View, Evaluate and Treat Headaches?
According to Eastern Medicine Clinicians, a headache is a manifestation of a symptom, in this case pain, caused by an internal imbalance, known as the root cause. Just like in Western medicine where headaches are categorized as primary or secondary, in Eastern thought, the cause is also categorized but in a very different way. The clinician will assess whether the pain is due to an internal imbalance or due to an external influence like an infection.
Most patients who have headaches due to an internal balance will be assessed for the type of imbalance by checking the patient’s pulse, respiratory rate, color and quality of their complexion, their tongue color and coat. The patient will also be asked about the onset, time, location and character of the pain.
Through this lens, the clinician looks for a pattern unique to the individual to assess what type of imbalance is causing the headache. This differentiation establishes whether the person has imbalance from a state of excess or a state of deficiency somewhere in the body. This means the patient may have an accumulation of too much energy stuck in their body or it could mean they are low in energy and need some kind of tonifying treatment to relieve their headache.
Excess headaches include symptoms like sharp or throbbing pain in the temples or behind the eyes, a feeling of cotton or wool inside the head, sharp pain or feeling of heat in the head or face, feelings of nausea or chest oppression. Deficiency headaches are usually dull rather than sharp, involve the whole head, and are relieved by rest or eating.
In a nutshell, the Eastern clinician is looking for patterns unique to the individual. After a pattern has been established, a diagnosis can be made and that is how treatment is decided.
What are your treatment options in Eastern Medicine?
There are several options for treatment in the Eastern Medicine clinician’s toolbox. This may range from nutrition advice, Qi Gong, stretching, stress-reducing techniques, meditation or simple exercises.
The patient’s stress levels and environment will be assessed along with treatment of the underlying internal imbalance. The patient will have their history and current lifestyle considered in context with their symptoms.
The primary tools used inside the Eastern clinician’s office are high-quality traditional botanical medicines, acupuncture or acupressure. In many instances, a simple trip for an acupuncture treatment can eliminate a tension headache or migraine in one session. Other times, it takes a few treatments as the underlying pattern is addressed. Patients will often come in for preventative treatment so that they can remain headache-free.
For people with psoriasis, suffering from painful symptoms like inflamed, flaking and red skin is not pleasant. The chronic skin condition is due to an overactive immune system that can be triggered by a number of internal and external factors. Many Western treatments include steroid creams and oral medications that come with a slew of unwanted side effects.
Below are alternative treatments that are safe and natural and can help reduce symptoms of psoriasis, leading you back to better health.
1. Herbal Remedies
● Aloe Vera: The gel from this cactus plant can be used generously on your skin to reduce redness and scaling caused by psoriasis. Aloe vera can be found in almost any grocery or health store.
● Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is thought to have antiseptic properties. It can sooth irritated skin or scalp and can be applied daily.
● Turmeric: Turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Because of this, turmeric has been found to reduce psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flares. Turmeric can be found in pill form as well as powder form to be added to food.
● Dead Sea Salts: Soaking in a bath with Dead Sea salts or Epsom salts can remove scaly skin and reduce itching. It is recommended that you use warm water and stay in the tub for 15 minutes.
Mindfulness and meditation practices have been found to be effective in people suffering with chronic pain like psoriasis.
Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on the moment and ridding yourself of all external thoughts you may be having. This can lead to a state of relaxation and calmness, bringing balance to your body and mind.
Mindfulness, which is practiced in meditation, includes becoming completely aware of your body, externally and internally. This can be a seated meditation that is focused on awareness of mind, body and senses.
Not only is exercise important to maintain overall health and wellness, it is especially beneficial for people with psoriasis.
Because people with psoriasis have an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, regular exercise can prove very helpful.
Many find it hard to exercise because of the chronic pain associated with psoriasis. Exercise programs in the water prove to be an effective alternative that is easier on the body and still allows you to build endurance and strength.
Other simple ways to fit more exercise into your day include short walks, taking the stairs and stretching.
Seeing a licensed massage therapist can help reduce symptoms and pain. Massage promotes the function of muscle and connective tissue and can increase relaxation and circulation in the body.
Acupuncture has been proven to be effective in minimizing chronic pain in patients. Acupuncture takes a holistic approach with the body and symptoms you may be experiencing. By returning the body to its natural flow, acupuncture can help reduce the intensity of symptoms of psoriasis.
● Soak a towel in cold milk and apply to affected area to relieve itching.
● Add ½ cup ground oatmeal into a warm bath.
● Rub the affected area with the inner side of a banana peel.
● Apply aloe vera gel to affected area.
● Cut several fresh willow branches into 3-inch stems and place in a pot with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until water becomes black. Wash affected areas with the water three times daily.
● Slice 15 water chestnuts and soak in 3 oz. of rice vinegar crush and store in a sealed jar. Apply the paste to affected area and cover with gauze. Change daily.
With autumn approaching and the beginning of the yin cycle, the energy of plants is moving down into their roots, helping the body become aware of the energy of the season. This season is a time for the body to begin gathering energy for the colder months to come.
The lungs and large intestine are the organs associated with fall. The lungs are responsible for the circulation of Qi (the body’s natural flow and circulation), and are also very susceptible to cold and illness. For this reason, it is important to stay healthy and warm during the season. If the Qi circulation is weakened, muscles will not be able to warm the body properly.
Vegetables of autumn like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale can help purify and protect your body against free radicals. These color-rich vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, which then turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for our immune system, especially as the cold and flu season rolls in. These vegetables can also strengthen your lungs and large intestine to fight illness.
Vegetables to cook with:
● winter squash
● turnip greens
Autumn weather becomes more yin, calling for warming dishes. Foods to cook that are in harmony with the season include more sour foods, as well as foods rich in protein and fats.
Sour/pungent foods to cook with:
● sourdough bread
● adzuki beans
● rosehip tea
● horseradishSome find it hard to let go of summer, with the longer days and warm air transitioning into the crisp and shorter days of fall. Acupuncture not only helps the body physically, but mentally as well. Fall is a great time to see an acupuncturist as your body and mind adapt to the changing of the season.
Give your acupuncturist a visit to prepare for the new season ahead and to stay in good health!
“Practical Chinese Medicine” Penelope Ody
A Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) doctor and a western medical doctor perceive the body somewhat differently. Each organ according to TCM has its own set of functions. Some overlap with the western functions, and some are entirely different.
One thing that is important to think about, is that when an acupuncturist talks about your organs, they are talking about them in terms of the way they were trained to make a diagnosis. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something biologically wrong. It means that according to the ways an acupuncturist was trained, that particular organ could be part of the overall pattern that is leading to specific symptoms and signs.
According to TCM, one of the main functions of the spleen is to transform and transport energy and fluids from food. When your spleen is healthy it sends excess fluid up to the lungs, where it will be vaporized and expelled.
The energy of the stomach is descending in nature so excess fluid and food waste will be sent downwards to the excretion organs. If stomach energies rebel, the energy moves upwards instead of downwards, causing nausea, vomiting and excess gas.
When the energy of the spleen is weak instead of ascending the Qi (or vital life source according to TCM) sinks downwards resulting in lethargy, excess dampness and phlegm - and in extreme cases, prolapse of organs.
Stress, overactive liver, illness and pregnancy are all potential causes for stomach Qi ascending.
Things like overthinking, excessive work habits, and even eating while working, are potential causes of spleen Qi sinking.
Stomach 36 - Zusanli
The stomach and spleen are also responsible for powering the muscles. So, to maintain physical strength, I will often use acupuncture point Stomach 36 in the treatment room!
It’s just below your knee. It’s known to treat digestive issues, it can support your immune health and even expel “pathogens” from the body. I had a teacher in acupuncture school who used to burn stomach 36, he would take moxa herb and actually burn and scar the acupuncture point Stomach 36 (ST-36) every winter so that the point is continuously activated, fighting off pathogens all through the cold and flu season. ST-36 is also great for fatigue.
Zusanli is the chinese name for this point, the translation means ‘leg three miles’. If you're running and you've run out of muscle power you can massage point ST-36 and get another three miles. This point is all around an amazing point for overall well being.
When you’re feeling tired and fatigued - even if you have brain fog, another acupuncture point Spleen 3 (SP-3). This point can be used in conjunction with ST-36.
An acupuncturists super-simple guide to keep your spleen strong
Avoid damp, sugary, greasy, cold foods. Eat warm, dry foods, herbs, warm drinks. You do not need to worry about this too much in the summertime, but always be mindful about warming the digestion and stoking the digestive fire. You don't want to dilute the digestive fire by adding too much yin, water, and too much dampness. Your digestion is the first point of generation of your physical chi, for your body, for your mind, for your life and for your dreams.
You may also have an imbalance of these acupuncture organ systems if you answer yest to any of hte questions below:
● Do you get sweet cravings?
● Have you got any food insensitivities?
● Do you get bloated after meals?
● Do you find it difficult to get up in the morning?
● Do you have physical or mental fatigue?
● Do you get loose stools?
If you have at least two or three of the above I would highly recommend the suggestions above - and a visit to your acupuncturist. Give us a call and we’ll see if we can strengthen that spleen of yours.
● Rots and ripens food
● Origin of fluids
● Produce blood from the energy of your food - lack of energy can be a sign that your spleen is out of balance.
● Controls the blood vessels, and it’s been thought to prevent hemorrhage and bruising - If you bruise easily it's a sign that your spleen is a little bit weak.
● Helps prevent your organs “upright”, and from prolapsing - prolase according to TCM is thought to stem from a spleen disturbance.
● Houses clear thinking - so if your spleen is out of balance, your thoughts may not be as clear and your thinking muddled.
● control of muscles - weak muscles and atrophy can be a reflection of an imbalance.
Balancing a busy schedule can be stressful, especially if there’s no time to relax and decompress. While burying yourself in work may seem normal, it can lead to burnout and unfulfillment. That’s why self care should be an important part of your daily routine, no matter how busy you are. Practicing self care doesn’t need to be time consuming or expensive, and there are simple ways to incorporate it into your daily routine. Here are a few ways to start.
An important part of self care is focusing on your needs, which means setting personal boundaries so you don’t overextend yourself. While work and other professional obligations are mandatory, what additional tasks take up your time? Are there unnecessary duties you can eliminate from your schedule? The answer is probably yes.
Although you might want to do everything, learn how to say no to certain social events, favors, and commitments. Think about your personal needs and what will make you feel best. Determine if these extra tasks will benefit you or give you satisfaction, and if not, kindly decline them to make more time for yourself. Setting social boundaries will free up your busy schedule and allow you to be more present for the events that really matter.
Something as simple as reducing the clutter around your home can do wonders for your mental health. The state of your home can reflect how you feel, so if your home or workspace is unorganized, you might feel the same way. Although your home might be messy because you’re too busy, getting organized doesn’t doesn’t need to be a huge hassle.
Organizing your space might mean making your bed each morning, putting away laundry, or simply picking up trash around the house. Tidying up your home a little bit each day can make the stress and clutter in your life seem more manageable and create a positive tone for the day. The visual representation of organization and cleanliness can also make you feel more accomplished and relieve additional stress.
Along with physically cleaning your space, organizing your thoughts can also be an effective way to destress and practice self care. Throughout the day, try to mentally check in with yourself to assess how you’re feeling. If you feel tired or burnt out, it’s probably time to take a break and decompress. Another way to organize your thoughts is to start journaling. Writing down your feelings, both positive and negative, can put things into perspective and allow you to self-reflect.
Exercise is known for reducing stress and boosting your mood which is why it’s one of the best ways to practice self care. Working out can also give you more energy, meaning it can help you be more productive with your busy schedule.
Although working out may seem time consuming, there are easy ways to incorporate physical activity into your schedule. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare each day, you can take a quick walk to clear your mind and stretch your legs. However, if you prefer more traditional workouts, try going to fitness classes or doing home workouts.
Luckily, there are more ways than ever to stay active from home, and home workouts are much easier to incorporate into a hectic schedule since there’s no commute. If you don’t have a workout space, consider creating a home gym so you can choose what machines, weights, and equipment work best for your needs. Building a custom workout space also allows you to create a meditation or yoga area and include any other features that’ll help you make the most of your self care time. While this may seem like a large project, this space is an investment in you, your health, and your home. If you’re not sure where to start, research ways to utilize your home’s equity for financial assistance and examine areas of your home to renovate. Home equity loans are especially helpful for this type of upgrade as you can deduct the interest when used for home improvements and can use the money however you want.
Most people think they don’t have enough time for self care, but you just need to make time for it as you would any other priority in your life. Dedicate time for yourself each week and make it a commitment. Treat your self care time as you would a meeting or appointment and schedule it into your calendar to keep you organized and accountable.
Even if you only have 15 – 30 minutes each day, start there and work your way up. Remember, it’s better to practice self care everyday in short amounts rather than once in a while for an extended period of time. Doing something special for yourself frequently will help make self care a habit, similar to brushing your teeth each morning. Adding this time in gradually will also prevent your self care from feeling like a chore or another stressful task on your to-do list. Once you get used to doing this regularly, you can start including more time into your schedule.
When you get a headache what does it feel like? Is it dull, nagging, aching and lasts all day? Is it sharp, stabbing, throbbing and short-lived?
Where is your pain located? Does it feel like a tight headband going from your forehead to the back of your head? Maybe into your neck? Is it on one side? Behind your eyes? Do you feel it at your temples or near your jawline?
Do you feel better when you lie down in a dark room and recuperate? Does eating a snack or a meal help? Conversely, do you feel better when you get out and take a walk or does eating a greasy meal make your headache worse or even bring it on?
In Eastern Medicine, the answers to these questions help to define and diagnose the type of headache you experience based on pain, location and whether your headache is a manifestation of a deficient or excess state.
Excess vs Deficiency
Excess conditions tend to be more intense and acute while deficient conditions tend to be more dull, nagging and chronic. If your symptoms are better with rest, your headache is likely due to deficiency because you are easily depleted. If your symptoms are better with exercise or movement, your headaches are likely due to an excess state and you need to burn off energy.
In Eastern Medicine, when we diagnose a deficient state we tonify or nourish the imbalance, in an excess state we quell or calm the overactivity. We have several tools we use to bring the body back to balance. The main tools are acupuncture, nutrition and botanicals.
One of the best ways to get immediate relief from a headache is to find a qualified, licensed acupuncturist in your area and get acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is when tiny needles are inserted at specific locations that correspond to your pain. Many acupuncturists specialize in headaches and love treating them because acupuncture often provides on-the-spot relief and people leave the acupuncturist’s office headache-free. Regular acupuncture can also prevent headaches from occurring in the first place and many people end up getting regular treatments once or twice a month to keep their headaches completely away.
Eastern medicine has been treating headaches with nutritional recommendations for thousands of years. First, it is good to identify if you are more prone to a stress or tension headache if you have missed meals or are feeling hungry. This type of headache means there is a deficiency occurring and the body needs energy in order to nourish itself and prevent a headache.
Many people are busy at work or on their computer focusing for hours and they are not paying attention to their hunger. This is a sign of a deficient-type headache.
It is also possible to experience a headache after eating foods that do not agree with your constitution. For example, if your headache pain comes with brain fog or muzzy feeling in the head, it is best to avoid sugary or fried foods and aim for healthy options.
Acupuncturists are also trained in what foods are best for what type of headache you are experiencing and can counsel you on how to change your meals to prevent headaches.
Chinese Medicinals (Botanicals)
There are many formulas in the vast Chinese Medicinal Pharmacy that are used for headaches. A licensed acupuncturist has undergone many years of training in this pharmacopoeia and can prescribe a formula that will bring homeostasis to an excess or deficient constitution. These formulas are often individualized to each person’s constitution with great precision or there are common formulas used that are also very effective.
Late Summer is a time of transition, when we move from the most Yang time of the year to the beginning of Yin time. The earth is preparing for its next season. The 2-3 weeks between each season is the time associated with the Earth element, and a time to ‘return to center’ to prepare for the shift. In Chinese Medicine, the Earth element correlates with the Spleen and Stomach, which are considered primarily digestive organs. Digestion, as a functional concept, represents the central axis around which everything else revolves.
We should strive for optimal digestion all year round, but these transitional times between seasons are fantastic oppurtunities to strengthen this ‘central axis’ by slowing down and simplifying our diet while making sure it’s as nutritious as possible. The spleen has some requests regarding what we eat. First, keep things simple. It is important to shed complexity and avoid extremes. Find your goldilox zone when it comes to taste and temperature and quantity of food. Not too hot, not too cold, not too sweet, not too spicy etc. and not too much food at once. Stop eating before you’re full.
In that goldilox zone we find that warm foods are preferable. This helps to maintain that simple balance of temperature but also assists the spleen qi in maintaining the digestive fire. Excessively cold food (like ice cold drinks or ice cream) can extinguish that essential fire and must be avoided especially during the season change. Start to transition to cooked foods if you’ve been doing more raw fruits and veggies in the summer. Warm ginger tea, bone broth and mild spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can help gently fan the flames of dying embers.
The other threat to our digestive fire are foods that are considered ‘damp’ in nature. Greasy/fried foods, refined sugars, and excess dairy and gluten can slow down metabolism, weigh down the body energetically and eventually physically. We can see the down-river result of too much damp foods manifest in the body as weight gain, sore joints, a foggy-head, loose stools, and issues like candida and edema. Keep the spleen happy and the digestive fire burning with warm, ‘dry’ foods.
The spleen also likes sweet flavors, but again, we keep balance in mind. Think slightly sweet and naturally sweet. Foods that fit the bill are fruits like figs, plums, and apples, vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnips and squash. Rice, potatoes and mushrooms are considered slightly sweet as well (along with whole grains which are okay for those without gluten sensitivities). Lentils and legumes can be added in for their protein and fiber which help to regulate the blood sugar. Avoid fruit juices, as they lack the fiber to balance the sugar.
To round out your meals, feel free to add some (free-range organic when possible) meat, nuts and seeds and leafy greens for balance. Soups and stews are a great way to bring together a few simple ingredients in a spleen-friendly way. Just don’t forget: slow, simple, balanced, warm, dry, and slightly sweet.
How we eat is often just as important as what we eat. In our fast-paced society, everything feels rushed. Yet it is so important to take the time to generate better awareness around mealtime. In simple terms: CHEW your food. Take a moment before eating to look at your food, appreciate it, and then ..enjoy the taste...slowly. Ask your body to receive it with love, while minimizing potentially stressful distractions. Make it a meditation. Or at least a moment of gratitude.
Follow these basic principles of nourishment during times of seasonal change and you’ll find yourself transitioning with ease.
Come in for a late summer tune-up with acupuncture to better harmonize with the transitional season, strengthen digestion and support your body through seasonal changes. We’re here for you!
Western medicine is catching up now on the fact that there's a link between the gut and the brain. Chinese medicine has known this for thousands of years. Western thinking can actually complement Chinese medicine and vice versa.
Patients with a lot of anxiety and worry can be treated with vitamins, particularly B vitamins. When the Earth element organs of the Stomach and Spleen are weak we crave sugar more. Sugar will compound this problem causing further weakness and an accumulation of dampness. Sugar can interfere with the absorption of certain vitamins - especially B-vitamins which are important for cognitive function and mental health.
Yi, or thought, is the spirit of the spleen. This is why overthinking can weaken the spleen and a weakened spleen can lead to overthinking. As an acupuncturist and meditation teacher I hear patients telling me every day, "I can't meditate because I can't switch my mind off or I've got too many thoughts." No amount of trying to control your thinking is going to work. Strengthening the Spleen will help and there are some ways you can:
● Eat your biggest meal between 7 and 11am.
● Avoid damp, sugary, cold, raw and greasy foods.
● Eat more warming foods, herbs like ginger, plenty of warming soups, cooked vegetables - particularly orange vegetables are really, really, really nourishing for the spleen. And barley, rice and ginger tea etc.
Overthinking is the mental aspect and worry is the emotional aspect of a weakened spleen. Worry actually knots the chi of the stomach and spleen. So if you're suffering right now from overthinking and worry, it's a reflection of the state of your body, the way the chi is moving in your body, in your digestive system and the way your digestive system is transforming energy for other systems. If the emotions are not being heard then that can cause a lot of issues, physically and mentally as well.
90% of what I see coming into the treatment room is emotional in nature, compounded stuck emotion and then all the overthinking and the stories on top that have come from trying to work out why you are feeling that way. Having acupuncture and giving yourself space and time to process your emotions in a healthy way is the best treatment for this. The earth element also thrives on a good routine, eating at regular times, going to bed, getting up at regular times is important. Ideally you want to be going to bed as early as possible, waking up as early as possible and eating your main meal as early as possible for energy, for immunity, for lifelong strong earth element and clarity of mind.
In five element theory we talk about the five elements. The wood element, the fire element, the earth element, the metal and the water. Each person has their own constitutional type. You will fall into one of those constitutional types as your main ‘imbalance’. What this means is a congenital imbalance. When you are born, one of these five elements will be constitutionally weaker within you. The way your acupuncturist diagnoses which element you're most likely to be is through observing your facial color, the sound of your voice. There's a vibe to you, a certain emotion that you give off. You also give off a vague fragrance. These are all ways that we can instantly diagnose your element when you walk into the treatment room.
Then we take a detailed case history in the initial consultation. We back up our diagnosis through finding out about your past, because how you began your life and what life was like for you in the early years will largely determine the potential state of your health for the rest of your life. We can get real clues as to what's going on in your current diagnosis by understanding what life was like for you growing up. A lot of your imbalances begin very early in life.
Your earth element is what we're talking about today, the organs of the Stomach and Spleen fall into the category of the earth element. If you were born with a constitutionally weaker earth element then you will notice issues with digestion, issues with thinking and worry, pathological overthinking and worry that can actually turn into OCD and obsessions. A lot of people do overthink and worry, but for an Earth constitution, overthinking and worry becomes disturbing to one’s peace of mind.
Weak digestive organs, namely the stomach and spleen, can actually lead to overthinking and worry. Your stomach and spleen are responsible not just for digesting food and transforming food into Qi, blood, fluids, essences that your body will use for all of its functions, but it's also for digesting information. When we take in a lot of information, or when doing mental work of any kind, it’s a good idea not to eat at the same time as this can overtax the digestive organs and over time weaken them further.
The virtue of the earth element is integrity. Integrity, balance and nourishment. Integrity in the body means the ability to hold things in their correct place, the organs of the earth element help to prevent other organs from prolapsing.
This element is all about getting needs met and maintaining the proper balance between giving and receiving. The earth element relates to a maternal or mothering energy. Receiving mothering and also giving mothering. Balanced masculine and feminine energies.
Color, Fragrance, Flavor and Dampness.
The color that is associated with the Earth element and Spleen is yellow, like the golden color of ripe wheat. If you're an earth element type you'll most likely have a slight yellow tinge to your skin, particularly around the corners of your mouth and corners of your eyes. This is why it is a good idea to NOT wear makeup to your first acupuncture appointment. Acupuncturists are trained to notice small signals of imbalance within the body. Showing up with a clean face will allow your acupuncturist to get a clear glimpse at your facial color.
The climate that's associated with the earth element is dampness. When the earth element is out of balance in our bodies, the internal climate becomes damp. One of the functions of the stomach and spleen is to transform dampness and to keep everything in balance. If the spleen is weak it won't be able to do that efficiently. Cold and dampness in the environment will affect your spleen. If you've got a weak spleen anyway you'll feel generally more cold and you'll have more dampness internally. Cold and damp environments will penetrate through your skin and actually really increase your internal damp state. Stay as warm and dry as possible, as often as you can.
If you experience a lot of dampness you'll find you have excess water retention, puffiness and you possibly produce a lot of mucus. As a result of this you may find that you catch more colds and that they linger. These are all signs of a weak spleen that's not transforming the dampness and the mucus very well in your body.
The fragrance which resonates with the Earth element is sweet, and the flavor is also sweet. Each of the elements has a flavor associated with it, if your earth element is out of balance you might crave a lot of sweet things. However, when you consume a lot of sweet things it can weaken the Spleen, therefore creating even more dampness. This compounded damp environment within the body will eventually increase the amount of water retention within the body, and can even make one appear ‘overweight’. This is one of the reasons Earth constituents typically struggle to lose weight. Calorie controlled diets are not the answer and can potentially create unnecessary suffering.
If you are curious about your constitutional element, give me a call. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) offer unique perspectives on holistic healing and can effectively treat a vast array of conditions. Don’t wait, schedule your appointment today.
The idea that “people are living longer” is a common refrain, and one that more or less represents a consistent trend over time. The idea that people are living better and longer, however, is a little bit more modern. Only in the past decade or two have we really started to look at the years past middle age as an exciting new chapter, as opposed to a gradual progression into “old age.”
As a piece on the Chicago Tribune discussed back in 2010, the consensus seems to be that “60 is the new 40.” It’s a number that once struck people as “senior,” but which now seems merely like another stage of adulthood — and one that can be filled with excitement, opportunity, and new things. For things to work out this way however — to truly live well after the age of 60 — there are some proactive steps one should take both approaching and following the milestone.
Take Advantage of Medical Care
We’ll start with the most practical aspect of living well after 60, which is taking advantage of available, federal healthcare. Once you turn 65 in particular — and possibly earlier depending on specific conditions — you’re eligible to enroll in Medicare. This program can be set up in different ways with slightly varying coverage, but overall it’s fairly comprehensive care. A handy breakdown of Medicare variations on Kelsey Care Advantage does a nice job of conveying that hospital visits (under Plan A) and outpatient care (under Plan B) are always covered. Versions of Medicare will also help with prescription costs and medical equipment. But the bottom line is, this is affordable healthcare to enroll in once you’re in your mid-60s, and doing so certainly qualifies as a step toward healthy and happy living as you age.
Figure Out Your Self-Care Routine
Making sure you’re insured for basic medical coverage and health events is vital. It is also important, however, to make sure you have ways of taking care of yourself on more of a day-to-day basis. Indeed, some would argue that establishing a routine to maintain your personal wellness is ultimately the most important aspect of living well as you age. Unlike with Medicare however, there isn’t a sign-up process in this case! Rather, as we conveyed in a post on ‘The Secret to Easy and Affordable Self-Care’, the process is thoroughly individual. It involves everything from finding a nutritious diet you can stick to, to establishing good work/life balance, to finding ways to relax and rest when you need to. But the specific routine is up to you to figure out.
Determine Sustainable Exercise Habits
In addition to working out a total self-care routine, it’s also in your best interest to establish reliable exercise habits. When you’re young, you can exercise in any number of ways. You may try new sports, take classes, vary your cardio routine, and so on — all because you have the time, energy, and physical health to do so. As you grow older though, you may be at least somewhat more limited in your options. In some cases this can lead people to stop exercising regularly altogether. Naturally though, this is detrimental to wellness! To avoid the problem, it’s important to figure out which exercise habits you enjoy that you can sustain past 60 (when those knees might not quite be what they used to be). Whether that means a walking regimen, hopping on a rowing machine in your basement, or playing golf or tennis a few times a week is up to you. The point ultimately, is finding a long-term, sustainable way to maintain physical condition.
Work on Mental Wellbeing
Every bit as important as developing habits to maintain physical health is finding ways to ensure mental wellbeing. To some extent, that’s what living well after the age of 60 all comes down to! But here we’re specifically talking about developing ways to keep your mind clear, keep stress at bay, and maintain alertness. It takes time for most people to figure out a routine that accomplishes these goals. Once you do though, you’ll have a means of working on mental health on a daily basis — which can only be good for your long-term wellbeing.
Read & Learn
Another way to work on mental wellbeing in particular is to develop a habit of reading and learning new things. There is some evidence that such a habit can actually benefit you in a biological sense. Per an article on The Guardian back in 2016, reading books leads to a “survival advantage,” with people who read books for just 30 minutes a day actually living longer on average than those who don’t read. Even setting this evidence aside though, reading can help you to live well as you age. Books represent new knowledge and experience; they keep the mind active; they’re even said to keep memory sharp. All things considered, establishing a reading habit makes for a significant step toward maintaining a strong and capable mind, and living better as a result.
All of these tips amount to processes. Make them all part of your routine though, and you’ll be well on your way to developing a lifestyle that will keep you healthy and happy into your 60s and beyond.
We hope this has been helpful, and that you’ll continue to come to All Ways Well with your wellness needs!
Written by: Amanda Cross
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.