Mantra for Stress
Mantras can be powerful tools to keep you in the moment and while I don't employ them as often as I should, I believe in them and have used them to my advantage. One of my favorites is from my Poekoelan days of old. It is short, sweet, and applicable to most any situation:
If you're feeling overwhelmed in the moment or just feel like you need to center and focus, take a few minutes to close your eyes and repeat this mantra in your mind. Even 5-6 repetitions while breathing deep into your belly can make a world of difference in the middle of the busy day.
So breathe deep, and have a wonderful week!
One of my treatment specialties is Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture, also known as Facial Acupuncture, Cosmetic Acupuncture, or the "Acupuncture Facelift." I like to scan around every so often and see what's online about this specialty to gauge public opinion and, in addition to a picture of Kim Kardashian doing it recently (which I won't subject you too here, but did post on my Facebook page on July 28th), I found this great video from Dr. Oz:
Dr. Oz Show, Acupuncture Facelift
Its from last year but it is a very good presentation by a NY Acupuncturist, Dr. Tsai. By her point selection in the demo, she went through a similar training to mine if not the same one.
Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture really can make a difference in your appearance, especially in the realm of fine lines and wrinkles. I often see fine lines disappear and I'd say deep lines can reduce by 50-75% depending on your age and the line location.
Facial Acupuncture is something I really feel passionate about, which I did not expect when I went through certification in 2006. I thought of it as a trend I could capitalize on to help me pay back my (somewhat insurmountable) student loans, but it has become one of my most favorite treatments to do because it is so transformative.
There's something about seeing patients change visibly before my eyes that is magical. It even goes beyond the incredible healing that acupuncture in and of itself creates. I personally find facial acupuncture sessions even more deeply relaxing that other acupuncture sessions of every stripe and color.
One session can brighten your complexion, and when the subtle and lasting changes of facial acupuncture really take hold, I can see in my patient's posture that they feel more confident and seated in themselves. It is something really beautiful to behold. Facial acupuncture often becomes a way to help their outside appearance match how they feel inside a little better, and this gives them more confidence and presence.
The changes Facial Acupuncture creates can be close to Botox, but it takes time - at least 6 treatments at a frequency of 2x/week - to really make it stick. A standard course of treatment is 12 treatments total, the first six at a frequency of 2x/week and the next six at a frequency of once a week, to really get the best results. With regular maintenance after that, results really can last 2-5 years. The younger you are the longer the results generally last. I also find that if you stagger facial acupuncture tune up sessions with traditional facials, the results last even longer.
I think the ideal time to start a full series is late 30's or early 40's. This is when permanent lines really start to become noticeable to the individual - not necessarily to the "world at large" but we are always our own worst critics. I've seen excellent results for people in their 50's and early 60's and fair results for people in their late 60's and early 70's as well, so it is feasible to pursue at any age.
I do not love the term "Acupuncture Facelift," however, I think it is a little inaccurate. The effects of a facelift are very drastic and acupuncture techniques can never truly match that level of surgical intervention. I prefer the term Facial Rejuvenation or Cosmetic Acupuncture because I think it creates a more realistic expectation for the patient.
Call it what you will - the results do stand and are tried, tested, true and completely natural. It is the closest thing you can get to a natural facelift, so I suppose if that is what people want to call it I shouldn't complain. If you meet somebody interested in a natural or acupuncture facelift, however, send them my way and I can set them straight about what actually can and cannot be accomplished!
Health insurance changes are coming down the pipeline, and the new plans under the Health Care Act (aka "Obamacare") will be unveiled October 2013 and will go into effect January 2014. I find this is causing concern for some, and that the biggest concerns are about cost and a general sense that people don't know what is going to change.
The Oregon Insurance Division has put out a great brochure reviewing the basics of what is included in all new plans and how rate review (regulation) works in Oregon specifically. Click the button below to download or be linked to the brochure in PDF format.
Its actually very exciting, and most consumers are going to benefit from the new plans. If you are insured through a large employer it is highly unlikely anything is going to change aside from a few new plan inclusions. Small business employees and privately insured individuals will see the biggest changes in the realm of covered services and rates, but there is much more rate regulation and review in place so the rate changes should be minimal and generally beneficial to the consumer - especially to older Americans.
If you don't want to read the brochure, here are some of the more notable points listed:
The Rehabilitative and Preventative care are the bigger areas of change, though "preventative" means wellness exams by your PCP, not alternative medicine (3,000 years of history and clinical evidence for preventative medicine here on the Chinese Medicine side of things....helloooo) fyi.
Most plans in Oregon will have a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (acupuncture, naturopathic, chiropractic, maybe massage) "rider," or supplemental plan, that you can include for an additional premium, but CAM services are not part of the Oregon essential benefits list. They ARE part of the Washington State essential benefits list, so ALL PLANS ORIGINATING IN WASHING STATE WILL INCLUDE COVERAGE FOR ACUPUNCTURE starting January 1st 2014!
I am ridiculously excited about this, if you can't tell, but it is quite amazing that Washington has included CAM services in their essential benefits list and hopefully, as our focus in the US shifts from treating disease to treating "dis-ease" and heading problems off at the curve through preventative medicine and a wellness focus, this will become the norm that all states incorporate. Ah, an acupuncturist can dream...
If you want to review the full Oregon Insurance Division brochure, please click the button below. There is also a button for the Cover Oregon health exchange site where you can learn more about how the health exchange works, enter your household information to calculate if you are likely to be eligible for a subsidy (i.e. tax refund to help pay the cost of your insurance premium starting in 2014) and sign up for alerts to stay in the know about health care exchange happenings.
So click on, read up, and stay tuned here as well - I will be trying to disseminate information about health care act related changes, sign up dates and more through my blog as best I can. I also send out information via my eZine, so if you haven't signed up yet - its time!!
Until my next inspiration and installment,
Watch Eat, Fast and Live Longer with Michael Mosley - Preview on PBS. See more from Michael Mosley.
So I wasn't intending to watch Michael Mosley's documentary about fasting for health and wellness on OPB Wednesday night, but I found myself zonked out on the couch at just the right time. Despite my intention to catch up on So You Think You Can Dance (I'm mildly addicted, just mildly...) I was mesmerized and just had to check it out.
Let me start by saying that fasting is not a traditional part of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. It is a relatively common naturopathic technique, and can be part of an elimination diet, however, beyond being something gaining popularity for general health. It is not something to be undertaken without supervision if you have chronic health concerns, especially if you are diabetic, and is not appropriate while pregnant or nursing.
That said, theoretically being overly hungry is a bad thing from an energetic perspective. Hunger is a sign that your Spleen and Stomach Qi are waning and if they wane too far, your body pulls energy from the Kidney - your foundation and energetic reserve - to continue normal (energetic) body processes. Intermittent fasting involves shorter fasting times at more regular intervals, and I believe that this is more in line with Traditional Chinese Medicine theory since you don't go for such long periods of intense hunger.
When it comes to longevity, modern research is also clearly showing that calorie restricted diets can contribute to long life. Even more interesting is the recent research - which this documentary reviews and explores - about intermittent fasting for helping to regulate insulin levels (in non-diabetics), decrease cholesterol, control weight and improve health.
To clarify again, intermittent fasting is short term regular fasting - meaning not eating for 6-8 hours anywhere from two to four days a week on an alternating pattern i.e. "feed" one day and "fast" another. Seemingly, this has a similar effect as semi regular long-term fasting (meaning a 4 day fast every few months) and has comparable health effects to a daily calorie restricted diet.
If you think about it from a hunter-gatherer past perspective, it kind of makes sense that intermittent fasting would be somewhat natural to our bodies. If you follow the seasons and the herds, you are constantly going between periods of feast and famine - indeed, our body stores fat to prepare for leaner times - but in modern life, the average American with a home and job doesn't have times so lean that they are forced to go without, even for a 6-8 hour period, unless they are just too busy to eat. Fast food and the carb+meat+dairy heavy modern American diet is also very calorically dense - again not lending itself to "famine" like conditions even for a short while, without making a conscious effort to achieve them.
One of the statistics in this documentary that really caught me by surprise was about lifespan during the Great Depression. Did you know that life expectancy during the Great Depression increased by 6.2 years? Yeah, leaner times, longer lives. Who knew?
Another proponent of intermittent fasting is Walter Willett, MD, the Harvard Researcher and author of "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" which has long been one of my favorite books about general healthy eating. This book advocates for a diet of 1600 calories a day on average, but if you have a hard time maintaining that he recommends fasting one day a week to keep your weekly calories to a minimum. Not a bad plan, and definitely in line with this recent research.
All this said, however, the benefits of intermittent fasting do not mean that if you fast intermittently you can eat whatever you want and not exercise - this method is a technique to help you reach and maintain your health goals, not a way to avoid eating right, supplementing right and exercising. Indeed, regular fasting means your nutritional needs become that much more focused on the days that you do eat full meals, and make supplementation for health that much more important to help you ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need for a long and healthy life.
What I like best about the idea of intermittent fasting is that it feels moderate to me. You aren't doing anything extreme for any prolonged period of time - you're just taking a break from eating for a short duration - so there's a focused time delimited period of cravings that I think most anyone can overcome. Again, it doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want on "feed" days, but it does help balance out an extra piece of cake here and there, so that you don't feel like you have to maintain a "perfect" diet every day to be well; you just have to do the best you can do and indulge consciously.
For me? Intermittent fasting is the newest addition to my personal repertoire of activities for good health. Exercise is tough at the moment as a mom of two little ones, but I get just enough not to feel insane. Supplementation is a given and I participate in the same All Ways Wellness program I promote for my patients taking regular multivitamin, fish oil, green food, B vitamins and probiotic supplements and get acupuncture regularly to stay on track. Considering that ALL my grandparents who died of natural causes died of heart attack or stroke, to say heart disease is risk factor for me is an understatement. With a congenital heart murmur to boot, I can't afford to mess around with my heart health if I want to be here to see my children grow up some day, so if intermittent fasting can help give me a leg up on keeping my cholesterol down I'm all in.
My plan is to start with once a week for the next 4-6 weeks with a goal to increase to twice a week after that. More than twice a week would be difficult for me between the kids and work (my son won't eat if I'm not sitting at the table eating myself at this stage...), but evidence suggests that even two days a week can have a significant impact on your long term health, so here goes!
I'll check in here about my progress around the 6 week mark, so if you're interested be on the lookout for a "Rebecca Fasting Experiment Update" to come. Yesterday was my first day - I figured fasting at work when I'm busy would be easier than fasting at home - and it went great. Plenty of tea and water later, I felt like I sailed through the day and was almost hyper-productive. Wish me luck for next week folks!
Until next time,
Its National Psoriasis Awareness Month, hooray! And I've definitely found that people don't often realize that acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be an effective treatment for this condition. Did you know?
The video above doesn't get into the details of diagnosis and treatment, but it is a nice little into to what the beginnings of an acupuncture treatment for this condition might look like, and a good reminder about that hallmark of Chinese Medicine - syndrome differentiation. Namely, that everyone presents with their own unique set of signs and symptoms associated with any given condition and that each individual will therefore be treated individually and uniquely. There may be some general guidelines or points that are commonly recommended for any given illness, but since different people with the same illness will have different tongue and pulse pictures and other associated symptoms, their energetic diagnosis and treatment will therefore be unique.
But enough about that - Psoriasis is our topic of the day!
In Chinese Medicine all skin conditions have a connection to the Lung meridian, so they often go hand in hand with things like asthma, allergies and acne and thanks to the magic of energetic medicine, these things can therefore be treated concurrently. The Lungs also receive their energy from the Spleen (read "digestion") so digestive issues are also commonly seen in combination with psoriasis and other skin conditions. This means that diet and lifestyle are important factors to look at as part of an overall treatment plan.
Blood heat is also a common underlying energetic cause or factor, and when you add in the Spleen/digestive connection, hot and spicy foods are often found to be aggravating. Avoidance of these foods is recommended during a flare up in particular.
Also associated with psoriasis can be joint pain in the case of psoriatic arthritis and I have to say that this is a place where acupuncture really shines as a treatment. Electro acupuncture in particular has been well researched for the treatment of joint pain, especially knee pain, and when you combine the western scientifically verified endorphin and anti-inflammatory release associated with electro acupuncture, with the energetic benefits of meridian balancing associated with all acupuncture, the effect can be pretty amazing over time.
A course of treatment is recommended - as a natural method of health care acupuncture and Chinese Medicine work with the body's natural rhythms so it can take time to create change - but an average course of treatment in my clinic is 6 treatments over a 6 week period. Generally noticeable results begin to be seen after 2 treatments, if not immediately, but creating lasting change takes time. The longer you have suffered from a condition, the longer it can take to treat as well, so if you have suffered for many years you can expect several months of treatment before it is recommended to reassess success and re-evaluate your treatment plan. If your condition is chronic you may also want to plan regular acupuncture tune ups into your wellness plan every 4 to 6 weeks once your symptoms are under control to keep flare ups at bay.
I also always recommend topical castor oil to all of my patients with psoriasis and eczema. With the soothing emollients and the natural anti-inflammatory effect inherent to this compound, it is an excellent topical treatment for these kinds of skin conditions. Its a little sticky, so I generally recommend using it at night and letting it soak in while you sleep. After a couple weeks of daily use, the effect can be drastic from this alone.
If you're interested in learning more please don't hesitate to contact me or book an appointment or consultation online any time. Chinese Medicine has over 3,000 years of experience behind it in treating a variety of conditions, including many things you might not think of when you hear the word "acupuncture" so if you aren't sure what may or may not be helped by this natural, gentle and effective medicine, please don't hesitate to drop me a line and ask!
Until next time,
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.