What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition believed to be linked to a lack of sunlight where the individual experiences mood changes and emotions similar to depression. SAD occurs mostly in the Fall and Winter months when there is less sunlight exposure.
It’s found that around 5 percent of people may experience SAD lasting 40% of the year (especially in areas with less sunlight such as the Pacific Northwest and other Northern regions), and it is more common in women than in men.
SYMPTOMS OF SAD
The most common symptom of SAD is a feeling of sadness or a depressed mood. Other symptoms may include any of the following:
• changes in appetite
• cravings for sweet & starchy foods
• fatigue and low energy
• depression/low mood
• social withdrawal
• decreased libido
• aches and pains
• Increased restlessness (such as pacing)
• difficulty focusing
Symptoms vary from person to person, but they can be severe enough to disrupt daily life. While SAD can be a frustrating condition, there are treatments and coping techniques available.
Here are some general guidelines that we use in TCM which can help structure the treatments:
GENERAL METHODS TO REDUCE SAD
Autoimmune diseases are a collective group of disorders that plague nearly 50 million people in the United States today. When a person suffers from an autoimmune disease it means their own immune system is attacking the body and altering or destroying the tissues. Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Conventional medicine can diagnose 100 different autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, the treatments available to people with these disorders is not as plentiful through conventional medicine. It typically involves the use of pharmaceuticals that can have side effects that are as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms of the disease itself. And even worse, many people are told they have no options. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine can be beneficial.
Acupuncture treatments are completely customizable. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners don’t treat based on the Western medical diagnosis. They attack the disease based on its diagnosis in Chinese medicine. This means that they not only want to treat the symptoms, but also get to the root of the problem. This is much different from Western medicine with its one-size-fits-all type of treatments. The ability to treat each person as an individual with their own unique diagnosis is why traditional Chinese medicine is so successful.
Many factors play into an autoimmune disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the body as a whole, allowing the patient to get a more complete treatment, usually with better results. Since autoimmune diseases are thought to be a deficiency in people’s immune-system responses, TCM practitioners will work to restore and rejuvenate the factors that are vital for good immunity. These things include blood and the energetic life force known as qi (pronounced “chee”). There can also be underlying genetic factors involved in autoimmune diseases, so acupuncturists may also work on building up a patients essence or jing. Research has shown that acupuncture causes responses in nerve cells, as well as in parts of the brain. By utilizing acupuncture, those suffering from an autoimmune disease can, over time, reprogram their brains and cells to perform as intended.
The use of electroacupuncture may prove useful for people suffering from autoimmune diseases too. Electroacupuncture emits mild electrical stimulation to acupuncture needles. These light shocks trigger the body to produce hormones that suppress pain and inflammation. This helps raise endorphins circulating in the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.
Chinese herbal formulas can also be very effective in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Chinese herbs have specific qualities that can help boost blood, qi and jing. When acupuncture and Chinese herbs are combined, the effects can be quite favorable. The herbs will actually compliment the acupuncture treatments by extending the effects of the needles. Many times this will shorten the number of treatments required, as the patient will start to see results sooner.
Many people dealing with autoimmune diseases also experience high levels of stress because of their disorder. It can be very stressful trying to lead a “normal” life with severe pain and other symptoms. Studies show acupuncture is very relaxing, and it helps reduce excess cortisol levels in the brain that contribute to chronic stress.
As autoimmune sufferers start to see improvements with acupuncture treatments and herbs, they may also be able to do things they couldn’t before, like exercise. Exercising not only improves blood flow, but it also increases immunity. Exercise also increases the amount of endorphins in the body. So just by receiving regular acupuncture treatments and herbal supplements, those suffering from autoimmune diseases may be able to lead a much more normal life with a lot less pain and suffering.
If you are dealing with some type of autoimmune disease, consider giving Traditional Chinese Medicine a chance. The outcomes may be life changing.
There's never been a time where health and wellness has been such an integral part of global conversations. People are now more interested in what they're eating and putting into their bodies. Food isn't just about eating, it's about creating a healthier, better life for yourself and your families.
We've previously written about '5 Immunity Boosting Recipes' that can help keep you and your loved ones safe during flu season and beyond. Today, we're going to be talking about an easy, accessible supplement that can give you the important nutrients and vitamins that you need to make your life better and brighter.
What is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is one of the many superfoods that have taken the world by storm over the past few years. It's the young grass of the common wheat plant Triticum aestivum, and unlike other superfoods that are grown in tropical climates can be grown in nearly every climate. Wheatgrass is typically harvested at 5 to 8 inches tall. Cut too early and it's too sweet and lacks the essential nutrients, too late and it's too bitter.
Like many superfoods, wheatgrass is filled to the brim with a host of different vitamins and nutrients. Wheatgrass contains several amino acids, which SF Gate reports are able to perform several functions in the body. These functions include protein synthesis, enzyme synthesis, and the growth and maintenance of cells. Out of 3,500 milligrams of wheatgrass, there are a whopping 700 milligrams of amino acids.
Healthline has put together an exhaustive list of research on wheatgrass's many benefits. According to researchers, wheatgrass may reduce cholesterol, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease. It can also aid in regulating blood sugar levels and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great supplement for protecting the body against infections and injuries. Some also posit that wheatgrass can even help kill cancer cells in test tube studies, although further research is needed on anti-cancer effects in humans.
How to Get Wheatgrass
Because wheatgrass is so easy to grow, it's easy to set up your own crop at home. Once it's grown to the appropriate height, you can cut it a few inches above the root, wash, and then dry them. You can then air dry or oven-dry it and then process it into powder, which can then be added to supplement your food or mix into drinks.
For convenience, you can also purchase wheatgrass capsules or powder. Both options are easy, convenient, and use a cold-drying process that Brightcore states preserves the healthy enzymes and vitamins found in the plant. They're also fairly safer — wheatgrass is typically consumed raw in order to make the most of the health benefits, but in some cases might contain harmful mold or bacteria.
Because wheatgrass is consumed raw, it's always best to check in with your doctor or nutritionist before taking it as a supplement. It's not always recommended for pregnant women or people with immune deficiencies, and people with gluten sensitivities should also be cautious. On the whole, however, it's an easy, convenient, and all around great choice for boosting your health.
If you feel like you experience seasons where you just can’t catch a break and continuously fall ill, there’s likely a few areas you may be shortcutting yourself and your immune system and a worse-than-usual flu season may not be, solely,where the blame should lie.
Below are 4 ways you could be weakening your immune system and how to combat that.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Not only is Vitamin D helpful in staving off or reducing your chances of getting cancer, it also guards against colds and flu as well as helping to combat risk of infection.
So how do you get more Vitamin D if you feel like you’re not getting enough? From the sun! Not only does it provide our bodies with an adequate amount, but it also helps to balance Qi which helps nourish our Kidney Yang. This helps to give our body warmth, thus keeping our tissues and organs functioning properly.
Not enough sun? Not to worry! There is a large variety of Vitamin D supplements that can be taken, but be sure to consult with us and your doctor before use.
Lacking In Sleep
The National Heart Blood and Lung Institute states that "during sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems, including an improper balance of Cytokines. Cytokines are inflammation and infection targeting proteins both produced and released during sleep. In short, skipping the shut eye can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and even get along with others.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following sleep range based on your age:
Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
Adults (18-64): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
Washing Your Hands
Washing your hands is key in preventing illness or infection. Not only does the act of washing your hands matter, but the duration of how long you’re washing them for is important too!
We have some disturbing statistics for you that will hopefully encourage you to take more time in the realm of hygiene. A few studies from the American Society of Microbiology and Michigan State University found the following:
One of the ways that your body heals itself is by producing T cells (a substance in your blood that fights infection). There’s a lot that’s impacted within your body when you become stressed. At a basic level, your body will release cortisol, which impairs T cell production and the ability to fight infection from foreign invaders. Being stressed directly impacts your immune system, so it’s important to find ways to relax!
Another way to combat stress is by using Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupressure points! Yes! Acupuncture can absolutely alleviate stress and anxiety!
By activating specific points known to address these problems, we can actively affect positive change in ones emotional and mental wellbeing! Here are a couple points that can be used:
Ear Shen Men -
This point, Heart 7, is also called Shen Men meaning Spirit Gate. This point reduces excesses that disturb the spirit and the balance of yin/yang. This point is so powerful that TCM practitioners often praise Shen Men as being the most calming and relaxing point in the body, while also being highly accessible.
Union Valley (LI 4)-
The point is known reduce stress, headaches, and neck pain. It’s also used to treat swelling and pain of the eye, nasal obstruction, sore throat and much more. This point is located on the back of the hand at the apex of the webbed triangle between the thumb and the index finger.
CV 17 -
Conception Vessel 17 (CV 17) is a great self-help point for many reasons. Conception Vessel 17 is easy to find, and matches the location for the heart chakra, at the center of the sternum. With this point you will find potent stress and anxiety relief, as well as an opening of the chest and relief of acid indigestion.
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If you’re ready to start living a healthier lifestyle with Acupuncture and TCM, don’t wait, reach out and schedule an appointment today!
We’re getting closer to the cold and flu season, and this year it’s a HOT topic for many of us with COVID-19 lurking. But fear not, there are things that you can do, right now, from the comfort of your home.
The following are different at-home Immune Optimizing recipes that you can make to help your body navigate this season of cold, flu and virus.
SINUS & NASAL IRRIGATION
Ingredients: 8 oz squeeze bottle, 1 tsp sea salt, water
Preparation: Warm the water and salt (ensure it’s not too warm or this may cause nasal irritation) Setting: Bend over your sink and look straight down at the sink basin while turning your head to a 45 degree angle. Tip the squeeze bottle into your nostril until the liquid runs through your sinuses and leaves the other nostril. (Search Neti Pot Instructions online for clearer instructions).
CAYENNE, HONEY & LEMON TEA
Ingredients: 1 whole lemon, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp honey, 3 ½ cups water
Preparation: Boil the above ingredients together for upwards of 10 minutes and strain when finished
Setting/Frequency: Drink this tea three times per day.
Ingredients: 1 head of cabbage, 2 cucumbers, 2 oranges and 1 cup of dandelion greens.
Preparation: Juice the above ingredients and pour into a glass
Setting/Frequency: Drink 3 glasses daily
ANTIOXIDANT-RICH NUT MIX
Ingredients: Pine nuts, goji Berries, blueberries (dried) and Brazil nuts
Preparation: Mix together each ingredient to taste preference
Setting/Frequency: Eat once daily as a snack, keep recommended calorie count in mind with consumption of this mixture.
Keep in mind that there are various ways you can take care of your body in order to bolster your immune health the best chance at fighting illnesses and functioning properly. These include avoiding smoking and taking drugs (that aren’t prescribed by a doctor), which are known for depleting the body's qi and weakens it. Additionally, keep your emotions in check, negative emotions, stress and anxiety can suppress immune function. Do your best to remain optimistic and keep a positive attitude with everything going on in the world around us. Start with the basics - exercise, eat right, sleep and stay hydrated to maintain your body’s balance.
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.