Spring is the season of growth, regeneration, increased activity, and new beginnings. The transition from winter to spring can allow us the ability to get more done and spend more time outside. Generally, spring is regarded as a happy season, especially for those living in places with colder, darker winters. Most of us look forward to the spring’s warmer weather and longer days. As everything around us blossoms in the sun, so too should we embrace this renewal.
As with any seasonal change, we must pay close attention to our body’s needs during this turbulent time of seasonal change. Moving from the indoor sleepy coldness of winter and into the warm, active spirit of spring can be tough on your system when not handled with care. For many, spring months also bring allergies, high blood pressure, headaches, sinus pain, congestion, anger, irritation, and tendon problems. Many of these problems can be attributed to increased wind in the environment. And while there is nothing that can be done about external weather factors, internal wind can be addressed and diminished using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the many modalities it incorporates.
Chinese Medicine places emphasis on living in tune with the seasons. TCM theory divides the year into five seasons! These five seasons each have associations and physical qualities that can be seen in both the external or “natural” world and also within our bodies. These elements interact daily, creating balance and harmony — or stirring up chaos within the body.
TCM associates spring with the liver and gallbladder. The gallbladder governs decision-making and controls the sinews of the body, while the liver is in charge of detoxification and keeping the energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) flowing smoothly. The liver tends to be a bit of a “bully” for many people, overwhelming bodily systems, so it’s important to keep it healthy. Often, winter months leave us with stagnant feelings in areas like relationships, work, and in our bodies. If we experience frustration, physical pain, or sadness, it may be a sign that energy is not flowing optimally. The liver and gallbladder are also related to the tendons, storing blood during periods of rest and releasing it to the tendons during times of activity. Because this pair of organs are responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and blood throughout the body, our daily activities should reflect this.
6 Ways to Rebalance Your Liver and Gallbladder
Stretch daily. Regular stretching is a great way to start and end the day. Adding yoga or tai chi to your daily routine can be very beneficial for the liver, tendons, and the body as a whole.
Get outside. Spending more time outside is another easy and powerful way to strengthen the liver and gallbladder energies in the spring. Moving around outside can get your heart rate up and keep you warm — if the temperature is still quite cold where you live, consider a warm-up exercise routine for inside before you brave the cold. Remember to dress in layers, wear boots instead of gym shoes, wear a warm hat, gloves, and socks, and, most importantly, protect your neck with a nice warm scarf.
For people with kids and families, getting outside is an excellent way to stay healthy and have fun together. Consider a walk with the dog, visiting a new park, playing basketball, soccer, rollerblading, biking, or even a good old game of frisbee with your family and kids. If you live in a wintery area, you might even seek out a local ice rink! In fact, at a moderate pace simply skating laps can burn up to 500 calories per hour while toning the muscles in your lower body and core that keep you mobile and limber. If ice skating sounds too cold for you, a bunded-up bike ride is another favorite spring activity. Because of its cardiovascular nature and use of the big quadriceps and gluteal muscles, biking will warm your body quickly.
Eat more greens. Eating fresh leafy greens is supportive of the liver’s detoxification function and can also help strengthen vision, thanks to the vitamins and nutrients in these veggies. And luckily, fresh greens are abundantly available in springtime!
Understand the elements. In TCM spring is associated with the element of wood. When a person is completely balanced, transitioning from one season to another doesn’t feel like a big deal. However, knowing what elemental type you are can be beneficial in determining how you will react to each passing season. For instance, a person who has a wood element constitution may experience anger during the spring. This is because the wood element is already closely associated with the emotion of anger and spring brings added stimuli that can trigger bits of rage.
Avoid overstimulation. It is also recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. Things like coffee and caffeine supplements are considered expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. However during the spring, when life is abounding, excess energy can actually become harmful to the body. Symptoms can manifest themselves as headaches, insomnia, anger, and more.
Get your seasonal tune-up. To keep the liver and gallbladder working smoothly, things like acupuncture, herbal formulas, nutritional counseling can make a world of difference. 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, chest congestion, 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, such as myself and my colleagues. By incorporating some simple practices into your life, you may just have a more enjoyable metamorphosis from winter into spring. If you need a little motivation to ease the transition, don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule your next appointment.
Fact: You will take about 20,000 breaths today. Let’s take a big one now...aaah, that’s better.
Now imagine having to take all of those breaths as someone with asthma, wheezing, feeling like you can’t fully inhale. That’s the case for approximately 1 in 13 people in the United States who have asthma. Maybe you’re one of those people suffering!
Do you suffer from allergies or asthma? If so, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that more than 26 million Americans have chronic inflammatory disease asthma, while more than 50 million Americans have nasal allergies. While most people resort to harsh prescription drugs to treat these conditions with awful side effects, a safer and more effective solution lies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture.
Some people might turn their head at the thought of treating asthma by placing small needles under your skin. However, this ancient practice is believed to be effective in the treatment of numerous respiratory disorders.
Several studies over the past decade have shown that when patients with asthma receive regular acupuncture treatments, they have fewer asthma attacks and less labored breathing. Some studies show an even more significant improvement when acupuncture treatments are combined with Western medical treatment, as acupuncture is an incredibly safe, natural, and effective complementary treatment.
A study conducted by the University Medical Center in Berlin (→ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23420231/) explored the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies). Over 400 patients were divided into three groups. The first received proper and regular acupuncture treatments, the second received a similar treatment however the acupuncture needles were not placed in proper acupoints, while the third group was only allowed to take antihistamines. This study was able to conclude that the group receiving proper and regular acupuncture treatments reported the greatest relief from symptoms as compared to the other two groups.
Other studies (such as → https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22313287/) have looked into acupuncture for the treatment of eczema. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is an itchy rash that can be caused by common irritants. Though this study came to the conclusion that acupuncture did not work well to prevent eczema, it did however significantly reduce itchiness and pain in many patients who were experiencing outbreaks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) even lists asthma as being “a condition for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that acupuncture will cure your asthma, but it can help alleviate the symptoms and reduce the frequency of flare-ups.
Acupuncture involves the placement of fine needles in specific points of the body, known as acupuncture points. The idea behind this practice is that placing the needles in these areas will restore the body’s flow of energy (Qi). When Qi becomes stagnant, it leaves the individual susceptible to disease and illness, which is why it’s important to keep it moving throughout the body. Professional acupuncturists often treat asthma by using acupuncture points found in the Lung, Stomach and Kidney meridians.
Acupuncture may also help those who suffer from allergies. Allergies are the result of the immune system’s wrongful identification of what it believes to be a foreign invader. When you are exposed to an allergen, your immune system may view the substance or pathogen as being a foreign invader, at which point it responds by manifesting symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.
By restoring the body’s Qi, the immune system is given a helpful boost of energy that allows it to properly identify what’s a foreign invader and what’s not. Whether your allergies are minor or severe, you should consider seeking the services of an acupuncturist. It’s a safe and painless process that can reinvigorate your body and mind, alleviating the symptoms of both allergies and asthma. A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found acupuncture to offer greater relief of allergies when compared to both antihistamines and sham acupuncture.
For many years I had won Nattie Awards (over 10!) in Portland, these are consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine, and every year since the first unexpected one in 2014, I kept thinking, "I can't possibly win again, right? I'm sure this is the year I won't win one" and then it would happen again!! All the way through 2019 it just kept happening and I have been so grateful and so humbled by every single one.
Then in 2020 I didn't win - but not because no one voted for me, because they stopped! Yes, another Covid Casualty was the Natural Awakenings Magazine Nattie Awards. They said they didn't have enough circulation to hold the contest and that they hoped to resume in 2021.
So, the Nattie's are on hold, but I thought this would be a great chance for me to see if I could get nominated for the Best of Clark County awards - will you help me? I have had several patients ask me about this over the last couple of years because they went to vote for me and I wasn't there! Being unfamiliar with the contest, it took a little investigation to figure it out. You see, with the BOCC you have to be nominated first. Only if you get nominated enough in the nomination round, can you be in the voting round.
So - will you nominate me?
Since I've never been in these awards before you have to write my business name in (which you can search for in their handy little search bar and then it enters the name for you) but its a pretty easy process. Nominations are open until April 25 and then the voting begins.
If you have a moment and the motivation, please click the link above or the button below and nominate me. If I make it through then I'll be on the voting list!
Thank you always for your belief in me and my business. It means so much to be of service and I deeply love what I do. I also feel so fortunate to have a business that is surviving this pandemic, and that I feel has been able to help some people through it. I know without my work I would have had a much harder time making it through - so thank you, all of you my wonderful patients and friends - for believing in me and my business and keeping positive intent for healing and change in my life.
Acupuncturists understand the body as a complex system of energy systems, meridians, and organs. However, when an acupuncturist talks about an organ, like the spleen, heart, or kidneys, they are not referring to the physical organ that sits inside your body, but rather the energetic side of these organs. The energetic system is much bigger than just the physical organ and governs certain functions in the body on many levels.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is massively important to care for your heart. Why? Well for starters, the heart governs the ability to think clearly, sleep soundly, and maintain a good memory. Our emotional state is strongly influenced by how healthy or unhealthy our heart may be. A weak and deficient heart may create feelings of anxiety and mania, while also contributing to insomnia, forgetfulness, and lack of concentration. The heart is known as the “king of all organs”. Meaning, other organs will sacrifice all to keep the heart in motion; this involves giving away their energy and nutrient supply (commonly referred to as Qi).
When it comes to your heart, what you eat matters. Follow these tips for heart-healthy eating:
Without a healthy heart, the body cannot function properly and the mind may be clouded and disconnected. Contact me for a consultation to see how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can assist you with all of your heart health needs.
In a 2015 study published by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, researchers found auricular acupuncture treatments, provided extended pain relief and people needed fewer dosages of pain medications. According to the study, a specific type of acupuncture, known as Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) was used to treat 56 patients who were afflicted with an acute onset of a sore throat. All the participants were monitored for pain levels and dosages of medications taken at the 15-minute mark, six-hour mark, 24-hour mark, and 48-hour mark. In both areas, the group of participants who received Battlefield Acupuncture reported decreased pain levels and less need for pain medications. This study concludes Battlefield Acupuncture is associated with reduced levels of pain for up to 24 hours and decreased dosages of pain medication for up to 48 hours.
A sore throat can be more than just an annoyance. It can be painful and costly when missing work becomes a necessity. Unfortunately, in the United States, many people cannot afford to take time off work for illness because they don’t get any paid leave. This can exacerbate the issue and sometimes make it even more severe, turning it into something like strep throat, which can lead to severe health complications.
The typical treatment for a sore throat is non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and possibly antibiotics when deemed appropriate. But Traditional Chinese Medicine treats a sore throat differently. In TCM there are two common causes of an acute sore throat, an attack by wind-heat or an attack by wind-dryness. There may be others also, but these are the two most common. This is how TCM differentiates the causes of the affliction. TCM theory states there are certain elements that can attack the body and create illness. Because a sore throat is almost always accompanied by some form of inflammation, there is usually heat generated.
A wind-heat invasion occurs when the Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”) is weaker than the invading force or pathogen. The Wei Qi is thought to be the defense that protects our bodies from outside forces. Think of Wei Qi as our immune system. When the Wei Qi is depleted or decreased, pathogens can break through and take root. With a wind-heat attack, there may be fever, chills, sweating, headaches, body aches, a cough, and a sore throat. A wind-dryness invasion is very similar to a wind-heat invasion, but there are more predominant signs of dryness, such as dry nose, mouth, throat, and cough. Regardless, the way to tackle either attack is by clearing heat and boosting the Wei Qi. This can be done fairly quickly through the use of acupuncture and herbs.
Acupuncture and in particular, Battlefield Acupuncture can bring quick relief to those suffering from a sore throat. Battlefield Acupuncture involves placing needles at specific points in the ear. When these points are stimulated, they help to balance the flow of the body’s energy. In Chinese Medicine, the ear is a microsystem of the entire body, holding more than 200 acupressure points that help to enhance physical and mental healing. But how exactly do they work? Studies show using these points can inhibit certain neurotransmitters and inflammatory markers, as well as release endogenous opioids that fight off pain.
As with any type of illness, the sooner somebody receives treatment, the sooner you can start feeling better. The same goes with an acute sore throat. If you feel a sore throat coming on, come see me for an acupuncture “tune-up”. You might just be surprised at the results.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nutrition combines ancient wisdom with modern science. TCM nutrition is a holistic approach, which aims to balance all five flavors within most meals with one or two flavors being emphasized for therapeutic purposes. TCM nutrition for hypertension emphasizes bitter flavors, sour flavors, and energetically-cooling foods.
TCM theory states the bitter flavor benefits the heart in moderation but an excess is harmful as it has a drying effect; for example, coffee is bitter. In moderation, coffee acts as a vasodilator increasing circulation but in excess, it can raise blood pressure and has a diuretic effect. Modern scientific research has discovered while the human genome has 25 bitter taste receptors 12 of these are expressed in the human heart.
Foods with bitter flavors include romaine lettuce, dandelion, arugula, rye. Foods that combine bitter with pungency include citrus peel, radish, scallion, and white pepper. In TCM nutrition the pungent flavor can help disperse phlegm (e.g. plaque). Foods that combine bitter with sweet include asparagus, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, quinoa, and papaya. Lemon rind is bitter and sour; vinegar is also bitter and sour.
Bitter flavors have a yin, or cooling effect, clearing heat in the body while encouraging a descent of Qi, which aids in the draining of fluids. For example, celery contains the phytochemical phthalides which relax arterial wall tissues to increase blood flow and thereby reduce blood pressure. The fiber, magnesium, and potassium in celery also help lower blood pressure and regulate fluid balance. Caution: according to TCM, those with a lot of dryness and/or bone disease should moderate their intake of bitter flavor.
A tomato a day keeps the doctor away! The combination of lycopene, vitamin C and E, potassium, and folic acid in tomatoes make it a powerful food for heart health. The bitter flavor of tomatoes comes from the seeds; to reap the full benefit of tomatoes eat the seeds too. Heirloom tomatoes in the season have the most flavor, find the tastiest tomatoes at your farmer’s market or try growing your own.
Chrysanthemum tea is very popular in Asia; it is helpful for headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, chest pain, and also fevers. You can add chrysanthemum flowers to your morning green tea and in the evening combine it with chamomile tea for extra cooling benefits!
TCM nutrition cautions against overdoing cold foods and drinks. Too much cold inhibits the digestive process. Drinking warm beverages and soups, as well as eating foods with a little pungency (chili pepper, garlic, ginger) causes the body to perspire slightly which naturally cools the body.
5 Flavors Chickpea Salad for Healthy & Happy Heart
15 oz cooked organic chickpeas (1 can)
1/2 c cup cooked quinoa or 1 cup brown rice (warm)
4 stalks celery, minced
6-12 cherry tomatoes, chopped in 1/2 or 1/4
8-12 Romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
2 TBSP red onion, minced
Toss with a dressing made with:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice + a little lemon zest (organic is best)
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp honey or agave
1-2 garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
1/8 tsp Himalayan or Sea salt (or to taste)
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Interested in more? Don't hesitate to contact me or book a consultation anytime, its my pleasure to be of service!
~Yours in Heart Healthiness. Rebecca
Foster, S. R., Blank, K., Hoe, L. E. S., Behrens, M., Meyerhof, W., Peart, J. N., & Thomas, W. G. (2014). Bitter taste receptor agonists elicit G-protein-dependent negative inotropy in the murine heart. The FASEB Journal, 28(10), 4497-4508.
Kastner, Joseph, MD, L.Ac, (2009) Chinese Nutrition Therapy, Thieme, Stuttgart and New York
Pitchford, Paul (2002), Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California
Ried, K., Frank, O. R., Stocks, N. P., Fakler, P., & Sullivan, T. (2008). Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC cardiovascular disorders, 8(1), 1.
Willcox, J. K., Catignani, G. L., & Lazarus, S. (2003). Tomatoes and Cardiovascular Health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 43(1), 1-18.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, health is achieved by living in balance with nature and the seasons. Winter, the season of the Water Element, is the season for slowing down, reflecting, and conserving our resources. We all feel this tendency, but we don’t always listen to our bodies. In Western culture, being active is rewarded and expected. We feel compelled to keep up the hectic pace that is typical in our daily lives.
This season is associated with the kidneys, bladder, and adrenal glands and the time of year when these organs are most active, accessible, and even vulnerable. They are more receptive to being restored, nurtured, and energized. At the same time, it is also when they can become easily depleted.
According to Chinese medicine, our kidneys receive a specific amount of energy at the time of our conception that will carry each of us through our lives, called Jing Qi. Imagine for a minute that our kidneys are like batteries. Batteries that have come from the shop with a limited amount of charge. These unfortunately are not the rechargeable types of batteries. Jing Qi is the energy stored in our kidney batteries. Our body and mind pull from this reserve in times of change, healing, and stress. Every action we take draws on this power supply.
Some people can easily deplete their Jing Qi due to poor lifestyle choices and extreme stress. Others preserve it by nurturing it with the right foods and behaviors. Jing Qi is finite. The more we use it, the less we will have for necessary body functioning. Every day our kidneys filter blood and other body fluids, remove toxins from the liver, and our bladder collects, processes and excretes these liquids through the urine.
There are ways we can preserve our Jing Qi. In addition to Jing Qi, we operate on renewable sources of energy. The spleen makes Qi (vital life force) for us out of the food we eat, and the lungs bring us Qi from the air. We will have less need to draw on our Jing Qi and be healthier and more energetic as we eat, rest and breathe better and do Qi Gong to replenish our renewable sources of energy.
Keep in mind, stimulants such as caffeine deplete the kidneys, and rob us of our ability to know how we really feel. If our body is in need of rest and sleep, caffeine consumption will make us unaware of this fact, thus causing us to ignore our body’s needs. This can then contribute to the unnecessary depletion of our Jing Qi.
In order to maintain and cultivate health, it is important to nurture and nourish our kidney energy. Now is the perfect time to recharge your internal kidney batteries. Acupuncture, yoga, Tai Chi, quiet reflection, meditation, simple walks, and herbs are wonderful ways to recharge and energize!
Remember the days of rabbit ear antennas on your television sets? If you were lucky enough to find the exact seating position in your living room to optimize your body’s own magnetic field and the tilt of the earth’s axis, these beauties could tune in your favorite show with the crystal clarity of a thick San Francisco fog. If - heaven forbid - you wanted to tune to another channel, this required a coordinated, two-handed effort of spinning and rotating the antennas, the likes of which would rival even the most skilled of Olympic fencers.
The point here is that no matter what show you wanted to watch, you could pick it up on your set, but only if the antenna was functioning properly and only if it was aligned in the right position. The signal was always in the air, but whether or not your show came in clearly depended upon the antenna’s ability to transfer the signal to your TV set.
For those of you struggling with your health, keep in mind that you always have the potential for improvement. Your body was created by an intelligence that is unerring, infallible, and always on the job, and this intelligence is expressed through the body’s energetic meridian system.
Research shows that acupuncture can help with many more health problems other than just for pain and aches. The problem is usually not with the meridian system itself, but rather with the transmission of energy through the body. Just like the old VHF signals being broadcast over the air, the energy is always present; the signal is always there. Remaining healthy is a matter of transferring that signal as efficiently as possible to all parts of your body, and in this case your meridian system functions as the antenna. The farther out of balance your system becomes, the weaker the signal gets. Bringing the meridians back into its proper balance allows for the signal to broadcast at full strength.
Imbalances choke off vital energy traveling throughout the body, but instead of a fuzzy picture, you get sciatic pain, headaches, asthma, fatigue, numbness, digestive disorders, allergies, chronic sickness, etc.
Acupuncture works by supporting and balancing the “signals” being broadcast by your body and laying the ground for optimum expression of health. Clearing the meridian system of imbalances allows the free flow of energy to every cell, organ, nerve, and tissue, resulting in crystal clear, HD reception and picture-perfect health. If you have been feeling under the weather, exhausted, tired or just plain worn down, it may be time for you to come in for a tune-up.
3 Indicators You Need a Tune-Up
Here is a list of three signs indicating that you should immediately come in for an acupuncture tune-up. Both your body and mind will thank you for getting tuned up as soon as possible.
Yes, its true! Medicare parts B and C now include Acupuncture coverage. Hooray!
Unfortunately, the benefit is a wee bit complicated. I wanted to write a little post about the basics today because I've had several patients whom I've had to turn away because they've been referred incorrectly. Since this is a new benefit we're all learning - LAc's and doctors alike - and hopefully this small missive will help avoid some confusion for all!
First off - Medicare Acupuncture benefit only covers Chronic Low Back Pain as defined by Medicare. Basically, this is low back pain that:
Second - Medicare Part B ONLY covers Acupuncture when performed by an MD or other western medical provider in said MD or medical providers office. This means the doctor can perform the Acupuncture or an LAc in the doctor's office can perform the Acupuncture while being supervised by the doctor.
Now, if you have a Medicare Part C plan, commonly called Medicare Advantage or Medicare Complete, you CAN see a Licensed Acupuncturist (like me!) independently. Said Acupuncturist has to be contracted with the insurer who administers your Medicare Part C benefits, however, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser, Health Net etc.
Third - the benefit covers 12 visits in 90 days. You cannot get more time or any kind of extension on those initial 12 visits. After that, if you want more, the provider can request additional visits - usually 8-12 - by engaging in an irritating bureaucratic paperwork process that takes an indeterminate period of time.
So, like I said, Medicare covers Acupuncture, yay!!! But... its a little confusing. If you keep this post handy, however, you shouldn't be led astray. If you have questions please don't hesitate to reach out anytime, I'd love to be of service!
Yours in health and gratitude,
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.