Tag Archives: traditional Chinese medicine

Orthodontics for your Health

One of the biggest myths about acupuncture is that “once you start, you have to go forever.”

First of all, it is entirely up to you how long you choose to continue to get treatments.  Of course, like any other healthy habit, the longer you maintain it, the better your quality of life.  But just to clear up some confusion, let’s look at the process of a comprehensive schedule of acupuncture care in another light.

Perhaps the most apt analogy for continuing care for the meridian system is reconstructive orthodontics for your teeth.  Both disciplines consist of an initial phase of care that usually involves overcoming a weakness, followed by a reconstructive or rehabilitative phase of care, and finally culminating in wellness or maintenance.

The earliest phase of your care usually consists of the highest visit frequency.  In cases of chronic imbalances within the meridian system it is common to initially require treatments a few days a week until your bodies energy is properly balanced and restored.

Using our orthodontic analogy, this would be the point at which the brackets and wires are put on your teeth and you are seen for check-ups every couple weeks.  Since there is no wire affixed within your meridian system, your acupuncture visits occur more frequently than orthodontic appointments, and are instead “wired together” by specific exercises, herbal prescriptions, self-care recommendations, etc.

orthodontics

As balance returns to your body, your visit frequency is diminished.  This is the phase in which the orthodontist would also begin spacing out his visits and begin to “tweak” the wires to make fine adjustments to your teeth and allow them to settle into their new structural pattern.  In both cases, this is a critical phase of care in that it is setting the stage for lifelong wellness or maintenance.

In regard to orthodontics, this is when you would be fitted for a retainer to be worn at least nightly for the rest of your life, or for as long as you wish to maintain healthy teeth.

As for acupuncture, this marks the transition to a schedule of wellness or maintenance care to ensure a lifelong abundance of health and well-being.

The maintenance or wellness phase of care is without a doubt the most important.  What is sickness, but a lack of wellness?  The whole objective of everything leading up to your wellness care is to get your body back to its natural state of balance.  Once there, staying well is simply a matter of sustaining that balance.

Wear your retainer and maintain a life of health and wellness.  Or neglect your maintenance and have the braces put back on?  The choice is clear.

Copyright ©2011 Acupuncture Media Works All Rights Reserved.

Commit… Then Follow Through

commit then follow through

Let’s get right to the point.  There is no magic bullet, the easy way out is the wrong way, and quick fixes never stand the test of time.  We all know this to be true yet, astoundingly, we have been led to believe the exact opposite when it comes to our health and well-being.  Medicine has become our magic elixir, our get-out-of-jail-free card.  Why exercise your bones and joints when you can pop a pill instead?  Sure you risk abdominal cramping and bone death, but at least you don’t have to get off the couch.  Hair loss, obesity, short temper, shyness, itchy skin, dry eyes…  You can bet that whatever ails you, no matter how trivial, there is a pill marketed for it.

The reason acupuncture continues to thrive for the past 2,500 years, even at times in the face of fierce opposition, is because it is built on solid, lasting, time-tested principles and theories.

The health of your body is in direct proportion to the health of how your bodies innate healing energies travel throughout your meridian system. Energy flows throughout your body by way of an intricate network of pathways called the meridian system.

Taking migraine medicine for a headache requires that your body not only fight the cause of the migraine, but now also the dangerous chemicals you are dumping into it.  We have essentially been trained to put out a fire by dousing it with gasoline.   We have been led to believe that the work that the body has been accomplishing over thousands of years with amazing efficiency is suddenly no longer possible in the absence of drugs.

As much as we tend to overcomplicate it, staying healthy is really pretty simple.  Getting well requires that we optimize the function and flow of energy within our meridian system and then maintain its integrity to allow the body to do what it was created to do.  The reason that so many of us struggle with our health is because as simple as the concept is, actually following through requires a high level of commitment and necessitates specific action steps on a daily basis.  Everyone knows the formula for losing weight is to cut out the bad calories, watch your portions, and exercise daily, but few people can commit to following through.  It’s easier to look for the pill that requires no work output or the exercise video that promises miracles after 2 weeks, or to simply give into temptation.

Your body is a masterpiece and it requires consistent attention and respect.  If you’re ready to make the commitment to getting well – not just feeling better through artificial means, but truly getting well – then welcome aboard!  We’ll do everything we can to help you get there.

Copyright ©2011 Acupuncture Media Works All Rights Reserved.

Are you on a Slow Simmer?

slow simmer

There’s an old metaphor about a frog in boiling water.  If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, he will immediately jump out because of the sudden, drastic change in temperature.  If, however, you put a frog in a pot of tepid water and slowly bring it to a boil, the temperature change will be so subtle that the frog will never know what hit him as he boils to death.

People are very similar to the frog when it comes to identifying underlying health problems and seeking help. Based on the perceived severity of the problem, you are either driven to action, or more prone to let the problem continue as a mere annoyance.

Those who have suffered a major trauma such as an auto accident, work injury, or slip and fall are like a frog dropped in boiling water.  Because they have undergone such sudden and massive physical change they seek immediate action in correcting the damage done and look to professional help without delay.  Bear in mind that these are the same people who would normally overlook more minor aches and pains without a second thought.

Why does one act so quickly in a situation like this?  The injury happens so suddenly and swings them so far from their comfort zone that they will do whatever it takes to bring things back to normalcy as quickly as possible.  After all, a knock in your engine is something that you would typically let go for awhile, but a sudden cloud of smoke billowing from under the hood would likely spur you to immediate action.

The majority of people, however, are like a frog in tepid water, on a slow simmer until eventually being brought to a boil.  Most imbalances develop over time, and because they are often very subtle, and many times painless, the danger of their impact on our bodies goes unnoticed.

Over time, however, these imbalances are no less devastating to us than boiling water is to the frog.  A slow drip in your attic might not seem like a big deal, but its cumulative effects can eventually send your ceiling crashing down.

Until we get into the habit of being proactive when it comes to our health, these “simmering” imbalances will always be a threat.  Neutralizing that threat requires that we shift our thinking away from pain-based, symptom-relief care and more toward a system built around prevention and wellness.

If you know someone who has not been examined for imbalances yet, regardless of whether or not they are exhibiting any symptoms, send them in for an acupuncture evaluation.  Let’s get them the help they need before their pot comes to a boil!

Copyright ©2011 Acupuncture Media Works All Rights Reserved.

100 Years… and Counting!

Would you like to live to be 100?  You would be surprised at how many people would answer “no” to that question.  Many people are in such poor health that it is a physical and emotional struggle to get through each day, let alone an entire century.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Actually, if we are living properly, enjoying the rich quality of life that we are entitled to, we should all be thrilled to live to 100!  In fact, the hard part should be figuring out how to squeeze all of our goals and accomplishments into such a relatively short period of time.

It’s true that we are living longer than our ancestors, but while the medical profession is quick to point out that our lifespan is increasing, what remains hidden in the fine print is the atrocious quality of life that our senior population must endure.  Twinkies® have a long shelf life, but it would be a stretch to call them healthy.

A balanced meridian system is the foundation of health and longevity, and it is like a bright light glowing deep within.  Dim the light and your quality of life dims along with it.  Extinguish the light and you die.

100 years and counting

The key to living a long, healthy life is to maximize the function of the meridian system as long as possible.  Acupuncture does exactly that.

Understand that longevity is built right now.  Today.  This very day is part of your 100 years.  Your state of health at this moment is a result of your actions yesterday and the days prior.  Your state of health tomorrow depends on what you do today.

Health is not black and white.  It is a continuum, with death at one end and complete wellness at the other end.  We are never stagnant, we are constantly moving back and forth along the scale.

Every action you take either moves you toward health or away from it, and the key to longevity is to habitually engage in those activities that drive you in the right direction.  Things like acupuncture treatments, daily exercise, proper nutrition, gratitude, a positive mental outlook, spiritual fulfillment, love, and so on.

It’s been said that success is a journey, not a destination.  The same can be said of longevity.  If a long, healthy life is a goal of yours, then don’t just let your life play out and hope for the best.  Longevity is not about dragging out an existence just to make it to a certain age.  Longevity is a byproduct of living the right way every single day until, before you know it, a hundred years have passed.

Copyright ©2011 Acupuncture Media Works. All Rights Reserved.

Ten Steps For Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Spring is a season of awakening and of new beginnings. Making healthy choices that will carry you through the seasons is important this time of year. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Embrace yourself honestly.
Assess the various aspects of your life, taking note where the stressors and weaknesses exist. Are they in your diet, exercise program, work or relationships? Focus on the ones that need improvement, and begin moving away from the ones that detract from your life.

2. Examine personal relationships.
Include your significant other, friends, and relatives. Think about how you affect each other and what you can do to make each relationship more meaningful.

3. Choose to change habits.
Perhaps you want to be more positive, exercise more, or give up junk food. Do you need help or can you do this on your own? It may be easier to make changes with support from others.

4. Clean and organize.
Clear out the old and bring in the new. Take a look at your possessions and give away or recycle anything that doesn’t serve a good purpose. You may be surprised at how much lighter and happier you feel when you’ve cleaned and freshened up each area of your home.

5. Get active.
Schedule more exercise into your day to improve your health and reduce stress. Walk around your neighborhood, try a yoga class, go dancing, or ride your bike someplace new.

6. Make positive choices.
Think about what you take in every day with your eyes, ears, and heart. Consider the things that make you feel your best such as beautiful music, energetic friends, and inspirational art. Consider taking a break from TV, news, violent movies, and stressful people.

7. Feel your best.
Assess your emotional well-being. Take an honest look at your moods and emotions. Find the cause of the disharmony, and make a conscious choice to change. Many factors, from diet and digestive health to learned behavior, can have an influence on mood and energy level.

8. Try a Detox Program.
You may want to try a 1-3 week detox program during the spring. Choose a program that works for you whether it’s a juice cleansing, fasting, cutting out dairy or refined sugars, or a more in-depth detox diet. Talk to me, I may be able to give you helpful information about how to approach the detoxification process.

9. Consider nutritional supplements.
You might find supplements helpful for boosting your immunity and overall health. Consider taking an age and gender appropriate multivitamin and mineral daily, as well as additional antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E. Also remember to drink plenty of water and green tea.

10. Commit to a plan.
Consider what you want out of life, from your health, habits and relationships to your career and work. Create a plan to achieve these goals. Most importantly, remember to be nurturing and kind to yourself as you commit to making positive changes in your life.

Copyright ©2012 Acupuncture Media Works. All Rights Reserved.

Germ Warfare

You never have to wonder when the “cold and flu season” is around the corner.  Big Pharma will be sure that you are reminded of its impending arrival no matter where you turn.

When the dreaded season of doom drapes its black curtain over us, whatever you do, don’t come within sneezing distance of anybody, don’t even think about shaking anyone’s hand or otherwise engaging in bodily contact, and NEVER, EVER touch a doorknob, shopping cart, or any other object that might have possibly come into contact with any human at any point during its existence.

Buy into the hype and you’ll find yourself locked away in a dark room waiting for the hazmat team to give the “All Clear.”

Big Pharma and the medical community at large are depending on you to buy into the hysteria; to leave the fate of your health and well-being up to the questionable workings of chemical-laden pills and shots rather than the innate power that runs your body and the living world around you.

The reality is that germs don’t make you sick.  Rather, your body’s inability to fend off germs and foreign invaders is what results in you succumbing to illness.

Think about it… How is it possible that a family of 5 people living under the same roof can have completely different reactions during flu season?

Assuming that everyone is exposed to the same germs and viruses, if the sickness were attributed completely to the virus, everyone would get sick and exhibit the same reaction and symptoms.

What happens in reality is that one or two family members get ill while the others don’t.  Clearly the issue is not the germs, but the body’s response to them.

Chances are the last time you got sick you were running yourself ragged; missing sleep, eating improperly, slacking on your nutrition, all stressed out from work, skipping your acupuncture sessions, and neglecting your workouts.  This is a vicious pattern that many of us fall into and it’s one that weakens the body and allows germs to take hold.

Your best defense against the flu, colds, or any other germ-borne illness is not to drug yourself, but to bolster your internal defenses.  You stand your best chance of being at your healthiest when you have an optimally functioning nervous system and immune response.

So come in for an acupuncture tune-up, keep your lifestyle habits in good order, and maintain a positive attitude. Do so, and those pesky little germs don’t stand a chance.Bacteria Background

Treatment of Menopause Using Chinese Herbs

 

Menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menses. While it is a normal process of aging, it may create a number of complications that require medical attention. such as vasomotor complaints ( hot flashes), psychosomatic complaints, genital atrophy, and osteoporosis. The issue of menopause is becoming increasingly important as life expectancy climbs to over 85 years. Since most baby-boomers approach menopause near age 50, they can expect to spend more than one-third of their life post-menopause. Therefore, adequate care is essential to ensure quality of life during the golden years. This update discusses optimal method of addressing the changes that occur during menopause, in both western and Traditional Chinese medicine.

 

Western Medical Perspective

While menopause is not a disease, it is normal process of that can be disturbing and discomforting. It may create conditions and complications that require medical intervention. Vasomotor complaints ( hot flashes), psychosomatic complaints, genital atrophy, and osteoporosis are the four main medical conditions associated with menopause that are discussed here.

Vasomotor complaints (hot flashes) may occur in 80% of menopausal women, and may last for up to five years. “Vasomotor flush” is the objective and visible flushing of blood affecting the thorax, neck and face, followed by an increase in body temperature and profuse sweating. Hot flashes are the subjective sensation of intense warmth in the upper body, typically lasting for 4 minutes. since vasomotor complaints ( hot flash) occur most frequently at night, it is not uncommon for women affected by them to experience insomnia, restlessness, irritability and emotional instability. Many women seek professional help when these changes begin to disturb their daily activities..

Genital atrophy may also occur in approximately 20% of postmenopausal women. Since many tissues in the genitourinary region are estrogen dependent, post-menopausal women may experience atrophy of the lower vaginal, labia, urethra, and bladder trigone. Genital atrophy may progress to vaginal dryness, painful coitus, diminished libido, increased vaginal ulceration, increased risk and frequency of infection, dysuria, urgency, painful urination, and stress incontinence. These imbalances may required therapeutic intervention by health care professionals.

Osteoporosis is characterized by reduction in bone mass. Osteoporosis is becoming one of the most common disorders in the West. as the large population over 50 continue to age and life expectancy continue to increase. Osteoporosis occurs mostly in individuals between 51 and years of age, and is six times more common in women than men. Menopause is the number one risk factor for osteoporosis, since women lose 1-2% of their bone mass density every year for 5 years after menopause. There are numbers other risk factors for osteoporosis, including but not limited to aging, dietary habits, lifestyle, family history , chronic use of drug and long term exposures to alcohol and tobacco. The clinical implications of osteoporosis include bone fracture after minimal trauma and prolonged recovery. Injuries often result from a (relatively low-impact) fall from standing height, subsequently leading to fractures of the vertebrae, wrists, hips, humerus, and tibia. With bone fracture, there is severe pain, discomfort, decreased mobility, and risk of infection, in the elderly, decreased mobility may lead to further health complications, further delaying recovery. Of the conditions associated with menopause, osteoporosis is considered by many to be the most severe and the most significant.

Many pharmaceuticals are available for prevention and treatment of menopause and related conditions. Listed below are some of the most commonly used therapies and /or drugs.

1. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

The purpose of hormone replacement therapy is to supply the body with an external source of hormones, including estrogen and/or progesterone. While there are numerous forms, premarin (conjugated estrogen) and Provera (medroxyprogesterone) remain the most popular brands. In fact in the year 2000-2001, Premarin is the number one most-frequently prescribed medications in the United States. This is an astounding statistic, considering menopausal women is the only individual for whom medication is prescribed. Estrogen is commonly prescribed for numerous purposes, including but not limited to menopausal signs and symptoms, osteoporosis and atrophic vaginitis. In addition to use of estrogen for menopause, some early studies have hinted that the use of estrogen may be associated with prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. However, more recent data concluded that the beneficial effects of estrogen are observable only for up to 16 weeks, after which no difference is observed between placebo and control groups.

Unfortunately, despite possible benefits, the use of estrogen replacement therapy has many potential conflicts and controversies. One of the biggest disadvantages is the staggering number of side effects associated with estrogen therapy, including but no limited to increased risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial carcinoma, malignant neoplasm, gallbladder disease, thromoembolitic disease, and photosensitivity. Progesterine is prescribed in combination with estrogen to minimize the risk of endometrial cancer. However, it causes side effects such as increase in cholesterol levels, edema, weight gain, and bleeding. Due to these adverse effects, there are many who cannot, or will not take hormone replacement therapy.

2. Biphosphonates for Osteoporosis

Biphosphonates is a class of drugs that includes alendronate (Fosamax), etidronate (Didronel), Pamidronate (Aredia), tiludronate (Slelid), and risedronate (Actonel). These substances treat osteoporosis primary by blocking the loose of bone mass. Biphophonates such as alendronate (Fosamax) may increase bone density by 5-10 percent, if taken daily, continuously for 3 years. Side effects of these drugs include nausea, diarrhea, esophageal irritation, and esophagitis. Furthermore, in laboratory studies, the use of biphosphonates is associated with the development of cancer (thyroid adenoma and adrenal pheochromocytoma) and fertility impairment (inhibition of ovulation in women, and testicular and epididymal atrophy in men.

3.SERM

is the abbreviation for “selective estrogen receptor modulator”. Currently, SERM (Evista) is the only medication approved in this class. It works by facilitating the utilization of calcium for proper bone maintenance, and is therefore used for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Unfortunately, the use of this medication is associated with increased risk of venous thromboembolism and increased severity and incidence of hot flashes. It is also contraindicated in patients with liver problems, as raloxifene is metabolized hepatically.

4. Clonidine

Clonidine (Catapress) is another option of the relief of hot flashes. It stabilizes the blood vessels by binding the alpha-adrenergic receptors. It rarely prescribed because it has significant side effects such as postural dizziness, blurred vision, first-dose syncope and withdrawal hypertension.

Summary

Overall, there are numerous pharmaceutical options available for treatment of menopause and related conditions. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on how menopause should be treated in western medicine. Despite much contemporary clinical and laboratory research, medical doctors cannot agree on when and under what circumstances treatment of menopause should be started. Some propose to begin treatment during premenopausal years, some prefer to initiate treatment only after menopausal signs and symptoms have begun, and still others discourage the use of drugs, pointing out that the risk outweigh the benefits. Until more authoritative information is available, the best conclusion that can be drawn at this time is that treatment should be initialized, and both patients and doctors must have complete understanding of the goals to be accomplished and the risk involved in each course of action.

TRADITIONAL CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE

Introduction

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the Kidney is the organ responsible for growth, maturation and aging. Therefore, the fundamental changes that occur during menopause can be attributed to Kidney deficiency, and Kidney deficiency is the universal diagnosis among all women with menopause. This is extremely important to keep in mind: women may reach menopause of different ages and under different circumstances. For example, those who are pre-menopausal may have only mild symptoms. Those who are peri- or post-menopausal may experience moderate symptoms, and those who had artificial menopause (such as hysteretomy) show immediate and severe symptoms. Therefore, Kidney tonic herbs are absolutely essential for the success of the treatment regardless of whether the patients are acutely symptomatic.

Diagnosis

Menopause patients may have one or more of the following diagnosis. Kidney Yin deficiency, Kidney Yang deficiency, Kidney Jing (essence) deficiency, Liver qi stagnation, blood deficiency, and rising deficiency heat. In response to these differentiations. treatment of menopause using Chinese herbal medicine is divided into primary and supplementary treatment.

Primary Treatment:

1. Yin Deficiency: Nourish is one of the most commonly used and the most effective formulas for menopause. It has marked effectiveness to treat the cause (estrogen deficiency) and the symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, perspiration, insomnia, emotional instability, etc). The foundation of Nourish is based on the classic formula that has excellent functions to tonify Kidney yin and treat the underlying cause of the disorder. From the western pharmacological perspective, this formula has a remarkable effect on the endocrine system. The first tree tonic herbs in Nourish stimulate the glands to produce more hormones, while the other three sedating herbs provide negative feed-back inhibition to stop the production and release of these hormones. The harmonious blend of stimulation (with tonic herbs) and inhibition (with sedating herbs) is absolutely essential in treating patients with delicate imbalance of endocrine system. It is also interesting to note that the pharmaceutical companies have long acknowledged the therapeutic effect of Kidney tonic herbs. In fact, hormones such as synthetic estrogens and progesterones are originally derived from natural products such as Shan Yao. In short, Nourish treats menopause primarily by tonifying Kidney yin, with a secondary effect of controlling deficient heat. For women over forty, it is also a safe anti-aging tonic for long-term use.

2. Deficient heat rising: Balance  (Heat) is another formula that is extremely effective for menopause. Its main focus is to address menopausal symptoms characterized by deficient heat: severe hot flashes, night sweating, insomnia, steaming-bones sensations, irritability, dizziness, nervousness, and emotional disturbances. The therapeutic actions of the formula are to clear deficiency heat, nourish yin, calm the shen (spirit) and stop perspiration. In short, Balance (Heat) treats menopause mainly by controlling deficient heat symptoms.

3. Kidney jing (essence) deficiency: Osteo 8 is the formula of choice for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. It contains herbs that increase the utilization of calcium, strengthen the bones, prevent fractures, and promote healing. From the traditional Chinese medicine perspective, osteoporosis is equivalent to Kidney jing (essence) deficiency. Diagnostic symptoms and signs are weakness and soreness of the lower back and legs, inability to stand for a prolonged period of time, and decreased bone mass density. From the western medicine perspective, these herbs are rich in calcium, and function to increase absorption of calcium into bone, and promote growth and healing of bones. According to a clinical study conducted in Taiwan, the use of the herbs in Osteo 8 has been found to increase bone mass density by an average of 3.4% in one year. In addition to herbs, adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D should be taken on a daily basis to ensure proper integrity of bones.

Differential Diagnosis and Treatment

In addition to Nourish, Balance (Heat), and Osteo 8, other formulas are sometimes necessary to control other conditions associated with menopause.

  • For emotional instability, irritability, and mood swings, combine with Calm.
  • For severe disturbance of the shen (spirit) combine with Calm ES.
  • For patients with decreased libido, add Venus.
  • For insomnia, combine with Schisandra ZZZ.
  • For fibrocystic reproductive organ disorders, use Resolve (Lower).
  • For benign breast tumors, mastitis and fibroids/nodules, use Resolve (Upper).
  • For hair loss, combine with Polygonum 14.

Lifestyle and Dietary Instructions

Menopause patients are encouraged to consume a diet with a high content of raw foods, fruits and vegetables to stabilize blood sugar. Some foods may promote hot flashes or aggravate mood swings and should be avoided, such as dairy products, red meats, alcohol, sugar, spicy foods, and caffeine. Cigarette smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke should be avoided as smoking consumes yin and body fluids. Lastly, stress, tension and anxiety should be avoided as much as possible.

Conclusion

Though menopausal signs and symptoms are disturbing, they are self-limiting and are not life threatening. Such signs and symptoms may be prominent for a few years, but they gradually lessen in severity and eventually disappear. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, continues to advance with age and can be life-threatening. It is a disorder that requires active intervention and treatment.

Hormone replacement therapy is considered the standard allopathic treatment for menopause and related conditions. However, there is not a consensus as to when and how to prescribe these medications. While they may alleviate hot flashes and prevent osteoporosis, they also increase the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer, and they have a number of significant side effects. The bottom line is: synthetic hormones can never effectively replace endogenous hormones. There, no matter when or how they are prescribed, the potential for adverse reactions will always be present.

Traditional Chinese medicine, on the other hands, offers a gentle yet effective way to address menopause and related conditions. Chinese herbs have demonstrated via numerous in vivo and in vitro studies to have a marked effect on the endocrine system to alleviate hot flashes, vasomotor instability, loss of bone mass, and other conditions associated with menopause. Most importantly, herbs are much gentler on the body and safer than current allopathic options.

In conclusion, while western medicine claims that more time is necessary to determine how menopause can be treated, Chinese herbal medicine that has already been time-tested for over 3000 years prevails to ensure optimal quality of life in those who are reaching the golden years of their lives.

 

All information above comes from following source:

Chen, John, Pharm.D., Ph.D., O.M.D., L.Ac. “Treatment of Menopause Using Chinese Herbs.” Lotus Inistitute Of Integrative Medicine (n.d.): n. pag. Print.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people feel down as winter approaches.  It’s dark.  It’s cold. The holidays can be stressful.

But for some people every winter is unbearable.  They’re tired and depressed.  They don’t want to get out of bed.  They snap at their families and binge on junk food.

These people have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Our moods and energy levels fluctuate with the seasons.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) understands these cycles but modern life does not.  These days, you are expected to be active, productive and creative at all times of the year.  There is no accommodation for a slow, quiet winter.  According to TCM, this conflict causes stress, which can result in SAD.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that people experience at the same time every year.  Most often, symptoms start in September or October and are relieved in April or May, however some people experience SAD at different times of year.  The symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Extreme fatigue, lethargy and sleepiness
  • Increased appetite
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Lack of concentration
  • Decreased libido

No one knows exactly what causes SAD but most of the theories involve light.  Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, is triggered by light.  Some people believe that decreased serotonin is the culprit.  Others blame melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep and mood, because it is affected by darkness.  In either case, light plays a role.

Western Medicine Treatments for SAD

Western medicine treats SAD with medications, psychotherapy and light therapy.

There are 2 types of light therapy.  For bright light treatment, you sit in front of a light box for 30-45 minutes every day.  For dawn simulation treatment, a dim light comes on while you sleep and gradually gets lighter.

Many people find light therapy very effective, and a recent Canadian study confirms this.  Scientists found that light therapy was just as effective as Prozac for alleviating SAD, with fewer side effects and faster results.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments for SAD

TCM takes a holistic view of the body and seasonal cycles, and understands the energy behind them.  All life is made of qi, or life force.  One of the principles of qi is that everything is made of yin and yang.  Yin is the feminine side, nourishing, cold and dark.  Yang is the masculine side, active, warm and light.

Autumn marks the beginning of the yin cycle of the year.  Daylight decreases, temperatures drop and nature takes a rest.  Just as animals slow down and hibernate, our bodies slow down.  It is a time for reflection and quiet activity.

If your constitution is particularly yin, from gender, genetics, environment or lifestyle, the yin cycle may hit you hard.  Contemplation and rest may become isolation and depression.  Your winter cycle becomes seasonal affective disorder.

The holidays put an additional stress on your system.  At a time when your body wants to slow down, holiday activities speed up.  Parties, shopping, travel and holiday celebrations create tension between what your body needs and what you’re doing.  This stress depletes your body even more, contributing to exhaustion and cravings for carbohydrates to replenish your depleted energy.

To stay balanced in the winter and ward off SAD, conserve your energy.  Practice quiet, yin activities like restorative yoga, Tai Chi, qigong, walking or journaling.  Eat warm, slow-cooked stews and soups.  Add yang spices like garlic, ginger, black pepper, cloves and basil to your foods.  Limit cold drinks and raw vegetables.  Rebuild your energy to prepare for spring.

Most importantly, make an appointment with me for a seasonal acupuncture treatment.  By balancing your qi, your seasonal affective disorder symptoms can be relieved.

Winter doesn’t have to be a time of sadness, exhaustion and binge eating. Call me to discuss your treatment options today.

The Best and Worst – Thanksgiving Foods

Thanksgiving is a great meal. Friends and family come together to give thanks and celebrate the harvest season– and to overeat.

All of us know the feeling of eating too much, too heavy, too rich. When we should be enjoying our time with loved ones, we are uncomfortable. We exasperate our health conditions and catch a cold. We put on weight and feel lethargic.

I’m not going to tell you to make dramatic changes to your Thanksgiving meal. Usually that doesn’t work—and besides, it’s no fun.
Instead I suggest you just make small choices. Pick one food instead of the other. Make little positive choices and they’ll add up to a healthier, more enjoyable meal.

The Best and Worst Thanksgiving Foods
Before we begin, let’s set some ground rules. Obviously, everyone uses different recipes and buys different products. Nutritional value of Thanksgiving foods can vary widely. And everyone has different health concerns—from watching calories, to cutting cholesterol to boosting their immune system.

The “Best and Worst Thanksgiving Foods” list is intended as a general guideline. Consider the overall nutritional value of each food—calories, fats, nutrients and additives. Which food moves you closest to your health goals?

Dark Meat vs. White Meat
This is the classic Thanksgiving debate. But for health, white meat has the advantage. For each 3oz serving, white meat has 50 fewer calories and 4g less fat than dark. And at Thanksgiving, you’re bound to eat more than 3oz.

Sweet Potatoes vs. Mashed Potatoes
Generally potatoes are a healthy food. I especially recommend sweet potatoes for fall and winter diets. But when you add Thanksgiving condiments to potatoes, they lose their nutritional standing. Gravy or butter makes mashed potatoes full of fat. And adding sugar or marshmallows to sweet potatoes makes them closer to dessert than a vegetable.

The best: Savory sweet potatoes. Bake diced sweet potatoes with a tiny bit of olive oil, garlic and rosemary for a delicious and nutritious side dish.

Clearly the worst: Mashed potatoes swimming in butter or gravy.

Homemade Gravy vs. Canned Gravy
Gravy is delicious—but bad for your health. Basically, gravy is fat.
One quarter cup of homemade gravy has 18g fat, most of which is saturated, and contains virtually no nutrients. On the other hand, canned gravy has less fat but it’s high in salts, sugar and preservatives.

The best: Both are equally bad.The best choice is to eat very small amounts (or none).

Brussel Sprouts vs. Collard Greens
This one is a trick question—they are both good. Skip the recipes with bacon fat; steam these up and fill your plate. They are good for you and they fill you up so you don’t overeat other foods.

The best: Tie for first place.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce vs. Canned Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries are healthy and full of phytochemicals, which help protect against urinary tract infections, inflammation and cancer. Unfortunately, cranberry sauce is a different matter. Canned cranberry sauce can have high fructose corn syrup. You can leave the corn syrup out of homemade sauce, but many recipes call for lots of sugar.

The best: Homemade cranberry sauce.
Bonus choices: Reduce the sugar in the recipe or skip the cranberry sauce altogether and save your sugar for dessert.

Beer vs. Wine
The beer vs. wine debate is hotly contested, with each side claiming victory. Generally a serving of wine has fewer calories than beer and in some studies it is linked to cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol. On the other hand, a serving of beer generally has more nutrients and less alcohol than wine.

The best: You pick based on your health concerns. Are you watching calories or alcohol intake? In both cases, moderation is best.

Apple Pie vs. Pumpkin Pie
Both apples and pumpkins are a healthy start, but they take a turn when they become pie. Pies have a lot of fat in the crust and sugar in the filling.

Which is healthier? Pumpkin pie weighs in with 95 fewer calories and 5g less fat than apple pie, mainly because it has only one crust and is topped with a small dollop of whipped cream instead of a large scoop of ice cream.

The best: Pumpkin pie. Bonus if you pass on the whipped cream.

Whipped Cream vs. Ice Cream
This is a tough comparison because there is a wide range of products in each category. From Cool Whip to homemade whipped cream, from “frozen dairy dessert” (read the label of cheap ice creams and you’ll see this description) to real ice cream—there is a wide range of ingredients.

Obviously, both have fats and sugars. But one big difference between the two is how they are served. Generally a scoop of ice cream on a piece of pie can be at least half a cup, while a dollop of whipped cream is closer to two tablespoons. A serving of whipped cream is simply smaller than a serving of ice cream.

In both cases, check the ingredient labels for pure natural ingredients. Homemade gives you more control of the ingredients but choose your recipes wisely. Whipping cream has less fat than heavy cream, but it’s the high fat content in the recipes that make it “good.”

The best: Whipping cream. Bonus if you stick to two tablespoons.

Happy Thanksgiving

Best wishes for a fun Thanksgiving feast. May you and your loved ones have safe travels and good times.

9 Ways To Avoid Endocrine Disruptors

Can a shower curtain be bad for your health?
It can if it contains phthalates. Phthalates are just some of over 800 chemicals that are labeled as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals are toxic for a number of reasons. They may mimic estrogen, androgen or thyroid hormones and cause your body to respond to them inappropriately. Or they may block, stimulate or inhibit these hormones. By interfering in your hormone system, there is growing evidence that these chemicals are responsible for a wide range of health problems.

Endocrine disruptors are found in many products. Sandwich bags, air fresheners, dryer sheets, perfumes, sunscreens, cleaning products, laundry detergents, flame retardants, pesticides, cosmetics, shampoo, conditioners and vinyl shower curtains can all be suspect.

One widely known endocrine disruptor is bisphenol-A or BPA. This chemical is found in plastics and is the reason many people choose glass water bottles over plastic.

In February 2013, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released
a new report: State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012. According to this study, endocrine disruptors are linked to high rates of endocrine-related cancers, such as breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular and thyroid
cancers; low semen quality; genital malfunctions such as non-descended testes; adverse pregnancy outcomes; obesity; and Type 2 diabetes. But the effects don’t stop with humans. The report also finds reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformations in some Alaskan deer populations and population decline in some species of otters and sea lions. Clearly, it’s a good idea to minimize your exposure to these chemicals.

1. Reduce household fragrances. Keep your house fresh and clean without using air fresheners. Give your carpets and rugs a cleaning but remember to clean or change the vacuum filter first for maximum freshness. Open the windows. Put a bouquet of roses on the table. If your home smells stale, put a few drops of essential oils on cotton balls and leave them around the house.

2. Throw out the dryer sheets. Use homemade dryer sheets. Combine ½ cup vinegar with 6-8 drops of grapefruit, orange, lemon or tea tree essential oils. Spritz this solution on an old washcloth until moist and throw it in your dryer with your clothes.

3. Use green laundry detergents.

4. Use green cleaning products. You can clean most things with vinegar, baking soda, pure soap and a little determination.

5. Avoid perfumes. Use essential oils or, better yet, use no scent at all.

6. Choose your sunscreens wisely.

7. Buy natural cosmetics. Many cosmetics contain chemicals that may be endocrine disruptors but figuring out which ones are safe can be tricky. There are many cosmetic ingredients and sources disagree about their hazards. As a general rule, European standards are stricter than in the US so look for European brands. In addition to changing your cosmetics, you can reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors by using cosmetics less often.

8. Use natural shampoos and conditioners. Use vinegar or baking soda solutions to clean your hair.

9. Store your food in glass. Phthalates make plastics soft and are found in sandwich bags and other pliable plastics. Fats absorb phthalates more easily than water, so be especially careful to store fatty foods in glass.

Avoid heating or freezing food in plastic because extreme temperatures release the phthalates.