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How Acupuncture Can Improve Lung Health

How Acupuncture Can Improve Lung Health

The health of our lungs isn’t necessarily talked about a lot when general health is discussed. Typically, cardiovascular health, chronic pain, cholesterol and stroke risk tend to be the more common topics. Many don’t think about lung health until there is a problem and then improving it becomes priority number one. continue reading »

Cancer Treatment Side Effects? Acupuncture to the Rescue

Cancer Treatment Side Effects? Acupuncture to the Rescue

Cancer treatments can cause a variety of other side effects that also need to be addressed. More and more research is showing acupuncture as a viable option for additional pain management for those receiving chemotherapy or surgery and for the common side effects those treatments can bring. These side effects can include neuropathy, dry mouth, constipation, anxiety, and nausea. continue reading »

Herbal Spring Cleaning: 3 Surprisingly Powerful Herbs for the Liver

Timing is everything. Nature knows this and teaches us if we are paying attention. From winter to spring we can witness a drastic change in our environment. As that fresh spring breeze blows in and the cold barren landscape transforms into a vibrant display of life, we may feel like getting outside and shaking off some of that winter sluggishness.

In Chinese medicine, Spring is liver time, which is a time of rebirth, growth and movement. It is also a perfect time for supporting our liver function with some gentle detoxification. In accord with Chinese Medicine theory, the regeneration of liver cells is measurably more prolific after the spring equinox.  Our bodies know what to do. Liver function, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), includes regulating the movement of qi (energy) and blood in the body. It’s all about getting things moving again after nature’s slow season.

From a western biomedical standpoint, the liver is mainly an organ of detoxification. The liver degrades old red and white blood cells and breaks down toxic chemicals, cleansing and refreshing the blood. It actively filters 1.3 – 1.5 liters of blood every single minute.  It also synthesizes bile which carries toxins out of the body through the intestines.

There are 2 main phases of detoxification in the liver that process contaminants like medications, alcohol, and environmental toxins. Phase 1 is responsible for transforming fat-soluble compounds into water-soluble compounds. Phase 2 converts pesticides, alcohol, toxic metals, excess hormones etc. into safer compounds that can then be eliminated by other organs.

Herbology is the internal medicine branch of TCM. We can support liver function and in turn our natural spring renewal process with the use of some Chinese herbs. With an understanding that the safest and most effective herbal therapy is a customized one, we can look at a few herbal detox superheros:

Turmeric: (jiang huang)

TCM categorizes this herb as a blood mover. It unblocks qi and blood stasis and eases pain.

Western pharmacology recognizes its blood-moving and anti-inflammatory properties as well.  It is known to support both phase 1 and phase 2 of liver detox. A study on mice showed it also improved liver detoxification by lowering inflammatory markers, reducing oxidative stress and increasing glutathione (another important body detoxification product made in the liver).

Turmeric can be enjoyed as a food, seasoning, supplement, or in tea. ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder can be added to meals. Be sure to add a little black pepper to increase absorption. You can also grate fresh turmeric root into soups, salads and curries.

Schizandra Berry (wu wei zi )

This amazing medicinal herb is also known as 5 flavor berry because it exhibits all 5 flavors. It also remarkably enters all 12 meridians and therefore has multiple beneficial effects on the body. It is mainly thought of as having an astringent action, which can treat symptoms of liver and kidney deficiency by preventing loss of qi and yin fluids. Bio-chemically, it is known to support regeneration of healthy liver cells. It has been used to help induce regeneration of liver tissue after part of the liver was surgically removed.  It also activates the phase 1 detox pathway, helps to decrease free radicals, protects cell membranes, and can assist in lowering stress-related increases of liver enzymes.

Small amounts of the berries can be eaten fresh or dried and there are also tinctures, powders and supplements. But why not relax with a cup of some medicinal and delicious 5-flavor tea?

Gold Coin Grass: (jin qian cao)

Another herbal powerhouse to keep on hand for spring cleaning is Gold Coin Grass. TCM functions are to drain damp, remove heat and toxins, and eliminate stasis. In Western herbology, it is recognized for its ability to dissolve and prevent gallstones and promote bile secretion to help to move sediment and clear bile ducts. This is in addition to it’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects

Gold Coin Grass is known for making a drinkable tea, but can also be taken as a supplement or tincture. It is not advisable for patients with diarrhea or those on anti-diuretic medications.

Listen to your body this spring. You may hear it calling for exercise, or emotional release. While you’re at it, try one of these 3 herbal superheroes and see what their powers can do for you!

To discover the full benefits of Chinese herbal therapy and how it can help you optimally adjust to the changing season, call your Chinese Medicine practitioner to schedule your next appointment!

Effortless Healing: Can Imbalances Clear up on their Own?

Effortless healing with acupuncture

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes, but…..there are a few things to consider when relying on our ‘natural propensity towards health’. The most important of which is entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, a disorderly force we must contend with. It runs counter to the organizational efforts of nature, but also works in balance with them, in yet another dynamic expression of yin and yang.

Entropy is played out in living systems as the natural deterioration of the body. As we age past mid-life our body tissues and physiological systems gradually lose their vibrance. Structure and function suffer, as entropy takes over in the process of decay necessary to the cycle of life. So, where we are in the stages of development/decline in life is a big determining factor for the ability to self-heal.

How much entropy are we up against? Imbalances have a much better chance of resolving themselves while we are young and more in the yang (growth) phase of our life versus the yin (decline) phase. Severity of disease or injury also dictates the level of counter-entropy efforts needed.

Regardless of age, however,  and even the severity of our condition, we can still tap into our innate healing energy under certain conditions. And yes, some of those conditions can be practically effortless, depending on how you look at it.

One condition is: stop doing the things that are pushing your body into a state of entropy. Don’t keep eating toxic food, don’t keep putting yourself in overly stressful situations (as much as you can control it), in other words: don’t keep banging your head against the wall.

The other condition is that your qi must be strong. In TCM terms, qi IS that natural healing force. It is that spark of life that organizes chaos into form and function. Qi can be supported by even minimal efforts such as adequate sleep, meditation, or simply sitting quietly in a restful but conscious state.

While some of us call it qi, others think of it as the inborn system of self-preservation. Zhigou Wang, a biomedicine researcher from China, breaks down the ways the human body resists entropy into 4 processes[1]: self-organization, self-defense, self-healing and anti-wear and tear.

Self-organization can be witnessed in the miracle of development, the way a single cell matures into a full grown organism. Scientists at Tufts university looked at this miracle in early stages of tadpole development. In doing so they documented a perfect physical representation of the organizing power of qi: patterns of visible bioelectrical signals outlining and directing the development of the embryo.[2]

Self-defense includes our immune system, inflammatory response, endogenous antioxidants, the stress response, autophagy and apoptosis (the destruction and removal of sick cells).

Self-healing includes compensatory mechanisms like the increase in heart rate that occurs to compensate for slow circulation due to heart damage. This is also the category of cell/tissue renewal. Think of a wound healing, or a broken bone that seems to magically repair itself over time. When a large number of cells are destroyed, surrounding cells replicate to make new ones. Self healing also happens on a molecular level with DNA repair. There is a natural editing process at work correcting damaged or mutated DNA. Finally, anti-wear and tear is simply the daily process of upkeep necessary to mend minor internal injuries that arise from continued use of the body’s tissues.

And while these self-preservation mechanisms can help to slow or even reverse the degradation of our living system, there are no guarantees (well, except eventual death).

Effortless repair and renewal does happen, even in seemingly miraculous ways, but every little effort to support this process gives us a better shot at healing, and a better chance at enjoying the best quality of life. Acupuncture is one of the best tools for supporting all aspects of this self-preservation system. It has been shown to strengthen immunity and regulate inflammation[3] , aid in tissue renewal[4], and even DNA repair[5].  It does this because it supports the driving force of this self-preservation system, that spark of life, that intelligent bio-electrical energy that organizes and directs our growth and healing: or as practitioners of Chinese medicine have called it for millennia: qi.

Yes, it takes effort to call and make an appointment but once you are on the table you can relax and allow your acupuncturist to support your own effortless healing abilities. The gentle placement of needles at various acupuncture points will free up the flow of your own qi-driven self-preservation system.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095809921003866#!

[2] https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/face-frog-time-lapse-video-reveals-never-seen

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540978/

[4] https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1939-acupuncture-muscle-regeneration-discovery-2

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19873920/

Does weather affect your body?

We’ve probably all heard motherly advice at some point reminding us to bundle up in cold weather so we don’t “catch a cold”, or hear grandpa accurately predict a storm when his hip starts aching. Or how about getting a case of the winter weather blues? Even in the western world we recognize a relationship with nature in terms of environmental conditions. Changes in temperature, sunlight, barometric pressure, and humidity all play a role in this relationship. 

When it comes to the weather and our health, many in the west automatically think of how season changes and extreme weather can aggravate symptoms of asthma and allergies, but weather-related health concerns go far beyond seasonal allergies and asthma.  Changes in barometric pressure can affect joints (like Grandpa’s hip), and cause headaches. 

Headaches can also be caused by heat and dehydration, so summer adventurers beware (bring lots of water!). High humidity can intensify heat too as it limits our ability to cool down through sweating, potentially leading to hyperthermia and heat stroke.  

Cold weather can tighten muscles causing body pain. It also constricts blood vessels leading to an increase in blood pressure and increased risks of heart attack and stroke. While blood pressure tends to be higher in the winter, any temperature extreme, hot or cold, can affect heart function. 

Sunlight is another aspect of weather that has a lot of influence over our health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often associated with the colder, darker fall and winter months. The reduced sunlight alters our melatonin and serotonin levels, potentially leaving us with disruptions in sleep and mood. 

Ancient Chinese Medical texts describe a similar relationship between humans and their environment, though the wording and understanding of the nature of the environmental conditions differs slightly. 

In TCM there are 5 main “climates” or environmental influences related to our health.

These are: COLD, HEAT, WIND, DAMP, DRYNESS 

(summerheat, associated with late summer, is actually considered a 6th climate)

These potential causes of illness described in Chinese Medicine sound like weather patterns themselves and are considered external influences in origin but can penetrate to have effects on the body and create what we can think of as internal weather. We can also be more prone to their influence based on our constitution and lifestyle, (and can even manifest these ‘climates’ internally without external exposure). 

Any extremes with these various conditions can allow pathogens to enter, if our self-protective energy and efforts are weak, and leave us vulnerable to infections, such as with colds/flus. 

They can also go deeper in the body to directly affect the organs, with symptoms presenting throughout the body in the respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive, nervous, musculo-skeletal systems and skin. 

Wind is understood as the biggest trouble-maker as it often combines with other influences to wreak havoc in the body. It can affect the joints, bring on skin rashes, or cause a spell of dizziness, among other issues. Cold can kill the digestive fire; combine that with a damp invasion and you can experience bloating and/or nausea. Heat and dryness, on the other hand, can injure the blood and yin fluids of the body causing symptoms such as fever, restlessness, scanty painful urination, brittle hair and excessive thirst.

Chinese medicine takes a more preventative approach to these issues by addressing imbalances before they express as more severe symptoms. There is also a focus on the integrity of the defensive energy of the body as well as the body’s ability to handle transitions with stability. Knowing our bodies will be continuously exposed to the challenge of seasonal weather changes and potential extremes of climate conditions, we can prepare accordingly.

Don’t wait for an internal weather emergency to call for an appointment, get in asap to strengthen your resilience to external weather conditions, balance out your internal climates and assist you in transitioning season to season with ease and well-being!

 

Ressource to expand on climates: https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/six-climatic-factors