Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is on Tuesday, February 1st. Also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is celebrated at the second new moon following the Winter Solstice. This festival marks the end of winter and the beginning of a long-awaited spring.

As I do with each Chinese New Year, I share the Chinese Astrological predictions for the coming year. My favorite astrologer and fellow acupuncturist, Lillian Bridges, passed away last year and I really miss hearing her predictions for the coming new year. This year I have gathered predictions from several sources(including one of her colleagues) to share with you. I find these entertaining and enjoy looking back at the previous year’s predictions to see if they were indeed accurate. Please don’t hold me to these predictions!

2020 was was about survival, and 2021 was about anchoring ourselves in a new reality which the pandemic has definitely brought about. 2022 is about setting a new direction.

Year of the Black Water Tiger

According to Chinese astrology, 2022 will be the Year of the Black Water Tiger. The tiger denotes strength, vitality and growth. These are qualities that will hopefully serve us well as we look to move past the uncertainty the last 2 years has wrought.

The Year of the Tiger will be about making big changes. This will be a year of risk-taking and adventure. We’re finding enthusiasm again, both for ourselves and for others. Everyone is fired up, generosity is at an all-time high and social progress feels possible again. The Black Water Tiger implies the arrival of the God of the Wealth, so 2022 is a great year to start a business or career goal. It is a time for decision and action and a time to begin manifesting what you would like to happen over the next 10 years.

The Tiger is associated with Yang (masculine, active) energy. Tigers are also quick to take action, so be prepared in 2022 for situations to change quickly. On the down side, this can mean hot tempers and drama at home or at work. On the up side, a Tiger year can also bring unexpected good news and turn crazy dreams into glorious reality. Some of us will thrive through taking great leaps, while others might crash and burn. So while it’s important to follow our intuition and run with our wildest dreams, that means we also have to keep our egos in check seeking a balance between courageous leadership and compassionate humility.

Water years restore fluidity to our lives. While fear and resistance might crop up, by being mindful to tune into your inner wisdom you can flow with the changes presented in the tiger year. Here’s wishing you positive energy as you embark upon a brand new journey, with hope and confidence in 2022.

Luck & Prosperity in 2022

Eat Your Way to Prosperity and Good Luck

Just as we celebrate the New Year in the US with traditional foods such as blackeyed peas, ham and collard greens to bring luck and prosperity, there are several lucky foods that are traditionally eaten at the Chinese New Year.

Chinese dumplings

Dumplings, a staple of Chinese cuisine, are associated with wealth. According to tradition, the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebrations, the more money you can make in the New Year. It’s common to eat dumplings with cabbage and radish as a symbol of prosperity both for the body and the mind. However, dumplings with sauerkraut are forbidden because they mean a poor and difficult future. Before eating a dumpling, all the people at the dinner table have to say the following phrase: “Zhāo cái jìn bǎo,which means “Bringing in wealth and treasure.”

Spring Rolls – The name ”Spring Rolls” refers specifically to eating this dish during the Lunar Year (also called the Spring Festival). There are no specific rules to follow when it comes to spring rolls, but it’s common to say the phrase “A ton of gold,referring to this dish as a carrier of prosperity (they look like gold bars).

Vegetables play an important role in a Chinese dinner table, and each of them symbolizes something specific.

  • Bamboo shoots represent longevity;
  • Poria mushrooms represent blessings and fortune;
  • Muskmelon and grapefruit represent family;
  • Seaweed represents wealth and fortune.

Enjoy with family and friends as you celebrate the coming of Spring. Here’s to bringing in wealth and treasure!

Holiday Blues or Holiday Bliss?

Minimize stress and anxiety so you can enjoy the holidays.

Many people look forward to the holiday season and the start of a new year. It often provides an opportunity to spend quality time with family, take a few days off from work, or go on a winter vacation. But if the thought of holiday season gives you visions of stress and chaos, you are not alone.  While the holiday season can be a fun and joyous time, it can also be very stressful. The combined effort of shopping, attending social events, and entertaining guests can quickly become too much to handle.

The body’s reaction to stress is meant to protect us. Our natural reactions to danger or challenge can be positive, but when we feel intense pressure or feel out of control these reactions become negative stress. The “fight or flight” response from the sympathetic nervous system occurs as we react to physical and mental challenges. Excessive emotional stimulation or suppression causes imbalance, injuring the body and producing disease. Stress is one of the things that will lower your immune system.

Here are several ways to minimize stress and anxiety so you can thoroughly enjoy this festive time of year and stay well at the same time.

crop unrecognizable woman holding cup of tea near christmas tree
Photo by Marko Klaric on Pexels.com

Nix the Sugar

Some call this the “sugar season” which officially begins the day after Halloween and goes through New Years. We have many occasions to indulge in desserts, festive beverages and the like. If you want to reduce stress, sugar is one of the first things to cut out of your diet. When you’re stressed, your body releases more cortisol, a hormone responsible for helping us manage both stress and blood sugar levels. That’s because when you eat sugary foods, blood sugar levels spike, and the body must release more cortisol to balance blood sugar. The problem is that increased cortisol can also cause sleep issues, decreased immune response, headaches, and unhealthy food cravings. Additionally, rapidly fluctuating blood sugar levels cause feelings that are similar to stress, including anxiousness and fear.  By eliminating foods with added sugars—like pastries, flavored yogurt, and soda—and eating more whole foods, you’ll keep your blood sugar stable, boost your immune system and will have fewer mood swings, reduced stress, and a happier body.

Help for Autoimmune Disease

The incidence of autoimmune disease has skyrocketed over the past few decades. More than 700 million people around the world are now estimated to be affected, and sadly, conventional treatment has little to offer in most cases.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body essentially attacks itself and the immune system stays on high alert, resulting in chronic inflammation. It is one of the top ten causes of death in women and the elderly, and now affects one in ten people worldwide.

Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease. In fact, over a hundred distinct autoimmune diseases have been identified that affect almost every organ system and tissue in the body. Another forty diseases are suspected of being autoimmune related.

Unfortunately, there’s no sign of this trend slowing down with the prevalence of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis increasing at an alarming rate. In just eight years, from 2001–2009, the incidence of type 1 diabetes increased by 23 percent!

This dramatic rise in autoimmune disease over the past fifty years, suggests that both environmental factors and genetics are at play. We think of this as the genetics setting the stage for autoimmunity and environmental factors activating autoimmunity. This suggests that environmental factors are the critical triggering factor that sets off the autoimmune response.

Some of these key environmental factors include:

  • Diet – The modern, western diet or Standard American Diet (SAD) is low in nutrient dense foods like vegetables and fruits, and high in sugars, salt, and high-calorie processed foods.
  • Infections – Viruses, parasites and other infections, along with the use of antibiotics and other drugs to address these infections affect the gut microbiota. All of this disturbs the balance of bacteria in our gut and profoundly affects our immune system. There is typically some kind of infection at the root of most autoimmune disease.
  • Environment toxins – pesticides, herbicides, exposure to chemicals, drugs, molds and other toxins can initiate autoimmunity by altering the expression of immune system genes or disrupting other immune system functions.
  • Stress – A BIG contributor. Stress may trigger autoimmunity by altering the gut microbiota and by dysregulating the body’s primary stress-response system that also influences immune function.
  • Lack of sleep – Chronic insomnia and sleep apnea are both associated with significantly increased risks of autoimmune disease. Similarly, a disruption in circadian rhythms, such as shift work, or frequent international travel has been associated with increased autoimmune disease.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help

There are a number of ways that we work with our patients to help with autoimmune disease. Some of these include:

  • Diet Therapy is key in addressing autoimmune issues. We want to remove foods that may trigger or exacerbate an immune response , and increase intake of nutrients that promote optimal immune function. Finally, we will increase intake of foods that support a healthy gut microbiota. We can help determine the best approach for your condition.
  • Acupuncture works by calming the body’s immune system and reversing the body’s sensitivity to the “trigger.” Acupuncture can reverse or stabilizes the progression of autoimmune disease for the majority of patients. Acupuncture is used to help the body restore balance, treating the root of the disorder, while specifically addressing the symptoms that are unique to each individual.
  • Lifestyle modification is also crucial for people with autoimmune disease. This includes exercise (the right kinds, and the right amount), sun exposure, stress management, sleep, and pleasure and social connection.

We will develop a treatment program specifically for you to manage your autoimmune disorder. This may involve a combination of therapies including acupuncture, stress-reducing exercises, moderate physical activity, herbal medicine, and nutritional support.

We are here to support you in your journey toward improved health. If you’d like more information or would like to schedule a consultation to understand how we can help, give us a call.

Staying Healthy This Fall

Even though it’s still hot outside, we are fast approaching the change of the seasons – summer into fall – and of all times of the year, this is the most susceptible for colds, flu and allergies. The weather should be cooling soon, school has started, and activities pick up so generally there’s more stress. And this year, “COVID stress” brings the usual fall stress to new levels.

Autumn is the season associated with the Lung and its partner, the Large Intestine. If you tend to catch colds or have allergies in the Fall, it’s important to take care of these organs! Together the lung and large intestines are related to immunity through the strength of the protective external layer of our skin. Generally, outside pathogens most easily enter through the respiratory and digestive systems, and the lung and colon are responsible for maintaining the function of these systems so that they are not penetrated by outside pathogens. According to Chinese medicine, the body’s defensive energy is directly dependent on the strength of the lung and colon. Incidentally, these are the two areas attacked by the Coronavirus.

So how do you stay well through this vulnerable time and keep your family well, too? The good news – there are many alternatives to support health through this time. The serious news – NOW is the time to act.

DIET CHANGES

First of all, change your diet now to reflect the season to come. Cooler weather means ingesting warmer food and drinks.

Here’s what to eat:

  • Switch from salads to soups.
  • Eat cooked rather than raw fruit – consider crisps, cobblers or pies.
  • Use lots of spices such as ginger, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, and fennel.
  • Ingest root veggies and winter squash.
  • Increase protein intake.

Here’s what to avoid:

  • Cold, refrigerated or iced drinks
  • Dairy
  • Raw foods
  • Smoothies
  • Cold juices
  • Ice cream and other iced/cold foods

Supplements:

I recommend the following supplements to keep your immune system in top shape:

  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Probiotics – select a formula with a variety of strains of bacteria
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Herbs prescribed by your Acupuncturist/Herbalist for your unique situation. This may include prevention from viruses and other pathogens.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

It’s important to reduce stress and plan for the cooler season to come. Even though it may still be warm during the day, the evenings are beginning to be a little bit cooler, reflecting the weather to come. Thus, this is the time to dress warmer. Here are several ways to change lifestyle to support your immune system.

  • Carry a jacket or sweater as needed.
  • Wear a scarf or high collar to protect the back of your neck and protect immunity.
  • Go to bed earlier and get more sleep.
  • Eat regular meals, especially breakfast, even if it’s late morning (skipping meals lowers immunity).
  • Take rest breaks during the day.
  • Include daily meditation or contemplation time to manage stress.
  • Strengthen the Lungs by exercising, stretching, and moving your body.
  • Pay close attention to how you feel daily so you can act immediately if you feel something coming on.
  • Make sure you are having a regular bowel movement too. Here’s why.

WHAT TO DO AT THE FIRST SIGNS OF ILLNESS

What if you do begin to feel sick? Can you prevent it from taking hold? Yes – it is possible to prevent a pending virus or cold if at the first signs of it you do one or all of the following:

Covid…. Ugh…. Again..

Just when you thought it was safe to go out of the house, the resurgence of Covid infections has got everyone on edge again. It’s really hard to maintain that sense of heightened vigilance and it puts us into a sympathetic nervous system response. That’s the “fight or flight” response. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s so easy to get burned out when we are always on alert and can even lead to PTSD-like symptoms.

If you are hunkering down again like many folks, you can still get treatment for those things that are bugging you. I’m opening up my Telehealth Sessions again. While I can’t do acupuncture over Zoom, I can prescribe herbs and make nutrition and lifestyle recommendations that can help you make it through this latest wave of the pandemic. Whether you are looking for stress relief, virus prevention, or help to resolve viral symptoms, I’m here to help you. Herbs can be sent directly to you, or you can pick them up at the clinic.

Telehealth sessions will be available on Mondays and Wednesdays at 11:00, Thursday at 3:00 and Friday at 12:00 and last about 30 minutes. They are bookable online here.

It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the pandemic. Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Nutrition Therapy can help you remain resilient and healthy.

It’s HOT out there!

Most of us associate the summer season with heat, and rightfully so. In Chinese Medicine, summer is the season of Fire. The Fire element is in charge of the heart and small intestine, and these organs help us optimally digest our food.

Salad and Watermelon Smoothie

In this season of sunshine and heat, it’s smart to find balance with cooling foods and foods with a salty taste. Recipes that include ingredients from the sea like shrimp and cooling fruits and veggies like watermelon and cucumber are ideal. Your body craves these foods in the summertime, and when you allow yourself the indulgences of cool and salty foods, you’ll be able to combat the heat and improve your digestion during the dog days of August.

There is one caveat. I don’t typically recommend cold foods and drinks because they can be difficult to digest and dampen your digestive fire. So use these foods wisely, and don’t overdo it. Use them when it’s really hot out, and when you experience heat-like symptoms such as heavy sweating, hot flashes, dry skin, constipation, thirst or heart palpitations.

See my previous post for a wonderful Watermelon Smoothie Recipe that cools you from the inside out. Watermelon is especially good for improving hydration, recovering from heat stroke, quenching thirst and boosting energy.

Watermelon Smoothie with Goji Berries and Lime

From The Chinese Medicine Cookbook by Stacey Isaacs

This watermelon smoothie is truly refreshing during the dog days of summer!

Watermelon smoothie
Watermelon healthy juice in mug with lime and mint

Ingredients:

4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 cup ice
1 tablespoon goji berries
Juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend. Pour into a glass and enjoy! Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

Watermelon is considered a Chinese herb(xi gua). It is the perfect answer when you are overheated on a hot day; it cools you from the inside out and quenches thirst. The rind of the watermelon is also a Chinese herb (xi gua pi), and it is even more powerful at relieving summer heat and generating fluids in the body. So the next time you are cutting up a beautiful fresh melon, don’t remove all of the white/light green rind. It will do your body good.

Especially good for: improving hydration, recovering from heat stroke, quenching thirst, boosting energy.

Enjoy the Bounty of Summer

Summer is officially here and that brings a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Summer Fruits and Vegetables

By now everyone knows that eating more vegetables and fruits is beneficial for our health. Most “standard” dietary recommendations suggest at least five servings of vegetables and fruits daily, however many studies show that more is better. The benefits of eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits are many, including:

  • Reduced obesity and hypertension
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Improved mental/cognitive performance
  • Improved lung function, particularly those with COPD
  • Reduced adverse effects of environmental pollutants
  • Reduced risk of cancer

Diet Suggestions for Summer

Summer is the time of heat and fire, and that equates to the heart and small intestine in Chinese Medicine. These organs help us optimally digest our food. During this time of sunshine and heat, it’s smart to find a balance of cooling foods and foods with a salty taste.

  • Seafoods and seaweeds can be a great addition to your diet during the summer to combat the heat and improve digestion.
  • Cooling foods include fruits like kiwi, citrus and watermelon, and veggies like cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, mint, and cilantro.
  • Drink lots of water and try watermelon juice to expel toxins and cool the heart fire. See the recipe below for Watermelon Smoothie with Goji Berries and Lime for a refreshing summer beverage on a hot day.
  • Avoid: Hot and dry foods such as coffee, excessively spicy foods, ice cold foods like ice cream since they cause the digestive system to slow down.

What to look for

It is best to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables; variety in color being one of the more important characteristics. The color of a fruit or vegetables can be a good indicator of the nutrients it contains, and therefore by eating a wide variety in color, you are getting a wide variety of nutrients.

Look for vegetables and fruits that are in season, fresh and ripe. We have a few local farmers markets in our area that are definitely worth a visit. We’ve mentioned before that attuning your body the the seasons is important to maintain balance in our health. While its nice that we can get a variety of fruits and vegetables from all over the world at the supermarket, it’s best to stick with those that would normally be found in your area and to pass on those that have been picked unripe and shipped across the world. It is best to eat fruit fully ripened to get the most antioxidants.

Welcome Paige!

If you’ve been in the clinic in the last month, you may have already had a chance to meet Paige Gradishar, my new Clinic Assistant. 

Paige and I have known each other for several years and I’m so excited she is joining my team.  She’s answering phones, scheduling appointments and doing some follow up calls with patients.  She’s also helping to get rooms cleaned and ready for the next patient.  And this girl is organized!  She’s getting my inventory squared away and is doing a great job to keep me on schedule.  I’m not sure how I got along without her!   Please join me in welcoming her to Balanced Energy Wellness.