Category Archives: Herbal Medicine

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.

Intergenerational Trauma, Anxiety and Depression

family tree

Trauma alters gene expression. This can get passed down family lines. It is designed to prepare both individuals and their descendants to deal with a dangerous and chaotic world. Unfortunately when this goes too far and can’t switch back off, it can become a family curse. It can turn into a self fulfilling prophesy leading to continuous cycles of pain and frustration.

This curse comes in the form of altered glucocorticoid- and immune-related gene expression. These can have broad reaching effects on the body. They influence psychological states, ability to focus, and function socially. 

Offspring of trauma survivors are more likely to develop PTSD, mood, and anxiety disorders and demonstrate genetic alterations. The expression of these genes can cause wide ranging damage from obesity to insomnia and infertility. 

Families may be affected financially as well because having intergenerational trauma may make it harder to focus and plan, all of which have long term financial consequences for families often resulting in intergenerational poverty.

Clinic Updates and Self Help

Well, we’ve made it through the first week of “Social Distancing” and sadly my first week of the clinic being closed. I really miss you all! Unfortunately, this is going to be around for a bit longer, so I’m closing again this coming week and expect to be closed at least until April.

I am available for phone calls and can provide herbal formulas to you by mail. Herbal formulas can be used for virus prevention, digestive problems, anxiety, or even if you do get sick and are isolated at home (most doctors and hospitals are sending people home unless they are having significant breathing issues). I’ve updated my website so you can schedule an herbal consultation if you are interested.

This last week has been surreal, but my thinking is that this is a great time to do some self healing. There are so many things we can be doing right now to help our bodies get stronger so that we can fight whatever comes our way. Here are my suggestions:

MOVE!

While we are stuck at home, there’s a tendency to binge watch TV and Movies, or be on Facebook or Twitter, which usually means we are sitting around like couch potatoes. You don’t need to go out and run a marathon, but some gentle stretching can go a long way towards easing pain, loosening tight muscles and generally keeping your body and mind in a good place. It’s also a good idea to sweat a little to allow your body to push out pathogens and body toxins. You don’t need to work hard to break a sweat – a brisk walk will do it especially now that the weather is warmer (just beware of the pollen right now – see below).

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Clinic Updates Regarding COVID-19

Well, we couldn’t avoid it for long and now COVID-19 is here, right in our county. We have our first presumed case at Fayette Piedmont. Let’s not panic, but we can expect it to get worse before it gets better. There are many things we can do to protect ourselves, and we all need to be vigilant about it. Here’s what I’m doing at the clinic, and I’m asking for your cooperation so that we can all stay safe and well.

  1. Firstly, if you have a fever, dry cough, fatigue and respiratory symptoms, contact your medical doctor, urgent care clinic or Emergency Room right away to seek testing and treatment. I am not equipped to test or provide comprehensive treatment for COVID-19.
  2. If you feel ill, even if it’s just a tickle in your throat, or a low grade fever, PLEASE DO NOT come into the clinic until we speak. I welcome your phone call, text or email to ask whether or not you should come in, and am happy to ship herbal formulas to your home should you need them.
  3. Please use the hand sanitizer on the table when you enter the clinic I encourage you to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you leave the clinic as well.
  4. I’ll be taking extra precautions to wipe down door knobs, bathroom fixtures, surfaces and treatment tables frequently. And just so you know, table linens are changed and I wash, wash, and rewash my hands between patients.
  5. I’ll be using moxa on most everyone. If you aren’t familiar, it’s an herb that is burned that has properties that clear viruses and bacteria. It is also used to boost the immune system. Not only does it help you, but it also clears the air. Even though the clinic may smell a little smokey, the smoke has been shown to be beneficial. I use a smoke cleaning air filter, but the smell does tend to linger.
  6. During this pandemic, we are asked to limit activities and contact with others. Fortunately, with a small clinic, I rarely have more than one person in the waiting room at any one time, so there is minimal contact with others. However, if you are uncomfortable coming in at any time, please give me as much notice as you can and I’ll reschedule your appointment for another time.

The Role of Chinese Medicine in this Pandemic

Back in February, the Chinese government declared that Traditional Chinese (herbal) Medicine should be used in conjunction with western interventions in the treatment of COVID-19. Through my contacts here and in China, I’ve been getting reports about those efforts and am relieved to report that the patients who are getting incorporated TCM treatments are recovering, even from the most dire circumstances.

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Virus Alert! How to Protect Yourself This Flu Season

With all of the scare about the coronavirus, you may be asking yourself what you can do to keep from catching it or any other flu-like virus this year. Chinese medicine is being used along side western medicine in China to combat it, and I’ve been keeping up to date on the formulas being used.  Rest assured, I have both preventative formulas and formulas to treat these viruses in stock.  Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Let’s talk about prevention first as that’s the easiest way to keep from getting sick.

  1. Wash your hands frequently. This is by far the best way to prevent the spread of sickness. You need to wash your handswash with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice, or Twinkle, twinkle little star.
  2. Clean your environment regularly – We know that most respiratory viruses are spread by droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The virus can live on surfaces for a period of hours to days. Door knobs, sink and toilet handles, kids toys, etc. are all breeding grounds that need to be disinfected, especially if someone in your home is or has been sick. I also burn moxa or sage to help fumigate a sick room (also great for an immune system boost).
  3. Keep your hands away from your face. For some of us this is hard. A simple itch of the nose and the hand goes up instinctively. But this is exactly how germs get into your body. Eyes, nose, mouth and ears are all places where viruses can enter.
  4. When traveling via plane or public transportation, wipe down surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes. Arm rests, seat back tray tables and the video screen – anything you might touch are all candidates for disinfecting. You may even want to take a mask in case your seat mate is coughing or sneezing. You may want to wipe down your hotel room when you arrive as well.
  5. Stay away. It goes without saying that you’ll be better off if you stay away from sick people. But sometimes that’s difficult when you have a sick child or relative who requires your care. Double up on all of the precautions above, keep that person in a designated sick room, and keep everyone else away. If there’s lots of sneezing and coughing, consider wearing a mask. And by all means if you are the one who is sick, stay away from others. They will appreciate that you aren’t sharing the bug with them.
  6. Stay warm. The weather can be really fickle this time of year.  One day it’s cold and rainy, and then the next day is 70 degrees.  Make sure to dress appropriately especially on cold, windy days.  In Chinese Medicine we say that all pathogens come on the wind, so protect your head and neck and keep warm by wearing a scarf or hoodie.

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Are You Really Ready for 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 changes in our equilibrium. In Chinese medicine, excessive emotional stimulation or suppression causes imbalance, thereby injuring the body and producing disease. And if you read last month’s newsletter, you know that 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.

Nix the Sugar

Some call this the “sugar season” which officially begins the day after Halloween and goes through New Years with 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 Continue reading

How to Stay Well this Fall

Even though it’s still hot as Hades outside, we are fast approaching the change of the seasons – summer into fall –  one of most susceptible times of the year for catching colds and flu.  The weather should be cooling soon (fingers crossed!), school has started, and activities pick up so most likely there’s more stress.  And since it’s still so hot, you may be tempted to continue to dress lightly and eat cooling foods.   Kids are bringing colds or flu home from school so it spreads through the family and co-workers sharing it at the office.   It’s no wonder many of us are sick during this time of year.

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.

So how do you stay well through this vulnerable time? How do you prevent catching a cold or flu and keep your family will, too? The good news – there are many alternatives to support health through this change of seasons. But you need to get on it!  NOW is the time to prepare.

Change your Diet

First of all, change your diet no 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

Continue reading

Spotlight on Microgard Plus

One of my favorite herbal formulas for digestion is Microgard Plus. These tiny micropills have many great benefits for the digestive system and tend the “micro garden” in our gut. Some of these benefits include:

  • Stimulates digestive enzymesmicrogard plus
  • Regulates blood sugar and metabolism
  • Helps break down proteins, fats and sugars
  • Calms stomach upset, diarrhea, and indigestion (including hangovers)
  • Promotes good bacteria and make conditions unfavorable for bad bacteria.
  • Protects the gut microbiota

This herbal product is sourced from the finest quality Tibetan herbs. If you have a clean diet that is low on carbs and high on veggies, then you probably don’t need them, but if you eat like most Americans, then you may want to add them to your health care routine. They are particularly handy to have around for when you eat something you probably shouldn’t have, or when traveling to foreign countries where you are eating things your body isn’t accustomed to. If you’d like to learn more, please ask next time you are in the clinic or give me a call.