Category Archives: Lifestyle

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:

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.

How to Make This a Great Thanksgiving

Even if you are by yourself

In past holiday newsletters, I’ve offered advice on how to have a less-stressed holiday season.  This year requires a different twist on that theme.

A long time ago, I had a boss who taught me how to take advantage of change/chaos. The secret is to figure out what the opportunity is. And I’d like to offer that in these times, the opportunity is to take time for yourself, find joy and gratitude. There is no doubt that these are stressful times, and honestly, adding a family gathering or holiday party to the mix at this time would add even more stress. Most times I’m giving advice on stress relieving techniques to cope with the chaos of holiday shopping, family gatherings, and work parties. But all of that is so last year!

How is stress affecting you now?
For some we turn to food to calm our nerves. How about looking at food preparation and eating as an opportunity to express thanks? Our mindset before eating or preparing foods has a big impact on how we digest food. I’ve taught classes on mindful eating and one thing that I always emphasize is practicing gratitude during preparation, cooking and eating what we have. That is the idea of preparing and eating meals with calmness and enjoyment so that the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged which, incidentally, helps with digestion. Taking time to appreciate the work that went into growing and harvesting the fruits and vegetables, is an example. Eating slowly and appreciating all of the flavors is so beneficial to your body and mind.

Bring in Gratitude and Joy

Did you know that you can’t experience two opposite emotions at the same time? So by expressing gratitude or joy, you can’t simultaneously feel sorrow or fear. So look for those opportunities to do the things you enjoy doing during the holidays, even if you are by yourself and can’t be with family members. Do you love to decorate for the holidays? Then do it, even if you are the only one who will see it!

How can you express gratitude during this time? What comes to mind when I ask “what are you thankful for?” Notice, I didn’t ask “what is missing from your life?” It’s all about how you frame things. While I’m missing my family this Thanksgiving, I am grateful that they are all healthy and safe. I’m also thankful that there will be less stress and I can cook whatever the heck I want to cook without having to worry about the special requests from everyone. I can take a deep breath for a few days! I’m looking forward to it. I’m also grateful to spend some quality time with my partner, David and my cute doggie, Jess!

This year, I am extremely grateful for you, my patients! You bring me great joy and I care about you all. Please see the special holiday offers below and take this opportunity to treat yourself, friends or family to the gift of wellness!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Coping with Stress

Well, 2020 has certainly been a doozie! As if the Coronavirus wasn’t enough, there’s so much happening in our country right now with fires, hurricanes, unprecedented job losses, riots, and politics that it’s no wonder most of my patients are stressed. I’ve seen a big increase in anxiety, depression and all around feeling of stress in my patients. So if you are feeling it too, you are not alone.

Stress is sometimes used as a catch-all word for many symptoms but the fact is that stress is definitely real. It can be the cause of both emotional and physical symptoms like anxiety, depression, hypertension, fatigue, headaches, addiction, obesity, pain, and more. Managing stress is key to keep these feelings from getting out of control.

What’s happening?

When you face a challenging situation, your body releases chemicals, including cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals are released to help you handle the situation by putting you into a high alert state and preparing your body to take action. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol increases sugars in your bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. This all sounds good, but too much is bad for your health.

Lung Health – The Self-help Tip No One is Talking About

Are you pooping regularly? If you’ve been into my clinic, you know I always ask. It’s one of the first things I look to correct if there are issues. Here’s why ….

The relationship between the lungs and large intestines was first recorded in the Huang Di Nei Jing (aka the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine) and became one of the basic theories of Chinese Medicine. The large intestine depends on the lungs for movement via the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm, which works like a pump to regulate abdominal pressure and move food through the digestive tract. This stimulates the bowels to move and eliminate waste. But, if the lungs are congested and bronchial passages clogged, the bowels don’t work as well. The good news is that lung issues can be helped by purging the bowels.

So, if your lungs don’t function properly, constipation may be the result. Likewise, if you aren’t pooping at least once daily, your lungs can’t function properly and phlegm backs up into the lungs. With COVID-19, the lungs become congested with jello-like phlegm that is difficult to cough out. You can’t breathe normally and getting that diaphragmatic breathing becomes more difficult, making it even more difficult to poop. And guess what, if you aren’t pooping, your lungs can’t get rid of the phlegm and infection that comes along with the disease.

Now is the time to get ahead of the situation and get those bowels moving regularly so if you do get a respiratory illness, your body can get rid of it more easily. If you suffer from chronic constipation and/or are taking medications that stop you up, then you may need to use a fiber supplement, stool softener, or laxative to relax the intestine, get things going and keep them going. Research has shown that relaxing the intestines can be very helpful in treating a number of lung diseases including asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, pleural effusion, pulmonary heart disease, adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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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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Here’s to Health and Prosperity in the New Year

Happy New Year!

First let me say thank you to all of my patients and colleagues in the healthcare business for Happy New Yearmaking 2019 a great year. I treated more patients than ever before and as always learn so much from talking with my patients and seeing their healing happen.

If you’ve ever seen the Chinese Astrology charts (like on a Chinese Restaurant placemat), you might observe that this is the Year of the Rat, more specifically, the Metal Rat.  Learn more about the Chinese Astrology forecast here. But the New Year, in Chinese culture, doesn’t start until later this month on January 25. Why? Because Chinese New Year is really the celebration of the beginning of Spring.

For most of us we consider January mid-winter. It’s cold, and usually rainy here in our area. In the US, we typically say spring officially begins on March 21st, the spring equinox. However the Chinese feel that, energetically, spring begins when the light begins its return, the days start getting longer, and the dormant forces under the frozen ground begin to come to life again. It signifies new beginnings and a fresh start. Continue reading

Make 2020 The Year You Take Back Your Health

Where do you want to see yourself in 2020? While you are taking some downtime during the holidays, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your accomplishments for this year, and think about your 2020 New Year’s goals. The key is to be realistic, so you don’t give up like most people after just a couple of months (80% of New Year’s resolutions are dropped by February)!

Perhaps you’d like to see yourself in better health, or maybe you want to simply stay well. The key is to set goals that are small enough to be doable, but big enough to still give you that feeling of satisfaction when you are still going strong well into the year.

Here are my top three healthy living resolutions for the new year to “take back your health”.

1. Weight Loss – Usually on everyone’s list after the holiday season, I recommend that you simply resolve to make better food choices. When shopping, stick to the outside aisles at the grocery store where you find fresh fruits and veggies, and stay out of the center aisles where all of the processed foods live. Try to resist the temptation to buy your kids favorite cookies, or Dad’s diet soda and opt for healthier options instead. Consider involving your family in planning and cooking healthy meals. When you plan and cook together, the more likely your family members will be to eat well. Maybe you need a little help? Here is a new cookbook that I’ve been testing with my “Food As Medicine Cooking Workshops”. I’ve got copies at my clinic that will make a perfect gift. Continue reading