Category Archives: Lifestyle

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

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

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Living With the Season – Late Summer

It’s Late summer which means hot, muggy weather and heat-breaking afternoon thunderstorms. Late summer is considered one of the five major seasons in Chinese Medicine and we find it useful to look to Nature as a guide to understand how life (human, animal, plants, etc.) is affected by the seasons.

In August, Nature is undergoing its last burst of growth before harvest time. In Chinese Medicine, Late Summer corresponds to the nurturing Earth element, so the next few weeks are an important time for self-nurturing and self-cultivation. This a powerful time for us to use the last bit of Summer’s energy to fully ripen and transform.

If you are wondering how seasonal energies influence our physical well-being, read on.

Associated with the Earth element, are the Stomach and the Spleen. These organs are responsible for transforming food and drink into what what will become the energy, Blood and Fluids the body needs for all bodily functions. You can easily assess whether your Stomach or Spleen are in harmony with the seasonal energies of Late Summer. When the Earth Element is in balance we are able to nourish ourselves and those around us in a supportive manner. In balance, the Earth element gives us strong muscles, vibrant energy and the ability to think and study clearly. Out of balance the body is weak, the muscles become flaccid and soft, there is often obesity and problems of the digestive tract. If you experience nausea, stomach flu, IBS, weight gain, blood sugar disorders, or are low on energy, your Stomach and Spleen may be out of balance. Continue reading

Keeping Cool in the Summer Heat

The Summer season filled with abundant energy, long days and sunshine. This is the most yang time of year. Summer is about expansion, growth, activity and creativity. According to Chinese medicine, Summer is associated with the element of Fire. In human anatomy, the heart, mind, and spirit are ruled by the fire element. Top priority should be given to the heart, mind, and spirit for staying healthy in summer.

Keeping Balanced during Summer

The heart’s main function is to pump oxygen-rich blood through the body. In Chinese medicine, mental activity is also associated with the heart including our memory, thought processes, emotional well-being, and consciousness. This is a time to use our energy to realize our life’s greatest potential as we find joy in our hot summer days and warm summer nights. When the fire element is in balance, the heart is strong and healthy, the mind is calm and sleep is sound. When the Fire element is out of balance, we may see depression (too little fire), or chaos/mania (too much fire). Agitation, nervousness, heartburn, and insomnia are symptoms that there is an imbalance. Taken to the extreme, summer heat can cause you to suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke with symptoms such as fainting, dark-colored urine, rapid heart rate, confusion, throbbing headache, red and dry skin. Seek immediate medical attention if these occur.

To prevent these problems, I recommend that we take full advantage of the long summer days. Some suggestions include:

  • Awakening earlier in the morning and going to bed later in the evening.
  • Resting at midday when heat is at its highest.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids. This is key to balance the heat of fire and eliminating any toxins.
  • Adding pungent flavors like spicy foods, garlic and ginger to your diet. These cause you to sweat, which actually functions to cool the body
  • Keeping your diet light and avoid heavy, greasy or sugary foods. Eat in moderation.
  • Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered.
  • Seek Chinese Medicine when you feel out of balance.

Diet – Keep it cool

In summer, indigestion can easily occur, so a light and less-greasy diet is recommended. This is the perfect season to introduce some cool foods into your diet. Cooling foods can clear heat, reduce toxins, and generate body fluids. Cooling foods are those you typically find during this time of year – lettuce and other greens, cucumbers, and watercress are some of the coolest. Fish and seafood are also cooling, while most meats are warming.
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