I love yoga. Every time I leave a yoga class, I feel lighter, more flexible and I become a happier person. (It’s not that I’m a unhappy person but yoga definitely enhances my mood!) I have been practicing for about 7 years and I have watched myself grow physically, emotionally and spiritually through my practice. The more I practice, the more I believe that yoga is an important practice for everyone. (And yes, I mean everyone). I often recommend patients try yoga as a gentle alternative to exercise but it is much more than that. Many people find much more satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment in a yoga class as compared to regular exercise. [Read more…]
Ever since my first herbs class, I have loved working with Chinese herbs. It is through Chinese herbs that the true art of Chinese medicine really shines. In practice, using herbs is key in helping patients progress in their healing. The building blocks of Chinese medicine are single herbs. Individual herbs are categorized based upon their taste, temperature, and channels affected. Tastes have specific functions, and therefore the way a formula tastes is indicative of what it is trying to accomplish. [Read more…]
Working with women and fertility, we focus all our attention on menstrual cycles. We focus so much on length of the period, quality of the period, timing of ovulation, signs of ovulation, etc. that we forget how babies are actually created. Last week, I had a patient report that she didn’t think that she and her husband were having enough sex–she said they were barely having sex once a week! This patient also told me that her husband resented having to have sex at specific times and felt as though he had to “perform on command”, which is a mood-killer to say the least. This scenario is incredibly common for couples trying to conceive. Sex loses its spontaneity and excitement and becomes a means to an end. Instead of an expression of love for your partner, sex ends up becoming manual labor.
Diet is just as important as acupuncture and herbs when it comes to treating the body from a traditional Chinese medical perspective. Making appropriate food choices is key in maintaing good balance. Individual foods, like Chinese herbs, have specific healing properties and this is the basis of Eastern nutritional theory. For example, certain foods have warming properties and should therefore be eaten more frequently during the winter months. These foods include cinnamon, clove, ginger and lamb. Likewise, there are foods that have more cooling properties such as cucumber, watermelon, lettuce and cabbage. [Read more…]
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the body in terms of energy and balance. Energy (qi) runs in channels throughout the body and these channels are named after organ that you have heard of before. However, from a TCM perspective, the organs function very differently than Western medicine. In fact, the TCM organs have nothing to do with Western medical function at all. Therefore, when a person comes in for acupuncture and is told there is an imbalance within the “liver”, the acupuncturist is referencing the liver energy, never the actual liver itself.
The heart channel is one of my most favorite channels from an emotional standpoint. Classically, the heart is known to govern the blood in the body and store the “shen”. Shen is similar to conciousness. During the day, the shen goes out and interacts with the world and when we sleep at night, it is because the shen is “sleeping” in the heart. [Read more…]
The struggle to conceive can be a very emotional and taxing journey. In conjunction with conventional medical treatments, there are several aspects of health and well-being that can be addressed through complementary techniques. These techniques include diet, exercise, acupuncture, herbs, supplements and coping skills that are imperative in surviving the emotional rollercoaster.
This group provides the opportunity for women to come together and learn about the Chinese medical approach to fertility, as well as other holistic approaches to prepare the body for pregnancy. Most importantly, this group provides the opportunity for women to share their experience with other women who are going through the same struggle and know that no one is alone.
Acupuncture Healthcare Associates of Michigan
As most of our patients taking herbs know, herbs do not taste good. There is a reason for this. The Chinese materia media (all Chinese herbs) are classified by their tastes–different tastes have different functions. For example, sweet tonifies deficiencies and sour astringes fluids. Therefore, taste has a purpose.
At the same time, we must find ways to “get them down the hatch”. Over the years, I have come up with a few tricks that have been useful in drinking herbs on a daily basis:
1. Suck on a mint right before drinking the herbs. Especially if its a strong mint, you’ll find that the cooling sensation “numbs” the mouth and you can not taste the herbs as strongly.
2. I used to think that making the herbs as concentrated as possible was the best way. Now, however, I’ve found that diluting them and making a larger amount to drink is best. I drink a few big gulps at one time, then come back a few minutes later to finish the dose. The taste is not as strong and is easier to drink.
3. Have a “treat” after taking the herbs. One of the most difficult aspect about taking herbs is making the time to do so, especially if you think the experience is not enjoyable. If I know that I’ll get a little chocolate or a cookie after I chug the herbs, I’m more likely to take them.
4. Keep reminding yourself of why you’re taking herbs. Is your condition more tolerable than herbs? (I imagine they are not!) Herbs are prescribed for a specific purpose and are EFFECTIVE, but only if you take them. I have always found it empowering to know that there is something I can do to take care of myself and I remind myself of that every time I stand over my kitchen sink and chug a mug of herbs.
Affect damage is a concept within TCM that describes how our emotions affect us on a physical level. It is the concept that our emotions play an integral part in our state of health. There are five basic emotions recognized within TCM: joy, grief, thought, fear and anger. In a well-balanced system, it is expected that people will experience each of these emotions in their appropriate context. TCM views pathology when any one of these emotions is felt more than others or is displayed in an inappropriate manner. We have the potential to damage ourselves in this manner every day. In fact, most people who come into our office are under a heavy load of stress that leads to excessive worry. If continued unchecked, this worry and stress can wreak havoc upon the body. As awareness grows within the mainstream for the mind/body/spirit connection, people are becoming more aware of exactly how much our mind affects our body. In the meantime, it is important that we all develop our own methods of keeping our stress in check.
Here are a few tips that I have found to be particularly helpful:
- Stop yourself! When you become aware that you are worrying or stressed about something, take a physical inventory of your body. Do your shoulders hurt? Did you lose your appetite? Are you craving something? Try to first make yourself aware that you are in a moment of stress, and then try to figure out where you are placing this stress within your body.
- Take 10 deep breaths. Deep breathing is a mechanical way that you can help calm your nervous system and calm your mind.
- Live in the moment. Yes, it is a cliché. Remember that we have little to no control over the future. Rather than worry about what is coming up tomorrow, focus on what is happening today! You can control your actions today and that may have an effect on what happens tomorrow.
- Remember that the world is bigger than you. This is a personal one for me. Whenever I become overcome with the stresses in my own life, I remember that there are more troubles and bigger issues in the world than the ones I am dealing with. Not to discount my own experience but gaining a wider perspective is a great coping method.
- Get a hobby. (Hopefully a healthy one—like exercise, rather than a daily cocktail) Sometimes a little distraction is all it takes to chill out.
As we begin the new year, many people are hoping to make dietary changes. I have found a lot of confusion among people as to which dietary path to choose: Vegetarian? Organic? More grains? Less grains?
Whenever I find myself confused about dietary choices, I always think of the basic TCM dietary principals:
Especially at this time of year, its always best to have warm, cooked foods. Instead of choosing salad, have soup instead. When food is already warm, your body does not have to expend as much qi to digest the food properly. This concept also applies to fruit. In general, fruits should be limited (relative to vegetables) at this time of the year but when eaten, fruits should be at least at room temperature.
When it comes to grains, whole grains is the only way to go. During the winter months, more warming and nourishing grains are preferable. These grains include basmati rice, wheat, oats, quinoa and well-cooked barley.
Finally, Chinese medicine supports the consumption of animal protein. (In moderation, of course). This category emphasizes the consumption of eggs, chicken, pork and fish. Consumption of beef and lamb are also acceptable. (Dairy should be limited or completely avoided, as it creates dampness within the body)
Remember, it’s all about balance! Make sure to eat a variety of different grains, vegetables, fruits and protein. Finally, listen to your body! If you find that eating a certain food causes digestive upset or discomfort, please avoid that food.