Acupuncture is one of the best forms of preventative medicine available today. The goal of acupuncture is to maintain balance within the energy channels so that disease will not present itself. Maintaining balance ensures that there is not too much (an excess) of energy in one channel and a lack of (deficiency) of energy in another channel. Chinese herbs are also used for this purpose; to clear out any excess, support any deficiency or treat any resulting pathologies. From an emotional perspective, I have found that when people become stressed or emotionally vulnerable, any preexisting deficiency becomes a more serious problem. For example, the person who has a long history of digestive disorders gets severe digestive problems when they experience a loss in their life. Or a person who has a long history of allergies and frequent colds get a long standing cough that will not go away when life becomes stressful. [Read more…]
Most of us eat foods because they are pleasurable and we enjoy their smell, taste and textures.
Eating is a very personal experience as it is both a source of nutrition as well as a tool for social gathering. Most of us are also well aware of the
nutritional value of food. Eating whole grains (vs. enriched white flours), fresh (vs. canned) vegetables and healthy fats (vs. trans fats) are
cornerstones of many diets. It is also valuable to look at our bodies, the importance of the temperatures and flavors of foods, and the best season to eat them
in. [Read more…]
In the age of food allergies, Sandra Beasley’s Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from An Allergic Life is a fascinating read for those of us who cannot imagine living with such food restrictions. Beasley tells her life story of dealing with severe food allergies and how she has learned to adapt her life around her extreme food sensitivities. Her food allergies are so severe that she rejected her mother’s breast milk as an infant. Over many years, doctors were able to determine that she is allergic to dairy (including goat’s milk), egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish and mustard; she is also allergic to mold, dust, grass, tree pollen, cigarette smoke, dogs, rabbits, horses, and wool. (Can you imagine?) However, the discovery of her allergies also involved countless anaphylactic shock episodes and trips to the emergency room before the correct offender could be identified. [Read more…]
Mainstream medical treatment is beginning to shift towards a more holistic approach. Major hospitals around the country are starting to offer “alternative health” services to their patients in addition to conventional care, including acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, massage and nutritional therapies, to name a few. For many people, it may be confusing to determine which services to use and how one modality affects another. (For example, many of our patients ask if they can get massage the same day as acupuncture.) [Read more…]
Beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. The proteins from beans (legumes) can help regulate water and sugar metabolism and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet. Some people are afraid of eating beans due to flatulence or digestive upset, however these symptoms are usually due to improper preparation and cooking techniques. Make sure to soak your beans overnight in cold water before cooking. [Read more…]
The practice of traditional Chinese medicine (CM) is very complex. People often ask “how does acupuncture work?” or “what types of conditions can acupuncture treat?” The answers to such questions are much more involved than a simple list of ailments. Simply put, and CM is an ancient, energetic, holistic medicine that takes into account all aspects of a person’s lifestyle and symptoms in order to make a diagnosis and treatment strategy. Let’s break this down more clearly. [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…]
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.
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.