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.
In the western model of medicine, a cold is transmitted from person to person through a virus or bacteria. This leaves us with the feeling that we are always “exposed” and have no means of self defense. In the Traditional Chinese Medicine model, we can do things to prevent and release disease. This is because disease can only manifest in the correct climate. Therefore, if our immune systems are healthy, we will be much less likely to get sick. This explains why some people get colds twice a season while others get colds very rarely.
The immune system is managed by the nervous system. The immune system can be impaired by what’s called Allostatic Load. Allostatis is our body’s ability to maintain balance when under stress. Thus, Allostatic Load is our bodies immune response to stress. When our body ‘fights’ off’ an illness, it creates an acute stress situation. Acute stress actually helps the immune system handle a pathogen by causing immune cells to move out of the bloodstream and into tissues where they are needed. Acute stress actually strengthens our immune system. It is chronic stress that impairs our immune system. Chronic stress comes from overwork, lack of sleep/exercise, poor diet, etc. Acupuncture actually causes acute stress by creating tiny sterile wounds all along the body’s surface. As mentioned, acute stress helps the immune system handle a pathogen by causing immune cells to move out of the bloodstream and into tissues where they are needed. Acupuncture also “resets” the Allostatic Load. After acupuncture, the body is relieved from acute & chronic stress and regains its ability to recognize and respond to pathogens. [Read more…]