Aloha All! If you can, please tune into KKCR this Saturday June 23rd 2012 at 9am (HST) when I will be the special guest on Dr. Ihor Basko's radio program. I will be speaking about acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of Anxiety. You can tune in by going to www.kkcr.org and clicking "listen live". Remember that Hawaii standard time may be different than your local time zone. Mahalo! Joy Blais L.Ac.
Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in developed countries and is increasingly on the rise. Most often it is due to increased food consumption coupled with decreased activity, although sometimes it is due to other health issues.
Endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism and some drugs such as contraceptive pills and anti-depressants can also cause weight gain.
In addition, a clear link exists between obesity and insulin resistance. Glucose from food which should be used for energy is instead routed into fat storage when cells do
not respond to insulin. This type of weight gain tends to be seen predominantly on the abdomen.
How Chinese medicine can help:
Diet and exercise changes are paramount to any weight loss program that retains lasting results. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are not a quick fix to shed pounds, but instead work to support the body physiologically by increasing metabolism, improving the function of the digestive system, supporting insulin metabolism, and eliminating fatigue that prevents activity.
The Spleen/Stomach system will always be
implicated in issues of weight gain although the Liver and Kidney systems may also be contributing. Assessments will be made to determine which organ systems are affected and points will be selected accordingly.
Although initial weight loss from fluid may be dramatic, real weight loss from fat deposits should be gradual (about 1-2 pounds weekly is ideal). Weekly acupuncture treatments are recommended for a period of 3 months or until you reach your desired
What you can do to improve your
Western medicine views depression as an imbalance of brain chemistry while Chinese medicine views it as a problem of the chest, liver, and heart. Patterns include stagnation of qi and blood, accumulation of dampness, heat in the heart, qi and blood deficiency and others. Generally, some kind of restraint is present in the form of repressed emotions, grief, sadness, or a feeling of hopelessness or “stuckness”. If left untreated, depression can begin to affect many other organ systems and lead to a depleted condition.
Symptoms of depression range from minor demoralization to major depression in which a person may not want to get out of bed in the morning. Appetite changes, reduced sex drive, constant fatigue, anxiety, withdrawal from social situations, sleep disturbances and digestive problems can all be symptoms of depression.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs along with cognitive behavioral therapy can help reduce the symptoms of depression and calm the mind. Ideally, treatment should be once or twice a week to address your particular pattern of imbalance.
Studies have shown that receiving acupuncture increases "feel good" endorphins and enkephalins to improve mood. It also works on an energetic level to move stuck energy in the body and allow the free flow of emotions to pass through us.
If we are stressed, we can be in a state of "fight or flight" that keeps us physiologically unwell. Because acupuncture supports the parasympathetic nervous systems, it can shift our state into one of "rest and digest" and provide relief on not only to our mind and moods, but also our immune, digestive, and other body systems.
Suggestions for improving your mood:
Diabetes & Hypoglycemia
Type II diabetes and hypoglycemia are caused by the body’s inability to properly regulate blood sugar levels.
Hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) can develop into diabetes (or high blood sugar) as the pancreas becomes exhausted from repeated stress. The main cause of this process is a diet high in refined carbohydrates and fat and low in fiber such as we commonly see in the Western diet. Foods like white sugar, white flour, white rice, soda, breads, pasta, candy, and potatoes cause a spike in blood sugar when eaten, prompting the pancreas to release insulin to drive glucose into the cells. Blood sugar levels then drop and the body’s response is to release adrenaline to raise blood sugar levels once again. Eventually the body can become exhausted and the adrenal glands and/or the pancreas may not be able to function properly. If this happens, diabetes can be the result.
Signs that you may have hypoglycemia include headache, depression, anxiety, irritability, blurry vision, sweating, confusion, fatigue, crying, craving sweets, dizziness, and others. You will notice that many symptoms are associated with the brain; this is because glucose is the primary fuel for the brain.
Diabetes is the lack of or inability of the body to respond to insulin. Frequent urination, increased appetite and increased thirst are the first warning signs of diabetes. Complications of diabetes include high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, neuropathy, eye disease, kidney disease and foot ulcers. Usually type II diabetes develops later in life (age 40 or over) and is due to the body’s cell losing their sensitivity to insulin.
How Chinese medicine can help:
In Chinese medicine there are many different patterns that are associated with diabetes and hypoglycemia. They most commonly involve the spleen/pancreas, lung, kidney and heart systems. Patterns are often complicated by heat, yin deficiency or blood stasis. Acupuncture and herbs along with diet and exercise changes can help rebalance these systems reducing the symptoms and severity of blood sugar regulation problems. By improving your internal condition, the body will be better able to adapt to blood sugar changes and you will reduce the risk of complications due to these disease processes.
What you can do to improve your condition:
Common Cold & Flu
In Chinese medicine viral infections that cause seasonal sickness are described as wind invasions of external pathogens. Whether or not you will get the latest bug going around has to do with both the strength of your body’s wei qi (or immune system) as well as the strength of the pathogen (virus) itself. If you frequently get colds and flus, this may be an indication that your immune system is not functioning optimally. In addition to treating your immediate illness, your acupuncturist will assess the condition of your body’s defense mechanism and treat you with herbs and acupuncture to help boost your overall health and ability to fight off future infections.
Here are a few tips that will help prevent you from catching a cold:
Releasing Your Exterior
First, make a hot cup of strong ginger tea by boiling several slices of fresh ginger root in water for 10 minutes. Then draw a very hot bath and get in for about 15 minutes while you drink your tea. Wear a warm winter hat and possibly a scarf to keep your head and neck warm. You should soon begin to sweat. After about 15 minutes, get out of the bath and immediately bundle up in many layers of warm clothing, go to bed and sweat for another 5-10 minutes. Then have a warm shower and dry off. Now stay covered and rest remembering to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
Congratulations on your decision to quit smoking! Acupuncture is an integral part of a smoking cessation plan and can reduce cravings, restore balance, aid the body in detoxification, and help heal damage to the body caused by smoking.
In addition to physical addiction, behavioral & social habits make quitting smoking a challenge. When acupuncture is used in combination with anti-smoking counseling it increases the chances of success significantly (better than just acupuncture or just counseling alone). I strongly urge you to call the tobacco quit line (1-800-QUIT NOW ) to get all the support you can while undertaking this endeavor to become smoke free.
We are all familiar with the detrimental effects that smoking has on our bodies: sore throat, stained teeth, wrinkles, lung congestion, dry or phlegmy cough, bad breath, loss of taste, headaches, ulcers, eye disease, erectile dysfunction, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, etc. Chinese medicine views tobacco use as not only detrimental to the Lungs and Stomach, but also to the Kidney Jing (or essence) and the Heart and mental functioning. The drying up of Kidney Jing can reduce lifespan and cause deficiency in the immune system as well as all other functions of the body. Heat transferring to the Heart system can cause irritability and mental changes. The good news is that within mere days of quitting smoking the body begins to heal itself and the risk of developing serious disease begins to decline dramatically. It is never too late to quit and even long-term heavy smokers will reduce their risk of developing smoking related diseases within a few months to a few years after quitting.
Making a Plan to Become Smoke Free:
Nearly everyone has experienced some kind of digestive complain at some point in their lives. Although most digestive problems pass quickly, recurring or chronic problems can indicate an imbalance within the body. In Chinese medicine, digestive problems can be due to damp, heat, dryness, cold, wind, stagnation, deficiency or excess, and often involve the stomach, spleen and liver organ systems. Any chronic or recurrent condition should be assessed and treated by your practitioner. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can help correct imbalances, but in the meantime here are a few tips which may help relieve discomfort.
BLOATING & GAS
Bloating is an indication that food or fluid is not passing through the digestive tract at the proper rate. This can be due to poor diet, irregular eating, repression of emotions, stress, constitutional weakness, or outside factors. Start by allowing ample time to eat meals and avoid skipping meals. For better digestion, breakfast should be the largest meal of the day (when the energy of the stomach is at its peak) and dinner should be the smallest. Avoid eating late, eating on the run or eating when upset. Take time to chew each bite thoroughly and mindfully. Avoid heavily processed foods, chemical additives, foods containing many ingredients, and ice cold beverages. Choose whole foods which are steamed or well cooked and avoid eating too much cold food such as ice cream, cold drinks, salad, and raw fruit. Do not overeat, instead stop before you feel too full, and avoid drinking lots of water with or before a meal (this will dilute the enzymes in your stomach needed for proper digestion). A cup of warm ginger tea sipped with meals may be enjoyed by those who experience problems due to dampness and cold.
ACID REFLUX / GERD
Diet is important to consider if acid reflex is a recurring problem. Eating too much or eating excess amounts can be the cause. Sometimes individuals can be sensitive to certain food that can aggravate the condition such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, radishes, beans, onions, garlic, fatty foods, wheat or dairy. In addition spicy food, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, and peppermint are all known to be causes of acid reflux. Be aware of whether your symptoms are made worse after eating these foods and avoid or eliminate them from your diet. If you smoke, try to stop. Tobacco smoke weakens the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which can allow acid to rise up into the esophagus. Wear loose clothing to avoid constriction of the stomach and abdomen. Do not eat late at night, when stressed, when in a hurry, or to excess. Chew food well and eat slowly, pausing between bites. Exercise regularly and try taking a walk after dinner to stimulate digestion. If you are overweight, losing weight can decrease the pressure on the stomach & LES reducing symptoms.
If you have difficulty passing stools or have dry, hard, small or infrequent bowel movements, some diet and lifestyle changes may help improve your condition. First and foremost, make sure you are drinking enough water. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces daily. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink 80oz of water daily. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it increases urination. If you drink coffee, tea or soda you will need to drink even more water to counteract the dehydrating nature of these beverages. Make sure you are getting enough fiber in your diet to bulk up stool and increase intestinal peristalsis. The average adult should get approximately 25-35 grams of fiber daily. Foods high in fiber include beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Get regular exercise to move your Qi, and reduce stress which will allow the parasympathetic nervous system to do its job of digesting.
Diarrhea is the frequent passage of watery or loose stool for which there are many etiologies. Infection, food poisoning, medications, intestinal inflammation, food stagnation, hormonal factors, and others may be the cause. Treatment will vary widely depending on the type of pattern which is the cause of the diarrhea. Herbs and acupuncture points will be chosen for you depending on your particular pattern. In general it is important to remember to drink lots of water to counteract possible dehydration. Meals should be small and well-chewed. Avoid cold, raw and difficult to digest foods and try eating white rice or sweet rice congee cooked with a few slices of fresh ginger root during bouts of diarrhea (recipe below).
Halitosis, or bad breath is most commonly due to poor dental hygiene, oral infection, stomach or lung heat, or food stagnation. Avoid spicy, hot, and oily foods and coffee and alcohol as these heat up the stomach. Overeating, eating at irregular hours and eating late at night can tax the spleen/pancreas and stomach systems to cause food stagnation. Eating an excess of cold and raw foods can also weaken the spleen yang causing a reduction in digestive force needed to move food out of the stomach before it ferments and rises upward causing bad breath. Lung infection, repression of emotion, and other causes can also be factors. Disorders due to heat will benefit from ingestion of cooling food (both steamed and raw) such as parsley, watercress, cucumber, spinach, lettuce, salads, cooked or juiced cabbage, apple, pear, watermelon, and rice, barley or millet congee (recipe below). Disorders due to weak digestion will benefit from regular eating habits and a diet of well-cooked easily digested foods including soups, stews and congee.
Congee is a traditional breakfast food in China although it can enjoyed any time of the day. It is very easy to digest and tonifies qi and blood. It can be eaten when experiencing any digestive upset or when recovering from serious illness. The recipe is very easy and can be adapted to treat a variety of disorders.
1 cup of grain (white rice, brown rice, sweet rice, millet, spelt, barley, or other grain of your choice)
6 cups water
Simmer on the lowest heat possible (or cook in a crock pot) for 6 hours until you have a water gruel. Depending on your condition, your acupuncturist may give you specific herbs to cook into your congee. In addition certain foods can also be simmered with the rice for beneficial effects.
For general digestive complaints add: carrot, yam, chopped parsley (add parsley in last 10 minutes of cooking)
For gas add: fennel, coriander seed, black pepper, carrot
For constipation add: chopped walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or sesame seeds
For conditions due to cold add: black pepper, fresh ginger, leek, scallion, garlic, chopped chicken, or cinnamon, cardamom
For conditions due to heat add: celery, water chestnut, Job’s tears, pearled barley, or chopped mint (add mint in last 10 minutes of cooking)
To build yin add: goji berries, apple, pear, brown sugar, coconut milk, dates, or honey
To build blood add: beef, spinach
You may flavor your congee to be sweet or savory. Be creative!