Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and in western ideology, the heart is king of love. But in Chinese medicine, the Kidney plays a huge role in addition to the heart! I've seen a LOT of great articles around the last few days on just this topic, here are a few :
Regardless of whether you have a valentine in your life, it's important to keep your Kidney Qi strong and healthy!
Happy Valentine's Day!
Thanksgiving is a time of gathering with friends and family to celebrate all the things we're grateful for over good food.
Sometimes too much food.
Curing Pills is a traditional herbal formula used for just such days!
If you're worried that your eyes might be bigger than your stomach, pick up a bottle (or two, if you have a lot of guests coming!) to relieve the symptoms of overindulging!
Welcome to Resolutions Week! Yesterday
we talked about how Chinese medicine looks at exercise. Today we're going to take a look at how Chinese medicine views healthy eating - another common New Year's Resolution.
In Chinese medical theory, your Stomach is viewed as an oven, in which the foods you eat are cooked using the energy of the Spleen. This isn't too far off from what we know biologically happens. Biologically speaking, our foods are chemically "cooked" using acids and enzymes rather than heat cooked, but those ancient Chinese had a great analogy going, so let's stick with it!
So you put food into your Stomach and then your Spleen turns the oven on to digest that food. There are a couple of ways that we can make our oven inefficient at cooking our foods. Let's take a look at them:
- Ice water - Drinking ice cold water cools off our digestive oven, making it have to work that much harder in order to turn food into energy we can use. If you tend to be on the colder side and you drink ice water, you may notice undigested food in your stools! That's evidence that your oven isn't getting hot enough!
- Raw Foods - Eating lots of raw foods can also make our Spleen have to work harder to digest our foods.
- Too many sweets - too many sweet foods gum up the works of the Spleen, making it difficult to digest foods properly.
The above things that we can do to make our oven inefficient are often used in "dieting" to burn more calories (except for the part about eating too many sweets, of course). For someone who is extremely robust and in tip-top shape, doing those things won't likely make a large impact on their digestion. Their oven is already super efficient and not bogged-down! But in someone who has weaker digestion, who is cold all the time or has fatigue, doing these things can mean you're spending too much energy on digesting the food without gaining enough from it.
So here's what I recommend most people do to eat healthier:
- Skip the ice in your water. Cool from the tap is fine. Room-temperature or warmer is better!
- Eat fully cooked foods - Cooking is merely another way of pre-digesting the food. Don't make your Spleen work so hard and you'll feel much more energetic! A side salad is alright, but avoid those entree salads, especially during the winter when it's so cold outside.
- Avoid sweets - Too many sweets weaken the Spleen. An occasional treat is fine, but let's not over do it.
Come back tomorrow for a look at Quitting Smoking as a New Year's Resolution!
In case you missed the rest of this series:Resolutions Week - IntroResolutions Week - Part I - ExerciseResolutions Week - Part III - Quitting SmokingResolutions Week - Part IV - Willpower
I've made my New Year's Resolutions, have you? One of mine is to be a little better .cough. about writing regular blog posts. They might not be daily, but I'm striving for at least one new post a week.
I'm going to start off with a serious of posts on some typical resolutions and the theories, Chinese medical theory, that is, that support them as being healthy choices.
We'll take a look at:
- Eating Healthy
- Quitting Smoking
- Tips and tricks for keeping the motivations going strong
If you've been reading this blog long enough, you'll know how I feel about trying to start new habits at the New Year vs. the beginning of Spring
, but here we go!Resolutions Week - Part I - ExerciseResolutions Week - Part II - Healthy Eating
Photographer: Clare Bloomfield
Read this article
first, then come back here. It's a long read, so if you're a little short on time, just read Parts 1 & 2; they are the inspiration for this post.
Now that you're back, let's get down to business!
I have a certain type of patient who comes in. I call them my "zombies."
They know that I call them this.
We joke about it.
But really, it's not funny. (I'm just the sort of person to laugh rather than cry when I'm in a serious situation) These women (it's always been women so far) come to me exhausted, depressed and cold. They can't get enough layers of clothing to be warm. Many of them also have digestive complaints. When I look at them through my Chinese Medical Eye, they're pale and they have no pulse, hence the teasing about being a zombie.
There's always one thing that ties these women together: they have some sort of a nutritional deficiency. For some it's a consequence of a disease that makes their bodies unable to absorb the proper nutrients. For many, it's a consequence of being vegetarian or vegan and not getting enough of the right nutrients.
It's not that I'm on a crusade to enforce a certain way of eating. I don't care one way or another what a person's eating habits are - until those habits start effecting their health in a negative way.
People never like to hear nutritional advice. Especially when it goes against their morals or excludes their favorite foods. But I often find myself having to suggest some pretty extreme changes. That they add animal products back into their meatless diet. Or that they stop eating dairy or gluten or sugar.
And even though I'm always nervous for these talks, many times the response I get is, "I knew you were going to recommend something like this. I think it's time to try it."
Sometimes it takes hitting bottom to realize that we've got to try something new.
And that's okay. We can't know what will work for us until we try it, right?
We're all different. We can eat different things and get very different results. We can exercise different amounts and in different ways and get very different results. The trick is to find our own set of "different" so that we can be our vibrant, energetic, lovely selves. And be understanding of each others' "differents," so that we can all be the best that we can be.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (O3FAs) are an important nutrient that is somewhat overlooked. I find that there are several "types" of patients that I tend to strongly recommend O3FAs to.
- Anyone with allergies of any kind. Environmental (hayfever, trees, pets, etc.), Foods (including sensitivities, not just true allergies), and Skin allergies.
- Anyone with a skin condition of any sort. Eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, etc.
- Anyone with arthritis.
- Anyone with heart disease/cholesterol problems.
O3FAs are great for breaking the cycle of inflammation. This is why they get recommended to so many of my patients! While they don't work quite like an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, over time they can be extremely useful for reducing the amount of inflammation in your system. They have even been used in higher doses as an anti-histamine to break the cycle of allergic inflammation often associated with hayfever!
O3FAs have also been found to be useful in reducing the inflammation associated with heart disease and in lower "bad" cholesterol levels.
So where does one get O3FAs. The best, of course is if you can get natural, whole food sources of O3FAs. Some common sources are:
- The flesh of fish - particularly the gray area between the skin and the "regular" flesh.
- Flax seeds
- Soybeans - including, in lesser amounts, tofu
If you don't feel like it's doable, or enough to just eat a diet high in O3FA foods, you can take it in liquid or capsule form. There are vegetarian forms, usually made with flax seed oil, and fish sources. If you decide to take the fish-sourced oil, make sure to look for one that is certified heavy metal free (heavy metals would certainly counteract the whole point of taking the O3FAs in the first place!).
As always, talk with your acupuncturist or other health care provider about appropriate doses for you.
Okay, so an elimination diet doesn't really fit into the realm of Acupuncture & Chinese medicine. However, it is something that I occasionally recommend some of my patients to do.
What is an elimination diet? An elimination diet is a diagnostic tool to determine if someone reacts unhealthfully to a certain food or foods. Here are some instructions on how to do it.
I'll give you the short version here. Basically, you eat only non-allergenic foods including rice, turkey, and certain fruits and vegetables. You eat only these foods until your symptoms have gone away. Once you are symptom-free, gradually add in one of the allergenic foods at a time and see if you react. If you do - BINGO. If not - on to the next allergenic food.
Once you have found which foods you are sensitive to, you now have some decisions to make. How important is it to your health that you completely avoid this food forever from now on? Are your reactions minor? Are the reactions that you have to the particular food worth suffering through for the food?
Here are a couple of examples:
Female patient in her early twenties has been nauseous, vomiting and experiencing explosive diarrhea non-stop for three years. She and her doctor did all of the biomedical tests and exams to determine the cause. No cause was found. Because of her desperation, she was willing to try ANYTHING at this point and started receiving acupuncture and herbal treatments. She had some limited results - a decrease in the episodes of vomiting and her nausea. At this time, it was recommended that she consider trying an elimination diet. She agreed. She found that she was sensitive to dairy and wheat. Once she discontinued eating these foods, her symptoms disappeared completely within two weeks. After some experimentation with her diet, she discovered that she could have small amounts of wheat if it was organic and preservative-free.
Female patient also in her early twenties has difficulty breathing, with a sensation of being "stuck under a blanket and unable to absorb enough oxygen." She had seen several doctors who determined that it wasn't asthma, but offered no other explanations. She was advised to take benadryl every day, thinking that it was some sort of allergic reaction. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs brought some relief, but only for a a few days at a time. At this time it was recommended that she try an elimination diet and she too found that she was sensitive to gluten and dairy. Each food caused different symptoms in her. Gluten was the culprit behind the difficulty breathing. Dairy was behind a chronic post-nasal drip. After some experimentation with her diet, she decided that it was never worth eating gluten - even the slightest of contamination would lead to a week of symptoms. Dairy was okay as occasional treats for holidays, but she would know to expect her post-nasal drip to return for a couple days.
The most exciting part about elimination diets is the amount of knowledge that is gained! To all of a sudden understand where your symptoms are coming from, and to have the power to control when, if at all, you'll experience them!
Elimination diets aren't the answer for everyone, but what if it IS the answer for you? Talk with your acupuncturist or naturopath to see if it's right for you!
Hippocrates said, "Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food." It seems as though we've lost sight of that very wise piece of advice. As a society we feed ourselves foods that are easy for on-the-go eating. These foods, in the name of convenience, have been stripped of their nutritional value and have had some very unhealthy additives included. It's no wonder we find ourselves in such a poor state of affairs. We're not taking our medicines!
Here are a few things that you can do to improve your health, not through medications, but through your food!
- Keep a food diary for one week. Be honest. Don't change your diet to make it look better on paper. This is meant to make you aware of what you're eating, not beat you up about it! Feel no guilt about the way you have eaten in the past, get excited about the changes you're going to make that are going to positively affect your health!
- Add one serving of fruit or vegetable a day. Yep, that's it! We're not talking making HUGE changes here. Baby steps! Add a banana to your morning cereal. Or Take an apple to lunch. Take a second serving of vegetables at dinner, or add a second type of vegetable. Do this consistently for two weeks, then add another serving.
- Stop consistently eating something that doesn't lead you toward health. For example: Greatly decrease the number of sodas you drink per day, or discontinue them completely. You can take this in baby steps as well. If you drink 5 sodas per day, decrease to 4 for two weeks, then decrease to 3 for two more weeks, etc. I'm not saying that you can't ever have the food or drink ever again. What I'm saying is, save it as a treat. All of a sudden this food that you ate everyday becomes the most luxurious treat you've ever consumed!
In Chinese medicine, every food has healing properties to it, much like herbs, only milder. Some are great for improving digestion (oats, corn, millet, rice), some are helpful with nausea (lychee, pomelo, orange), some are great at clearing a phlegmy cough (pear, eggplant).
If we all started to think of our kitchens as our pharmacies and only stocked the cupboards with "medicines" that will lead us toward health, just think how our lives could change for the better!
It's what the doctor ordered!