Relief for IBS

Summer Heat have you and your body Irritated?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, otherwise known as “spastic colon,” is a common disorder that affects the colon and causes many disruptive symptoms. Many of these symptoms can be managed with a simple change in diet and lifestyle. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture may be able to help.

IBS symptoms may include gas, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea, pain, mucus, an uncomfortably full feeling and abdominal cramping. Most of these symptoms develop over time, and there is no structural or anatomical change that can be detected as cause. Doctors are unsure of the origin, though stress and diet are said to be triggers of distressing symptoms. Women suffer from IBS more frequently than men.

One of the most common diagnosis of IBS in Traditional Chinese Medicine is what is known as a “liver-spleen disharmony” due to stress. Normally, the liver is in charge of the free flow of energy (or vital force), blood and oxygen to the spleen and stomach, the organs who do their job of digesting food by transporting and transforming food and descending energy downward. When the liver energy becomes stagnant through emotions such as stress, frustration, anger, moodiness and tightness in the body (the liver is sensitive to these emotions), this encumbers proper digestion and what can result is acid, belching, nausea, abdominal distention and bloating. Diarrhea or constipation can occur or irregular bowel movements. Other common symptoms of stagnant liver energy are PMS, cramping with clots and irregular menses. Easing stress would be the most important aspect of the treatment plan to get to the root of the issue.

Another common cause of IBS is food sensitivity. Eliminating trigger foods has been shown to help symptoms tremendously. Here are some things to consider eliminating:

Too many cold, raw vegetables: Eating too many cold, raw vegetables dampens the digestive fire and leads to malabsorption. Cook vegetables instead and eat them warm.

Cruciferous vegetables and legumes: These are healthy but can cause gas and bloating in sensitive individuals.

Dairy: Lactose intolerance can lead to digestive ailments. If you aren’t sure, try eliminating dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

Eating fast, while angry or hurried: When you eat or drink quickly, you might be inhaling too much air and eating too much. Eat slowly and mindfully.

Other triggers: Sensitivities might include chocolate, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, greasy food or processed food. Hormonal changes could also be a factor in increased IBS symptoms.

How to know for sure? It is best not to self-diagnose symptoms, so see your medical provider to see if you have IBS and not something more serious. Your Chinese medical practitioner can help you by diagnosing the symptoms according to a more eastern perspective, administering acupuncture and perhaps prescribing an herbal formula, and adjusting your diet to eliminate triggers that are irritating for your particular constitution.

Some remedies for IBS include; acupuncture to improve flow in the abdomen and ease stress, herbs, increasing fiber (gradually, or it could worsen symptoms), massaging the abdomen (9x clockwise, 9x counter-clockwise), exercise to move things around such as tai qi or qigong, and probiotics to increase good bacteria in the stomach. Peppermint, magnesium, and chamomile can soothe and ease symptoms.

The Many Dimensions of the Heart

The Heart – the Universal Energy of Summer

The heart is an energetic system we often treat in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to Chinese Medicine theory, there are many systems of energy within the body. Each of these systems corresponds to certain physiological and psychological functions. So when we talk about the heart, the lungs, the liver. However, when we are speaking about Chinese Medicine organs, we are not talking about the physical organ sitting in your body, but rather the energetic manifestations of a particular system in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms.

The heart is an incredibly important energy system in Chinese medicine, often said to be the emperor of all the other energy systems. It is related to the fire element, which is the universal energy of summer.

On a physical level, the heart is responsible for pumping blood through our body, just as it is in allopathic medicine. It controls the health and vitality of the blood vessels, and also controls sweating, the tongue and speech. But perhaps the most important role of the heart in Chinese medicine is that it houses the Shen, or spirit.

The Shen in Chinese Medicine is referred to as one of the three treasures of the body, and it encompasses consciousness, the emotions, mental acuity and thought, as well as the ability to process incoming sensory information. Each organ system in Chinese medicine is related to one aspect of the spirit (such as intellect, willpower or instinct) – but the Shen is the most important, as it governs all the other aspects. Prolonged emotional upheaval, mental illness, personality disorders, emotional imbalance, processing disorders and sensory disorders all are manifestations of a disturbed, ungrounded or weakened Shen.

The emotion associated with the heart is joy. This means that joy nourishes the heart, but excessive joy (ie, mania) is a symptom of an imbalance in this system.

The heart is all about the very act of being alive – from the physical heart beating in our chest, to the flow of blood through our veins, to our mental ability to stay present and focused, and our emotional selves being whole and complete. It is the energy of summertime – abundant, hot and lively.

Nourish the Heart through Food
The color associated with the heart is red, and the heart is nourished through red foods, such as cherries, strawberries and kidney beans. Being closely associated with the blood, it is also nourished by blood-tonifying foods such as organ meats, lean red meat and dark leafy greens. The heart is closely tied to appreciation of beauty and aesthetics, so the heart system is also nourished by food for which care has been given to present artfully, with beauty and grace, and a wide array of colors on one plate. Again, the heart is associated with summertime, so think of the abundance of fruits and vegetables available that time of year, and try to reflect that energy in your food choices.

Nourish the Heart through your habits
The heart is nourished through activities that bring you cheer and joy. Nourishing the heart is about celebrating that which you love in the world – people, places and ideals. As the heart governs our relationships with other human beings, it is nurtured by feeling connected to those that we love. Reach out to friends and family, forge new bridges and strengthen lasting bonds. The heart is also nourished through beauty – take time to appreciate the beauty of your natural surroundings, as well as music, poetry, art and dance. Lastly, the heart is nurtured by ritual. This can be a long-standing religious or cultural ritual, or one that you create for yourself. Some examples of heart-healthy rituals include writing down five things you are grateful for each night, incorporating some sort of gentle exercise during each morning, practicing 10 minutes of sitting meditation each day, or grab a coloring book and start coloring!

Foods to Improve Heart Health
Wonder how you can help your heart stay in balance? Well, what you put into your body goes a long way in determining how balanced you are. Check out some of these foods you should consume in order to promote good heart health.

Red foods have been shown to help the heart biochemically; foods such as hawthorn berries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and goji berries keep your heart happy with lycopene and anthocyanin, antioxidants and beneficial vitamins.

Other helpful foods include garlic, cayenne, cilantro, basil, magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts and soy) and green tea. Also try ginseng, jujube dates, reishi mushrooms, dong quai, seaweed and schizandra berries.

Orange vegetables like carrots have carotenoids and lutein, powerful phytonutrients. And oranges, the fruit, can help decrease your risk of heart disease.

Liver Tune-Up

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is ruled by a particular organ system and spring is connected to the liver. What does this mean? Well, you probably notice changes in the way you feel, both physically and mentally, as the seasons change. I know I tend to feel a bit more contemplative and introspective during the winter months. Once spring hits, I’m ready to recharge and get things done. The liver energy is strong and assertive, the type of energy you need to create plans and then propel them into motion. However, if your liver is a little out of balance, you might notice you are more irritable or on edge than usual. Here are a few signs that your liver is in need of an acupuncture tune-up:

1. You’ve noticed an increase in headaches lately, and these headaches seem to feel worse when you aren’t active. Generally these headaches tend to manifest at the vertex of your head.

2. You might begin to feel constipated or bloated. Your bowel movements might become irregular, alternating between constipation and loose stools. Hard, difficult stools that appear pebbly are also a sign of liver imbalance.

3. Your friends or coworkers are scared of you, because you are cranky, cranky, cranky. When liver energy is out of balance you might feel agitated, irritated and generally out of sorts. Sometimes irritation can expand into outright anger more easily than it would if this energy was flowing smoothly.

4. Ladies, you may notice your PMS symptoms have been worse lately. Bloating, breast tenderness, sensitivity…you can blame all of the above on your liver. If your periods are more painful or clotted, this is also due to a stagnation of liver energy.

5. Your eyes are red, itchy or irritated.

6. Your shoulders, neck or jaw are uncomfortably tight. If the liver energy is out of balance, it can flow upward. This causes everything in your body to rise up: you might grind or clench your teeth, your shoulders will levitate up around your ears, and you might experience symptoms of TMJ.

7. Your allergies are in full force, complete with itchy, red, watery eyes.

If you are suffering from any of these issues, your body is crying out for help!  Here are a few dietary tips to help:

  • Eat simply and lightly, pay particular attention to posture and tension during and after eating.
  • Eat a diet that is rich in vegetables and moderate in fruits which will help resolve stagnation.
  • Bitter foods will help resolve stagnation affecting the Liver and Stomach.
  • Moderate amounts of the pungent flavor will help to stimulate the system out of stagnation.  Onions and citrus peel are good for this purpose.

A trip to your Acupuncturist is also in order!

Got Addictions-Try Acupuncture!

Addiction is defined as the compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance, which means addiction can come in a lot of different forms.  People can be addicted to illicit drugs like heroin or prescription drugs just as easily as they can be addicted to sugar. But for the purpose of this article, let’s stick to drugs and alcohol.

According to the Health Services Administration, 23.5 million people ages 12 or older have needed treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. And the treatments provided aren’t guaranteed, nor are they always easy. Luckily, there are alternative treatment options that can help.

Acupuncture is based on the correlation of individual locations and energetic meridians found in and on the body. For addiction, micro-acupuncture has been used with good results. Micro-acupuncture uses points on a small part of the body, like the ear, that also show correlations with balancing and restorative functions.

Auricular acupuncture is probably the most common technique used when treating addiction. There is a specific protocol utilized for treating addiction. It is called the NADA protocol. NADA stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association.  NADA was established in 1985 to promote education and training. The NADA protocol utilizes five specific points in the ear that not only address substance abuse, but also the emotional, physical and psychological attributes involved in addictions. This five-point protocol allows one practitioner to treat many patients at a time, making it more time-effective, as well as more cost-effective.

The NADA protocol consists of five specific points, the sympathetic point, Shen Men, the kidney point, the liver point and the lung point. The sympathetic point balances the nervous systems and has a strong analgesic effects. Shen Men has a relaxing effect and helps alleviate anxiety and nervousness that may accompany withdrawals. The kidney point boosts the source energy of the patient while helping to resolve fear and increase willpower. The liver point promotes the repair of the liver and aids in resolving anger and aggression. The lung point strengthens the immune system and accelerates detoxification. It also helps addicts deal with grief and letting go.  When somebody is going through the initial detoxification process, it is important to receive acupuncture treatments daily until you are able to remain clean.

Acupuncture provides a solid foundation for recovery and rehabilitation. It is a supportive component of addiction treatment as well as a tool enabling addicts for a normal life after rehabilitation. Acupuncture works to enhance overall functioning in several ways. Because it is nonverbal, it helps reach patients that are resistant to change. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and agitation. And it helps develop an inner meditative state in those who are fearful or severely troubled.

Acupuncture for addiction and substance abuse offers a proven method of assisting people in the process of recovery without any side effects. Acupuncture provides relief of anxiety, depression, cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.  Freedom from addiction is just a phone call away.

7 Tips for Better Sleep

Many of us find it hard to fall asleep at night and stay asleep, as a result we often wake up feeling groggy and not rested. Sometimes improving sleep is as simple as changing your habits during the day. Below are easy ways that can dramatically help you get a good night’s rest!

  • Cut yourself off in the afternoon. Believe it or not, even having caffeine at 2pm can affect your sleep. Make sure to get that last cup of coffee in beforehand and watch out for certain drinks you may forget have caffeine in them such as soda and many teas.

  • Try restorative yoga. Practicing deep breathing and stretching before bed can help relax the mind and body. Try spending even just ten minutes to stretch and practice mindfulness.
  • Limit your screen time. Let’s face it, we are all addicted to our phones and computers. It’s tempting to look at your phone until the moment you fall asleep. Turn off all electronics an hour before bed to help the brain get into sleep mode. The screens on your devices make it hard for the brain to relax.

  • Acupuncture. If you are finding yourself struggling with insomnia you may want to consider acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is non invasive and has been proven to reduce stress, help chronic pain and increase quality of sleep.
  • Aromatherapy. Lavender has been proven to lead to a better, deeper sleep and help those with insomnia fall asleep more easily. Sniff or rub lavender oil on your wrists before bed to feel the effects.

  • Exercise. Exercising regularly has many health benefits. It can also help you get a better sleep. Even just 20 minutes of some form of exercise a day can make a difference.
  • Cut down on the alcohol. Although some drink a glass of wine before bed to unwind and fall asleep, you are actually more likely to get a poorer quality of sleep. If you do decide to drink, do so earlier in the night to ensure a deep sleep.
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