Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chinese Medicine and Your Emotions

Photo by Teresa Y Green
Emotional or mental problems affect many people.  Even mild symptoms can lower your enjoyment of life, and severe symptoms can be debilitating. 
Acupuncture together with other components of Chinese Medicine can help.

Diagnosis and Treatment: Different From "Western" Medicine

Many patients are surprised to find that Chinese medicine’s diagnostic process is very different from what they find at their doctor’s office.  Two people with the same “western” diagnosis, such as clinical depression, may have completely different Chinese medicine diagnoses.

To make the right diagnosis for you, your acupuncturist will ask questions during the interview that may seem to have nothing to do with your emotions.  Questions about digestion, your reaction to stress, and your sleep give information that will help her to give you the correct treatment.

While many people think of acupuncture for treatment, a complete treatment usually uses acupuncture, herbal, and dietary treatments.   Using all of the resources of Chinese medicine brings quicker and longer lasting results.

Some Possible Diagnoses

There are many different diagnoses related to emotions.  Here are a few different diagnoses, with the primary symptoms associated with each:

  • Qi Stagnation:  Crying or depression, especially with restlessness,  becoming easily frustrated, irritability, wandering pain, alternating diarrhea and constipation, irregular menses, and any symptom that is worse with stress.
  • Blood stagnation:  Severe emotional distress, usually rage, accompanied by severe, stabbing pain in a fixed location.  Also menstrual problems, purple color on the nails or tongue, and symptoms that improve with exercise.
  • Phlegm misting the mind:  Irrational thoughts, extreme paranoia, hallucination, can be accompanied by either mania and rage or terror, or apathy and withdrawal.
  • Liver Yang Rising/Liver Fire: Anger or rage accompanied with red face, irritability, dizziness, and headache, worse with stress.
  • Dampness / Phlegm Stagnation: Depression marked by apathy; difficulty concentrating; foggy, unclear, or irrational thinking; dizziness; feeling achy and sore, often with tender points; a heavy feeling in the limbs; fatigue; chest congestion or diarrhea.
  • Heart Fire: Rage, red face, red tongue, insomnia, restlessness, mania.
  • Qi deficiency: Depression or anxiety worse when tired, lack of interest in life, soft voice, gas and bloating, low energy.
  • Blood Deficiency: Apathy, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, difficulty thinking or concentrating, poor vision, low energy, dizziness,  dull pain, worse when fatigued, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling, pale skin, dry skin, nails, or hair;, scanty menses or missing periods.
  • Heart or Gallbladder deficiency:  Difficulty making decisions, apathy, anxiety, insomnia, shortness of breath.
  • Yin Deficiency:  Irritability or anxiety, worse in the afternoon and evening, accompanied by night sweats, hot flashes, any symptom worse in the afternoon or evening.
  • Yang Deficiency: Extremely low energy, listlessness, apathy; difficulty staying warm; edema, frequent urination and diarrhea; dull pain improved by warmth, especially in the back, knee, or foot, worse when tired; urinary or sexual dysfunction.

Quick Tips to Balance Emotions

Here are some ideas to improve your emotional equilibrium today: 
  • Make a moderate exercise program and stick with it.  Consider tai chi, qi gong, yoga, or other gentle qi exercises with fluid movements or gentle stretching.
  • Work on experiencing your emotions as they occur.  Set aside time each day to review your feelings and write about them, share them with a friend, or take action to make your life better.
  • Keep a food diary, and note if you experience emotional episodes after eating certain foods.  Some people find specific foods that trigger depression, anxiety, or apathy.
  • Take steps to lower your stress level.  Any health problem worsens with high stress levels.

Of course, if you are experiencing symptoms that severely interfere with your day-to-day life, please seek professional psychiatric help.  Once your condition is stabilized, you can discuss adding Chinese medicine to your treatment strategy with your doctor or therapist.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What to Do Instead of Taking Antibiotics

Antibiotics are amazing drugs. They destroy bacteria that can kill humans and animals. The introduction of antibiotics into medicine turned once life-threatening problems like infected wounds and bacteria-based diseases into minor issues for most otherwise healthy people. But today, overuse threatens to diminish their effectiveness. Bacteria develop resistance to the currently available antibiotics, and like all medications, antibiotics have side effects. 

Antibiotics' effectiveness depends on destroying bacteria. But all bacteria are not harmful; many are crucial to our ability to digest food and carry out basic life functions. They are especially important in the workings of our immune system. In the article The Fat Drug, Pagan Kennedy describes our bodies as 
"the condo that your bugs [bacteria] helped to build and design. The bugs redecorate you every day. They turn the thermostat up and down, and bang on your pipes." 
Our unique balance of bacteria help us in all our bodily functions, and antibiotics can change how well our healthy bacteria work.

So the question becomes, how can we avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics? Fortunately, Chinese medicine has lots of advice to offer.
  • Prevention. The best way to avoid antibiotics is to not need them in the first place. Use basic health strategies like getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet, and making time for moderate exercise to strengthen your immune system, which will improve your ability to fight off bacterial illness. Managing stress with time management, and meditation, and an optimistic outlook will also help. A less obvious tip is wearing a scarf in cold weather, since the area around the neck and shoulders is considered especially vulnerable to invasion. Also, taking probiotics, which give your body the "good" bacteria it needs to have a health immune system, give your body a way to fight infection from the inside.
  • Avoiding exposure. Doing your best to avoid exposure to dangerous bacteria will also minimize your chances of needing antibiotics. Wear gloves if you will be working somewhere where you could cut yourself, or come in contact with bacteria. Skip the trip to the drug store during cold and flu season, when all the contagious sick people are there. Wash your hands frequently--with soap and water, not anti-bacterial soap, which is another overuse of antibiotics and may have its own health risks.
  • Infection 911--food edition. If you actually get a cold (which would not be helped by antibiotics anyway) or infection, there are some things you can do. Rest as much as you can. If you feel more hot than cold, have plenty of cooling foods (cooked and room temperature or warmer) such as mint tea, lightly steamed cucumbers, parsley, dill, or dandelion greens. If you feel more cold than hot, eat plenty of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to warm your system. 
  • Infection 911--herbal edition. Echinacea can help if used at the first sign of a cold. Formulas such as Yin Qiao Wan, Bai Hu Tang, and Ren Shen Bai Du Wan can all help with infections and other illnesses, but each have their own specific uses. Be sure to check in with a trained herbalist for information to be sure you get the best thing for your illness. Acupuncture can improve your immune system function, both as a quick boost and over time.
Antibiotics are a wonderful part of the medical arsenal. Saving them for true emergencies will leave you healthier, and keep them available for everyone.

I have extensive training in acupuncture and the use of herbs. However, the statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a health care provider, and should not be construed as individual medical advice. Any testimonials on this website are from individuals and do not guarantee or imply the same results.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Get Up And Boogie! Part 3 of The 5 Taxations: Excessive Lying Down

Photo Credit: vancity197

Not long ago, I started a series on The Five Taxations--five activities that wear out your system when done in excess. Here they are again:
Today's post is on excessive lying down. I rarely complain about people lying down, because I strongly advocate napping and think most people get too little sleep. But I know people who lie down even when they're not sleeping--to watch TV, read, or just hang out. 

Chinese medicine is a system that emphasizes balance. Our bodies are made for some movement, some rest, some intake of food, some spending of our energy.There are actually dangers to oversleeping, especially since a need to oversleep means you are not getting good quality sleep when you are awake. If you spend all your time lying down, you are not moving. The right level of movement contributes to creating qi in the body, acting like a generator. No movement, and your qi is diminished. You instead build stagnation--the qi you have and your blood become stuck more easily, leading to pain, digestive problems, and emotional distress. Our body fluids move better when we have regular movement--especially lymph fluid, which plays a part in circulation and immune system health.

If you are not prone to movement (pun entirely intended), whether from medical necessity or disinclination to exercise, preventing this taxation is still possible. Move whatever you have to move--feet, arms, head, neck--eyes, even just your rate of breathing if everything else is paralyzed. Don't move too fast, or for too long at first--qi needs a chance to well up like a spring. Overdoing it early on will exhaust you and make it harder to continue. 

Enjoy moving--dance, stretch like a cat. Move slowly and really feel your muscles changing shape. Move quickly and enjoy the slight thrill of an increased heart beat. Move until you are slightly tired, and enjoy better sleep.

You will see some level of improvement--your breathing will be smoother, and if you do not have permanent injuries, you will be able to move farther and easier over time.

Enjoy your body's ability to move. Don't allow your body to stagnate from a lack of movement!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Three Tips to Living with Low Energy or Chronic Pain

Photo Credit: Stock.xchng photo

I have a secret. I am not an energetic person. Never have been--even as a kid, I got tired before everyone else. I was the one who was relieved when parents came to break up sleepover shenanigans so I could get some much-needed sleep. I was in a car accident years ago, and the residual pain taps my energy further while adding its own problems.

My practice focuses on the chronically ill, so I see a lot of people like me. Many of them have trouble mentally dealing with their health issues.  They feel like they're missing out on life, or that all they can do is get the daily requirements done, then drag off for as much sleep as possible before doing it all again. They are constantly tired, and usually depressed.

I get frustrated at my energy levels, but all-in-all I handle them pretty well. I look at my life, and it is full--I go out with friends, I have a career that uses my talents, and a husband and cat who love me. I get a fair amount done most days, and stay better rested than I have been at any earlier point in my life. How do I do it? I'm glad you ask!
  • I accepted there were limitations. This idea is anathema to many. They want to fight with everything they have to get one more thing done, add one more activity, one more commitment, one more accomplishment. For those whose personality fits this lifestyle, it is great--the constant challenge energizes them, so fighting their limitations is a great coping strategy. Most of the people I see day-to-day don't have this personality--they just wish they did. I stopped wishing for it a long time ago, and made a few policies: I rarely commit to extra responsibilities because I know I can't be reliable at them.  If I get so little sleep that I cry when it's time to get up, I cancel my day. I avoid places, other than my office, where sick people are likely to congregate--no trips to the drugstore during flu season, and no unnecessary gatherings with a gaggle of small children. Being sick takes a lot out of me, and since setting up this policy I have a lot less illness than I used to.
  • I eat well. As much as I used to like soft drinks and french fries, I almost never eat them now. I don't digest either of them well, and the "hangover" of eating any kind of junk food gets in the way of the things I want to do. My husband and I invest a lot of our income on healthy food that tastes great. We both enjoy food, and both know how important it is to give our bodies good things. It was a lesson we have only really committed to in the past five years or so, but now that we have we get reap great dividends--a clear mind, better moods, and a gradual improvement in health all-around. My pain levels are usually very low, and my energy improves the better I eat.
  • I try to have only positive things in my life. Lest you think I live my life focused on what I can't do and cannot eat, let me tell you my philosophy: I am a valuable commodity, I have a lot to give, and like any precious thing or entity, I must receive excellent care to be at my best. So I put as many good things into my life as I can. The lesson of positivity is relatively new for me--I used to feel that saying my life was going well was a form of bragging. Now I see it as a way to improve the world around me by not adding to the complaints that burden society. I try to look at my life with a positive perspective ("change your story, change your life"). I seek out positive people to read and emulate, like Michael Hyatt, Marc and Angel Chernoff, Chris Guillebeau, and others. Putting upbeat, can-do, honest words into my mind each day helps fight discouragement and gives me the raw materials to create my own positive creations. Taking care of my mind also gives me a safe place to deal with hard things. When I'm tired, cultivating a positive outlook means I don't bow to discouragement as often, and dark days when I see only the negative are easier to turn around.
These are just three tips for dealing with fatigue and stress. They are simple, but not always easy. Do you have any tips you use for dealing with the issues in your life?

Monday, January 13, 2014

How Socks Made My Day--Simple Self Care

Photo Credit: Teresa Y Green
I bought these knee socks last week. They are kind of a big deal. I bought them to go with my new boots--the boots come up to my knees, and I didn't have any socks long enough to protect my legs from getting chafed.

Usually, I am a frugal shopper when it comes to clothes. I buy very nice stuff, but I buy it from thrift stores, where Liz Claiborne jeans cost $5. When I got the boots and realized I needed socks that no one would be able to see, I planned to buy some plain socks in a pack from a department store. Then I went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, one of my favorite places. Their gift shop is full of beautiful garden-oriented things, from jewelry to plant markers. Wandering through the shop is like a small museum tour for me, oohing and ahhing over the the butterfly, flower, bird, or bee-themed cards, lamps, mugs, nightlights, and other items. So I stopped to admire the scarves, and saw a display of knee-high socks. Full of color, with patterns from paisley to butterflies to flowers. And saw these. I fell in love.

While they were reasonably priced, one pair cost more than I had planned to pay for my three-pack of plain socks. They were totally impractical--no one but my husband would ever see them under my boots. I walked past them, then circled back. Then took them to the cash register and on to their new "forever home."

New socks are not a big deal. But I emphasize self care in my practice. Sometimes I find I need my own advice. These socks represent my plan to do little things to take care of myself, so I have plenty of resources to give to others.

Sometimes patients resist the idea of self-care, because they feel others in the family have a bigger need, or they equate self-care with selfishness. Since I've been in that place--and go back and visit occasionally--I try to help. Self-care does not mean ignoring others' needs to have whatever you want in life. It is taking care of yourself, so you can joyfully give to others. When I look at my socks, I feel happy. I smile. The touch of beauty in my day changes my mood. When I take my new, improved mood to the office, or to my husband, or anywhere populated by my fellow human beings, I am able to be a more positive version of myself. Solutions to problems come easier and can encourage people and be believable, because I am happy myself.  Interactions with cashiers, sales people, and my fellow drivers are friendlier--moments that may be fleeting for me, but can make the day of someone who needs a smile and basic respect.

Too often, I find myself seeing life as something I can only manage by a combination of running full-tilt and hanging on for dear life, scraping by and fighting through fatigue and frustration. One of my goals for the next year is to have fewer moments in that mentality, and more moments enjoying the life I've been given, and sharing what I have and know with others. My pretty socks are a small item that enriched my life. The feeling of luxury they gave me made me feel expansive, and more capable of giving to the people in my life.

Are there any small ways you take care of yourself? Please share them in the comments!

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now: Part Two of the Five Taxations--Vision

Stock.xchng Stock Photo
Recently, I wrote an article on The Five Taxations. They are five ways we can over-(or under-) exert ourselves and have consequences on specific areas of our health.  Today I want to cover the first in my Five Taxations series. The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing) states: "to observe over a long time harms the blood." 

Almost everything we do in our modern day involves "observing over a long time." Many of us spend hours at computers, dealing with lighted screens, flashing ads, and that ever-moving cursor. Our modern age, with its televisions, smart phones, artificial lighting, and fast pace give us unique challenges to our vision.  I often remind patients that 150 years ago, the only reasons someone would have their eyes darting rapidly from side-to-side would involve danger--someone or something was after you, or you were after it. Today, our eyes constantly track rapidly back and forth--whether we're watching for traffic while driving or reading an ebook. All that use strains your eyes.

But it does more. In Chinese medicine, eyes relate to the health and function of the Liver. Wearing them out stresses this organ system. Your "Liver energy" also manages your body's response to stress, it's ability to do things smoothly and on time (whether that's getting sleepy at the right time or digesting food without incident), and has a lot to do with pain. The Liver governs the movement of qi. Qi getting stuck causes pain. (See this article for an explanation of stuck qi, and how to fix it) The Liver and Gallbladder meridians, which work together, affect the head, eyes, inside and outside of the legs, and influence the workings of every other system. Keeping them happy is a big deal. Here are a few ways to help your vision, and your Liver and Gall systems working well.
  •  Give your eyes a regular break. If you read or work out on the computer a lot, take regular breaks--at least every 90 minutes. Whenever possible, find a quiet place and close your eyes. Gently rub around your eyebrows and under your eyes. Give yourself time when you don't have to "observe frequently." Allow your eyes to unfocus and take a few moments off in a quiet place a few times a day.
  • Get enough rest. Lack of sleep is so common as to be endemic in modern society. Now we know what Chinese medicine has known all along--sleep is absolutely necessary to process stress. One of your Liver-Gall Bladder's jobs is to file away the stress of the day while you dream--and it is at its most active between 11pm and 3am. Many creative people use these hours because they have a burst of energy. But they sacrifice their "unconscious sorting" time when they do so. Get the rest you need, and especially get your rest during these hours--you'll find you have more creativity during the day if you allow it to build and do its job at night.
  • Eat Liver-and-Eye healthy foods. Foods with a slightly sour taste, like berries, vinegar, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, citrus foods and green vegetables, are good for "soothing Liver." Not surprisingly, a lot of foods currently considered good for eye health are in these categories. Goji berries and chrysanthemum tea (made from the flowers of the
    Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum plants) are used in Chinese herbal remedies to strengthen Liver blood and especially to strengthen the eyes. Most Asian markets will have instant beverages called "Chrysanthemum Tea," which may be heavily sweetened but can be used to help your Liver qi. You can also buy an unsweetened version online (see bottom of page for an affiliate link).
  • Deal with stress. Stress, especially emotional stress, is one of the major obstacles to Liver and Gall Bladder meridian functioning. Dealing with stress as it occurs will allow this organ system to keep up with its job of making thing happen at the right time in your system, and will allow it to properly nourish your eyes. 
Our modern world is especially hard on Liver energy, and especially hard on eyes. Take steps to prevent wearing out the windows to your soul. You'll be more creative, less stressed, and better able to build the life you want. 


Huang Di Nei Jing quote taken from Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: An Annotated Translation of Huang Di's Inner Classic - Basic Questions: 2 volumes

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hitting The Problem From All Angles--Using Multiple Modalites

Photo Credit: Stock.xchng

For the past four months, I have been in pain. An old back injury got aggravated, then aggravated some more. As an acupuncturist, this situation has hurt my pride. I treat back pain all the time, and one of the reasons I got into acupuncture is because of the pain relief it gave me. I've tried lots of different things--acupuncture, of course, but also stretching, acupressure, massage, and chiropractic. Each one seemed to help, but after a day or two the pain returned. And I was discouraged.

In the past two weeks, I decided to play "what would I do for a patient in the same situation?" The answer was easy--I would suggest a slew of treatments all at once--throw everything we had at the problem in hopes of subduing it.

So that's what I did. This week, I've had two acupuncture treatments, two chiropractic adjustments, and one massage. I have also had better improvement than I have in months. I believed I couldn't spare the time to make these treatments a reality. But now I see that the time I wasted feeling bad led to reduced productivity, reduced creativity, and certainly did not help me be an example of the benefits of natural living.

Natural remedies, while often quite effective, are also often quite gentle. They guide your body back into balance instead of dragging it, kicking and screaming, to a level of forced functioning. Building health sometimes takes many layers of effort--a little adjustment to diet, some slight changes to exercise, and maybe a few forms of treatment to address all areas that affected by a health problem. So if you're dealing with depression, therapy or herbs or diet changes or exercise alone may not be enough to solve the problem--they may need to be used together. If allergies are your issue, you may need to avoid known allergens, build your system with health food and supplements, and deal with stress, which compromises your immune system.

Going the natural path sometimes requires more effort than filling a prescription and popping a pill. (And, of course, there are some things in our modern age that require doing that in addition to healthy life changes.) Layering therapies is a way to get more out of your natural living strategy.

I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but I am hopeful that slow and creaky is not my new normal. Sometimes when you have a problem, you have to attack it head-on and throw all your resources at it. Have you had a similar health experience? Tell me about it in the comments!