Choosing Wisely, Balancing Your Health and Your Joy.

Choosing Wisely, Balancing Your Health and Your Joy.

A basic tenet of Chinese Medicine is “Everything in moderation including moderation.”  Extremes of any variety can be unhealthy.  We see this with the rise of afflictions such as Orthorexia, a condition where people get so fixated on specific, “healthy” food choices they become regimented and inflexible—ultimately costing them joy, happiness and fun. With the Lilac Festival a few weeks ago, Rochester is moving into that time of year full of festivals, cookouts and celebrations.  These are joyous occasions.  How does one balance their health goals and having fun at a barbecue? Remember moderation. Barring significant allergic reactions or health conditions, it’s okay to enjoy that piece of cake at your daughter’s 1st birthday.  It’s okay to celebrate her smile, laugh and marvel at the wonder of life she is—and enjoy a piece of cake while doing so.  Food is often a part of celebration and, in general, an occasional day of sugar indulgence is okay. The key is this: your choice to celebrate does not have to conflict with your health goals. Many of us will go to the party and say, “Oh, I can’t say no to that cake.” Then subsequently, we berate ourselves for not having “strong enough willpower”. This internal or external dialogue often leads to a downward spiral of self-deprecation and subsequent unhealthy food choices. For a better way to look at these decisions, consider this: Does choosing this match up with who I am in the world? Does it match up with the health I’m creating for my body, my heart, and my soul? If you decide to celebrate with a piece of cake and...
Qi 101: The basics behind our vital energy

Qi 101: The basics behind our vital energy

As an Acupuncturist, I work with Qi (pronounced “chee”).  Many health conditions are related to Qi pathologies like a deficiency, excess and stagnation.  I imagine all this sounds like jargon to most people.  So let’s break it down: What is Qi? Qi is life-force, energy, the capacity for all movement in the body – whether walking, pumping blood, or moving food through the digestive track.  Conceptually, Qi can be likened to western medicine concepts like metabolism and ATP/ADP synthesis.  ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is a type of molecule in our bodies that transports chemical energy within cells. When the bonds in the molecule break, changing it from ATP to ADP (adenosine diphosphate), it releases the energy our cells need to perform their required tasks. How does it work? Qi flows through a system of channels that run up and down the body called Meridians.  This Qi flow follows a very particular pattern.  In addition to systemic Qi that moves throughout the body, there are specific forms of Qi related to organ systems, such as Spleen and Stomach Qi that aid digestion. Where does it come from? We make Qi from the food that we eat, the air that we breathe and movement, such as walking. How does Acupuncture treats Qi? Acupuncture can help promote healing and reduce pain by moving stuck Qi, dispersing Qi that’s in the wrong place, and strengthening and tonifying deficiencies.  All pain has a component of Qi stagnation.  Lethargy, fatigue, exhaustion, low energy usually has some deficiency.  In treatment planning, we may use dispersing points when stagnation is present to reduce pain.  When there is...
5 simple ways to ease seasonal headaches

5 simple ways to ease seasonal headaches

This time of year can be particularly frustrating for people prone to headaches.  We are in this period of transition—is it Winter or is it Spring?  There’s a bit of a yo-yo back and forth with the weather, temperatures and barometric pressure.  As Spring arrives, it brings forceful and upright energy, a stark contrast to the retreating energy of winter.  We see examples of this in nature as we witness bulbs sprouting through the semi-thawed ground.  Tiny buds and new growth stem from tree branches that appeared almost lifeless the last we looked.  In just a few weeks, leaves will sprout and we’ll hear that familiar and joyous sound of them rustling in the breeze. As delightful as all of this is, the upright forceful energy happening in the world around us can be particularly frustrating for people prone to headaches due to Qi imbalances.  The inconsistencies often exacerbate headache symptoms. What can one do? Drink More Water Dehydration is often a factor in chronic and acute headaches.  Try reaching for water as opposed to aspirin the next time a headache sets in. Moderate Caffeine Though wonderful for helping with an acute headache, in excess caffeine can be the cause of the Qi imbalances leading to headaches. Get enough good quality sleep Lack of good quality sleep contributes to Qi deficiency and thus exacerbates deficiency related headaches. Move Walking and other forms of physical exercise are wonderful for helping to move stuck Qi.  If the cause of your headache is more related to stagnation than deficiency, a brisk walk will do wonders for your health. Eat balanced meals and...
9 ways to ease constipation

9 ways to ease constipation

Constipation is often thought of as merely a situation leading to a little discomfort.  However when not addressed, chronic constipation can lead to serious health problems. In Western medicine suggestions to help with constipation often include: Fiber supplements to bulk up stools to make it easier for the colon to move stools. Stool softeners are often recommended when people have really hard stools which can be particularly painful and cause added discomfort from fissures and hemorrhoids. Spoken about less but maybe even more important are the following solutions that are a little more focused on cause: Increasing water intake.  The colon loves water. We absorb water through the colon as it squeezes stools to absorb minerals and vitamins.  When we don’t take in enough water, bowel movements are compromised. Gut dysbiosis happens when unhealthy bacteria offset the balance of healthy bacteria. Gut dysbiosis is a factor in constipation.  Probiotics and fermented foods can help to promote healthy gut flora. Insufficient stomach acid often limits our body’s ability to break down food and the extraction of minerals.  Insufficient stomach acid also means the small intestine and large intestine must work significantly harder to extract nutrients from food. Too much animal protein.  Generally, healthy portions of animal protein won’t muck up the gut.  The body is prewired to maximize the amino acid intake.  Since the body can only process so much animal protein at a time, peristalsis will slow down to allow the body to capture the maximum amount of amino acids possible.  An ideal serving varies based on body type, gender, and activity but a good benchmark is a portion the size of one’s...
Detox for Wellness

Detox for Wellness

Detox, Cleanse, Purify, Fast – Are any of these a part of a wellness program?  I get a lot of questions about this broad subject. Detoxing, cleansing, purifying and fasting all work in similar ways.  By decreasing the amount of energy the body needs to break down nutrients from food, we create an opportunity for it to focus on letting go of waste and restoring itself.  For short periods of time, this can be quite beneficial. If done for too long, there are negative effects.  When deciding on a type of detox, you should first consider whether the program is healthy and consult with an expert, especially if choosing a more rigorous multi-day program. Though multi-day cleanses are what we typically think of when we hear about detoxing, there are ways to detox that might only include a morning a week or limiting a few ingredients from your diet for a period of time. Some detoxing strategies:  A cleanse A cleanse is usually some form of calorie restriction with supplements to provide necessary nutrients and encourage elimination.  Cleanses range from 3 days to 10 days.  Cleanses are not recommended for everyone.  People with chronic illness, diabetes, auto-immune conditions, as well as anyone taking prescription medications, should consult with their health care professional before embarking on a full-fledged cleanse. A morning or day off In many religions fasting on the Sabbath was common.  Taking a morning off from food or an entire day with nothing other simple meals of steamed vegetables and brown rice or quinoa gives the body a break and a chance to focus on letting go and...
Living in Harmony With Nature: Spring

Living in Harmony With Nature: Spring

Spring is Here! Yes, I know the first day of Spring is March 20, at least according to our modern Gregorian calendar. In Chinese Medicine, March 20, the equinox, is actually the peak of spring. Energetically we’ve been in Spring for several weeks. The Seasonal cycle in Chinese Medicine is actually based on the solar cycles. When the Sun is highest in the sky, summer peaks. When the sun is lowest and we experience minimal daylight hours, winter peaks. Based on this, we can extrapolate the rest of the seasons. Winter is a very Yin time, but as wemove towards spring we have more Yang energy. We see this in nature as buds crack open, leaves sprout, animals begin to frolic and activity on the canal path starts to pick up as people begin to emerge from their period a rest. So why do some people feel frustrated, angry and tired? Why do many experience poor sleep, trouble getting started, increased chronic pain and digestive upsets? In the same way we have patterns and transitions happening in the world around us, we also have them happening within us. Sometimes the transition from Yin to Yang can be bumpy, especially if constitutionally a person is of a more Yin or Yang nature. In addition, locally we have a bit of juxtaposition. We have the energy of spring begging us to get out and move yet in Rochester, we still may have frigid weather, cold winds and dare I say it, snow. It’s the equivalent of a brake stance in an old rear-wheel drive car–revving your engine up to go and leaving...