Category Archives: blog posts

Additional Advice from an Acupuncturist

In my last post, I briefly explained the Chinese medical reasoning behind a few of the twelve tips of acupuncturists reported by Huffington Post. This time, I’d like to add a few of my own pieces of acupuncturist advice.

 

Of course, one piece of advice has to be about healthy eating.

 

clock 7

photo credit Morguefile.com

According to the Chinese medical model, the digestive organs are at their peak between the hours of seven am and eleven am. This is the optimal time of day to eat because the digestive organs are the best able to digest and utilize food. Western medical advice would echo that skipping breakfast is not ideal…if you do skip the first meal of the day, the body’s metabolism is slowed down so calories are hoarded, overeating is more likely later.

clock 11

photo credit Morguefile.com

 

 

Of course, there is additional advice for exercising correctly:

 

I had one teacher tell me that women shouldn’t run after thirty years of age and men, not after thirty-five. Now, while I don’t agree completely, there is an important point to be made. Our bodies aren’t as resilient as we age. We take longer to heal, to repair, and to recover from strenuous exercise. If you think back, recovering from a hard workout or from an injury doesn’t seem the same as each decade passes. Recovery from a sprain at 40 is different than 20.

 

So what is the answer? There are a few things to consider.

 

Obviously but frustratingly: know where you are starting from.

Common sense decrees that if you are overweight those extra pounds will put extra stress and strain on your joints. Any exercise with impact is going to be especially hard on joints possibly causing injury. Start off with low impact and with the loss of weight you can increase the impact.

 

Another point made by physicians and exercise instructors is that if you are out of shape, don’t expect to return to shape as quickly as you did in your younger years. Take it slow. Add miles or weights gradually and LISTEN to your body. Exercise is a lifestyle, it should be for a lifetime…no need to get to your maintenance workout immediately.

 

yin yang

photo credit Morguefile.com

The Chinese would advise further…

Most people are familiar with the Chinese yin-yang concept. Yin and Yang can be considered opposites: dark/light, soft/hard, calm/active, quiet/loud, etc. There are yin times of life and yang times of life. Young is yang….ever look at a kid racing around without slowing? Ever wanted to bottle up that energy and use it for yourself? That is yang energy. Children need more yang exercise: running around, kicking balls, swimming endlessly on summer days, bouncing balls up and down a court. As we grow older, the nature of the exercise we need changes. There are exceptions, but endurance athletes, weekend warriors are not the healthiest of choices for those of us with a history of athletic injuries from earlier years. Our bodies need a more yin exercise that is directed at building qi, lubricating and keeping joints open, fostering bone

photo credit Morguefile.com

health. People are surprised to learn that tai chi and qi gong are beneficial to cardiovascular health as well. These exercises are gentle enough and adaptable to benefit overweight individuals, to people recovering from long-term illnesses to elite athletes. Finding a teacher is fairly easy through the internet search engines.

An aside:

For those of you with a philosophical bent, it is important to note that if you really look at yin and yang you’ll begin to see the yin within yang and yang within yin. But that is another topic altogether.

 

Balance in life:

balance

photo credit Morguefile.com

Traditionally, acupuncturists are instructed not only to learn the medicine, but to learn to paint, write calligraphy, exercise (tai chi/qi gong of course), and have a spiritual practice. This helps the body and mind to live in balance. Over study, worry, and late hours have detrimental effects on the body. Requiring balance from students training in the medicine in artistic, mindful, and physical ways is beneficial the future practitioner, and to his or her future patients.

 

 

Again, I’d like to stress that the above post is supposed to be the start of a conversation or an introduction to these ideas. The above is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to contact me or another practitioner of Chinese medicine to expand upon these beginnings.

 

Be well,

Kathleen

Acupuncturists tips for health

Recently Huffington Post included Sara Calabro’s acupuncturists’ tips.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-calabro/healthy-habits_b_3091956.html

It’s all very sound advice. Some of it you’d hear from your western medical doctor, personal trainer, mother, spiritual or religious adviser, therapist or a combination thereof.

But why would an acupuncturist tell you to be in bed by 11 specifically? What is the acupuncturist’s take on belly breathing? Or conscious eating? The advice to change up our pets’ food should be applied to us as well, why? What is the Chinese medical explanation for why exercise is good for us?

Hopefully, you will find below the short answers to the Chinese medical perspective on these tips. It is not exhaustive and if you ask another acupuncturist they may say “yes….and….” or “yes…..but….” or they might just sagely nod.

Breathing deeply into your belly:

Just like the network of acupuncture meridians that run through out the body, the dan tian is not a physical structure. It is an energetic locus (my words) or the “sea of qi.” It is said to be at the same location as the uterus in women and the space in front of the kidneys in men. When someone practices qigong or tai chi, they are actively trying to build and fortify qi at that location. When you breathe deeply, you are pulling qi in from the environment around you and you are integrating that qi into your dan tian. The result of breathing deeply is increase qi and therefore life force.

Exercise:

soccer

Aside from the more familiar benefits of exercise, acupuncturists say that exercise has the added benefit of moving “stagnant liver qi.” When we are stressed out from dealing with the pressures and frustrations of everyday life such as work, kids, finances, traffic, relationship issues, dietary/beverage indiscretions our liver qi gets stagnant. Symptoms may include—but are not limited to–headaches, irritability, depression, anger, menstrual difficulties, and PMS. So if you swim, walk, run, surf, ride your bike or whatever moves your body to a moderate degree, you push that qi out of the congested liver—it’s mental, emotional, and physical therapy.

Getting to bed by eleven pm.

Most people are familiar with the biological clock, the internal clock, and biorhythms. sleepThe Chinese medical system has a clock too. We look to this Chinese clock to tell us when our organs are at their energetic high and low points. Here comes the liver again: you want to be in bed by eleven so your liver can be at rest when its time rolls around. Have you gathered that the liver is an important organ? I hope to discuss this at greater length in a future blog.

Conscious eating:

Another way to gum up your system is to eat mindlessly. It is advised not to watch TV, read, or have arguments over a meal. These activities do two things.

The first is to excite or upset you. Most people have experienced a stomach upset when they have heard disturbing news or sat through a meal when people are having a heated political argument or discussion. This makes it harder for the digestive organs to efficiently break down the food as we may swallow without completely chewing, we may hurry through the meal, and/or we may eat too much or too little. When you are upset or overly excited while you are eating it’s like trying to ride you bike uphill on a gear that is too high.

The second is if you are not paying attention to eating because you are distracted by an engrossing book or TV program you may eat in a manner similar as described above…again creating difficulties for optimal digestion. Additionally, we are not satiated. If you take out the half of leftover birthday cake, a fork, and pull out a magazine or sit down in front of your favorite show, you are looking to treat yourself. The next thing you may notice is that the cake is gone, or at least you are surprised how much of the cake is gone. Disturbingly, you don’t remember tasting the cake or truly enjoying each bite. You might notice the feeling of guilt more than pleasure of eating cake. birthday cakeSo, what to do? Use the old standby advice: cut a regular slice of cake, sit down and enjoy it, savor and relish each and every bite. Practice mindfulness as you eat the cake without distracting yourself with the TV or book. You will be satiated and you will experience more pleasure than guilt.

Further advice: it’s best not to eat alone. I know this isn’t always practical in our busy rushed world. Ideally, eating should be a social occasion (without the banter). Eating bites of your meals between bits of conversation slows you down. You hopefully can enjoy the company and conversation as well as the food. Food–hopefully–will not be the sole focus of the meal for nourishing your body. Which brings me to:

Variety and Moderation

Ideally we’d eat perfectly. But what is perfect? Dietary advice seems to constantly shift: vegan, paleo, Mediterranean, vegetarian, no carbohydrates, low fat, no red meat. This is annoying at the least, possibly dangerous, and certainly hard to keep up with.

I inevitably smile and think of Woody Allen’s Sleeper. Check out this Youtube clip

Sleeper

So what is the best basic timeless approach to ensure good health?

The Chinese are known for the variety of foods in their diet. variety of foodThere is wisdom in this. If you eat the same foods everyday you are absorbing the same nutrients and blocking the same nutrients each day. If we truly could eat a variety of different foods in different combinations we are exposing our bodies to all the nutrients that our bodies need.

Moderation is another guideline that the Chinese (ideally) apply to their diet. Moderation in all foods. Again, it would be ideal to get rid of all refined sugars, but is it realistic for you? If not, denial might lead to a backlash: a binge. It might be more detrimental to ban a substance inflaming the rebel in you. So, permit yourself that cookie but not the whole package of cookies. Again, it may be easier said than done.

In short, we are all works in progress. Healthy choices can be difficult, overwhelming, frustrating, boring, unsatisfying, and the advice can shift beneath you. So, be kind to yourself as well as others. This is the most important tip of all.

Be well,

Kathleen

Sun safety, best sunscreen resource, and vitamin D

8/7/2013

Just wanted to add to this article from EWG (Environmental Working Group).  It proves for interesting reading and illustrates how Canada, like many European countries, have stricter regulations on sunscreens:

http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2013/06/canada-plans-strong-sunscreen-warnings

 

And the original post follows:

There is a lot out there about the dangers of the sun. We also know that the body needs sunlight to metabolize vitamin D to stay healthy. I have complied some information into one blog to hopefully provide you with one place to get a lot of the information you may be wanting but haven’t found the time to research yourself. Know that this isn’t an exhaustive list, please talk to your dermatologist MD or personal physician in regards to sun safety. This is to serve as information only.

sun rays

 

How to manage sun exposure safely and beneficially?

It is pretty common knowledge to limit sun exposure during the hours of 10 am to 4pm in the continental US. It is advised that one should stay in the shade during that time. But how practical is that? Pools, beaches, and soccer fields can be quite limited in the shade department. Hopefully what follows will help you navigate your sunny days ahead.sun umbrella

Clothing:

The best protection from the sun is clothing. In Australia, school children are required to wear hats that cover their necks at school. Australians can be seen wearing lightweight long sleeved shirts, pants and skirts. You can see this way of dress across the world in sunny regions. This not only protects one from the damaging sun rays, but also keeps one cooler.

Clothes marketed as sun protection:

I have included some clothing lines that are made in such a way that they provide protection equivalent to SPF 50-100. I am not promoting the style or the products…but just including a couple of links so people can imagine a doable sun protecting wardrobe.

http://www.sunprecautions.com/shop/womens/shop

http://www.coolibar.com/

REI, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer and other outdoor clothing companies have also created their own lines of clothing.

There are some really nice swimsuits, shirts, and cover ups for the whole family out there. I pulled my O’Neil swim shirt out for the first time this spring…after inspecting it I realize there are worn spots. Looks like despite my best care (rinsing it out after each use, using mild soap to wash it after a week of heavy use, drying it in the shade) it’s time is up. I don’t want to risk a splotchy sunburn.

Clothes in your closet:

So which clothes already in your closet are best for sun protection? The tighter the weave of the cloth, the better—simply, the ultraviolet rays have a harder time getting through the tighter weave. Synthetics and silks are more reflective. Darker colors are better than lighter. Clothes that are tightly stretched lose some of their protective powers as the weave is stretched and the rays can get through.

Don’t forget the hat! Broad brimmed of course.kids on beach

Sun glasses:

Don’t forget those sunglasses—they protect your eyes from damage—lessening the chance of cataracts,macular degeneration and other eye problems. They also protect the skin around the eyes…from wrinkles as well as from burning. Additionally, anyone who has suffered from sweating sunscreen into their eyes can appreciate getting sun protection from sunglasses.

  • Look for sunglasses marked 99-100% of UVA/UVB protection, or UV400 protection (400 is the smallest UV particle size that these glasses can protect against).
  • If you spend lots of time around the water or snow it’s best to chose a polarized pair of glasses.
  • What about those cheap sunglasses? Again, make sure they say that they have enough UVA/UVB protection. Otherwise you may notice that cheap glasses may give you a visual distortion.
  • Chose the right lens shade for the task…dark lenses don’t protect out if you don’t wear them. You may find you don’t wear your dark lenses skiing because you can’t see the moguls in the shade. So have different lenses for different jobs (driving, skiing, beach)skiiing

 

 

There are no school imposed hats and not everyone wants to wear clothes that cover the body so completely, so let’s move on to sunscreens.

Sunscreens:

Which sunscreens are the best and how should you apply them? What sunscreens are safe? Are the “natural” ones better? Are sunscreen with nano particles safe? Should you choose a physical barrier sunscreen, a chemical sunscreen, or a sunscreen with both? How do you put it on correctly? How often should you reapply it?

On sunscreen application.

Sunscreen should be applied generously and evenly in a visible white coat. Start with your face and work down the body. After you have covered exposed body parts and you look like a ghost, go back and rub the sunscreen in so it is no longer visible. Don’t skimp on the amount, you’ll have less sun protection.

Nano particles in Sunscreen—are they safe?

The nano particles that compose chemical sunscreens don’t rub or spray on so obviously. This is a benefit aesthetically and perhaps less greasy but are nano particles safe? So far no adverse effects have been reported, but research continues. Apparently, research shows that sunscreen nano particles are found only on the surface layer of the skin and are not absorbed past the dead skin layer just below that. In other words, so far, there is no evidence that the nano particles are absorbed systemically.

When should you apply sunscreen?little girl on beach

Sunscreen application should be done 20 minutes before sun exposure. I personally question the point of putting sunscreen on and then immediately jumping in the pool or lake. The whole showering before entering a public pool is another hurtle for keeping on that sunscreen as long as possible.

How often should you re-apply sunscreen?

This question is influenced by many factors. You’ll need to reapply more frequently if you are sweating, swimming, using a SPF sunscreen under 30, and between the hours of 10am and 4 pm when the UVA and UVB rays at their “strongest.”

Any SPF of 30 or over provides basically the same protection, meaning you reapply sunscreen with an SPF 85 as frequently as one with an SPF of 30. It seems that the general consensus is reapplication of and SPF of 30 and above should be every two hours (barring swimming, sweating, etc). More conservative sources say every hour. In part it may depend on how easily you burn (see below).

What sunscreens are best? Which SPF should I use?

Make sure that it provides “full spectrum” protection…for both UVA and UVB.

Whatever sunscreen you use, it is agreed upon that a minimum of SPF 15 is required. SPF over 50 is not necessarily recommended. Where SPF 30 protects you from 97% of UVB, SPF 50 protects you from 98% of UVB. The difference in protection from UVA rays is not rated by the SPF so no point in buying a higher SPF to protect you from the aging UVA rays.

Also, the higher SPF doesn’t mean you can reapply it less frequently…so it’s no bargain. Basically, is about marketing. (see section above on how often you should re-apply sunscreen).

There is a wonderful website resource by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), it’s a self proclaimed non-profit watchdog that evaluates sunscreens’ ingredients for safety and effectiveness. They also say how strong the research is behind each of the ingredients. It then “grades” every sunscreen, indicates how expensive they are, and even lists the sunscreens they deem best.

You can also find EWG’s evaluation of cosmetics and household cleaning products.

To get to 2012’s sunscreen guide directly http://www.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/ When they come out with their 2013 guide, this hyperlink will forward you to the 2013 updated link.

If your sun sensitive:

That omega 3 fish oil or flax supplement you are supposed to take? Well, it has an additional benefit of skin tissue repair. Take your dose in the morning at least two hours before you head out for the day and it may lessen your sensitivity to the sun. It may be good to add a dose after a day where you fear you have had too much sun exposure. On a side note, make sure that you have a good quality fish oil supplement from a reputable company that practices sustainable fishing and has quality controls ensuring that their product is mercury free.

Vitamin D

Experts now believe adequate vitamin D is important to help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, several cancers, and many other diseases. Ironically, the skin cancer causing UVB rays are responsible for vitamin D production and utilization in our bodies.

We can take a vitamin D supplement but our bodies cannot metabolize it effectively without the trans formative powers of sunlight. So sun is key.

So how much sun is safe? Apparently 10 unprotected minutes in the midday sun in the summertime (during winter due to the angle of the sun the UVB rays don’t hit us north of Atlanta, so there will be no vitamin D benefits for wintertime sunbathing). Your arms and legs provide enough skin exposure to get the vitamin D boost.

So….rather than applying sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sunshine, I try to apply my sunscreen no more than10 minutes before I head outdoors to get that unprotected time. I actually don’t know if I can manage to get sunscreen on any earlier before I head out the door. I don’t know if this would be advised by an MD…so check with your dermatologist on that bit of “advice.”

You got burned…now what?

Despite our best efforts, burns happen. For my family and clients I use a Chinese burn cream, but aloe vera does a good job as well…it doesn’t block the skin pores keeping the heat in. I think the burn cream is easier to use than breaking off aloe leaves. If you chose to buy a bottle of aloe vera check the ingredients to see about its purity. A few minutes (not hours) in a cool (not cold) bath with or without baking soda or oatmeal can also be soothing. Very cold baths will restrict the skin pores not allowing the heat from the burn to escape..

 

So the bottom line is cover up, pick a sunscreen you feel comfortable with and use it liberally and often. Get a nice pair of glasses.

 

Enjoy!

Kathleen

Sources:

http://www.skincancer.org/

http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/features/how-to-pick-good-sunglasses?page=2

http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/nanoparticles-and-sunscreen.html

http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/ask-the-experts/does-a-higher-spf-sunscreen-always-protect-your-skin-better

http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/nanoparticles-and-sunscreen.html

Anxiety!

stormy seas pic morguefile.com

stormy seas morguefile.com

Despite our best intentions, life can get a bit tense. Between family obligations (even those we welcome), work, and daily tasks we can find ourselves growing tense, anxious, and irritable. So much for enjoying the return of spring!

 Here I’d like to suggest ways in which you can best be prepared to deal with the daily trials and tasks that life sends our way. I’d also like to share some techniques you can use to get back to a calm state after you find yourself “worked up.”

 

Preparation:

There are a few things you can do to reconnect with yourself and what you need—for you! This may be the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and by proxy to our families. When we are

Photo by ANDRIK LANGFIELD PETRIDES on Unsplash

more connected with ourselves we are able to give to our families from the heart without resentment. In other words, when we feel taken care of, we live and interact with others from a feeling fullness. Children especially sense when we are less than 100%…they can sense when we are tired, distracted by “things” at this time they tend to demand more attention at that moment. Begin: the snowball effect.

 

Sleep:

Photo by Clarke Sanders on Unsplash

More and more studies stress the importance of good nights sleep. With those of us in care giving roles or with young children that may seem laughably impossible. Try to take a nap if you can. If that still seems comical, try lying on your right side for 10 minutes. In Chinese medicaltheory the liver is where the blood gets replenished. By lying on your right side the blood can “pool” there thus increasing restorative powers. Try lying down with your baby/child for 10 minutes of his/her nap…then get back to it!

 

Drink water:

picture by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

Other options to drinking water are non-caffeinated teas. Coffee can increase feelings of anxiety or stress. If you are a die hard coffee drinker try switching one or more cups to a green or black tea. Your body may respond very differently to the caffeinated tea than coffee. Iced drinks are not recommended: room temperature or hot is best. Our bodies need to be hydrated to help our immunity ward off colds and flu. Also, if you truly pay attention you may notice the edge disappear off your irritability and/or your hunger.

 

Eating:

Proper diet. Hmmm…which one to follow? This will be a subject of a future blog. All I will say presently about diet is this: moderation and variety.

 

Exercise:

We all have heard how exercise is essential for overall health. We know that it helps with metabolism, bone health, heart health, immunity, the list goes on. We also know it is a great tool for stress reduction. Just make sure you enjoy your routine…walking is an excellent choice especially in a beautiful setting. No need to be a weekend warrior, intense prolonged activity one to two days a week can lead to injuries, better to spread out the miles over more days.

 

Connect through a passion:

Whether playing an instrument, running, hiking, listening to music, gardening, painting or sculpting—connect with some activity that gives you more energy and a sense of deep satisfaction. This will help bring clarity and peace to your deepest levels.

 

You have found yourself upset..what to do now.

 

During the situation: the triangle

One of my favorite techniques to use with a difficult person is to visualize a triangle between that person and myself. It can be any size; you can shrink it and enlarge it during the situation. This triangle is a black hole. I had a client with narcissistic sister. Her sister, using their past closeness and sense of sisterly obligation, tried to get my client to bail her out of another tough spot. My client, knowing that by helping her out was enabling this dynamic to continue, “placed’ the triangle between them. By doing this, my client disengaged and was not drawn in by her sister. She was able to sympathize with her sister’s predicament and yet not take it on.

 

The aftermath of a situation:

Whether you are dealing with a minor fender bender, a heated family confrontation, or a “scare/near miss,” your body has been changed physiologically. Your heart rate may be accelerated, you may notice you are perspiring; a feeling of anxiousness won’t seem to leave even though the “danger” is over. It is important to take your body out of “high alert” status. Here are a few techniques.

 

Do something physical

Go for a run, brisk walk, or ride, whatever it is to do the “flight” after the fright. Fully engage your respiratory system. Really take deep breaths and consciously breathe the situation out—visualize it leaving you.

 

 

Can’t leave the kids/work?

Put on some crazy music and dance it out with your kids or listen to your favorite music. Madly paint/chalk the sidewalk/butcher paper or scribble on a pad of paper.

 

Kids asleep, can’t leave?
Go to your kids bury your nose in their smell and breathe them in deeply and breathe out your love and gratitude for them to them just as fully. It is important that this circle is complete. They are not responsible for taking care of us emotionally even when they are asleep.

 

Visualize the situation and change your emotion:

You can’t change what has happened but perhaps you can revisit it and have it feel different in your body. When I was 8 months pregnant, I was driving down the freeway when a car lost control in front of me. I was able to pull over to the far left lane, call 911 and wait just until the paramedics arrived. Afraid that this was endangering my unborn baby as well as myself, I left without talking to anyone. I was shaken up. I pulled over to a safe place and breathed “wellness” (aka prayers) for the driver and compassion and forgiveness towards myself for leaving.

 

Hope you find the above helpful though it is not exhaustive.

Be well

Kathleen