Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Can Acupuncture Help Me Sleep? 7 Tips for Better Sleep

Sleep. It is one of the most important things you can do for your health (in addition to eating well, exercising and controlling stress). Sleep can affect mood, weight, immunity, stress levels (see sleep-stress cycle), how quickly we heal from illness or injury as well as our memory and mental clarity. Unfortunately for many, a good night's sleep can be elusive. Sometimes no matter how tired we are we just can't fall asleep. Or if we fall asleep, we wake up and spend hours trying to get back to sleep. Sometimes we are up all night with hot flashes and night sweats. There are many things keeping us awake at night. How often do you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night?

Here are some Chinese medicine reasons why insomina happens and what can be done about it.

Nighttime is the time of Yin where darkness and cooler temperatures take over. This is the ideal time to sleep. According to Chinese Medicine, during the day, the Spirit resides in our Heart/Brain and animates us through our day. At night the Spirit leaves the Heart and goes into the Liver to rest for the night. If the Liver cannot contain the Spirit (due to any of a variety of Liver imbalances), the Spirit gets up and walks around at night; this leaves us with insomnia, either with trouble falling asleep (onset insomnia) or with staying asleep (matitudinal insomnia). This is also why alcohol can cause sleep problems for some people, especially between 1-3am. This is the peak time for Liver energy (all internal organs have a 2 hour window of peak energy and nadir of energy 12 hours later). If the Liver is trying to process the alcohol, rather than trying to contain the Spirit, the Spirit becomes disturbed and cannot rest, so it is common to have insomnia symptoms occur during this time.

If the Liver (Blood) is weak (symptoms of dizziness, blurred vision, floaters, dry skin/hair, trouble falling asleep, light menstrual flow), the Liver isn't strong enough to contain the Spirit. If you notice your mind racing, keeping you from falling asleep or staying asleep, you may also have a Kidney weakness which is failing to support and ground the Liver. You may have some form of heat rising (Yang or Fire) which is agitating the spirit, preventing sleep from happening; this is often the case where hormonal changes are interfering with sleep (symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability or anxiety).

In order to get good sleep, you must prepare your body for it. Creating a bedtime routine or a good sleep environment in your home, or at least your bedroom, can help your body know that sleep is coming soon. Here are 7 ways to help prepare your body for sleep:

1. Turn off all electronics at least 30-60 minutes before you intend to fall asleep. Electronics are not only stimulating mentally, but by shining light directly into your eyes, it prevents your brain from manufacturing melatonin, the sleep hormone, which your brain only makes when you are in darkness. A great way to prepare for bed is to dim the lights a bit in your house, easing yourself into thinking about sleep.

2. Make sure you don't have "light pollution" in your bedroom. The bedroom should be for 2 things: sex and sleep. Having a television, digital alarm clock or light coming in from the street can all disrupt the darkness that your brain needs. Plus certain electronics create a low level "hum" that some people are sensitive to that can agitate the nervous system on an unconscious level interfering with the quality of sleep you get.

3. Avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine can stay in your system for 8-12 hours so even if you have some in the afternoon it can affect your sleep. Watch out for hidden caffeine in chocolate and decaf teas and coffee. Only herbal tea is truly caffeine free. Decaf coffee and tea have a significant reduction in caffeine, but can still contain up to 3% of the original amount. If you are sensitive, even this amount can keep you awake.

4. Take a warm shower or bath before bed. Heating the body up creates a cool down period that is sleep inducing. You can also add lavender essential oils to the bath which will increase the relaxation factor.

5. Drinking a warm beverage, like chamomile or valerian tea or even warm milk before bed can help you feel more relaxed. This is good especially if you have trouble falling asleep due to an anxious or racing mind. If liquid before bed causes you to wake up in the night to urinate, you can use Rescue Remedy or Rescue Sleep, made by Bach Flower Essences. They have the same type of calming effect, but you only need 4 drops. You can also eat more melatonin producing foods, such as cherries and kiwis. Any of these remedies should be used about 30-60 minutes before bed, or if you wake during the night.

6. Deep breathing and sequential relaxation are techniques that you can use in bed, either to help you fall asleep or return to sleep.
  • For deep breathing, lie down in bed on your back, close your eyes and place your hands on your lower abdomen. First just observe yourself breathing, noticing if your chest or your belly is rising and falling. If your chest is moving, actively try to breathe into your belly, feeling your hands rise with your inhale and fall with the exhale. Imagine that your belly is a balloon and that as you inhale you are filling the balloon causing it to expand, and as you exhale the balloon deflates. Performing deep breathing for 3-5 minutes can help you let go of the day, let go of the anxiety over falling asleep and help you drop into your body so that sleep can overtake you.
  • Sequential relaxation is another useful technique. Lie on your back, close your eyes and breathe naturally. Bring your attention to the top of your head and try to relax the muscles there. Focus on your eyebrows and relax them apart. Let your eyes fall back into their sockets.  Continue like this, relaxing one body part at a time, moving your attention from your head down to your feet. By the end you have either already fallen asleep or you are so relaxed that it is easier to drift off.

7. If heat is the culprit, there is a yogic breathing technique called Sitali (pronounced shee-TAH-lee) that can help cool you down. Open your mouth and roll your tongue into a tube (if you can't roll your tongue, just stick it out). Inhale slowly through the "tongue tube." You'll notice the air is very cool on your tongue. Exhale through your nose with your mouth closed. Try to make the exhale at least as long or longer than your inhale. This type of pranayama, or breath work, is cooling and calming to the mind, and can be very helpful if hot flashes or night sweats are keeping you awake at night.

If, after you've tried all of these techniques, sleep still eludes you, you might want to  call your local acupuncturist and get in for some treatment. Your acupuncturist can tailor your treatment to the specific imbalances that are preventing your sleep. He or she may also prescribe Chinese herbs or dietary changes if you've been suffering for a long time and need more intensive treatment.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Using Acupuncture to Get Help for Addiction

Many people struggle with some form of addiction: to food, alcohol, sugar, shopping, sex, drugs, gambling, drama, the internet--the list goes on and on. For some it has a mild impact on their life, where perhaps they spend too much time on social media or their credit card bills get a little high, but generally speaking things are more or less under control. Over time, however, addiction can take over and it can cause a lot of damage to a person's relationships, work, physical and emotional health and even their mortality. Sometimes addiction can be managed by the addicted person, but many times it can't; when addiction begins interfering with one's ability to function in day to day life, outside help is essential.

In the early 1970's, Dr. Michael O. Smith at Lincoln Hospital in South Bronx, NY, began using auricular, or ear, acupuncture with the addicted patients under his care in the rehab facility; this program grew into the National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA). The patients were also receiving counseling and other treatments as is usual in the treatment of addiction. However, when the patients received acupuncture, they were less agitated, had fewer cravings and felt more at ease.

Since then, the 5 point "NADA protocol" has been used over and over to promote wellness, calmness and healing for many people struggling with addition, as well as struggling with the stress and trauma that can often lead to addiction. This protocol creates a deep sense of well-being as it "resets" the nervous system in a positive way. Addiction often starts when a person feels something that he/she doesn't want to feel (sadness, shame, regret, loneliness, self-loathing, etc.) and is looking for something to make him or her feel better. When someone has an addiction, the body and mind have become dependent on a substance or behavior in order to feel "okay." It has gone beyond the "not feeling bad" stage to needing to use in order to feel at baseline. When the substance is removed or the behavior is not practiced, the body becomes agitated and feels "not okay," until the next fix. When the body is "not okay," the nervous system is sent into a state of stress, or Fight or Flight, where the only thing the person with addiction thinks he or she can do is use. With some substances that is actually true (like with alcohol), which is why medical intervention and supervision is often required to help a person detox. Other times, however, what he or she needs is something safer and less self-destructive that will also reset the nervous system into feeling "okay" again; acupuncture can help do that.

During the detox/withdrawal period and the months after, acupuncture can be a very supportive adjunctive therapy, helping a person with addiction manage cravings, stress and anxiety while lessening the need to use. Many suppressed feelings often come up during this time, which can be overwhelming, which is why ideally the person with addiction should also attend some sort of talk therapy/group therapy or other support system during this process. If someone is doing outpatient rehab work, getting acupuncture is a great way to encourage success as it helps with the feelings of overwhelm, depression, anxiety and stress. The person with addiction can get acupuncture treatments daily or weekly, depending on the level of support that he or she requires. Many acupuncturists can also apply press balls or press seeds which are tiny spheres that are taped onto the ear points so that the client can press the points and get more support between treatments. These methods create a constant, low level of stimulation to some or all of the NADA protocol points. These press balls or seeds can be left on the ears for 3-5 days.

For more information on the benefits of acupuncture for addiction, go to the National Acupuncture Detox Association's website. To find an acupuncturist near you, go to the NCCAOM website. To find a NADA specialist in your area, call (888)765-6232.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sinus and Ear Infections: Alternatives to Antibiotics

It is getting to that time of year when illness strikes. The days are getting shorter, the weather a little cooler, our vitamin D stores from the summer are running low (unless you are supplementing, which I highly recommend).

It usually starts out as a cold: runny nose, headache, sinus congestion, post nasal drip, scratchy throat, fatigue. But, you compound it with poor quality or insufficient sleep, high stress and low quality nutrition, your body can't effectively fight off the cold and you may end up with a sinus or ear infection.

In Chinese Medicine we talk about these conditions as Stagnation of Phlegm, which is usually Hot Phlegm according to the color of the mucous and associated symptoms. Cold (Damp) Phlegm is usually clear or white and thinner, whereas Hot Phlegm (usually the case with infections like these) is  yellow or green, maybe blood tinged, and more viscous and thick. Typically once Phlegm gets to the infection stage it is Hot. Antibiotics are cold in nature which is why they are often prescribed for infections. However, antibiotics kill off not only the bad bacteria, but the good as well; it is that good bacteria that is helping your body fight off illness.

What are some alternatives?

Studies have shown that for both sinus and ear infections, antibiotics don't help the body get rid of the illness any faster than the body would on its own (which is why you need to continue taking antibiotics for such a long period of time). Also, the chances of getting a recurrence of the infection is high since the antibiotics don't kill all of the bad bacteria, only those that are weaker than the medication; antibiotics reduce the overall number of bacteria that your body needs to fight off, but don't kill them all. This leaves you with a stronger infection still lingering, and since your immune system has been weakened by the antibiotics (70% of your immune system is in your gut where your good bacteria has just been killed off), it is much harder to combat. There are also the common side effects of digestive upset/nausea, diarrhea and yeast infections to name a few.

Chinese medicine works by treating the body, rather than the illness. Thousands of years ago, there was no knowledge of viruses, bacteria or fungi causing illness, the ancient Chinese doctors just saw the patient's symptoms and described them as an invasion of some sort of External Pathogenic Influence (EPI). Those EPIs could be Heat, Dampness or Phlegm, Cold, Wind or Dryness, based on the symptoms that presented. These different pathogens would affect the body in different ways and the ancient Chinese doctors would treat the patient according to how he or she was presenting. If the patient had a very sore throat there was a Heat pathogen lodged in the throat; if the patient had a runny nose, headache and hoarse voice, the doctor would treat for a Wind invasion. With Sinus and Ear infections, there is Heat and Phlegm in the Nose and Sinuses and/or Ear.

Acupuncture can very effectively help the body get rid of the Phlegm and Heat, while opening the sinuses and ears to ease the pain. Although there is Heat in the condition (usually seen as fever, irritability and yellow/green Phlegm) putting a warm compress on the affected area can help get the Phlegm to move and drain. Phlegm (whether hot or cold) is seen as a Yin fluid (Yin is cool, contracting, moving inward) so is often treated by using a Yang element like heat (Yang is warm, expanding, moving outward). That is why when you take a hot shower it can often open up your sinuses and help you breathe better; the heat is allowing the Phlegm to move so it is no longer stagnant creating pain. When there is stagnation, pressure builds up and causes pain; when the Phlegm moves, it allows the Qi to move, relieving the pressure and the pain goes away.

There are some great herbal remedies that I like to use either in addition to acupuncture or on its own. Be sure to purchase herbs either from a qualified herbalist or from a reputable company that uses herbs that are GMP certified. This ensures that they are not tainted with heavy metals or other contaminants and are made in a facility that is held to high standards of quality. Before trying any herbal remedies, it is important to be seen by a licensed acupuncturist or herbalist in your area to get the proper diagnosis and make sure that you are using the correct formula for you. Plus if you suffer from food or environmental allergies, that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients in the formula. If you are allergic, the Chinese medicine practitioner can create a formula tailor made for you that doesn't contain the allergenic ingredient(s)--this flexibility is one of the reasons that I love Chinese medicine!

For Sinus infections I use the formula Bi Yan Pian. It is very effective and can help with sinus pain and pressure without negatively affecting your immune system. This formula helps your body get rid of the Phlegm and Heat, while opening the sinus passages. It also helps with any sore throat that might accompany the illness. For Ear infections Blue Poppy makes a great pediatric formula called Bupleurum and Angelica. It is a glycerine based tincture (no alcohol) and when I use it for adults I just increase the dosage. This formula also helps with the Heat and Phlegm but is more targeted toward the ears and throat. These are formulas that I've used myself and with my kids as well as many patients over the years with great success and no side effects. You may need an acupuncturist to order them for you (especially from Blue Poppy), and I highly recommend it.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Top 5 reasons why every parent needs acupuncture

If you are like most parents, your needs come last. The kids, the house and the job usually take priority and your personal needs often fall to the bottom of the pile. Because of this, it is really common for parents to be in a constant state of stress. You may call it being overly busy or having too much to do with not enough time to do it, but it boils down to the same thing: you are overwhelmed.

The best way to tackle this is by putting your needs first. You might think that that seems selfish given all your responsibilities, but hear me out. In an airplane emergency, you are supposed to put on your oxygen mask first before helping your child. That way you are still conscious and can be more helpful to those around you. In your day to day life, wouldn't it be better for your child(ren) if you were functioning at your best? How much easier is it to cope with a screaming child when you've eaten and had a good night's sleep, as opposed to when you are hungry and sleep deprived? I hope it doesn't take an airplane emergency for you to see the value in putting your needs first. As parents, we want to do the best job possible, but we can't be our best parental selves if we are stressed out, hungry, exhausted, under-exercised and overwhelmed.

Beyond the basics of good nutrition and exercise (which are both vitally important), acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be great supports to help you feel better and function more effectively as a parent, taking you out of your overwhelm and helping you feel better on a daily basis.

Here are my Top 5 ways that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help:

1. Stress/Depression/Anxiety. Life stress comes from many places. In previous posts I've mentioned improper diet, insufficient good quality sleep, and inappropriate exercise as a few causes, but parents have all kinds of additional stress. Whether it is the stress of new parents learning to take care of their newborn, or seasoned parents navigating the world of a teenager, or parents dealing with multiple children at different stages of life, parents feel stress. Acupuncture calms the nervous system and takes you out of your head and brings you back into your body, helping you feel more calm, relaxed and grounded. Worry and anxiety are common parts of parenthood, but they shouldn't dominate your thinking. If they do, reducing your stress and anxiety will improve your ability to relate to and take care of your child(ren).

2. Sleep. It is amazing to me how many people don't get enough good quality sleep. Of course as parents we sometimes have "little visitors" that wake us at night, but many parents don't sleep well anyway. The stress of life, technology shining in our faces, hormones, poor eating or drinking habits, are all things that can affect our sleep. If you are someone who ruminates over the to-do list at any time of day or night, I suggest keeping a pad and pen near your bed so that you can write things down; once your items are in black and white, you no longer have to remember them and you can go to sleep without worry. I don't advise using an electronic device only because it will be light shining in your eyes which will further impair your ability to sleep. When writing on the pad, you can just write in the dark or use very low light flashlight shining away from you. If you are awake in the middle of the night for no reason or have trouble falling or returning to sleep, acupuncture can help you find a more peaceful, better quality sleep. By regulating hormones, TCM helps to create internal balance, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even if you are getting visitors at night (or half sleeping waiting for your teenager to get home), acupuncture can give you better quality sleep while you are sleeping and help you get back to sleep when you are awakened.

3. More Energy. What parent (or person in general) doesn't want better energy? TCM can help improve your energy without the use of stimulants. Although stimulants, like caffeine, can give you an energy boost when you need it, in the long run they can actually drain and deplete your energy. Stimulants cause the body to release a small shot of adrenaline, rather than giving you real usable fuel as energy. Improving your energy through diet, acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine can go a long way towards reducing your parental overwhelm. It is much easier to cope with life challenges when you have the energy to do it. Your fatigue might be related to lack of good sleep, poor food choices, too many stimulants, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Adrenal Fatigue, low Thyroid or a number of other causes. Having support can make a big difference in how you feel from day to day.

4. Menopause. Having hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and insomnia can make it much more difficult sleep, let alone handle missed curfews and back talk. Reducing perimenopause and menopause related symptoms can help make you more emotionally and physically comfortable, thus reducing your stress and overwhelm. When you are calm and rested, coping with life is just easier.

5. Nagging Chronic Conditions that prevent you from being your best. Whether it is a shoulder injury that keeps you from playing ball with your kids, migraines that interfere with your ability to function, Irritable Bowel Syndrome that keeps you close to a toilet at all times, or something else, these are things that interfere with your ability to be there for your kids in the way that you would like. There are many conditions that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can effectively treat. Talk to your local provider and see if your condition can be treated with these natural interventions.

If you need more parenting support, I recommend contacting Kathy Whitham at kathy@parentingbeyondwords.com. Kathy helps parents be the parents that they really want to be. She does both phone and in person consultations.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Cupping and Gua Sha: What are they and what are their benefits?

Cupping and Gua sha have gained some recognition in recent years, mostly when used by celebrities. The tell tale circles on people's backs are caused by the suction of cups against the muscles. But why would anyone do this to themselves? It looks so painful! The good news is that it is not painful and the techniques offer many benefits.

Cupping and Gua sha have many uses. They are most typically used when there is some form of Qi or Blood stagnation, usually indicated by tension, discomfort or pain. The tight neck you get from sitting too long at a computer is a good example of Qi stagnation. There is a Chinese saying, "When there is pain, there is no free flow; when there is free flow, there is no pain." Cupping and Gua sha improve circulation and reestablish proper Blood and Qi flow in muscles that are tight and not moving the way that they should.

Gua sha involves the use of a hard, smooth instrument, often a ceramic spoon (like the one you use at a Chinese restaurant for wonton soup) or a piece of jade. The practitioner scrapes the spoon against the skin along the tight muscles to release the underlying tension and stagnation; it is like getting a very deep massage, very quickly. Wherever there is stagnation, tension or muscle "knots" you will see a bright red/purple mark on the skin (see photo), akin to road rash but without the abrasion. This is an indication that the stagnation has released from the muscles and the Qi and Blood are starting to circulate again. Anywhere that doesn't have stagnation, you will just see light redness on the skin from the friction of the spoon. Usually after Gua sha, the patient has better range of motion and significantly less pain, although there might be some local superficial soreness. Gua sha is a great technique to use on any tight muscles, as long as there isn't any inflammation present.

Traditionally Cupping is done by lighting a cotton ball on fire and inserting it into a glass cup (the fire uses up all of the oxygen inside). Then the cotton is quickly removed and the cup is placed on the body. The lack of oxygen creates a vacuum, sucking the muscle up into the cup. If feels like when a massage therapist grabs your muscle and squeezes it. Today more practitioners use plastic cups (see photo) that come with a suction pump (no fire). I find them easier to use with less fire hazard, and they are just as effective. Cupping is very versatile in its uses. Like Gua sha it can be used for tight muscles, but it can also be used for respiratory problems, like asthma, chest colds or bronchitis, or for digestive problems like bloating, constipation or IBS. These conditions all involve some element of Qi stagnation. With many respiratory conditions, Phlegm is getting stuck in the Lungs and chest causing breathing difficulty; when Phlegm gets stuck, Qi gets stuck. When you can get the Qi flowing again, it is easier to expectorate the Phlegm, the chest and upper back are more relaxed so breathing is easier. With digestive issues, sliding the cups on the abdomen in a clockwise motion can encourage movement in the direction of the natural flow of the intestines to release discomfort and make evacuation a little easier. Cupping tends to be a bit gentler, and the amount of suction can be adjusted as well. Afterward patients look like they were attacked by an octopus, but the relief is immediate.

Cupping and Gua sha can be stand alone treatments or used in conjunction with Acupuncture or Moxibustion. They are very effective techniques and the results are felt right away. The only downside is that they can leave a mark for 3-7 days, so you might want to warn your significant other before you take off your shirt.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What a Pain in the Neck! Natural Remedies for Neck and Upper Back Pain

Upper Back and Neck pain (UBNP) have become very commonplace in modern society. With the amount of sitting (slouching), computer work, driving and looking down (at phones, tablets, etc) that we do, it is not surprising. When the torso is vertical, either standing or sitting, with the head properly aligned over the shoulders, gravity's impact on the musculature is minimal. As the head starts to come forward, from looking down or toward a computer screen or windshield, the upper back and neck muscles have to work much harder to resist gravity's pull on the heavy skull. The more the head comes forward, the more strain there is on the upper back and neck muscles, which can often weaken and begin to hurt over time.

Stress is something else that can cause UBNP. When you experience stress (mental, emotional or physical), the muscles contract; this is one of many physiological responses to stress hormones rising. Very often we contract the muscles of the neck, chest and upper back as if we are bracing ourselves for something: the shoulders raise, tensing the trapezius muscles (the muscles that help us shrug), they may come forward as the pectoral (chest) muscles contract and we might take shallower chest breaths (instead of diaphragmatic or abdominal breaths), which will cause tension in the chest, upper back and neck.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, stress affects the Liver, which is a Yin organ. It affects the smooth flow of Qi, or energy, in the body. When it doesn't flow smoothly, it stagnates, causing tension and pain. It is similar to the pressure that builds when water is trying to pass through a clogged pipe. The Liver's Yang organ pair is the Gallbladder; when the Liver is stressed, you often see Gallbladder channel pain: headaches on the sides of the head, pain down the sides of the neck into the trapezius muscles, chest tightness, hip tightness, pain down the sides of the legs or knees, IT band (Illiotibial band) pain, etc. The Gallbladder channel starts at the outer eyes, runs over the sides of the head, around the ears and down the sides of the body to the 4th toe. Click here to see the Gallbladder channel.

The first step toward stopping all sorts of UBNP, is to look at your posture. The way you hold yourself and the way you move during your day plays a big part in how your body feels. You may require the assistance of a yoga instructor, physical therapist or someone with a trained eye to see what your specific postural imbalances might be. If your pain is relatively new, adjusting your posture might be enough to get rid of the pain. If it is chronic, you might need some expert help.

One great tip toward keeping you on top of your posture is for the car. Sit upright in the driver's seat with your head back against the head rest. In that position, adjust your rear-view mirror so you can see behind you properly. While you are driving, if you can't see behind you in the rear-view mirror, that is a reminder to sit up straight again.

When you are sitting at your desk working on the computer, make sure that your monitor is at eye level. Sit toward the front of your chair so that your back is not leaning and you can easily place your feet on the ground (knees a little lower than your hips). If you are "vertically challenged" like I am, sometimes a small stool under your feet can help you reach the floor; if your are "vertically blessed" just make sure your chair is high enough to place your hips higher than your knees. Make sure your shoulders are over your hips and your head is over your shoulders. Check in with yourself periodically and make sure you are not shrugging or sinking in your chest. Once an hour (or more often) take a break to do some shoulder and neck stretches:
  • Roll your shoulders back 3-5 times then forward 3-5 times while taking some slow, deep breaths. Make the circles as big as you can, squeezing the shoulders up by your ears and then rolling them back or forward and pressing them down.
  • Let your head fall toward your right shoulder (shoulders should drop toward the floor) and hold for 3 deep breaths, then repeat to the left side. While your head is to one side you can turn your chin toward your collar bone or nod your head to get other parts of your neck to stretch.
  • While sitting up straight, interlace your fingers in front of your chest, then reach your knuckles forward as you pull your chest toward your back so that your upper body looks like a "C". Hold for 3-5 breaths. Then interlace your fingers behind your back and try to reach your knuckles away from your hips as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Try to take some deep breaths and hold 3-5 breaths.

Just like with Lower Back Pain, Upper Back and Neck pain respond very well to Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, Cupping, Gua Sha and Moxibustion. These techniques help to calm stress, reduce inflammation, move the Qi and relieve pain.

Next month I will go into more detail about Cupping and Gua Sha, what they are, what they do and why they are beneficial. If you would like to receive email reminders about my new posts, click here to sign up; you can unsubscribe at any time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Oh, My Aching Back! Natural Remedies for Lower Back Pain

As many as 80% of adults will experience some form of back pain in their lifetime. In my next post I'll be talking about Upper Back Pain (UBP), but this month the topic is Lower Back Pain (LBP).

Lower back pain is very common, especially as we age. According to Chinese Medicine, the Lower Back is the realm of the Kidneys, whose energy naturally declines as we age. "Old age" symptoms, like arthritis, loss of hearing, greying hair, wrinkled skin, osteoporosis are all conditions related to waning Kidney energy. Other symptoms could be urinary frequency or incontinence, hormonal imbalances (think Menopausal hot flashes/night sweats/insomnia, hypothyroidism, low libido), fatigue and lower back and knee pain. As Kidney energy weakens, the incidence of LBP goes up.

Possible causes of Kidney energy depletion aside from age could be longstanding fear (a battered wife, child of a violent/unpredictable alcoholic, war trauma); "burning the candle at both ends (high stress/too much work with not enough sleep or proper nutrition);" consuming too much caffeine and/or sugar; eating too many artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or chemicals; or heredity (parents had weak Kidneys when you were conceived).

Lower Back Pain can present in many ways:
  • Stiff and achy in the morning that improves as you move through your day. Often better with stretching or exercise.
  • Sharp, possibly shooting pain that is worse with movement and better with rest. Sometimes related to disc degeneration and sciatic pain. Possibly due to a physical trauma.
  • Soreness that feels better with heat and rest.
  • Tightness that feels better with pressure (like massage) and heat. Often better after stretching or yoga.
  • Pain that is worse with cold, often worse in winter or on cold days.
  • Deep bone pain that tells you rain is coming.
  • Pain left over from a physical trauma (car accident, skiing accident, sports injury, etc) that is more nagging and annoying, but that you are always aware of nonetheless.
Of course it can present in other ways too.

You might say, "but my back pain is from a car accident (or some other trauma), it didn't come on gradually, I know exactly when it started." Even if pain is due to a trauma, you have to ask yourself, why is your pain in your lower back as opposed to some other part of your body? Three people can have the same car accident and walk away with 3 different sets of injuries. The impact is felt in the "weakest" part of the body, so the location of the pain is based on imbalances that existed before the accident. If your lower back pain is due to some type of impact, chances are your Kidneys were weak before the accident.

The first thing you should do when looking to overcome your back pain is notice your Attitude toward your pain. When you have a "bad back," you are attaching a negative association to your back. Having a bad back makes the pain more permanent (in your mind), and therefore adds a level of stress to the equation, as well as making it a condition that can't change. What if instead of being "bad" (after all, it probably hasn't robbed a bank or kicked its sister), your back just needed extra attention, some mindfulness or extra love before you engage in certain activities? What if it needed some extra care and nurturing? Your back might feel a few degrees better just by shifting your relationship to the pain.

Once you are being kinder to yourself (which is sometimes a challenge, but gets easier with practice), strengthening your core (abdominals and lower back muscles) is important. When your abdominal muscles are weak, your body moves from your back; if it is not strong enough to take up the slack from your abs, it will start to hurt. I'm not saying do a million crunches, crunches are typically a waste of time, unless done slowly with precision. Exercise styles like Pilates, yoga, or even simple pelvic tilts using your abdominal muscles can be useful to strengthen and support your lower back. Also, unless your doctor or physical therapist has told you otherwise, it is also important to strengthen the muscles in your lower back to support the spine. Talk to a physical therapist, personal trainer, yoga or Pilates instructor before starting any core strength training routine to ensure that you are actually targeting your core muscles and not just compensating with other stronger muscles. Form matters.

If your pain is worse with cold or rainy weather, eating more warming foods can help. Sometimes just avoiding cold or iced foods and beverages can be enough to make a difference; sometimes you need the addition of warm foods and spices, like ginger, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, clove, black pepper, quinoa, oatmeal, sweet potato, lentils, walnuts, mussels, eel, shrimp and lobster to name a few. In Winter months, avoiding all cold foods and beverages is a must in this situation.

Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Cupping, Gua Sha and Chinese herbal medicine are all very effective treatment options for most types of lower back pain. By differentiating the type of pain, treatments can be much more effective. Plus any exacerbating factors, like emotional stress, can be addressed as well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Insight into Depression: Why it is Different for Everyone

Depression: a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way.
b (1) :  a state of feeling sad :  dejection (2) :  a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. --from Merriam Webster Dictionary.

TCM poses that there are many different types of depression with different sets of symptoms. While the definition above covers many bases, not every depressed person will present with all of those symptoms.

According to Chinese Medicine there are 5 elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each of these elements has a different set of internal organs associated with them:
  • Wood-- Liver and Gallbladder
  • Fire-- Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, Triple Warmer (no Western equivalent)
  • Earth-- Spleen and Stomach
  • Metal-- Lung and Large Intestine
  • Water-- Kidney and Bladder
Each element and internal organ set expresses depression in a different way:

  • Wood: Anger, frustration, irritability and feeling stuck are all symptoms of Liver depression. Since the Liver is in charge of the smooth movement of Qi through the body, when it is stuck or stagnant, you can see signs of emotional stagnation, like feeling emotionally stuck. If the Qi is moving in fits and starts (not smoothly), you can have bursts of anger or feeling short tempered. You may also find yourself yawning or sighing a lot.

  • Fire: Depression with anxiety, feeling ungrounded, lack of joy and mania are all symptoms of Heart depression. All emotions are felt by the Heart so the Heart is usually involved with all types of depression. The Mind is also connected with the Heart in Chinese medicine, another reason why the Heart is often associated with depression.

  • Earth: Fatigue where you can't get out of bed, all of your muscles ache or are weak, and apathy toward food are symptoms of Spleen depression. There could also be OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) with overthinking, worrying and obsessing in a way that is emotionally paralyzing.

  • Metal: Sadness and grief. This type of depression is common after the loss of a loved one, or multiple losses in a short period of time. When grief is prolonged, it is common for people to develop Lung illnesses, such as bronchitis, pneumonia or asthma. They can also be more susceptible to colds while grieving.

  • Water: Lack of motivation. The Kidney is the source of the Will (Zhi), or will power, so Kidney depression often presents as lacking the motivation to get things done. Sometimes it is small like not having the energy to do housework but having energy for things you enjoy; sometimes it is bigger, like not being able to make yourself do the big work project that has a deadline and people are counting on you. There is often an element of fear to it as well; putting things off for fear of not being good enough, fear of success, or other possibilities.
Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the person, rather than the disease. Although you may be seeking treatment for depression, your practitioner will treat all of you; by addressing the imbalance that is causing the depression, your symptoms will go away. Depression is a symptom (or set of symptoms), not a definition of who you are.

I find it interesting that some antidepressant medications work for some people and not others, and I believe it is because depression presents so differently for each person. I don't have research to back this up, but I feel like this would be a great place for Eastern and Western medicine to mix and support each other. It would be an interesting study to figure out if certain drugs would work better with certain types of depression as outlined by Traditional Chinese Medicine; this could then help doctors prescribe the right medications for the right people and minimize or possibly even eliminate side effects, or the jumping from one anti-depressant to the next, hoping to find the right one. Chinese herbal medicine typically has no side effects because each prescription is tailor made for each person. Wouldn't it be great if Western medications could be prescribed in the same way?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What is Healthy Digestion? The Scoop on Poop.

We all know when our digestive system is "off." The discomfort, the smells, the inconvenience. But what is healthy, "normal" digestion/elimination supposed to look like? Many people don't think they have a problem because their bowel movements have "always been like that," but daily loose stools, or bowel movements only once a week are not signs of health. Normal for you might not be healthy.

So let's start with the basics.

It doesn't matter whether the stool sinks or floats, that is dependent on the fat content of the waste. A healthy bowel movement happens 1-3 times daily, is a medium brown color and is soft, formed and easy to pass. Period. That's it. You should not be sitting on the pot for hours, reading the entirety of the 7th Harry Potter book. If your experience is different, it might be time to ask yourself what is going on.

Diet and nutrition have everything to do with healthy digestion. You eat foods that are bad for you, you will have problems with elimination. Now I say "bad for you" because not all food is bad for all people. If it was cultivated on a farm or naturally in the ocean, it is considered food. If it was created in a lab (soda, most junk foods, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, preservatives, etc) it is not food and should be avoided. Some people have food sensitivities or allergies, so certain foods, for them are off limits. Common foods in this category are Wheat/Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Corn and Soy, but there might be others as well. That being said, these foods are not inherently bad foods. They may have been adulterated or Genetically Modified in some way which makes them unhealthy in that form. Dairy for one person causes agony, while for another it is medicine. If you notice abdominal pain or loose stools (or lack of stools) after certain foods (or even hours or 3 days later) you might have a food sensitivity. Keeping a food log for a month or so can often help you track down the culprits, but sometimes eliminating whole food groups is necessary; add each questionable food back one per week to find the problem foods. If you are still struggling, you might want to meet with a food allergy/sensitivity specialist.

If your bowels are moving too fast (loose, watery, frequent) it is likely that you are not absorbing all the nutrients from your food; this can lead to malnutrition, despite taking supplements or eating "the right foods." If your bowels are moving too slowly (more than a day between bowel movements) then toxins that are normally eliminated are staying in your system too long. Many skin problems, like some forms of acne, are due to this latter situation.

According to Chinese Medicine, there are a number of reasons for "improper" bowel movements:

Spleen Qi (pronounced "chee") Deficiency-- this usually causes stools to be loose, but could also cause incomplete bowel movements. Stools can sometimes have undigested food in them (aside from corn--no one digests corn). The stools are usually a medium or darker brown color and accompanied by gas, bloating, fatigue and lack of appetite as well (the sensation of hunger, not your ability to eat). Causes of Spleen Qi Deficiency are overthinking (common with students), pensivity or too much physical work.

Liver Qi Stagnation-- since the Liver is what moves the Qi through the body, when it is stagnant, things don't move well. This can often cause constipation with sometimes days between bowel movements, or gas pain or bloating that is relieved by bowel movements. This is also the culprit when you have alternating loose stools with constipation, or extreme variations in the texture and quality of your bowel movements. This is often the cause of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). You may also have headaches, irritability, muscle tension and frequent sighing or yawning when not necessarily fatigued. Causes of Liver Qi Stagnation are stress, frustration, anger, unfulfilled desires, not moving your body enough.

Heat in the Large Intestines--sometimes stagnation can lead to heat (like friction that builds in an engine when the gas and brake are simultaneously applied). These stools are often dry and hard, are sometimes painful to pass. Sometimes there is bright red bleeding on the stools (if it is mixed into the stools or stools are black, see your gastroenterologist right away). If it is toxic heat, the stools could be lighter brown or yellow in color, loose or watery,  as well as having a foul odor. Heat can be caused by long term Liver Qi Stagnation, insufficient cooling, Yin Deficiency, or eating too many hot spicy foods.

General helpful tips:

In general, drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day (For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75 oz of water every day). Fruits, vegetables and non-caffeinated beverages, like herbal tea, count toward the total. For every 8oz of caffeine that you drink (coffee or tea--you are not drinking soda, of course) you need to drink16 oz of water to make up for the diuretic properties of those drinks.

Probiotics are a must for all irregular bowel problems. For daily health you'll want a product that has 1-5 billion organisms per dose, up to 20 billion if you don't have healthy bowel movements every day as described above. You can also find probiotics in real yogurt (with multiple strains of live active cultures) or kefir daily. If you are avoiding dairy, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchee or kombucha are all great options.

Eating enough fruits and vegetables is essential to over all health as well as healthy digestion. This, again, adds to your overall water intake, but the fiber with the water is a great combination. Green smoothies are great, especially in the Spring and Summer when the weather is warmer (usually too cold for the fall and winter--depending on where you live). If you fall under the Spleen Qi deficiency category, you might want to drink this once a week until your Spleen is stronger and only at room temperature, never cold. Start with a green leafy vegetable or two (kale, collards, romaine lettuce, spinach, chard, mustard or dandelion greens), add 2-3 types of fruit, some form of protein (yogurt, whey protein, hemp protein, etc), chia/hemp/flax seeds and a liquid (I like almond or coconut milk, but water or other types of milk work too). Blend and drink.

Specific helpful tips:

With Spleen Qi Deficiency, make sure you don't have any food sensitivities that are causing your loose stools. Sometimes removing those foods is all you need to do. Beyond that, eating more cooked foods rather than raw. If you digestive system is very weak, the coldness of the raw can be very depleting to the Spleen and worsen the problem. Brown rice (long cooked), oatmeal, flax, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, lentils, broad beans, salmon, chicken and turkey are all foods that benefit the Spleen.

With Liver Qi Stagnation the best thing you can do is move your body. Whether it is going for a walk, a swim, a bike ride or taking a yoga class, moving your body will move your Qi. Doing gentle twists can also help. Lie down on your back and pull your knees into your chest. Pause and take 3 deep breaths in and out, expanding the belly as you inhale and letting it contract while you exhale. Keeping your knees close to your torso, drop them over to your left side as you look to your right. Feel free to place pillows or blankets under your knees or your right shoulder for support if you feel strained. Maintain the twist and breathe deeply into your lower belly, just like before. Inhale and exhale as fully and completely as possible for 5-10 breaths, then repeat to the other side.

With Heat in the Large Intestine, avoid hot spicy foods of all types, including foods containing hot peppers, cayenne, basil, rosemary, cinnamon, wasabi and ginger. If it is a "food poisoning" or "stomach bug" situation, the best thing to do is stay hydrated and let it run it's course. Trying to stop the bowel movements will only prevent the bacteria from being able to leave your body. If you have constipation from Heat, make sure you are getting enough water in your diet, as well as moistening foods like coconut oil, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, dried fruit like prunes and figs (they are "dried" but are moistening to the intestines), and dark green leafy vegetables. Helpful cooling foods are foods such as yogurt, seaweeds, cucumbers, celery, apples, melon and all citrus, as well as spices such as peppermint, dandelion greens and root, cilantro and marjoram.

As with all health problems, the more chronic a condition, the more it needs to be seen by a medical professional, Eastern and Western. A healthy gut means a healthy person.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm Exhausted. Do I have Adrenal Fatigue?

There has been a lot of talk lately about Adrenal Fatigue. I am seeing more and more of it in my practice; this is not a good health trend.
Adrenal Fatigue comes from "burning the candle at both ends." Someone who experiences a constant high stress state for long periods of time while simultaneously not taking care of themselves (not sleeping enough, eating the wrong foods, too much sugar/caffeine, exercising too much for the amount of sleep they are getting, etc). When you are in your 20's, the body has a certain amount of reserve energy (in TCM we refer to this as Jing) that can be used under just such occasions, like using a credit card. By they time people enter their 40's and 50's, if they continue at this pace, their reserves become empty (they accrue a lot of debt and max out their credit cards) and people become exhausted; no amount of sugar or caffeine can get them going.
From a Western perspective, when the body feels stress, the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the Kidneys, release a chemical called cortisol that gives us the burst of energy needed to get through the stressful situation. It gives us that little boost that allows us to handle an overwhelming meeting or meet a deadline. When the stress passes, the cortisol levels drop back down, and we return to normal functioning. Occasional boosts of cortisol are fine, the problem comes from keeping cortisol levels high all the time, while simultaneously using stimulants (which put even more stress on the adrenal glands), not sleeping enough and/or not eating nutritious foods. If someone is in a constant state of stress, or "fight or flight," their adrenal glands are pumping out a constant flow of cortisol. If they are not simultaneously getting sufficient sleep and eating nourishing foods to replenish, eventually the adrenals can't handle it any more and they stop working. This is Adrenal Fatigue.
Typical symptoms are:
  • Feeling tired even after sleeping through the night
  • Exhaustion
  • Food cravings, especially for salt, sugar or other refined carbs
  • Caffeine no longer helps you get through your day but you can't live without it
  • Feeling easily overwhelmed
  • Foggy headedness
  • Low or no libido
  • unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the Jing that I mentioned earlier is our "Essence," it is inherited from our parents at conception; the state of their Jing plays a part in the quality of ours. If your parents were stressed out with low Jing when you were conceived, you may have less Jing than someone who had healthy parents. The Jing is related to the Kidneys, so how well your Kidneys function (the Chinese understanding of Kidneys) plays a part in how quickly or slowly you deplete your Jing.

According to TCM, the Liver is most affected by stress. The Liver gets its support and nourishment from the Kidneys (organs which include the physical Kidneys, the adrenal glands, the thyroid gland, the ovaries/prostate and other glands in the endocrine system). When the Liver is over stressed, it takes more Qi from the Kidneys than its fair share. Over time in order for the Liver to keep functioning (the Liver is what keeps us moving through our day) it keeps draining energy (Qi and Jing) from the Kidneys  and they eventually they konk out, leading to Qi Collapse, which is the equivalent of Adrenal Fatigue.

Obviously it is best to avoid Adrenal Fatigue to begin with by sleeping 7-9 hours per night, eating foods that nourish the body (rather than just quell the hunger) and managing stress with acupuncture, exercise, yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong, etc. However, if you already have Adrenal Fatigue, there are options out there to help bring you back to health:

  • Remove stress to the best of your ability. When you are exhausted, even gentle yoga can sometimes be too much, but meditation, even just 3 minutes at a time, can be a very powerful stress reducer. It can be a simple as observing the sensation of your belly rising and falling as you breathe. Whenever the thoughts start to get louder, notice that you are thinking and return your attention to your breath. Repeat this as many times as it takes. Meditation is not about getting to that "blissed out quiet space" it is about training the mind to have a single focus. It takes practice, but it is something that doesn't take a lot of physical effort and can have a large payoff.
  • Ask for help. This can be challenging for many people, but often this is what has gotten you here in the first place. Ask for help from your spouse, friends, parents, children. Let go of the image of the pace that your life used to move at and see if you can move at a slower pace. Your task for the day might just be to feed yourself. If your house is messy, let it be messy for a little while until you are feeling better, or enlist the help of someone else. If you continue to tax your body, even with little things, the road to health is much longer.
  • Eat good foods. Nourish your body with cooked vegetables, grass-fed/pasture raised meats and poultry, easy to digest grains like rice, quinoa, millet (cooked with a ratio of at least 3 cups water to 1 cup grain). Eat small meals and chew well to allow for the best absorption. Bone broths are also great. Try to avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners and caffeine since these will just leave you more depleted. Honey is okay, especially raw, in small doses, like in tea. There are also many Qi tonic herbs that you might find useful, like astragalus, ginseng, rhodiola, or ashwagandha. Talk to an herbalist to try to find the best ones for you to use.
  • Sleep. Sleep is when the body repairs itself, so if you need to nap, do so if you can. If you can't sleep well, try a warm bath before bed or spray some lavender on your pillow. Acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine may also help, but it is important to meet with a practitioner who can guide you to the correct treatment for your particular sleep issues.
It is important for you to see your doctor or a Functional Medicine doctor to get a diagnosis and check to see if you need supplemental cortisol as well. There are many herbal formulas, both Chinese and Western, that might be useful for sleep, energy and stress reduction which will also aid in your recovery. You don't need to be so tired all the time. With the proper treatment, you should improve over time to where you once again feel like you can live your life.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Acupuncture and the Heart

This is the time of year when people are flooded by messages of love. Valentine's Day can either be a day full of love and joy, or a day full of woe and disdain. I'm choosing this post to discuss the Heart, especially the emotional aspect, how it is viewed by Chinese Medicine and how it can affect our health.

Like with the Western understanding of anatomy and physiology, one of the Heart's main jobs is to pump blood through the body, creating warmth and circulation, from the core of our body out to the extremities. However, unlike the Western understanding of anatomy and physiology, Chinese theory sees the Heart as having additional properties. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart houses the Spirit which in Chinese is the same word as the Mind--Shen. In TCM the Mind and the Spirit are seen as the same and what happens in the Mind/Brain/Spirit, happens in the Heart. The Spirit is what makes us who we are, what animates us, the light within us. This Sprirt, or Shen, is seen through the eyes--that sparkle (or lack of sparkle) indicates the quality of a person's Spirit.

This is why positive or negative thoughts will affect the Heart; whether you are thinking positively or negatively about yourself or someone else, it will have an effect on the Heart. Although Joy (or lack of Joy) is the emotion usually associated with the Heart, all emotions, even those that are associated with the other internal organs (Joy/Heart, Anger/Liver, Fear/Kidneys, Worry/Spleen, Sadness/Lungs)are felt by the Heart. Since the Heart feels all of the emotions and the Heart pumps blood through the body, the energy and effects of those thoughts and emotions are carried throughout the body and affect our health. How many times have you felt worry in your stomach (paired with the Spleen), or anger or frustration resulting in a tight neck and upper back (Gallbladder channel, which is paired with the Liver)?

It is common to speak about the Body/Mind/Spirit connection--this is the ultimate expression of that.

When the Heart is in balance we feel appropriate amounts of Joy. If there is excess Joy, or "too much" Joy, that translates to symptoms of mania. If there is insufficient Joy, or lack of Joy, you see one of the many manifestations of depression (each organ has a type of depression associated with it --a post for another day).

The Heart is the Fire element. When there is too much Heart heat (either Fire or Yang) a person often feels ungrounded, agitated or anxious. You can also feel Heart palpitations, racing or spontaneous sweating with panic attacks. These can also be due to insufficient Heart Qi or Blood. This agitation can disturb the Spirit which can then interrupt sleep, making it difficult to fall or stay asleep, sometimes causing restless sleep. Insomnia is the result of a disturbed Spirit "wandering around" at night rather than settling in for the night.

If you are feeling anxious, manic, agitated, joyless or are having trouble sleeping, chances are your Heart energy is out of balance and you could use some acupuncture. Seeing your local acupuncturist for an accurate diagnosis is best, but in the mean time, see if you can fill your heart with love, kindness and compassion, from yourself, to yourself. Kindness toward yourself is a very powerful way to nourish your Heart and feel Joy.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Can Acupuncture Help You With Your New Year's Resolutions?

I'm not a big believer in New Year's Resolutions, mostly because, as I wrote in Resolution or Reflection, it is the wrong time of year for anything to stick. That being said, many people do make resolutions at this time of year that commonly have to do with their health: lose weight, get fit/ exercise more, eat better, quit smoking, quit diet soda (yes please!!), quit drinking, walk every day, run a marathon, relax more, get healthier, etc. These are all things that are important and often very challenging to do because they take time. How many times have you made a resolution and a month later (or a week later) it is already broken?

When it comes to your health, it should be a marathon, not a sprint. Health is something that builds slowly over time because it needs to sustain you; it is not something that is just for today. If you quit smoking it is not just for this week, you don't want to smoke ever again (hopefully). Diets fail because once the diet is over the weight comes back on. A lifestyle change is much more effective for long term results and feeling better over all, even if you are taking it one day at a time. Acupuncture can help you with many of these resolutions because acupuncturists help you look at your overall health to assist you in feeling the best you can feel.

Quitting smoking/drinking/diet soda:
Acupuncture calms the nervous system and helps ease cravings making it less effort to quit. It also supports the Lungs and can help your body get rid of the phlegm that accumulates as the body heals from the damage that smoking causes. Acupuncture supports the Liver which aids in the detox process, helping your body get rid of the build-up of chemicals that smoking, drinking and diet soda (or diet anything) can create. The fewer chemicals in your body, the better you feel. Acupuncture has been used to treat addiction in this country for decades to help people quit whatever substance it is they are wishing to quit. It treats both the physical symptoms as well as the psychological ones without side effects. However, you must want to quit; if you don't fully commit to quitting, you won't succeed.

Losing weight:
Unfortunately acupuncture is not the "magic bullet" that makes the weight just fall off your body. Sorry about getting your hopes up. However, acupuncture can help improve your metabolism to help your digestion and your ability to process food. Lack of hunger is not a sign of health, it is a sign that your body is out of balance. When hunger is too strong, acupuncture can help regulate that, as well as food cravings. Acupuncture can also help with stress. One reason that people gain weight is stress, not just due to "stress eating," but also stress slows down your metabolism making it much harder to lose weight. Your acupuncturist can also make dietary suggestions about foods that best support your particular imbalance and support your eating the best foods for your body.

Exercising more:
While acupuncture can't make you walk into the gym, it can support the work you do there. It can help relive sore muscles and help you heal from injuries. Plus acupuncture can help improve your energy so that you can work harder without feeling exhausted afterward (if you do feel exhausted after exercise you need to slow down and do less. Read more about that here).

If you are struggling with your New Year's resolutions, talk to your local acupuncturist. She or he might be able to help you be a better you for the entirety of the New Year.