Monday, October 24, 2016

Food as Medicine: Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

"Inflammation" has become a big buzz word in the health community in the last few years. Inflammation can occur in the body in many ways and for many reasons, but not all of them are problematic. For example, inflammation after an injury is your body's way of trying to protect, then heal itself. Just like a fever raises your internal body temperature to kill off viruses and bacteria, localized inflammation, like with a  sprained ankle, is the way your body helps contain the injury and any pathogens that might be present, and prepare the body for tissue repair. When inflammation becomes chronic, that is when it stops being helpful and starts being harmful.

Chronic inflammation has been tied to many diseases, such as depression, heart disease, diabetes (Type 2), arthritis and allergies. Chronic inflammation is often tied to a poor diet (lacking fruits and vegetables, high in sugar, chemicals, processed foods, trans fats), chronic stress (which impairs the body's ability to regulate inflammation), poor sleep (raises stress) and incorrect exercise (too much or too little causes stress, therefore inflammation in the body).

Traditional Chinese Medicine doesn't recognize inflammation as a condition per se, TCM focuses instead on pain and the different types of pain that the body can feel. Pain is due to stagnation of energy (Qi), Blood and/or Body Fluids. When these substances get stuck and don't move, it is like pressure building up behind a clog in a pipe. The more the water tries to flow, the more pressure builds up (increasing sensation of pain). Once the clog is removed and the water can flow through the pipe again, the pressure returns to normal (no pain). Sometimes when Qi, Blood or Fluids stay stagnant for long periods, the constant attempt of Qi to move while impeded can create heat; this is similar to friction in an engine when you press the gas while the emergency brake is on. This type of heat is often seen with chronic inflammation in the musculo-skeletal system. Both inflammation and heat can also occur in other aspects of the body as well. Lung Heat might be related to bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchii), Heart Fire could be the cause of cardiac disease associated with high blood pressure, Liver Yang Rising might also relate to high blood pressure as well as headaches and dizziness with chronic lower back and/or knee pain. Each of these conditions could be attributed to inflammation and can be treated side-effect free with acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine and/or Dietary therapy.

Often times people think about NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories) for inflammation. Unfortunately long term, these can have some very negative side-effects including stomach upset, pain and damage, toxicity to the the heart, liver and kidneys and slowed healing of musculo-skeletal injuries.

Luckily, nature has provided many foods and spices that have excellent anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease your pain and heal your body from the inside, out.

1. Turmeric. By far, my favorite anti-inflammatory food, and many studies have shown it to be as effective as ibuprofen. It is best consumed with black pepper, as it makes the turmeric more bioavailable. There are many ways to consume turmeric, but just eating the occasional curry dish will not give you the medicinal doses needed for generalized inflammation. Golden Milk is a great way to consume it; it not only provides you with the anti-inflammatory qualities you are looking for, it is a soothing warm beverage that in and of itself offers some stress relief. There are many recipes for Golden Milk on the internet, but here is one of my favorites (I add a dash of black pepper and often leave out the ghee). For those of you who would rather take a supplement, there are many out there. Look for one that is either liquid, powder or a capsule as it will absorb better than a tablet. Take up to 2000mg daily, with food, for acute conditions, 1000-1500mg for chronic. Caution with pregnancy, nursing and for people on blood thinners. Talk to your doctor first if these apply to you.

2. Ginger. Often added to Golden Milk, ginger is a great anti-inflammatory. In Chinese medicine it is often used to heal the stomach, especially when nausea is present. It is a warming herb, so can be helpful with pain that is better with heat. You can also drink it as a tea; raw ginger is slightly less warming than dried ginger which is hotter in nature.

3. Tart Cherries/Tart Cherry Juice. This is a great alternative to Turmeric, especially for people on blood thinners. Drink about 8 oz. daily, either "straight" or diluted in water. It can have a very intense flavor, so spreading it out through the day is my recommendation, or you can add it to your favorite green smoothie recipe.

4. Pineapple. Like tart cherries, this is a great alternative to Turmeric, but diabetics should use it with caution since it does have a higher glycemic index rating.

5. Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Foods like Salmon, anchovies, sardines, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts all contain high levels of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. They are good for the joints and the brain as well.

If you tend toward inflammation, especially with the conditions listed above, these foods should be part of your daily diet. You don't need to eat everything on the list, but foods that you like should be consumed daily. Foods that cause inflammation (like sugar, artificial sweeteners, coffee, trans fats, factory farmed meats, nightshade vegetables) should be used sparingly if at all.

Health begins with prevention and diet is the key. Food is medicine.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Herbs and Foods that Help Your Body Heal When You are Sick

Nobody likes to get sick. You feel terrible, you're tired, getting through your work day is so much harder, did I mention you feel terrible? Obviously prevention is important because if you don't get sick, you don't need to feel terrible and miss work or time with your family. Unfortunately, not every illness is preventable, but if you do get sick, there are some very simple things you can eat to help you feel better more quickly. 

But first: Prevention. The best ways to prevent illness are:

1. Eat real foods and manage sugar and caffeine intake. When you diet is filled with foods that nourish your body, your immune system has the support it needs to function properly. It can often fight off any cooties that come your way, without you even knowing you've been exposed. Sugar and caffeine can stress, and thereby suppress, your immune system, preventing it from functioning at capacity. The #1 thing that suppresses your immune system is stress.

2. Get sufficient, good quality sleep. Sleep is when the body repairs and restores itself. Without good quality sleep, your body feels stressed (even if your mind doesn't) and therefore suppresses your immune system. Without enough sleep, you don't give your body the time it needs to adequately restore and heal itself.

3. Manage your stress. When we are stressed, our blood pressure, heart rate and breathing increase, as does our muscle tightness. These are evolutionary reactions to stress that help us escape from danger. If you are running away from a bear, your body is shunting all of your energy toward the goal of survival; processes like digestion, fertility and immunity are significantly down-regulated which is why conditions like IBS, infertility and frequent colds or infections are often caused/exacerbated by stress.

4. Handwashing. Regular soap and water will do the trick. Anti-bacterial soaps typically contain triclosan, a chemical that is also a carcinogen and has no business being on the human body. You don't need to strip your hands of all bacteria, but washing them multiple times a day during cold and flu season is a must.

5. Avoid touching your face. The points of entry for germs are our mucus membranes (mouth, nose, eyes) so if you don't touch your face, the germs have a harder time getting in.

The biggest problem with over the counter cold medications is that they just suppress your symptoms, and don't actually get you better. Symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, fever, sore throat actually serve a purpose: these are some of your body's ways of getting rid of the viruses or bacteria that are making you sick. By suppressing a fever or preventing a cough, you are actually making it harder for your body to fight off the cold or flu, and many times you end up staying sick for longer.
Consuming herbs and foods that help your body improve it's ability to fight off illness is the best way to go.

1. Garlic--Garlic is a great remedy for colds, both for immune support and for breaking up congestion. Raw garlic is ideal as it has the most potent enzymes to support immune health, dried supplements tend to be weaker.  You can consume raw garlic in foods, such as salad dressing (olive oil, crushed raw garlic and some type of vinegar--I like balsamic), guacamole, hummus, salsa, on toast, etc. Here are some other suggestions. Make sure to crush the garlic first and let it sit for about 15 minutes before eating. This allows for the most potency. For garlic breath, eating parsley afterward can help.

2. Ginger--Ginger is a very common Chinese medicinal enjoyed for it's warming qualities. It is mostly known to help with nausea and unsettled stomachs. Dry Ginger is considered Hot, whereas Raw Ginger is Warm; if you tend to run cold or feel particularly cold, Dry ginger is a better option. Ginger is also a great anti-inflammatory and has anti-microbial properties to help with sore throats and fighting off viruses. I like it best in tea form. Heat water to just below boiling, then put in ginger and simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat. Remove from stove and add in the juice of 1/4-1/2 of a lemon and a tsp. of raw honey (or more if the ginger flavor is too strong). This remedy can be very soothing for a sore throat and cough.

3. Elderberry extract--This is my go-to remedy for flu and flu-like viruses. Taking 1-2 Tbsp 2-3 times daily can significantly shorten the duration of your illness as it has many anti-microbial properties. At the first signs of flu (sudden onset fever, chills, body aches, generally feeling run down), I like the homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum. It is my experience that if you start taking it within 12-24 hours of initial symptoms, you can be back to health within 24-48 hours. If you miss that window, Elderberry can give you the support your body needs to get back into your life quickly.

4. Saurkraut or other fermented foods-- 70% of your immune system is in your gut, so having a healthy microbiome (having lots of good bacteria in your gut) is essential to getting and staying healthy. Fermented foods are a great source of a wide mix of probiotcs, while also containing pre-biotics which feed the bacteria to help them colonize in your gut. My favorite is saurkraut, but foods like pickled beets, kimchee, miso, kefir, coconut kefir and kombucha are also great sources. Making them part of your daily diet is a great way to prevent illness, but once you are sick, these foods can be really helpful to get you back to health. Ideally you should make your own saurkraut (there are a million recipes out there) to maintain all of the probiotics and vitamin c that is killed off when companies have to pasteurize their products to be sold in stores. But if you can't (or don't want to-- no judgement, I buy mine too), the best saurkraut/pickled products are in the refrigerated area of the produce section of the grocery store. My favorite brand is Real Pickles but there are a number of other great ones too.

5. Bone broth--Grandma's chicken soup has been a natural remedy for colds and illnesses for generations and it turns out she might have been right. The heat, salt and hydration that the soup supplies can be very beneficial for healing. Bone Broth, however, is a little different. Bone Broth draws out all of the nutrients from the animal bone, including collagen, protein and minerals. It is great support to the immune system and a great beverage to drink when you are feeling under the weather. I often recommend it to my cancer patients as it is easy to digest with nothing to chew (unless you add it in) but full of nutrition. Again, the best bone broth is made at home, and cooked for at least 24 hours (lots of recipes online). There are some pre-made bone broths, but they are often far inferior. If you know of a company that makes bone broth that you love, I'd love to hear about it!

Cold and flu season is on the horizon. Do what you can to stay healthy!

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Using Acupuncture to help heal Tennis Elbow

So many times, patients come to see me and say "my doctor says I have Tennis Elbow, but I don't even play tennis!" Tennis Elbow is a very common repetitive strain injury that can be caused by tennis, but can have numerous other sources as well.

What is it?

The Western medical term is Lateral Epicondylitis, which is inflammation of the small "bony knob" on the outer elbow and the surrounding tissue. Pain here can cause difficulty with lifting objects with one hand, like when you want to pour milk into your coffee (of course you are pouring coconut milk into your tea, but that's an exploration for another day) and can sometimes interfere with one's ability to twist open jars. In Chinese medical terms, there is Qi and/or Blood Stagnation in the elbow, often due to physical trauma (like overuse), Heat, Dampness, Cold or a combination. When Qi (often translated as energy) is not flowing properly (no matter what the cause), there is pain; by encouraging Qi flow, the pain goes away. Qi stagnation usually has an achy, dull quality to it, whereas Blood stagnation tends to be sharper and more stabbing pain; it is possible to have both simultaneously.

Why does my elbow hurt?

Even though the pain is in the elbow, my experience has found that that is rarely where the problem originates. There is a saying in the bodywork community that "pain is a liar;" the location of the pain is not always it's source. Sometimes people feel pain in their knee but the pain is really coming from their hamstrings, their IT band or sometimes it can be compensation from dysfunction in their foot. In terms of Tennis Elbow, usually the problem comes from tightness and restriction in the rotator cuff muscles (often Subscapularis or Infraspinatus). When you repeatedly hit a tennis ball with a racquet, the movement comes from the torso and shoulder, but the impact is often felt at the weakest joint, in this case, the elbow; the elbow is the "weak link" so that is where the pain refers. Even without the impact of a ball against a racquet, repetitive movements like typing, using a mouse or even lifting something with one hand that is a little too heavy can cause strain in the elbow in the same way.

How can acupuncture help?

When the restriction is released, the elbow pain decreases and disappears. Acupuncture needles work
to release the muscular tension and restriction in the body so that it functions properly. In this case, they go into the body typically in points along the Small Intestine and Large Intestine Meridians to encourage proper Qi and Blood circulation which reduces pain and encourages proper range of motion. "Small Intestine 9," or SI 9, is a point behind the shoulder, that when released often gives significant relief to the elbow. Additionally, acupuncture increases blood circulation. Our blood contains nutrients that help our body heal itself, so by increasing blood flow to the area, acupuncture encourages the body's natural healing process.

What else can help?

Sometimes the elbow can feel really "angry," by which I mean sensitive and irritated, and usually feels worse with movement and massage. In this case, the needles can make the pain worse instead of better, so I choose to treat the elbow with Moxa (read more about Moxa here). Moxa is a less invasive way to treat pain and inflammation. What is interesting is that even though Moxa is a heat therapy, it reduces inflammation, rather than increasing it.

Is there anything I can do on my own that will help?

Ideally you want to be treated by a professional, but between treatments or before you can get started, a tennis ball can be very handy to start working on the rotator cuff tension. Lie down on the floor or lean against a wall or chair back. Place the ball around SI 9 (see image above) and lean into it until you feel a strong sensation. Take some deep slow breaths and try to relax into the ball. Sometimes it helps to lie on your side with your arm extended and place the ball that position, but the sensation can be much more intense. Listen to your body and be kind to it. If you find a tennis ball isn't hard enough, you can use a lacrosse ball, but anything harder than that will only cause bruising and tissue damage. Please don't use the tennis ball on the elbow itself, you won't be happy with the results.

In terms of anti-inflammatories, I believe in using food as medicine. Turmeric (with black pepper), tart cherry juice, pineapple, ginger and anything containing Omega-3 Fatty Acids (chia, flax, hemp, salmon, sardines, walnuts) have anti-inflammatory properties. When taken in high enough doses they can make a huge difference in your pain levels and won't cause damage to your liver or kidneys like NSAIDS can. See your local natural health practitioner (acupuncturist, naturopath, functional medicine doc) for dosage suggestions.

*Picture above from www.natural-health-zone.com.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Natural Solutions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is defined as "A functional bowel disorder in which abdominal discomfort or pain is associated with a range of symptoms. Typically, these include intermittent abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, or alternating episodes of both." In my private practice, I've seen that this can be exacerbated by or caused by diet, stress or emotinoal upset and can be very frustrating for the sufferer.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), alternating constipation and diarrhea is a common symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation, which basically means your energy isn't flowing properly. An important Liver function (according to TCM) is to move energy (Qi) smoothly through the body. When the Liver becomes imbalanced, due to anger, frustration, resentment, stress, unfulfilled desires and/or improper diet or eating schedule, then the Qi doesn't flow smoothly and you can have symptoms such as:

That last symptom is the topic of today's post.

IBS can show up differently for each person. Some people have chronic constipation, others chronic loose stools or diarrhea, and others have both. Stress usually accompanies these symptoms or can make them worse. IBS rarely happens without the concurrence of stress. Any symptom that is worse with stress is always due to Liver Qi Stagnation.

How do I fix this in the most natural way possible?

1. Regular life habits. The body likes to be on a schedule, which includes eating at regular intervals and at more or less the same time every day. Regular exercise that is moderate in nature (not too strenuous, but getting the body moving) is important to keep the Qi flowing well. You need adequate clean water intake, which is about half your body weight in ounces, more if you sweat a lot. Finally stress management using acupuncture, exercise, yoga, mediation, talk therapy, tai chi, etc.; there are many possibilities.

2. Speak your mind. When you "hold your tongue" you are preventing the free flow of energy and can build up as resentment, which will stagnate the Liver Qi. When resentment explodes outward (like when you lose your temper), it is a sudden release of that stagnation; you feel better but only temporarily, and often at the expense of others, leaving you with regret. Diarrhea behaves in this way, a sudden explosion. I'm not recommending that you be hurtful or rude when speaking your mind, just say what is true for you, whether out loud or in a journal. I find that writing letters to people can be very cathartic. These are letters that you don't send, but by writing down all of your feelings, whatever is making you angry, resentful, sad or hurt, you can process the feelings and let them go. When they fester, they cause problems, usually physical problems (see above list of symptoms). When you free yourself of these feelings, it encourages proper Qi flow and you feel better. With constipation, it is representation of one's inability to process and let things go.

3. To quote Michael Pollan from his book Food Rules, "eat food, mostly plants, not too much." When you eat actual food that is cultivated on a farm or found in the wild, you will be nourishing your body, giving it sustenance and nutritional building blocks to function properly. When you eat food-like substances that were created in a laboratory (like all packaged, processed "foods"), your brain and body doesn't receive the nutrients it needs to work right and you get irregular bowel movements, as well as other symptoms (e.g. weight gain, depression, ADHD, brain fog, lack of energy, irritability). Eating mostly plant foods with some meat and animal products (organic pasture-raised of course) will keep your bowels moving properly. Eating at regular, predictable times helps your body regulate itself. Fermented foods, like miso, saurkraut, pickled beets (pickled in brine, not vinegar), kimchee, kombucha, etc., are a great source of probiotics that can help regulate your bowel movments, for both constipation and diarrhea. If you can't see yourself eating ferments regularly, a good probiotic supplement can be helpful. Look for one that is enteric coated so that it will get to your intestines before breaking down. Each person has different requirements so play with your dosage and find what feels right for you. Alternatively see you local naturopath or functional medical doctor for some guidance. Some great bowel movers are chia seeds, prunes, figs, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats (olive or coconut oil, avocado, etc).

4. Abdominal self-massage can be an easy way to self treat. Lie down and place your palm on your belly. If you have diarrhea, you are going to rub your palm against your belly in a counter-clockwise direction, going against the natural flow of the Large Intestines. For constipation, go clockwise. It is a gentle superficial rubbing that you can do 30-60 times, multiple times a day. It feels good and can be very calming. Works great for bloating too (clockwise).

5. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help you both manage your stress and your bowel movments. There is no "one size fits all" with TCM, your acupuncturist will do a complete health history to determine how best to treat your specific condition. Each treatment will be tailor made to fit you, not just your IBS. Typically you will feel better within 4-6 treatments, but the more chronic the condition, the longer it may take. Regular maintenance treatments (1-2 times per month) are often recommended to keep you feeling your best.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Acupuncture Solutions to TMJ and its Causes



Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) issues are very common in our high stress society. TMJ symptoms can include tension in the jaw, clicking, pain and severe restriction with opening the mouth. TMJ can cause problems with eating, speaking and...other things. It can range from mildly uncomfortable to severely impairing. Aside from pain killers (which are temporary and can be addicting) allopathic medicine doesn't have a lot to offer. Acupuncture can not only treat the symptoms of TMJ, but can also address a common cause--stress.

Some forms of TMJ can be due to a misaligned jaw. If that is the case, then you should get checked out by a dentist who specializes in TMJ so that they can work to realign your jaw and how your teeth line up. However, even with this type of TMJ, acupuncture can help with pain management by releasing tension in the musculature of the jaw.

Many times TMJ is caused by emotional stress, especially in people who struggle with expressing their emotions.Teeth grinding and clenching when you are awake or asleep are signs that you have unexpressed stress. When you "hold your tongue," your feelings get trapped inside. Because emotions are a type of energy they need to go somewhere and often they get lodged in the jaw. This lack of expression causes Qi stagnation (stuck energy) where the Qi is no longer flowing properly through the mouth. According to Traditional Chinese Medical Theory, when Qi stagnates, you have pain. "When there is pain, there is no free flow; when there is free flow, there is no pain." Acupuncture uses tiny needles placed into specific points on face and jaw to relax the muscles and restore the flow of Qi and blood; this releases the stagnation and therefore reduces or eliminates the pain. Acupuncture is also known for its powerful effect on the nervous system which can reduce or eliminate your feelings of stress.

Another technique that will soothe a painful jaw is Moxibustion. This specialized heat therapy offers gentle, soothing, deeply penetrating heat to relax the tight jaw muscles, create more movement and less pain in the jaw. To read more about Moxibustion, click here.

Something you can do on your own to release jaw tension is a yoga technique called Simhasana, or Lion's Breath. It looks funny, but feels great. As you inhale squish up your face making it as tight as possible. As you exhale through your mouth making a "haaaa" sound, open your eyes and mouth and stick out your tongue as if you were trying to touch your chin with your tongue. If you'd like to see a picture of Lion's Breath, click here. Lion's Breath is a great release for the jaw and when practiced regularly is great for maintaining a more relaxed jaw.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Treating Asthma with Acupuncture

Asthma has become more and more prevalent. Causes can range from air pollution, to food or other allergies, to illness to insufficient Vitamin D. Some asthma is temporary (like due to respiratory illness), but most asthma is chronic and can be life threatening if not properly controlled.

Acupuncturists have been treating asthma for thousands of years, and while I don't recommend giving up your rescue inhaler just yet, there are many ways that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) can help you need it less often, if at all.

According to TCM, there are many types of asthma. The type typically associated with illness is usually an "excess" form, where there is too much phlegm in the Lungs for the body to get rid of and you have wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest. Two other forms are due to "insufficiency" where either the Lungs or the Kidneys (or both) are too weak to properly move the air in and out of the body. According to Chinese medical theory, the Lungs take in the air (Kong Qi) and the Kidneys "grasp" the qi then send it back up to the Lungs for dissemination through the body. If the Kidneys are weak and fail to grasp the Qi you have asthma with difficulty inhaling. If the Lungs are weak and fail to disseminate, you have asthma with difficulty exhaling. Shortness of breath is also associated with the Lungs, as they are unable to pull the air in properly, but there is often a Kidney weakness present with that as well.

Asthma often appears first in childhood and can be due to any of the above causes. Any Kidney or Lung weakness is often congenital, passed down from parents with weak Kidneys or Lungs; the parents may or may not have asthma themselves, but might have symptoms like weak/injury prone lower back or knees, urinary frequency, long standing fear, trouble sleeping, poor stress management or salt cravings. Any imbalances that the parents have when the child is conceived will be passed on to the child, like DNA. Life choices, like diet, exercise, stress management will either improve or exacerbate the presentation of the passed on imbalances in the child.

Asthma can be exercise induced (often with vigorous exercise), where the strain of the exercise is taxing the Kidneys. As soon as the exercise ceases and the person recovers, the symptoms often disappear. Getting enough sleep and managing stress can often help prevent this type of asthma. Acupuncture can help support the Kidneys so that they can properly Grasp the Qi and withstand the strain of exercise.

Adult onset asthma, that is not caused by illness or environmental pollution, can sometimes be caused by long term grief. Grief and sadness affect the Lungs; while these are  normal emotions for humans to have, they are supposed to have a finite time span. When grief and sadness become chronic (like after the death of a loved one that you can't get past, or multiple losses in a short period of time), it can take its toll on the Lung Qi and can lead to asthma. People with this type of grief often stand with a sunken chest/ rounded shoulder type posture that makes it physically challenging to take a deep breath. Certain yoga poses that open up the chest can help improve breathing, like those in this blog post.

There are many Chinese herbs and herbal remedies that can be very helpful for controlling asthma, however you need to get a proper TCM diagnosis from an acupuncturist or Chinese herbalist to ensure that it is the right herbal remedy for you.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Acupuncture and Dietary Recommendations for Pre-natal and Post-natal Health

For some women, pregnancy feels great: they have great energy, thicker hair and a certain glow about them. For other women, pregnancy can be less glamorous: constipation, hemorrhoids, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatic pain, fatigue, insomnia, swollen hands and feet, and varicose veins just to name a few symptoms. It takes a lot of energy to create a human being and the process can really take its toll on the mother. The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has been helping women through their pregnancies and beyond for thousands of years.

Ideally women should begin their acupuncture treatments before becoming pregnant in order to create the optimum "growth environment" for the baby. The healthier the mom (and dad) are before conception, the healthier the baby will be. Just like DNA and hereditary tendencies, any imbalances that exist in the parents can be passed on the child, so regulating the parents' Qi will benefit the baby.

Once a woman becomes pregnant, acupuncture can help with common symptoms, like constipation, hemorrhoids, nausea/vomiting, anxiety and fatigue, as well as other odd symptoms, like sciatica, chronic rhinitis, moodiness, bloating, and heartburn. Acupuncturists can also guide the mother-to-be toward blood building foods that will help nourish her body to better support the growing fetus.

Some great blood building foods are (grass-fed) beef, beets, spinach, mushrooms, grapes and oats. To help with constipation, adding dried figs to the diet can nourish the blood and help moisten the stools. Staying hydrated is also important. Urinary frequency typically increases with pregnancy, but since the blood volume also increases, drinking enough water is crucial (about half your body weight in ounces per day). Acupuncture can help support the Kidneys, which according to Chinese medicine regulate the reproductive system and hormones, in addition to controlling urination. Acupuncture can also help with energy levels, improve sleep quality and keep the bowels moving.

For the final weeks in the third trimester, there are acupuncture treatments to turn a baby who is breech (ideally between 35-38 weeks--after that usually there isn't enough room to turn the baby), and to encourage "ripening" of the cervix and uterine contractions which can help move a woman toward labor, when the time comes.

Once the baby is born (the "fourth trimester") the mother is both recovering from childbirth as well as feeding her new baby. The physical and emotional exhaustion of childbirth on top of the physical trauma of either vaginal or cesarean birth requires a significant healing period; add to that the life-sucking additional energy expended by breast feeding, and the emotional ups and downs, many women can feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Mothers need support, especially during this first month. Give her warm, cooked foods like soups and stews that help her regain her Blood and Qi while healing her body. Here is a nice recipe for such a soup (I recommend without the alcohol). Eating simple, nourishing foods will support the health of both the mother and the baby. For women who are having trouble producing enough milk, there are herbal remedies to help increase lactation and milk production.

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