Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Five Foods that Fight Phlegm

Photo Credit: sxc.hu
In Chinese medicine, we blame a lot of problems on phlegm. There's your garden variety snot, of course, which you find up your nose and in your head when you have sinus problems.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mending Meditation

Today, I hemmed some slacks. I know, it doesn't sound earth-shattering. But for some reason, anything related to sewing seems to scare me. I tried making a dress in college. After cutting a hole in the (very expensive wool) fabric with a serger, I burnt a larger hole in the material while trying to patch the original damage. For years, I carried the dress around, thinking someday I would finish it and finally wear my creating. It never happened.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Basics of Rest vs. Exercise

I've been dealing with a cold for the past couple of weeks. The only symptom I have left is extreme fatigue, and that is finally easing off, too. I try to use any health problems that turn up to put myself in my patients' shoes so I can serve them better. My fatigue for the past few weeks made me think about the balance of rest and exercise.

Many people who come into my clinic are tired. Really, really tired. Sometimes they aren't sleeping well, but some sleep fine. Usually a well-meaning friend or medical practitioner recommends they exercise to improve their energy. Again, for some this does the trick. Others say "Exercise only made me more tired. Should I keep exercising, even if it exhausts me?"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Marvels of Moxa

My hand isn't actually this big--it's the angle!
I often feel the need to kick myself when I suffer needlessly from something I know how to fix. I usually think of all  the possibilities for my patients, but when I'm the one who's sick or hurting, my memory is not as wonderful. Today was one of those 'kick me' days. I have felt listless, tired, and achy off and on for a week or so, and yesterday had a headache and thought I was catching a cold. After moping around for the morning, I remembered the marvels of moxibustion.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rising Like A Phoenix From Burnout

Burnout affects you in every area of life: food doesn't taste as good, people are not as much fun, memories are reduced to 'the time when I was happy' and 'the times when I was hurt.' Burnout is depression, disappointment, anger and sadness run together until you have no passion left. You're just here, and where you want to be is there, and no road seems to connect the two. The 'stuckness' and frustration that comes with burnout can be deadly when you decide it will never end. People have taken their own lives because they couldn't face another day of getting nowhere. As soon as you realize you are in a burnout situation, take steps to address it. Get professional help if you need it. These tips can also help.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Awesome Autumn the Chinese Medicine Way

It seems like summer is barely over, and here it is time to write about autumn. Autumn is a time dominated by the Metal Element, which involves the Lung and Large Intestine function and meridians. Its quality is dryness, although as summer turns to autumn there can still be dampness afoot. Some schools of Chinese medicine see the first weeks of switching from one season to the next as pertaining to Earth element, in which Spleen and Stomach function is dominant. If you have digestive issues, they can flare up as your body makes the transition from one season to the other. A mild cleanse of broth-based soup and simple grains will warm your stomach and get your digestion ready for the heartier foods of winter. Eating warm, natural foods, with ginger, mint, or other mild herbs (oregano, basil, etc.) will usually calm mild belly jitters.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summertime, and the Living is. . .


It took a while for summer to be recognizable here in my home state of Virginia, but it's here now! We've had several days over 100 degrees, and many more close to it. The unusually low humidity we've enjoyed is also a thing of the past.

I once suffered with the heat much more than I do since I became a student of Chinese medicine. Here are some of the things I've learned that help me and my patients deal with the heat and make the hot weather more enjoyable.

Summertime has its own special challenges according to Chinese medicine. Here are a few of the problems that can be more pronounced in the summer:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Making Natural Healthcare Affordable

As an acupuncturist, I strive to offer top quality healthcare. Visits in a natural clinic take a lot of time, and of course the more time something takes, the more it will cost. I try to help those with income issues when I can. Here are a few tips you can use with me if you are local or apply the principle with your holistic practitioner wherever you live:
  1. Look for discount promotions. I occasionally run promotional offers. I have one promotion with Amazon Local starting Friday, June 8. To see it, visit: http://local.amazon.com/richmond. If you are not in the Richmond, VA area, look to services like Amazon Local, Groupon, or Living Social to see if there are practitioners offering similar deals. 
  2. Follow natural healthcare on social media. Most businesses offer discounts on their Facebook or Twitter pages. If you want to see a particular practitioner or health food/service provider, see if they have a Facebook page or Twitter account. (You can "like" my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/Greenacuclinic, and follow me on Twitter  http://twitter.com/#!/taygreen ). If they offer a newsletter, sign up for that, too. I always let my email subscribers in on any special deals, and most other practitioners do, too!
  3. See if there is a community practice or if a provider offers lower priced services. For instance, I offer ear acupuncture every Thursday evening from 4-6pm, and it only costs $20/visit. It may take a little longer to see lasting results than with a regular treatment, but it diminishes stress and manages pain well. For those who cannot afford "deluxe care," it offers an affordable way to get basic wellness treatments. Many acupuncturists and chiropractors offer discounted rates on certain days, or build their practice around community practice, where they offer a simplified treatment to several patients at once to lower costs.
  4. Be up front with your provider. I work with my patients to put together a treatment plan that addresses their health, as well as time and money parameters. In my practice, we intermix ear and regular acupuncture, or focus more on herbal treatment to save money on the more expensive acupuncture visits (and herbal therapy has been a viable stand-alone therapeutic method for centuries). Talk to your provider to see if they have money saving strategies for you. Remember that going for "no-frills" care may mean sticking with a treatment a little longer to see results.
  5. Take care of yourself. I give all my patients plenty of lifestyle recommendations. Those who follow them tend to see results more quickly and need fewer treatments. Ask your practitioner if they recommend certain exercises, or foods, or supplements to make your progress faster. 
I hope this helps. I am committed to helping you with your natural healthcare needs--whether you are a patient in my clinic or just want some advice to apply to your situation. Please feel free to comment or email me at greenacuclinic(at)gmail.com if you have any other questions!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Health Advice: To Follow or Not to Follow

A large part of my practice involves giving health advice based on my expertise in Chinese medicine. I suggest ways to reduce stress, foods to "nourish Yin," "drain Dampness," and "move Blood"-which can be used to treat anything from headaches to infertility.

Most patients follow some of my advice, but not all of it. A few completely ignore everything I say, and a few follow my every word exactly to the letter.

While having sound advice ignored can be frustrating, I would be a hypocrite if I got too upset over it. I ignore advice all the time. And I seek a lot of advice. I subscribe to multiple blogs on everything from how to write to how to treat depression. I read professional journals, magazine articles, and books. I take classes. These information sources give differing advice on a daily basis--meat is good, meat is bad. Vitamins are useful, or useless. This diet plan works for everyone; no one diet plan works for everybody. I could not possibly follow all of this advice. Since most of my patients are also no doubt getting health advice from multiple sources, someone will have to be ignored, and sometimes inevitably it will be my turn.

So what guidelines should you follow in taking or ignoring advice? Here is my advice (which you can take or leave):
  • Be upfront with the person giving advice. I admit it: I get aggravated when I give simple advice that isn't followed. But I much prefer to be told this up front rather than to cajole, suggest, and give vast quantities of information, only to be told "I just don't eat vegetables" six months into treatment. I will give less advice, and have lower expectations for treatment. It is also useful to know if a patient simply does not have the time, money, or energy for some treatments. If I believe treatment will  not be successful if my advice is not followed, I can save everyone time and money by suggesting the patient seek other healthcare--but usually there is something that can be improved, even if important self-care is ignored.
  • Look at the source. As a trained Chinese herbalist, I spent several years memorizing and using incredible amounts of information so that I could treat people effectively, and then testing that information with clinical experience. Yet my advice often goes by the wayside because a patient has a friend (or hairdresser or neighbor who joined a multi-level herb company) who suggests some other product that usually costs more than what I suggest and doesn't fit the patient's particular problem. When anyone gives advice, look at their credentials. Have they had experience with your problem--whether treating it or living it? Perhaps the neighbor's advice is meaningful if they have the same health condition you do, and have seen great improvement with a new supplement. Do they have enough education to know the different options available for treatment, or what symptoms are dangerous and need further research? Especially when dealing with your health, you need to have many sources for information, and they need to be as reliable as possible.
  • Does the advice fit your outlook and beliefs? I often recommend different meats to my patients as part of the Chinese medicine view of health. If my patient is a vegetarian, and does not want to eat meat, I am happy to alter my suggestions to fit their beliefs. Other patients come to me because they do not wish to take medications or have surgery if it can be avoided. I encourage them to get the information they need to make their healthcare decisions--what will happen if they never get surgery or never take a medication? What are the dangers? What if they wait 6 months and try a more holistic approach?  What objective tests could be done to evaluate a holistic treatment to see if it works? Be open in sharing your beliefs with your healthcare team. A good doctor/acupuncturist/chiropractor will work within your worldview. If your practitioner refuses to acknowledge your right to make health decisions based on your beliefs, perhaps you need to find someone new for your healthcare.
  • Remember, at the end of the day, it's your call. No one truly knows exactly what is best for you. We all approach our decisions based on our individual expertise, experience, and beliefs. I give the advice I would want someone to give me if I had the same condition. Most health practitioners do the same. 
If you get health advice from someone, take the time to consciously make a decision whether to follow it or not. See if the advice fits the areas you are willing and able to change. Look at the track record and education of the person giving the advice. Make sure the advice is something in harmony with your values. Ask as many questions as you need to get enough information to make a decision. Then accept the responsibility for making that decision.

I hope you will find these tips useful the next time you seek health advice!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Positive Psychology

Here's a re-issue of a past blog. Optimism is powerful stuff!

One of the ways I am improving my acupuncture practice is through the use of Positive Psychology.  Most days, I see patients who have all manner of health problems aggravated (and sometimes caused) almost entirely by stress.  IBS, anxiety attacks, migraines, depression, pain of any and all types, PMS, hypertension--any health problem can be rendered worse by stress, worry, disappointment or frustration, and many problems can actually be caused solely by your mind's interpretation of the events around you.

Positive Psychology is a branch of psychology that seeks the ways people are happy and mentally healthy instead of focusing study on how people can be mentally unhealthy. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taking a Break

You would be amazed at the number of people I treat who never take a day off. Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised--maybe you don't take a break, either. I don't mean a "working break"--going to the beach with your laptop and email, and doing business while you watch the kids play. While it may be a nice fill in, that doesn't cut it for a real break.

I mean a day off--a real, no one can reach me, don't call me, business is put down for while--no work--day off. The kind we used to take when no one had email or cell phones. The world didn't end because someone else had to fill in for a day or two, and people were able to recharge. To really separate themselves from their jobs, and relax without interruption.

I am fortunate that my religious practices give me that break. Every 7th day, I take the day OFF. Nothing short of a true emergency (the Bible calls it "an ox in a ditch"-you're the only one there to help, and great suffering will result if you don't act) will intrude on my break, called the Sabbath. Even 50 years ago, most people had a day set aside for rest and their spiritual practice. These days, even those devoted to their beliefs hesitate to take time away from work for spiritual renewal. Throughout the year, I keep other religious festivals ranging from one day to over a week to celebrate my beliefs and remind me life is more than my career, however rewarding it may be.

Having those times off is truly a blessing. Because it is part of my belief system, it transcends my temporary wants and needs. It's a rule in my life, so I don't have to rethink it each week or each year and decide if I "can afford"-financially or otherwise--to "miss" the time. It's regular, so I don't have long stretches of unbroken work with no relief in sight. As I keep my renewal days, I incorporate spiritual practice to the exclusion of housework or yard work, so my "day off" doesn't become "cleaning day," as happens to so many others. My mind gets a rest from teasing out patient problems, house duties, paperwork, phone calls, and all the other little things that constitute work. I spend times with like-minded friends and family, and come back refreshed.

I got into my profession because I love what I do, but even a job you love will wear you down with no breaks. Whatever your beliefs, consider giving yourself one day a week to be completely disengaged from work of any kind. At first it may seem overly indulgent, impossible, or even slightly crazy--but I've done it most of my life, and once you establish it as a personal rule, you'd be surprised how easy--and essential--it becomes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Importance of Starting the Day Properly

Grab the keys--wait! Find the keys, find the purse, grab those papers, rush out the door. Oh, no! Forgot breakfast, forgot to brush my teeth--did I put on deodorant? No time to go back. Hurry, hurry, hurry to work--people are waiting. . . .

Does this sound like your morning? I know I've had a few in my time. How do you feel the rest of the day? Behind, rushed, waiting for the other Things You Forgot to jump up and grab you. Over the years, I've reduced the number of "rush mornings." I hope you will, too. Here's why:
  1. Rushing messes with your nervous system. In acupuncture, everything is about qi. The closest Western counterpart I've been able to find to qi is the working of your nervous system. Having to lunge for stuff and run out the door triggers your stress response. If your stress response is over-stimulated, it can lead to chronic health problems, such as hypertension, poor sleep, anxiety, high cholesterol, and digestive problems.
  2. You lose a beautiful day. I've rushed out the door, on the road, and off to work before I even notice the sun in the sky, the delicate breeze in the air, the smell of honeysuckle, or freshly mown grass, or the beauty of flowers. Rushing makes us change our focus to the things we need to survive. You lose the joy of just enjoying your surroundings.
  3. You affect other people. I hate to be around people who are rushing. I feel in the way, nervous waiting for the frustrated outburst they seem on the verge of having, and unable to help them. If I'm in the middle of a project myself, it's hard to concentrate with a rushed person making a whirlwind around me. If I am doing something peaceful and enjoyable, their fractured energy makes it hard to continue my recreation. If you want to serve your fellow man, try to live your life so you don't have to rush.
We will all have times when we need to pick up the pace. Sometimes we have things we absolutely must do, and the only way to do them is to pack the obligations in and rush from one to the other. There will be times the alarm does not go off, the traffic slows you down, or life just does not go your way. But when you can exert control over your schedule, try not to rush. Savor the time in your life--it's a limited supply!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Natural Sinus Remedy System

The American Journal of Medicine estimates that Americans suffer at least 24 million cases of sinusitis each year. Many of these end up being treated by antibiotics, which can lead to the development of superbugs.  There is also concern about antibiotics harming your body's beneficial bacteria, and impeding digestion.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses many techniques to treat conditions related to mucous production, including diet therapy.  Food recommendations depend on the cause of the sinus problem. Here are a few of the recommendations by the TCM diagnosis.

Phlegm/Damp Congestion: Sometimes a person simply makes too much mucus, or is overly sensitive to foods and weather conditions that cause mucus. People with phlegm congestion may also be achy all over, especially in their sinus area, with a feeling of heaviness or even vertigo. Their tongue usually is swollen or has a greasy white or yellow coating.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Making the Switch: Moving to More Natural Eating

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com
In my acupuncture practice, I advocate eating food in as natural a state as possible.  Many patients will nod vigorously and say, "Oh, I know. I eat very healthfully. Everything at our house is all-natural, and we're very careful when we eat out." I used to smile happily, and left the treatment room optimistic about their health prognosis. Then I noticed how they came into the office--with diet sodas, packages of protein bars, or fast food bags.

So I started asking more questions to find out what "healthy eating" meant to them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fight Frustration

Sometimes I get a little. . .frustrated. Ok, a lot frustrated. Traffic jams, cancelled visits, or a to-do list a LOT longer than my day can ruin my day. Seeing all the things I want to do, accomplish and enjoy stifled by mundane problems really makes me grit my teeth and clench my fists. 

Unfortunately, it's hard to have much “cred” as a natural health practitioner if your expression looks like a mug shot from aggravation at life.

Herbs and Food for PMS Due to Cold or Yang Deficiency

This time of year I recommend a lot of "warming" herbs and foods--things that help your body battle cold. One problem we don’t think of as being aggravated by cold is PMS.  

Excess cold (when your body is exposed to too much cold from climate or food), and Yang Deficiency (when your body does not warm itself well) can affect your menstrual cycle. Excess cold causes symptoms such as severe cramping, dark blood, headaches, achiness, and contributes to cysts and indigestion. Deficient yang causes dull aching cramps, extreme fatigue, bloating and can cause excessive bleeding.  Both can make you more tearful.

Both also usually respond well to treatment. Here are great ways to improve PMS related to cold, whether it's deficient or excess:

Winter 2012 Newsletter

Winter 2012 Newsletter

Editor’s Corner

Acupuncture Happy Hour
Starting January 30, I will be offering Acupuncture Happy Hour every Tuesday night from 4-6:30pm.  Please call to make an appointment.  Acupuncture Happy Hour is a quick ear acupuncture session, done right in the waiting room. 

It takes about 20 minutes, costs $20/session, and is great for stress relief.  You will also get a coupon good for $20 off a regular acupuncture session with your first ear acupuncture session. 

If you have a specific health condition you want treated, you will need a regular acupuncture visit, but the ear acupuncture can introduce you to acupuncture, help you feel relaxed, and can usually minimize pain.