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Chinese medicine

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring Has Sprung!

In Chinese medicine the element of Wood & the organs of the Liver & Gallbladder are associated with Springtime. Just like the trees & plant-life around us, spring is a time for us to reach upward & outward while trusting the depth & resiliency of our roots, & allowing the season's familiar winds to showcase the beauty of our flexibility rather than meeting them with rigidity & fear.

In early spring, as the trees come out of the dormancy of winter & fill with the sap of life, the color green highlights the landscape, & new life begins to blossom forth. Like the trees, we feel our potential rising up within, yet we may often feel pent up for we do not yet know how it will manifest later in the season. It is normal for us to feel mixed feelings of joy, excitement, anger, irritability, & impatience, as the Liver which is "the General" in charge of free flow (of blood, qi, emotions, etc) throughout the body-mind-spirit, can easily become constrained in response to the innumerable stressors of modern living.

So, be kind to your Liver & the Wood within you by:

  • Moving your body daily (walk, hike, stretch/yoga, qi gong)
  • Creating space (declutter, clean out your closet/pantry/car/mind/body)
  • Eating slowly & healthfully (light, fresh whole foods from the earth, especially sprouts! I'm obsessed with sunflower & broccoli sprouts at the moment)
  • Trying something new - be playful
  • Drinking plenty of filtered water with fresh lemon juice
  • Setting goals - especially with the promise of summer - the dynamic, active, transformative season of Fire ahead
  • Meditating, breathing mindfully &/or journaling to cultivate calm presence & self awareness
  • Oh, and of course, come see your trusty acupuncturists at Elemental Family for some gentle, nurturing, smile-inducing, liver-friendly treatment! Among other things, Springtime means that seasonal allergies and hayfever are OUT of control right now for oh so many folks! The good news is: you don't have to suffer anymore! Acupuncture, cupping, Chinese herbs, and more, can have a significant impact on relieving your allergy symptoms and addressing the root cause. Check out what one delighted patient had to say about it:
A nagging sinus issue led me to Hannah at Elemental Family. I’d never tried acupuncture or cupping but had heard of others’ success with it. After three visits to the sanctuary that is the Elemental Family practice, I was feeling infinitely better. The kindness, patience and care I received was as healing as the Chinese herb tinctures. I cannot say enough about how wonderful they are.
— Trish C.

#spring #forth #wood #element #reach #trust #blossom #manifest #soothe #liver #stretch #breathe #allergy #relief #elementalfamily #chinesemedicine #psychotherapy #wellness #acupuncture #chineseherbs #cupping #moxa #guasha #happy

Elemental Family Focus on Immunity: My Three Simple and Straightforward Immune-Boosting Dietary Tips

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Elemental Family Focus on Immunity: My Three Simple and Straightforward Immune-Boosting Dietary Tips

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Do you know a sure-fire way to eat to keep your immune system strong, as well as how to support a run down or sick system? I have three simple and straightforward tips to keep in mind this holiday season. Read on to discover what they are...

I know the holidays are fast approaching, and I am not trying to ruin all the fun, but I do believe that having a few guidelines to follow when facing the feasts ahead can help to keep you healthier. The tips in this post are mainly applicable to when you are feeling run down or when you are actually sick; however, the way you treat a sick system is usually optimal for illness-prevention as well.

Main point here: Try and make choices about what you eat with care, mindfulness, and moderation, and your system will thank you for it. And above all, enjoy what you eat! Savoring your food encourages proper digestion.

Chinese medicine has observed the influence of diet on health for thousands of years, and nutritional advice is often incorporated into my healing protocols as an acupuncturist. In the Chinese medical view, diet is intimately connected to the proper functioning of all systems, and impacts the quality of your blood, energy reserves, and immunity. What we eat, as well as how we prepare and eat it (cooked or raw for example), matters big time.

Diet is a tricky part of supporting immunity because it isn’t as simple as just wanting to eat right. Most of us want to eat well and to feed our kids a healthy, immune-supportive diet. The break is usually somewhere between the wanting, the doing, and the know-how. All sorts of things get in the way of putting real food on the table on a regular basis: time, money, interest, knowledge, overwhelm, and did I mention, TIME?

The fact remains though, dietary choices are always important, especially when you are trying to stay healthy or slogging through an illness. What you put in your system holds even more weight when your body is run-down, since it can make the difference between maintaining wellness and plunging headfirst into a cold or flu.

My Three Simple and Straightforward Immune-Boosting Dietary Tips:

1) Eat. Warm. Food.

Cold and raw food is damaging to the root of our immunity, the gut, which we acupuncturists refer to as the Spleen organ system. The Spleen appreciates and thrives on a diet of primarily warm foods, versus the ice water and salad-obsessed Standard American Diet (aka SAD – a fitting acronym really). This is especially true in the winter, when the Spleen is up against environmental chill as well as cold in our diets.

General fatigue and muscle weakness, bloating after eating, and easy bruising are all signs of Spleen weakness, so taking a break from cold and raw food can support proper functioning of the Spleen, rather than taxing it further.

Old wives tale-y though it may be, soup is an incredible food. It is, wait for it, warm and can be filled with any number of nourishing ingredients. Miso soup with plenty of scallions is good at the onset of a cold or fever, and chicken soup with veggies has cold-fighting properties. There is a special kind of soup called bone broth that is a mainstay of traditional diets the world over. Bone broth is a powerful nutritive and immune tonic. Stay tuned for soup and bone broth recipes on my site this winter!

2) Cut down on the refined sugar.

Sugar is delicious (duh), but it is also bad news when consumed in inappropriate quantities. In moderation, and in health, our bodies can metabolize some amount of sugar (especially of the fruit and honey varieties). But if you are stressed, sleeping too little, and eating poorly, then sugar becomes a bad guy in and of itself. Sugar lowers your immune power and generates heat (Chinese medicine-ease for inflammation) in the body.

If you are desperate for something sweet, go for an apple drizzled with honey and cinnamon or a few squares of real-deal dark chocolate (Endangered Species and Theo are two of my favorite brands).

3) Dairy is phlegmy and therefore not the best choice when you are also phlegmy.

Dairy is a cold (see #1 above) and damp-producing food in the eyes of Chinese medicine. Barring an allergy or intolerance, dairy can be a healthy part of the diet, when consumed in small to moderate amounts (same as #2 above), especially when the dairy products are organic and varied (choosing goat and cow milk cheeses for example). But when you are dealing with phlegmy conditions, manifesting as sinus congestion or phlegm anywhere in the respiratory tract, from the nose to the lungs, then removing dairy from the diet will make it easier for your body to clear the gunk that is already there.

IN SUM, if you are experiencing the beginnings of a cold in the form of a runny nose, scratchy throat, sneezing, fatigue, or even just feeling "off," then give up the raw/cold food, sugar, and dairy for a bit. By choosing foods that are clear, light, and immune supportive (and eating the not-so-healthy stuff in moderate amounts), you will lighten the digestive load and your immune system will be respond in kind.

 

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Elemental Family Focus on Immunity, Part 2: Do You Know Where 80% of Your Immune System Lives?

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Elemental Family Focus on Immunity, Part 2: Do You Know Where 80% of Your Immune System Lives?

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Welcome back to immune prep central! Part 2 of our series is about the relationship between your immune system and your digestive system.

The phrase “immune system” might conjure up an assortment of connotations from your high school biology days: bacteria and viruses, innate and acquired, antibody and antigen, and so on.  The science-y talk ends here, but the point is there is an even more salient fact about your immune system that most of us haven’t been taught. One of the most important predictors of your immune function is already within you and can have either a hugely beneficial or a dramatically negative influence on your ability to fight off illness.

Okay people, drumroll please: 70-90% of your immune system actually resides in your GUT. Your gut is host to your body’s largest population of immune cells, and the proper functioning of those cells relies on a remarkable, and largely uncharted, community of trillions of bacterial cells, known collectively as the microbiome. Those coils upon coils of small intestine house all of the intestinal bacteria that play an essential role in doing the digesting that we are oh so familiar with, but it turns out that the small intestine is the site of the majority of your immune response as well.

Your microbiome is a vast, diverse, and unique assortment of a multitude of strains of bacteria and other organisms, that essentially make you, you! Turns out, you are so much more than just what you eat. The microbiome consists of a mix of both helpful and opportunistic bacteria. The microbiome is truly a new frontier within us that is only beginning to be explored, categorized, and understood, with incredible and exciting ramifications for health conditions in a wide range of categories, from auto-immune conditions to ADHD to depression.

Probiotics are all the rage in the health-o-sphere these days, and for good reason. Probiotics comprise the good guys in your microbiome. Although the majority of them live in your digestive tract, probiotics exert a significant influence well beyond your belly. Probiotics are the key players in overall wellness and maintaining a balanced, healthy system. They rule the roost in three essential realms of your wellbeing: digestion, immunity, and brain function.

To go a little more in depth, here are just a few reasons why probiotics are such an integral part of your immune system:

  • If you think of your gut microbiome as a garden, then the probiotics are the flowers and the opportunistic bacteria are the weeds. The more flowers there are, the less room there is for weeds to grow. The flowers protect your gut by crowding out the weeds and preventing them from sticking to the gut lining.
  • As explained earlier in the post, your gut is host to your body’s largest population of immune cells. Probiotics serve to amplify and enhance the immune activity at these sites.
  • Probiotics act as an immune barrier in the gut, only allowing certain things to pass into the bloodstream, and blocking illness-causing pathogens.

How do you know if you need to take probiotics? Well, most of us do. What type and for how long will vary widely, but if you have ever taken an antibiotic (and I mean ever in your life), then you probably want to explore getting on a probiotic.

My recommended brands for general immune and digestive health, and the ones I carry in my office are:

  • For infants – Klaire Labs Infant Probiotic (powder) or Metagenics Ultraflora Baby (drops)
  • For toddlers and older children – Metagenics UltraFlora Children's (chewable) (or one of the above infant products if your toddler isn't into chewables)
  • For teens and adults – Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete or Metagenics UltraFlora Spectrum (capsules)

If you are interested in learning more about your microbiome, here are two very worthwhile links to check out:

1) Super informative article by Michael Pollan about the microbiome:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?pagewanted=all

2) Great slideshow about the microbiome:

http://discovermagazine.com/galleries/zen-photo/m/microbiome

(Featured image courtesy of probiotics.org)

Thanks for reading and please be sure to check out Part 1 of the series here: http://elementalfamily.com/fall-focus-on-immunity-preparatory-medicine/. We'd love to have you join our virtual Elemental Family to stay in the loop with these types of posts in the future! You can opt-in on the home page here: http://elementalfamily.com.

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Elemental Family Focus on Immunity, Part 1: Preparatory Medicine

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Elemental Family Focus on Immunity, Part 1: Preparatory Medicine

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This post is the first in our Elemental Family Focus on Immunity series, where I will be touching on various aspects of supporting and preparing the immune system for the upcoming cold and flu season…

Happy end of summer, friends! This is a special time in our house because my daughter is starting kindergarten this fall! How the heck did that happen? Just the thought fills me with a myriad of conflicting emotions: excitement for all of the new and enriching experiences ahead of her, sadness for the inevitable passage of time that starting school really brings home, and, to be totally honest, a fair amount of trepidation at all of the germs that are awaiting her in a school environment.

As a practitioner who treats both children and adults, I certainly deal with a fair share of germy-ness, but it feels different when I know I won’t be there to make sure my daughter washes her hands before she eats or doesn’t accidentally use someone else’s cup, and so on. In the hopes of tempering my anticipatory germaphobia, we’ve recently started a simple and straightforward immune boosting regimen in my house. Cold and flu season is just around the corner, and Chinese medicine truly shines in its preparatory approach to illness.

Preparatory medicine is a unique approach to supporting immunity and it differs in one significant aspect from preventive medicine. Preventive medicine is a buzzword in our ever-evolving healthcare landscape and is focused on early screening, counseling, and other interventions to detect and prevent disease. This is an invaluable practice, especially when it comes to serious and life-threatening illness.

Preparatory medicine, on the other hand, is more applicable to the day-to-day illnesses that I see on a regular basis in my clinic, and that many of you parents are more than used to dealing with: coughs, colds, fevers, tummy upset, etc. Preparatory medicine offers the perspective that building immunity is a developmental process. Successfully fighting these types of illnesses contributes positively to the complexity of a flexible and robust immune system.

Trust me, as a parent this is a very challenging concept to keep in my brain. No one wants to see their child or partner, or self for that matter, feeling icky and down for the count. It is lousy for sure, but it can help to remember that much of our immune system is acquired over time, so with each illness the body really does get smarter and stronger.

So, what does preparatory medicine look like?

  •   Thinking ahead to the next challenge on the horizon, be it seasonal or developmental
  • Supporting your unique adaptive style to ensure as smooth a transition as possible into the next stage: for my daughter this meant preparing her both emotionally and physically for the transition into school
  • Treating the body in preparation of that next challenge, ie starting immune prep well before cold season hits or prepping the body for spring allergy season during wintertime

Now that we have set the appropriate expectations around getting sick, we can move into tools for HOW to prepare the body! Over the next few posts, we will cover dietary, supplement, lifestyle, and wellness massage recommendations.

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Acupuncture Myths

Acupuncture Myths

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Chinese medicine suffers from an image problem. Let’s dispel a few myths here and now to help you understand what to expect when seeking out treatment at The Elemental Family… MYTH #1: Chinese medicine treatments must include acupuncture.

TRUTH: Chinese medicine treatments certainly can, and usually do, include acupuncture, but that is just one tool in a wide and varied toolbox. At the Elemental Family, I choose the most appropriate and efficacious treatment methods based on your individual needs and comfort level. This is especially true when it comes to working with kids! Many pediatric treatments are completely needle-free (although I find the majority of kids to be both curious and brave enough to try a “tap” or two).

Aside from acupuncture, Chinese medicine offers herbal formulas, nutritional recommendations, hands-on techniques including massage techniques, gua sha and cupping, as well as moxibustion and heat therapy. Your treatments will incorporate as many of the above as needed to create the most healing protocol for you.

MYTH #2: Chinese medicine is actually magic/voodoo and cures you in one treatment.

TRUTH: Sorry to burst the bubble on this one, but the healing process takes time, no matter what the intervention. Chinese medicine is a full medical system that has been used for thousands of years all over the world. It has powerful effects, but it is also a subtle intervention that requires time, patience, and trust to create the conditions necessary for lasting change in the body and mind. If you are ready to make this commitment to your health, Chinese medicine will provide the well-worn, centuries-old scaffolding to support you.

Progress is seen most rapidly with consistent weekly or bi-weekly treatments. Consistent treatment allows you to see how your body actually responds to this medicine, and it enables me to make adjustments on a regular basis to optimize your healing process. Chinese medicine treatments have a cumulative effect in the body, meaning that the more frequently you remind your body of the healthy patterns you are trying to establish, the more quickly you will reach your goal.

MYTH #3: You must choose only one type of medicine for yourself and your family and stick to that philosophy for all ailments, at all times.

TRUTH: Different types of medical systems have very different strengths and they should be recognized and utilized accordingly. Integrative medicine (combining Western and Eastern therapies in the same clinical setting) is gaining a huge foothold in this country for this very reason. Western medicine provides life-saving and life-altering treatments with the use of miraculous technology. It also excels at damage control – think of any episode of TV medical dramas (Greys, ER, you get the picture). However, the vast majority of ailments, including many of the health epidemics that are afflicting our society (allergies, ADD, the Autism spectrum, diabetes, etc), are of a chronic nature and they don’t require or respond to emergency medical treatment. Chinese medicine and other holistic systems excel at jump-starting your body’s own healing capacity and setting the stage for stronger health down the road.