Acupuncture is increasing in popularity and with good reason! It's helping many people with chronic health issues and with breaking the cycle of chronic pain. But, although many are trying it and seeing results, few know how acupuncture actually works to heal the body. Below is a simple explanation of the 3 main ways that science and research is finding about how acupuncture works! As always, let us know if you want to 'nerd out' in more detail! Enjoy:)
How To Stay Healthy This Fall...Look inside your own kitchen!
One of the reasons that I love Chinese medicine, is the concept that if we align ourselves with the natural elements around us, then we can achieve balance and health, emotionally and physically. Fall is a big transition, the Fire element of summer gives way to the late summer Earth element harvest and then onto the Metal element of fall which asks us to dig deep into ourselves and start preserving, storing and slowing down.
Today my blender went in the closet and the crock pot got a coveted spot on my kitchen counter. It's time to slow cook your food and reduce the amount of cold and raw food in your diet. It's time to choose seasonal vegetables such as winter squash, yams, kale, potatoes and beets. Time to choose pungent foods that keep the lungs clear and strong, such as onions, garlic and ginger. They all have warming, antiviral and antibiotic properties that can help with staying healthy.
First and foremost, you want to focus on boosting your immune system so that colds and flus can be prevented. Along with eating warm seasonal foods, one of my favorite healing herbs is astragalus (or in the Chinese pinyin it's called Huang Qi). It is a safe herb to take daily throughout the winter, and add to soups and stews for its immune benefits. Astragalus is called an adaptogen, meaning that it helps protect the body against various physical, emotional and mental stresses. It's been shown to improve white blood cell count and it is widely used to improve the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections. If you want to find some astragalus to cook with this winter, you can find it on-line or at a local herbal apothecary.
I hope this recipe inspired you as much as it does me! Here's to a vibrant and healthy fall. And of course, if you do get sick, come get some acupuncture as soon as you feel the symptoms coming on!!
Super Immune Boosting Chicken Soup
Start by adding Astragalus to 4 quarts of water in your crock pot. Coat chicken in olive oil, salt, garlic powder and sauté in a pan for several minutes, then add to crock pot with ginger, scallion and garlic and slow cook for several hours, remove bones and herbs/spices from the soup and add veggies, herbs and salt to taste.
Optional: add cooked short grain brown rice at the end for more digestive and energy nourishing properties.
"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you"
"The supernatural forces of summer create heat in the Heavens and fire on Earth; they create the heart and the pulse within the body...the red color, the tongue, and the ability to express laughter...they create the bitter flavor, and the emotions of happiness and joy."
-The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine
If you've seen the yin-yang symbol in Chinese medicine, I'm sure you've noticed that within the black side is a small white dot, and the white side is a small black dot. This popular symbol has very deep meaning and also holds the key to BALANCE which is the name of the game in Chinese medicine. The white side of the circle represents YIN which is cooling & introspective and the black represents YANG which is warming & extroverted. Within each, the other exists, as shown with the dot of the opposite color on each side. Our challenge is to find the balance between both.
Summer is obviously very yang, but within the light, hot, long days, we do need to seek some of the yin within the yang. The following are 5 great ways to fully embrace summer while maintaining your balance point!
1. PRACTICE A 'YIN' ACTIVITY IN A 'YANG' SETTING
Go practice yoga outside on the porch, meditate on the beach or walk though the city while breathing mindfully! Bring the introspective balance to your summer during vacations so that you don't need to recover from travel and a new environment when you come home. By keeping some of your practices inward, you will not deplete your energy by always looking outwards.
2. EAT SOME SPICY FOODS TO 'ATTUNE' TO THE SEASON AND SOME COOLING FOODS TO BALANCE IT
Hot spices like chili peppers, cayenne and ginger can connect us to our inner fire!
Cooling foods like cucumber, salad greens, watermelon, sprouts, lemon and limes are great to add for putting out the fire!
3. CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO EAT AS MANY LOCAL, SEASONAL FRUITS & VEGGIES AS YOU CAN
There is really no better way to attune to summer, than to support local farms and eat the food that has grown close to home. It tastes better, it's better for you and they are the foods that your body is supposed to eat. You could also start a garden and grown some of your own food. This truly attunes you to the climate, lets you get your hands in the dirt and just feels so good. Also from my experience, this is a great way to get children to eat better. My kids truly value and love the food that we grew ourselves! (If you want a cucumber, let me know!!)
4. PRACTICE THE INNER SMILE MEDITATION
In Chinese Medicine, the summer is ruled by the heart and the emotion of joy. So the inner smile meditation is a perfect practice for opening the heart and cultivating joy during this season. Basically, while meditating, allow a subtle smile to play on the lips and a smile to be on the sides of the eyes. Then let your self relax while breathing into your heart space. If you are a visual person, you can picture people and scenes that bring you joy. If you are more sensory, like I am, just mediate on the feeling of love entering the heart.
Now here is the cool part. There is science to support why this practice is so powerful. When you smile, your face engages the zygomatic bones towards the orbital bones. This physical act actually stimulates the release of both dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine increases happiness, while serotonin reduces stress. So in the case of smiling, you actually can 'fake it till you make it'!
5. GET A LITTLE BIT OF SUNBLOCK FREE TIME (PREFERABLY IN THE MORNING)
Now is the time to re-boost our vitamin D and if the sunblock is always on, your skin may not be absorbing it. So try for 15-30 minutes of soaking in some rays sunblock-free. Vitamin D is so important for your health. It is critical for calcium absorption, boosts the immune system and boosts the mood! The sun is our best source, but try not to get this time during the hot part of the day (for obvious reasons!)
Hope this provides you will some summer inspiration! Stop into the clinic when you can and let us know if you've tried any of the above!
Spring: a lovely reminder of how BEAUTIFUL change can truly be!"
I am not sure why, but we will give our car or bike a tune- up without question, but what about our own body? I am guilty of this as well, always giving to others, taking care of everyone else in my life, but not always enough to me! If there was any time that was a good one to get acupuncture, it's the spring time. Here are my top five reasons why a 'tune-up' is a good idea this spring!
How to Cure 'The Februaries' Without Leaving New England
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
So how's that new year's resolution going?! I hope you are still gung-ho about your new yoga practice, exercise routine and healthy eating plan, but if you are like many in the northeast in February, your resolve might be starting to wane! Even somewhat 'easy' winters like this one, can start to feel very long by the time you get to February.
You might feel vaguely cranky but have no idea why. You are trying to eat healthy still, but kind of annoyed by it. You don't feel sick, but you don't exactly feel healthy either. You started exercising again in January, but now you just want to sleep in and press the snooze button! What happened?!
What happened is that the stresses of winter have started to accumulate and by February, many of us are really starting to feel its effects. There is some really interesting science behind why this happens. Decreased daytime sunlight exposure will over time start to disrupt your circadian rhythm, which can then negatively impact key body regulating hormones such as melatonin and serotonin. Sunshine really is nature's alarm clock, and gives us a boost of energy as well as positive mood & motivation. When we miss out on this, our internal 'clock' can struggle.
So what can we do to shake the February doldrums? Here are a few tips to see you through till spring!
1. Cut Yourself Some Slack.
This is so important! Try not to be so hard on yourself for not feeling AWESOME all the time. I just saw The Lego Movie #2 and they have a new song called, "Everything's NOT awesome!" My husband and I had a great laugh listening and nodding while singing along. It's ok for life to not be awesome all the time. So go easy on yourself, and breathe through some of the discontent.
2. Make Sure to Soak in Some February SUNSHINE!
The sun this time of year is getting stronger, even if it might not feel that way. In fact, February sun is equivalent in strength to the sun in October, so make sure to catch some vitamin D when you can! Oh and keep taking that vitamin D supplement! If you really have the Februaries, you have a supplement that you've suddenly forgotten to take.
3. Get WARM:)
My outdoor hot tub and my wood stove are my absolute BEST FRIENDS in the winter! I don't care if it's 10 degrees outside, I will brave the elements to get in that hot tub and warm my chilly bones. But if you have a nice indoor tub, you don't have to be crazy like I am. Add some Epsom salts to a bath and soak for an added muscle relaxation effect. If you have a fireplace, hang out by it and stretch, read and relax by it with friends and family. These naturally warming elements will nourish your body and your spirit!
4. Eat some carbs.....??!!
OMG did I just suggest eating carbs!? Yes indeed I did and there's some science to back up why. Carbs boost serotonin, calming and nourishing the spirit. This is why everyone craves them so much and its been given the high honor of being everyone's comfort food! The problem is when we eat the crappy processed variety (sorry, you knew there had to be a catch...)! Make some healthy carbohydrate choices that will help beat the winter blues! Some 'healthy carbs' are oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes, quinoa, apples, legumes and whole grain sprouted breads (with almond butter, yum!).
5. Get out of the house and do some self-care!
I know it's cold and dark, but make sure to get out of the house and keep doing the practices in your life that make you feel good. Whether it's yoga, massage, acupuncture or getting to the gym, it can be hard to motivate in February. Again see tip #1 and don't beat yourself up about it, yet on the other hand, a little push out the door and you will usually feel so much better once you are there!
Acupuncture treatments can support the release of endorphins that help with pain as well as stress. It also boosts the immune system which is so important this time of year! Call us if you need us and if you have a friend who you think might benefit, we are offering 20% off new patient appointments during the month of February!
See you soon and be well:)
The Acupuncturists at Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing are self-described 'nerds' about all topics of health and healing. We believe strongly in the power of self-care & a healthy mindset in supporting the healing of the body! We hope you enjoy our blog.