Our Lungs and emotions

 

The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function but also mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons.

 

 

The lung season is autumn. This is a good time to protect the lungs from changes in weather by wearing a scarf to keep your neck warm, staying out of wind and keeping your dryness at bay. It’s an excellent time to nourish the digestive system with warmer foods such as sweet and sour soup, steamed vegetables and making seasonal choices at the market. It’s also a good time for letting go and allowing changes to process without repressing emotions such as sadness and grief.

 

 

The lungs are known as the “delicate organ”, as they are the uppermost, most superficial aspect of the body and therefore the most sensitive to environmental changes such as wind, dryness, heat, cold and damp. They breathe in the pure air to nourish the organs and let out the impure. According to Chinese medicinal principles the lungs push waste and fluids downwards to help the large intestine, so these two organs are known as paired organs. The lungs transport yin fluids (the yin part of us is what is moist, lubricating) and distribute moisture. They are also in charge of the opening and closing of pores and sweat glands, and they provide moisture to body hair and skin.

 

 

The lung channel opens to the nose, governs the voice, its color is white and its flavor pungent. The emotion associated with the lungs is grief. The lungs receive and let go, keeping the movement in and out in a healthy exchange with the outer world. If that exchange is blocked emotionally by grief and sadness, it affects the smooth action of the lungs. When someone is sad, they hold their breath and oxygen is decreased. The emotional blockage of not letting go and the symptom of grief affects the receiving and letting go action of the lungs.

 

 

How can you tell if your lungs might be deficient? Some symptoms include frequent colds, asthma, bronchitis, cough, dry skin, fatigue, pain and distention in the chest. Itchy skin, and increased nasal discharge can also be indicators.

 

Here are some ways to strengthen your lungs:

 

 

Breathe: Taking deep-cleansing breaths is an excellent way to keep your lungs in shape. Abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is ideal for keeping the circulation, oxygenation and lymph drainage of your lungs strong. Place your hand on your abdomen and feel your hand rise as you breathe deeply more from your core than your chest. Breathe in and hold for a few seconds, let it out slowly and repeat several times. Singing is also good for the lungs, so belt out your favorite songs.

 

 

Exercise: Exercise like tai qi, qi gong and walking keep your lungs in shape naturally, as inhaling and exhaling steadily brings in fresh oxygen and circulates energy.

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Healthy Eating for Autumn

 

The Autumn season brings cooler weather and shorter days. As with any season, the world adjusts accordingly. Plants begin to go dormant, animals start scrounging for food to help get them through the upcoming winter months and humans start winterizing everything. Heavier clothing becomes more commonplace.

 

As Autumn descends on the land, it reminds us we need to start cutting back on the numerous cooling foods that are consumed during the summer months. Things like raw foods, salads, juices and fruits need to be decreased because they can create too much cold in the body. This is just one principle followed by Traditional Chinese Medicine.

 

There are many facets to TCM and nutrition is one of the most important. The ancient Chinese observed what took place in nature and followed those cues accordingly. So when the season changed to Autumn and the amount of daylight decreased and the temperatures cooled, the Chinese began to eat what was available. This is what it means to “eat for the season.” By eating according to the season, we can avoid many illnesses and diseases. If we continue to eat raw, cold foods during the cooler fall and winter months, then we set ourselves up for digestive problems, colds, sinus infections and even painful joints.

 

When a person eats seasonally, they will inevitably notice certain foods are no longer abundant or available. In the Autumn, we should fill our cupboards with dried foods, heavy grains, seeds and roots that can help move the body’s energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) inward.

 

Autumn is also a time to slow down. This means we should cook food for longer periods of time on lower heat. How we cook food will affect how the body tolerates it and how the energy is utilized. Some examples of how to cook for the season of Autumn include making soups and stews, using a slow cooker, roasting and baking foods. These methods create a deeper warmth and supply greater energy from the food.

 

Foods that are nourishing to the lung are very important during the autumn. Since many people get sick during these months, lung tonifying foods can be very beneficial. This includes foods like ginger, onion, garlic, pears, walnuts, miso, navy beans, almonds asparagus, broccoli, apricots, bananas, apples, plums and grapes.

 

The dryer weather can also cause chapped lips, a dry nose, an itchy throat, rough skin and even dry stools. To counter these issues, it is recommended to eat foods that promote the production of bodily fluids, such as nuts, seeds, pears, pumpkin, honey and a traditional Chinese porridge known as congee.

 

Animal products tend to be warming and grounding by nature. And for those who eat meat, increasing the intake can be beneficial during the cooler autumn months. As mentioned before, roasting, baking or stewing the meats is the most beneficial.

 

When we follow the cues given to us by nature, we can maintain a very healthy existence. To learn more about eating according to the seasons in Traditional Chinese Medicine, contact your local acupuncturist or TCM practitioner.

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Staying Focused

Acupuncture and Staying Focused

 

 

A recent study published by the Journal of Neural Regeneration Research found acupuncture treatments can lead to improved cognitive function. Functional brain MRIs showed an increase in the communication areas of the brain associated with higher level cognitive function and memory. When cognitive function is improved, so too is one’s ability to stay focused and on task. This study also concluded acupuncture treatments can increase neural plasticity, which decreases naturally as we age. All of this demonstrates acupuncture can indeed improve overall brain function, allowing people to live more fulfilling lives.

 

Staying focused can be challenging in the world we live in. We are constantly bombarded with sights, sounds, smells, interruptions and more. It can be frustrating. A recent study by Microsoft found the average human has an attention span of only eight seconds! By comparison, a goldfish has a nine second attention span. We, as a species, can’t even remain focused as long as a goldfish. This speaks volumes about the state of the world.

 

Part of the problem is that our bodies were designed to move and we have become too sedentary. Our nervous system doesn’t know how to respond to this. And it also affects our muscles, tendons and circulatory systems. The more time we spend on our phones, tablets, etc., the more stagnant everything becomes. Our muscles shorten, tighten and atrophy, our circulation becomes sluggish and our brains foggy. For everything to function properly, you have to get up and move. But there are other ways to increase focus and concentration.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be very helpful when it comes to improving focus and concentration. There are specific acupuncture points, that can be utilized.

 

One of the most commonly used acupuncture points for improving focus is called Du 20 or Governing Vessel 20. This point is located on the top of the head, midway between the apexes of both ears. Du 20 has been noted to improve mental clarity and awareness, while also enhancing memory.

 

Yin Tang is another favorite point of licensed acupuncturists. Yin Tang is located between the inner ends of both eyebrows. Yin Tang improves concentration and memory, while also clearing the mind and lifting the spirits, If you or somebody you know suffers from attention deficit issues, acupuncture might be exactly what they need to get back on track. Ask me to find out how acupuncture can help!

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How Stress Physically Affects Your Body

 

 

 

Stress. It’s not a word that makes most of us feel elated or excited. However, stress, by design, is the body’s way of signaling for help or a break in the routine. If we don’t listen to these signals, we can develop imbalances in our bodies, which can then lead to illnesses.

 

The dictionary defines stress in multiple ways, but there is only one that matters when we discuss how stress affects our physical bodies. The definition is this, “stress is a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension”. The definition itself indicates stress can affect our bodies.

 

One of the most visible way stress affects our bodies is our appearance. People who are under chronic pressure and stress tend to look older and fatigued. This happens because cortisol, the stress hormone in our bodies, builds up, which then increases the amount of free radicals in skin cells. Free radicals damage the skin cells causing them to become dull and dehydrated. Women typically show this more than men.

 

Another big player in the stress game is digestion. Many people today suffer from heartburn and upset stomach on a regular basis. These symptoms can be caused by excess stress. Stress causes the body to alter gastrointestinal motility by moving blood normally used in the digestive process, away from your belly and midsection, as part of the “fight or flight” response that usually occurs when you are stressed. Thus, the lack of blood and fluids in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to increases in stomach acid, causing stomach upset and heartburn.

 

Minor stress will stimulate the immune system which helps us heal from illness and disease.  However, chronic stress can actually compromise the immune system, once again due to the cortisol hormone. Chronic stress sufferers tend to get sick more often and the illnesses may last longer. This is also a factor in people who develop terminal illnesses like cancer.

 

 

Excess stress can cause your heart to work too hard and usually for too long a period. These factors can then lead to sustained increased blood pressures or hypertension. Hypertension puts more stress on your blood vessels, which can increase your possibility of a stroke or heart attack.

 

Chronic stress can also be detrimental to your muscles and can then lead to chronic aches and pains. Muscles are supposed to tense up when under stress. But when you are constantly stressed, the muscles never get the chance to completely relax. Tight muscles result in headaches, back, neck and shoulder pain. Over time, those tight muscles and chronic pain can cause many to seek pain relief through prescription pain medications.

 

That’s the bad news. The good news is you can address and treat stress naturally. Getting proper nutrition and removing stressors will help greatly.  Acupuncture is also a wonderful tool for fighting stress. As few as two needles can reset your body and decrease your daily stress levels. Another method is to couple acupuncture with practices like qigong, tai chi, and/or meditation. Talk with an acupuncturist to find out how to resolve your stress the natural way.

 

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The Common Cold

 TCM and Cold Prevention

 

 

 

 

 

A study published by the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine concludes acupuncture treatments can indeed help treat the common cold. The study followed 187 participants based on the onset of when the cold occurred. The participants were divided into two groups. The first group reported an onset time of cold symptoms within 36 hours and the second group reported an onset of symptoms greater than 36 hours.  Both groups showed significant decreases in symptoms, as well as cold duration. This study demonstrates how receiving acupuncture treatments can shorten the length of time a person deals with the common cold and its symptoms.

 

Everybody has suffered from the common cold at some point along this journey called life. The common cold is an acute viral infection that affects the throat and nasal passages. Symptoms of a cold may include headaches, fatigue, a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, a runny nose and coughing. With the normal progression of a cold, the throat symptoms, such as coughing, tend to be worse around the fifth day, while the nasal symptoms are nearing the end of their duration. Overall, the symptoms of the common cold tend to last about seven to 10 days. The typical treatment for a cold is to make sure you are getting plenty of sleep, taking in enough fluids and using steam to break up the mucus in the nasal passages. Because the common cold is caused by a viral infection, the virus must be allowed to run its course, while the symptoms are merely managed.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes a different approach though. It utilizes modalities like acupuncture, cupping and herbal formulas that can dramatically decrease the severity of symptoms and time that somebody suffers from a cold.

 

The practice of acupuncture is supposed to be used as preventive medicine. Not to say acupuncture can’t be used to treat already existing ailments, because it can, and it works very well in this capacity, but isn’t it better to avoid getting sick than to wait until the ailment is already affecting you? This is where acupuncture can help. Regular acupuncture treatments can increase your immunity, which will help fight off any disease, including the common cold. Acupuncture also helps decrease stress which can be a key factor in any disease. Studies indicate when the body is relaxed and not stressed, the immune system functions more efficiently.

 

Cupping, another technique utilized in TCM, helps boost the immune system. Cupping creates negative pressure that suctions the skin into the cup. This action causes the cells in the body to develop a greater number of receptors on the surface that can better respond to an enzyme known as heme oxygenase 1. This enzyme acts as an antioxidant that protects your body against harmful elements like the common cold virus.

 

 

With all this evidence, it makes perfect sense to start using Traditional Chinese Medicine as a method of preventing the common cold.

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