Get Ready For Cold and Flu Season with Chinese Herbs

I have some great herbal formulas to keep you and your children healthy during the upcoming cold and flu season. For example:

1) Yin Chiao Chieh Tu Pien: This formula treats a cold that starts with a sore throat. Also for the kind of cold that feels like allergies with itching and sneezing, and a scratchy throat.

2) Sang Zhu Yin Wan: This formula is for a cold that starts with a dry hacking cough and a dry blocked nose. A “dry” cold.

3) Gan Mao Ling: This formula contains herbs with powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s especially good for the kind of cold that starts with feeling chilled or very tired and run-down.

Stock these, and other traditional Chinese herbal formulas in your medicine cabinet and you will be well-armed with natural and time tested remedies to keep you and your children healthy this season. Better, schedule a wellness appointment with me when you are not sick. Based on your constitution and health history, I will determine which preventative herbs and other measures will be the most effective for you.

Remember: Regular acupuncture and moxabustion treatments boost immunity and prevent illness.

More on moxabustion in my next blog!

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for the Common Cold

In Chinese medicine, the common cold is considered to be an “invasion of wind”.  “Wind” means catching a chill or draft.  But, wind also means any pathogen that invades the body from the outside.

Typically, when you first get a head cold, your symptoms will fit predominately into one of these two patterns:

Wind Cold

  • Headache, stiff neck, “all over” muscle aches
  • Stuffy nose, runny nose with thin clear watery mucus
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Chills (predominating) and fever
  • Absence of sweating

Wind Heat

  • Sore, dry, or scratchy throat
  • Thirsty
  • Stuffy nose or nasal discharge which is thick and yellow or green
  • Cough with thick or sticky yellow mucus
  • Feeling warm, maybe fever.  Mild chills or no chills
  • Sweating

There are things you can do when you first experience signs of a cold to help prevent it from going deeper into your chest.

If you are experiencing predominantly Wind Cold symptoms, you need to warm yourself from the inside, induce a sweat, and sleep as much as possible.  The best home remedy is to finely slice a big piece of ginger root (perhaps 6” long by 2” wide).  Bring it to a boil in 6 cups of water, then reduce it to a simmer for an additional 15 minutes.  Then, turn off the heat, and add 4 teabags of green tea.  Remove the green tea bags in 2-3 minutes.  Drink a cup or two of this, then take a steamy hot shower.  Get out of the shower, go right to bed under warm covers and sleep as much as you can.  Repeat this process until you experience a nice sweat that breaks your fever and alleviates most of your symptoms.  If you have a “wind-cold” type cold, the caffeine in the green tea typically will not act as a stimulant, even if you are otherwise sensitive to caffeine.  If you have a genuine Wind Cold condition, you will feel much better after you sweat it out. 

If you are experiencing predominantly Wind Heat symptoms, there is a Chinese herbal remedy called Yin Chiao that works really well for this.  Whole Foods sells a version of it.  The brand name is Planetary Formulas.

Whenever you have signs of a cold, you should forgo eating all dairy products and refined sugars until you are well.  Dairy products aggravate phlegm conditions and refined sugars suppress your immune system—which is the last thing you want to do when you are sick.

When Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat aren’t resolved properly, they can transform into each other (typically Wind-Cold transforms into Wind-Heat).  Or, they can lodge deeper in the chest and linger there as Lung-Heat or Lung-Phlegm-Heat.

There are two other very common patterns.  The first pattern is called Qi Deficiency with External Wind.  The sufferer is typically an adult with a weak respiratory or immune system who keeps getting sick, or they never really get over their last cold, before they get another cold.  Sometimes they can’t tell if it’s allergies or a cold.  They just always feel lousy.  Typically, they have mild chills, maybe a mild fever, headache, nasal congestion, a cough with clear mucus, a recurrent mild sore throat, swollen glands, fatigue, lethargy and weakness.

Another very common pattern is called Wind Cold with Interior Heat.  This pattern is common in children and in young robust adults.  They get severe cold symptoms: high fever, severe chills, a loud cough with sticky yellow mucus, no sweat, severe sore throat, stuffed nose, headache and body aches, very thirsty and irritable. 

There are excellent, targeted Chinese herbal formulas for all of these patterns.  Some of my patients with children purchase these formulas from me to have on hand when their kids get sick.  Pleasant tasting versions of classic Chinese cold and flu formulas are now available in “kid versions”.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are effective both for expelling early stage colds and for getting rid of recalcitrant phlegm due to colds that have lodged deeper in the chest and overstayed their welcome.  Acupuncture and moxabustion are also very effective in preventing colds, and for strengthening the body’s vital energy after a bout of pneumonia or flu in order to prevent recurrences.

Blood Stagnation: When Yin and Yang separate, you die!

In Chinese Medicine, we say that Qi is inside blood, and blood gives Qi a home.  What does this mean and how can it help me diagnose and treat your health issues?

Blood is relatively Yin (dense, substantive and fluid) compared to Qi, which is more Yang.  Qi is the energy or life force inside the blood that warms and circulates it, and gives it its red color.  When Blood doesn’t have enough Qi in it, it becomes pale or purple (it loses its fresh red color).  Circulation (hence warmth) slows down.  If Qi completely separates from blood, blood congeals, the heart stops pumping it, and the person (or other animal) dies. 

Another way of saying this:  Death is the total separation of Yin and Yang.  Yin and Yang are all encompassing concepts in Eastern philosophy.  All of life and manifestation is the result of the harmonious interplay of Yin and Yang.  Inside our bodies, all disease processes involve some separation of Yin and Yang, Qi and blood.

Here’s an example:

When you sprain or break your ankle, the Qi and blood stagnate locally.  The ankle swells with water, which is really the Yin (fluid, blood aspect)of the blood leaking out of the blood vessels.  The Qi is stuck (like fallen logs across a stream) preventing the blood from moving along its proper pathway. 

In Western medical terms, this process is called extravasation.  Extravasation is the leakage of a fluid outside of its proper container.  Inflammation is a type of extravasation where, due to injury, the white blood cells move out of the capillaries and into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling (or diapedesis).

Picture a river that is dammed up.  If the sluice doesn’t open properly, there may be local flooding—a backup and overflow of water upstream of the sluice.  Yet, the water level might be dangerously low and stagnant downstream.

Blood stagnation is much the same.  You may have dark, purple, sticky and clotted blood due to localized dryness, plus edema and fluid retention elsewhere.  Both dryness and dampness in the very same person.

In Chinese medicine, dampness is any fluid in the body that builds up and lodges somewhere it is not normally present.  Normal physiological fluids, such as blood, sweat, tears, saliva, gastric juices, and urine are the “Yin” of the body.  The Qi (Yang life force) of the body circulates all the Yin fluids so that they function like rivers and streams, irrigating and nourishing our body.  If the Qi gets blocked or damaged, these healthy Yin fluids wind up pooling, stagnating or leaking out.  The pooling and stagnating is called “dampness”.  The leaking out is called “dryness”. 

Some people are more damp.  Others are more dry.  Many people are both damp and dry in different places in their body.  The root of dampness and dryness is poor circulation, and a breakdown in the proper harmonious relationship between blood and Qi (Yin and Yang).

A common example of this is a woman with PMS and menstrual difficulties.  Normal menstrual blood should be fresh looking, red and without clots.  It should flow out smoothly and painlessly in moderate quantities.  If the blood is dark, purple, brown, watery-pale, clotted, gushing, or if the flow seems to stop and start—then the Qi and blood are stagnant or deficient. 

Deficient Qi can’t adequately warm, nourish and circulate the blood.  Stagnant Qi blocks the flow of blood.  Either way, you wind up with the same result:  the blood doesn’t flow smoothly, doesn’t get nourished properly, and becomes “dry” and stagnant instead of fresh and flowing.  In a menstruating woman, this can result in symptoms such as swelling, bloat, bowel changes, weight gain, and edema (signs of dampness).  It’s the “Yin” aspect of the blood leaking out of the blood vessels and lodging in places where it shouldn’t be.  Hence, dampness and dryness in the same person. 

Acupuncturists gain invaluable information about a woman’s overall health–the condition of her Qi and blood– simply by obtaining detailed information about her menstrual history.  Harmonizing the Qi with the blood can alleviate many female problems, such as infertility and menopausal symptoms.

One final example:

Most cases of hypertension are due to blood stasis.  The sluggish thick quality of the blood is difficult for the heart to pump through the vessels.  It’s like pushing a milk shake through a straw.  This puts too much pressure on the vessels, which causes the pressure inside the vessels to rise.  

Untreated hypertension may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, restlessness and blurred vision.  In Chinese medicine terms, this is due to blood stagnating in the vessels, impeding the movement of Qi through its proper pathways.  Qi that is not properly rooted within the blood will escape the vessels and “rise”, causing symptoms of hyperactivity in the head and upper body.

Untreated hypertension also may cause edema, due to the fluid aspect of the blood being pushed out of the vessels due to stagnant Qi and blood.  Diuretics mechanically remove this fluid (dampness) from the body, but they may cause side effects, even death. 

Acupuncture, along with Chinese herbal medicine can nourish the blood (improve uptake of nutrients), and improve the quality of the blood (reduce its viscosity) so that the stagnant water (dampness, edema) can transform back into normal physiological fluid, or “Yin”.

Get An Oil Change – Part III: What If You’re a Vegan?

Studies show that typical vegans eat almost twice as much pro-inflammatory omega 6 than typical meat eaters relative to the amount of omega 3 they consume.  Why is this?  First, there is a bit more omega 3 in even commercial meats, eggs and dairy products than in grains and beans.  But, the main culprit is vegetable oils.  Is your diet rich in fried, sautéed or wok cooked meals using vegetable oil?  Do you drown your salads in oily dressing?  Do you snack on tortilla chips and roasted peanuts?  Do you eat lots of commercial vegan meat and dairy substitutes, such as tofu hotdogs and soy burgers?  How about soy ice cream and greasy dishes like falafel and tempura?  If this describes your diet, then you have basically substituted a (saturated) fatty meat diet for a (polyunsaturated) greasy vegetarian diet.  This is not a good move.

All of these products will throw your omega6/omega 3 ratio way out of whack, and create additional health problems as well.  Eliminating or greatly reducing the addition of refined vegetable oils (and most vegetable oils are refined, even the ones that claim to be unrefined or cold pressed) in your diet is one of the most important steps you can take as a vegetarian toward improving your fatty acid profile and your health.

There are very few vegan foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids.  The best sources are whole flax and chia seeds.  These seeds are rich in ALA, a precursor to EPA/DHA.  Flax seeds have a nutty taste and are delicious on top of salads or cereal.  Dark green leafy greens and beans also contain small amounts of ALA.  By eating a vegan diet that is low in fat, high in beans and leafy greens, plus adding one or two tablespoons of freshly ground flax seeds to your daily dietary regimen, you will tip your balance of omega 6/omega 3 toward the healthy range.

Some “vegans” also supplement their diet with Omega 3 rich eggs, a teaspoon or two of organic ghee or butter and small fatty fish.  I highly recommend this strategy to those who are eating vegan for health, as opposed to religious or moral reasons.  It will improve your fatty acid profile, and reduce your cravings for vegan “junk food”.

Low-fat vegan diets similar to the one proposed by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn  improve the profile of omega 6/omega 3 by reducing total fat intake and eliminating vegetarian junk foods, which are rich in refined vegetable oils.  The majority of your calories on these diets come from carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables, beans, tubers (like sweet potatoes), and minimally processed whole grains.  The low fat vegan diet has reversed heart disease and radically improved the health of many patients, such as former president Bill Clinton.  However, most vegans have a hard time giving up their craving for fat and richness, and have difficulty sticking to these very low fat vegan diets without cheating.   A Kapha body type (see my blog series on Ayurvedic nutrition) would have an easier time on this diet.  A Vata constitution would have the most difficulty.  Experiment to see what works for you, or come see me for a consultation.  I’ll make some personalized recommendations.

If you are a vegan who needs or craves more fat in your diet, my recommendations are:

  1. Grind chia and flax seeds with chick peas to make your own chick pea hummus.  Put chia and flax seeds in smoothies.  Use them as a base for raw dressings and sauces.  Use the fresh raw seeds, not flax oil, which is very unstable, and goes rancid quickly.
  2. Other fresh and raw nuts and seeds are not good sources of omega 3.  So, if you rely on nuts and seeds for most of your caloric intake (as do some raw vegans), your essential fatty acid profile will be skewed in the unhealthy direction.  However, nuts and seeds are nutritious whole foods which have many other beneficial vitamins, minerals, protein, etc.  They are a much healthier source of dietary fats than refined vegetable oils.  If you want to maximize the nutrients you get from nuts, soak them in water overnight.  This helps neutralize enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, both of which inhibit digestion and absorption of the nutrients in the seeds and nuts.  If you don’t like to eat soggy nuts, lay them on a tray and bake them in your oven at its lowest heat setting until the nuts have dried.  Try to limit your intake of nuts and seeds to ¼ to ½ cup per day, depending on your caloric needs.
  3. Use extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and fresh avocados.

More on this in my next article in this series.

Get An Oil Change to Radically Improve Your Life – Part II

So, to follow up on my previous blog on this topic, how do you get your ratio of omega 6/omega 3 fatty acids back in balance in order to stop the pro-inflammatory disease process and heal your body and mind?

If You Are a Meat Eater

Get off factory-farmed commercial meats.  Do not support the commercial meat industry.  It is toxic for you, cruel to the animals and bad for our planet.  How to do this?

  1. If you buy meat at Whole Foods Market, it should have an animal welfare rating of 4 or higher (it’s a green color sticker).  (All the meats at Whole Foods have a posted rating of #1-5.  If you don’t see this on the meat package, ask an employee to help you.
  2. Kosher meat is neither pasture/grass fed, nor organic, unless it specifically says so on the label.
  3. If you have sufficient freezer storage, consider patronizing a local farm that raises pasture-fed animals and stock up.  Here are two useful links:  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/659472 and http://www.beefdirect2you.com/beef-MA.aspx
  4. Aim for two servings of fatty fish per week.  Small fish like sardines, herring, Atlantic mackerel and anchovies are lower in mercury than larger fish.  Wild Alaskan salmon is higher in omega 3 than Atlantic salmon, which is farmed, and is relatively low in mercury.  Tuna is high in omega 3, but also relatively high in mercury.
  5. There are many good reasons to avoid commercial milk, yogurt and cheese, even if you are not vegan.  I will discuss this in a future article.  From the standpoint of increasing your EPA/DHA, high omega 3 dairy products are available.
  6. Egg yolks from pasture fed chickens are an excellent source of omega 3.
  7. Remember that 99% of restaurants serve factory farmed, high omega 6 meat and poultry, farmed fish, and also use excessive amounts of vegetable oil in their cooking.  If you take your health seriously, you need to limit restaurant eating to special occasions, and prepare more of your food at home.  Consider being vegan when you eat out, and prepare your meat meals at home.
  8. Organic, grass fed butter and ghee (clarified butter) are good sources of omega 3, as well as CLA (conjugated fatty acids), which have many health benefits, including lower body fat while preserving muscle tissue, reducing insulin resistance, and preventing inflammation.

Stay tuned for Part III where I’ll describe how to do this if you a vegetarian. You may be surprised to learn that vegetarians (especially vegans) have been shown in various studies to have an even worse ratio of omega 6/omega 3 in their diets than meat eaters and need to take extra care to achieve a better balance of the omegas.

How to Stay Healthy This Autumn

In autumn, the yang/warmth of the sun decreases, giving way to the yin/cooler season of winter.  In the Fall, one must begin to store vital energy in order to make it through the winter in a healthy state.  People who feel poorly during the winter benefit greatly from receiving acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the Fall.  Acupuncture and herbal therapy can help stoke the metabolism, increase immunity, circulate warmth and vitality throughout the body, balance circadian rhythms and improve one’s mood.

Conditions such as frequent winter colds, bronchitis and asthma, seasonal affective disorder, winter holiday depression, binge eating, and arthritic conditions which worsen in cold and damp weather can all be resolved if they are effectively treated in the Fall, by helping the body to store the vital energy it accumulated during the warmer months.

Here are my suggestions for a healthy Fall and Winter season:

  • Increase your intake of root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, burdock root, and winter squash.  A good guideline about what to eat during the autumn is to locate what is available at your local farmer’s market and use that as a template for building a meal that is appropriate to the Fall season. This goes for every other season as well.
  • Eat more soups.  They are warming and nourishing.  Soup helps keep you hydrated during this cool, dry season.
  • Also, drink warm tea and plenty of warm or room temperature water throughout the day.  Avoid cold drinks, large raw salads, and icy desserts. 
  • Adjust your schedule to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier.  Take walks outside to soak in the warming rays of the sun.  Sleep more during the dark, chilly nights.
  • Carry an extra layer (thermal undershirt or sweater) even if it feels warm outside.  Autumn is cold in the shade and warm in the sun.  Autumn temperatures can change drastically during the course of the day.  Try not to get chilled, and change your clothing immediately if you get sweaty.
  • See your acupuncturist.  Even if you are not sick now, receiving preventative acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine now can shore up your protective qi and help you have a healthy and happy winter

Get An Oil Change to Radically Improve Your Health

There are three types of fats: saturated (solid at room temperature), monounsaturated (liquid at room temperature and semi-solid in the fridge) and polyunsaturated (liquid at both room and fridge temperature).  Polyunsaturated fats are comprised of two types of fatty acids:  omega 6 and omega 3.

Our bodies require both omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in a one to one ratio.  Cross culturally, and throughout history humans ate diets containing omega 6/omega 3 fatty acids in a ratio of 1:1 (or, at most 2:1).  Today, that ratio has changed for most people to around 15:1!

Less than one hundred years ago, our diets underwent a dramatic change.  Industrial cooking oils were developed.  These oils: “vegetable oil”, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, etc. are extremely high in omega 6.

Something else occurred during the last one hundred years:  the factory farming of animals.  After World War II farmers were producing more corn than the American population was consuming.  So, they started to feed the surplus corn to livestock. They discovered that cows eating corn fattened up much quicker than cows eating grass.  Seventy-five years ago it took a cow four to five years to reach a slaughter weight of 1,200 pounds. Today it takes 13 months, thanks to corn, antibiotics, growth hormones and protein supplements.   Similar results were attained with other livestock, so now cows, sheep, goats, hogs, poultry, and even fish are raised on corn and soy.

Cows and other grazing animals are ruminants:  they are able to digest the cellulose in grass because of their multi-chambered digestive tracts.  Corn consumption in cattle causes many problems (liver abscesses, bloat, sudden death syndrome, acidosis), because quite simply, cattle were never meant to eat corn.  Pasture fed cattle have a healthy neutral pH of 7 in their stomach.  A corn diet dangerously raises the acid level in the cow’s stomach creating disease states in the animal.  Sick animals are now the norm, so all commercial livestock are routinely given high doses of medications and antibiotics.  Diseased animals harbor pathogens, especially E coli.  Eating commercially raised meats routinely exposes your gut and immune system to a toxic soup of harmful bacteria, pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids and drugs.

Feeding livestock corn fundamentally changes the meat they produce, greatly increasing levels of unhealthy Omega-6 fatty acids and decreasing levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Wild or pasture raised meats have an omega 3/omega 6 fatty acid ratio that is close to 1:2.  The ratio in commercial meats is closer to 1:5.

So, what’s so important about getting the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids right?  When we consume omega 6/omega 3 fatty acids in a ratio close to 1:1, our body uses the omega 3 preferentially to produce lots of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  These substances are anti inflammatory.  Preventing inflammation halts many diseases in their tracks.  For example, here’s the sequence of changes the leads to a heart attack or stroke:  First, there is inflammation in our arteries.  The inflammation leads to a buildup of oxidized cholesterol or plaque.  This plaque can burst and form a clot, cutting off the blood supply to a region of the heart or brain, leading to death. 

What is the major cause of this inflammation?  Omega 6 fatty acids!  Just as our body converts omega 3 to beneficial EPA/DHA via enzymatic action, our body converts omega 6 to AA (arachidonic acid).  AA is harmful, and causes inflammation, when produced in excessive amounts.  Western doctors prescribe taking an aspirin a day to their cardiac patients, because aspirin blocks the body’s ability to produce inflammation from all that extra omega 6 we consume in our diet.  However, aspirin alone cannot undo all the damage caused in our bodies by the overconsumption of omega 6. 

Some diseases known to be caused, at least in part, by systemic inflammation and EPA/DHA deficiency include: heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoporosis, joint pains in general, depression, bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, brain fog and cognitive decline, inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), asthma, macular degeneration, menstrual pain, breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Interestingly, vegetarians (especially vegans) have been shown in various studies to have an even worse ratio of omega 6/omega 3 in their diets than meat eaters.  If you are vegetarian or vegan, you need to take some special precautions to ensure you are not undermining your health by eating a pro-inflammatory diet.

Stay tuned for Part II of this article, which I plan to send out in two weeks.  In Part II, I will discuss exactly what you should eat if you are a meat eater or a vegetarian in order to improve your fatty acid profile and reduce inflammation in your body.

Acupuncture and IVF Part I: Keep the Blood Moving

If you are female, there are thousands of primordial or dormant follicles inside your ovaries, which have been there since you were a fetus.  Some of these are recruited during each menstrual cycle, and start to grow.  These are called antral follicles.  One antral follicle becomes the primary follicle, and matures to a size of about 21 mm, while the others waste away.  The primary follicle gets ejected into the fallopian tubes at ovulation, where it may be fertilized by sperm.

The optimal time to begin acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments is at least 3 months before you begin any Western interventions.  This is because it takes at least 3 months for an egg to come to full maturity.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can have a positive effect on the quality and function of these follicles while they are developing and maturing. 

The outer casing of the primary follicle goes through changes, which form the corpus luteum.  The corpus luteum produces progesterone.  This progesterone helps the fertilized follicle (now an ovum) to stay implanted in the uterine wall, and start to grow.  If there is no fertilization, then the drop in progesterone (and other hormones) that occurs during menstruation makes the corpus luteum break down and get eliminated.

This blood flow in and out of the ovary is very important, and it’s something we work on with Chinese medicine and acupuncture.  The follicles, corpus luteum and ovum must all receive proper blood flow and exchange of nutrients, and there must be complete removal of wastes from the ovary during each cycle.  If your Yin is depleted (and blood is a component of Yin), then the fluids in your body have become dry and stagnant, and this entire process gets gunked up.  Basically, you need an oil and filter change!

Common side effects of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) medications such as Clomid and FSH stimulating medications include headaches, ovarian cysts, nausea, gastrointestinal distress, bleeding, and heat sensations.  In Chinese medicine terms, these artificial hormones cause heat and qi stagnation (and they deplete Yin).  Ironically, the majority of women with fertility problems—especially older women—are already deficient in Yin (and, therefore blood).  Western fertility treatments do not address this underlying Yin deficiency.  Even when the treatment results in a successful pregnancy, the patient is often left drained and depleted—and, prone to future health problems.

With acupuncture, we can move Qi to reduce stagnation and prevent the build-up of heat in the body.  We can nourish the Yin to balance the build-up of Yang caused by the hormone injections.  Combining acupuncture with Western hormone treatments is a proven way to get fewer side effects and smoother, faster results in your fertility journey.

We used to think only women had a “biological time clock” ticking.  Men, it was thought, continued to be reproductive power houses until about age 70, when there would be a 15-20% increased rate of miscarriage in their younger female partners.  It turns out that as men age, their semen quality (if not quantity) changes, such that they lose between 15-50% potency in their sperm as they age between 20 and 40.

By receiving acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine for a few months (as well as dietary and lifestyle consultation), men can improve the quality and motility of their sperm, before trying to get their partner pregnant.  In short, a healthy mom and dad will lead to a smoother fertility journey, and healthier offspring.

How You Eat and Why You Eat May Be More Important Than What You Eat

In Chinese Medicine, Yin connotes stillness, coolness, and conservation of energy.  You are in a Yin state of being if you feel calm, relaxed, gentle, accepting, patient, slow, intellectually objective and detached, and self-indulgent or self-nurturing.  You breathe slowly and deeply when you are in a Yin state.

In Chinese Medicine, Yang connotes activity, heat and the burning of energy to create motion, transformation and change.  You are in a Yang state of being if you feel time-pressured, excited, challenged, competitive, intensely focused, accurate, goal-oriented, self-controlled, disciplined, tense, exerting, hot or sweating.  You breathe fast, or your breathing becomes more shallow and erratic when you are in a Yang state.

Yin and Yang are both necessary for life growth, and transformation.  However, in today’s world, there exists an imbalance between the Yin and Yang aspects of our lives.

In the July 2013 issue of Acupuncture Today (Vol. 14, Issue 07), Los Angeles acupuncturist Douglas Kihn cites a graph published in 2006 by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention which shows that the rate of obesity began to spike in the US in the late 1970’s, and has continued to grow ever since.  This correlates with decades of falling wages and increased worker productivity.  In other words, Americans fortunate enough to have jobs are working harder and faster.  And, most people are feeling less secure economically.

Many other changes have occurred since the 1970’s.  For example:  1) The undisciplined use of computers and other digital devices keeps us in a constant state of overstimulation and information overload.  2)  The use of digital devices, computers, and other artificial sources of night time light disrupt melatonin production and mess up our sleep quality and quantity.  As a result, people are suffering from sleep deficits, chronic fatigue, and other sleep disorders in record numbers.  3)  Fast food and eating on the run replace sit-down meals.  4)  Climate change:  the actual warming of our planet due to the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities is itself a symptom of excessive Yang.

In order to cope in this world, many people use food to feel calm, safe and tranquilized…in other words, to become more Yin.  Unfortunately, the Yin (fat, phlegm, dampness) you accumulate from being a stressed out and unconscious eater creates stagnation and toxicity in your body. This stagnant Yin winds up being just one more heavy load of stress your body and mind must deal with.

The solution is to learn to worry and hurry less, to make sleep and rest a priority, and to become reacquainted with the subtle stirrings of your body and mind via breathing exercises, meditation, and the like.  These things increase healthy Yin.  Receiving an acupuncture treatment can re-set your body and mind so that you feel calmer and better able to distinguish between hunger and satiety.  I have had many patients lose weight relatively effortlessly with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and small dietary and lifestyle changes.

How To Resolve Your Immune System Imbalance: Start With The Gut

The immune system is called “Wei Qi” (pronounced “Way Chee”) in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Wei Qi protects the body from “Evil Qi”.  Evil Qi can be any invader, external (such as “germs”) or internal (chemicals or signals produced inside your body), which place a stress on the proper functioning of your body.  External forms of Evil Qi include: viruses, bacteria, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, pasteurized dairy products, processed foods,pollution, and overexposure to cold, dampness or wind.  Internally generated Evil Qi can result from trauma, overwork, sleep deprivation, depression, stress and anxiety.  The stronger your Wei Qi, the better you are able to cope with Evil Qi.  If you have a Wei Qi imbalance, it is best to reduce your exposure to Evil Qi as much as possible.

Wei Qi is manufactured by the Spleen.  In TCM, the Spleen has to do with your stomach, pancreas and other digestive organs: how well they are able to absorb and utilize nutrients and beneficial bacteria from the foods you eat.  “Spleen Qi” is “Digestive Qi”.  The Lungs assist the Spleen by circulating the Wei Qi produced by the Spleen.  In TCM, the Lung complex includes the skin, mucus membranes and nasal passages.  This is very similar to our Western understanding of the immune system.  In order to have a healthy immune system, there must be a predominance of healthy bacteria in the gut (intestines).  A healthy gut is a tropical rainforest of bacterial diversity.  There are over 5,600 different strains.  This healthy bacteria forms a natural flora, or protective coating in your large and small intestines, which further disseminates via the mucus membranes in your lungs, mucus membranes (eyes, nose, throat) and skin.  Intestinal flora protects your immune system in several ways.  First, just by taking up space, and being more proficient at obtaining nutrients, it provides a physical barrier to colonization by foreign, deleterious microbes.  Second, healthy flora sends signals to the lymph nodes to help the body differentiate between pathogenic and benign substances, preventing autoimmune attacks. Third, intestinal flora implanted in the gut during breast feeding influences the growth and formation of organs crucial to proper immune function, such as the thymus gland

Now for the interesting part: 90% of cells in the human body are microbial (bacteria), and a mere 10% are “human”.  Think about that!  Western science is only beginning to grasp the implications of this fact.  So many aspects of our modern lifestyle put our internal ecology at risk.  For example:

  1. Overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock.
  2. Overuse of antibacterial soaps and industrial cleansers. 
  3. Lack of contact with soil.  A little dirt left in your garden vegetables might be a good thing!
  4. Formula feeding of infants instead of breast feeding.
  5. Refined sugar: The average person consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year–compared to just 7 ½ pounds consumed on average in the year 1700. That’s 20 times as much!  Sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi in your gut.  
  6. 98% of public drinking water facilities use chlorine or chloramine to disinfect the water.  These are powerful antimicrobial agents.  They combine with organic matter to form compounds called trihalomethanes (THMs), also known as disinfectant byproducts.  One of the most common of these THMs is chloroform, a known carcinogen.  These compounds are toxic when consumed, inhaled or applied to the skin.  Furthermore, they kill beneficial bacteria in the gut, contributing to dysbiosis.
  7. Too much processed food and refined starches.  Not enough fresh food, and not enough variety in our diets.
  8. The birth control pill, steroids, other hormone pills, and immunosuppressant drugs promote dysbiosis of the gut.  If you must take these medications, consider getting regular acupuncture treatments to balance their harmful effects.

How to undo the damage?

  1. Filter your water and clean up your diet.  Avoid toxins, and try to eat organic as much as possible.
  2. Eat a wide variety of whole foods. 
  3. Avoid the overuse of antibiotics!  Many conditions, such as urinary tract infections, sinus infections and acne can be cleared up easily with Chinese herbs.  Herbal remedies strengthen your Wei Qi, and destroy the pathogens while leaving your immune system intact.  Antibiotics are also present in factory farmed meats and dairy products.
  4. Eliminate, or cut way back on refined sugar and alcohol.
  5. Probiotics may help, but only if you follow the other guidelines.
  6. Acupuncture heals inflammation, regulates Qi, and helps the body expel toxins.  There are several wonderful classic Chinese Herbal formulas that strengthen the Spleen Qi, clear pathogens, and fortify immunity. 

Here’s a mind-blowing video about “fecal transplants”.  This icky but effective treatment is gaining in popularity for people with severe intestinal dysbiosis and devasted immune systems. 

So now you know:  If you keep your gut and immune system healthy, you won’t have to “take “sh#t” from anyone!