Build Your Own Chinese Medicine Cabinet

One of the many benefits of being a health care provider in Oriental Medicine is the resources and knowledge I have on hand when I, or someone in my family, gets sick. I feel really grateful for access to this medicine, and I’d like to pass some of these tips on to you. Please note this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination–and I encourage you to recommend your own tried and true home remedies and herbal formulas in the comments below…

First, three good supplements for overall health and prevention of disease:

There are so many supplements on the market and not a lot of straightforward information, free of marketing, behind them. I take supplements daily, but not many. Here is my short list that I would recommend to *almost* everyone (all supplements should be stopped 5-7 days before surgery; some people have allergies or other medical conditions that may make certain supplements inappropriate):

1. Take a high quality Omega 3 (with Vitamin D3) supplement. (I like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3, but there are many, many brands on the market). For the most part, I recommend staying away from Fish Oil supplements that contain Omega 6s and 9s–our diets already have too many 6s and 9s. (Click HERE to understand why.) Even if you eat fish, I still recommend taking an Omega 3 supplement to ensure you are getting enough. This one supplement can make a huge difference in how you feel. (Omega 3 health benefits.)

2. Take Probiotics. They help with sleep, immunity, skin, digestion, mental wellbeing, cholesterol levels, allergies…the list goes on.

HOW TO TAKE PROBIOTICS: Pick a brand of probiotics that has as many strains as you can find (I like MegaFood’s MegaFlora). Start the probiotics slowly. Take less than the recommended dose, or take one probiotic pill every few days. On occasion, probiotics can cause a die off of unhealthy gut bacteria and result in gas, bloating, and diarrhea (as well as acne and rashes). It’s not a “bad” reaction–your body is detoxing–but an uncomfortable one that will be diminished if you start slowly. Increase your daily water intake to help with any possible detox side effects. Once you are taking probiotics without a bad reaction, take the normal dose and finish the bottle. After a few weeks, purchase a different brand of probiotics with different strains. Finish that bottle and take another break. In addition to taking probiotics out of a bottle, live probiotic cultures are often found in fermented dairy products such as yogurts and milk drinks. Fermented foods like pickled vegetables, tempeh, miso, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and soy products may also contain some lactic acid bacteria so these foods will also help to balance your gut.

3. If you feel the need to take vitamins, make sure they are Plant-Based Vitamins and not synthetic. Most vitamins on the market are synthetically produced in a lab. These are hard for your body to assimilate. Plant-based (sometimes called food-based or whole food vitamins) are made from food. Your body knows what to do with them! You can find plant-based vitamins in good grocery stores and natural pharmacies, or I can order them for you from my favorite company Standard Process. A word of warning–some of these vitamin companies like to add a variety of herbs into their mix that can interfere with other herbs or medications you are taking, so I don’t recommend these unless you do your research and make sure these herbs are right for you.

By the way, Standard Process has vitamin and supplement support for most health conditions (from infertility and high blood pressure to diabetes, depression, and memory loss). I have found, in some cases, the addition of these food-based supplements to have quite extraordinary results. I can help you to decide if adding these supplements would be right for you– just ask!

Second, common Chinese Formulas to have in your medicine cabinet:

1. Yin Qiao San for colds: Yin Qiao is well known and popular. To take it correctly, take it on first signs of a cold. Increase the first one or two doses by about half (sometimes you can stop the cold in its tracks when you do this). Yin Qiao can be found in good grocery stores or natural pharmacies, or can be ordered online. A common, good brand is “Plum Flower” by Oakland-based Mayway Company. However, my favorite brand is Kan Herbal (which can’t be found in stores); I find it to be most effective. Let me know if you want me to order the Kan Herbal Yin Qiao for you to have on hand.

2. Lonicera Complex by Evergreen Herbs for the flu. The flu is harder to treat than colds without help. Cupping and acupuncture and herbs make a huge difference. My new favorite flu formula is Lonicera Complex from Evergreen Herbs. It has strong anti-viral herbs and anti-bacterial herbs. I helped a number of patients this year recover from flu with this formula. I was also exposed repeatedly to the flu this year, and found myself coming down with flu symptoms. I heavily dosed with this formula the first day of my symptoms and the next day was symptom free. I am happy to order it for you if you want it in your first aid kit. You can also find Gan Mao Ling, another herbal formula for the flu, in most good grocery stores / natural pharmacies.

3. Supplements for Cold sores: There is a lot of help for cold sores beyond the Abreva type topicals that tend to come with awful side effects. Here are my favorite proven supplements and topicals: Calcium Lactate by Standard Process, Watermelon Frost (a topical formula that’s not pretty, but it works), and Lysine (an amino acid that can be found most places that sell vitamins). Note that the HSV1 virus that is responsible for cold sores can be ‘awakened’ by stress and by consuming a diet that has a high ratio of Arginine to Lysine. Eating lots of foods high in Arginine like chocolate, peanuts and almonds, and not enough foods high in Lysine, like red meat, dairy and eggs can promote the recurrence of HSV1 symptoms, especially during times of stress or illness. You can avoid high Arginine foods and supplement with Lysine routinely or specifically during times of high stress or low immunity.

4. Herbs for Headaches: Occasional headaches can sometimes be remedied simply with hydration and rest. Chronic headaches, sinus headaches, stress headaches or hormonal headaches can be more of a challenge. Cupping to the upper back and shoulder area can often help to relieve stress headaches. With acupuncture we often use points on the feet to treat the head (to bring the energy down). Sinus headaches are often related to digestion, and a need to recondition the gut (with probiotics and dietary changes and herbs). Other stubborn headaches require commitment to treatment with acupuncture and herbs. I have had a lot of success with patients using two Chinese Herbal formulas— Corydalin (AC) for acute headaches and Corydalin (CR) for chronic headaches. These are both purchased through Evergreen Herbs and typically cannot be purchased online without a license. Hormonal headaches require acupuncture and herbs to regulate the hormones.

5. Bao He Wan or “Curing Pills” for stomach aches due to overeating. These can be found in most natural pharmacies, or I can order them for you from my favorite herb suppliers.

6. There are also good formulas to have on hand for other common complaints, such as occasional hemorrhoids and heartburn. I am happy to talk with you about herbal formulas or teas to have on hand for these and other common ailments.

 

 

 

My Top 7 Tips for Better Health (& Happiness)

Some people make resolutions to improve their health on New Year’s Day. We all know that by January 3, most of those pledges go out the window. In my opinion, the dark, colder days of winter are not very inspiring. I encourage you to take advantage of the energy of summer to put some new habits into place; the longer days, warmer weather, and increased social interaction just make it easier.

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Here are my top seven suggestions for the most important behaviors that can lead to a healthier, happier you:

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1. Increase your pure water intake. A lot of people complain they don’t like water, or they don’t feel thirsty. Your desire for water will increase once you increase your water intake. That means it’s hard at first, but will get easier. And please don’t drink ice water! Room temperature or warm water is easier on your digestion. Ice water and cold water will eventually weaken your digestion.  Every system in your body needs a lot of water. If you’re not drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, please increase your water intake. And, yes, you’ll be using the bathroom more often. But the benefits are worth it (benefits of drinking water).

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2.  Manage your stress. Life is not perfect and will never be perfect. So the best thing to do is be prepared to deal with stressful situations. Because they happen. There are many practices that can help to ease our stress response. Chocolate, Facebook, and wine are some go-tos, but in the long run they make things worse. Better choices? First, giving yourself permission to take care of yourself. I think this is one of the biggest obstacles. It’s almost as though because the world is so full of suffering, and we all can be so hard on ourselves, we think something is wrong if we’re not suffering all the time, too. It’s the oxygen mask on the airplane thing – you’re no good to anyone else unless you’ve taken care of yourself first.

So, pick something that you feel good about doing. Don’t be afraid to try something new. In the Bay Area we have a lot of great options— classes for yoga, meditation, tai chi, qi gong; places to go swimming; good weather to walk, run, and bike in.  Many beaches and parks–nature is a great healer. And of course we have the internet with a lot of how-to videos that can help with any of these things. But please don’t get lost in your computer. If you’re curious about meditation, but it sounds scary, here is a good guide to demystify it and make it more approachable by explaining the different types: meditation types.

 

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3. Eat more vegetables. Preferably vegetables that are in season (it’s the Chinese Medicine way, and makes sense no matter how you look at it), and organic (who needs pesticides? not me.). Like cold water, raw vegetables are harder to digest. Some raw vegetables are fine, especially in the summertime, but the majority of your vegetables should be at least slightly cooked so your body doesn’t have to work so hard. The vegetables with the most benefit are greens. Rule of thumb: half your dinner plate is vegetable matter, and you eat a variety of colors – green, red, orange, yellow. The contents of your dinner plate can be beautiful. I don’t recommend juicing – it removes all of the fiber and leaves you with a whole lot of sugar.

4. Move your body more. In Chinese Medicine there is a tenet that stagnation equals pain. So, your body needs to move to keep its tissues, tendons, muscles, and bones healthy. At the very least, rotate your joints. Shoulder rolls, hip circles—slowly go through the range of motion for each of your joints. And walk. How about dancing? A sedentary lifestyle causes a host of problems. That said, I don’t recommend extreme sports. And I’m not talking about being Iron Man. I’m talking about taking the stairs, walking the dog, and not sitting at the computer for a full hour without getting up. If you’re allergic to exercise, sign up for a class at your level that might make it fun. Or find a friend who wants to exercise with you. And watch this video. It’s the most important health video I have ever found:

most important health video ever

 

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5. Make sleep a priority. If you’re sleeping less than six or seven hours per night, get more sleep. If possible, go to bed earlier or wake up later. The recommendation in Chinese Medicine is to be asleep by 11 pm so your body can restore itself. If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, there are things you can do. First, practice good sleep hygiene. (Here are a few recommendations for good sleep hygiene: sleep hygiene.) Second, herbs and acupuncture will probably help. Third, good dietary habits, exercise, and stress management will help too!

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6. Remember to laugh. Funny movies, funny friends, puppies, children….remember the things that make you smile and laugh and seek them out. Forcing yourself to smile actually helps sometimes too. When my husband and I were dealing with a particularly stressful situation a few years ago, I heard that forcing yourself to smile can actually work. So I made him force smile with me. It’s such a ridiculous thing to do with someone, that despite the hard situation we were in, it actually worked to get us to laugh and to ease the tension. (The force yourself to smile study is here) And by all means, remember to balance your intake of bad news with good news, music, cat videos, stand up comedy, and simple silence.

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7. Tell Frances this list is way too long and then choose just one thing from it. Choose the thing that sounds the easiest, or the most fun, or maybe is the change you most need to make, and commit to it. Remember, “Better is the enemy of good.” You do not need to be perfect! Trying to be perfect can ruin everything. Doing something good is good enough!

Much love, and thanks for reading.

Raising a glass of water to your health,

Frances

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6 Tips for Staying Healthy During “Sugar Season”: Preventing Colds and Flus

It’s early October and a great time to prepare yourself for cold and flu season, or what some have renamed the “sugar season” which officially begins the day after Halloween. The average person tends to get three colds per year–usually in the wintertime. Do you know that Western scientists don’t actually know for sure why we get more colds and flus in the winter? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), they have known for thousands of years that being exposed to the wind and the cold, along with a weakened “wei qi” (immune system) can bring on a cold or flu. But it’s just within the last few years that western scientists are beginning to understand this is true!

Scientists have recently discovered that being exposed to and breathing in cold air reduces our immunity. They have also agreed that what we eat directly impacts our immune system. A lowered immunity combined with more time spent swapping germs indoors seems to be one clue to why we get more colds and flus in the fall and winter.

So, in addition to washing our hands and staying warm, here are some good tips for preventing colds and flus by way of boosting your immune system:

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  1. Stop the sugar

High sugar intake decreases immune system cells that attack bacteria for at least a few hours after eating a sugary food or drink. Americans in general consume too much sugar, especially since “low fat diets” came into fashion. All of us tend to eat more sugar than we realize. Between Halloween and New Year’s there are many occasions to indulge–coincidentally during the “flu season.” Is it that more viruses are circulating or that we are weakening our immune systems with sugar? If you’re wondering how much sugar is too much sugar, take a look at this good articleAnd remember there is also a lot of sugar in that after work glass of wine!

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2. Eat Seasonally

Pay attention to the foods coming in to season at the Farmer’s Market–and eat plenty of them! They happen to be high in the vitamins and minerals necessary to boost the immune system and prevent colds and flus. They are also whole foods, which will encourage cooking at home, and avoiding processed foods that are often loaded with bad stuff for your body.

Two good lists of seasonal foods, and other seasonal advice:

Fall foods from a Chinese Medicine perspective

Winter foods from a Chinese Medicine perspective

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3. Get Enough Sleep

Being well rested gives your immune system a boost. It may or not be possible or realistic for you to “get enough sleep.” You may be living with babies, pets, your partner’s snoring, etc., and other outside circumstances that interrupt your sleep — I know some of those things can’t be changed. But if they can actually be changed (sleeping in a different room, for example), please take the leap and do it! The world is a different place when you get more sleep.

You may also be someone who wakes up at 3 a.m. worrying, or has trouble falling asleep, or have aches and pains at night– with some help and effort (herbs, acupuncture, meditation, etc.) these problems may have some solutions.

In any case, according to ancient Chinese wisdom, living with the seasons is one of the keys to staying healthy. The fall and winter are times to be a little less social, to slow your activities down, get more sleep, and to cozy up.

Be honest with yourself about how you can get more sleep– turning the TV or your phone off earlier, installing light blocking curtains in your bedroom, or allowing yourself to take naps (or learn how to nap), and saying no to social obligations when you really are too tired. Many of us also avoid realizing how tired we actually are by using caffeine to “get us through the day.” I suggest gradually cutting down on caffeine to allow yourself to be tired, and then to sleep when you feel tired. This might mean taking a little break from your “normal” life. Eventually, you won’t be so tired!

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4. Exercise, and move around during the day.

Exercise boosts the immune the system by decreasing the body’s stress chemicals (which compromise the immune system) and increaseing feel good chemicals that encourage a good night’s sleep. Generally, thirty to sixty minutes per day of moderate exercise (walking, for example) is all it takes, in addition to moving around a bit throughout the day–that is, not spending extended periods of time sitting.  Even if you exercise 30 to 60 minutes each day, it may not be beneficial unless you are making a point to stand up and do some light activity for a few minutes every hour. For those with desk jobs, please check out this article on “Sitting Disease”.

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5. Address Your Stress

Although our lives occasionally give us a break from our troubles, generally we all have stress. In a world where change is the only constant, stressful situations will always arise (or as the Buddhists say “life is suffering”). There is nothing we can do about that. We can, however, learn to respond better to stress. Responding “better” to stress takes commitment to change our habitual responses and get a new perspective.

I strongly encourage learning to meditate, if even for ten minutes a day. One study showed that people who meditated over an 8 week period had improved immune response up to four months later.

There are many good books, websites, and local groups that can help to support a meditation practice. The benefits are countless. I recently discovered some wonderful online resources put out by the sweet and funny Tibetan Buddhist monk Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Here is a link if you are interested in trying out a meditation that is shorter than fifteen minutes: short meditation

If you don’t like that style, look around and ask around to find a style that works for you. If meditation is a turn off, you can try yoga, tai chi, and qi gong. If practiced regularly, they are also great stress relievers.  Spending time with loving friends and family also can help relieve stress, or watching funny movies, laughing more, dancing, listening to or playing music, getting a massage, acupuncture, taking a bath, exercising….there are many ways to de-stress, you just have to discover (or remember) what your way is, and commit to it before things get out of control. Lowering your stress levels boosts your immune system, not only preventing colds and flus, but other more serious diseases, too.

Here’s a link to some really corny jokes that you can tell to all your friends to boost everyone’s immune system. Ha ha!

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6. Use Herbs and Acupuncture

Of course herbs and acupuncture help to boost the immune system and lower stress as well. If you are someone who gets frequent colds during the year, you may be a good candidate for one of several immune boosting herbal formulas. Please ask me!  Getting regular acupuncture treatments helps to turn off the stress response as well as boosts the immune cells that kill infection. 

IF You Do Get a Cold….

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And finally, please remember that if you do catch a cold or a flu, stop taking any herbs you may be on for other conditions. Often those herbal formulas include tonic herbs which will make a cold worse!!! Instead, rely on the age old advice of resting, hydration, and actually yes, chicken soup. Herbs specific to your symptoms (designed for colds) can help a lot, and get an acupuncture treatment to help reduce the duration of the ailment.

There are Chinese Herbal formulas that you can buy at certain grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl or Whole Foods, but they should be specific to your kind of cold. In TCM diagnosis, there are different kinds of colds (mainly two, “Wind Heat” and “Wind Cold”) so you want the formula that’s right for your cold symptoms.

Here is a link to a graphic that can help you decide what kind of cold you have: wind heat vs wind cold

Please Share! If you have tried and true remedies, homemade teas, etc., that work for either prevention or resolving cold symptoms, please share them here so others may benefit from your wisdom and experience.

I am hoping you stay healthy during the coming months, and enjoy the cooler weather!

Much Love,

Frances Wocicki, LAc, MSOM, MA

www.crowheartacupuncture.com

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Healing During Stressful Times: 13 Tips

I love being an acupuncturist and herbalist. I have a genuine and deep affection for the people who come to see me. Frankly, I love them all. A common theme, no matter who I am treating, is dealing with, and recovering from, stressful situations. There is a lot of suffering we human beings bear. I am writing this post for the many people who have shared their stories of heartbreak, fear, worry, and stress with me. I hope it helps.

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“Take Care of Yourself”

I have a patient who was born outside of the United States. She recently told me that the phrase “Take care of yourself,” which we often say to each other when someone is going through a hard time, doesn’t exist in her culture of origin. She has asked around and her friends from outside the US agree — they don’t have a similar phrase either. The awakening I had upon hearing that this phrase is uniquely American revealed a lot of hard truths about our culture and what we expect of ourselves and each other. “Take care of yourself” has an unspoken message — take care of yourself, because no one else will be there for you.

Here in the states we value our independent nature; we pride ourselves on leaving home, “standing on our own two feet,” picking ourselves up by our bootstraps, being self made, going it alone, doing it all by ourselves, being a pillar of strength, coming into your own…the list of idioms is a long one. The implied message is if you are not strong enough to do it all by yourself, something is wrong with you. And god forbid you ask for help.

Some of us are fortunate to have family and friends we can rely on to help us through the rough patches, but asking for help does not come easily for many of us, and often comes with a heavy dose of guilt and shame, either from ourselves or others, when we ask for help. Such a strange value for a profoundly social species. The truth is we need each other, and rely on each other in all sorts of ways–it is nothing to be ashamed of! It’s beautiful, actually.

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Part of this blog post is intended to question the cultural value that we should be able to do everything all by ourselves–to rid ourselves of the shame and guilt of needing, wanting, or asking for help. Given that this cultural value is deeply rooted and change doesn’t come easy, the other goal of this post is to provide some tips for steps we can take to do exactly that — how do we take care of ourselves when life presents us with overwhelming challenge?

Whether it’s a chronic, debilitating, life threatening illness we are struck with, or one of those life events that requires more emotional resources than we might have (births, deaths, divorces, job loss, financial stress, or simple overwhelm, etc.) here is a list of things that may help get you through with more ease.

First, some things to keep in mind:

  1. As the buddhists say, life is suffering. No matter what you see on Facebook, everyone has problems. It’s the nature of being alive. No one makes it through without receiving their share of challenges. You are not alone.
  2. Like the tides, life’s challenges ebb and flow. There will be easier times and harder times. Nothing — good or bad — lasts forever.
  3. We all have differing abilities to handle stressors. Some of us have a healthier stress response than others. When dealing with multiple stressors, our threshold for what we can handle tends to diminish, so the smallest thing might “set us off.”
  4. The stress response, biologically, is intended to be helpful. It is damaging to us only when it is prolonged. If you can learn to stop it in its tracks, you will benefit greatly.

Ways to improve your stress response:

SELF TALK

1. Cut the negative, berating self talk. It is not helpful. One trick I came up with years ago I call “Pretend You are Your Own Best Friend.” Our inner voices can be very harsh, judgmental, and downright mean spirited. Would you ever speak like this to someone you truly cared about? I’m guessing not. If you were your own best friend, what would you say to yourself? What advice would you give? What messages would you send? Listen to that voice, and follow its advice instead.

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2. Along those same lines, re-evaluate the story you are telling yourself and get some perspective. For example, I know someone who from an outside perspective “has it all” yet still feels like a failure because he has not yet accomplished everything he thinks he should have in life. Pay attention to the positive stuff. We all are exactly where we are and where we need to be. No amount of putting ourselves down is going to change the past, and no matter of blaming anyone will improve the past. Congratulate yourself for surviving your hardships, for what you have learned, for the love you have given and received. You are not a failure. You are a precious human soul.

3. For perspective, look up at the stars. We are each a very small piece of the larger universe. At the end of the day, does the problem you are beating yourself up about really matter? Forgive. Make amends. Do your best. And let it go.

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TAKING ACTION

One common response to stressors is stress — the sympathetic nervous system kicks on the fight or flight response. Long term, stress can create a very hostile environment in our bodies, and I believe is at the root of most dis-ease. The opposite of the fight or flight response is “rest and digest.” When we are in rest and digest mode, the parasympathetic nervous system has turned on. This is why your stomach often starts to grumble on the acupuncture table. It’s a good thing! Besides acupuncture, how do you activate rest and digest? Here are some tools:

1. BELLY BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths at a comfortable pace. Allow your belly to push out with each breath. This sends your body the signal that everything is okay, and can kick on the “rest and digest” response. I think it’s a good idea to set a tone to go off every hour,  no matter what you are doing, so you can stop and take three deep breaths.

2. EAR MASSAGE. Give yourself an ear massage. The ear contains acupuncture points for the entire body. Gently pulling on the outer part of your ears from the top to the lobe is quite relaxing. You will probably feel a warming sensation, and will likely take a deep breath, kicking on the parasympathetic nervous system. If you suffer from insomnia, doing this at night, and using sesame oil on your ears, is an old Chinese Medicine trick to induce rest.

3. MEDITATE. Pray. Chant. In the Bay Area there are plenty of places to learn to do these things with support. Meditation cuts into worry time for one, and prayer or chanting can give your mind a rest from negative self talk and worry for awhile. One simple meditation is simply to close your eyes and focus on the breath coming out of your nose for five minutes. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but gets easier with practice. For added benefit, say a prayer of good wishes for someone else–it will get you out of your own problems and help you to feel open hearted.

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4.  EXERCISE. You don’t have to run a marathon to get benefits from movement. If you are physically debilitated, you can even just imagine doing the exercise — research shows your body still gets some benefits just from imagining! The exercise you choose doesn’t have to turn you into iron man or a supermodel. It can be a slow walk around the block, or tai chi in the park, or a walk with the dog.

Here is an extremely inspirational video about an obese man with diabetes and low self esteem who changed his life completely through love and exercise.

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5. GO OUTSIDE. If possible, it does help to exercise outdoors, or spend some time in nature. This could be as simple as growing a houseplant, or looking out your window at the sky, rain, birds, or trees, catching the sunrise/sunset, or taking a hike in the woods, or going on a camping trip. Nature offers some of the best medicine.

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6. SELF CARE. If you can afford to, invest in some self care every week or every month — as often as you can or need. Acupuncture treatments, massage, energy work, etc., all can help get you out of the stress response.

7. HERBAL MEDICINE. Take herbs and supplements. They can be very very helpful to rebuild your energy reserves and get you back in balance so you can handle life’s stressors better. But please, do not self prescribe!!! We tend to think of herbs as harmless, like eating a sprig of parsley. But the wrong herbs in the wrong dosage can cause very big problems. (A recent herb that is in fashion is turmeric. There are cure all claims for it, and since it’s a cooking spice, we think of it as harmless. But people are taking massive daily doses of the stuff. I know two people who self prescribed turmeric and it caused huge problems with their gallbladders. One person had to have her gallbladder removed because of it. In Chinese herbal medicine, herbs are usually prescribed as part of a balancing formula of several herbs, and taken at a specific dose for a certain length of time, and are specific to your particular pattern. Even cooking spices taken without respect for their power can cause huge problems!)

8. EAT MINDFULLY.  When stressed out, we tend to consume too much sugar, alcohol, fast foods, and comfort foods. In the short term it seems to help, but in the long term causes big problems. Keep the sugary snacks out of the house. Good digestion is imperative for healing. Stress is harmful for digestion. Stress when you are eating is even worse, so:

  • eat at regular times
  • eat slowly.
  • chew.
  • enjoy your food.
  • eat organic when possible.
  • eat seasonally when possible.
  • eat easy to digest and appetizing foods.
  • set the table nicely. put some flowers on the table.
  • use your crock pot.
  • try to include diversity in your diet.
  • eat a lot of vegetables. slightly cook them.
  • if you do indulge in something that’s “bad for you” eat it with pleasure and lose the guilt. It just makes it worse.

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9. BE GRATEFUL. Keep a gratitude journal where you keep track of people, places, things, you appreciate. Say thank you. Out loud. To someone.

10. REST. Take naps. Have downtime. Say no to stuff you don’t have the energy for. If you have trouble sleeping, get acupuncture, take herbs, do the ear massage described above. Avoid caffeine. Focus on your breathing. Give 100 strokes to the bottom of each foot with the knuckles of your hands. Go to sleep thinking about what you are grateful for.

11. PROTECT YOUR MIND. Avoid toxic news and poisonous people. We can’t live in a bubble, but when you are in a particularly stressful time, being around someone who is complaining all the time is like poison. Watching the news is like poison. Sign up for a daily email from the Good News Network, or the Center for Greater Good at UC Berkeley, or a daily meditation or prayer from the spiritual source of your choice. Look at pictures of baby animals — as dorky as this sounds, there is actually research that found that looking at puppies and kittens improved mood, concentration and focus. They help you to smile.

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12. GROUND YOURSELF. I often do energetic qi gong assessments before inserting needles into someone for acupuncture. Very often I find that people hold their energy in and above their heads, instead of below the navel. Taking deep breaths, and imagining glowing light below the navel can help bring that energy down, so you can re-enter your body, and get out of the worried mind. Likewise, you can imagine roots, like tree roots, or roots made of light, growing down from tailbone and deep into the earth. Walking barefoot and putting “your mind in your feet” can also help to ground you in your body, on this earth in the present moment. Be careful with energy work, and any energy practices that are intended to bring your energy “up.” As the Tibetans say, we humans have a very easy time bringing the energy up, so we don’t have to work at that. Work at pulling your energy down into your core, into your feet. If you have trouble sleeping, another trick is to imagine you are breathing through a point on the bottom of your feet.

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As someone who is just learning that asking for, and receiving, help is okay, many of these techniques have gotten me through some of the roughest patches of my life. I have seen many of them help a number of patients as well. We all struggle and suffer. But the suffering and struggling can be eased through taking care of one another, thinking with our hearts, being kind, helping each other out. And when you are feeling alone, and afraid to ask for help, this list provides some ideas to try so you can take care of yourself like your own best friend.

13. ASK FOR HELP! Much love and healing to you. I am here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask! You can set up an appointment with me at my clinic on Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland, or in Albany, just off of Solano Avenue, by emailing Frances Wocicki at crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com, or by calling 510-919-5689. Visit me on the web at http://www.crowheartacupuncture.com.CROW Heart horizontal.pdf-page-001

Moving Into Yourself in the Fall (Your body is talking to you…are you paying attention?)

The older I get the faster it seems time flies. It’s hard to believe the summer is coming to a close and it’s already September. Hopefully summer has been a time for you to be outdoors more, spend more time with your family and friends, enjoy all the fresh summer produce — especially the delicious watermelons this year! — and get back in touch with your body.

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For some people, though, summer gets very busy with kids, parties, travel…filling the long days with a whole lot of action and little self care.

During fall it’s time to wind down and to begin turning your attention inward a bit. If the heat and activities of the summer were too much, it’s can also be time to do some repair. I hate to mention it, but cold and flu season are just around the corner and will go a lot better if you put the right building blocks in place to prevent getting sick. That makes September and October prime time to put yourself in the best health possible…before flu season hits, and before the temptations and busyness of the holidays.

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That makes this the perfect time to share a string of five odd words that changed my life, and the way I look at prevention of disease. I stumbled on these words while helping my mentor to organize his computer files a few years ago. The document contained only these words, with arrows between them, and no explanation. It said, simply:

“Disattention=> Disconnection=> Disregulation=> Disorder=> Disease”

After reflecting on those five words, it was like finding the rosetta stone to the true origination of most diseases. It begins with “disattention” — being too busy to check in and take note of how you’re feeling and responding appropriately.

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As an acupuncturist I see a lot of conditions that are preventable, but which have become chronic or severe. Prevention is a lot easier, and more pleasant, than living with chronic or serious conditions. At the first signs of something being “off” — whether it’s your mood, energy, appetite, digestion, or a new ache or pain — is the very best time to get treatment. But noticing these first signs involves taking time to connect with yourself and checking in to see how you are feeling. I recommend even just one minute each day to close your eyes and turn inward and scan your body, check in with your thoughts and feelings, and see how you are doing.

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You could do that right now.  Close your eyes and slowly move your attention through your body from head, neck, shoulders, abdomen to your legs and feet. That’s a physical check. How do you feel? Is anything bothering you? What is it? Where is it? What do the areas of discomfort need in order to feel greater ease and health? It’s important to ask what you need to feel healthier, instead of just to feel “better”….because sometimes what might make us feel “better” (in the short term) is a tub of chocolate ice cream. There is definitely a place for chocolate ice cream, but the goal here is discovering what health promoting behavior is needed. Your body is smart. It will know, or at least know what is making it feel so lousy.

You can also tune in to your heart, emotionally, get quiet, and see how you are feeling. This can be easy for some, who have strong body or emotional awareness, and will take more practice for others. Treat what you find with respect, as you would a friend. Just notice your emotional state.

This “check in” can be very brief. But learning to pay attention is the first step on the path of well being.

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“Disconnection”

“Disattention”, or ignoring, your body/mind/emotions can lead to a “Disconnection” from yourself — when you ignore your needs you are likely to stop addressing them in a positive way, and are more likely to take on behaviors that aren’t necessarily in your best interest — eating too much, sitting too much, not getting enough quiet time, not laughing enough, etc. Being disconnected allows the unhealthy behaviors to take root.

“Disregulation”

After ignoring your needs for awhile, your system goes into a state of “Disregulation.” Disregulation can be thought of as mildly to moderately noticeable symptoms, like a slower metabolism, feeling too hot or too cold, a change in appetite, lower energy, and a range of “weird” symptoms that a doctor might disregard (like a lump in your throat, or feeling crabby more frequently, for example). It’s really nothing serious, but you find yourself thinking that maybe you should improve your diet, or exercise more, or get more sleep. THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME to increase your self care and prioritize healthier habits. Changes in habits require support and commitment.

“Disorder”

After some time of disregulation, “Disorder” ensues. Disorder can be thought of as a problem. You have pain quite regularly now in some area of your body, or you’ve gained too much weight, or your blood sugar is pre-diabetic, or you have insomnia regularly, high blood pressure, depression, etc. These are physical, mental, and emotional disorders that are now regularly interfering with your sense of well being or impacting what you are able to do.

THIS IS AN ESSENTIAL TIME to address your health with regular self care and support. This is also the point where herbs and nutritional supplements can make a huge difference in turning things around to prevent more serious chronic diseases.

“Disease”

When your mind/body is disordered for long enough, you may develop a serious disease. For example, a sensitive stomach and long term stress can turn into acid reflux, which can turn into Barrett’s Esophagus, which can turn into cancer over the long haul. Or years of ignoring mild back pain turns into degenerative disc disease which may result in surgery and long term physical limitations. Years of eating too much sugar and not getting enough exercise can result in diabetes and kidney disease.

All disease starts somewhere. Because our bodies are quite resiliant and the changes over time are subtle we gradually grow used to feeling bad and don’t really notice what is happening. What is happening is that disease is being born. 

“In short”

In short, not paying attention to yourself can lead to disease — whether it’s just a cold, or something more serious like stomach ulcers, infertility, diabetes, arthritis, panic attacks, cancer.

Pay close enough attention to your body/mind everyday that you build good habits and get the care you need when something seems off.  Rest when your body asks for it, eat when you’re hungry, and stretch when you’re feeling tight. Prioritize your wellbeing.

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There are signals our bodies give before reaching significant illness and chronic disease. Our bodies communicate with us (or at least try to). The primary key to staying well is listening to what our bodies are telling us, and CARING about what they have to say.

Once you begin regularly paying attention, the pathway to good health looks like this:

“Attention=> Connection => Regulation => Order => Ease”

Paying ATTENTION to how you feel will lead to CONNECTION (to your mind/body) so you begin to give your body what it really needs (sleep, good food, exercise, laughter, etc.). When your body has what it needs, there will be REGULATION of your systems and symptoms (making necessary changes and gettiing care) and this leads to ORDER, or everything running pretty smoothly. When your mind/ body has order, the result is EASE!

We don’t just wake up one day with Type II diabetes. Hypertension does not usually occur overnight. Ulcers don’t come from only one day of worrying and eating poorly. These, and other diseases, are the result of long term imbalances that once began as minor discomforts that went unnoticed and unaddressed.

This fall, I can help you to work on rebalancing that which is already off-kilter, and helping to prevent disorder by reducing stress, strengthening your immune system, and keeping things flowing smoothly. 

There’s no time like the present, eh?

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May you find true wellbeing. 

Crow Heart Acupuncture and Herbs has two locations in the East Bay: the Rockridge neighborhood of North Oakland, and on the Albany / Berkeley border just off of Solano Avenue.

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Make an appointment:

Website: https://www.crowheartacupuncture.com

Email: crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

Phone: 510-919-5689

Here is a Mindfulness Quiz from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. It’s a good start on the path to paying attention–and look around on their website for other tips on how you can be more mindful of yourself!

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/4

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“Our body is precious. It is the vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” — The Buddha

Summertime Self Care: Chinese Wisdom Made Local

sc0015db4e_2Chinese Medicine philosophy considers the summer the most active (yang) time of the year. You get up early, go to sleep late, and generally feel pretty good with all that sunshine. Summer is associated with joy, the heart, fire, outward expression of energy,  movement and activity. It is the manifestation of all we have cultivated in the spring time — the tomato plant that I planted in early spring is already bearing fruit, because it has had sunshine and I have watered it.

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Many of us play hard and work hard in the summer, precisely because there is more daylight and we have more energy. However, there is one thing acupuncturists, body workers, and massage therapists are painfully aware of…not many people are invested in self care in these months. They are busy flying off to all corners of the earth, attending parties, playing outside, and celebrating.

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All of which is great. But the mind-body is not really getting a similar vacation. In fact, we are expecting more of it. So, when colder winds begin to blow in the fall, our clinics are filled to the brim with coughing, sneezing, exhausted people! This summer hangover can be prevented!

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Simply put, taking care of yourself in the summer leads to a healthier you in the fall.

A 2,000 year old Chinese medicine classic, the Huang di Nei Jing, shares words of ancient wisdom about healthy living in summertime, still applicable today:

“One may retire somewhat later at this time of year, while still arising early. One should refrain from anger and stay physically active, to keep the skin breathing and to prevent the qi from stagnating. One can indulge a bit more than in other seasons, but should not overindulge. Emotionally, it is important to be happy and easygoing and not hold grudges, so that the energy can flow freely and communicate between the external and internal. In this way, illness may be averted in the Fall… Problems in the Summer will cause injury to the heart and will manifest in the Fall.”

Here is a list of some easy, health promoting things to do for yourself while you are enjoying the longer, sunny summer days:

  • Be active and get some exercise. Twenty minutes a day of walking, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or similar low impact activities are wonderful to add in to your daily routine.

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  • Have fun, but stay balanced (don’t overindulge in drinking, exercising, sunshine, parties, travel…etc. Moderation, as always, is the key!)
  • Forgive, lighten up, let some things go.
  • Eat seasonally. There is a lot of fresh produce at this time of year to enjoy!
  • Hydrate often (lemon, mint, and cucumber infused water is a great choice to cool you down)

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  • Include lighter, less greasy foods in your diet
  • Foods to keep you cool and balanced:

Cilantro, mint, dill, cucumbers, watermelon, peaches, apricots, cantaloupe, spinach, watercress, seaweed, bok choy, broccoli, sprouts, chinese cabbage, snow peas, mung beans

Stock up on seasonal, local foods at your Local Farmer’s Market, or grow your own!

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Here is a list of Farmer’s Markets in the East Bayhttp://edibleeastbay.com/farmers-markets/

Growing a garden in Alameda county, month by month:  http://acmg.ucanr.edu/Your_Garden,_Month-by-Month/

Vegetable Gardening for Dummies: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/vegetable-gardening-for-dummies/Content?oid=3198410

Create a Greywater system for your garden: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=45756

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Local (East Bay) yoga studios, tai chi, qi gong, and meditation classes:

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Namaste yoga studios: http://ilovenamaste.com/

Yoga Tree: http://www.yogatreesf.com/locations/telegraph.html

Adeline Yoga Studio: http://www.adelineyoga.com/

Square One Yoga: http://www.squareoneyoga.com/

Tai Chi Chuan Berkeley: http://taichichuanberkeley.com/

Meditation, Qi Gong, Classes, and More: http://berkeley.shambhala.org/programs/

East Bay Biking, Walking, Hiking:

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Bicycling and Walking maps in Berkeley: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Public_Works/Transportation/Bicycling_and_Walking-Maps_and_Guides.aspx

East Bay Regional Parks: http://www.ebparks.org/parks

Best Botanical Gardens in the East Bay: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-botanical-gardens-in-the-bay-area/

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In between all that good local food, yoga, hiking, biking, traveling, and celebration, make time to get some acupuncture to help you chill out, cool down, refresh, and revive. Sometimes taking a break means you will have more energy to actually enjoy yourself.

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http://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

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The Medicine is You: How Chinese Medicine Aids in Self Healing

Medicine on the needles?

I had a first time acupuncture patient once ask me if there was medicine on the needles. The question surprised me, but when I thought about it, the question makes sense. We are taught, in a round about way, that healing must come from an outside source. Have a headache? Take a pill. Does your body hurt? Take a pill. Are you depressed? Take a pill. When you go to the doctor they give you a few choices — take a pill, have surgery, or if they can’t see anything wrong in your blood work, there is nothing wrong with you, so take a pill.

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So when my patient asked if there is medicine on the needles — even though I found it a little funny — it is a sensible question to ask, because we are taught that we can’t get better just on our own.

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Pharmaceutical “Healing”

Yes, taking a pill IS a quick way to get rid of your symptoms — at least temporarily — and sometimes we need to do this to “get through the day” comfortably, or because the illness we have is much stronger than our body’s ability to fight it.

We all know that pills have other effects, though. Many effects of Western pharmaceuticals are merely undesirable in the short term (like nausea or diarrhea) but can be downright harmful in the long term. Long term pain medication is dangerous for the liver; chronic corticosteroid use has multiple systemic effects (“Cushing’s Syndrome”); anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications can lead to insomnia, weight gain, low libido, fatigue, constipation, blurry vision…yeesh! Antibiotics– often a very necessary drug– also kill off healthy gut flora and thereby significantly reduce your natural immune system response; long term use can cause very serious side effects like kidney failure, vision problems, etc (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/popular-antibiotics-may-carry-serious-side-effects/?_r=0).

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A really good question to ask yourself if you are taking medications to alleviate a symptom, is why did the symptoms appear in the first place, and what are you doing to address it? Simply masking a symptom by taking a pill does not mean the problem is gone. You are just turning off your body’s signal that something is off balance, and letting that something spin out of control. Ever wonder why some older people are commonly taking ten or twelve medications at once? Often these other medications are prescribed to alleviate effects of the medications. Meanwhile, the original cause of disease goes completely untreated.

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All of this “healing” is done to us, given to us by an outside source, without much mention of lifestyle and dietary changes that might help to promote the body’s ability to heal itself. In fact, if someone gets better without the use of drugs or surgery, doctor’s often chalk the healing up to “the placebo effect” and dismiss it.

Natural healing abilities

But what about our own natural healing abilities? For they certainly do exist. Just imagine what we would look like if we didn’t have the ability to heal from cuts, broken bones, and bruises. Kind of a horrifying idea. Or what would happen if we couldn’t bounce back from colds, flus, food poisoning, headaches, menstrual cramps, and the like. We’d be a mess. This self-healing, however, is dependent upon the strength and reserves of our minds and bodies. Children and younger people, with deeper reserves, often heal quickly, while older people and those chronically depleted by unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, may need some support.

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Chinese medicine lends a healing hand in a very different way than Western biomedicine; where Western medicine masks the symptoms, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), works to strengthen the body’s natural abilities to bring itself back into balance. Ultimately, it is your body that heals itself. It knows how. Really!

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When acupuncture and herbs are necessary

If there is not medicine “on the needles,” then what are those needles doing? And if our bodies can heal themselves, then why are we sick in the first place, and why bother with any kind of medicine? Because sometimes we swing so far out of balance that the body has trouble maintaining homeostasis. It needs a little help to get back enough strength to begin the healing process, or to take it to the next level.

Yin-Yang

To assist the body back into a state of self healing, acupuncture needles are placed strategically along the energy pathways of the body, targeting places where excess energy is stuck, and places where energy is lacking, in an attempt to balance the yin and the yang of the body. The process of a good acupuncture treatment works to rebalance de-regulated energy flow. The treatment will allow you access to additional energy in your body that has been trapped, or is not flowing smoothly, and to increase energy in places that have been blocked, or starved out, by the imbalance. Most of us have some imbalance or disharmony that if sorted out would free up some resources to aid in our greater well being.

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An example of an angry liver

For example, a patient came to see me who had been struggling with fatigue, some depression, and irritable bowel syndrome for a few years. Otherwise, this person was a relatively healthy, well functioning woman in her early forties. Upon diagnosis (made via pulse taking, viewing the tongue, and scanning her energetically using medical qi gong techniques) I could see and feel that this person had, from a Chinese medicine perspective, a great deal of heat and trapped energy in her liver.

The liver is the organ responsible for the smooth flow of energy in the body. Stress, frustrations, unexpressed emotions, can get stuck in us, like an energy build up that becomes imprisoned and sets us off balance. We can feel this build up of pathological liver energy when we get angry and want to “blow our stacks” or scream or have the urge to punch something.

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In our daily lives, we can address this stuck-ness in healthy or unhealthy ways to provide some relief, or we can do nothing and let the annoyances build, and end up being a snappy, irritable, exhausted human being living in misery and making ourselves sick.

For example, a healthy way to deal with an angry build up of energy is to exercise; an unhealthy way to deal with it is alcohol (alcohol is said to “scatter the qi”). Very spicy food is also another way to move stuck energy. However, too much of any of these things (including exercise) can lead to problems.

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I mentioned to my patient that despite feeling exhausted, she actually had a great deal of energy available to her, it was just stuck. I asked if there was some unresolved problem in her life causing anger and frustration. Indeed, there had been a significant traumatic event that had occurred just before her symptoms appeared. This issue was unresolved, creating a good deal of emotional suffering. According to TCM theory, emotions are made to be felt, but not held on to. Holding an emotion can cause the body to go out of balance and the longer the emotion is held, the more significant the symptoms. Negative emotions held over a long period of time can lead to significant disease.

When anger is stored in the liver, a variety of dysfunction can happen, and the liver can “attack” other organs. One common organ for it to attack is the stomach and digestive system as a whole. This is why it is hard to eat when you are angry, and why you may actually can get an upset stomach when you are angry. In my patient’s case, the anger contributed to the development of irritable bowel syndrome. Because her digestion was weakened, the food she was eating was not being optimally absorbed by her body, consequently creating fatigue because she wasn’t being adequately nourished. Therefore, she had both digestive upset as well as exhaustion, all resulting from trapped energy / emotion.

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The treatment for this patient offered several avenues to healing. First, the diagnostic process brought into her awareness the destructive nature of holding on to her anger. She had every right to be angry about what had happened, but she needed to take some steps toward resolving it, so she could move on. The awareness alone was huge. Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to begin to heal. Sometimes the patient decides psychotherapy is an appropriate next step if they feel truly stuck and unable to move through emotional issues on their own.

Second, I addressed the energetic disharmony between her liver and digestive system using acupuncture. Each acupuncture treatment produced significant relief of symptoms, and helped with flare ups. The acupuncture channels or meridians run the length of our body, moving through the organs, so I selected points to smooth and soothe the liver, releasing that stuck energy and heat accumulated there, making the energy available to other parts of her body, and also giving her digestive system a break from the attack so it could heal. I also selected points to strengthen her digestion so she could begin to absorb more of the nutrients in her food, and subsequently have more energy.

Third, because this patient had suffered from the emotional impact of the past event for several years, her body needed additional help to get back into balance, and to have continued support as she dealt with her anger. This is where herbs come in handy. The effects of acupuncture alone can be miraculous and often resolve an acute problem in one to six treatments. Something that is chronic and long term may have depleted the body to such an extent that outside nourishment is needed in order to speed up the healing process.

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Chinese herbal medicine does not work like a pill that masks symptoms; herbal medicine works to address both the root of the problem as well as the symptoms — in her case, rebuilding the strength of her weakened digestive system and soothing the liver so that things flowed smoothly, leading to her body’s ability to truly heal.

This whole process is chalked up by the western medical system very often as a “placebo” effect. By which they mean, the patient is imagining both the symptoms and the cure. Apparently the body’s ability to heal itself is disregarded and ideas of energy, emotions, balance, meridians, and herbs, are all thought to be a bunch of hocus pocus.

In actuality, our bodies are amazing! Like a starfish that can regrow its own legs (or are they arms?), we do have the ability to rejuvenate and regenerate ourselves. The medicine is not on the needles. The medicine is in you! But sometimes we just need a little help to call it forth.

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I can help.

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http://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

Re-energizing New Year’s Resolutions: inspirational videos, blogs, and websites to keep you on track!

“And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been.”
— Rainer Marie Rilke

If you made any New Year resolutions, this is the week that things can begin to break down. It’s normal to waiver on new habits. Start fresh and recommit. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

If you are someone who doesn’t make New Year resolutions, now’s a great time to set a new health habit into motion anyway. Spring is just around the corner (which will give your body more energy to make change) plus the Chinese New Year on February 19 gives you another chance to make a New Year Resolution.

Not ready to jump into a new habit? Here is an easy way to start thinking about improvements you might want to make in your life…some of my favorite videos, blogs, and links that provide inspiration for better living.

Don’t watch them all at once – this is a blog post to keep returning to whenever you need some inspiration or a lift in spirits, or a new healthy recipe for dinner.

Getting onto a healthier and happier path can be as simple as starting with these links. Happy web surfing!

WALKING and EXERCISING:

Doctor Mike Evans on “Sitting Disease”:

Doctor Mike Evans on Taking a Walk:

STRESS– (We all have it. It’s how you deal with it that counts.)

Improving Your Response to Stress — an AWESOME video!:

Kelly McGonigal on how to make stress your friend:

Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, discusses what she discovered about peace as she was having a stroke. One of the best TED Talks ever!:

The benefits of smiling – an informative, funny, and helpful TED Talk by health researcher and entrepreneur Ron Gutman:

EATING!:

World’s Healthiest foods — look up all the great benefits of the most nutritious foods you can eat:

http://whfoods.org/

The Amazing Benefits of Bone Broth Soup:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broths-adrenals-bones-teeth/

Easy Bone Broth Soup recipe:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/perpetual-soup-the-easiest-bone-broth-youll-make/

A blog by one of my former teachers, Nishanga Bliss, with recipes. Includes a lot of great information about fermentation, and dietary recommendations from a Chinese Medicine point of view:

http://gastronicity.blogspot.com/

The world’s most irreverent blog about healthy eating (warning, this guy swears A LOT but has some great recipes!):

http://www.thugkitchen.com/archive

Huffington Post list of ten best healthy eating blogs:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/healthy-food-blogs_n_5460940.html

Chinese Medicine Dietary Tips:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mika-ono/5-healthy-eating-tips-fro_b_632977.html

Chinese Medicine Recipes:

http://ancientwisdommodernkitchen.blogspot.com/

EMOTIONAL WELL BEING:

The benefits of being vulnerable, a humorous and helpful talk by Brene Brown:

The Habits of Happiness, advice from a French Buddhist monk:

Happiness and Its Surprises — a summary of research about what it takes to be happy:

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center – wonderful research on happiness, health, gratitude, compassion, empathy, altruism, forgiveness and mindfulness:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

On Happiness and Gratitude, talks and videos by Catholic Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast:

MORE INSPIRATION:

A second list of inspirational TED talks to have during times when you need a boost:

http://greatist.com/health/TED-talks-inspiration

List of top Diet, Exercise and Healthy Living Blogs to keep you on the right track:

http://greatist.com/health/must-read-health-fitness-blogs

For more support with your health goals, make an appointment at Crow Heart Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs:

crow_heart_finalhttp://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

Call to schedule 510-919-5689, or email for more information crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
— Lao Tzu

“Our body is precious. It is the vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.”
— The Buddha

Ready to form a new habit? For an easy plan, take a look at my most recent blog post:

https://crowheartacupuncture.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/66-days-goals-into-habits/

The Case of the Angry Shoulder: The Emotional Root of Disease

At the risk of sounding completely insane, I am going to tell you the story of how I discovered the immense power of medical qi gong, that pain and disease can have an emotional root, and what I learned about being a woman. All come to you courtesy of a mysterious shoulder pain.

Taking our health for granted, and the cause of disease

When we are feeling great, we tend to take our health for granted. But break a toe, twist an ankle, or have your back go out, and suddenly it becomes apparent how wonderful it is when every body part is functioning well, and what a huge impact something seemingly so small can have on our overall wellbeing. Pain makes people grumpy! It makes the most simple task suddenly very difficult. The pain is often there for a reason. And the lessons can be life changing if we take time to listen to what it is telling us.

Aches, pains, and more serious ailments, unfortunately tend to strike when we are most stressed. Who has time to be sick? Especially when things — life — already seems overwhelming? We often have little energy to spare to take care of our own well being. But getting sick — from spraining an ankle to getting a cold —  is often the body’s way of saying “slow down and pay attention!” It can be difficult to listen to these messages when life is pressing in on us. Our habit here in the Western world is to take a pill and cover up the symptoms so we can keep going, never resolving the message that lies below the illness. Sometimes the little pills stop working and we can find no relief. It is here when many people get desperate for relief, and begin trying things they would have never considered before. Like I did when my shoulder was hurting for weeks and nothing was helping.  

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Telling you my story may not convince you of anything. Sometimes it takes firsthand experience to discover the truth. It’s kind of like when my mom would say “Don’t make that face, it will stick!” I didn’t believe her and now I have wrinkles! Stressed out by life and working an unsatisfying desk job, I didn’t make much time for self care. But my body had lessons to teach me, and I wasn’t listening. I ended up with a mysterious shoulder pain that ultimately revealed some of the most important lessons I have ever learned.

The Mystery Pain

I don’t even know how I got the injury. I just woke up one morning with the feeling that I had a tight rubber band strangling the muscles and nerves in my left shoulder. The pain restricted my neck movements and caused my fingers to go numb. It was difficult to hold my head upright. Riding my bike — my main mode of transportation — became unbearable; sleeping was unbearable; and holding myself upright was exhausting. The pain wasn’t horrible, it was just very uncomfortable. And it stuck around. For weeks. And weeks. Any pain begins to wear on you, and it is a rare person who can continue to be cheerful while dealing with chronic pain. I was getting pretty grumpy and began to worry it would never go away. I started trying everything to get rid of it:

Ibuprofen didn’t work. A series of acupuncture treatments didn’t work. Chiropractic made it worse. Medical massage was excruciatingly painful, but helped for about a day. Saying it was a muscular problem, my primary care doctor said there was nothing she could do and referred me to acupuncture. And so the circle went. No one could help and I was getting grumpier.

It Was All Carol’s Idea

When you’ve tried every medical route you can think of, or can afford, and someone suggests something that sounds crazy, you are more likely to try it. 

Carol was a woman in my physics class. She was one of those older and wiser ladies who always smiled. My physics class was taught by a very unconventional teacher. This is Berkeley after all. He arranged a field trip for us to get pictures taken of our auras. 

psychic reality storefront Psychic Reality in downtown Oakland

The aura photographer claims that by resting your hands on plates which measure your electromagnetic energy, he can capture your aura with instamatic film. Whatever. It was a field trip.

aura camera thing

The place you put your hand to get your aura captured – or a prop from Lost in Space?

I brought two problems with me on that field trip. One was my shoulder pain. The other was a deeper question, a personal question I’d been mulling around, about what being a “real woman” really meant. I didn’t know it at the time, but these two problems were actually tangled up together. I have always been someone who considered herself a “human” more than a “woman.” I never put much effort into curling my hair, shopping at the mall, and painting my fingernails, and always felt a little worried that I was missing something. Approaching forty, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t maybe put some effort into this girly stuff; maybe I was missing some boat to somewhere fantastic. If I did those things, would I feel more womanly? Did I need to do those things to have a sense of personal power? What was power anyway?

tomboyA wee bit of a tomboy

Anyway, those questions had been swimming around for some time and had popped into the forefront lately. I was in fact thinking of them as I waited on the bench with the other ladies in my class. 

I was the last one in the class to get the picture of my aura taken. All my other classmates were coming out from their picture-taking session with their aura photo in hand. Their pictures were beautiful: lovely, balanced, floaty puffs of violets and yellows and oranges framing the outline of their smiling faces. There was lots of “oohing and ahhing.” There was also a lot of explaining about what the guy who took the picture said about their lovely colors. It was all good.

 Finally it was my turn and I went back into the photo area and sat down. It kind of reminded me of the DMV. Just a chair and a backdrop and a camera and a guy. I placed my palms on the electromagnetic thing and the guy looked at me through his special camera. He immediately said, “Ooooh. You’re a hider.” I thought he said that too loud. “Shhh,” I said. I am a private person and he took one look at my aura and busted out with my secret. He snapped the picture and handed it over to me. It was a mess. The even fluffy cloud of color that had surrounded everyone else’s head wasn’t there. It was blobby and misshapen with a big blur of red by my right armpit. I was so embarrassed. He looked at it and said, “You’re having trouble balancing the masculine and feminine.” I told him, yes, that was true, that I didn’t really know what it meant to be a “woman.” He told me to go home and paint my fingernails, take a bubble bath, wear a fluffy pink robe, and I would find out. Huh. I thought as I clutched my shoulder in my ratty old sweat jacket. So that is what it means to be feminine?

bubble-bath

According to him, real women take bubble baths.

I came out of the back room and didn’t want to show my aura photo to anyone. But I trusted Carol and talked to her about what he said. I also told her I had been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a woman, and had been exploring the idea of power in relation to being a woman. I also said I did not feel totally comfortable with the photographer’s idea of femininity — nail polish, bubble baths, fluffy robes, pink. All that stuff was very foreign to me. I also told her that my shoulder hurt.

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Me and my messy aura.

Carol told me to stop trying to answer this question; she said just ask the question and wait for the answers to come.That felt relieving to hear, but unlikely to produce results, I told her. She said, “It doesn’t hurt to try.” So I decided to try to follow her advice.

Carol also suggested that I try a session of Medical Qi Gong for my shoulder. I had barely heard of Medical Qi Gong and had no idea what it really was. But they taught it at my acupuncture school and they had a student clinic where you could get a treatment for twenty bucks. Carol seemed to be full of good and strange ideas, so I went home and set up an appointment to get “medical qi-gonged.”

Meanwhile my shoulder still hurt. Plus I didn’t know how to be a real woman. And my aura picture sucked.

She Flapped Her Arms Around

About a week later I showed up at my Medical Qi Gong appointment. I don’t remember the woman’s name who treated me. She was older and very motherly looking with a big skirt on. It seemed like she should be knitting. I briefly explained my issues to her and was hoping she could help — I wanted to integrate the masculine and feminine sides of myself and my shoulder hurt. It was refreshing to be able to make such a strange request to someone and be taken seriously. It was definitely something I could not have said at the doctor’s office. The older lady in the big skirt didn’t bat an eye at my request. 

I still had no idea what to expect from this treatment and was curious about what would happen. Desperate for some relief from my shoulder pain, I lay back on the treatment table. I watched as she began waving her hands around over my body. She wasn’t even touching me. How was this supposed to work? A voice inside me said, “This is completely ridiculous. What am I doing here? This is stupid.” I had to close my eyes because I wanted to burst out laughing. Having grown up in Cleveland, this was the epitome of weird Berkeley new age crap, I thought. 

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Her flapping hands created an uncomfortable breeze.

To keep myself from laughing, I closed my eyes. All I could feel was that her flapping hands were creating a breeze on my body. Later, when I enrolled in the program to learn Medical Qi Gong, I would come to understand what she was doing. But for now it just seemed ridiculous.

After some time of waving her hands all over, she took a seat near my head and placed her hands on my left shoulder. I could feel her rocking back and forth, kind of like you would rock a baby. This, too, was a little uncomfortable. A little too intimate for my introverted self. I didn’t even know this woman. And she was touching me like I was her little baby. She rocked there, with her hands on my shoulder, for what seemed a very very long time.

rocking baby

I felt like a baby.

And then things started happening while she rocked and rocked my cupped shoulder.

First came the tears. Buckets and buckets of tears. A huge release of stress and sadness tied up in that shoulder had broken loose. I was shocked at how much emotion flowed out of my tear ducts. The tears didn’t stop her or change what she doing; she just kept on rocking, and I was glad of that. It was pretty embarrassing to be reduced to a blubbering idiot in front of this stranger. Why was I crying?

And then came the realization of what was behind those tears.

The Horrifying Stories

It was the newspaper. During the weeks before my shoulder went bad there were three awful stories in the news that had caught my attention. They all had a similar theme. And one by one, as the lady in the skirt rocked my shoulder, the stories came up in my mind. The first was a particularly awful story of a gang rape of a local high school student at her prom. I felt anger begin to mix in with my tears. The second was the story of an Austrian man who had locked his daughter up in a secret basement chamber for over a decade and fathered seven children with her — children who had never seen the light of day until their dungeon was discovered. I felt my anger increase as I recalled this horrifying story.

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He did horrible things.

And the third was a story about a gunman who came into a church in Tennessee during a performance given by the children of the congregation. The gunman had aimed to kill those children, but a brave parishioner leapt up to protect those kids with his own body and was shot dead instead, preventing the gunman from killing those kids. The lady in the skirt continued to rock me, and my shoulder pain increased as I recalled these stories. I felt anger’s tight grip in my heart. It started to become clear to me why my shoulder had been hurting. I was mad. I didn’t know what to do those feelings. They found a place in my shoulder, and were waiting there for me to address them.

The woman stopped rocking my shoulder. I still had my eyes closed but it felt like she had positioned herself at the other end of the table. I somehow felt her palms near the bottom of my feet. She wasn’t touching me but I could sense her there.

soles of feet

An Experience That is Hard to Describe

Next was an experience that words simply cannot describe, but words are all I have to explain it. 

The anger began to melt away. At first it was just like a warm glow surrounding the entire surface of my body — a very pleasant, comforting feeling. Soon, it was as though my body was made of a bright white light and I had been plugged into a power strip that connected me to the universe. It was a power so strong that I couldn’t have imagined it; a power so strong I cannot do it justice in words. It was simply amazing. Imagine your body being made of nothing but the most benevolent ray of light. All kindness and love, but with a strength that can move mountains. I wanted to ask what was happening; it was a feeling that I imagine people have during near death experiences when they go toward the light and don’t want to return.

energy body bright

It really did feel like this.

The plugged in feeling shifted and I saw a large cave; it was dark and cold and wet. Inside the cave arose a huge snake. A cobra. It took my breath away. It was a very powerful force. An answer appeared: “This is the Divine Feminine.” She was powerful and righteous. She was not wearing a pink robe. She was not in a bubble bath. She did not have her fingernails polished. She was pure power and righteousness — willing to do whatever was needed to protect others. I wondered: “Why is the divine feminine a snake?” It surprised me, as I always had thought of snakes as a phallic symbol representing men. It didn’t make any sense to me. But there she was. And I finally understood the *real* power of the feminine. It is awesome. A strength and compassion beyond which I could ever had imagined. I had no idea. 

dark cave

(When I got home I looked up snake symbolism and read that “practically every culture has a snake in its mythology, and most often it is seen as a symbol of wisdom, healing, initiation, and secret knowledge, or it is associated with eternal life and ongoing renewal. Snake is the archetypal symbol of the Great Mother Goddess, incarnate in one of her most universal forms…a symbol of the Kundalini Shakti energy, the cosmic feminine energy that ignites and fuels our spiritual awakening process…in which positive and negative, male and female, consciousness and unconsciousness are intermingled…”) Oh. 

isis-serpent_lacmaThermoutis

Many cultures have stories about a powerful serpent Goddess. I had no idea.

The rocking had stopped. The hand waving was over. My time was up. I opened my eyes. The woman who treated me looked kind of blank and innocent. She asked quietly, “Would you like to give any feedback?”

Holy shit. Feedback! I had just experienced the most intense half hour of my life. I understood where my shoulder pain originated. I understood how power and femininity belonged together. I understood how anger can get stuck in my body and make me sick. Still sobbing, I blurted out the whole experience to her, kind of surprised she didn’t already know what had happened as she had been there with me the whole time, rocking me like a baby. She seemed a bit startled by all this information, but pleased to have helped. I was floored by the whole experience. I walked out of there prouder than ever to be a woman, now that I understood what a gift it is. Women are strong. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It is our place to help stop all this violence. We need to speak up. And we don’t need painted nails and bubble baths to do (though this last year, I have discovered the power of a bubble bath).

All that had happened, but my shoulder still hurt. However, within a week the problem dissolved. I hardly noticed. It just went away.

It Gets Weirder

This story gets weirder, if that’s possible. The day after the Medical Qi Gong experience I went to work at my desk job. A co-worker came into my office in the morning with a card. She was asking all of us to sign this card for Brian’s dad. Brian was a new guy at work. I asked, “What happened to Brian’s dad?” Well, she explained, he was at church in Tennessee when a gunman burst in to kill the children on stage. Brian’s dad leapt from the audience to protect those children on stage and was shot to death.

Unfortunately, all I could think to say was “Holy crap.” I was stunned. 

The next semester at school I decided to enroll in the Medical Qi Gong program. 

qi gong cert

Absolutely impressed by my experience, I completed the Medical Qi Gong training.

In the six years that I have been practicing Medical Qi Gong I have had some extraordinary experiences and have seen time and again the emotional root of patients’ diseases. Sometimes the realization comes from something they experience while on the table, and sometimes it comes from something I “see” in them (while waving my hands around and touching them on the shoulder!). I tend to reserve this method of treatment for cases when nothing else seems to help and the acupuncture treatments aren’t getting their usual effect. Once the root of the disease is revealed, the problem often resolves itself quickly.

The Seven Emotions in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine there is a list of the causes of disease that we are taught over and over again. Prominently featured in this list are the “seven emotions.”  The Eastern medical system has understood this for a long time — stuck emotions can cause disease and disease can lead to stuck emotions. In a Chinese medical text written over 2,000 years ago, it is said that there are seven emotions that can impair organ systems in the body (the emotions are: anger, worry, grief, fear, anxiety, fright, and joy/mania). We are trained in detecting how these emotions affect the organ systems, and how rebalancing energy through acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qi gong can help release or resolve these emotions. It is also written by the sages that emotions are to be felt, but then let go of. It is the holding of the emotion that can make someone sick.

chinese-emotions-elk

The yin organs have both positive and negative emotions associated with them, depending on their state of health.

Western Biomedical Research on Emotions as a Cause of Disease

In the West, scientists have recently been exploring this idea as well – the impact of emotions on health – and certain pockets of the medical community are beginning to “prove” this ancient Eastern idea to be true.

emotions

Even in the West, we admit emotions can cause disease!

Harvard School of Public Health has published several studies on this topic. They note:

A vast scientific literature has detailed how negative emotions harm the body. Serious, sustained stress or fear can alter biological systems in a way that, over time, adds up to ‘wear and tear’ and, eventually, illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Chronic anger and anxiety can disrupt cardiac function by changing the heart’s electrical stability, hastening atherosclerosis, and increasing systemic inflammation.”

Harvard researcher Jack Shonkoff explains that “early childhood ‘toxic stress’ —the sustained activation of the body’s stress response system resulting from such early life experiences as chronic neglect, exposure to violence, or living alone with a parent suffering severe mental illness—has harmful effects on the brain and other organ systems. Among these effects is a hair-trigger physiological response to stress, which can lead to a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, and a jump in stress hormones.”

Another Harvard researcher, Laura Kubzansky, has been studying the impact of emotions on health. She states that, “It looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed. What that is is still a mystery. But when we understand the set of processes involved, we will have much more insight into how health works.” Some results from her studies conclude that:

  • Optimism cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by half.
  • Children who are able to stay focused on a task and have a more positive outlook at age 7 report better general health and fewer illnesses 30 years later.
  • Participants who reported fewer social ties at the beginning of the survey were more than twice as likely to die over the nine-year follow-up period, an effect unrelated to behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and physical activity. Social ties included marriage, contact with friends and relatives, organizational and church membership.
  • Kubzansky concedes that psychological states such as anxiety or depression—or happiness and optimism—are forged by both nature and nurture. “They are 40–50 percent heritable, which means you may be born with the genetic predisposition. But this also suggests there is a lot of room to maneuver.”
  • Kubzansky states, “My guess is that many of the people who are chronically distressed never figured out how to come back from a bad experience, focus on something different, or change their perspective.” And, “Everyone needs to find a way to be in the moment,” she says, “to find a restorative state that allows them to put down their burdens.”

In the 1990s the Federal Center for Disease Control studied over 17,000 patients of a large health plan to assess the link between emotional experience and adult health. Some of their findings:

  • Those who had experienced an adverse childhood experience [abuse or neglect] were between 4 and 50 times more likely to have an adverse health condition or disease as an adult. The adverse health outcomes covered a surprisingly wide range, including heart disease, fractures, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, and more.
  • Emotional vitality and emotional balance appear to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. The protective effect was distinct and measurable, even when taking into account such wholesome behaviors as not smoking and regular exercise.
  • A summary of the research goes so far as to say “State of Mind = State of Body.”
  • “The truth is that all emotional experience affects our health, whether positive or negative, and whether it occurs in the past or the present. But negative experiences appear to have more lasting health effects, perhaps because we don’t deal with them.”
  • The Center for Disease Control estimates that 90% of all visits to the doctor are stress-related, and there are hundreds of medical studies linking stress to a host of diseases. 

Managing Emotions

Traditional Chinese Medicine — acupuncture, herbs, medical qi gong, etc. — is just one treatment modality that can help someone to transform unhealthy emotional states and rebalance the body. Combined with good lifestyle habits, regular exercise, connections to your community, family, friends, as well as healthy eating, and therapy from a licensed psychotherapist, you may find well being like you’ve never known it before.

Links to Learn More

Western research into the Biology of Emotions:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/happiness-stress-heart-disease/

http://psychcentral.com/lib/unraveling-the-biology-of-emotions/000728

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/emotions/frontiers.html

http://www.enlightenedfeelings.com/body.html

http://www.womentowomen.com/emotions-anxiety-mood/how-emotional-experience-determines-your-health/

Chinese Medicine and Emotions:

http://www.sacredlotus.com/theory/illness/seven_emotions.cfm

http://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/blog/philosophy/the-emotions/

Medical Qi Gong:

http://www.scn.org/acu/medical_qi_gong.html

http://www.qigongmedicine.com/

crow_heart_final

Please visit our website for more information

http://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

Reach us by email or phone to schedule an appointment or receive a free 15 minute phone consultation.

crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

510.919.5689

A Case of the Presidential Inauguration and Terrible Diarrhea (or “The Concept of Energy in Chinese Medicine”)

I’ve heard many testimonials from friends, patients, and colleagues about their profound healing experiences with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The stories usually go like this:  A debilitating pain or condition was taking over their lives (often physical pain or mysterious symptoms that western medicine had no explanation for); they had run out of options with western medicine–nothing was working to relieve them; and out of desperation they visited an acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine did the trick — it helped them.

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Many acupuncturists often tell of their own life-changing experiences on their websites as a testimonial to the power of the medicine. I have resisted telling my story because it’s sort of embarrassing.

I too had a transformative and amazing experience that left me in total awe and wonder at the effects of the medicine. I wish my experience was something a little less embarrassing than a case of intractable diarrhea. But here’s my story — and yes it’s a poop story but it is also the experience that proved to me that “energy” medicine is real and that Chinese Medicine practitioners are excellent diagnosticians!

In 2009 my husband and I were chaperones on a high school trip to the Presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. We spent several days outside in the freezing cold going to museums, the inauguration, and landmarks around D.C., etc., with hot packs in our shoes and gloves, trying to keep ourselves warm by the glow of the excitement of millions of people.

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After a wonderful — but very cold — trip, I returned home and got sick. Basically, to be blunt, I had the worst diarrhea of my life for days. Anything I ate — even a teaspoon of apple sauce — immediately went right through me. By day four, in the middle of the night, I collapsed on the floor shivering, exhausted, dehydrated, and with a body temperature of 95.7. My husband picked me up and took me to the emergency room.

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In the emergency room I was given a bag of IV fluids which is one of the miracles of modern medicine. The fluids helped me to feel immediately better. But the diarrhea did not stop. The doctor ran a number of tests trying to find an answer, but found nothing abnormal in the stool samples except blood. He told me the diarrhea was so bad, and I had nothing left inside, that the trauma to my intestines was causing bleeding. He wanted to give me antibiotics just to be safe  — even though there was no sign of infection — and he wanted to do a complete scope of my digestive tract, which didn’t sound fun at all. Feeling much better with the fluids in me, I convinced my husband to take me home.

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The following day the diarrhea got worse and I was alarmed to find there was now blood in my urine. I called my primary care doctor and left a message about my new symptom. She returned my call and insisted I return to the emergency room, said something was truly wrong, and with panic in her voice admitted she had no idea what it could be.

By the time of my illness I had been in Chinese Medicine school for less than a year. It occurred to me that if I was studying this medicine, perhaps I should see if it could help me. The idea of going back to the hospital did not excite me (they wanted to admit me), and the $4,000 ER visit had been kind of a set back. I was desperate and figured I had nothing to lose.

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I went to the student clinic at my school that afternoon. Sitting in the waiting area one of my teachers walked through and stopped to ask how I was feeling. I burst into tears and told her it had been nearly a week having diarrhea and now there was also blood in my urine. The doctors could find nothing and I was frightened. She calmly took my hand and said, “Don’t worry. I know what’s wrong with you.”

She took me back into the clinic and used two needles on my lower legs. She lit a moxibustion stick and spent about fifteen minutes holding it over my abdomen. She explained that from a Chinese Medicine perspective I had started with a weakened digestive system, and damaged it further being in the extreme cold while in Washington D.C. A lack of internal digestive fires can lead to diarrhea as well as bleeding. This is why the Emergency Room could find no evidence of a pathogen — there was none, except for the cold.

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I went home after the treatment to find the diarrhea was gone. The blood in my urine was also gone. Immediately. The diarrhea I had had for seven days stopped just like that. I followed my teacher’s advice and began taking an herbal formula for digestion and was able to keep in the foods she recommended.

I sat with my dog on my front porch in the Bay Area sunshine that day and I wondered, “How in the heck did that work? All she did was wave a hot herbal stick over my belly and put two needles in my legs…and it cost me about $30.”

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The emergency room and my primary care doctor had no idea what was wrong with me, since nothing was found on my tests. My teacher, within five minutes of talking to me, learning I had been in the extreme cold and knowing my symptoms, knew exactly what was wrong. And her treatment worked instantly. Sitting there smiling in the sunshine, no longer running to the bathroom, it struck me — this “energy” thing they keep talking about at school is real. This medicine works! What an amazing revelation to have at the beginning of my studies.

Not every single experience with Chinese Medicine is so profound, but there are plenty of these stories out there. There are also some scientific “explanations” from western medicine about how / why acupuncture works.

The Concept  of Energy

People who grew up in a culture where acupuncture was not commonly practiced sometimes find the idea of “energy channels” running through the body hard to swallow. We tend to believe only in what we can see. And if you can’t see it, it surely doesn’t exist! 

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It’s strange that the idea of energy channels is so hard to swallow – we power our homes with “invisible” energy that comes through wires into our walls, the signals we receive on our radios are not visible, we can connect to the internet “wirelessly” capturing a signal. 

As far as the body is concerned, biomedicine has tests that measure electrical conductivity in our hearts and brains (EKGs and EEGs) – so why so difficult to believe we have energy channels running through our bodies, conducting “qi” that connects our organs to points all over our bodies? 

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Some Scientific Experiments on the Effect and Nature of Acupuncture Points

In the demand for “evidence” for how acupuncture works, scientific trials have been conducted using modern imaging equipment such as “functional magnetic resonance imaging” (fMRIs) and “high temporal-resolution magnetoencephalography” (MEGs). 

Following needling of different acupuncture points, it has been seen that these acupuncture points activate relevant areas in the brain, which in turn initiate a cascade of chemical signals that regulate various systems in the body. 

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For example, a point located on the lower leg “Gallbladder 34,” has been proven to light up beneficial regions in the brains of Parkinson’s patients; the much used point “Stomach 36,” has been shown activate “the multiple brain regions of the ‘splanchnic brain’ (neurons in the organs) and thus relieve pain.” 

Furthermore, studies also compared the effects of identified acupuncture points with random “sham” points using high-resolution MEG imaging technology. These studies have revealed that while the real acupuncture points displayed marked effects in the brain, the sham points did not. 

These experiments make sense from an anatomical point of view as well. Acupuncture points have been found to be “neurovascular nodes.” These nodes contain a concentrated group of blood vessels, sensory nerves and fibers, lymphatic vessels, and mast cells and ensure proper flow of blood, glucose, and oxygen through the vascular system.

The whole body is an interconnected system. Whether you consider it a “neurovascular node” or an acupuncture point, it makes sense that needling a point on the leg can effect a chemical in the brain which in turn can stimulate the body to rebalance itself. And to get rid of a case of intractable diarrhea!

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Please visit our website for more information

http://crowheartacupuncture.wix.com/crowheart

Reach us by email or phone to schedule an appointment or receive a free 15 minute phone consultation.

crowheartacupuncture@gmail.com

510.919.5689