Immunity in the Colder Seasons
As we move into the colder seasons, many of you might be wondering, “how can I keep from contracting colds and flus...and of course, the dreaded Coronavirus?”
In this particular moment as we are weathering a global pandemic, it is more important than ever to strengthen your immune system. When looking to build your immunity it is critical to consider various aspects of health. In Chinese Medicine, we refer to this immunity as the Upright Qi or Zheng Qi. When the Upright Qi is strong, the immunity is strong and there is health. Here is what I consider to be the most important considerations for immunity.
This would include a healthy nourishing diet, movement practices including anything from walking and dancing to martial arts, yoga and strength training, as well as what is commonly termed as “stress management”. Residing in a chronic state of fight or flight where your nervous system is fraught will elevate cortisol levels. This will reduce the strength of your immune system’s ability to fight off bacterial and viral infections by lowering the effectiveness of the white blood cells that do the hard work of protecting your body.
There are many ways that you can improve your relationship to the pressures in your life including getting the support of a therapist, acupuncture for stress relief, a regular meditation practice, journaling, dancing, walking and hiking while communing with nature - Forest! Ocean! These are wonderful medicine for the nervous system that supports high vibration. And don’t forget to get enough sleep. If you are struggling with insomnia, please book an appointment.
The GI tract is the foundation of a healthy immune system. In Chinese Medicine, a weakened immune system is a response to a deficiency in the Taiyin system of the Lung and Spleen, the Spleen is considered that major digestive organ. To keep this aspect of your body healthy and strong, what you are regularly eating is paramount. Your diet should consist of a rainbowed plethora of organic vegetables (cooked is best in the colder months) and if you tolerate it some whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and legumes, along with small portions of pastured organic meats and nuts and seeds. (Notice I’m not mentioning what you should minimize, or just completely stay away from...but if it helps to hear it…, sugars, simple processed carbohydrates and any processed foods will make this list).
Couple your whole foods with prebiotics and probiotics and lots of fermented foods and you are moving towards optimal living in the gut realm. I prefer Klaire Labs brand options, including the full spectrum Therbiotic probiotics and Biotagen prebiotics and have these products available at the clinic for your convenience. If you are working these angles and still have digestive disturbances, I recommend making an appointment so we can see how to support your digestive biosphere for optimal functioning. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are wonderful ways to build your gut health and relieve yourself of digestive symptoms like cramping, gas, bloating, loose stools, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn.
Garlic, leeks, onion and ginger will warm your yang qi to strengthen your immune system in these colder months. Cook your meals with them and focus on cooked foods -soups, stews and roasts in particular during these colder months. The shiitake mushroom has been shown in research to improve immunity when consumed daily. These magical mushrooms are always in my shopping cart, and I add them to nearly every soup and roast I make!
There are some simple supplements that you can take regularly right now to support your immune system during these coming months. My favorite is mushrooms! I am regularly taking the Klaire Labs Immunomax, a Mushroom Immune Support Formula with Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Reishi and I carry it here in the clinic for you.
I also have a tincture called Cold Tender from Earth Tide Botanicals which I absolutely love. Whenever I feel like I need an immune boost, I take a few droppers full. It is a blend of stinging nettle, echinacea, yarrow, calendula and spilanthes and is awesome to have on hand when you start to feel a little run down or a tickle in the throat.
Supplementing with Vitamins C, D, and Zinc can go far towards building your immune strength and in particular have been acknowledged to boost immunity for warding off the Coronavirus. I do have these vitamins here at the clinic so next time you are in you can bring home a bottle of them if you are in need. I always recommended buffered C as it is easier on the stomach, and a micellized Vit D to increase absorption.
Chinese Herbs for Immunity
Depending on your particular constitutional needs, Chinese herbs may be indicated to create the internal balance needed to strengthen your immunity, and this can be thoroughly assessed during your next appointment. However, there is one Chinese herb that is useful on its own to strengthen your immune system.
There is evidence that Astragalus Root, known to Chinese herbalists as Huang Qi, bolsters white blood cell production to help fight off viral and bacterial infections. This is another herb I use regularly in my cooking. I use the sliced dried herb and add a few pieces to any grains, legumes, soups or stews that I cook for my family. I have this herb in bulk at the clinic available for you.
If you feel that you are coming down with an illness, I encourage you to call or email the clinic and I will be able to do an herbal consult over the phone and get you the correct formula for your symptoms. Typically, you would come in and also get a treatment. Since we are all being more careful with COVID-19 precautions I ask that if you don’t feel well, please stay home and rest and I will reschedule your appointment when your symptoms resolve.
Treating Insomnia with Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine approaches a treatment for insomnia from the root. When you come in we will ask a series of questions and assess just precisely what is out of balance in your system, and use acupuncture and herbs to reset that balance.
It is important to look at when it is that you find yourself unable to drift into slumber - in the beginning of the night? Are you waking at 1 or 2 in the morning every night? Do you find yourself awake at 4 or 5 every morning? These simple questions can tell me which organ systems are impacted and are in need of calibration. You may have heard of a “Chinese clock”. This clock reflects a cycle of qi throughout the human body. Have you ever noticed that if you imbibe one too many glasses of wine, that you wake up at 2 in the morning hot and agitated? That is because between the hours of 1am and 3am the cycle of qi energy is at its strongest in the liver organ, and the Liver will be impacted by the alcohol that your body is processing.
Are you waking early in the morning and unable to fall back to sleep? Sometimes it may be the clock we refer to. If there is undigested grief (and grief, in particular the loss of a dear one) will take awhile to process. But when its at its most potent, you may find yourself awakened between the hours of 3-5. These are the hours most potent for the organ of the Lung, which holds and processes the grief of our soul as it mourns our personal and collective losses.
Other hours tell a different story, but it is not always the clock that is to be referred to when it is a certain time of the night that you are awakened. You may be waking early with a different imbalance. Are you up early in the morning, unable to sleep after falling into a restful slumber all night? We might ask if you are also relating to feelings of timidity, and finding it difficult to make decisions. There is an herbal formula and acupuncture point for this pattern as well!
Perhaps you are waking up at any hour from wild dreams, agitated, hot and sweaty. Are you also finding your throat dry, craving cold beverages, and bothered by the feeling of your heart beating in your chest? There are so many combinations of patterns and organ imbalances! It will take a little bit of sleuthing when you come in, but we will do our best to find out where this sleeplessness is coming from and address it with herbs and acupuncture.
The other important thing to take a look at is sleep hygiene. This can go a long way, and it will likely take some effort and discipline from you. For more information, I loved this article from the sleepfoundation.org. There is no way that I can do a more thorough job than they did with this article, so take a look at it and see what may be useful to you.
If you are suffering with insomnia and live in the areas of Santa Rosa, Bodega, Guerneville, Occidental or Forestville please make an appointment at True Nature Wellness near downtown Sebastopol. Acupuncture and herbs have been shown to be highly beneficial for people struggling with this very common issue.
Migraines are painful and debilitating and often times when they strike, there is not much that can most patients find will relieve the symptoms. Simple movements can exacerbate symptoms; sensitivity to light and sounds encourages most patients to hide in a dark, quiet room. The attacks may likely be severe enough to be incapacitating and seriously disrupt your life. Migraines are a common complaint that I treat in my Sebastopol acupuncture clinic, with excellent results.
Migraines have several defining characteristics:
There are some commonly known things that may potentiate the onset of the migraine. If you suffer from migraines, familiarize yourself with this list and notice if your symptoms strike in association so you may control some of your triggers and lessen the likelihood of an attack.
POTENTIAL MIGRAINE TRIGGERS
MIGRAINE IN CHINESE MEDICINE
In Chinese medicine, the migraine is a symptom of an internal imbalance, dis-ease within your body’s system. When you come in for therapy I will take a thorough assessment of your health history and current symptoms in order to arrive at a diagnosis. Once we find out what is at the root, we immediately initiate treatment to support your body in finding true health and balance, working to alleviate the symptoms of migraines.
In the clinic, I find that most migraines result from:
Once your body is engaged in a loop of stress, it can be hard to unlock the cycle yourself. Acupuncture, Chinese medicine and herbs, CranioSacral Therapy and some of the other modalities that I use in the clinic can help your body mediate the stress response, find a natural hormonal rhythym and help your body get out of this entanglement.
Once you are out of the acute state of experiencing regular migraine symptoms, it can be helpful to attend monthly acupuncture therapy to help support your body’s newfound sense of balance and to continue nourishing and strengthening your nervous system.
SELF-CARE PRACTICES for STRESS REDUCTION to mitigate migraines
If you live in Sebastopol, or any other surrounding areas like Bodega, Forestville, Graton, Occidental, or Guerneville, the clinic is not too far away and is accepting new patients for acupuncture migraine therapy.
Please note: If you are experiencing migraines, there are some red flags to be concerned with. If you have any of these in concert with a migraine, or any other symptoms that concern you, please consult your doctor immediately
MIGRAINE RED FLAGS
Fall for Nourishing Bone Broth
As the days shorten and the weather cools, we will look for ways to continue strengthening immunity and invigorating our physical bodies. Bone broth is an excellent way to do so. From a Chinese medicine point of view, bone broth builds the most essential component of the body, the Kidney essence, along with the qi, blood, bones and tendons. Thus, bone broth is an especially useful staple during the cooler months. When you consume bone broth, you are nourishing your Kidney Yin and Yang directly. We call this 'strengthening the root' in Chinese Medicine because the Kidneys are the root of all Yin and Yang in the body. Here are some interesting tidbits about bone broth I have picked up along the way:
If there are colds going around or if you feel run down, make the following recipe and eat it for two or three days in a row. Increases resistance and builds immunity:
Herbed Bone Broth
4 lbs. roasted chicken necks, backs, feet or 2 roasted chicken carcasses
2 celery stalks
1 yellow onion, quartered
3 large cloves of garlic
12 cups water (3 quarts)
3-4 Tblsp Apple cider vinegar
2 grams Kombu (one large strip)
6 slices ginger
20 g (about 2 Tblsp) Fo Ti/He Shou Wu
16 g (small handful) Chinese yam/Shan Yao
20 g (about 3 Tblsp) Goji berry
10 g (small handful) Astragalus/Huang Qi
15 g (large handful) Reishi mushroom/Ling Zhi
1. Roast chicken bones/pieces on 400 to enrich the flavor of the broth, until they are browned. (optional)
2. Add bones and any juices from the roasting pan to a large crockpot with celery, onion, water, apple cider vinegar and kombu. Turn crockpot on low and bring to a simmer. You don’t want the broth to boil, but a gentle simmer is fine.
3. Simmer for a minimum of 20 hours, then add the herbs and simmer for an additional 4 hours.
4. Strain everything from the broth and discard the solids.
Sip the broth as it is, or use to cook grains and stews. I usually let it cool on the counter for a bit then chill in the fridge. To remove the fat, let the broth cool then you can skim the fat solids from the top. Leave a little, the fat helps your body to absorb minerals!
Nourishes yin, yang, qi and blood. Calming and settling to the spirit. Builds immunity and adaptability.
Bone Broth Tips and lessons
Healing Neck Pain with Acupuncture
Treating neck pain is always very satisfying for me as a practitioner. I can’t tell you how many times a patient has come in to my acupuncture practice in Sebastopol with stiffness, rigidity, pain and loss of range of motion and walked out with a smile, surprised at how easily their head can now flow on their shoulders from side to side and front to back. Now, not everyone walks out healed on the first treatment. But I can’t remember the last time someone didn’t feel a great amount of relief from the neck pain they were experiencing when they walked in the door.
All this said, there can be many causes of neck pain:
All of these are treatable with acupuncture. In addition, CranioSacral therapy, TuiNa massage and stretching, cupping and gua sha are all therapies that can improve range of motion and decrease pain. Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in relieving certain types of neck pain, particularly those caused by whiplash. In many cases, acupuncture has worked for my patients whose conditions couldn’t be treated using conventional approaches.
If you have a minor acute neck pain, or even some chronic pain that’s due to muscle tension, you can try these simple yet powerful techniques:
If you live in Sebastopol, or any other surrounding areas like Bodega, Forestville, Graton, Occidental, or Guerneville, the clinic is not too far away and is accepting new patients. Visit True Nature Wellness for your local neck pain expert! You won’t regret it. If you’re not sure acupuncture is right for you, call today for a free 15 minute consult.
Sleeping with Sciatica
I have had many patients that toss and turn, and can’t get comfortable enough to find a position where they can rest easy at night when they are coming in for sciatica symptoms. Here are some possible options that my patients have found helpful:
I hope this helps you rest easy tonight! If you would like to find out more about how acupuncture can help you, and you live in Sebastopol, Graton, Occidental, Guerneville, Bodega, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park or any of the surrounding areas please give the clinic a call to learn how acupuncture can help you with your Sciatica pain symptoms.
Treating Sciatica with Acupuncture
Sciatica can be a debilitating pain, confusing and overwhelming for those experiencing it. Pharmaceutical pain medications and surgery are typical treatment methods your doctor might recommend, but may not always be the choice you are looking for, and may not even help! A less invasive treatment method being used more and more often is acupuncture, and treatment for your sciatica is available in my acupuncture practice in Sebastopol located in the heart of West County serving surrounding areas of Bodega, Guerneville, Occidental, Graton, and Forestville.
If you are experiencing numbness, burning, tingling, sharp shooting pains, throbbing sensations in your legs and/or feet, you may have sciatica. The pain can be felt anywhere from the buttocks, down the back and/or sides of the leg and to the ankles and can come with or without back pain. Sciatica may also come with weakness of the leg that is affected. One or both legs can be impacted by the sciatic nerve impingement.
Common causes include intervertebral disc herniation and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). If you can understand a simple version of the anatomy and function of the spine and nerves, you will understand why you’re feeling these unbearable sensations.
Your spine, or your backbone, travels from your lower back up through your neck to your skull and with it travels a network of nerves that branch out and innervate all of the tissues of your body, including in this case your glutes (butt) legs and feet. The sciatic nerve branches out from the spine in your lower back (the lumbar region) traveling through the glute area down the back of your leg to the heel, on the outer aspect of your lower leg (calf) and the outer ankle area. When the nerve becomes impinged, or pinched on, it will create these painful symptoms of numbness, tingling, shooting pains, etc. There are two main areas where the sciatic nerve gets impinged on, either at its root in the spinal canal in the lumbar region of the lower back where it leaves the spine, or in a muscle in your butt called the piriformis. The latter is called “piriformis syndrome” and we can talk about that in a future blog. Today let’s focus on nerve root compression that occurs at the spine.
Nerve root compression is most commonly caused by a bulging disc or herniated disc, bony irregularities (like spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis or osteoarthritic osteophytes). All of these conditions will create a pressure on the nerve at the spine, and that basically is what is commonly referred to as a “pinched nerve” and results in the symptoms you are feeling with sciatica. In the case of a bulging disc, the disc between the vertebrae of the spine pushes out and presses on the nerve. In the case of the bony irregularities, there is literally bone that builds up on the spine near the nerve, and the growth will begin to press on the nerve.
I have been successful treating many cases of sciatica in my acupuncture clinic. By inserting the small needles into specific places in your body, a nervous system response is triggered that leads your brain to release endorphins and enkephalins, which are natural pain killers. It will also increase blood flow to the area, which will promote healing; the increased blood flow will bring oxygen and nutrients to the injured area, as well as help flush out metabolic waste that was created as a result of the injury. Acupuncture can also help relax the muscles in the surrounding area. In the case of the ruptured or bulging disc, acupuncture is most effective for helping to heal the disc’s tissue. Tuina massage and CranioSacral Therapy are both excellent treatment methods I use for treating bone spurs as well as disc degenerations or traumas.
In acute cases, a patient may get relief within 2-3 treatments. For more chronic issues it could take up to 8-12 treatments depending on the specific circumstances of the incurring injury.
Some patients are curious about how their diet can help with their symptoms. Here are some foods that are recommended to patients with sciatica:
Meta-analysis shows acupuncture a clinically relevant option for sciatica
This research compared 122 different studies to determine the clinical effectiveness of various treatment strategies for sciatica. Researchers found a statistically significant improvement in patients who received acupuncture. This study shows us that there are a variety of options to consider when treating sciatic pain and that acupuncture can be of particular therapeutic value, especially when coupled with other pain-management techniques. More information here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24412033
Acupuncture shown to have pain-relieving effect on sciatica
This study compared 2 methods for treating sciatic pain using acupuncture. Method 1 used 1-2 needles in the gluteal area. Method 2 called for several needles at various points on the body along with 1-2 needles in the gluteal area. Researchers found both methods to be successful, with method 1 providing slightly more relief. This finding is an indication that very few needles can be used to treat sciatic pain, as long as proper point selection is maintained. More information here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21692291
Do you experience any of the following symptoms, and you are unsure why? You may be having a negative reaction to some of the foods in your diet.
SYMPTOMS OF FOOD INTOLERANCE:
Although they can be difficult to enact, elimination diets are a fundamentally simple method of utilizing a strategic removal of specific foods from the diet. They are used to discover any foods that may be triggering your symptoms.
COMMON FOODS THAT CREATE SYMPTOMS
YOUR UNIQUE FOOD SENSITIVITIES
To become more familiar with the foods that are causing you problems, its important to take a close and intimate look at your diet to determine links between foods consumed and symptoms experienced. Here is a general outline of how to do the elimination diet protocol.
The first part of the elimination diet is to pay attention with a food journal and to do some reflection on your relationship to different foods so that you can create a list of any and all foods that may be causing you problems.
1. For one week, keep a log of the things that you eat as well as the symptoms you have during the day.
You should also consider these questions:
Often times, it is the foods that we crave and our comfort foods that are causing us the most problems. If this makes you want to close this page right now, then you are onto something! Be brave and take a closer look. Although it can be challenging to make changes to your diet, it will be a relief to know what’s in your diet that is complicating your health.
Continuing with the elimination diet, once you have a thorough list of all of the foods that you notice any symptoms with from your log, then you will avoid them.
2. For two to four weeks, avoid all of the foods on your list without any exceptions.
You will have to look at all food labels of any processed or packaged foods you wish to consume. You may consider only eating foods that you have cooked at home during this time, as it may be difficult to know or control what is being put into the recipes when you eat out. If you do eat out, you will need to pay special attention. You will need to learn about the foods that you are sensitive to so that you can ensure you are not getting them into your diet unknowingly. For example if you are avoiding dairy then watch for casein, lactose and whey.
It can take several days for the symptoms to improve after you take out an offending food. You may even feel worse for the first few days. Be patient and stay with the program.
After your system is cleared of offending foods, you will notice your symptoms improving, and eventually clearing up if indeed it is a food that is bothering you. Once this occurs, you can begin the next phase of the process - a reintroduction of the foods in question.
3. Add the foods back ONE AT A TIME
Start with one food, eat a meal with a small amount of it, and watch for symptoms. The next day eat a meal with a larger amount of the food. Note any symptoms.
After you eat the food for a couple of days, you will again remove the food from your diet until you are completely finished with the elimination diet. If any symptoms have arisen, wait for them to clear before trying the second food on your list.
Move to the next food and repeat the process: a small amount of the food introduced, note symptoms, next day a larger meal with the food and note symptoms. Allow the food to clear from your body after you finish for at least a day, or until all symptoms have been eradicated.
The key is to introduce each food, one at a time. Even if you do not find any symptoms from a food that you have tested, take it out until all the other foods that you are eliminating have been tested.
NOTE: some patients have found that it can take more than one or two meals of a food to cause symptoms. For example, one patient describes digestive complaints, foggy mind, as well as joint popping and muscle tension after eating gluten for several meals. The symptoms do not appear until multiple meals with the food have regularly been consumed. You may wish to take the time to eat some of these specific foods for longer periods of time, when they are foods that become more regular parts of your diet like a grain may become.
After you have found which of the foods are promoting your symptoms, now its time to create a diet that eliminates the foods. The good news is that you should try the food again in 6 months. There is a good chance that with giving your body a break from the food, you won’t be so reactive to it in the future!
If you are interested in lab testing, I do offer food sensitivity testing for patients in Sebastopol and the surrounding areas of Graton, Occidental, Forestville, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Bodega. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call for a free 15 minute consultation.
SOME IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER
Frozen Shoulder syndrome, aka ‘Adhesive Capsulitis’, is a really common complaint that I treat in my acupuncture clinic in Sebastopol with amazing results. Frozen Shoulder Syndrome (FSS) is basically a term that is used to refer to a painful and stiff shoulder with a reduced range of motion.
If you have frozen shoulder, then you will only be able to move your arm in restricted movements. You will feel a dull or achey pain in the shoulder joint, and maybe even feel the pain radiate into the shoulder muscles that wrap around the top of your arm. If I was to move your arm for you, without you trying to help, I would also not be able to move the arm through its regular range of motion. This happens because the capsule surrounding the head of the humerus becomes contracted (the humerus is the long bone of the upper arm, which supports the biceps and other upper arm muscles and the head is end of the bone that fits up into your shoulder joint). There becomes thickening of the fibers with the contraction, and this results in an inability to move the arm in the shoulder joint. Simply put, there is scar tissue (adhesions) that begin to fix the shoulder in place and cause pain.
In Chinese Medicine, this is referred to as ‘Qi and Blood Stagnation’. Qi and Blood Stagnation of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome responds very well to acupuncture, heat applications like moxibustion and TDP lamps, cupping and gua sha, as well as Tuina massage and CranioSacral therapy, all methods of therapy that are included in your treatment at my acupuncture clinic in Sebastopol.
Acupuncture and all of the above mentioned specialized techniques will help break down the scar tissue and increase blood flow to the area. By inserting the small needles into specific places in your body, a nervous system response is triggered that leads your brain to release endorphins and enkephalins, which are natural pain killers. It will also increase blood flow to the area, which will promote healing; the increased blood flow will bring oxygen and nutrients to the injured area, as well as help flush out metabolic waste that was created as a result of the injury. Acupuncture can also help relax the muscles in the surrounding area, which tighten up with the contraction of the capsule.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR HEALING FROM FROZEN SHOULDER
I typically recommend my patients include:
Most patients feel great relief with the first treatment, and if they follow with the appropriate exercise and regular treatments they should experience excellent healing results. Don’t let your frozen shoulder stop you – make an appointment today to treat your Frozen Shoulder at True Nature Wellness in Sebastopol. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact my office for a free 15 minute consultation. Treating shoulder pain with acupuncture for the Sebastopol, Occidental, Bodega, Forestville, Guerneville area with excellent results!
Many people are surprised to learn that acupuncture, herbs and CranioSacral Therapy in conjunction are helpful treatment methods for hiatal hernia, acid reflux, GERD and heartburn and that I regularly treat patients for these concerns at my acupuncture clinic in Sebastopol. I thought it would be helpful for people suffering from these conditions and symptoms to learn about some of the suggestions that I offer to my patients to supplement their individualized treatments here.
Avoid the following, as these foods are either acidic and will increase symptoms, or will relax the lower esophageal sphincter allowing the stomach acid to rise into your esophagus causing a burning sensation and are best avoided.
Consider increasing alkaline foods in your diet, such as the following:
REGARDING HERBAL OTC REMEDIES
Patients have reported positive responses to bringing these natural alternatives into their diet to reduce symptoms and heal some of the damage to the tissue by the stomach acid. Take when symptoms arise or try as prevention.
Hiatal hernia, acid reflux, GERD and heartburn are all distinct patterns within Chinese Medicine, and with a thorough intake I will find what it is that is at the root of your imbalance, and we will use acupuncture and herbs to create balance and relieve your symptoms and promote healing. If you live in Sonoma’s West County, Sebastopol, Occidental, Graton, Guerneville, Forestville, Bodega or surrounding areas, you can book online now to receive acupuncture for your condition. I hope these tips are useful! If you have any questions, call for a 15 minute free consultation and schedule your appointment with Chase Desso, Licensed Acupuncturist at True Nature Wellness in downtown Sebastopol.
Chase Desso, Lac
Acupuncture Wizard, Whole Food Fanatic, Nature Lover, Subtle Body Devotee