Enliven Your Liver this Spring with a Fresh Twist

Hello All,

Yay! it’s finally Spring!!

Spring is associated with the Wood element which governs the Liver and Gall Bladder systems. Foods that are sour and foods that are green, especially young green foods such as micro-greens, A.K.A. sprouts (alfalfa, mung, brocolli sprouts, etc.) are excellent for the Liver/Gall Bladder systems. Here’s an interesting raw vegan salad dressing recipe you can try

with yourfresh green salad.

images-7

images-8 This recipe comes from FullyRaw Kristina’s video blog. Yes, it’s an unusual combo but like many of her recipes, sure to please the taste buds.

Ingredients:

3-4 cups fresh cut mango

1 cup pitted dates

1 large tablespoon fresh rosemary

*optional – sliced pineapple

Mix ingredients in a blender and serve. Fun things are often so simple!

Yoga Exercises for Spring

Certain yoga postures such as twists are especially good for the Liver/ Gall Bladder systems because they help move qi in the “Middle Jiao” (area just under the ribs, between the rib and the navel). There are many variations of the yoga twist that you can try. Here are a few below that you can incorporate into your daily routine. images-5images-3images-4images-6

On the mental-spiritual plane, the Liver is associated with irritability, anger, frustration.  One way to channel this energy is to engage in creative projects that allow the mind feel expansive and open to seeing life as full of infinite possibilities.  It’s also helpful to remember that the people we may feel anger towards also suffer in many ways too.

Wishing you a dynamic and healthy spring.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Food and the Sun’s Daily Rhythm

Greetings Dear Readers,

Just as the year has a seasonal cycle – spring, summer, fall and winter  - so too does each day have a cycle.  Early morning, when the sun is rising, is the most Yang (warming, energizing, invigorating) part of the day.  Later morning and early afternoon are Yang with some Yin while late afternoon and evening are Yin with some Yang.  Late night is the most Yin (cool, calm, quiet).  In TCM, health is about harmonizing with the Yin-Yang energy rhythm of the day and night which in Western terms is called the circadian rhythm. I10-67-circadianclock So what does this all mean in terms of diet?   By matching your food choices with the sun’s energy phase, i.e. Yang foods during the Yang part of the day and Yin foods during the Yin part of the day your overall energy, digestion and stamina will increase.  Plenty of research on shift workers has shown that living outside the normal rhythm (i.e. sleeping during the day and working and eating at night) increases the incidence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer as well as gastrointestinal disorders, mental health problems and preterm deliveries in pregnant women.1  This is a good reminder for our modern age when people are working more according to the rhythm of their work place or their technological devices rather than their bodies’ circadian rhythm and the sun.  On a side note – a set of acupuncture points called “Horary points” can also be used to adjust your body to the sun’s rhythm in cases of jet lag or shift lag.

Early morning as the sun rises, it is most Yang.  This is the time to eat more Yang foods.  Interestingly many people already do that.  Many people like to drink coffee first thing in the morning.  This is not surprising at all as Chinese Medicine says that coffee is Yang and warming.  For those who would like an alternative to coffee for their morning Yang tonic, there is ginger tea or, if pressed for time, you can nibble on a piece of ginger pickle which you can make yourself using the very simple recipe below.

In the West, many people start their day with cooling Yin foods such as cold milk and dry cereal with a glass of cold juice.  Others who are trying to be quite health conscious may drink a fruit smoothie with bananas and yogurt.  The problem with these breakfasts is that they are too cold, or Yin.  Bananas and dairy are Yin and cool in TCM and are best eaten later in the Yin phase of the day, late afternoon or evening.  A better breakfast for a vegan or raw vegan would be something like “date-orade”, a drink made with dates (which have a warm thermal nature in TCM) blended up with warm water and if you like, a bit of cinnamon and hemp hearts.

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“Date-orade”

A Chinese friend of mine recently gave me this ginger pickle recipe below that is used for strengthening the Yang energy and digestive fire. It is a perfect thing to take first thing in the morning to give you stronger energy all day provided that you are not over-heated (it’s all about balance!).  Ginger benefits the spleen, stomach and lung channels.  Ginger disperses cold, wind and damp-phlegm.  This recipe is also traditionally used to prevent the common cold virus because ginger clears “Wind” which is the external pathogen that carries the virus into the body.  Fresh ginger is warm while dried ginger is considered hot.  If the Spleen is deficient and causing blood to leak out of the vessels as in for example, menorrhagia, ginger can strengthen the Spleen’s astringing function to hold the blood inside the vessels and stop the excessive bleeding.  images-1

How to make Ginger Pickles

Ingredients:

8 oz ginger sliced finely

1 cup apple cider vinegar**

1/3 cup unpasteurized honey

1. Chop up fresh ginger into bite-size pieces.

2. Place ginger pieces into vinegar (organic apple cider vinegar is the healthiest kind)

3. Let ginger “pickle” by letting it sit and absorb the vinegar for 1 week or more.

4. Start each day eating one or two pieces of ginger pickle.

**Using high quality rice vinegar instead will cause a slight pinkish colour change to the ginger if that is preferred.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

References:

1.Institue for Work and Health. 2005. Shift Work and Health.      http://www.iwh.on.ca/topics/shift-work

How to Dissolve Kidney Stones

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you have kidney stones or are worried about possibly having them, there is an easy solution:

asparagus! Yes, that’s right, asparagus.  Go down to your local market and pick yourself up 2 or 3 bunches.

Raw Asparagus spears

Eat one cup of asparagus (steamed or juiced, however you like it) each day for 3 or 4 days.  You’ll know this is working when you see the appearance of a white sand in your urine.  This is the dissolved kidney stone material leaving your body. Yay!

Asparagus dissolves the oxalic acid crystals as well as the calcium stones caused by too much calcium supplementation either in pill form or from drinking calcium-fortified soy or almond milk.  Read the labels. The body only needs a set amount of calcium at one time and will deposit excess calcium in various places in the body such as the arteries (arterial plaque) and the kidneys (stones).  The body often cannot absorb calcium because it requires various cofactors, namely magnesium, which is extremely deficient in modern diets owing to poor soil quality.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, asparagus purifies the Lung system of toxicities, strengthens the Kidney Yin, and calms the Heart which helps the mind become more peaceful (Heart houses the mind, known as “shen” in TCM).

Happy healing!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Strengthening the Stomach with Cabbage Salad

Greetings Dear Readers,

Ever wonder why some people (perhaps you fall into this category) eat a very healthy, perhaps

Cabbage Salad (Recipe)

extraordinarily healthy diet well beyond what most people do for themselves, perhaps eating super foods and/or supplements by the truckload and YET have fatigue, low appetite, weight gain, bloating, gas, constipation, food sensitivities and low vitality?  Why is that?  Well, one likely reason is Low Stomach Acid.

The stomach, like the skin and vagina, are organs that are meant to be acidic (pH above 7).  Since these are areas that

The angle of His is formed between the esophag...

micro-organisms can easily invade, acid acts as a chemical barrier preventing unfriendly bacteria/viruses/parasites frequently found in animal products (especially raw fish) as well as unwashed vegetables (i.e. spinach) from colonizing inside you.  Your stomach acid, which is part of your immune defence, is meant to have a pH of 2; enough acidity to destroy these micro-organisms.   Stomach acid also has a  digestive purpose in chemically breaking down food particles in order for your small intestine to absorb the nutrients.  In modern people, stomach acid is often weak and gets even weaker as we age due to long-standing poor dietary habits.  Ever wonder why many elderly people have poor appetites and eat bird-size meals? My grandfather who lived to be 98 and took apple cider vinegar (which increases gastric acid secretions) regularly had the strongest appetite of anyone I know.  He would take us to a Chinese buffet and have four full plates of every kind of food plus two full dessert plates.

Low stomach acid is something to take very seriously as it has a number of consequences:

1. Protein in food is not broken down.  Protein in it’s broken down state is amino acids (protein molecules).  Amino acids are the basis of neurotransmitters (naturally chemicals used by the brain and nervous system to relay information between the brain and various areas of the body).  Without enough neurotransmitters, the nervous system doesn’t do it’s job leading to things like mood disorders such as depression.  Poor protein digestion also causes hair loss and brittle nails (nails and hair are made of protein).  Another issue with poorly digested protein is that it often sits too long in the intestines causing bacterial growth and weakening of the intestinal walls.  This is called ‘leaky gut syndrome” meaning food matter leaks out the walls of the intestines.  This leakage causes an immune response because the food matter isn’t where it’s supposed to be, the peritoneal cavity.  Anti-bodies are made in response to the food particles in the peritoneal cavity which then sets off an immune response every time you eat foods that you have antibodies to.  The more the low stomach acid situation continues, the more food sensitivities, inflammation and auto-immune diseases develop.

2. Bacteria and other unwanted micro-organisms get a foot-hold in the digestive tract (think H. pylori, the bacteria known to be responsible for stomach ulcers, as well as parasites).

3. Although this sounds contradictory, low stomach acid is actually one of the causes of acid reflux, heartburn and G.E.R.D. (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease).  How so?  With each of these conditions, contents from the stomach are backing up into the esophagus because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is not closing tight enough.  Why is the LES not closing? The is because the stomach acid is not sufficient to break down the food or destroy bacteria causing the pressure in the stomach to build up.  The fermentation of stagnant food means the lower esophageal sphincter must open to release the pressure.  Initially, the treatment is to calm the acid reflux with chamomile and slippery elm to heal the irritated esophagus.  Antacids, baking soda or milk will comfort the esophagus in the short term but since these products are intensely alkaline they will actually weaken stomach acid.  Once the acid reflux has calmed down, the next step is the increase stomach acid using bitters.

4. Low stomach acid means poor absorption of nutrients, especially minerals such as non-heme iron sources (plants), B12 and folic acid.

5. As the food is not properly broken down by stomach acid, it putrifies (rots) in the gut causing gas, bloating, belching and constipation.

How to tell if your stomach acid is low?  One simple way which you can do at home is called the beet test.  Eat a beet or two (salad, steamed, juiced, doesn’t really matter how).  If your urine or bowel movements turn pinkish-reddish (called beeturia) within the next 24 hours , you will know that your stomach is not breaking down and assimilating the pigments which indicates that you are not getting enough nutrients from your food.

Ok, now for the therapeutic answers.  It’s interesting how TCM and Western herbal medicine both agree so well on this issue: bitters!  Bitters are so important for your stomach and digestion and need to be eaten every day. Vinegar which is considered a bitter food in TCM, is a key ingredient used in the recipe below.  There are hundreds of bitter foods.  All those leafy green vegetables your mom wanted you to eat and you ate them because she promised you dessert.  Most green leaves have a bitter quality.  Some common bitters are dandelion, alfalfa, plantain, red clover, arugula, wheat grass, barley grass, parsley, watercress, and a whole lot more which you may even find growing in your yard (careful – don’t eat if sprayed with herbacides).

TCM describes the actions of bitters:

1. Clears Heat

2. Drains Dampness

3. Increases appetite

4. Purges toxins

5. Moves Qi downwards to promote urination and bowel movements

Cabbage Salad to the Rescue

Cabbage in TCM is slightly sweet and benefits the Spleen and Stomach systems.  It also clears toxins from the bowels and improves circulation.  Cabbage also contains vitamin U which heals the stomach lining and increases appetite.  Fresh raw cabbage juice is an age-old remedy for gastric ulcers.  The vinegar is a bitter which stimulates acid production in the stomach.  The raw vegetables contain live enzymes which help digest the food.  The Celtic sea salt contains chloride needed in the production of hydrochloric acid (A.K.A. stomach acid).

**For those who have an active heartburn/acid reflux situation going on, wait until the the heartburn/acid reflux calms down (takes about 2-3 weeks to clear using chamomile, marshmallow root and slippery elm daily) before using the vinegar, onions and garlic as these foods can be heartburn triggers.  Some people report that apple cider vinegar doesn’t trigger their heartburn while regular vinegar does.  Also, dried garlic and dried onion powder can be used as substitutes as these are less triggering than the fresh kind.

Ingredients:

3 cups red cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium onion, shredded

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup raw almond butter

3 Tbsp unpasteurized honey

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp Celtic sea salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Shred cabbage and onion in a food processor or with a grater.

2. Add in apple cider vinegar, raw almond butter, garlic, honey. coriander, cumin and salt.

3. Mash ingredients together until fully mixed.

4. Enjoy!

Yours in health,

Cynthia McGilvray

Six Degrees Community Acupuncture

pokeme.ca

Winter Wisdom Gleaned from the Plant World of Seeds

A lady in deep thoughts.

A lady in deep thoughts.

Greetings Dear Readers,

Welcome to the beautiful, mystical winter season.  In Asian medicine, all living things – humans, animals, plants – are connected to the seasonal cycle of nature.  Although the modern scientific view puts more focus on the microcosm – the tiny cells and microbes – to understand disease, Asian medicine takes into account the macrocosm, which includes the energies in and around us such as the emotional environment in our mind, our social milieu, the food we eat and the way we go about our lives. There are a multitude of influences on the state of balance our body systems are always trying to achieve.  We can learn so much from the natural world.

English: Brown Flax Seeds. Français : Graines ...

Brown Flax Seeds

Winter is associated with this dormancy stage of the seed.  It is a period of waiting; a time when it appears not much is happening, at least externally.  It is a time of cocooning and inner transformation.  We reap the benefit of the winter season by following this example in nature and taking time to rest.  Long, deep sleeps in winter let the body rest and rejuvenate.  We restore balance by cultivating the Yin energy after the very active spring and summer seasons.  We conserve our energy so that it can re-emerge again strongly during the spring season when the Yang energy pushes forth again.

Seed wisdom is about  holding the vital life force within its’ shell.   In winter, our body also pulls its’ energy deep inside.  Like the seed, we benefit from protecting ourselves from with cold with an added layer of warm clothing.  We also benefit from eating winter vegetables such as kale, cabbage, squash, turnip and collard greens.   These plants have a special ability to withstand cold climates.  By eating plants that winterize well, we also gain their same inner resilience to cold.

Still waters run deep.  Our consciousness runs at a much deeper level in this most Yin season.  As winter is when our qi is submerged to its’ deepest level within our bodies, so too do our thoughts turn to the deep, the spiritual and existential.

Winter bird in the snow

Winter has a beautifully mysterious quality.  Everything is hidden under a blanket of snow.  No longer are the blooming flowers inviting us to dance in the garden.  Now the cold wind sends us indoors where we nestle by a fire.  In the quiet spaces of our mind, deep thoughts emerge from the subconscious bringing forth insights (insight=in+sight=inner sight).  It is a time to look within ourselves for answers.  It’s a time to listen more to those little callings in our mind we hear in the quieter moments of the day.  Some call these little nudges the higher self, the Buddha within your heart, intuition, or God who is speaking to you. However we frame it, it’s a time for resting, listening to the inside, and being deep.

Wishing you a Happy Winter Season!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Raw Cashew Cheese Dip Soothes the Lungs and Large Intestine

Greetings Dear Readers,

Many who have transitioned to a dairy-free or vegan diet enjoy cheese and dearly miss it

Creamy Vegan Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting

Creamy Vegan Cashew Cream Cheese

when they feel called to eat this way.  Many have tried dairy alternatives such as soy cheese and found it to be a poor substitute, myself included.   Alas!  There is a very rich and dreamy food experience that many have not yet discovered: raw vegan nut cheeses!  Try something different today!  Delicious rich nuttiness blended with nutritional yeast for extra cheesey flavour and vitamin B nutrition combined with tangey citrus and a little garlic or herbs for flavour and show, a red pepper mixed in to make an orange coloured raw cheese dip – oh the creative possibilities in texture, colour and flavour are endless!  Nut cheeses are a gourmet art.

Here I’m just giving you a simple basic recipe to get you started along with, of course, health information from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) so you can understand the health benefits of your health food adventures.  From a TCM perspective, dairy cheese is Damp-forming.  Too much Dampness (runny nose, cysts, sinus congestion, weight gain, coughing up sputum, sluggishness, foggy-mindedness, etc.) is often a reason why vegetarians run into digestive problems and end up going back to eating meat.  Many vegetarians eat “salad and cheese” meals regularly which quickly leads to “Cold-Damp” (lettuce is thermally Cold and dairy is Damp) which then leads them to an acupuncturist who tells them they need to quit being vegetarian and start eating meat.  This is a very common story.  Well, as a vegan myself for many years, I’ve learned to adjust the diet to achieve good health.  Here we are mixing the old with the new.  The TCM sages of yesteryear did not have access to marvellous electrical appliances such as blenders which pre-digest the food to make it less work for your body.  These raw vegan cheeses will counter-balance the Cold nature of dairy because nuts are warming and the garlic, mustard and vinegar will help clear Dampness.

Cashews

Cashews moisturize the lungs and colon.  The lungs and colon belong to the Metal element in TCM which also corresponds with the autumn season, the best time of year for eating nuts.   Cashews treat Lung Dryness issues such as dry cough, wheezing (dyspnea), bronchiectasis, external pathogens (i.e. “colds and flus” in Western terms) and Large Intestine dryness such as dry stools that are difficult to pass, dry mouth and throat and chronic Yin and Blood deficiency.

Nutritional Yeast

This is a great addition to most people’s diet if you haven’t yet discovered it.  It is a healthy kind of yeast that contains an abundance of B vitamins and certain minerals.  Not to worry, candida, or “yeast infection” in your body is not the same species of yeast.   Nutritional yeast is a great food supplement especially for vegetarians and vegans due to its’ high levels of b12 and folic acid.  For the nutritional profile of nutritional yeast click here.

  • 2 cups raw cashews (soaking 2-4 hours improves nutritional quality)
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup filtered water (add a bit at a time until desired thickness)
  • 1/4 cup juice of fresh lemon (or lime)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic minced (optional)
  • 1 tsp Celtic sea salt
  1. Place the cashews, 1/2 of the water, 1/2 of the lemon juice, garlic and sea salt in the food processor and pulse until roughly blended.
  2. Gradually add in more lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, mustard powder, garlic and salt to taste.  Garlic as optional but does add a lot of flavour.
  3. Use as a dip for celery, carrots, or dehydrator chips/breads.
  4. Enjoy!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Cookies for Kidneys

Greetings Dear Readers,

RAW cookies

RAW cookies 

Cookies for Kidneys.  If it sounds like a charity campaign for your organs, well, it is.  Actually the Kidneys are the most depleted organ in modern people.  It’s extremely rare to meet anyone with very strong kidney system even if they eat all the right foods and meditate daily.  In grade school, our school had a campaign to raise money for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. We had to sell little snack size bags of roasted peanuts to our family and neighbors.

Now if only we were selling sesame seeds instead, then according to Eastern Food Therapy, we’d really be

Dry sesame seeds

Dry sesame seeds

doing the kidneys a huge favour.  Sesame (hei zhi ma) is warm and sweet and  a tonic for the Kidneys and Liver.  It is said to strengthen Yin, Jing and Blood as well as “blacken” grey hair  (use black sesame) and build the spirit (Shen).  Yes, you can eat cookies for a good cause.

The Kidney system is in fact the most charitable organ of our bodies.  Whenever one organ is deficient in Yin or Yang, eventually it asks the Kidney system for an energy loan.  The Kidney is like the savings account of the body so it always needs to be replenished for those “rainy days”.  The Kidney system includes the adrenal glands in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).   The World Health Organization recently (2010) recognized adrenal fatigue as a disease, calling it “21st Century Disease” a condition whereby frequent, prolonged and intense stress caused the adrenal glands to release cortisol which over time leads to burn-out of the adrenals or “Kidney Yang Deficiency” in TCM speak.

The Kidney system is associated with the emotion of fear in TCM.  In this “Age of Precariousness” as some are calling this time of economic and job insecurity, fear is rampant.  The stress toll on the body is evident as people often wake up feeling tired in spite of a long sleep, using caffeine to stimulate their adrenal system which is not strong enough to provide the energy boost and motivation (Yang) for the day ahead, having frequent infections, environmental sensitivities, and doing aerobics (which further depletes the adrenals – do weights/sit-ups instead) to eliminate the excess fat around the waist or “spare tire” which is actually caused by the adrenal insufficiency in the first place.  There are a whole host of symptoms and conditions that have adrenal insufficiency at their root.  I highly recoomend Dr. Wilson’s adrenal fatigue quiz as well as his book .

Now, let’s get on to those yummy cookies!

Ingredients  (Makes about 20 small cookies)

  • 1 ¼ cups almond flour (can grind almonds into flour using food processor or coffee bean grinder)
  • ¼ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • ⅓ cup pitted dates or agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds(un-hulled has double the calcium than hulled)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract
  1. Grind almonds until finely crumbled in a food processor.
  2. Mix in sea salt, dates, sesame seeds, olive oil and vanilla.
  3. Blend until fairly even.
  4. Place mixture in fridge for a couple of hours to harden.
  5. Form dough into small cookie shapes with a cookie cutter or small glass jar (just improvise!)
  6. You can also roll the formed cookies in whole sesame seeds for decoration.

Enjoy!

Yours in Health,

Cynthia