Greetings Dear Readers,
If you or someone you know is suffering from shingles, there is a lot that can be done to reduce pain, strengthen immunity and get relief using natural therapies. A word of caution: if you experience the shingles rash or pain in your face, eyes or ears, this symptom that can have serious consequences such as damage to the eyes or ears leading to loss of vision or hearing. Please visit your doctor immediately.
In Western medicine, the virus causing shingles (varicella-zoster virus) is the same virus that causes chicken pox. When someone gets the chicken pox, eventually the rash clears, but the virus does not fully disappear. It lies dormant in the nerve ganglia at the spine waiting for another opportunity. When the immune system is down, the virus may then reactivate, this time as shingles. Since the virus lives at the nerve root in the spine, it tends to affect one or multiple dermatomes or areas that the affected spinal nerve controls. Prior to the outbreak, the immune system could have been weakened by chemotherapy, radiation, HIV, fatigue, organ or bone marrow transplant, physical or psychological trauma or a very stressful life event. Shingles also tends to affect those over the age of 50 more than younger people.
According to Asian medicine, shingles is a combination of Wind, Damp and Heat pattern often involving Liver/Gall Bladder and/or Spleen system. It’s interesting that the dermatomes at T9-T12 which are often affected by shingles, is also the area of the spine that corresponds to the Liver, Gall Bladder and Spleen in Asian Medicine. Where Heat predominates, the pain tends to be more intense and the sooner the acupuncture treatment is done, the lesser the chances of intense pain that carries on. Palpation of the Fire points shows the extent of the Heat in the body and the corresponding points are treated first before treating the immune system. The Spleen system is also treated because of the burden of Dampness caused by either a pre-existing weak Spleen system (the spleen is also an immune organ in both Eastern and Western medicine) or because the virus itself has weakened the Spleen system which is responsible for controlling Dampness. In either case, Asian medicine offers effective protocols to clear any residual pain or immune weakness caused by shingles.
Once the rashes and blistering have died down, there is often lingering post-herpetic neuralgia (read: intense pain) along the nerve pathway of the area that can go on for months, sometimes years. Some patients have tried applying various rash ointments that are intended for another purpose such as eczema or psoriasis, but with little success because the pain is not about the skin. It is caused by the nerve. An excellent remedy for this type of pain is St. John’s Wart oil rubbed onto the affected area.
Dietary changes can help support the immune system. If the Dampness is predominant, it is important to avoid Damp producing foods such as roasted peanuts, dairy, beer, sugar, concentrated juices or sweeteners, pork, bananas and saturated fats. Refined sugar itself is known to depress the immune system within hours of consumption.1 If Heat predominates, avoid hot spices, alcohol, coffee, chili, ginger, mustard, lamb, ginseng, maca and other heating foods or herbs. Ways to support the body’s immunity include immune tonics such as ganoderma (reishi mushroom), fermented foods because to increase healthy gut flora, zinc, selenium as well as keeping stress levels down (stress reduces Defensive Qi) through relaxation, exercise and meditation.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
- · Albert Sanchez, J. L. · Reeser, H. S. · Lau, P. Y. · Yahiku, R. E. · Willard, P. J. · McMillan, S. Y. · Cho, A. R. · Magie, and U. D. Register. (1973. The American Society o for Clinical Nutrition). The Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophils Phagocytosis. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract
Greetings Dear Readers,
Has your dentist told you that you are clenching your teeth at night? Do you have facial or jaw pain when you wake up in the morning? Does your jaw hurt when you eat or speak? If so, there is relief.
Generally speaking, TMJ (Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders) issues are a set of conditions that manifest as pain in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles that can lead to pain when eating, speaking, chewing, laughing and even breathing.
In the Western medical sense, it is known that TMJ disorders may involve myofascial pain (most cases), structural damage such as dislocated jaw or condyle injury, or arthritic changes impacting the TMJ joint. These causes have been studied and elaborated on further by Master Japanese acupuncturist, Kiiko Matsumoto.
When it comes to myofascial pain, people often have pain at the front of the face where the Stomach channel lies as well as inflammation or heat in the Stomach channel that is indicated with pain at Stomach 41 when pressed. The patient will often show fissures or cracks at the centre of the tongue (Stomach area in TCM), and may also complain of issues relating to Stomach Qi such as ulcers, weakened immune system, anxiety, sensitivity to gravitational or barometric shifts such as being in an airplane, weather changes and time zone shifts, motion sickness, stomach flu and certain problems with pregnancy. Acupuncture treatment here involves regulating the Stomach Qi, often strengthening Stomach Yin and clearing any Stomach channel Heat.
In terms of structural imbalance, Kiiko outlined how at the root of the matter there is often a sphenoid bone imbalance causing an improper alignment. The patient may have pain on palpation of the temporal area, inguinal ligament or just below the navel. They may also have other sphenoid bone imbalance-related issues such as ear problems, headaches, dental problems, or sleep problems such as sleep apnea. A sphenoid bone imbalance may affect the pituitary gland that lies in the centre of the bone causing a hormonal imbalance. Acupuncture treatment here involves supporting proper alignment the bone, as well as correcting the pituitary imbalance.
Finally, issues with degeneration of the bone itself fall into the category of Kidney Essence Deficiency that is most often seen in older adults or those with a constitutional weakness. This may also be associated with symptoms such as insomnia, slow wound healing, skin rashes such as eczema, inguinal ligament pain and temporal headaches. Treatment in this case involves supporting proper bone alignment as well as strengthening the Kidney system.
Acupuncture treatment can go along way to preventing as well as healing TMJ by relieving the underlying patterns. Treatment will often be weekly for a few weeks or months depending on the severity and how long the condition has gone on for.
In the meantime, a few self-care tips:
- Using moist heat such as a hot water bottle or hot pack can be helpful.
- Eating soft foods and blending foods in a blender can give the jaw a chance to rest and heal.
- Relaxation and stress reduction techniques such as guided relaxation such as that found at the end of yoga classes and breathing meditations to calm the mind.
- Sleeping on your side with a pillow between the shoulders and neck.
Yours in health,
- Matsumoto, Kiiko. (2014). Kiiko Matsumoto’s Clinical Strategies: In the Spirit of Master Nagano, Vol. 1 (6th ed.). Hanover, MA: J&R Graphics.
- (2016). Retrieved June 20, 2016, from https://bconroytc.wikispaces.com/Facial Pain (e.g. muscular, TMJ) – Kiiko Matsumoto Japanese Style
Greetings Dear Readers,
Do you have a penchant for all things old-fashioned or making things from scratch with honest ingredients? I do. Maybe it’s the idea that things were some how more simple or more wholesome in the past? Anyways, I thought I’d share this recipe for strengthening the lungs and immune system with elderberry syrup. You can find elderberry syrup in a lot of good health food stores, but you can also make it at home for much less and have some fun while you’re at it.
Recently after going through a recovery from mild acute liver failure last December (long story, but I learned some people’s livers cannot process an herb called skullcap – take note!), I’ve been going through a process of trying to detoxify my liver. My naturopath prescribed a powerful homeopathic formula which really cleared the congestion and pain, however I started to get eczema all around my eyes. My naturopath guided me to support my kidneys with herbs to help flush out my system. This makes sense in TCM because the Kidney nourishes the Liver system.
It worked somewhat, but didn’t see great results until I realized that the Lung system was also involved. In Japanese acupuncture, eczema is often looked at as “Lungs not Controlling Liver”. Lungs govern the skin, hence the eczema. Most of my life I’ve had a Lung weakness and some skin issues. The Lung system nourishes the Kidneys so Lung Deficiency can create Kidney Deficiency. It was early winter, a time when the Kidney system is more taxed, so I knew had to support my Lung and Kidney systems as well.
Long story short, elderberry syrup daily along with oolong tea (both are lung tonics) has really cleared up most of the eczema, and incidentally (since the Lung system deals with immunity too) I have not had a cold all winter and normally I get one. Using the Lung system to control the Liver system is a key concept for the spring season when the Liver tends towards imbalance. Liver Yang excess symptoms such as anger outbursts, muscle tension, temporal or vertex headaches, eye issues, skin rashes, allergies etc. can be helped by supporting the Lung system.
3 cups water
1/2 cup dried Elderberries
¼ cup raw honey (preferably local)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
3-4 cloves (optional)
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger (optional)
Put all the ingredients except for the honey in a pot and bring to a low boil. Simmer mixture on low for 30 min. Then turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain mixture and press berries well through strainer to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Add honey once the mixture has cooled and stir. Store in the fridge.
Adding the cinnamon, ginger and cloves will add flavour but also heating properties. Avoid adding these spices if you already have a fever, or other heat symptoms such as red rashes, sore throat, or the during spring and summer season.
Yours in health,
Yes you can do this! I know. You want to feel more relaxed as well as energized, more balanced some how. “Well if I could just get a week off work (every week) to lie on a beach in a tropical country I’d be great”. Yeah, I get it, our outer conditions are usually not as we would like. So we do our best to strengthen ourselves from within.
We all need a strong nervous system in modern life. Our nervous system may have taken some hits from stress, thinking too much or working too much and also from drug or alcohol abuse. Acupuncture often looks to the Heart and Kidney systems involvement when stress is the issue where there is Heart Fire (excess energy) often caused by Kidney Deficiency (weak Kidneys not controlling the heart-mind). Acupuncture can be used to calm an overactive (Yang excess) nervous system or the end result of chronic stress that often leads to is a depressed nervous system (Yang deficiency).
The way Japanese acupuncture works is to find the leaks in the system, to plug up the energy leaks in where our energy may be draining so we can keep more energy for ourselves, to live our life dreams. The acupuncturist will test reflex points using gentle pressure to find out what is imbalanced and apply what will get best results for your body. Since each person’s health history and constitution are unique, the advantage of using a more individualized approach using confirmation signs means less needling and faster results rather than applying a standardized formula for every case.
I work to make acupuncture is a deeply relaxing restorative and gentle experience for people. You have a quiet space all to yourself with some soothing music if you like, where you can rest, recharge and let the needles do their work.
Some things you can try today to soothe your nervous system are:
- Make it a goal. When we do have time in our day to relax, we can set an intention to make it truly relaxing. Instead of filling our free time with too many distracting multi-tasking activities we can take it down a notch. When eating for example, we can also create a peaceful space visually, energetically and with attention to our thoughts to allow ourself to stay in more peaceful, healthy energies.
- Winding down before bed. We can improve sleep through relaxing before sleep by listening to soft peaceful music, meditation, taking a bath, or journaling to help let go of concerns of the day.
- Breathing exercises. There are some great ones you can find here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9jmO6xwFfs
I look forward to seeing you soon!
Yours in health,
Greetings Dear Readers,
Often times people will tell me they drink “enough” water. Generally, we drink enough to satiate our thirst. That’s all well and good, but did you know that if you are not drinking enough water it can cause your thirst reflex can diminish? That means you drink even less, leaving you chronically dehydrated resulting in poor outflow of toxins through the kidneys and intestines, constipation and inflammation to name a few?
A better way to know how much water to drink is to take your weight in pounds and divide that in half. This number is how many ounces a day of water you will need, minimum, for healthy body functioning.
Weight in pounds i.e. 150 pounds divided by 2 = 75 ounces of water = 9.3 cups of water.
Now that may sound like a lot.
Let’s remember, 8 ounces = 1 cup of water.
Now some of you may be thinking, well, I just feel so bloated or water-logged if I try to drink that much. Yes, this can happen when you combine water with your meals. The key thing is to drink water BEFORE the meals and not after. Really important. If you drink water with or soon after your meals, you will water down your digestive enzymes and make it hard for your stomach to digest your food, resulting in poor absorption of nutrients, bloating etc. A little water or tea/coffee with meals is fine. The good things is that your water intake measurement includes soups, juices, smoothies and other drinks.
So for example, my water intake goes something like this:
2 cups before breakfast
2 cups before lunch
2 cups before dinner
2 cups before bed (at least an hour after dinner)
This may be a new habit for you and it will pay off. At first you may notice that you are urinating more, but generally this should not be a concern because your body is now finally getting the chance to flush out toxins that it wasn’t able to before because of the lack of water. Over a few weeks this should subside. You may also notice that your bowel movements are more frequent and regular. This is a good thing. Thank you water.
Yes, you can thank your water. There are many places in the world where people have to walk for miles to find water or where water is contaminated. So if your water is easily available, abundant and fairly clean, thank your water today.
Yours in health,
Greetings Dear Readers,
My boyfriend Kasey does not like to follow a cook book, and, as in many areas of his life, prefers to find his own unique way of doing things even if it costs him. I’ve tasted many of his culinary inventions – including the “snow pea chip” which left a lot to be desired. However, like our dear Canadian Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb, there can be many failed attempts before the final success that changes modern living forever.
This cracker recipe is epic! It smells like pizza and tastes even better. Try it! It’s like a meal in itself.
Watch the video or read below for this amazing recipe.
Here’s the recipe:
1 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds)
juice of 3 lbs of oranges (2.5 cups)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes soaked in 1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons basil
sea salt to taste
1. Soak flax seeds and hemp hearts in the orange juice for 1-4 hours, covered, longer time is better.
2. Soak sun-dried tomatoes in water for 1 hour.
3. Blend tomatoes plus soak water with flax-hemp-orange juice mixture in blender with onion powder and basil.
4. Pour mixture on to dehydrator sheets and sprinkle with sea salt.
5. Dehydrate at 145 F for 1-2 hours, then turn down to 115 F for 8 – 24 hours until desired
Yours in health,