Treating Lupus with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you or someone you know is living with Lupus there is hope.  Oriental medicine has had a lot of success with many types of auto-immune diseases such as Lupus.

oriental medicineSystemic Lupus Erythmatosus (SLE) is an auto-immune disorder  in which the immune system attacks its’ own tissues leading to chronic inflammation. Several orlupus-symptomsgan systems may be affected such as kidneys, heart, skin, blood cells, joints, brain and skin.  Western medicine explains the cause of lupus as essentially unknown but beyond that is believed to be a combination of genetics and environment where some people have a genetic predisposition to developing lupus and then various environmental factors such as sunlight, medications (anti-biotics, anti-seizure meds, blood pressure medications) can be the triggers that set off the lupus symptoms. Commonly used Western drugs such as  NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), corticosteroids, anti-malarial drugs and immuno-suppressants are used to manage symptoms.  Although these drugs may be able to control flare-ups to some extent, there are often side-effects with long-term use.
Natural therapies such as acupuncture that can achieve suppression of flare-ups as well as get to the root of the disease itself.

Oriental medicine describes Lupus as a situation of too much Yang (heat)  and not enough Yin (yin=coolness, moisture) which also creates “Empty Heat” or Heat resulting from Deficient Yin.   I will publish a post about Yin Deficiency soon.

With Excess Heat, often the person has Heat signs such as the red butterfly rash on their face (red=heat)butterfly rash, constipation, excess thirst, a feeling of heat in the body or fever, and dark-coloured urine that may be scanty.  The tongue is often red with a yellow coat, and the pulse is often rapid, and full.  Heat symptoms tend to show up in the upper part of the body such as the face because heat rises.  Lupus also shows up more often in younger people between the ages of 15 – 40 because young people are relatively more Yang than older people.

When the Heat is intense it becomes Fire.  Fire rises upwards towards the heart and brain which can result in mental-emotional symptoms such as irritability or anxiety.  Fire also dries up the body fluids which is why there can be constipation and scanty urine.

With Yin Deficiency, there is a lack of the moistening, cooling body fluids in the body which result in dryness as well as Blood Deficiency symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and hair loss..  With prolonged Yin Deficiency there can be “Empty Heat” which means a relatred cracked tongueive increase in Heat caused by a lack of Yin which shows up as low-grade fever and night sweats.  Yin involves all the body fluids including blood and sinovial fluids.  A Yin deficient tongue may be peeled (geographic, or cracked) and the pulse may be superficial, thin and fast.  Since women are considered more Yin, and require a greater amount of blood and body fluids for healthy body functions (think of how women’s bodies must replace menstrual blood lost each month) , this helps explain why SLE tends to affect women more than men.

Photophobia often stems from Yin deficiency of the Liver system (the Liver liver blood def.“opens” to the eyes) causing a lack of moistening fluids (Liver Blood) to the eyes resulting in light sensitivity  and dry eyes.  Hair loss is also indicated because in TCM hair is considered a surplus of Liver Blood.  Discoid (small round) rashes are another symptom of Blood Deficiency as it is the function of Blood to moisten the skin so the lack of Blood causes red flaky rashes.

The joint pain in lupus may be the result of the lack of body fluids (Yin) resulting in less sinovial fluids in the joints.  It can also be from Liver Blood Deficiency as the Liver Blood’s role is to moisten the tendons and resulting in arthritic pain.

Without treatment  Lupus can progress into kidney damage and failure.  This can be a life-threatening illness so it’s important to chose your treatment strategy wisely.  Where there are more severe and acute symptoms such as breathing difficulty and acute kidney issues it’s important to see a Western doctor quickly to prevent serious complications.  Once things have stabilized, TCM acupuncture can focus on the other symptoms as well as addressing the root of the disorder.

treatmentThe goals of acupuncture treatment with Lupus will depend on how the individual presents.  In general, points will be used to clear the Heat/Fire and strengthen Yin and Blood of the affected channels and organ systems.  This is achieved by selecting the correct acupuncture points that will do those jobs.  Each acupuncture point has its own functions and indications so the treatment will be tailored to the patient’s unique presentation. The treatment for Lupus tends to be longer than other conditions because Yin Deficiency takes a long time to develop and so a longer time to remove.  With persistent treatment as well as the guidance I offer in self-care including diet there should be a lessening of flare-ups as well as better energy and quality of life.

Yours in health,

Cynthia McGilvray, R.Ac.

References:

1.Weil, Andrew, M.D., (August 2016). Lupus. Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/autoimmune-disorders/lupus/

2. Mayo Clinic Staff, (November 2014). Lupus. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lupus/basics/definition/con-20019676

3. Maciocia, Giovanni. ( 2005). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. 2nd Ed. Churchill & Livingstone.

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Raw Crackers that Smell Like Pizza!

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

Steps:

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

crispiness.

Mmm delicious:)

Yours in health,

Cynthia

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

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

Liver Qi Gets A Move On

triangle

triangle (Photo credit: daniel.julia)

Greetings Dear Readers,

Liver Qi Stagnation is a very common condition.  The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (energy) in the body.  One famous quote in TCM “Where there is movement, there if life, where there is no movement, there is no life”.  Acupuncture is an excellent way to move qi that has become stagnant.  Between treatments there are many additional ways to help your Liver system with this process.

Lifestyle:  Liver energy is the energy of Wood.  It is likened to young plants in spring pushing their way through the earth and bursting with new life on the surface.  This pushing upwards energy is similar to a healthy assertiveness on the mental level.  When Wood energy is low there is timidity and lack of action and decisions to make things happen.  When Wood energy is stuck or too strong there is aggression, anger or irritability. 

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeolla...

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeollanam-do, South Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diet: The colour green is associated with the Liver and the Wood element.  Eating green foods such as lettuce, kale, green tea, dandelion leaves, broccoli, sprouts, artichoke hearts, asparagus, olives, etc. is especially helpful to do each day.  Sour foods such as all citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), vinegar, cranberries, also assist the Liver system.

Exercise:  A stretch for the Liver channel is wide-angled forward bend.  Triangle pose and Fish pose also open and release energy in the Liver channel.   Walking is associated with the Liver system and walking in a lush green forest is even better.    

English: Finger Painting.

English: Finger Painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Helpful thoughts:  The mind has a powerful influence over the body.  The mental/spirit side of Liver energy is called the “Hun” which is related to our ability to create visions, have dreams and perform visually creative activities such as art.  Here are some thoughts or affirmations that relate to balancing Liver energy:

“I can see my dreams coming true.”

“I am free to make my own healthy choices.”

“I allow myself to express my creative spirit.”

Acupuncture is also an excellent way to move Liver Qi and results are felt quite quickly in most people.

How’s your Liver Qi doing? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Strengthening the Spleen Qi

Purple Carrots

Purple Carrots

Greetings Dear Readers,

Now that we are entering Earth season, also called “late summer” in TCM, here are some seasonal tips to support your Earth energy and Spleen.

Lifestyle:The Spleen is about nourishment, mothering energy and feeling grounded and connected. It’s about the way food is eaten, ideally sitting down, chewing thoroughly, enjoying regular meals eaten mindfully in a peaceful setting.  The mental side of the Spleen is the Yi (say “yee”) which means intellect.  Students, people who study a lot, or anyone doing a lot of concentration and difficult mental tasks are using Spleen energy which can be supported by these tips here.

Exercise: The Spleen governs the muscle tissue of the body.  Massage is excellent for the Spleen system.  A balanced amount of exercise, neither too much nor too little is ideal.  Listening to your body is important.  Regularity is best, a little each day, even 10 or 20 minutes of walking, dancing, stretching, or weights is great. A stretch for the Spleen channel is a yoga pose called “Reclining Hero Pose”. A Qi Gong exercise for the Spleen can be found at: https://cynthiamcgilvray.com/2013/02/07/5-yin-organ-exercises/

Diet: The Spleen belongs to the Earth element in TCM.  Earthy things are round and have earthy colours such as brown, orange and yellow and as such Spleen foods include grains, squash, carrots, potatoes, and beets (esp. good for women).  The Spleen is associated with naturally sweet foods such as dates, grapes, maple syrup and molasses.  The Spleen needs Yang (warm, dry) energy to function at best so adding some warming foods such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and clove to foods will help with digestion and strengthen Spleen Qi.

Happy Earthiness!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

The Small Intestine Channel = Spam Filter of Your Heart

Greetings Dear Readers,

As human beings in this modern age we are more stimulated than ever before.  A seemingly endless barrage of sights, sounds and information.  How much is meaningful?  How much is true?  The Small Intestine energy is responsible for separating the pure from the impure.  If the Small Intestine channel is weak, it may not be performing this discrimination function at top capacity.   On a mental level, a person may not be weighing their options correctly to come to the right decision.   Small Intestine energy allows us healthy discrimination or discernment (not the same as judgment).   When this happens we use the clarity of wisdom to decide what we take in and what to leave out.

Today at Sarvodaya's Early Morning meditation

Today at Sarvodaya’s Early Morning meditation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you ignore advertising pop-ups when you’re emailing or doing some internet research?  This is your Small Intestine energy (A.K.A. your “Inner Spam Filter”, as my teacher says) working extra hard so you can concentrate.  In Buddhism this work is actually a type of spiritual practice called “restraining the doors of the sense powers”.  It means guarding ones’ eyes, ears and such by avoiding looking at or hearing things which disturb the mind.  In this way our mind can be clear and sharp.  This kind of a mind allows us to communicate well, make good decisions and focus on what adds value to our own and others’ lives.

Romantic Heart from Love Seeds

Romantic Heart from Love Seeds (Photo credit: epSos.de)

The Small Intestine is the outer gateway to the Heart channel.  Small Intestine is Yang while the Heart is Yin.  The Small Intestine energy protects the Heart (also called the Emperer in TCM) by filtering out energies or thoughts that would damage this inner most aspect of our being.  In TCM, as well as many Asian philosophies and religions, the heart is the residence of the mind/spirit/subtle mind (depending upon which philosophy you ascribe to).

Getting stuck in life can result from not enough sorting through our experiences to inform our actions.  Or once we’ve made a decision, a lack of Gall Bladder Qi is often a cause of procrastination; this decision is made but we fail to act.  The Small Intestine belongs to the Fire element.  Fire=light, a light which can show us the truth, a light on our path so we can see which steps to take next.  During the Fire season of summer, or any time you feel your mind is too busy and not clear, it’s helpful to support you Small Intestine energy by clearing your mental clutter.  Meditation, de-cluttering your space and/or trying to keep life simple allows room for you to gather your focus and sort things out.

Happy Sorting!

Cynthia