Category Archives: Seasonal living

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

Seasonal Attunement Advice for Summer

Greetings Dear Readers,

Welcome to summer!

Flowers 1
Flowers 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer is associated with the Fire element in TCM, the Heart and Small Intestine systems, the colour red and the emotion of joy.  Summer is a time of expansive energy  like the blossoming of  flowers.

Summer is a time when our energy moves to the surface of the body as opposed to the winter when it moves to our core.  As such we need to take measures to ensure that our Yin (inward) energy does not get depleted during the Yang (outward) phase of summer.  When our heart system is healthy our mind is at peace and our sleep is deep and refreshing.  Below are some lifestyle tips to help you stay healthy and balanced over the next few months:

1. Cucumber and watermelon are the most cooling foods according to the TCM system of Food Cures.  Drinking lots of water and fresh juices will help you stay hydrated and cool.  Other cooling foods include: green tea, chrysanthemum, tomato, mung bean sprouts, celery, bamboo shoots, melon, summer squash, lemon, lime and tofu.

2. Wake early and sleep later.

3. Keep the mind calm and free from anger as anger creates heat in the body.

4. Conserve your energy.  The summer is the “Fire” season and winter is the “Water” season.  In the TCM Five Element system (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire), Fire and Water are elements that are the hardest to control.  When you start getting over-heated  it’s best to take a rest.  Avoid over-strenusous workouts during the summer.  Try some mellower but powerfully balancing exercise such as qi gong, tai qi or yin yoga instead, or try a moonlit stroll through the park.

Enjoy a fabulous summer!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Is My Spleen in Trouble? How to tell.

Greetings Dear Readers,

I’d like to help folks understand their bodies.  I’d like folks to be able to take charge and make dietary choices that fit their bodies’ individual needs. The Spleen governs digestion and is one of the most commonly afflicted systems in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The key indications of a Spleen pattern are:

–       fatigue

–       tendency to obesity

–       dull-yellow facial complexion

–       abdominal bloating

–       depression

–       digestive problems

Below I will explain some commonly seen Spleen patterns.  Please keep in mind that a person does not need to have all the symptoms listed to have these patterns.  Some symptoms may also belong to other organ patterns.  When in doubt please check with your acupuncturist or TCM practitioner.

Spleen Qi Deficiency

This is by far the most common Spleen issue.  It is the root of many other Spleen patterns.  Look for:

–       pale face

–       loose stools

–       wanting to lie down

–       weak limbs

–       putting on weight easily

–       weak appetite

–       bloating after eating

–       fatigue

With these symptoms a person needs to eat more warm foods (temperature warm and energetically warm), eat regularly and moderately.  Certain emotions such as pensiveness (excess thinking, studying, concentration or obsessing) weaken the Spleen.  A cold, wet climate (think England) is also a factor in Spleen Qi deficiency.  “Spleen Yang deficiency” and “Spleen Qi Sinking” are further progressions from Spleen Qi Deficiency and have many of the same symptoms.

Cold Dampness Invading the Spleen

–       feeling of fullness in the abdomen

–       feeling of heaviness

–       poor appetite

–       cold feeling in upper abdomen that feels better when heat it applied

–       sweet taste in the mouth

–       poor sense of taste

–       absence of thirst

–       fatigue

–       loose stools

–       water retention

–       nausea

–       dull-white complexion

–       vaginal discharge that is white and excessive

This pattern normally develops after being exposed to a cold rainy environment.  It’s helpful to seek out warmer environments, turn up the heat, do more exercise, put on a sweater and try using a dry sauna to knock out some of the Cold, Damp energy out of the body.   Use of moxabustion is also indicated.

Damp-Heat Invading the Spleen

–       full feeling in the upper or lower abdomen

–       heavy feeling in head or body

–       thirst but no wish to drink

–       loose stools with strong odour

–       nausea

–       feeling hot

–       burning sensation in anus

–       vomiting

–       itchy skin or skin outbreaks

–       dull heavy headache

–       dull yellow complexion

–       yellow-tinged sclera of eyes

–       sweating that does not relieve feeling of heat

This pattern is often seen when a person lives or works in a hot humid environment.  This pattern can be helped by clearing the Heat and resolving the Dampness.  Use more energetically cooling foods (see the food chart in “TCM Does Support a Raw Food Lifestyle”).  Dampness can be cleared using bitter foods and teas such as dandelion, bitter gourd (tea or soup), and green vegetables.  Your acupuncturist can also use acupoints to clear Heat and Damp.

Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency

–       dry hair

–       brittle nails

–       scanty periods

–       fatigue

–       weak appetite

–       pale lips

–       pale dull complexion

–       blurred vision or floaters

–       insomnia

–       dizziness

–       depression

–       numb or cramping limbs

–       abdominal bloating

–       loose bowels

The Spleen is responsible for the formation of blood coming from the Qi of food.  If the Spleen is weak for whatever reason (dietary, climactic, mental strain or otherwise) then the blood formed from food intake will be weak and not nourishing to the body.  One important thing here is to avoid eating too many high fat or chemically-laden foods which burden or “stagnate” the Liver system causing the Liver to “attack” the Spleen making the Spleen weak.   Green juices can help relieve the Liver Qi stagnation allowing more harmony between the Liver and Spleen.  Spleen Qi can be boosted by increasing energetically warming foods and relaxing the busy mind.

How’s your Spleen these days? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Your Body Needs Darkness

Greetings Dear Readers,

Human beings spend the first nine months of their lives wrapped in the protective darkness of the womb; a soft, rich and magical place of transformation, preparing the being with a physical form to have this spiritual experience on Earth. In TCM the uterus, called by many names such as “bao zhong” or ‘palace of jing’ (jing=essence) or “Zi Gong” ‘a child’s palace’ is considered one of the extraordinary organs for it’s unique function as a dark palace encasing the magical mystery life.

With the invention of electricity and the light bulb, it seems we’ve become more civilized, moving out of the darkness and into the light. Now we carry on our days’ activities into all hours of the night, working, eating, pursuing hobbies, doing chores, or surfing the internet until the wee hours. We celebrate having more control over our day, more flexibility over our time, more freedom. But what are the health effects of altering the circadian rhythm our bodies have been programmed with since time immemorial?

When the sun goes down, the pineal gland in the brain starts to produce melatonin in response to darkness. Melatonin production peaks in the body peaks at 10pm and drops off when the sun rises. Melatonin plays important roles in regulating hormone production, neurotransmitter production, reproductive cycles and circadian rhythm. Researchers at The University of Selville School of Medicine, Spain, found that melatonin has a significant relationship with the body’s immune system: more melatonin = higher immunity.1

Darkness is your friend. Melatonin actually stops hormone-related cancer cells from growing by changing the cell’s use of fatty acids and the cells’ sensitivity to estrogen. There are many other benefits of melatonin. In one study, animals given melatonin supplements became healthier, had higher activity levels, improved posture, more lustrous fur, and a 20% longer lifespan than the control animals. Melatonin has also been shown to help with depression, Seasonal Affective Disoder (S.A.D.), migraine headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, gastric ulcers, hot flashes in menopausal women (melatonin suppresses luteinizing hormone (LH) in postmenopausal women),
cardiovascular disease (melatonin helps control nitric oxide production, which plays an important role in ensuring proper cardiovascular function), ADD and insomnia in children.2

We need to have all the lights out for this to actually happen. Aaron Blair, the scientist emeritus for the U.S. National Cancer Institute and chairman of the IARC explains that, “melatonin gets made during the dark period . . .if you get light exposure during the normal dark period, it severely reduces the amount of melatonin that is made.” 3 Studies have shown that it only takes a small amount of light such the bedroom door cracked open to a lighted hallway is enough to suppress melatonin production by 87% in rats. Another study showed a significantly lower rate of hormone-related cancers in blind men and women.4

What does Traditional Chinese Medicine have to say? All things in the universe are Yin and Yang in a relative sense. It’s not that light is bad, it’s that darkness is also needed, we need a balance of both for health. What so often seen in our modern age is a deficiency of Yin. Yin encompasses many things such as the darkness, the feminine, quietness, coolness, that which is internal, rest, slowness, depth, creativity, mystery and fluidity (I will write more on these aspects of Yin in up-coming posts). There has been an emphasis in modern culture on all things Yang such as light, speed, sound, heat, external developments, activity, the superficial, the linear, the logical and the known world. This favouring of the Yang side of our natures creates physical and mental imbalances such as inflammatory conditions, racing thoughts, night sweating, insomnia, sensory overload, restlessness, anxiety, destabilization of the emotions, lack of faith, fear and loss of the internal core sense of self.

For centuries there have been people who do long meditation retreats in dark caves in the Himalayas and others who have engaged in special “dark room retreats”. What’s interesting to notice about listening to people who’ve gone through this process is they all have some experience of increased spiritual light. When the physical light is reduced people seem to get a powerful experience of their inner spiritual light, an interesting paradox to consider.

Practical tips to benefit from more darkness:
1. use an eye mask at night (available in travel shops for about $6)
2. expose yourself to bright natural light during the day because the contrast of light exposure in the day followed by darkness at night helps signal the body to make melatonin. If you spend a lot of time inside or live in a rainy place, using a full-spectrum light bulb at your desk or overhead works wonders, even said to improve mood.
3. Use back-out blinds to cover windows that let in city lights.
4. Install dimmer switches and turn the indoor lighting down at dusk.
5. Practice waking up with the sun and going to bed earlier.
6. Remove gadgets with electronic lights from the bedroom or use only gadgets with red lights (red lights are of a different spectrum and don’t suppress melatonin production).

1. Guerrero JM, Reiter RJ. Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Seville School of Medicine and Virgen Macarena Hospital, Spain.guerrero@cica.es

2. http://www.smart-publications.com/articles/the-health-benefits-of-melatonin-are-more-than-just-a-good-nights-slee/page-2

3. Aaron Blair, Ph.D., Scientist Emeritus, U.S. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., and chair, working group, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans; Nov. 29, 2007, statement, Elizabeth Ward, director, surveillance research, American Cancer Society; Associated Press

4.Epidemiology. 1998 Sep;9(5):490-4.Reduced cancer incidence among the blind.Feychting M, Osterlund B, Ahlbom A.
Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Listening Skills are Important

Greetings Dear Readers,

“Listen to the patient: He is telling you the diagnosis”, the words of Sir William Osler advice to his fellow physicians in the earlier part of the 20th century.   Research by Beckman and Frankel1 found that patients could complete 18 seconds of their initial statement before being interrupted by their doctor.  A more recent study with primary care residents found that patients could speak for 12 seconds before being interrupted.

Good listening skills are infinitely valuable. Do you feel heard by your doctor?  Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,
Cynthia

References:

1.BECKMAN, H.B. & FRANKEL, R.M. (1984). The effect of physician behavior on the collection of data. Annals of Internal Medicine, 101, 692 – 696.