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.

How Much Water Should I Drink?

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,

Cynthia

Kombucha Tea for Stomach Qi

Greetings Dear Readers,

Kombucha is a raw, living, fizzy sweet tea drink prized for its numerous health benefits.  The earliest record of its use dates back to imagesChina’s Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC) where it was given names such as “The Tea of Immortality” and “Stomach Treasure”.  It was later brought to Russia and Europe by travelers in the 20th century when it started to re-emerge in popularity after a disappearance during the sugar and tea rationing of World War II.  Many people discovering kombucha, myself included, feel so good after drinking it that it quickly turns into a daily habit.  Kombucha drinkers report many benefits from much increased energy, immunity to colds and flus to excellent digestion and even increased hair growth.  Why is that?  Well, here is some of what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has to say about kombucha.

It Detoxes the Liver

One of the main patterns seen by TCM acupuncturists in the modern world is a pattern called “Liver Qi Stagnation”.  This means that the Liver energy is clogged, over-heated and excessive (although sometimes deficient) most often due to emotional stress and poor eating habits.  Kombucha has a number of properties that make it an excellent remedy for the Liver system.  TCM considers kombucha to be sour, bitter and warming.  The sour flavour in TCM herbology and nutrition is used to cleanse the Liver and Gall Baldder.  Similarly, Western science has identified a number of naturally occuring acids (think sour) in kombucha such as glucoronic acid which benefit the liver and have been found to prevent the build up of toxins in the tissues.  These healthy acids have a similar effect as lemons which are acidic before being ingested but are transformed inside the body and in the end leave the body more alkaline, i.e. healthy.  Kombucha’s bitter properties mean that it has the ability to improve circulation, reduce inflammation and clear toxins from the body.  The bitter flavour in TCM also has the ability to prevent infection and prevent tumors.

images-1

Kombucha Tea Improves Digestion

Kombucha supports the “Middle Burner Qi”, meaning the proper functioning of the Spleen and Stomach systems.  The stomach’s job is to break down food.  The Spleen system also has many jobs including extracting nutrients from the food to support the production of blood.  When the Spleen system is “deficient” there are often sugar cravings.  It’s interesting to note that fermented foods, including kombucha, actually work to reduce sugar cravings.  Raw kombucha is probiotic containing live beneficial bacterial cultures which support the breakdown of food and digestion (for the full beneficial effects, always check that store-bought kombucha is truly raw – read labels and check for strands of the culture in the glass).

G.T.Dave's Kombucha is raw and unpasteurized. I don't receive any money for saying this. You can also use it to start home brew.

G.T.Dave’s Kombucha is raw and unpasteurized. You can also use it to start a home brew. I don’t receive any money for saying this.

Being warming in its thermal nature (click here and scroll down to see my Thermal Nature of Foods Chart), kombucha helps the Spleen system which prefers Yang (warming) food and drink.  The Spleen system is often weak because of the Liver imbalances where the over-burdened Liver “attacks” the Spleen.   So kombucha tea helps both organ systems.  Warming food and drinks such as kombucha also help those is transition from a more meat and dairy type diet which is more warm to a vegan or raw vegan diet which is more cooling.  The effervescent quality of the drink resembles soda pop and is used by many to overcome the craving for pop drinks.  It is a sweet-tasting drink but the sugar content is very low (7 grams per 250mL).

When the energy of the Spleen and Stomach improves, the side-effect is better immunity.  In TCM, immunity relates to the Metal element which governs the Lungs.  In the Five-Element cycle, The Earth element (Spleen and Stomach) is the “mother” of Metal (Lungs and Large Intestine).  So when the Spleen and Stomach are healthier and stronger, they send their extra energy to nourish the Lungs to build “Defensive Qi” to fight off external pathogens such as colds and flus.

Kombucha improves Stomach Acid and Nutrition

While the body does need alkaline reserves, some areas of the body do need to be acidic to do their job.  One such is the stomach lining which needs to have a pH of around 2-3.5 in order to be able to break down food.  If Stomach acid is weak or lacking (which happens quite frequently in the modern age because of adrenal stress – the fight or flight response shuts down digestion)  the result is poor absorption of nutrients causing malnutrition.  Yes, this means that even if you are eating amazingly fresh, organic tree-ripened foods, if your stomach doesn’t have the acids to break it down enough to extract the nutrients, you will be malnourished.  It’s not just what you eat, it’s what you absorb.  Kombucha to the rescue!  Kombucha has been found to contain seven plant acids as well as various B vitamins, vitamin C, enzymes and amino acids.  These plant acids increase the acidity of your stomach lining which gives your stomach the ability to break down food.  The improved Spleen and Stomach function from this drink results in improved athletic performance (the Spleen governs muscle tissue in TCM) as well as mental ability (the Spleen governs the intellect in TCM).  People have also reported increased hair growth which would be because of improved nutrient absorption.

Resolves Dampness and Phlegm (AKA Tumors and Cancer)

Dampness and Phlegm are TCM terms used to describe a Yin pathogen that shows up as discharges such as excessive vaginal discharge (leukorrhea), excessive nasal mucous (rhinitis), productive cough, watery swellings, wheeping discharges from the skin, and excess body fat.  When pathogenic Dampness has been in the body for too long,  it becomes hardened by the natural heat of the body and becomes Phlegm which appears as hardened nodules, lumps or tumors.  Dampness and Phlegm produce stagnation in the body.  Kombucha, which has similar properties to vinegar in TCM, is used to remove stagnation by moving Qi and Blood.  For this reason kombucha has been used traditionally for cancer patients – by increasing the Qi flow, the body can resolve the dampness and phlegm.  According to the ancient axiom in TCM, where there is Qi (energy) flow there is health, harmony, where there is no Qi flow there is pain, disease.

**Please note: If you are a child, are pregnant, have a compromised immune system, or have kidney disease, it may be advisable to talk with your doctor before beginning to drink kombucha, especially if you are doing a home-brew.  Kombucha can cause the body to detoxify strongly and pregnancy is not the time to begin to detox.  If you have been a regular kombucha drinker before becoming pregnant than drinking kombucha while pregnant should not be a concern, however starting to drink kombucha after becoming pregnant is not advisable.

Have you tried kombucha yet?

Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw Salad Recipe for Cooling Summer Heat

Greetings Dear Readers,

In the heat of summer we may suffer from symptoms of too much heat such as aching muscles, constipation, nausea or fatigue.  Here’s a great summer recipe to bring you back into balance.  This recipe has a cooling Yin effect on the body and as such is best eating in the evening when the body needs to be more Yin.  Morning and early afternoon are Yang times when it’s better to eat more Yang or warming meals.

Cucumber Mint Salad                       

1 large cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible
1 carrot, grated
1 handful mint leaves

1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Braggs liquid aminos

The main ingredient here is cucumber.  In TCM cucumber is a cold food, one of the coldest in fact, next to watermelon, so it’s perfect for putting out the fire in the Stomach.  If “Stomach Fire” is your issue it means you have symptoms such as ravenous appetite, constipation, bleeding gums, toothache, acid regurgitation, diarrhea, nausea or irritability.

Mint Leaves

Mint Leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mint is a cooling pungent herb which disperses “Wind-Heat” (infection) from the lungs, head and eyes and treats sore throat and fever.  Mint also calms the Liver to relieve such things as depression, PMS and menstrual issues caused by Liver-Qi stagnation.  Mint also brings rashes to the surface to speed healing.

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon.

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And lastly, lemon is a cooling fruit and excellent detoxifier.  According to TCM, lemon harmonizes the Stomach and aids digestion.  It cleans toxins from the Liver, Kidneys, blood, mouth and urinary tract.  Lemon reduces inflammation and is used for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.  Lemon is also alkalizing, moistening, antimicrobial and diuretic.

Bon appetit!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Are You a Happy LIVER of Your Life?

Greetings Dear Readers,

Spring is here, the daffodils are popping up and so is Liver Yang. Liver what? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) speak, Spring, which corresponds with the liver organ system, is a Yang season. In the ebb and flow of the year, spring and summer are yang while fall and winter are yin. Yang means warmer, faster, brighter, lighter than yin which is slower, darker, colder and heavier. This means in spring, we enjoy warmer weather, a longer period of daylight, are more physically active, eat lighter and dress lighter than in Yin season such as fall and winter.

Spring is the time of Wood according to the 5 element system. Wood is associated with the Liver and Gall Bladder organ systems. Wood energy is likened to the fresh young seedling vigorously pushing up through the soil in spring and bursting into life in bright green colour. This sense of forceful movement of the seed pushing through the earth is the essence of Wood energy and is a sign of health in the Wood element. One very famous and ever-popular herbal formula for the Liver system is called “Free and Easy Wanderer” (Xiao Yao in Chinese), a name which eloquently expresses the ideal of Wood energy.

When there are too many obstacles in the way of this life force, the Wood energy becomes stagnant. Liver Qi stagnation – a very common complaint in the modern world – has symptoms such as depression, eye problems, anger, hypochondrial pain or tension, neck and shoulder tension, temporal headaches, poor circulation leading to cold hands and feet, constipation and various other issues.

Many of these aforementioned Liver complaints worsen in the spring. Fasting from solid food for a day or so is a very effective and ancient way to help the liver cleanse itself and encourage the smooth flow of Qi. Not surprisingly, spring is also the time when many cultures do a liver cleanse. Several spiritual traditions do some type of fasting purification in spring (Buddhists have Nyungne and Christians have Lent). Interestingly, fasting not only helps with physical toxins in the body but also the emotional toxins in the liver such as anger. Many who have had experience with fasting can speak to the feeling of calmness, clarity and lightness of one’s being on all levels that allows one to rise above many daily irritations.

The health of the Liver and the energy of Wood is kept in balance through movement. On a gross level movement can mean physical exercise and on more subtle levels it can mean making sure the Qi (or energy) is flowing properly through the channels of the body. The liver governs the smooth flow of Qi. When the Qi stagnates, often the liver is responsible.

On a mental and spiritual level the Wood element has to do with assertiveness, the balanced point between the extremes of passivity and aggression. It means taking a step forward, at the right time, and in consideration of others, to assert one’s will in life. Wood takes the energetic reserves of Water that have been conserved over the winter season and uses them to plan and execute one’s projects and plans for the new season. An excess of liver energy can produce aggression, irritability and resentment in the individual while a deficiency of liver energy can produce a lack of forward movement as seen in people who frequently procrastinate, can’t plan their lives or tend to start many projects without completing them.

Ways to balance the Wood element:

Physically:
1. Wood energy is trees, green grass and all growing plants.  Be outside more. Enjoy  the gardens, greenery, and the wind (as long as it doesn’t bother you). Wind is connected with the Wood element and this practice will move the Qi that has gotten stagnant over the winter.
2. Be active. Simple, gentle, flowing exercise like the way a bear stretches upon coming out of hibernation is excellent. Yoga stretching is particularly indicated for spring.
3. The diet in spring should be light. This means less oily, fried or heavy foods and more young fresh green foods like sprouts, parsley, asparagus and baby lettuce.

Emotionally:
1. Think about the suffering of others and how pretty well all of us have some level of discontent or dissatisfaction in at least one area of our lives. Use this thought to slow down and become more tolerant and patient of those around you. The world needs more kind people.
2. Think of at least one project or task that you have procrastinated on and complete it today.
3. Do a spring cleaning and give away a few things that you no longer need to neighbors, friends or a charity.

Mentally:
1. The Liver system relates closely to the eyes and sense of sight, as well as our inner sight (insight).  Recall a time when you had a very clear vision of the life you wanted. Close your eyes, sit quiet and try to be in that mental space again. Visualize or “see” with the mind’s eye what you hope to be/do/have in life. Daydream in full colour. Create wonderful things in your imagination. You are a powerful creative force in your life. Your visions eventually become your reality.
2. Read books by SARK or The Artist’s Way to move through stuckness and harness your creative flow.

Spiritually:
1. Spring energy is about the return of the life force.  The Liver system is about the bounty of the vital force that gives new life to many things.  The centuries-old wisdom of the Nei Jing speaks about using this time to keep your heart gentle and generous.

How’s your Wood energy? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Happy Spring!