Tag Archives: depression

Whole Foods to Heal Adrenals and Spark Your Energy

Greetings Dear Readers,

We’re nearing the end of winter in the northern hemisphere and many of you are experiencing fatigue or depression (sometimes depression in TCM can be about Qi or energy deficiency –  there’s not enough energy for the body and the energy debt can bring the mind down with it).  Just understand that this fatigue is seasonally normal.  The winter months are a time of rest and retreat (hibernation). hibernation Many of us keep working too hard and staying up late over the winter causing exhaustion in early spring.  If we’ve pushed ourselves too hard for too long we may experience adrenal fatigue also known as adrenal burn-out.  In TCM adrenal burn-out is Kidney deficiency (the adrenals sit on top of the kidneys).  Please do yourself a favour and listen to your body.  If it’s asking for rest, please try to prioritize rest and sleep when you need it.  Your body works miracles during rest and sleep time, detoxifying your liver, cleaning your blood, clearing your mind, rejuvenating your glands.

coffee-addiction-cartoonMany people become addicted to caffeine because caffeine stimulates the adrenals to release cortisol which activates the sympathetic nervous system.  When the adrenals are healthy they will produce cortisol naturally and release it at the right time, mainly first thing in the morning.  Healthy adrenals gets us leaping out of bed in the morning and starting the day with a bang. Remember that from childhood? When we’ve been working too much and under too much stress, the adrenals can get weak.  So may reach for caffeine to stimulate the gland chemically.  The addiction to caffeine, even the desire for caffeine in the first place indicates that the adrenals (Kidney yang) is weak.  People try to force themselves off of caffeine, kicking the habit through will power alone.  This is a good start but often the person will continue to crave the caffeine because the adrenals are crying out for nourishment.  The following list of foods and supplements gets to the root of the problem by giving the adrenals the nutritional boost they need.

1. Royal Jelly – a powerful longevity tonic in TCM, try to buy fresh, refrigerated

2. Acerola Cherry concentrate – contains extremely high levels of Vitamin C, 1/2 Tablespoon=500% of the daily recommended requirement, vitamin C is important to adrenal health

3. Salty foods  – naturally occurring sodium is found in high doses in celery, seaweed, Himalayan or Celtic sea salt.  Use in moderation.

4. Bee Pollen – contains high amounts of B vitamins to heal your nerves and reduce perception of stress

5. Maca – supports and heals the adrenals, an adaptogen

Happy Healing!

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.

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!