Easy Qi Gong Exercise to Strengthen Immunity

Greetings Dear Readers,

Here is a simple Qi Gong exercise that you can do to wake up your cells, invigorate your body, and strengthen your immunity.  It’s called “patting” or “slapping”.  You’ll really enjoy this exercise and feel the effects quite quickly.  Use it any time you feel a bit tired and sluggish and need an energetic “wake-up”.  It’s like a mini acupressure treatment you can do on yourself anywhere.   You simply use your hands to slap the outside and inside channels of the arms and legs, hands and feet, the buttocks, ribs, face and top of the head.  If you have a cold, and especially if you feel like you are just starting to get a cold, apply this technique vigorously to push the cold out completely.  I personally know of one guy who had been biking in the cold weather for an hour and started to come down with a bad cold.  He did this technique forcefully for one hour and the cold symptoms disappeared that day.

In TCM terms this exercise strengthens the “Wei Qi”, also known as the “Defensive Qi Layer” which is the energetic layer that resides between the skin and the muscles, what’s known as the “Cou Li” in TCM.  The Wei Qi is formed by the Lung system, so people who have a Lung weakness will tend to get colds and flus more easily.  The Lung system is strengthened by the Spleen system because in the Five Element acupuncture, the Spleen is the “Mother” of the Lungs, meaning the Spleen sends it’s energy to the next phase, or “child” in the 5-phase system, which is the Lungs.  The tips in my post Strengthening the Spleen Qi will further build up your Defensive Qi.

Wishing you a happy, healthy winter season.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

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How to Dissolve Kidney Stones

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you have kidney stones or are worried about possibly having them, there is an easy solution:

asparagus! Yes, that’s right, asparagus.  Go down to your local market and pick yourself up 2 or 3 bunches.

Raw Asparagus spears

Eat one cup of asparagus (steamed or juiced, however you like it) each day for 3 or 4 days.  You’ll know this is working when you see the appearance of a white sand in your urine.  This is the dissolved kidney stone material leaving your body. Yay!

Asparagus dissolves the oxalic acid crystals as well as the calcium stones caused by too much calcium supplementation either in pill form or from drinking calcium-fortified soy or almond milk.  Read the labels. The body only needs a set amount of calcium at one time and will deposit excess calcium in various places in the body such as the arteries (arterial plaque) and the kidneys (stones).  The body often cannot absorb calcium because it requires various cofactors, namely magnesium, which is extremely deficient in modern diets owing to poor soil quality.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, asparagus purifies the Lung system of toxicities, strengthens the Kidney Yin, and calms the Heart which helps the mind become more peaceful (Heart houses the mind, known as “shen” in TCM).

Happy healing!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Strengthening the Stomach with Cabbage Salad

Greetings Dear Readers,

Ever wonder why some people (perhaps you fall into this category) eat a very healthy, perhaps

Cabbage Salad (Recipe)

extraordinarily healthy diet well beyond what most people do for themselves, perhaps eating super foods and/or supplements by the truckload and YET have fatigue, low appetite, weight gain, bloating, gas, constipation, food sensitivities and low vitality?  Why is that?  Well, one likely reason is Low Stomach Acid.

The stomach, like the skin and vagina, are organs that are meant to be acidic (pH above 7).  Since these are areas that

The angle of His is formed between the esophag...

micro-organisms can easily invade, acid acts as a chemical barrier preventing unfriendly bacteria/viruses/parasites frequently found in animal products (especially raw fish) as well as unwashed vegetables (i.e. spinach) from colonizing inside you.  Your stomach acid, which is part of your immune defence, is meant to have a pH of 2; enough acidity to destroy these micro-organisms.   Stomach acid also has a  digestive purpose in chemically breaking down food particles in order for your small intestine to absorb the nutrients.  In modern people, stomach acid is often weak and gets even weaker as we age due to long-standing poor dietary habits.  Ever wonder why many elderly people have poor appetites and eat bird-size meals? My grandfather who lived to be 98 and took apple cider vinegar (which increases gastric acid secretions) regularly had the strongest appetite of anyone I know.  He would take us to a Chinese buffet and have four full plates of every kind of food plus two full dessert plates.

Low stomach acid is something to take very seriously as it has a number of consequences:

1. Protein in food is not broken down.  Protein in it’s broken down state is amino acids (protein molecules).  Amino acids are the basis of neurotransmitters (naturally chemicals used by the brain and nervous system to relay information between the brain and various areas of the body).  Without enough neurotransmitters, the nervous system doesn’t do it’s job leading to things like mood disorders such as depression.  Poor protein digestion also causes hair loss and brittle nails (nails and hair are made of protein).  Another issue with poorly digested protein is that it often sits too long in the intestines causing bacterial growth and weakening of the intestinal walls.  This is called ‘leaky gut syndrome” meaning food matter leaks out the walls of the intestines.  This leakage causes an immune response because the food matter isn’t where it’s supposed to be, the peritoneal cavity.  Anti-bodies are made in response to the food particles in the peritoneal cavity which then sets off an immune response every time you eat foods that you have antibodies to.  The more the low stomach acid situation continues, the more food sensitivities, inflammation and auto-immune diseases develop.

2. Bacteria and other unwanted micro-organisms get a foot-hold in the digestive tract (think H. pylori, the bacteria known to be responsible for stomach ulcers, as well as parasites).

3. Although this sounds contradictory, low stomach acid is actually one of the causes of acid reflux, heartburn and G.E.R.D. (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease).  How so?  With each of these conditions, contents from the stomach are backing up into the esophagus because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is not closing tight enough.  Why is the LES not closing? The is because the stomach acid is not sufficient to break down the food or destroy bacteria causing the pressure in the stomach to build up.  The fermentation of stagnant food means the lower esophageal sphincter must open to release the pressure.  Initially, the treatment is to calm the acid reflux with chamomile and slippery elm to heal the irritated esophagus.  Antacids, baking soda or milk will comfort the esophagus in the short term but since these products are intensely alkaline they will actually weaken stomach acid.  Once the acid reflux has calmed down, the next step is the increase stomach acid using bitters.

4. Low stomach acid means poor absorption of nutrients, especially minerals such as non-heme iron sources (plants), B12 and folic acid.

5. As the food is not properly broken down by stomach acid, it putrifies (rots) in the gut causing gas, bloating, belching and constipation.

How to tell if your stomach acid is low?  One simple way which you can do at home is called the beet test.  Eat a beet or two (salad, steamed, juiced, doesn’t really matter how).  If your urine or bowel movements turn pinkish-reddish (called beeturia) within the next 24 hours , you will know that your stomach is not breaking down and assimilating the pigments which indicates that you are not getting enough nutrients from your food.

Ok, now for the therapeutic answers.  It’s interesting how TCM and Western herbal medicine both agree so well on this issue: bitters!  Bitters are so important for your stomach and digestion and need to be eaten every day. Vinegar which is considered a bitter food in TCM, is a key ingredient used in the recipe below.  There are hundreds of bitter foods.  All those leafy green vegetables your mom wanted you to eat and you ate them because she promised you dessert.  Most green leaves have a bitter quality.  Some common bitters are dandelion, alfalfa, plantain, red clover, arugula, wheat grass, barley grass, parsley, watercress, and a whole lot more which you may even find growing in your yard (careful – don’t eat if sprayed with herbacides).

TCM describes the actions of bitters:

1. Clears Heat

2. Drains Dampness

3. Increases appetite

4. Purges toxins

5. Moves Qi downwards to promote urination and bowel movements

Cabbage Salad to the Rescue

Cabbage in TCM is slightly sweet and benefits the Spleen and Stomach systems.  It also clears toxins from the bowels and improves circulation.  Cabbage also contains vitamin U which heals the stomach lining and increases appetite.  Fresh raw cabbage juice is an age-old remedy for gastric ulcers.  The vinegar is a bitter which stimulates acid production in the stomach.  The raw vegetables contain live enzymes which help digest the food.  The Celtic sea salt contains chloride needed in the production of hydrochloric acid (A.K.A. stomach acid).

**For those who have an active heartburn/acid reflux situation going on, wait until the the heartburn/acid reflux calms down (takes about 2-3 weeks to clear using chamomile, marshmallow root and slippery elm daily) before using the vinegar, onions and garlic as these foods can be heartburn triggers.  Some people report that apple cider vinegar doesn’t trigger their heartburn while regular vinegar does.  Also, dried garlic and dried onion powder can be used as substitutes as these are less triggering than the fresh kind.

Ingredients:

3 cups red cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium onion, shredded

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup raw almond butter

3 Tbsp unpasteurized honey

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp Celtic sea salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Shred cabbage and onion in a food processor or with a grater.

2. Add in apple cider vinegar, raw almond butter, garlic, honey. coriander, cumin and salt.

3. Mash ingredients together until fully mixed.

4. Enjoy!

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

Strengthening Kidney Yin

Greetings Dear Readers,Do you have issues with night sweats, low back ache, dry mouth at night, dizziness, nocturnal emissions, poor memory, ringing in the ears, or fatigue?  If so, you may have signs of Kidney Yin deficiency.  You can check with your acupuncturist or TCM practitioner to be sure.  In the meantime, here are some tips on how to strengthen your Kidney Yin.Lifestyle:

The Kidney in TCM is like the savings account of your body’s energy.  It’s important to find ways to conserve and restore your energy.  Simplifying life by focusing on the essentials and letting go of non-essential tasks and concerns will help you conserve energy.  Making a bit of time each day for meditation can increase calm and focus.  Connecting with your Source can help bring in energy from a higher plane which can be very restorative.  Kidneys govern the feet and ears so massaging the ears and feet will be helpful.  It’s also important to get enough rest or “down time” as well as sleep.  When a person experiences too much stress and overwork without rest it begins to weaken the adrenal glands causing caffeine cravings.

Suribachi (small) and surikogi (medium) with b...

Exercise:

It’s important to not over-do aerobic exercise with this condition.  Hatha yoga (not fast or power yoga), Tai Chi, Qi Gong or weight lifting in moderation are exercise choices.  “Seated forward bend” is a yoga posture that strengthens the kidneys.  Yin yoga classes involve many postures which open the Kidney channel and restore to the Kidney Yin.  “Yi Jin Jing” (please see the video I posted on this “Yi Jin Jing and What is Bone Marrow Washing?”) is a qi gong set which builds Kidney strength.

Diet:

Kidney Yin tonics include: pomegranate, potato, pears, aduki beans, wheat grass juice, barley grass juice, parsley, black sesame seeds, nettle tea, vitamin B12, spirulina, chlorella, almonds, rhemmania tea, berries, seaweed.  Many green drink powders available in drug stores contain several of the above ingredients.  Yin by nature is fluid so it’s important to drink enough water, juices, soup/rice congee meals to build the Yin up.

Kidney Yin deficiency is a condition which takes some time to heal.  Steady effort using the above tips will pay off.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Tasty Asian Kelp Salad

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you’re anything like me you may find the taste of kelp a bit too much to bear.  Knowing the health benefits of kelp, I’ve tried to all kinds of ways to get it down, from kelp powder pills to kelp pieces in soup to raw kelp noodles.  None of these are very appetizing to me.  This recipe really does kelp some justice.  Here we have the tanginess of the rice vinegar that subdues the kelpy taste into palettable proportions, the  sesame seeds and sesame oil brings a rich nutty taste and a little Braggs or soy sauce enhances the flavour.

The trick I learned from a Chinese friend (whose parents insist she eats more seaweed), is to buy kelp that is very light and thin, almost brittle.  You may need to shop around and ask in Asian markets to find it.  The kelp I’ve seen in health food stores is quite thick.  After it’s soaked it’s rather chewy and rubbery and not so fun to eat.  So think thin and flakey when buying kelp pieces.

TCM Benefits of Asian Kelp Salad

This dish benefits the Kidneys and Liver systems.  In TCM the Kidneys are the “Mother” of the Liver so strong Kidneys suport a healthier Liver.  Kelp is known as the “vegetable of long life” and is very rich in minerals such as iodine and is indicated for hypothyroidism.  Like other seaweeds it removes Phlegm and Damp, softens hard masses such as cysts, tumours, and fibroids and is used in the healing and prevention of cancer.  Kelp is cooling and helps clear Heat toxins such as the effects of radiation therapy, promotes urination and strengthens the Yin (moisture) of the body.

Sesame strengthens the Liver and Kidney channels.  Sesame helps with Kidney deficiency issues such as weak legs, early greying of hair, cold feet, dry stools, infertility, poor memory, poor milk production in women, paralysis and dizziness caused by deficiency.

Vinegar enters the Liver and Stomach.  It breaks up stasis, speeds up blood flow, clears toxins, stops bleeding and kills worms.  The sour flavour in vinegar moves Liver Qi and is indicated for Liver Qi Stagnation issues such as frequent sighing, cold hands and feet, anger or irritability, and headaches and painful menstruation.

Asian Kelp Salad

1. Soak kelp pieces in water overnight.

2. Using 3 cups of soaked kelp, drain place in bowl with 1/4 cup of black sesame seeds.

3. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 Tbsp. vinegar.

4.  Add Braggs liquid aminos/tamari or soy sauce to taste.

5.  Mix all ingredients together and let stand for an hour or more before serving.

6. Enjoy!

Yours in Health,

Cynthia

Goji Berries for Long Life and Yin Deficiency

Nederlands: gedroogde Goji bessen

Greetings Dear Readers,

One of the great things about Traditional Chinese Medicine is the explicit detail on the healing properties of various foods and the way foods can be used according to their Yin/Yang properties to treat various conditions.  The ancient system of TCM Food Cures is based on the idea that everything we put in our mouth can serve a meaningful healing purpose in our body.  Goji berries are a known medicinal superfood with many benefits such as increasing longevity and immunity, improving strength, energy, and sleep quality, and strengthening the Yin of the Kidney, Liver and Lung systems.

Goji Berry

Everything in life has Yin and Yang qualities.  Yin and Yang are relative opposite energies which balance each other.  Yin is slow, cool, dark, liquid, substantial, quiet and calm.  Yin energy is so needed now-adays to balance the overly Yang (fast, loud, stimulating, aggressive and ungrounded) energies of  modern life.  We are multi-taskers.  We are sensory-overloaded.  This way of life can be balanced by strengthening the calm, relaxing Yin energy in the body through Yin-building food and drink, as well as mental practices such as meditation.  Goji berries provide Yin energy to the Kidney, Liver and Lung systems.

Goji berries are a longevity tonic because they strengthen Kidney Yin which helps maintain our life force and hence our longevity.  The Kidney system in TCM has the function of “housing the Essence”.  Essence is the vital life force of the body, the bodys’ reserves or savings account that comes in to play when other body systems are depleted.   Kidney Essence is closely related to Kidney Yin.  When Kidney Yin starts running out, the body starts borrowing from Kidney Essence.  When Kidney Essence is low there will be signs such as fertility issues, scanty menses, early greying of hair, low back ache, softening of the bones, mental dullness and poor memory.

Kidney Yin deficiency and Liver Yin deficiency often go together.  The Kidneys are the “mother” of the Liver system in the TCM creation cycle.  Strong Kidney Qi supports a healthy Liver and Kidney Yin supplies Yin to the Liver.  Kidneys belongs to the Water element which is the mother of the Wood element (Liver).  Insufficient Yin of the Kidneys can lead to insufficient Yin of the Liver.  Signs of Kidney and Liver Yin deficiency include dizziness, dry eyes and floaters, brittle nails, dry stools, numbness and tingling of limbs, very dry hair and skin, insomnia, scanty menstruation, delayed or absent cycle, dull-pale complexion with red cheekbones, depression, dry vagina, nocturnal emissions, and dry throat.

Goji berries also strengthen Lung Yin.  Lung Yin deficiency signs are weak or hoarse voice, dislike of speaking, fatigue, night sweating, dry cough with sticky sputum, and a dry throat and mouth.  Lung energy embodies our spiritual essence, also known as the “Po” in TCM.  Although the body and mind are separate entities, they share a very close relationship.  For this reason Lung Yin is an important energy to maintain for those on spiritual paths.  Smoking dries out the Yin of the Lungs.  For help quitting smoking, ask your acupuncturist for “NADA” (National Acupuncture Detox Association) treatment (5 needles in each ear) which is highly effective and scientifically proven for quitting smoking.

Goji berries are especially indicated for the eyes.  They are said to “brighten the eyes”.  One special recipe for dry, red, itchy eyes is a tea made from chrysanthemum flowers and goji berries.  Chrysanthemum flowers are inexpensive and easily available in Asian herbal stores and grocers along with goji berries.  Goji berries can also be used for tired eyes from too much reading or computer use, blurred vision, eye pain, dullness or ache. 

**Caution for pregnant women: Goji berries stimulate uterine contractions.

Have you tried goji berries yet? What have you noticed?

Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia