Immune-Boosting Tips from Traditional Chinese Medicine

Greetings Dear Readers,

Our immune system performs a complex range of tasks to overcome various types of foreign invaders and diseases.  Several organs and processes are involved such as bone lymph-systemmarrow, lymphocytes, the spleen, lymph nodes, and the thymus gland.  White blood cells such as neutrophils, macrophages and dendritic cells identify what is not our body and destroy those cells.  Eastern medicine focuses on building up the body’s internal defense system so that the microbe has no chance of getting a foothold.

Strengthening the immune response involves building the Defensive Qi, an energetic layer of Yang (warm, invigorating) energy that lives between the skin and the muscles.  Since Defensive energy depends on sufficient strength and warmth of the body, this explains why we need to keep our body warm in fall and winter and get enough rest to keep colds at bay.  When the Defensive energy is strong we either don’t catch the cold or flu going around, or if we do catch it, our body has the strength to fight it off quickly.  One recent study presented bysleep the Sleep Research Society concluded that those who sleep only 5-6 hours per night have a greater risk of catching a cold.

The lymph system acts as the body’s internal vacuum cleaner, cleaning up all the microbes and waste materials and flushing them out.  Since the lymph system does not have a pump, it requires exercise or therapy such as massage, cupping, or skin brushing to move the lymph to promote proper drainage.  For this reason, it is so important to get some type of regular exercise to avoid lymph stagnation which can weaken immunity.

There are also foods and herbs that can support the strengthening of the Yang/Defensive energy as well as improve blood circulation to support lymph drainage.

Foods that Strengthen Immunity:

Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, collards, broccoli, cabbage, parsley), mushrooms (shitake, reishi, chaga, oyster, etc.), raw honey, goji berries, fermented foods (such as kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, pickles, yogurt without sugar), coconuts and coconut oil, berries, chlorella, garlic, ginger, green tea.miso-soup

Herbs that Strengthen Immunity

Licorice (avoid if blood pressure is high), tusli,  honeysuckle, chrysanthemum, elderberry, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, yarrow, tumeric, echinacea.

Foods that Weaken Immunity

Sugar, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, processed fats such as margarine, trans-fats, fried foods, rancid oils, preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings, rancid oils, red meat, alcohol, drugs, processed foods, and foods that are not fresh.

Two Great Acupressure Points to Stimulate Your Immune System

Stomach 36 (Zu San Li). This is one of the most important points of the whole body because it strengthens the body in a multitude of ways, strengthening energy, blood, Yin and Yang.  You just can’t go wrong

st36

Here is ST 36

using this point:)  You can find it by placing your hand under your knee cap, then directly under your hand at about one thumb’s distance lateral to the tibia (that big bone at the front of your leg) you will find a depression, or little dip along the skin and this depressed area is ST 36.  Give this point some good pressure for several minutes, then do the other side.

Another great point is point is Large Intestine 11. You can find this point by bending your arm so that you see the elbow crease on the li11skin at the lateral side of the elbow joint.  The end of the elbow crease marks Large Intestine 11.  Pressing around this area may reveal some tenderness.  Give this area some good pressure regularly.  It is a homeostatic point that regulates both an under-active immune system (frequents colds, flus, cancer) as well as an overactive immune system (allergies, auto-immune disorders).

Regular acupuncture treatments can also build up immunity using point combinations to strengthen your Defensive energy, your warming invigorating Yang energy, as well improving circulation of blood and lymph depending on what each individual requires.  Each acupuncture treatment builds upon each other and for this reason I recommend a relaxing-acupunctureseries of 5 treatments. This is why I have put together this Immune-Boosting Package of 5 treatments at a discount price for the fall and winter season, to encourage you to see for yourself the immune supporting benefits acupuncture can provide.

Wishing you health and happiness!

Cynthia

References:

  1. Aric A. Prather, PhD1; Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD2; Martica H. Hall, PhD3; Sheldon Cohen, PhD2 Prather AA, Janicki-Deverts D, Hall MH, Cohen S. (November 2016).  Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. VOLUME 38, ISSUE 09.SLEEP
Advertisements

Treatment of Type II Diabetes with Acupuncture

Greetings Dear Readers,

We all know people in our family or circle of friends who suffer from Type II diabetes.  It is one of the most common diseases of the modern world and yet in North America, few know about the healing benefits that acupuncture and Oriental medicine has been providing for sufferers in Asian countries for centuries.  Acupuncturists have identified roughly 20 acupuncture points on the body that appear to assist with lowering blood sugar, as well as protocols

images

for dealing with diabetic neuropathy.   One very commonly used point, ST 36 (find this point by finding a slight depression in the skin at 4 fingers below the knee can and one thumb lateral to the tibia bone).  Yes, try some acupressure here!.  It is considered to be the most important point on the body for its wide range of uses such as strengthening Yin which is considered the root of this disorder, as well as strengthening Qi (vital energy) and Yang, which assists with the complications of Type II diabetes.  It is also interesting that some of these points have shown to have the side-benefit of lowering blood cholesterol which is also a important for reducing neuropathies.

Type II Diabetes is a metabolic disorder involving resistance to insulin, lack of insulin and high blood sugar.  Left unchecked, Type II diabetes can lead to a number of secondary conditions such as degenerative eye disorderscirculation, cardiovascular disease, limb pain and numbness, skin ulceration and kidney failure.  Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise and medication or herbs to control blood sugar are very important and acupuncture is not a substitute for these.  Regular check-ups with your doctor are also important.

A number of studies on acupuncture treatment for Type II diabetes have shown significant benefit over the control group. Acupuncture can lower blood sugar during the treatment session, reduce stress (elevated stress is known to raise cortisol levels which leads to weight gain around the 3-jiaosabdomen).  When there is excess insulin in the blood, the insulin creates inflammation in the body, otherwise known as Heat in TCM, affecting either the Upper Burner (Jiao) causing excessive thirst (polydipsea), the Middle Burner causing the urge to eat too much (polyphagia) or the Lower Burner causing too much urination (polyuria). This Heat clearing ability of acupuncture has been demonstrated scientifically in the before and after

diabetic-before-acu

Infared before acupuncture

diabetic-after-acu

Infared after acupuncture

photos shown here.

Acupuncture has been recommended by the Mayo Clinic as a good alternative treatment for diabetic neuralgia (numbness, tingling and pain in limbs, poor balance, etc.).  Pain conditions are something I treat daily in my clinic and one of the main reasons why acupuncture works so well for pain is because it increases the flow of energy and blood in the body .  This relates to an ancient axiom in Chinese Medicine: “Where there is pain, there is blockage of Qi (energy); Where there is no pain, there is no Qi blockage”.

Although some doctors have advised diabetic patients to avoid acupuncture because of risk of infection, in fact the standards of acupuncture practice idownloadn North America are  very high and requires practitioners to only used pre-packaged, sterile, single-use disposable

needles.  The acupuncturist is required to follow Clean Needle Technique which, among many things, involves cleaning the area of skin to be needle with rubbing alcohol thus making the risk of infection very low.

There is an abundance of research studies showing many of the positive effects of acupuncture for Type II Diabetes, more than what I have room to talk about here so I believe it is well worth looking into as a natural way to support the body.

A few other helpful things to consider for Type II Diabetes self-care are:images-2

  1. Getting enough sleep.  A Japanese study showed sleep-deprivation was connected to high blood sugar.
  2. Bitter Melon tea.images-1

 

3. Cinnamon also regulates blood glucose.     Caution if you have night sweats or a feeling of heat at night, please don’t take cinnamon, it’s too heating in this case.

download-1

Yours in health,

Cynthia

References:

  1. Subhuti, Dharmananda, Ph.D. Treatment of Diabetes with Acupuncture and Chinese herbs (2003). Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon Retrieved from: http://www.itmonline.org/arts/diabacu.htm.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic – Diabetic Neuropathy. (February  2015).  Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-neuropathy/basics/alternative-medicine/con-20033336
  3. Lo, Yin. Ph.D.  Diabetes and acupuncture. (November 2003). Acupuncture Today. Retrieved from: http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/archives2003/nov/11lo.html
  4. Authors at Healthcare Medical Institute. Acupuncture Regulates Insulin and Blood Glucose in Diabetics. (June 2015). http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1485-acupuncture-regulates-insulin-and-glucose-in-diabetics

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.

Why I Love Yarrow Tea

Greetings Dear Readers,

yarrow tea

Yep, I got one of those nasty summer colds.  Here I am in Toronto, in a summer with extreme heatwaves for the last two months, and then getting a “cold” which is not cold at all but making me uber hot and sweaty, as if I weren’t enough already!  Anyhow, I just happened to have some yarrow tea on hand (that I just happened to have because it’s a great  hair rinse) and it so happens to also be good for “releasing the Exterior” as they say in TCM, or “sweating it out” in lay terms.  The cool thing about Yarrow is that once you start sweating it out, this breaks the fever so you end up cooler, yay!

I felt perplexed as to why I got this cold in the first place with all the Vitamin D, camu camu, and elderberry that I take.  But truth be told, I was spooning back the peanut butter like the factory would close tomorrow.  Now that’s a lot of Damp Heat that peanuts create, on top of the damp hot humid weather going on all summer, what’s a girl to do?  Oh but it tasted so good! And no problems for two months, then whammo!

So I gave yarrow a try and the exciting thing was that this cold felt really different from every cold I’ve had in the last 15 years I’d say. Rather than lingering on for 9 days, it came on hard and left just as quickly.  In TCM, when the Defensive energy (read: immune system) is weak, the body can’t put up a big fight against the pathogen so the bug carries on and on.  If the Defensive Qi is really strong, the fight is intense, high fever, feeling really sick, then suddenly it’s all over.  That’s how I feel this morning. Like these two have had their duel – I couldn’t even sleep til 1 am last night nose running like Niagara Falls, throat sore as anything, achy joints, felt sick as a dog, and now this morning I feel almost normal, congestion all dried up, throat is 90% better, a little bit achy still, and tired because of poor sleep, but it feels like the bug is 90% gone.  Wow, that hasn’t happened to me since I was a kid!

So I think the peanut butter feasts eventually caught up with me, but the yarrow tea that I drank over and over yesterday really strengthened my immune system quickly pushing the pathogen out hard and fast.  And now here I am, ready to go to work today.  Feels like a small miracle:)

Yarrow tea is a great decongestant that melts all the phlegm in your body down to a nice watery-ness that your body can expel really easily.  My herbal teacher Diane Kent explained to us that some over-the-counter cold medications actually dry up your lungs without helping the body release the pathogen.  So the Dampness now becomes Phlegm which is so much harder to expel causing the virus to linger for a lot longer.  In a nut shell, if you’re getting a cold, try to take a day off work and load up on the yarrow tea.  It will strengthen your Defensive Qi so you can push that mess out of your body quickly and then you can live as normal, but all the wiser knowing that too much Damp foods like peanut butter and a sticky summer heat wave just don’t go together.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

 

 

 

 

 

Facial Pain and TMJ Relief with Japanese Acupuncture

 

Greetings Dear Readers,

Has your dentist told you that you are clenching your teeth at night?  Do you have facial or jaw pain when you wake up in the morning?  Does your jaw hurt when you eat or speak?  If so, there is relief.

Generally speaking, TMJ (Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders) issues are a set of conditions that manifest as pain in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles that can lead to pain when eating, speaking, chewing, laughing and even breathing.

In the Western medical sense, it is known that TMJ disorders may involve myofascial pain (most cases), structural damage such as dislocated jaw or condyle injury, or arthritic changes impacting the TMJ joint. These causes have been studied and elaborated on further by Master Japanese acupuncturist, Kiiko Matsumoto.

When it comes to myofascial pain, people often have pain at the front of the face where the Stomach channel lies as well as inflammation or heat in the Stomach channel that is indicated with pain at Stomach 41 when pressed. The patient will often show fissures or cracks at the centre of the tongue (Stomach area in TCM), and may also complain of issues relating to Stomach Qi such as ulcers, weakened immune system, anxiety, sensitivity to gravitational or barometric shifts such as being in an airplane, weather changes and time zone shifts, motion sickness, stomach flu and certain problems with pregnancy. Acupuncture treatment here involves regulating the Stomach Qi, often strengthening Stomach Yin and clearing any Stomach channel Heat.

In terms of structural imbalance, Kiiko outlined how at the root of the matter there is often a sphenoid bone imbalance causing an improper alignment. The patient may have pain on palpation of the temporal area, inguinal ligament or just below the navel. They may also have other sphenoid bone imbalance-related issues such as ear problems, headaches, dental problems, or sleep problems such as sleep apnea. A sphenoid bone imbalance may affect the pituitary gland that lies in the centre of the bone causing a hormonal imbalance. Acupuncture treatment here involves supporting proper alignment the bone, as well as correcting the pituitary imbalance.

Finally, issues with degeneration of the bone itself fall into the category of Kidney Essence Deficiency that is most often seen in older adults or those with a constitutional weakness. This may also be associated with symptoms such as insomnia, slow wound healing, skin rashes such as eczema, inguinal ligament pain and temporal headaches. Treatment in this case involves supporting proper bone alignment as well as strengthening the Kidney system.

Acupuncture treatment can go along way to preventing as well as healing TMJ by relieving the underlying patterns.  Treatment will often be weekly for a few weeks or months depending on the severity and how long the condition has gone on for.

In the meantime, a few self-care tips:

  1. Using moist heat such as a hot water bottle or hot pack can be helpful.
  2. Eating soft foods and blending foods in a blender can give the jaw a chance to rest and heal.
  3. Relaxation and stress reduction techniques such as guided relaxation such as that found at the end of yoga classes and breathing meditations to calm the mind.
  4. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between the shoulders and neck.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

 

References:

  1. Matsumoto, Kiiko. (2014). Kiiko Matsumoto’s Clinical Strategies: In the Spirit of Master Nagano, Vol. 1 (6th ed.). Hanover, MA: J&R Graphics.
  2. (2016). Retrieved June 20, 2016, from https://bconroytc.wikispaces.com/Facial Pain (e.g. muscular, TMJ) – Kiiko Matsumoto Japanese Style

 

 

 

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

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