Acupuncture for a Healthy Autumn

I hope you had a lovely summer filled with sunshine, family, and good health. Autumn has begun, the kids are back in school, and most of us are going to be working hard for the next several months. Now is a great time to take a quick break to assess your state of health. Start by taking three slow, steady breaths — in through your nose, out through your mouth. Do you notice any tension in your body? Perhaps you feel a tightness in your upper back, or a low-grade headache. Do you notice a need to rush through these breaths? How else do you feel? Are you sleeping soundly through the night? How is your digestion? Are you able to focus and concentrate on your tasks each day?

While is rather common to ignore signs of tension or illness, taking a proactive approach to your well-being has many benefits. I have found that maintaining health and wellness is easier than working hard to achieve this state once illness has set in. If your body is showing signs of fatigue or tension, be sure to listen. Take a look at what you are eating, get yourself to bed an hour earlier tonight, get some light exercise, and by all means, get some acupuncture.

Happy Autumn!
Holly<

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A Child’s Pain–the Dreaded Ear Infection

I have noticed that childhood illnesses travel in packs. Last month it was a croupy cough. This month’s affliction seems to be ear infections.  As a parent, you may be wondering, what’s next?! While childhood illnesses are rarely life threatening, they can be uncomfortable for the children, can lead to sleepless nights for the whole family, and may result in lost work hours.  Apart from putting your child in quarantine, here are some ideas to consider:

1) Make sure your child’s hands get washed several times per day.

2) Teach your child how to cough and sneeze into the crook of his/her elbow, which minimizes those germs all over the hands.

3) Feed your child whole foods: steer away from processed foods and make healthy choices for them, such as water instead of sugar-filled juices, fruit, grains, yogurt, and of course, vegetables and lean meats.

4) Supplements: probiotics (acidophilus, etc) are easy to administer, and are a good idea on a regular basis–not just when your child is on antibiotics.  My brand of choice is Jarrow. You can buy probiotics that are marketed toward children, or you can open a capsule and pour half of it onto cereal, into yogurt or applesauce. Probiotics have no taste. Just mix them into whatever you choose.

5) Acupuncture, aka Shonishin. I see a lot of children when they are in distress–the ear infection that kept the family awake the night before, or the cough that has lingered for weeks. However, regular, monthly treatments can keep your child from experiencing the worst cold symptoms. For children under about 8 years old a treatment is brief, and involves specific tools such as “rake” and micro needles for pediatric use.  I have worked with newborns, toddlers, and kids of all ages, and have found that children respond very quickly to treatment.

Finally, a word on antibiotics for ear infections: in my experience, antibiotics can effectively rid the ear of its infection. However, the fluid and pressure that have built up in the Eustachian tube and behind the eardrum are typically still present. Acupuncture and light massage can help drain the fluid back down the Eustachian tube, thus completing the healing process within your child’s ear.

And, for the adults reading this, have you washed your hands lately?

Happy Liver, Mellow Minds, aka Stress, and what to do about it.

Very few people have gone through life without experiencing some level of stress. Stress may be a great motivator. Stressed about an exam? You’re more likely to study a little harder. Stressed about a promotion, you’re likely to make sure you’re well prepared. Most of us experience short-term stress, but what happens when it turns chronic?

Stress has become a catch-all word that means anything that causes us difficulty. There is a physiological change that happens within our bodies when we are under a difficult situation. Specific hormones are secreted, the nervous system goes on hyper-alert, and our brain shuts down our ability to see the larger picture. We literally can only focus on the event that is causing our bodies to react.

On a simpler note, it’s as if our nerves are firing rapid fire, telling our brains that there’s DANGER. This is useful if we need to run from a charging tiger. But while most of us aren’t being chased by wild animals, our brains cannot effectively differentiate between a dangerous animal and an impending job interview. The brain still sends the message of DANGER.

So what can we do? Short of taking medication to calm the stress and anxiety, here are some tips.

1)      Get enough sleep. Sleep is one of the best ways to rejuvenate the brain, body, nervous system, and immune system.

2)      Breathe deeply. Stop right now and take three very deep, very slow breaths. This will slow the heart rate for a moment, and will oxygenate the brain.

3)      Get therapy. Yes, psychotherapy if you are in need, but do yoga, Pilates, get acupuncture, take a walk.

4)      Get out and have fun. Remember that you have friends—prioritize your friendships. One of the great things about friends is that they can lend an ear and offer a fresh perspective on our lives.

How does acupuncture work for stress and anxiety? From a Chinese medical perspective, the organ most closely related to stress is the liver. The liver is responsible for “smoothing” out our Qi and blood, allowing to flow better. Stress and tension, whether physical or emotional, is a sign that our Qi and blood are stuck. Acupuncture moves this stagnation. From a more modern scientific perspective acupuncture needles stimulate the body’s production of endorphins and anti-inflammatories.

If it has been a while since your last treatment, it’s time to get in for some Qi movement. You’ll feel much more relaxed and energized. I guarantee it!

A Walk is as Good as a Run

I’ve been wanting to post this for a few weeks now, but every time I sit down, I decide to take the walk instead of writing about it! I guess you could say I’m practicing what I’m about to preach. Having already taken my early morning walk today, I’ll now tell you why you need to be out there walking too!

Walking is one form of exercise that most people are able to engage in, barring injury or other physical limitations. You don’t need to be athletic or even particularly fit to take a walk. If you never go for walks, start with a short, 10-minute walk around the block or office complex at lunchtime. This is one of the most rejuvenating activities you can do during a workday. You may be one of those workers who eats lunch at your desk, and with the ease of sending e-mail or instant messages, you may barely move from your chair during the day. It’s little wonder that by mid-afternoon you are reaching for another cup of caffeine or some chocolate! Instead of the caffeine or candy, get out of your chair, take a quick walk outside, then before you sit down, drink a glass of water.

Walking is an under-rated form of exercise and fitness.  Unlike running, walking is low impact but invigorating for the muscles. It can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, even your weight! While the ideal may be 30 minutes of walking five times per week, your schedule may only allow for a long walk once or twice per week. That’s fine, esp. if you remember to take the stairs when you can, park just a little farther from the entrance, and walk outside your office during the day.

Here are some tips for making walking a pleasurable experience:

1) Vary your route. Try a different street or path each time. If variety is not available, then mix it up a little. You’ll find that if you are used to walking up your street one way, try walking the other direction. You’ll see it from a brand new perspective.

2) Take a camera along. Yes, you’ll stop every so often, but it will help you see the beauty around you when you look through the lens of a camera.

3) Choose a destination. An easy and wonderful destination here in San Francisco is the Ferry Building. Wherever you are, find a place you like, and walk there.

4) Walk with friends. Time passes quickly when you’re sharing your walk with a friend.

5) Invest in a decent pair of shoes. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy pair of running or walking shoes, but do make sure your shoes have proper support.

While walking is not a substitute for more vigorous exercise such as weight lifting and cardiovascular workouts, adding walks to your weekly routine will get your Qi flowing and may even lift your mood.

To your health!

Children’s Acupuncture, a.k.a. shonishin

You might be wondering if acupuncture might benefit the youngest among us. The short answer is absolutely! We even have a name for children’s acupuncture: shonishin, a word borrowed from Japanese. One of the most common questions I receive is how a baby or a child would sit still for an acupuncture treatment. Until they are about 8 or 9 years old, their treatments look a little different from what you might be used to.

As a seasoned acupuncturist who has treated children from 6 weeks old through the teenage years, I have several tools at my disposal. The most important tool I have, aside from the parents themselves (something I’ll go into further detail in a bit), is a small gold-plated instrument. One end of the tool is slightly rounded for brushing the skin and the other end is a blunted tip for light pressure.

Children have energy (Qi) as adults do, but because they are younger, their Qi is more available on the surface, rather than deeper like ours. It is for this reason that actual acupuncture is optional in shonishin. A typical treatment of a young child or baby lasts between 15-20 minutes, and involves a combination of gentle finger pressure, brushing of the skin with my specialized pediatric tools, light massage, and if appropriate, inserting needles and immediately removing them. There is no physical discomfort experienced by the child (or the parents!). In fact, I often get giggles from ticklish toddlers.

Anther important tool is the parents. Because treatment is most effective when administered on a regular basis, I often show parents how to massage their children in specific areas to treat their ailment. For example, my home remedy for allergies is to have the parents gently stroke their child’s third eye area and down the sides of the nose. If a child is old enough for self-care, I show him or her how to apply pressure on specific meridians.

While I leave more serious conditions to be treated by western physicians, there are many ailments that respond very well to shonishin. My most common ailments include gastric reflux in infants, allergies, colds and flu, digestive disorders, anxiety and concentration issues.

In addition to shonishin I often make recommendations for western and eastern herbs, vitamins, and supplements. Most children respond very quickly to a combination of shonishin and supplements.  And parents, you know that when your child is healthy, you sleep better at night! You owe it to yourselves, so consider shonishin the next time your child is ill!

World Series and what it might mean for your health

Tonight is Game 1 of the 2010 World Series–the San Francisco Giants against the Texas Rangers!

I know that not everyone reading this is a baseball fan, but keep reading to see how similar we are to all of the Giants and Rangers players.  Professional baseball players have gotten where they are for a variety of reasons: raw talent, sheer luck, and physical conditioning, among other things. You may think that you have nothing in common with  professional athletes, but you do. One of the key components to their success is that each athlete has a team of health care providers both on and off the ball field. Without this team of medical professionals, these athletes would not be where they are today.

What does this mean for the rest of us? We all have our own team of professionals. Look around you; who are the ones who keep you going on a daily basis? Who helps you out when you’re hurt or ill? More importantly, who helps keep you going when you are well? Wellness care is equally essential, if not more, than intervention during illness. In fact, in ancient China, doctors were often fired when their patients became ill.

Western medicine is designed to treat illness, and in a lot of ways it excels in its endeavor. However, can you imagine a life with minimal pain or illness? While we all hold a different key to our own health, here are some ways to bring your health back to your consciousness:

1) Sleep. It can be as simple as knowing your natural circadian rhythm. As much as you can, allow yourself to fall asleep naturally, then see what time you wake up, without help from an alarm. You’ll learn a lot about your internal clock, and may not have to fight the pillow as much if you can keep to your natural rhythm.

2) Exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to work out 5 times per week in a gym. Look at your day-to-day patterns. Are you sitting for 9 hours at work and then another 4 -6 at home? Stand up more, walk the halls, get outside at lunch, and take the breaks that are provided to you.

3) Gather your friends. Keep up your friendships, be active with them, make meals together, enjoy cups of coffee or glasses of wine, and be sure to laugh on a regular basis.

4) Gather your health team. Keep up on your regular dental appointments, get acupuncture monthly even when you feel fine, see a great chiropractor or pilates instructor to keep up your physical alignment. If money is a concern, stagger your appointments so that you have something every other week. The bottom line is that health is cheaper than illness.

And, for those Giants fans, go team!