Maintaining Health in Winter with Chinese Medicine

The ancient Chinese believed that living in harmony with the seasons of nature could prevent disease and promote health.  Winter is the most yin season when the flow of energy is cold, damp, slow and inward.  The days are shorter, and darkness comes early.

The organs associated with winter are the kidneys and bladder. Today, I want to discuss the kidneys.  The kidneys hold our body’s fundamental energy, the Jing chi or essence.  To strengthen kidney energy, it is important to get adequate rest and spend time in self-reflection and meditation.  Practices such as Tai Chi and yoga help to relax body, mind, and spirit, and connect us to our inner selves.

The kidney energy is also associated with our ears and bones.  Our hearing ability is connected to the health of the kidneys.  We can hear more clearly in the stillness of winter than in the activity of the spring and summer.

Bone broths are a good way to tonify kidney energy and nourish the bones which produce Jing Chi.  Other foods which support the kidneys include:

  • rye
  • oats
  • miso
  • quinoa
  • seaweeds
  • salt
  • warm
  • hearty soups
  • roasted nuts
  • black beans
  • black rice

Prolonged extreme stress harms the kidneys. It is also recommended to avoid excess salt and anything in excess.

www. Chinesemedicineliving.com/Living According to the winter season…

Treating Kidney Stones with Chinese Medicine

back pain

Kidney stones is a condition which has become much more prevalent in recent times.  A New York Times article by Laurie Tarkan on October 28, 2008, cites that urologists in some parts of the USA are reporting a noticeable increase in kidney stones, especially in women and children.  Recent statistics reported that 12% of men and 7% of women get kidney stones at some time in their life. These statistics also suggested that the percentage of women with kidney stones was higher than reported.

Kidney and urinary stones are created when minerals in the body combine with other substances and accumulate in the small ducts and tissues of the organ “eventually forming a thick sludge then stones.” Many times, these stones have no symptoms and pass through the ureter unnoticed.

The problem comes when the stones cannot be passed into the urine.  Some reasons for the inability of the stones to be passed are: size, inflammation, and scarring of the ducts, hardness, and sharpness of the stones.

An excess of certain chemicals in the body which are unable to be broken down completely along with poor diet, inadequate fluid ingestion, metabolic deficiencies, genetic predisposition, obesity, and chronic inflammation play a role in the formation of kidney stones.  The most important factors though are healthy liver and kidney function, regulation of acidity or alkalinity, hormonal regulation of the body’s minerals and the health of the large intestine.

There are many different types of kidney stones, so it is vital to have a comprehensive, individualized approach to preventing and healing them.  Finding the right healthcare practitioners is of utmost importance in treating this painful and at times debilitating condition.

“It is estimated that 350,000 Americans visit the emergency room each year to deal with kidney stones.” Most of these stones are made up of calcium oxalate.

Last week I spoke of some of the causative factors for kidney stones.  There are four types of stones and myriad causative factors and predispositions creating them.  The four types of stones are:

  • calcium stones– These are the most common and account for ¾ of all kidney stones. They are composed of calcium oxalate.
  • uric acid stones-These are found in gout and genetic disorders. They are caused by faulty protein metabolism.
  • Struvite stones– These are found in women with frequent urinary tract infections.
  • Cystine stones– The least frequent type, they are caused by a genetic disorder.

Traditional Chinese Medicine takes into consideration a person’s lifestyle, diet and constitution when treating any medical condition. Finding the causative factors is key in effective treatment and each person is unique.  The treatment goal will be to dissolve the hard masses, drain dampness/congestion and promote the free flow of energy(chi).

Current dietary recommendations include;

1) Reduce high oxalate foods in your diet. Some of these foods include:

  • Almonds
  • Beets
  • Black beans
  • Black tea

  • Carrots
  • Cannellini beans
  • Chocolate
  • Cornmeal
  • Eggs
  • Eggplant
  • Potato chips
  • Peanuts

2) Reduce your sugar intake.  Sugar causes the body to excrete calcium.
3) Limit your consumption of alcohol.  Alcohol creates heat in the body which add to the toxicity and accumulation of wastes.

woman with back pain

It is recommended to keep your diet at 40-50 mg of oxalate a day or less for prevention of stones.

  • Limit consumption of carbonated drinks– i.e. soda, seltzer.  The bubbles are very acidic and if you are creating stones your body is too acidic.
  • Reduce animal protein consumption– rich foods are part of the problem. Recommended -3-5oz, 3-5x a week of clean, lean meat
  • Reduce consumption of eggs– they are rich and can promote dampness if eaten too often.
  • Avoid processed and refined foods– cold cuts and hot dogs contain too many chemicals that will overburden the system.
  • Reduce dairy, it creates phlegm

You’re probably wondering what to eat at this point.  It will depend on the type of kidney stones that are being produced but here is a list of things you can do:

  • Increase water consumption to about 2 liters a day, if athletic you may need more
  • Increase calcium-magnesium ratio foods;     avocado, banana, bran, brown rice, dark chocolate, lima beans, oats, potatoes, barley, coconut, cashews, rye, sesame seeds, soy
  • Get your calcium from sources other than dairy, such as kelp or broccoli
  • Add B6, magnesium, cranberries- very beneficial
  • Add foods that dissolve hard masses; crab, agar, kelp, miso, nettles, octopus, spirulina, tofu, wheat grass
  • Choose low oxalate foods; alfalfa sprouts, cauliflower, chives, cherries, boiled asparagus, chestnuts, cucumber to name a few

The most important is to be followed by a medical professional. Acupuncturists will treat someone with just oxalate stones differently than someone with oxalate and uric acid stones or someone with kidney stones and high blood pressure.

For more information refer to:

www.aprilcrowell.com/Treating Kidney Stones with Asian Medicine
and
acupunctureintegrated.com – kidney stone prevention

The Metal Element – Autumn

autumn brookIn autumn comes the end of the growing season.  The abundant energy and growth of summer is gone and the energy of the earth turns inward.  The leaves fall and enrich the soil, getting it ready for next year’s harvest.

Like nature, we have cycles of creating and releasing or letting go.  Holding on to what no longer serves us prevents us from moving forward gracefully.

The energy of this season promotes introspection.  What is most precious in our lives?  What is stale and outdated?  Who are we in our essence?

This is the season of the metal or air element.  The emotion of this season is grief.  When we experience loss we grieve.  The expression of grief helps to cleanse us of our sorrow.

When the metal energy is imbalanced our expression of grief is also imbalanced.  It may be extreme and ongoing or non-existent.  Either extreme will make it difficult to function, especially when trying to take deep breaths.

The two organs of the metal element are lung and large intestine. The lungs take in the crisp autumn air, the new and pure.  The large intestine eliminates waste.

When these two organs are out of balance we have symptoms of:

constipation, nasal congestion, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and stomach pain to name a few.

Our mind and spirit also suffer if we are unable to eliminate waste and take in the new and pure; symptoms such as stubbornness, depression, isolation, and negativity appear.  We see the glass as half empty.  When metal is unbalanced we’re unable to sense our value; we seek fulfillment outside ourselves.

It is important to maintain balance in every season to live our best life.  In autumn:

  • Have your energy balanced with acupressure or acupuncture.
  • Live in balance with the season- dress for the weather. Don’t overexert your energy.
  • Clean out cluttered areas of your home- desks, closets, garage, etc.
  • Focus on releasing old hurts and resentments. Try to resolve issues around these emotions and let them go. If unable to resolve these issues with the other person (persons) write them down in detail and burn the paper, “symbolically releasing the content.”
  • Walk in nature and breathe deeply.

www.5elements.com/The Five Elements: Metal

Anxiety and Chinese Medicine – continued

Last week I spoke about the effectiveness of Chinese Medicine when treating anxiety.
Acupressure and acupuncture help to balance the body’s vital energy which affects the body, mind, and spirit.  Each yin organ energy pathway is associated with an emotion.  When an acupressure practitioner takes pulses during a session she/he determines where the energy imbalances lie.  They then treat the imbalance which will also help to balance the emotions.  Over time the anxiety will usually improve.

Kidney health is extremely important when dealing with anxiety.  When the kidneys are run down it slows the healing process.  The kidneys are weakened by overexposure to toxins, overwork, stress, eating too much meat, excessive alcohol consumption, poor sleeping habits, and some medications.  The emotion of fear, which plays a large role in anxiety, is associated with kidney energy.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine the kidneys and adrenal glands are the same organs.  The kidneys are also associated with the bones and hair.
Foods which help to support kidney energy will also help with anxiety.

These foods include:

  • grapes
  • plums
  • boysenberries
  • turnips
  • asparagus
  • millet
  • endive
  • cabbage
  • celery
  • black beans
  • watercress
  • amaranth
  • rye
  • quinoa
  • oats
  • kelp
  • nori
  • tangerines
  • cinnamon
  • dill seed
  • yams
  • chives

For further information refer to www.consciouslifestylemag.com/ Foods For Anxiety

Treating Anxiety and Depression with Chinese Medicine

worry and anxietyAnxiety and depression are mood disorders that are extremely common in our present society.  The symptoms of anxiety can range from mild discomfort to debilitating fear.  Doctors will prescribe an array of medications to treat anxiety and depression but many of these meds have undesirable side effects.

Traditional Chinese Medicine can be quite effective in treating anxiety and depression.  Anxiety is related to our emotional mindset.  When we have our energy balanced it also balances our emotional body.

There are twelve energy pathways in TCM.  These Twelve pathways are composed of six yin (deeper, feminine) organs and six yang (superficial, masculine) organs.

The yin organs are associated with emotions. They are:

  • Lung meridian- grief, sadness
  • Spleen meridian- worry
  • Heart meridian-heart felt feelings
  • Kidney meridian- fear
  • Liver meridian- anger
  • Pericardium Meridian- heartfelt feelings

When you have an acupressure or acupuncture session, the practitioner takes your pulses to see where your imbalance lies.  They then treat the imbalance to bring the body back to homeostasis.

To help with anxiety and depression a series of 8-10 sessions is recommended initially to achieve the best result, after that the practitioner and client will decide on the need for a maintenance schedule.  Chinese herbs may also be helpful.

The Energy of Fall

fall colorsIn ancient China and Japan peopled structured their lives to live in harmony with nature; their practices and eating habits changed with the change of seasons. Living as part of the natural world, they maintained balance and optimal health.

The fall season is associated with the metal element “which governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits and protecting boundaries.  It’s a good time to finish projects” that were begun in spring and summer. It’s also a time for self-introspection and releasing that which is no longer needed.

The organs associated with the fall are lung and large intestine.  The lungs are very sensitive to wind and cold, so it’s important to dress for the weather.  The lungs also control the wei-qi or protective energy which runs just under the skin and helps to warm the body.  When we catch a cold or flu the wei-qi has been weakened.  This also explains why we feel cold.

The energy of the large intestine helps us to release physical waste and old ideas or mindsets which no longer serve us.  Like spring, this is a perfect time to clean house to prepare for the change in weather.

Autumn brings shorter days, cooler weather and harvest time.  Some healthy tips for fall:

  • Eat the foods and vegetables that grow locally this time of year
  • Eat cooked food not raw.  This is a great time for soups and stews.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

Enjoy the Energy of Fall: Autumn and Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Psychological Aspect of Indian Summer in Chinese Medicine

The ancient Chinese believed that to be healthy we should align our energies with those of the current season. Indian Summer (late August till September) is harvest time in nature when there is great abundance. It is a time to gather and distribute the bounty of the earth.

The earth element, which is the most active energy at this time of year, encourages us to be balanced and grounded in our core and to nurture body, mind, and spirit. “Value and nourish yourself as the highest level of personal spiritual practice you can do, so that your love can then flow out to others.” Be careful not to overextend your energy.

The earth element governs the “digestion” of thoughts and reasoning on the mental-emotional level. It emphasizes our need to be rooted, harmonious and stabilized whether in family, community or work environment.

To promote inner calm and harmony avoid absorbing too much negative information. Spend time meditating, walking in nature, listening to positive and inspirational information and music. The beginning of each season is the perfect time to have your energy balanced. Spend time in introspection. Create the life you want.

wuweiwisdom.com-late summer health: The Chinese Medicine & Taoist way

Protecting Against Heat Exhaustion

The heat waves we’ve been experiencing these last few weeks can cause us problems unless we plan our outdoor activities carefully.  Heat exhaustion can drain your energy, create dehydration and physical exhaustion. Those most easily affected are people over 65, children under 4 years old, people who are ill, obese, or those taking medication.

Heat exhaustion is the result of prolonged exposure to high heat and insufficient intake of fluids.

The symptoms include:  heavy sweating, muscle cramps, tiredness, paleness, dizziness, weakness, nausea or vomiting, and headache.

To protect against heat exhaustion

  • Carry water with you and sip throughout the day
  • Pace yourself when working outside, exercising or playing
  • Replace minerals and salts with fluids such as Gatorade or other drinks with potassium. Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Wear light-colored lightweight clothing
  • If feeling ill, seek air conditioning, and cool shower
  • Plan your outdoor activities to avoid the hottest part of the day.
  • If you feel dizzy and/ or stop sweating, get out of the sun immediately. Drink cool water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. This will help replace electrolytes and minerals

Dehydration can stress the heart and impair the kidneys function of maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes.

www.pacificcollege.edu/SummerandTraditionalChineseMedicine

The 24-hour Organ Clock of Chinese Medicine

24-hour Organ Clock

Every so often I like to revisit the 24-hour meridian clock.  It has valuable information on how our energy cycles throughout our body during a day.
“In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that each organ has its point of highest energy and lowest energy.”

The 24-hour Meridian Clock shows the times when each meridian is most active and the best times for different activities.  For example: Gallbladder Meridian is most active between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am.  This meridian is responsible for decision making and everyday stress. The Body Clock shows the optimum bedtime to be between 10 and 11 pm.  Following the natural rhythm of our bodies enhances our health and wellbeing.

The summer meridians include: Heart, Small Intestine, pericardium and Triple Warmer.  These meridians are most active in the summer, so this time of year their 24- hour energy cycle times are heightened.

Heart Meridian – most active between 11 am and 1 pm. The activities are blood circulation, high energy, lunch

Small Intestine Meridian – most active between 1 pm and 3 pm. sort and absorb food, low energy, nap

Pericardium Meridian – most active between 7 pm and 9 pm. protection, light reading, sex, taking care of self

Triple Warmer Meridian – most active between 9 pm and 11 pm. Endocrine and metabolic balancing, sleep

Traditional Chinese Organ Body Clock/www.foreverconscious.com

Chinese Medicine and Sciatic Pain

The sciatic nerve originates from the lower spine and goes down the side of the leg to the foot. When inflamed or compressed it sends intense pain down the buttocks to the back of the leg and foot. It can also cause numbness or tingling and difficulty walking or standing.

Some causes of sciatica, aside from the structural issues of herniated discs, tight muscles or spinal stenosis, could be prolonged sitting on hard surfaces, keeping a wallet in your back pocket, sudden twisting or improper lifting of heavy objects.

Since many of us are traveling this time of year, it’s important not to overstuff suitcases and lift carefully. Acupressure and myofascial release are very effective in treating sciatic pain. They help to balance the energy, release tight muscles and increase circulation to alleviate discomfort.