The Energies of Spring

early iris flowerThough it is still technically winter, we can feel that change is in the air. The lighter more active energy of springtime is all around us in the appearance of crocus and daffodils. The energy of spring makes it possible to push through obstacles, like the early flowers pushing through the hard soil.

During spring the life force in our bodies is most active in the Liver and Gallbladder meridians (energy pathways). These meridians are responsible for the liver and gallbladder organs as well as the eyes, blood, tendons, and ligaments.

The liver meridian, among other functions, stores, and filters blood, regulates chi and prana, rules the health of muscles, tendons, nails, hands, and feet and is responsible for balancing emotions.

The major functions of the Gallbladder meridian are:

  • Secretes digestive enzymes to break down fat
  • Gives us the ability to follow our path in life
  • Helps with our capacity to regain equilibrium aftershock

These meridians also affect anger, frustration, and courage. The liver controls the ability to plan one’s life, while the gallbladder controls the capacity to make decisions.

Some symptoms of impaired Gallbladder function are:

  • Pain over eyes
  • Gas, bloating
  • Pain along IT band
  • Cramping at the 4th toe, knees, and thigh

Some symptoms of a congested liver are:

  • Skin problems; rashes; brown skin spots
  • Difficulty losing body fat
  • Distended stomach on a thin body
  • Ringing in the ears

Tips for supporting and rejuvenating your liver and gallbladder:

  • Start your day with a cup of lemon water
  • Juice or blend beets, apples, lemon, carrots, and dandelion greens
  • Eat more sulfur-rich foods: garlic and onions, and vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, and cabbage
  • Have your energy balanced

Summarizing Healthy Tips for Winter

winter streamWe are nearing the end of Winter, when the subtle energies of nature will begin to rise and bring new life to the landscape. The animals that hibernate during this time will awaken to a renewed food supply.

We are part of nature and it is also important for us to slow down and renew our energies in winter. Rest, warming foods such as bone broths, and activities that relax and calm the mind, such as Tai Chi and meditation are recommended. This is a time to nourish our body to prepare for the heightened energies of spring.

Some people love winter sports and are energized by the cold; others are the opposite. If we follow the recommendations for health in winter; we can also enjoy our personal activity preferences.

The Chinese Medicine associations of winter include:

  • Kidney and bladder meridians
  • The element of water
  • Flavors – salty, bitter
  • Emotion- fear
  • Organs- ears, bones
  • Time of greatest activity- kidney (5pm-7pm)
  • Time of greatest activity – bladder (3pm-5pm)

The kidneys hold the body’s essential energy or essence, the Jing chi. When we deplete our Jing energy, aging is accelerated. To nourish kidney energies, cook food longer at lower temperatures with less water. Eat foods which grow locally in this season; squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, cabbage, apples and pears to name a few. Rest when tired.

Simple tips to improve kidney health are:

  • Massage your ears for several minutes a day. This will stimulate kidney energy.
  • Go to bed before midnight, take breaks during your day to de-stress and rest when tired.
  • Stomp your feet slowly for about 5 minutes a day. The kidney and bladder meridians have important acupressure points in the sole and heels of the feet.

The 24-Hour Body Clock of Chinese Medicine

24 Hour Body Clock of Chinese MedicineEvery so often I like to revisit this topic. It’s very helpful information and can bring awareness to the problem of disturbed sleep which is of interest to just about everyone. The 24-hour body clock of Chinese Medicine is a representation of the movement of energy through the body’s meridians (energy pathways) and organs in a 24-hour period. Every two hours the energy is strongest in a particular meridian and organ within the body.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), almost all our body functions are linked to a specific time on our internal clock. “This is the time when that particular organ and its related meridians are said to be most energized and working hardest, affecting everything from your emotions to your productivity.” The Chinese believe that to achieve optimum health we need to be in harmony with our internal and external environment.

When our energy is blocked or imbalanced; we experience physical symptoms. If we wake at the same time every night with insomnia; the energy most active at that time is probably blocked.

The best time for bed is between 10 and 11 pm. Gallbladder meridian is most active between 11pm – 1am. Its function is to excrete bile and digest healthy fats and emotionally it’s associated with decision making. “If you’re not resting by 11pm, you could have issues with digesting fats and the emotional components of decision making.”

Here’s the list:

  • 1-3am – organ – liver, activity- deep sleep and dreaming, emotions- anger, frustration, anxiety. A balanced liver keeps these emotions in check.
  • 3-5am – organ- lung, activity -sleeping and gentle breathing, emotions- grief and sadness
  • 5-7am – organ- large intestine, activity-waking and releasing, emotions- releasing that which no longer serves us. A glass of water is a good start to the day
  • 7-9am – organ-stomach, activity-eating and nourishing, emotions being processed- disgust or despair. Having a warming, nutritious breakfast is best.
  • 9-11am – organ-spleen-pancreas, activity-thinking and working, emotions-worry
  • 11am-1pm – organ- heart, actively engaging with friends and eating, emotions- joy or frightful sadness
  • 1-3pm – organ-small intestine, activity-separating useful from useless, organizing, emotions processed- insecurity
  • 3-5pm – organ- bladder, action-reserving and storing, emotion-irritation, moving internal energy. Energy can dip at this time of day. Snacking on something salty will help the energy level.
  • 5-7pm – organ- kidney, activity-replenishing vital energy, emotion-fear
  • 7-9pm – organ-pericardium, activity-emotional support, emotions- excessive euphoria and compassion. Focus on spending quality time with loved ones and self-care.
  • 9-11pm – organ-triple warmer (metabolism, blood vessels), activity-relaxing and hydrating, emotions-hopelessness, confusion
  • 11pm – 1am – organ-gallbladder, action-sleeping and regenerating, emotions being processed-indecisiveness and resentment.

Keeping your energy balanced will improve body, mind, and spirit.

Navigating Winter with Chinese Medicine

Photo by Nikoli Afina on Unsplash

Today is the perfect winter day. It is snowing, cold, dark, damp and quiet. These are the adjectives that describe the most yin season in Chinese Medicine. This is the time to slow down, replenish our energy reserves, conserve our strength and spend time reflecting on our health and meditative pursuits.

The associations of winter in Chinese Medicine are Kidney Meridian, Bladder Meridian, adrenal glands, hair, and ears. The element is water, the taste is salty, and the emotions are fear and depression. In other posts, I’ve spoken about Kidney and Bladder Meridian, symptoms of imbalance and the foods which are recommended to improve health this time of year.

The most important role of the season of winter is to slow us down so we can nourish and replenish our energy for the coming activity of spring.

If you are less active in winter, you may want to reduce the quantity of food you consume. It is also advisable to eliminate raw foods and eat warming foods.

To avoid colds and flu during the season:

  • Get plenty of sleep – recommended 7- 8 hours a night
  • Wash your hands regularly, carrying disinfectant wipes and wiping flat surfaces, handles, and phones in public places can also go a long way during flu season.
  • Dress for the weather, be prepared with gloves, scarves or hats for drops in temperature.
  • Reduce your stress daily. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, walking or whatever exercise helps to release tension.
  • Take vitamin c, elderberry syrup, zinc lozenges to boost your immune system and drink plenty of water.

If you do become ill, take time away from your schedule to rest and heal.

More Chinese Medicine Tips for Winter

The Bladder Meridian is the longest and most influential of all the energy pathways since it crosses all the other meridians. During winter the energies are most active in Bladder and Kidney Meridians; this is the time of the water element. When the Bladder Meridian is out of balance both physical and emotional symptoms can occur.

Some physical symptoms associated with an imbalance in the Bladder Meridian are: headaches, urinary problems (i.e. frequent urination, incontinence), back pain, eye pain, colds. Emotional symptoms of Bladder Imbalance include: being fearful and inflexible, low energy, resisting change and a persistent negative attitude.

The Bladder Meridian is closely aligned with the autonomic nervous system because it runs down the entire length of the spine with two branches on either side of the backbone. These four branches directly influence the sympathetic and parasympathetic trunks of the autonomic nervous system which regulate our flight or fight response and all the body’s basic functions.

In today’s stressful world many people have overly stimulated sympathetic nervous systems; creating a constant state of fear or anxiety. Over time this anxiety tightens the muscles of the spine creating pain. Back tension and pain can be relieved by stimulating the energy flow along the Bladder Meridian.

Opening the energy channels of the Bladder Meridian will create a state of total relaxation and switch the autonomic nervous system over to the restful parasympathetic mode. Having your energy balanced with acupressure or acupuncture will positively affect both body and mind.

Chinese Medicine Tips for Winter

The energy pathways most active during winter are kidney and bladder. Winter is a time for quiet, self-reflection, meditation and nourishment of body and soul. It is also important to get plenty of sleep, eat locally grown, organic, well-cooked food, stay warm and stay hydrated.

Some foods that support the body during winter are:

  • Celery, asparagus, lettuce, endive, turnip
  • Rye, quinoa, oats, barley, salt, millet
  • Soy sauce, miso, roasted nuts
  • Hearty, warming soups, black beans
  • Steamed greens, bone broth

The kidneys hold our body’s most fundamental energy and rest is the best way to strengthen them. Kidney energy is important for the maintenance of vitality and to prevent premature aging. It also governs energy reserves which allow adaptation to life’s constant changes.

The body parts associated with the kidneys are the ears and bones. Bone broths are exceptionally nourishing for the kidneys.

Multitasking and constant stress break down kidney energy creating exhaustion and predisposition to hypertension. A major life challenge for all of us is adapting to change and maintaining body-mind balance.

More Tips for Maintaining Health in Winter with Chinese Medicine

winter scene

Photo by Johny Goerend on Unsplash

The Winter Solstice is less than 2 weeks away, and the subtle energies which transform fall into winter can be felt in the changing weather.

Chinese medicine is based on the belief that living in harmony with the seasons of nature can 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.

Treating Piriformis Syndrome with Acupressure and Myofascial Release

glutes piriformis syndrome sciaticaOn my trip to Savannah last week, I had a very nice conversation with the woman sitting next to me. When I told her that I was a bodywork therapist; she asked if I knew of Piriformis Syndrome. Though I knew something about treating it, I was intrigued to do more research.

The piriformis is a flat, band-like muscle deep within the buttocks that runs from the front of the sacrum to the hip joint (head of the femur). It functions to laterally rotate the hip and is a core stabilizing muscle. The piriformis is important because the sciatic nerve runs under it, and in a small percentage of people, the sciatic nerve runs through it. Therefore, injury or inflammation to the piriformis can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica. When this occurs, it is called piriformis syndrome.

Piriformis syndrome is different from true sciatica which is usually the result of herniated spinal discs, physical trauma, osteoarthritis or years of prolonged sitting and bending. True sciatic pain also takes longer to treat.

The symptoms of piriformis syndrome are pain deep in the buttocks that may radiate down the back or side of the leg through the knee. This pain can present in many ways, sharp or dull and achy, or nagging with numbness and tingling. Symptoms are like true sciatica, but with piriformis syndrome pain usually stops at the knee and there are tender trigger points in the butt. It is best to consult a doctor for a definite diagnosis.

This syndrome is common to runners or people who sit for long periods of time commuting or at their job. My friend on the plane had recently run an extreme marathon. Overuse can create spasm in the piriformis, pinching the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome is more common during the winter when people have been out in the cold. Treatment in Chinese Medicine would include acupuncture, acupressure, heat, bodywork, stretching and at-home care. The home care treatment would be applying heat to the area, applying sustained pressure to the trigger point by sitting on a tennis ball and gentle stretching.

“A simple stretch for the Piriformis muscle: sit in a chair with both feet on the floor. To stretch the right side, place your right ankle across the top of your left knee. Then gently lean forward until you feel the stretch in your butt. Repeat on the other side by reversing the action”.

It may take weeks to achieve pain relief from an acute problem, a chronic problem will take longer, but of course, everyone is different.

Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

The change of weather from summer to autumn many times brings colds, flu, and respiratory infections.  In Chinese Medicine this is the time of the metal element when lung and large intestine meridians are most active.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post that if your lung or large intestine meridian’s energy is blocked, especially at this time of year, your immune system is compromised, and it is easier to get ill.

If you are traveling by plane during this season it is a really good idea to support your immune system.  Days before traveling you can begin taking any one of these: probiotics, vitamin c, zinc, elderberry syrup, echinacea, essential oils (Doterra’s On Guard or Young Living’s Thieves) garlic,
oregano oil or combinations of all of them.

I’m traveling by plane this week and I’ve purchased an immune support oral spray called Myco Shield which was recommended by a friend.  It includes a combination of mushrooms including Reishi and was formulated for people who are traveling.  It is also important to have your energy balanced, get plenty of sleep and stay warm.

Chronic Cold Condition

Woman feeling coldThis is the season of the metal element in Chinese Medicine. It’s a time when nature pulls back its energy into the earth and roots of the trees and plants to prepare for winter. I’ve spoken about the importance of getting more sleep, eating local, seasonal, cooked food and keeping warm to stay healthy during fall. Today I want to address a chronic cold condition.

Chinese Medicine considers cold to be a cause of disease. It is one of the six “Pernicious Influences “along with heat, dryness, damp, wind and summer heat. Where western medicine considers viruses and bacteria as causes of illness; “the Chinese observed that our body mirrors certain climatic conditions” (1) when we are ill. Cold weather causes contraction and slowing down of activity in nature and creates the same symptoms in the human body.

A chronic cold condition is different from what we call the “common cold”. The common cold is an external disturbance which makes you uncomfortable for a week or so and then passes.

A chronic cold condition is internal cold which makes you feel chilled to your core and can’t be corrected by warmer clothing. Our bodies have heat at our core which keeps our digestion and metabolism running smoothly. When you are chilled to your core, you may have digestive problems, water retention, and feel sluggish and tired a good deal of the time.

This condition is created by an energy imbalance, usually yang depletion, and takes considerably more time to heal than the common cold. It takes a combination of acupuncture, food therapy, herbs and keeping the body warm. A chronic cold condition is created over time, so the correction will also take time.

The third way that cold can manifest in the body is called a cold strike. This occurs when the body is exposed to cold and damp over an extended period (i.e. camping out in cold, rainy conditions). It can create muscle cramps and pain and joint pain. Treatment involves acupuncture and heat.

If your body is always cold, ways to help are:

  • Add warming herbs such as ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, mustard and cinnamon to your diet.
  • Keep your core warm, use a heating pad or hot water bottle to warm your abdomen below the navel or use on the small of your back.
  • Apply heat to joints that ache more with the cold weather.
  • Dress for the weather, keep the entire torso and head and ears covered during cold, damp weather.
  • Seek help from an acupuncturist if all else fails.