Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Acupressure for Sea Sickness

Long before I knew anything about acupuncture or eastern medicine I was just a bratty kid who hated spending weekends on Lake Michigan. Aside the fact that other people might see me with my parents (gasp!) I would, without fail, always get sea sick. Nothing seemed to help me overcome my queasy-feeling weekends. That is until my mom found sea sick bracelets at a drug store. Although I had no idea how that could possibly help, I figured it couldn't hurt.

The bracelet basically looked like a sweat band with a plastic ball sticking out of it. The directions stated to put the band with the ball pressing into the skin a few inches from the wrist crease. What was amazing was that it worked. I also found interesting was that the ball had to be pressing in just the right spot or it wouldn't work. Even better, after some time I no longer needed to wear the bracelets because the water didn't seem to have that same queasy effect on me anymore.

So what was that mysterious place in my wrist that took my tummy troubles away? Its an acupuncture/pressure point called PC6 or in Chinese "Neiguan". It is located in between the tendons about 4 finger breaths from the wrist crease. Its great not only for sea sickness but also morning sickness when pregnant, any kind of tummy troubles, palpitations, hiccups, or when feeling dizzy, anxious or stressed.

Sarah Zender LAc
Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Acupuncture and Women's Health

Chinese Medicine and Women’s Health

Chinese Medicine’s greatest diagnostic tool is observation, particularly that of the tongue and pulses, to understand what is taking place inside of the body. Keeping the circulation of blood and energy flowing smoothly through out the body is what allows the body to function most optimally. Deficiency or stagnation of energy or blood can cause a break down in the body’s ability to maintain health. If energy or blood is not moving properly it can cause a break down in the body’s ability to function properly, leading often times to pain. Chinese Medicine is so profound at treating women’s issues because of this intention of balance. Symptoms that present before or during menstruation like cramps, breast tenderness, and irritability that many women consider normal is actually the body’s way of trying to send a message that an imbalance is taking place. Later in life when menopause begins hot flashes and insomnia are other so called normal processes in the eyes and bodies of western women. These experiences are not necessary and when balanced can bring about a higher quality of life without side effects or the risk of increase in getting cancer.

It is my personal experience and belief that stress impacts a women’s cycle very intimately. I don’t know one woman not impacted by stress. Women are most family’s caregivers and most women put the needs of the family before their own needs.

While going through graduate school and working full time my body began to fatigue more and more easily. I did not get quality sleep yet slept more and more because my body never got the opportunity to recover from my long days. Then my period started doing a strange thing, it would start for 10 days and then stop for 10 days and start again. I started to sleep more and function less over a 2 month period. My gynecologist did a routine exam and gave me a clean bill of health. This left me confused and frustrated because I knew I did not feel well. Fortunately, I was studying Chinese Medicine and had access to an Acupuncturist. I received weekly acupuncture treatments and took an herbal formula prescribed by my acupuncturist for a full menstrual cycle. I continued my herbs for another month after this. My bleeding stopped after my first acupuncture treatment and at the end of my month of treatment I resumed back to my normal period with no PMS symptoms before or during my cycle. This meant no breast tenderness, no cramps, no cravings, no bloating, or constipation. My sleep cycle also returned back to normal and I was able to make it through my days without napping and had energy to do more then just make it through my day; my life began to thrive again. I no longer had dizziness or fatigue and feelings of depression lifted in the first 2 weeks.

This experience also gave me a greater awareness of myself. When I am in a period of life where I have more stress I know my sleep is the first thing that is affected and leaps directly into my menstrual cycle function. Chinese Medicine is a gift that offers one the time to pay attention to what the body is saying. Everyday your body subtly tells you what it needs; the problem is if you don’t listen then your body has to start yelling for you to pay attention. The quicker you can recognize what your body is trying to say, the quicker you can return back to health. Illness starts with a single cell that is out of balance and then starts to grow quickly affecting every aspect of your body and life. The quicker the attempt of balance is made the faster the recovery process.

Acupuncture is not a silver bullet that can cure all. It is, however, a tool that can assist in the process of healing. Because the process of acupuncture takes time what can happen often times is that people slowly make other lifestyle changes. In my case I organically took some time to evaluate my diet and made it a priority to eat more mindfully. I also restarted my yoga practice that had fallen by the wayside as my life became busier and made it a point to recognize when my body was telling me I was moving past what my “best” was.

As women we are often taught to put our needs last, however if we are not functioning optimally we won’t be able to take care of everything else that needs our attention optimally either. Chinese Medicine offers a tool of empowerment where suffering in any capacity is optional.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture

50 E Turner Ave

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Having Friends is Good For Your Health

The introduction to the book Outliers describes the tiny city of Roseto, Pennsylvania and the work of Dr. Stewart Wolf. Wolf conducted studies on the town in the 1960s and found that virtually no one under the age of fifty-five had died of a heart attack or showed any signs of heart disease while the rest of the country was undergoing an epidemic of heart disease. The death rate of men over the age of sixty five was half of what the rest of the United States was as well. Roseto’s death rates from all causes was actually 30-35% lower then expected.

Another amazing anomaly of Roseto was that there was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction and very little crime; no one was on welfare or had peptic ulcers. John Bruhn a sociologist involved in the studies stated, “These people were dying of old age. That’s it.” Wolf discovered that Rosetans were not on a special, healthier diet then other Americans either. Incredibly Rosetans took in 41% of their calories from fat. Rosetans also smoked heavily and many were overweight. Genetics also didn’t seem to be a factor.

Wolf discovered that the secret to Rosetans good health was their lifestyle. They lived 3 generations to a house and respected their elders deeply. Neighbors took the time to visit with each other and went out of their way to cook meals and simply support one another. In the 1950s when the medical community was used to the paradigm that our health depended on our genes and our individual lifestyle (perhaps it still is) it was nearly mind boggling to consider how the collective impacted not only the individual but the community as well.

I was excited to read these findings and thrilled at the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (it’s an interesting read). What thrilled me most was the importance of community to our health. This is exactly the intention of Whole Health Acupuncture’s approach to wellness using the community acupuncture model. The ancients have always prized community as a pillar of quality life.

Our society has more access to communication in a variety of ways and yet we have less and less physical contact. We know that if a baby has all of its needs met: food, clothing and shelter with the exception of being touched enough he will die. I can’t find any evidence that suggests that the need for touch, for understanding and companionship disappears as we get older. The majority of marketing these days convinces us that we need the “purple pill” to feel better, we own our IBS instead of our healthy bodies. It is through our diseases that we receive attention, feel loved and find identity. The goal of (community) acupuncture is the exact opposite. Through self awareness and a quiet space one can experience the body’s innate ability to heal itself. It is through the support of others that our health soars, as it is through supporting others that our health soars.

Every Monday and Thursday through out the month of November we are promoting healthy friendships. Bring in a friend who has never had acupuncture with us and you and your friend will both receive a free treatment. Bring in as many friends as you like!

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929


Natural Remedy for Depression, Isolation, and Loneliness

In Chinese Medicine it is pretty clear that the body is interconnected. When one organ or channel becomes imbalanced, the rest will start to become imbalanced as well. This is the same reason why an acu point on the top of the foot can be used on the opposite side of the body to treat a one sided headache.

Modern medicine is catching up to ancient wisdom. Wayne Dyer reports that in recent studies of serotonin levels people who extend acts of kindness raise their serotonin levels. Not only does the person acting kindly towards someone feel the effect, the person receiving kindness and those witnessing kindness also receive a boost in serotonin levels.

I felt so impacted by this notion of raising serotonin levels that I made it a practice to be as kind as I could to those around me. Not only did my mood improve, I also felt like I had more energy, that I smiled more for no reason, that life didn't seem so stressful. What did it really cost me to give the man standing on the off ramp of the freeway the leftovers of the lunch I couldn't finish, or reaching for a bag of rice for a woman too short to reach it at the grocery store, cleaning the toilet that hadn't been washed in a month (instead of arguing about who's turn it was), leaving a couple extra bucks for a waitress, the list could continue. The most amazing impact of this experiment that I found was that people, strangers, began extending the same kind of kindness to me in small ways, in large ways. I have become acutely aware of the goodness returning in my life ten-fold.

Imagine the impact you could have, not only in your own life, but in all the lives around you if you started to look for the small acts of kindness around you instead of the disasters, if you consciously made an effort to be kind, or if you consciously made an effort to receive kindness. Remember its the little things in life that can make the most difference.

Whole Health Acupuncture would like to help you raise your serotonin levels in 3 ways. October 25th - 30th we will donate half of all money collected from acupuncture treatments to a local food pantry. Bring in canned goods and receive a gift certificate for a complimentary acupuncture treatment to be used in November. Schedule your appointment today! Give us a call at 847.357.3929

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What is Community Acupuncture?

Occasionally new patients are slightly nervous about the idea of receiving their acupuncture treatment with other people receiving treatment at the same time. This blog will help to calm your nerves and get you more excited about being a part of a community.

There are many activities in your daily life that you may participate in where others are receiving a similar service at the same time as you. Here are a few examples:

>> When you eat at a restuarant you may eat alone or with the company of others with people (strangers even!) at tables near by enjoying their meal as well.

>> When you travel alone or with company chances are you may sit next to another passenger on the same flight, train or bus that you might not know.

>> When you work out at the gym you may run on a treadmill next to someone you may or may not know on a treadmill right next to you or wait your turn to use a weight machine. If you like instructor lead exercise chances are your yoga mat or step box will be near other people also there for a work out that you might not know.

>> When you get a haircut all chairs are in one open space and everyone can see everyone else getting a hair cut and heaven forbid even in those silly caps or foils!

>> Pedicures are often done in a communal space with chairs close by your neighbors.

>> If you've ever gone to a swimming pool or beach during the summer time you've also shared the sun and water with others.

>> Many cancer treatment centers have rows of chairs lined up where patients receive chemo therapy at the same time.

All of these examples have a lot in common. They are places where people are, places where community can be developed, new friends can be made, or for some are places of sanctuary and rest.

When you think about a restaurant where would you rather eat: The place that is full of people or the place where all of the tables are empty?

Have you ever tried to work out alone and found that just being in the gym motivated you to push yourself a little harder then if you were at home alone doing it?

The same is true of community acupuncture. The more people resting at the same time the better treatment everyone receives based on the same principles of the gym example. Everyone is there for the same reason, to feel better! A community environment fosters a healthier environment for everyone.

Think about any time you've tried to make positive changes in your life. Its a lot easier when you are surrounded by people that are supporting your efforts rather than people trying to persuade you to give up. Even if you don't speak to the people receiving acupuncture with you doesn't mean their presence doesn't offer support or your silent presence doesn't offer that same support.

The community acupuncture model also helps us keep our costs down. A sliding scale that you choose to pay on seems crazy sometimes to people who are used to paying a lot of money for health care (or just about anything). The sliding scale is a symbol of your commitment to your health and also a way to break down a barrier to your ability to live a quality life. When money is less of an obstacle the only thing holding you back is your ability to show up. We all know that 90% of success in anything is just showing up. We are consistently amazed with the results we see for a variety of ailments when patients stick to a treatment plan and show up. Acupuncture is cumulative, the more you do it, the better it works and with just about anything in life its more fun to receive it with others!

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Does Acupuncture Treat?

You may or may not be aware that 90% of all doctors visits are stress related. Nothing ages our organs faster than unmanaged stress.

If 90% of all illness arises at least in the deepest layer of illness from stress, the simple answer to what acupuncture can help is stress (or just about anything). Acupuncture shines in prevention and has no negative side effects.

The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as an effective treatment for nearly 4 dozen common conditions including:

Neuromuscular Conditions:

>> arthritis
>> insomina
>> dizziness
>> neck, shoulder, and back pain

Emotional Disorders:

>> anxiety
>> stress
>> depression

Circulatory Disorders:

>> hypertension
>> angina
>> anemia

Respiratory Disorders:

>> allergies
>> asthma
>> emphysema
>> bronchitis

Gastrointestinal Disorders:

>> nausea
>> indigestion
>> chronic diarrhea
>> constipation
>> gastritis
>> ulcers

Sarah Zender LAc
Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Herbal Remedy For Colds

Use this simple tea as a remedy for a cold as soon as you feel yourself getting sick.

You will need:

3 cups water
2-3 inches of fresh ginger root, sliced
4-5 scallions, white part only
peel of 2 tangerines

Place all of the above ingredients into a pot of 3 cups water.

Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for no more than 3-4 minutes.

Strain the ingredients and drink hot.

(if you want to sweeten tea, use brown sugar or honey)

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Stay Healthy This Fall

The season of autumn is now in full swing have you been feeling it creeping in?

In Chinese Medicine Autumn corresponds to the Lung, the most delicate of organs. It is believed that colds and flu attack the body from wind blowing on the neck. Think about the progression of a cold: stiff and achy neck and shoulders, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, fever or chills. If you were struggling with colds in the spring and did not harmonize way back then your body may be at a greater disadvantage now that the weather is again changing.

Some simple things you can do to protect your body:

Wear a scarf or shirts/turtlenecks that do not expose the chest and neck, layers are a plus and all of these are the latest fashion anyway! Avoid direct contact from an open window or fan when you are sleeping. This is when the body is most susceptible to wind invasion.

Get an Acupuncture tune-up session acupuncture helps harmonize the body to adapt to its environment and has only positive side effects. Refer back to How Can Acupuncture Help My Cold?

Massage the space between your thumb and index finger on both hands as well as the space between your eye brows. LI4 and Yin Tang acupressure points are a great preventative for colds. Massage until the area you are rubbing feels achy and turns slightly pink/red. Don't wait to feel sick, start this now and do it everyday.

Adjust Your Internal Clock Bears hibernate for the winter and so should you! Go to bed early and use this time to slow down and rest after a hectic summer.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 874.357.3929


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Herbal Remedy For Burns

Great Wall Brand carries an amazing burn cream that is inexpensive and extremely affective.

Ching Wan Hung is a topical ointment that can be used for burns caused by steam, boiling water, raging fire, hot oil, molten steel or chemical substances and radiation burns. Patients at Whole Health Acupuncture have also reported its great for sun burns/poisoning, 2nd and 3rd degree curling iron burns, sores that don't heal and other skin irritations. Ching Wan Hung can also be used for hemorrhoids and bedsores.

The function of the herbs in Ching Wan Hung burn ointment help to clear heat, increase circulation to repair the damaged tissue, and relieve pain.

A great thing to keep in your medicine cabinet, like a good girl scout always be prepared. Pick some up the next time you stop in for acupuncture.

Sarah Zender LAc
Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Natural Remedy for Muscle Cramping, Charley Horses and Sore Muscles

If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night to a seizing calf or toe muscle cramping or worked out a little too hard too soon this blog is for you.

A simple and readily available remedy: detox bath. The therapeutic value of baths has been around for centuries and you might have just about everything you need to make it already in your home.

If you fear your tub or your water heater is too small to fill up a tub of warm water I will give a few options.

What You Need:
1/2 cup of Epsom salts
1/2 cup sea salt
1/2 cup baking soda

Where to buy? Epsom salts are easy to find especially at places like Walgreens and health food stores and are relatively inexpensive. I would recommend unscented salts if you are looking for detoxing qualities as many added scents are toxic. To scent your salts use therapeutic grade essential oils like YoungLiving.

Fill your tub with warm bath water and when you are ready to soak pour the above ingredients into the tub with the water still running. Soak for at least 15 minutes or for as long as you wish.

If you don't have a tub or its just not a comfortable size for you, a foot soak is just as good. Grab a large dish tub from a dollar store, Target, or Walmart and fill with warm water and the above ingredients and let your feet soak for as long as you like.

This is a great ritual to practice for preventative measures and simply because it feels good.

Especially helpful for:
>> muscle cramping
>> period cramps
>> cysts
>> insomnia
>> achey, sore, tired muscles
>> swellings or bruises
>> after a workout
>> after a massage

According to this article Epsom salts can also be used to remove excess oil from your hair, as a hair volumizer, to remove splinters and more.

Let us know what benefits you discover!

Sarah Zender
Whole Health Acupuncture 50 E. Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Natural Remedy for Edema or Swollen Ankles

A patient recently passed along a great tip for swollen ankles and I thought I'd share it here. It's simple and easy to do (and I've heard it makes your house smell wonderful).

What you need:
1/2 gallon of water
2 bunches of parsley

Bring 1/2 gallon of water to a boil and add 2 bunches of parsley.
Let simmer for 2 hours.
Strain the parsley and drink water as needed.

**Drink 16oz to start and then a glass every two hours till the batch is gone. Be careful not to drink too close to bed time or you might be releasing that extra fluid into the wee hours. :)

Let us know how it works for you!

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Chinese Medicine is a completely separate way of looking at the body from western medicine. While your acupuncturist might speak of organ systems this does not necessarily relate to your physical organ. In Chinese Medicine we look for patterns that relate to the balance of nature. This system began with observation and is the foundation. The Chinese saw the elements of nature existing not as separate but as dependent on one another. Each element supported the other to achieve harmony.

Fire created Earth
Earth created Metal
Metal created Water
Water created Wood
Wood created Fire

When one element went out of alignment it was not affected separately. Instead each element would also be impacted, the severity would depend on how long or how strong the imbalance was.

Fire melts Metal
Metal chops down Wood
Wood invades Earth
Earth invades Water
Water doses the Fire

From this simple understanding the outside world was seen as a Macrocosm and the body was seen as a microcosm. Organ systems were assigned an element and several other associations. This entire system is a community of support with checks and balances.

Organs: Heart/Small Intestine
Color: Red
Taste: Bitter
Pathogen: Heat
Season: Summer
Emotion: Joy
Sense/Tissue: Tongue and blood vessels

Organs: Spleen/Stomach
Color: Yellow
Taste: Sweet
Pathogen: Dampness
Season: Late Summer/Transitional periods between all seasons
Emotion: Worry/Over thinking
Sense/Tissue: Mouth, Muscles

Organs: Lung/Large Intestine
Color: White
Taste: Pungent
Pathogen: Dryness
Season: Fall
Emotion: Grief
Sense/Tissue: Nose, Skin and Hair

Organs: Kidney/Urinary Bladder
Color: Black
Taste: Salty
Pathogen: Cold
Season: Winter
Emotion: Fear
Sense/Tissue: Ears, Bone

Organs: Liver/Gall Bladder
Color: Green
Taste: Sour
Pathogen: Wind
Season: Spring
Emotion: Anger
Sense/Tissue: Eyes, Tendons

After looking at these associations you can see that from the Chinese Medical view point that dis-ease originates from essentially 2 places.
External factors: wind, heat, cold, dampness, dryness (caused from the outside environment or the nature of the foods consumed in excess)
Emotions: anger, joy, worry, fear, grief.

The associations of each organ system are important when observing a patient from an eastern perspective because they offer us clues. Many times the patterns of Chinese Medicine will not seem relevant. For example offered times patients with low back pain (a symptom) have Kidney Qi Deficiency where they feel low back pain and weakness that is worse in cold weather, wake up to urinate in the middle of the night, crave salty foods, and are easily frightened, they may also have hearing issues or fragile bones. So while we will address the main complaint of low back pain the patient might also notice they no longer wake up in the middle of the night to urinate, their back feels stronger, they no longer crave salty foods, are less fearful and cold weather does not bother them as much. It is also interesting to note that Kidney Qi Deficiency is not the only cause of low back pain and so each patient is treated to their individual health needs.

What is important to understand is that if the body is healthy and all organ systems are supporting one another these external factors will be able to be controlled without illness and if emotions are expressed in a healthy way in a healthy body they too will not cause dis-harmony. Basically everything you do either contributes to your health and harmony or lack there-of. The healthier you are the easier it is to bounce back when you over indulge, go through a stressful period of life etc.

Chinese Medicine is a complete system of health that was designed for the prevention of illness and includes:
Herbal Medicine
Fung Shui

Your first line of defense to maintain a healthy body is diet. While piles and piles of books have been written on proper nutrition I will say in this blog posting that it is most important to eat real food. Anything that can live longer on a shelf than you can should not be consumed. Fresh fruits, veggies that are grown locally and are in season are best to eat. Diet should reflect the season. Soups and beef stews in the fall and winter and lighter foods in the spring and summer.

Herbal Medicine is really an aspect of diet. You are familiar with adding herbs to your favorite dishes, this is a form of medicine. Chinese herbs can be added to recipes, brewed as teas or taken as tinctures or pills. Many pharmaceuticals that are used today are based off of plant materials.

Acupuncture addresses the body's energy system by inserting fine needles into acupuncture points to maintain smooth flow of blood and energy circulation helping to readjust the body when imbalances occur and most importantly keep the body healthy to fight off imbalances before they start.

Exercise from a Chinese Medical stand point is slightly different than extreme cardio and weight lifting in the west. Exercises like Tai Chi, yoga (chinese medicine's sister), and Qi Gong all help to improve circulation and flexibility of the body in a way that calms the nervous system whereas many forms of cardio exercise excite the body's fight or flight response that can tax the body long term.

Meditation helps to quiet the mind. There is a saying "clean house, clean mind." Your body can not work optimally if your thoughts are constantly swinging around like a monkey. The benefits of a clear mind are numerous like better quality of sleep, memory, concentration etc.

Fung Shui and Astrology are slightly esoteric. Both are related to your environment and how it impacts your health. Again that saying "clean house, clean mind." How can your body work best in a work or living space that is dirty or cluttered? Think back to the last time you cleaned out your closet and got rid of things you weren't using or no longer needed and could find everything again.

In the classic text Nei Jing it is written over 2000 years ago that Chinese Medicine offered a way for people to live a healthy life to the age of 100. Even back then, 2000 years ago, the concern was that people ate too much, worked too much, and the environment was too polluted. These were the tools offered to the people for a high quality life. Prevention is key in Chinese Medicine which is a very different idea than our current idea of health care today. Many people talk about being your own advocate for your health. Chinese Medicine is one way to start that is simple and inexpensive.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Does My Acupuncturist Feel My Pulse?

Feeling pulses on both wrists is a simple diagnostic tool used by an acupuncturist to assess how the body is working. Like the tongue, the pulses offer a plethora of information and are seen as a road map.

Three pulses are felt on both wrists as seen in the picture above.

The left wrist represents Heart, Liver and Kidney (yin). The right wrist represents Lung, Spleen, and Kidney (yang).

A western medical practitioner will feel the pulse to count beats per minute. An acupuncturist will feel each wrist with the pads of her left index, middle, and ring finger.

These 3 fingers will assess a pulse: heart and lung pulses with the index finger, liver and spleen pulses with middle finger, and kidney pulses with ring fingers. The acupuncturist is looking for not only the rate of the pulse but also the depth and quality.

Many things can be determined by the pulse and can include: emotions, pain, a women's menstrual cycle, if a cold is coming on, or how old or new a condition is to name a few.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is an accessory technique often used in addition to acupuncture and/or tui na (chinese massage) treatments. It is especially helpful in relieving pain as well as recovering from colds.

Gua Sha means to "sand scrape" in Chinese or "to scrape away disease". It is a relatively simple procedure that requires a little bit of oil or rubbing alcohol and a Chinese soup spoon or other smooth surface tool like the ones pictured above.

Its theory is close to that of cupping however this technique is more accessible in terms of equipment needed (a lubricant or rubbing alcohol and a soup spoon) and areas of the body able to benefit by it (just about anywhere there has been trauma or pain). A treatment of Gua Sha will last roughly 5 minutes and the results can offer immediate relief.

Gua Sha is preformed over an area of pain by first applying some oil to lubricate the area. Then the spoon is scraped along that area until it turns red, brownish, or purplish. The scraping continues until no more redness or purple appears. It is believed this scraping helps bring the stagnant blood or trauma up to the surface allowing for fresh blood to come in and repair the area as well as improve circulation of qi and blood. The redness or bruising can last up to a week and then dissipate. However, it will not feel like a bruise.

Gua Sha is preformed using rubbing alcohol and light scraping over the back "shu" acupuncture points that stimulate the lungs, dispel wind, and relieve wheezing for the treatment of initial wind-cold attacks. For more information on acupuncture and the treatment of colds refer back to How Can Acupuncture Help My Cold?

Gua Sha's modern counterpart is known in chiropractic offices as Graston Technique where various stainless steel instruments are used to achieve the same effect with a western medical explanation of its use and benefit.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Stroke Recovery and Acupuncture

Many people associate using acupuncture only when it comes to managing pain. There are many facets of health where Chinese Medicine shines and are hidden secrets in western society. Today's blog will focus on how acupuncture can help with stroke recovery.

The brain is something that continues to fascinate me especially after reading such books like My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor and The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.

There is one passage in The Brain that Changes Itself that really caught my attention. One scientist recounts a story of his father having a stroke and losing function on one side of his body. At this time the standard course of stroke recovery treatment was 1 month. It was believed due to the research at that time that whatever function that could be recovered after a stroke happened in the first month and after that no further improvements could be expected and so treatment was discontinued. This scientist assisted his father in re-learning everything by starting him out just like a child. First he practiced crawling, and then walking. He would wash dishes in circular motions to strengthen his weak arm until he fully recovered. What they discovered was that after a month's time the body goes into a period of integration. It takes time for the body and the brain to assimilate to all of these new changes. Once this integration period is over the body and brain are capable of learning more.

This was an "a-ha moment" for me because it so clearly shows the subtle processes of the body's abilities to heal. Which is exactly what acupuncture is: a process of healing that can be very subtle.

Several years after this man recovered from his stroke he was rock climbing and died from a heart attack. When they autopsied his brain they discovered that the brain did not heal from the stroke in the way they thought. Instead of the brain healing the damaged area of the brain from the stroke it simply rewired itself and used other areas of the brain to relearn activities of daily living.

Acupuncture works in much the same ways. The acupuncture needles work as a conduit for electrical impulses in the body stimulating healing. Acupuncture points are areas that run along different channels (meridians) of the body. The insertion of needles is said to facilitate improved circulation of qi (energy) and blood through the body. The root of any disharmony, dysfunction, or disease can be traced back to stagnation somewhere in the body. Acupuncture looks to correct the disharmony on the deepest level not just to relieve a symptom. In this way acupuncture becomes an aid for the body to facilitate its healing process rather than a dependency where the body relies on the acupuncture to complete the work (much like pharmaceutical drugs). In terms of stroke recovery it can assist the brain in making new pathways to relearn how to talk, walk etc by improving circulation to all organ systems making the body stronger and able to recover faster between periods of integration.

Again, as stated in previous postings acupuncture is part of a holistic system of health. In addition to acupuncture, herbal medicine should also be utilized as well as proper nutrition to allow for optimal health. When I was in China the stroke unit consisted of a community approach to the recovery of the patient. Patients would stay in the hospital for a minimum of 6 months where they would receive daily (sometimes 3x daily) acupuncture treatments, Chinese Massage (tui na), and herbal medicine in addition to physical therapy and other western medical interventions. The family of the patient was also active in the care plan to support this process.

I have personally seen recoveries from strokes using acupuncture but one of the most striking stories of acupuncture and stroke was a patient I treated while in clinicals at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine. This particular patient was paralyzed completely on the left side of his body and was unable to speak. He was confined to a wheel chair and required the assistance of a personal nurse. When he first started treatment he was there primarily because of the tenacity of his son-in-law who refused to give up on him. He came in for treatment every week and drank herbal remedies daily. He was an older gentleman and was angry and withdrawn in the beginning but 6 months later he regained use of his left arm, was able to talk, and most importantly regained his smile.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What is Raindrop Technique?

Raindrop Technique was developed by Gary Young in the late 1980s. It is a treatment that combines light massage techniques, therapeutic grade essential oils, heat application and stretching with the intention of affecting the body on a cellular level.

This technique is based on growing research that spinal deformities, inflammation, and back pain are linked with bacteria and virus lodged around the spine.

"Studies at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, linked virus-like particles to idiopathic scoliosis. Researchers at University of Bonn have also found the varicella zoster virus can lodge in the spinal ganglia throughout life. Research in 2001 further corroborated the existence of infectious microorganisms as a cause of spine pain and inflammation. Alistair Stirling and his colleagues at the Royal Orthopedic Hospital in Birmingham, England, found that 53% of patients with severe sciatica tested positive for chronic, low grade infection by gram-negative bacteria which triggered inflammation near the spine. Stirling suggested that the reason these bacteria had not been identified earlier was because of the extended time required to incubate disc material. (7days). " Essential Oils Desk Reference 2004 Essential Science Publishing 3rd Edition

Essential oils are some of the most powerful inhibitors of microbes known because they come from a natural source. The essential oil is basically what the plant uses to defend itself against bacteria, virus, and other attackers. This is why most essential oils are antibacterial and antiviral. When using therapeutic grade essential oils like Young Living it is important to note that the oils can be taken internally, applied topically without dilution, or inhaled. Raindrop uses the French essential oil neat application (without dilution).

Essential Oils used and benefit:

>> Basil: powerful antispasmodic, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant

>> Thyme: anti-aging, highly antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparastic

>> Oregano: anti-aging, powerful antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, immune stimulant

>> Cypress: improves circulation and strengthens blood capillaries, anti-infectious, antispasmodic

>> Marjoram: antibacterial, antifungal, vasodilator, lowers blood pressure, promotes intestinal peristalsis, expectorant, mucolytic

>> Peppermint: anti-inflammatory, antitumoral, antiparasitic (worms), antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, gallbladder/digestive stimulant, pain relieving, curbs appetite

>> Wintergreen: anticoagulant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, vasodilator, analgesic/anesthetic, reduces blood pressure

>> Aromaseiz: An advanced complex of anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxing essential oils that promote circulation and treat spasmed, tight, inflamed, aching muscles. (Contains basil, cypress, marjoram, lavender, peppermint)

>> Valor: balances energies to instill courage, confidence, and self-esteem. It helps the body to self-correct its balance and alignment (contains rosewood, blue tansy, frankincense, spruce)

The above essentials oils are dropped along the spine like raindrops 6-8 inches above the body in a specific order and then lightly massaged into the muscles along the spine. Vitaflex (similar to the concept of reflexology) can also be preformed to massage the essential oils into the reflex point of the spine on both feet. A warm, moist compress is applied to the back to allow the benefits to magnify. Light stretching is also utilized during the session to increase mobility and allow the oils to penetrate deeper.

It is said the oils continue to work in the body for up to seven days after a treatment. As you can see from the benefits of the oils used this is a great preventative treatment not only for pain but to keep the immune system strong against bacteria and virus during the cold and flu seasons.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Acupuncture and Weight Loss III

Today's blog is the 3rd in the series Acupuncture and Weight Loss. If you've just started reading catch up by first taking a look at Acupuncture and Weight Loss to understand how Chinese Medicine works. Look over Acupuncture and Weight Loss II to get a grasp on eating smarter.

Today's focus is, What is the emotional component of your extra weight?

Acupuncture can help build new pathways in your body to maintain harmony. Its important to remember that acupuncture is subtle and it can be easy for your mind to override your new found health.

Sometimes weight troubles can be linked back to a personal experience. Or you might feel, even subconsciously that if you stay heavier that you're off the radar and people won't expect much from you.

Your "Chinese" emotions play a role in your weight loss goals.

Anger: bottling up anger or resentment causes the liver qi to stagnate. The longer this stagnation continues the more phlegm can build up in the body. Excess weight in Chinese Medicine is considered dampness or damp-phlegm. Its important to remember that each emotion is necessary, its the expression that counts. If you find yourself easily irritated try exercises to let your anger go. Here are three of my favorite.

>> The wood chopper: Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance with a soft knees. Clasp your hands together. Take a deep inhale through your nose and raise your clasped hands over your head. Exhale powerfully out through your mouth and "chop the wood" bringing your clasped hands through your legs. (Keeping a soft bend in your knees as you do this will protect your back) Do this yoga posture mindfully letting your breathe move you slowly. Try 5-10 reps and then slowly stand for a moment and notice how you feel.

>> Try yelling at the top of your lungs. No, not at someone. If you've had a stressful day take a minute when you're in your car and let out a good scream. (make sure no one is around you) Think about the last time you screamed out loud, it might not has been since childhood. Let it go.

>> Go for a skip or a gallop. Its hard to stay angry and skip at the same time. Not only that but movement increases the circulation which will keep liver qi stagnation at bay.

Fear: If fear is a part of your excess weight (fear of acceptance, rejection, not being good enough) this can tax your kidneys. The kidneys regulate the water passage ways in your body and control your low back and libido. If you hold onto fear you may also hold on to extra weight for a false sense of security. Acupuncture can help release these fears and boost your confidence.

>> Try positive affirmations like, "I love myself just the way I am." Say it as many times as you can through out the day.

Worry/Overthinking: If you're always concerned with what other people think of you or are an incessant worrier this can cause your spleen to work overtime and your body to produce dampness in the body which will in turn increase your sweet tooth and decrease your digestive function. Focus on getting healthy for you and only you.

>> A spleen diet is one full of simple foods that are not overly seasoned. Quinoa, barley, and rice help to nourish the digestive system and drain dampness out of the body. Look for full sweet flavored foods to combat your sweet tooth with foods like sweet potatoes and other yellow root vegetables and grains.

>> Remember the phrase, "clean house, clean mind." If your thoughts are on overdrive take a look around your living or work space. If its full of clutter take some time to clean it up and get rid of things that are broken or you are no longer using. Donate items that might be beneficial to others. You might just notice feeling lighter or cleaner in your body or mind after your environment goes through a cleaning transformation.

Ultimately you have to love yourself where you are at in this present moment. If you aren't happy with who you are right now losing weight won't change that. There will always be 5 more pounds to go or a firmer this or that. You don't love the people in your life less or more based on their weight or appearance. Use the same compassion for yourself as you would for those you love.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Acupuncture and Weight Loss II

This blog will piggyback on a previous blog post about weight loss and acupuncture.

When doing acupuncture for weight loss it is important to remember that this is a process. Your chance of lasting success depends on a slower transition. In this way your new habits will become second nature, rather than an overnight deprivation of everything you are used to. In Chinese Medicine we would call this bringing the body into harmony, rather than creating an imbalance in the opposite direction.

In this blog we will talk about food as medicine and your role in your health.

When I was at The Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine their research of acupuncture for weight loss showed that for some people weight loss happened right away and for others first their body had to get healthier and then the weight loss happened. In a world full of processed and artificial foods and stress I would argue that the latter is more true for most Americans who want to achieve lasting weight loss results.

In the 8 branches of Chinese Medicine food is seen as the first medicine and every tool after this should be seen as a supplement. Please don't be fooled. Acupuncture can help you lose weight but if you are not willing to make changes in the lifestyle that allowed you to gain weight don't expect optimal results.

If you are using Splenda or any other artificial sweetener please stop now. This could be part of what is keeping your weight on. First off, did you know splenda was a pesticide before it was a no cal sweetener? Or how about that it turns to formaldehyde when its heated to your body temperature? You can get more information on splenda and sugar substitutes here. When you use artificial foods your body doesn't feel satisfied and this will cause you to overeat and contribute to more sugar cravings. Also, splenda is toxic to your body and when your body doesn't know how to process something, especially something toxic it stores it in your body's fat. The more toxic foods you eat the more your body will hold onto fat so it has somewhere to store all that junk.

Ditch the Splenda and try Stevia, Agave nectar, honey, or natural cane sugar instead. These alternatives are natural and are super sweet so you'll use less and feel more satisfied. Trader Joe's or Whole Foods will have any of these. More and more regular grocery stores are carrying them now too.

The best way to stop eating junk food is to stop buying it! When you do have a craving for something sweet or salty go out and buy a one portion size of whatever it is that you have a hankering for. Don't be swayed by the buy one get one free cartons of ice cream. Its not a deal when you think of how much money you'll ultimately spend in trying to loose the weight you gained from the ice cream. An occasional treat should be just that, a treat. So when you indulge ENJOY it. Savor every bite so that you're satisfied instead of wanting more and under no circumstances feel bad about it.

Fat free and low fat is as big an enemy as Splenda for the same reasons mentioned above. You might not be aware that your body needs fat in order to lose weight. If you deprive your body of fats, especially healthy fats it will hold on to whatever fat it has even harder. Avocados, coconuts, olive oil, and fish are all great sources of healthy fats.

Find a balance between eating for energy and eating for enjoyment. You can have both but you might have to re-frame what kinds of foods you enjoy. For example, if every time you eat ice cream you have diarrhea maybe that's not bringing much enjoyment to your life. Again we refer back to all of this as a process. You might not enjoy so called "healthy" foods at first as you get all that toxic crap out of your system. The beginning of this transition might be a challenge and that's ok. Find enjoyment even in this part of the process. If this feels like punishment it will never be something you stick to.

I do google searches for recipes each week. Sometimes I look for ideas to try something I've never eaten before (i love all sorts of ethnic dishes), other times its because the picture looks yummy. One thing that all the recipes I look for that have in common is that they do not contain dairy or fake foods like splenda and they are full of veggies and yes, meat but in moderation. (if you think you don't like veggies start first with veggies you do like and go from there, over time this will change) I only shop for what I need for each of my recipes and whatever is cooked for dinner is the next day's lunch. What I've found is that the food I make at home tastes more delicious than eating out and I actually spend way less on food and throw away less rotten food that was lost in the fridge. Its completely taken away the question "what's for dinner" that usually comes up when I'm starving and don't feel like cooking. And cooking something at home that you have all the ingredients for is just as fast as pulling through a drive-thru window.

And yes, its ok to still eat out every once in a while. Its ok to indulge. When I really want a hot fudge sundae I eat it. The difference now is that I don't want one every day or even every week acupuncture and herbs really helped me get over that hump. In fact now I am more in tune to what my body needs. I'll crave real food more then I will the sweet stuff. I don't count calories or mark off how many times I've exercised this week. I eat foods I enjoy eating that taste good and are good for me and I move my body in ways I enjoy doing rather then worrying about sweating enough at the gym.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Watermelon, a Chinese Herb

Did you know that watermelon is a Chinese herb?

Watermelon or xi gua is a sweet and cold herb and like anything grown in the summer resolves summerheat.

Summerheat is induced by excessively high temperatures, overexposure to the blazing sun especially while working or staying too long in poorly ventilated areas.

Summerheat manifests with:

>> High fever
>> Restlessness
>> Thirst
>> Profuse sweating
>> Dizziness
>> Blured vision
>> Sunstroke
>> Sudden collapse
>> Nausea
>> Poor appetite
>> Loose stools

Watermelon enters the lung and stomach channels thus cools the lungs and stomach, relieving irritability, quenching thirst, and facilitating urination. Because it can do all of this it is sometimes referred to as the natural White Tiger Decoction. The easiest way to take this herb is simply to eat watermelon or drink 100-300ml of its juice. Make sure to eat some of the white part too.

Essentials of Materia Medica states that xi gua "restores sobriety" after over-consumption of alcohol. It has also been said that xi gua aids in weight loss.

Many people get dehydrated in the summer months due to the heat. Eating watermelon is one way to fight against this. Your body doesn't differentiate hunger from thirst a lot of the time. If you find yourself feeling insatiable check to make sure you are drinking enough water before having 2nds or 3rds at meal time.

Watermelon peel or xi gua pi is more of a diuretic than it is cooling and is especially good for edema caused by summerheat.

Both the flesh and peel of watermelon can be used for jaundice.

Who would have thought Chinese herbs could taste so good.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove IL 847.357.3929