Thursday, April 22, 2010

Inexpensive and Safe Personal Care Products

I tell my massage students on their first day of Swedish Massage that the skin is our largest organ. Anything that goes on the skin, eventually makes its way to the rest of the body. This is why I teach Swedish massage using olive oil. My teacher once told me use anything on the skin that you would feel comfortable using in a salad.

I personally have sensitive skin. I break out pretty easily. When I get massages I'm very careful about what oils or creams the therapist uses, if I'm not, I'll break out pretty immediately. Coconut oil is my favorite. Its solid at room temperature and melts in my hands. It works great as a massage oil and even better as a body lotion. The scent reminds me of the beach which is helpful on cold windy Chicago winter days. A little goes a long, long way and keeps my skin feeling smooth all day. I've even read it can help with stretch marks. The upside? Its not expensive and it doesn't go rancid as quickly as other oils. Its one of the few that is just fine not refrigerated. Its also a great cooking oil since all the hype about not cooking with olive oil. Tropical Traditions is dedicated to coconut oil where you can order great quality coconut oil and learn more about its benefits and uses. When I can't wait for an order I head over to Fruitful Yields they have several brands that are great as well.

My sensitive skin carries over into another sensitive topic: Deodorant. For as long as I can remember I haven't been able to use one stick of deodorant every day. My body is no match for its chemicals I suppose and within 3 days it no longer works. I've tried just about every brand, I've tried switching on and off between 3 different sticks so my body couldn't keep up. I've done deodorant on one day and off the next. Nothing has helped. I started poking around the Internet to see what other people have done and found some really great remedies. Baking Soda works like a charm. There is a reason why we leave a box in the fridge. It does the same great job for the under arms. I keep a box in the bathroom and use half a teaspoon and pat on like baby powder until all the white is absorbed. It can be a little messy as you find your groove but it works great. The upside? Baking Soda runs under $1 for a box and its package is cardboard which is better for the environment than those plastic sticks. I've also read in several places corn starch helps with sweating. I haven't given that one a try yet because that doesn't seem to be an issue for me.

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stress and the Spleen/Stomach System

Last week we talked about stress and its impact on the body.

The spleen/stomach system according to Chinese Medical theory is responsible for the transportation and transformation of food. This system is what gives us usable energy. The quality of our health is determined by the essence we received from our parents (DNA) and as well as our lifestyle habits. If you were born with good essence that's great! The best way to keep it that way is to make sure you are living a healthy lifestyle or it will catch up with you.

The spleen/stomach relate to:

emotion: worry/over thinking

taste: sweet

pathogen: dampness

color: yellow

season: late summer and transitional phases

When our stressors cause us to over think or worry it can damage the spleen. You might know a few people who are worriers and have weak stomachs, this is because the spleen/stomach system governs both activities. If you are a multitasker this can also cause disharmony in your spleen/stomach making you feel anxious. The spleen/stomach system also keeps the blood contained. As a women, if you are living a stress filled life with no outlet you might experience spotting between periods, and other disharmonies with your menstrual cycle.

The spleen is a dry organ that hates dampness. What does that mean? Damp causing foods are sweet, especially empty sweet foods like processed cookies and candy. Dampness causes the body to feel heavy and weighed down metaphorically or literally with extra pounds. In order to keep your digestive system strong its important to eat warm foods. Raw vegetables are considered cooling and are hard for your system to process. Always cook your veggies. Processed, deep fried, fast foods cause dampness in the body and damage your spleen/stomach. What you might not know is that it is important to focus just on your food while you eat. If you watch tv, drive, sit at the computer etc while you eat you are dividing the attention of the spleen with thinking and eating which ultimately imbalances your spleen.

The Dali Lama once said, "if the problem has a solution then there is no need to worry and if the problem doesn't have a solution worry will do know good." Easier said then done, but do your spleen a favor and let it go. :)

How can you avoid stressing out your spleen?

Avoid refined sugars as much as possible

Eat yellow foods with full sweet flavors such as grains, squash, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, or baby corn.

Take life one moment at a time. Instead of multitasking, try to tackle one thing and complete it before moving on.

Avoid living spaces and work environments that are below ground like garden apartments and basements. Keep yourself warm and covered when it rains or snows (dampness).

Eat mindfully. Whenever possible eat with friends or family and enjoy their company and the food that you are eating. Notice the flavor of your food and chew! You might notice that you don't need to eat as much as you used to.

Unplug. Turn your cell phone and computer off when your work day is done. Even if all you do is turn your car off and sit for a moment of silence before going inside your home. Take some "me" time.

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


According to the AMTA there is nothing that ages our organs faster (your skin is your largest organ) then stress. We talk about being "stressed out" just about everyday in our culture but what exactly does this mean?

For starters, stress isn't always a bad thing; it can keep us motivated. Stress becomes an issue when we don't manage it correctly.

Think of a time in your life that was difficult or stressful. As you are thinking about this memory notice your body. Has your breathing or heart rate changed? How about your posture? Have you slumped forward or noticed clenching in your jaw or fists? Perhaps you feel a ball of tension growing in your shoulders.

Now, think back to a time when all was right in your world. As you bring this memory to the forefront of you mind you might notice a softening in your body and perhaps a light smile on your face. You might feel your breath slow down as well.

The truth is, is that we live stress filled lives and not every moment can be as peace-filled as the last. The problem is that most of us don't utilize the necessary tools to manage this stress.

The Mayo Clinic lists several effects of stress on the physical body, thoughts, and behaviors including: pain, high blood pressure, decreased immunity, anxiety, lack of focus, forgetfulness, anger, crying spells and relationship conflict. These effects are the body's way of giving signals that there is disharmony.

How can acupuncture help?

Most people are pleasantly surprised when they find that acupuncture makes the body feel relaxed. Your body heals itself each night when you sleep. Receiving acupuncture on a regular basis is like taking a time out in the middle of a stress filled time aka "life" to harmonize.

Patients at Whole Health Acupuncture report feeling lighter in their bodies and clearer in their minds after an acupuncture session. We often hear, "I feel relaxed and energize at the same time." or "Things that used to really bother me no longer do."

There is an old saying, "if you want to live a long life, do nothing." It sounds counterproductive to the values we place on instant gratification but it might be the very thing missing.

Check back next week as we go through the organ systems of Chinese Medicine and how stress causes disharmony from an eastern perspective.

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

PMS, Menopause, and Acupuncture

If you are a woman you might not realize that your Liver is actually your most important organ when it comes to women's health. (if you are a man, its your kidneys)

Your liver is responsible for the smooth flow of blood and qi (energy) throughout your body. Because the Liver controls the tendons of the body it is the liver/gallbladder system that keeps the body relaxed at rest and strong and active at work. The liver opens to the eyes and manifests on the finger nails. The energy of the liver is most active in the spring time, wind is its pathogen, and anger is its emotion. In Chinese Medicine we are always looking at relationships and so it is also important to note that the kidney is the mother of the liver and the liver controls the spleen. If the liver is out of balance chances are the kidneys and spleen also have disharmony as well.

Many western women believe that PMS and Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes come with the territory of being a women when in fact these are simply your body's way of telling you that there is disharmony that needs to be corrected. When circulation of blood and qi does not flow smoothly it becomes stagnated causing a variety of physical ailments. When it comes to a woman's cycle it should be aligned with nature, ideally following the rhythms of the moon cycles. Most people know that when women live together their cycles come at the same time. A healthy period would follow a regular cycle with NO PMS symptoms such as bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, fatigue, depression, low back pain or cravings. Most times paying attention to a women's cycle can give an acupuncturist all the data they need for how the rest of the body is functioning.

Signs that liver qi stagnation are impacting your cycle might include scanty, sticky dark red or purple menses with a delayed cycle, distending pain in the abdomen, depression and/or irritability, stuffiness in the chest and tender breasts.

Acupuncture looks to free course the liver qi to improve the over all circulation of qi and blood in the body. What is most important to look at when bringing the body back to harmony is that these imbalances probably didn't happen over night and some women start their period like this from having liver qi stagnation as a constitutional factor from childhood. It may take several cycles of acupuncture and herbs until the root cause of the imbalance is corrected. Especially when it comes to imbalances of a women's cycle it is important to remain consistent or old habits will creep back quickly.

In our fast paced, high stress society we are used to instant results, acupuncture offers lasting results while cultivating patience. If you go through 1 round of treatments and your period is corrected that is great but if you discontinue treatments too soon the stagnation will not have been cleared away on the deepest level, allowing it simply to come back, making that first round of treatment ineffective. Most people who don't find results from acupuncture are not consistent with their treatment or do not come enough times. Think of acupuncture like you would an advil or an antibiotic. If you take the recommended dosage of advil for an ailment it will only last for so long and then that ailment will likely return and you will take another advil or increase the dosage, you probably wouldn't take one advil and discontinue use because it didn't give the results you wanted on the first try. You also wouldn't complete a course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor because the infection would either come back (most likely even worse) or you would become immune to the drug. Bob Flaws explains how acupuncture has been practiced over the last 5000 years in this article.

We like to think of health like a savings and checking account. If you are overdrawn in your account you are not in harmony. If you come for acupuncture and resolve the superficial issue you might have put a little money in the bank, but how long will that last you until your in the negative again? Just like any good financial advisor would encourage you to have a hearty safety net in your savings account, you acupuncturist will encourage you to build up your reserves so that you can stay healthy. When your child bearing years flow smoothly and you are healthy your next life transition will be a natural smooth crossing as well.

While most of us have a busy life and health concerns that don't seem serious this is exactly when they should be addressed. We'd much rather keep you healthy then work through years and years worth of layered dis-ease. The saying goes, "if you don't make time for your health today, you will make time for illness later."

Sarah Zender LAc
Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 60007

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Acupuncture and Your Mind

I'm currently reading Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Natural Guide to Weight Loss That Lasts by Nan Lu OMD, MS, LAc. I know we've already touched on acupuncture and weight loss here. But seeing as I teach communications and have always been a lover of words as well as a big fan of Louise Hay's work I thought I'd touch on thoughts and language as part of your journey to a healthy body.

Patients use this phrase all the time, "not yet." Please do me a favor, a big huge favor take "not yet" out of your vocabulary. Especially when it applies to the return of pain, stress or tension. Don't program your body to allow it to come back. Better yet get rid of the word pain as well. Instead think about how good your body feels. Mike Dooley says "thoughts become things, choose the good ones." And Wayne Dyer argues that "we need to surround ourselves with the conditions we wish to create." So start talking about what you do want! For instance, Jamie Rongo choose to age with smile lines instead of wrinkles as a testament of a life lived in laughter.

Lu makes a great point about losing weight. When we lose something we usually want to get it back, or find it. Instead of thinking about losing weight, give it away. I'm sure you have skinny friends that need a little extra cushion. Start to listen to your body, eat when you feel hungry, not when you think you are hungry.

One patient has decided to apply these ideas to quitting smoking as well. What are your conditioned responses? What is no longer serving you and your healthy body? Carolynn Myss argues one reason people don't heal is because they identify more with their disease and the attention they receive from being sick.

I know this is tough stuff and it requires us to be active participants in our health and not victims to circumstances that just happen to us. Oriah Mountain Dreamer says in The Dance, "let us remember we each have a choice." When you eat take note of what you are eating and why. Notice how you feel as you eat as well. Speaking for myself, and my own journey of maintaining a healthy weight is that emotions are a big part of weight gain. If you change your diet, start exercising and don't look at how you feel about yourself the yo yo will sling you right back to where you were or turn you into an obsessive calorie counter in constant fear of fat returning. For myself, it wasn't until I realized my relationship to men and my weight that I was able to take off the excess 30 pounds I was carrying around. When I became comfortable with who I am as well as comfortable with receiving love from others the weight melted away without me really changing my diet or exercise habits.

What is so great about community acupuncture is that it allows our patients to have a better relationship with their own bodies and what they need. The space to feel this perhaps starts with us asking our patients when they feel their treatment is complete. Acupuncture bridges the gap between "I think" and "I feel" and allows the oppurtunity for aha moments. From here the possibilities become endless for a higher quality of life and this is why Whole Health Acupuncture is so passionate about helping people to become and stay healthy in body and budget.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929