Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Simple Tools for Your Best Life

In school whether its grade school, high school, college etc we study the body by systems. When do we put all of these systems back together to understand how the body functions as a whole?

The body has the amazing capacity not only to maintain homeostasis but to remain in the present moment. What most people might not understand is how choices impact this. For example, the body's ph is 7.34 and no matter what we do it will stay this way as long as we are alive. If you drink a coke which is very acidic (somewhere around a 2) the body will compensate to keep homeostasis by leaching calcium out of the bones. One coke might not change the body, however, overtime all of that compensation could lead to many problems from muscle cramping to osteoporosis.

So how do we find balance in our lives when everything we do contributes to our health and most things that knock us off kilter are necessary? Perhaps we should learn a lesson from our bodies. In order to maintain homeostasis in the moment the body compensates after drinking that coke and borrows some calcium. It doesn't consider the detrimental effect this loss of calcium will have long term it is trying to survive in the present moment. The easy answer then is, if we stay present in this moment, the future is planned for.

Let's talk about work/life balance. What does the concept of balance look like to you? Perhaps an image of a judicial scale comes to mind. This idea is very static and rigid, life most times is not. I'd like for you to consider the idea of harmony. This concept is more fluid. The idea of Chinese Medicine is that each system supports the next and they all work together to keep the body healthy.

If a disharmony occurs it doesn't happen in isolation to one organ system- the entire body is impacted, emotions are impacted, the individuals life and all those a part of it are impacted. Kind of like that saying, "if mom's not happy, ain't no body happy." To find harmony we need to look at what caused the dis-harmony. As the body becomes healthier all areas become healthier. Its a domino effect in the right direction.

So where do we start? With awareness.

Take some time to think about your day from turning the alarm clock off, showering, eating breakfast (if you ate breakfast), driving to work, tending to your family, phone calls, emails, going to the bathroom etc etc. As you are thinking about your day notice your body, notice your breath. How does your life feel in your body. How is your body compromising to maintain homeostasis? Are you bracing your body with tight muscles? Holding your breath?

You might imagine how over time this un-awareness of how your body manages your day can contribute to disharmony in the body, in relationships, in the very activities that we enjoy.

With that in mind, could you use a little more energy to use during your day?

In Chinese Medicine it is believed we get our energy from 2 places: our parents and our lifestyle. There's not much we can do about our parents. The rest of the equation we have a little more control over. Da Qi + Gu Qi = Zhen Qi. What in the world does that mean? How you breathe and how you eat contribute to how much usable energy you have and how good you feel.

Da Qi: The Breath

The yogis believed we have a certain number of breaths to live, so they practice slow, deep, mindful breathing. An easy way to shut off fight/flight is to exhale deeper then your inhale. This will not only calm you it will help tone your abdominal muscles strengthening your core and lower back in addition to taking stress off of the neck and shoulders. For more information visit here. When you can, take a moment to check in with your breathing or take one or two deep breaths for a quick time out in the middle of a stress filled moment. You might end your day with some deep breaths as well to drift off into more restful sleep.

Gu Qi: Food

There is gobs of information on what you should and shouldn't be eating. Alot of it can be confusing as many ideas are contradictory. One thing just about everyone agrees on is that twinkies will never be a "superfood". I tell my patients to eat food that is alive. Anything that can live longer than you can on a shelf try to avoid. The best thing you can do when you eat, whatever it is that you eat is to eat with awareness. Don't multitask when you eat! The spleen/stomach controls digestion and is damaged by overthinking. If you are answering emails while munching you could be setting yourself up for digestive problems, period issues, obsessive thinking and not to mention overeating. for more info on the spleen revisit here.

Zhen Qi= True Energy

The gist of TCM is to keep harmony in the body by keeping the circulation of blood and energy flowing unimpeded. When blockages happen this causes the body to not be able to function as optimally as it could which can eventually effect every part of the body. Acupuncture can be a gateway to awareness. It literally forces you to be still for awhile. After treatments most people feel better, "cleaned out," energized and relaxed. With this new awareness they naturally start to make other changes in how they respond to situations that used to "stress them out."

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Summer and Your Heart

We will soon be transitioning to the summer season which is associated with the element of fire, and is governed by the Heart and Small Intestine.

The Heart is considered to be the king of bodily systems. It is said that our shen, or spirit, is stored in the heart and because of this, our heart energy is linked with our outlook on life.
In the summer, the days are long and the earth is in full bloom. The lightest (most yang) energy is available to us at this time. When balanced, our bodies should feel light and happy while enjoying the reward of sunshine.
The Heart governs the circulation of blood, as well as our sleeping patterns and our moods. Since the energy of the earth in the summertime is the lightest, the circulation of our blood and energy in our bodies should be smooth, allowing us to access the abundant energy available to us. This lightness in energy allows our mood to follow.
Keys to Summer Health

•Spend as much time outside as possible
•Move your body
•Breathe in fresh air
Summer is about eating for replenishment from outdoor activities, with less emphasis on the cleansing of spring. Continue to choose light foods, leafy greens, light soups, and fish. The natural resource of summer is fruit and is an ideal way to harmonize with energy of summer. Fruits are cooling, moisturizing and replenishing, as well as high in natural sugars, vitamins and minerals.
Try to eat locally grown, organic fruits that have matured in the season you are in. This will help you harmonize to the season because the food you are eating has adapted to the same environment.
Remember to choose the “middle path” with your food choices. Moderation is always best. Too much fruit can produce too much moisture, causing dampness in the body. Dampness can damage the spleen energy. Cooking fruits can reduce dampness.
•Red foods can stimulate the mind
•Mix red veggies in soups and salads
•The fire element has a bitter taste that can cool heat, detoxify the liver and blood, and calm the shen. Bitter greens like dandelion greens, kohlrabi and collard greens are great additions in the summer months. Allow for higher amounts of raw, fresh foods, while continuing to balance with warming soups, teas, and cooked foods. Moderation remains in all aspects of the diet.
It is important to work the body for a sustained period of time, building a vigorous sweat to increase stamina and nourish the function of the heart. It is a good idea to exercise in the late morning, preferably outdoors, for longer periods of time. You might use a slower pace with a longer duration of your favorite movement. Remember to have fun and listen to what your body needs.
The summer is a great time to reflect on bliss. In yoga, bliss is considered the deepest part of who you are and is a constant throughout life. You might practice a couple of minutes a day, bringing your awareness to your heart, imagining a tiny flame. With each inhale, invite your flame to expand.
Enjoying the lightness of summer not only feels good but is good preventative medicine for an easy transition through winter especially if you suffer from seasonal depression. Now is the time to feel and good and keep it that way!
Sarah Zender LAc
Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Day

Taking a time out on stress this week to talk about last week's Community Acupuncture May Day Celebration.

Whole Health Acupuncture participated in the 8th annual May Day event alongside community acupuncture clinics across the country. On Saturday May 1st from 9a-4p patients received free acupuncture sessions. Over 55 people received the benefits of acupuncture that day in our clinic alone.

I'd like to clarify a few points about what makes community acupuncture different as well as address some common concerns patients have before starting treatment.

We offer community acupuncture to make acupuncture more accessable for everyone.

We don't determine what patients pay because we don't know individuals circumstances. Our experience has shown us that acupuncture is most effective when done over a period of time consistently. A major road block to many patients' success with acupuncture is stopping treatment due to financial strain. Only you know your budget. The scale is there for your benefit so that completing a course of treatment is reasonable. You can not underpay for your session. It does not offend us if you pay $15 or $27 or $41 for your session. Anywhere between $15-50 is just right, make sure its right for you. It doesn't hurt our feelings if your circumstances change and you choose to pay less for treatment then when you started, or more for that matter. First and foremost, we want you to get better and stay better. We don't want you to stay at home because your worried about how much to pay.

Patients are concerned with our ability to earn a living while offering such low cost treatment. We make up for this by offering acupuncture in a community setting. This means that 2-3 people rest in a room at the same time. This isn't a compromise for us. Instead we find that we are able to treat friends and family and they can share the space together. As a family or as friends they have support to make healthy choices or reassure one another if someone is nervous on their first visit. Patients that come alone also have the chance to make new friends in the environment. The big bonus for us is that we are able to treat more people. That's why we studied acupuncture, we wanted to help people feel better.

People ask why they get so relaxed during an acupuncture treatment. Your body heals each night when you sleep. Acupuncture brings the body into a relaxed state so that it can repair any imbalances. This is also why we let people rest for as long as they need to. Most people find that their body settles into a place of resting or relaxing and then at some point they feel more alert, refreshed or energized. This is a signal that their treatment is over. Some patients rest for 20-30 minutes, other rest longer. Occasionally a patient will rest for a few hours. We check in before a treatment starts to make sure you don't have anywhere you need to be. If you do we make sure to watch the clock so that you're out on time.

Often times patients will tell us they feel better as soon as they walk in the door. There are many reasons for this. We diffuse therapeutic grade essential oils, keep the lighting low and music soft to create a calmer atmosphere. The biggest reason we feel is the amount of people that have received acupuncture in the office that has helped build a calmer space. We all have times in our lives where we need a safe place to go. That is the biggest intention of Whole Health Acupuncture is that it is a place to go when there is no where else to go, a place to take a deep breath, to be quiet for a moment, to take a nap, to get recharged.

If you do not live in the Chicagoland area visit Community Acupuncture Network to find community acupuncture clinics close by you.

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

Stress and the Heart/Small Intestine System

The energy of the heart is responsible for circulating the blood. When the heart qi is strong the complexion is rosy. The heart also houses the mind which means controlling both the outward appearance of vital activities of the entire body as well as consciousness in terms of spirit and mental activities. Because of this, the heart governs the memory as well as sleep. It is also said that the heart opens to the tongue. When the heart qi becomes imbalanced or depleted one might experience trouble finding words or becoming tongue-tied due to this connection.

The Heart/Small Intestine System also relates to:

Emotion: Joy

Taste: Bitter

Pathogen: Heat

Color: Red

Season: Summer

A few weeks ago we talked about the spleen and worry. The heart system is damaged with over stimulation. This can be easy to do in our high tech, fast paced world. There is the old adage, "all work and no play...." All play and no work can be just as damaging. Even if you enjoy the work you are doing, if all you are doing 24/7 is work this will eventually catch up with your heart and manifest in ways of insomnia, memory loss, restlessness, and other abnormal mental activities. Balance is key so that you can be the best at your job when you're working and the best at play with you're playing. Think about the guy at the office always working that finally "cracks." The heart can also be easily affected by heat and you might see this manifested on someone who has a bright red face, dry mouth or mouth sores.

Nourish your Heart:

Eat red foods especially watermelon that has a cooling affect on the body. Think strawberries, red peppers, radishes, and beets.

Bitter greens like dandelion greens, kohlrabi and collard greens are great additions to your diet to help the heart and cleanse the blood.

Laughter is the best medicine! Laugh and learn to be playful if you tend to be too serious.

To learn more about the heart and building your heart energy check back next week to learn about the heart, summer time and seasonal depression.

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