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Light’s Out. Where are the Zzz’s?

17 Apr

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Sleep deprivation. Most of us can attest having a night of tossing and turning, hoping for some rest to get through the next day. So how do we manage it and what are the long-term effects of not being able to sleep through the night?

TCM Perspective:In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), night is the most yin part of our 24 hours. It’s time for deep sleep and rejuvenation. There is an organ clock system that corresponds to the function of each organ (see below). During our most restful moments some of our most vital organs such as our Gallbladder, Liver and Lungs are busy. Reference to each organ is energetic and not literal in function description. To keep within the realm of mind, body, and spirit. I’ve included some of the Taoist beliefs regarding the soul aspects associated with the organs, as well as clinical manifestations and importance of each organ.

http://structuralevolution.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/chinese-clock.jpg

organ clock

The Gallbladder is paired with the Liver organ. In TCM, its associated with decision-making. For effective function in this area we need to rest at that time, which is 11pm-1am.

The Liver which stores the blood, houses the Hun or Ethereal soul, manifests in the eyes and nails and is in charge of the smooth flow of qi throughout the body. The Ethereal soul, in Taoist belief, leaves after the body passes. The Hun focuses on long-range goals and evolution. In a clinical setting, disruption in this flow can lead to a “qi stagnation” or a counterflow, which may impede digestion, lead to irritability and can cause menstrual problems (PMS symptoms and blood clots). The time of the Liver is from 1-3am.

The Lungs house the Po which is part of our conscious life and dies with us. It’s focused on shorter term desires of the lifetime. It’s said that as the Po deepens in consciousness and supports the long-range goals of the Hun. The Lungs help descend qi through the body, take in clean air, it’s also associated with taking in new thoughts, supports our protective qi (immune system) and shows it’s luster (or lack of) in our skin and hair.

When we wake at these times in the evening, your licensed acupuncturist will look at the organ imbalance and address that in their treatments, restoring homeostasis. The treatment can be very relaxing; many people fall asleep during their treatments.

Some Tips for R&R

In the TCM classics, it’s recommended that we rise and rest with the sun. Now, that’s not completely realistic especially in the winter months when the days are shorter. But studies have shown that having less than six hours of sleep, or lack of restful sleep can open up a can of worms in terms of your health.

1. Weight gain – NewYorkTimes just post an article that illustrated the improvement of BMI for teens that had one more hour of sleep. reference below
2. Brain fog and impaired memorization
3. Irritability and moodiness

4. Poor cardiovascular health, high blood pressure and increased stress hormones
5. Poor immune healthHow to Manage Your Sleep?

1. Any lights in your room? Cover them or turn them off. Cell phones, computers, and alarm clocks. It can disturb your circadian rhythm, which is influenced by environmental factors like like. When there’s lack of light, there’s an increase in melatonin production.

2. Acupuncture and herbs are a great way to get your body in balance by reducing stress hormones, relaxing the body, and increasing blood flow.

3. Foods and drinks that benefit a health nights rest: Incorporate mushrooms, like reishi have calming and nourishing effects on the body. Chamomile tea is very calming. Oats and brown rice, oyster shell, lemons, dill and basil also have a therapeutic effect.

4. Foods and drinks that may hinder rest: alcohol, spicy foods, rich and greasy foods, caffeine, sugar and heavy meals – these things can lead to an imbalance that we call Stomach fire – which can be linked to teeth grinding at night or TMJ.

5. Exercise for rest: In TCM, the Yin Qiao and Yang Qiao channels are the medial and lateral channels that control the opening and closing of the eyes; they start at the feet and go up to the eyes. Insomnia can be caused by an excess yang. By rubbing the crown of your head, known as DU20 100 times, UB2 (medial end of your eyebrow) and then the ball of your foot, until warm, will help balance your channels and help with sleep. The book excerpt from Blue Poppy has a deeper description and great illustrations.

6. Too much on your mind? Write it down. Put a pen and paper by your bed to jot down thoughts. There’s a wonderful Chinese proverb that my mentor taught me, “A dull pencil is better than the sharpest mind.” You can’t store everything in your brain; write it down.

7. Don’t eat 3 hours before bed. Going back the organ clock. Your stomach is at its lowest energetic point from 7-9 pm. It’s time to give it and you a rest. See tip #4.

8. Warm baths (not hot baths that make you sweat) can increase blood flow, bring down the heart rate and make you nice and calm for a night’s rest.

The list could go on and on, but we have to stop somewhere.

Do you have any nightly rituals? What are your recommendations for a good nights rest? Please share in the comments below.

References:

Harvard Study

NewYork Times Article

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Heart to Heart

14 Feb

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yeah, I know it’s a commercial holiday filled with frou-frou, chocolates and expensive cards, but there are some great aspects to this day. One in particular is HEART HEALTH and it has the whole month of February to take center stage.

So let’s give a little tender lovin’ to our rhythm in the band, our pretty little kick drum, the Heart.

Mind You: According to the CDC, 935,000 Americans have a heart attack (more than half of those are men). Which leads to the following things to think about…

Risk Factors (no particular order here)
1. Hereditary
2. Smoking
3. Obesity
4. Diabetes
5. Physical Inactivity
6. Excessive drinking
7. Poor diet
8. High LDL and Blood pressure

Signs of a Heart Attack – Do You Know Them?
1. Chest pain/angina
2. Shoulder, arm, jaw, neck, stomach pain
3. Nausea and vomiting
4. Shortness of breath, dizziness

*In a 2005 study, only 27% of respondents knew the major signs of a heart attack and to call 9-1-1.

Whole Foods are Healing
Put great food in to make your greatness prosper.
1. Leafy greens are rich in magnesium and help calcium function in the heart tissues and nerves properly. It is also linked to regulating complex amino acids in the brain that contribute to anxiety.
2. Lower the saturated fats found in animal products.
3. Sodium intake under 2300mg/day (<1500mg for those with diabetes, high blood pressure, African american, Kidney disease or +51yrs in age) and intake atleast 4300 mg of Potassium per day.
4. Calcium absorption is important in heart function. Foods that impede this process are caffein, salt, sugar, alcohol, refined flours.

Chinese Medicine and the Heart
Disharmonies of the energetic properties of the heart in diagnosis for TCM can be seen in several ways. This does not imply that the organ has a problem.
1. Excess laughter
2. Speech problems: stuttering, confused speech
3. weak spirit
4. Loss of memory
5. Mental illness
6. Depression

These Calm the Mind:
1. Oyster shell
2. Whole wheat grain
3. Mushrooms/ Reishi/ Ling Zhi
4. Lemons
5. Chamomile
6. Valerian
7. Suan Zao Ren
8. Wu Wei Zi

Spirit
Straight the Heart: Acupressure/Acupuncture Point

Here’s a great little YouTube video on Heart 7, which is great for sleep and anxiety.

http://youtu.be/zPoHVS0y0Z8

Lift Your Spirt with This:
Calm your mind.
Have clarity in one thought process.
Do not be scattered and hyperactively distracted.

Prayer or grace before a meal put your mind in a peaceful place of gratitude and focused inward on the spirit.

And remember, it might be another holiday, but be grateful and love the one you’re with.

That’s sure to make your heart skip a beat.

Take Care!

Kari-Ann

2013!

3 Jan

AAF_tortoise_and_hare

January 3rd, 2013.

I’m three days late on this New Year post, but I guess it’s fitting as this post is all about the number 3 and how we manage (or don’t) address important aspects of our health and wellness: Mind, Body & Spirit. I’ll post more on that trio later.

It’s the premise for the Three Needles logo and melds so sweetly into our cycle at the beginning of a new year to make a resolution, in some fashion for a better part of ourselves. Our resolutions or goals will fall into any one or combo of these pillars.
Lose weight?
Stop smoking?
Eat more veggies?
Sweat through a 90 day Bikram yoga challenge?
Learn a new language?
Maybe it’s to kick the green-eyed monster out the door and just practice gratitude more often?
Or practice the golden rule and treat others the way you want to be treated?
Or maybe your resolution is to have NO resolution. But isn’t that a resolution?

Whatever it may be, they’re all promising and optimistic; they represent a clean slate for us. But that slate can get downright dirty when habits start to creep in.

I don’t completely remember my resolution last year, do you? I was committed to nothing other than focusing on Traditional Chinese Medicine and making things happen for myself in that realm. Kuddos to my awesome husband for being so patient with me.

And that’s the challenging part. Getting to the point of implementing it into our hectic lives and keeping our eye on the prize is HARD.

As my elementary school music teacher would often tell me in slow drawl, “You’re a hard-headed child.” So true.
Breaking bad (or making better) takes patience, awareness, practice, and not being so hard-headed. Your way might need to be tweaked, and that’s okay.

Remember the Tortoise and the Hare story? Our society is all rabbit – fast, adrenaline, distracted go-go-go types, we burn out in every aspect of our lifestyle (the big 3) and then we’re done. Possibly forgetting what we had in mind to start running the race. The old turtle makes his way patiently, consistently and slowly to the finish line, with his own set of limitations and WINS. Mind you, this was when the rabbit was catching zzz’s.

On the Checklist for the New Resolution:

1. Ask WHY. Why is it that you want to get where you want to get? My resolution a few years back to run a 1/2 marathon was more than a distance race. It was to prove to myself I was strong enough to face any obstacle and I was disciplined enough to complete the training to get there. It was a complete emotional attachment to my definition of Strength.
If you’re not really feeling your why , there’s a good chance it’s not going to work.

2. Slow and Steady wins the race. Focus on the one resolution (not 20 checklist/To Do items). I’m incredibly guilty of this. I want to do it all!

3. Have your goal written somewhere you’ll see it every day. (Mirror, fridge, in your planner, taped to your desktop) Share it with someone close so they can follow up with you and you’re more apt to feel accountable.

4. It’s not going to be perfect. Give yourself the time to make mistakes. 90 Day rule. You can find out more about that here.

5. Give yourself an end date. You don’t want to eat food that doesn’t expire, right? It’s got a lot of junk and nasty preservatives in it. Your goal needs to expire. There needs to be an end in sight. Or it’s going to sit on the shelf like an unexpired Twinkie. If you have a specific goal to lose weight, put a date or timeline a gradual process to get there.

I’m sharing my resolutions with you.

1. Recommend what I would or have used myself.

2. Pray when I wake up.

3. Do something that scares me at least twice a week. Don’t want to get too comfortable.

I’d love to hear your resolutions, advice, stories – whatever you have to share, share it.

Cheers to 2013.

Take Care,

Kari-Ann

All the Small Things

9 Dec

BALANCE-SCALE-3

Balance & Perfection.

All the small things in life are never-ending and always surmounting to something completely overwhelming. I have a list of things 1 8.5×11 page long and it’s overwhelming. I’m deadlocked and not sure what to do. In addition to this, I have scraps of paper on my desk to jot down new “to-dos.” And it might be unquestionably easy to write it out and follow it. But TODAY, well beyond everyone’s jazzed up smart phone, technologically stimulated life, where does all the time go to get these things done? There are so many distractions. And when do you say “No”, if you can, to any of it?

I believe part of it is habit. The habit of prioritizing those special areas of your life and seeing if those to do’s fall within those boundaries. It’s also a matter of knowing what’s an emergency and an immediate MUST DO, compared to some distraction that can either idle the time away, or can be done by someone else.

So my suggestions to kill the stress of to-dos:

1. Prioritize – what areas of your life are important and do you need to dedicate time to? For example, it could be your family, work, and your health. Even within those categories are subcategories (family fun night, getting certification for work, doing yoga 5 times a week). You can’t say yes to every children’s birthday party or business event you’re invited to, and that is where the power of saying NO comes into play. Selfishly saying NO to those things will give you time to prioritize your Family, Work and Health for your “Balance.”

Now let me get something straight. I LOVE the idea of balance. But balance is just like Yin and Yang. It’s always changing, interdependent of Chaos and cannot exist without its opposite. It’s never going to be perfect and being peaceful with that idea can be freeing.

2. Write it Out – the To Do list is a Catch-22. Well, let me clarify, the MENTAL To-Do list. Write it out. Get it on paper. I often tell patients that are always worrying about a mental list to keep a pad and pen by your bed and write out the small things that are on your mind. You won’t forget it and it will be there to cross off when you have a chance to get to it.

3. Focus on the greater good, whatever that may be for you. Maybe its specific goals or areas in your life that you’re working on (health and wellness, spiritual) anything to create positive habits. Make time for those things and make sure it’s blocked out. Do you have your ideal day? Hour for hour, tell your time where to go.

4. Let others know what you’re up to – My husband and I have a list of personal/professional goals and things we want to work on together. We talk about it so we can support each other through our transitions. Find a friend or someone who is going to be supportive for your goals.

5. Goals – write them out for the immediate, near and far off future. This list may change, but it defines your objectives. If something else comes along and it’s good, but not great AND it doesn’t fall in line with your ideal, then you can peacefully pass it by.

What’s this all about? All the small things – they stress us out. They add up. And when we put them in their place and really see how (in)significant they are, we can then decide their importance in our life.

If these small things have you doe-eyed and deadlocked ready to get run over by a semi, just remember…

One thing at a time.

I would love to hear what you do to manage your life.

Take Care!

The Attitude of Gratitude

19 Nov

It’s the start of Thanksgiving week and as we’re winding down, it’s a wonderful time to think about all of the right things in our life. Small and large, gratitude helps keep our lives unique, stable, and worth living. It’s a great way to keep the positive at the forefront to better handle the rest. To really get this point across to myself, at the start of the month, I set a glass jar in our dining room next to a cigar box full of blank construction paper. The gist is to write a thing or two down for which we are grateful, fold it up, and watch our gratitude grow. It’s colorful and simple and it’s a wonderful display that quickly adds up!

Gratitude is free and it’s powerful. For all of the annoyances or stresses, it helps us keep a fresh and optimistic perspective.  It’s easy to do the opposite. PLUS there are wonderful health benefits.

By consistently practicing gratitude, it has shown to:

  • boost your immune system
  • deal with stress more effectively
  • handle loss more effectively
  • more apt to take proactive measures for your health and wellness (goes along with increase your immunity)

An interesting book with research regarding the effects of gratitude is called “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude can make You Happier” by Robert Emmons.  It suggests that after just 3 weeks of keeping a gratitude journal, participants saw a 25% increase in their happiness, better sleep and increased energy. Negativity can have a lasting effect and is sometimes seems easier to do. Constantly focusing on frustrations can overpower even the most important and simplistically beautiful things in our lives.

So I ask, what are some ways that you practice gratitude?

Take Care!

Evil Qi (and other unwanted guests during the holiday season)

14 Nov

As I went through school, I learned quickly how to kick getting sick before it snuck up on me. Chinese medicine refers to external pathogens as “evil qi.” The name is quite humorous and you’ll never forget it! Evil qi invasion presents with alternating fever and chills, stiff muscles, sinus congestion, runny nose, tickling throat and other annoyances.  It’s seems like a masked ninja creeping up behind you and BAM!

You’re sick.

There are elemental factors that play a role in this. The weather is cold outside and it’s windy. So keeping your wei qi strong is very important. I might get yelled at for saying this, but I liken the wei qi to the immune system. It’s the body’s outer defense and regulatory system to keep illness away. The lungs, which are the most superficial internal organ, comes in contact with environmental factors (air we breath).  They help regulate the wei qi through the body. When there is a disruption, your pores aren’t regulated as freely you become exposed, so covering up and keeping warm helps.  Your nose and your throat are easily exposed to cold wind, causing dryness and a sore throat, swollen glands, etc.  And these colds can present with hot or cold symptoms.

The truth is there are some precautionary things you can do to avoid this.

1. Keep allergy exposure at a low. I couldn’t tell you how many times people have told me that they have allergies and then it actually turns into a cold. Maybe it’s their way of not frightening everyone around them into  a 10 foot germ radius. The immune system is working hard to ward off germs and allergy triggers can help expose you to more. I know, sometimes it’s uncontrollable, but avoid those triggers. Wash your hands and cover your mouth when you sneeze.

2. Rest and digest! Sleeping well throughout the night will keep your energy up and your body from overdrive mode. Things to consider for your sleeping habits: Do you fall asleep easily? Do you wake during the night? If so, how many times? What time of the night? Are you waking to urinate? Do you feel rested when you wake up? Do you have dream disturbed sleep?  Answers to these questions can point to any disharmonies and imbalances that you may have. See a TCM practitioner/LAc and they can help you with this.

3. Sugar can kick your butt by making you susceptible to illness because it suppresses your immune system.  Tis’ the season to enjoy your sweets, just do so in moderation or balance it with plenty of greens and produce packed with nutrients and vitamins. See number 7 below for foods to eat.

4. Stay away from wind (artificial and natural). Try to keep from using your bedroom fan when you’re sleeping. It can dry out your sinuses and expose you to getting sick. In TCM terms, it affects our lungs, which help regulate our pores. Translation: You’re leaving yourself wide open for pathogens.  Wind enters through your nose, skin and impairs your immune function. If you must have the fan on, please keep it off of you and cover up!

5. Wear a scarf. I love scarves for the season and it’s become a staple in my wardrobe. My friends and family probably think I do it to accessorize, but it’s to save my neck!  Covering the nape of your neck helps.  There is an acupuncture point called Feng Men, which means Wind Gate. It’s located roughly 1.5 inches bilaterally on each side of the spinous process of T2 (see picture below). This point is used to expel any external pathogens by wind and is a very important point in helping turn around a cold fast.  Staying covered and wearing appropriate seasonal clothing helps you.

6. Sweat it Out: If you have chills and fever and are NOT sweating – I love to take a hot bath for 10 to 15 minutes and then cover up in sweatsuit to sweat out the pathogen. This only works if you haven’t started sweating.  If you have, and you do this, you’ll make it worse!

7. Garlic & Radishes: My lovely sister had the worse sinus congestion and pressure. The drainage was clear to none – so no heat signs present (fever, red eyes, hot sensation,  dry mouth, night sweats, drinking cold fluids). She asked me what dietary changes she could implement to help clear the pressure. Over the counter medicine and sinus sprays were not working.  Garlic and Radishes.  Not together, unless you want dragon breath.

Garlic’s warming effect can clear your sinuses. The way to do this: take 1 peeled galic clove and hold it in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. Chew and then swallow. 2-3 times a day until it’s gone. This is not for the faint of heart. And you have to love garlic! Incorporate this in your cooking and you’ll ward off illness easily. This is also great for sore throats.

Radishes are a bit easier to eat and they cut mucus, moistens the lungs,  moves food stagnation, detoxifies, stops occipital headaches AND prevents viral infections. Wham-O! You’re golden with these guys. The mucus can be cold (clear) or hot (yellow/green) in presentation for these to work. You can eat 2-3 radishes, 2-3 times per day.

***These dietary gems are from Paul Pitchford’s book, “Healing with Whole Foods” 3rd edition. Highly recommended if you are interested in the healing properties of food!

7.  Stress. It sucks everything out of you. So make sure you find a way to decompress either through exercise, prayer, journaling, meditation – whatever your preference. Just make time to do it for yourself.

8. See your acupuncturist! When you start feeling sick – go see an acupuncturist! We have so many modalities to help kick the bug, that you’ll feel better in no time! It breaks my heart when people miss an appointment because they’re sick. Coming in is what you should do!  Herbs, cupping, acupuncture and gua sha are all wonderful to clear a cold.  I’ll talk about those tools of the trade later. They’re WONDERFUL.

You can find an acupuncturist through the following site: www.acufinder.com

When you’re feeling a bit off, you can always come in to give your wei qi a boost and kick the evil qi to the curb!

Take Care!

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

31 Oct

Whenever I meet someone I’m often asked what do I do. Sometimes I get into the nitty-gritty and other times I tell them I practice Chinese medicine – acupuncture and herbs. A flow of questions follow – sometimes it’s hugged by the dreaded statement, “I believe in acupuncture”, which often implies that it’s a complementary energetic medicine that has some magical qualities. Yes, it’s awesome to believe that something works, but not in the way of being mind over matter with a little ju-ju on the side.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  is an awesome medicine and although it can’t fix you if you have a severed limb, it possesses great modalities to facilitate the healing process.  It’s a root-down kinda medicine and I’ll explain what that means a bit later.

Test of Time

TCM is thousands of years old.  It’s based on the observation of the nature and man’s place in it.  Practitioners would dissect and observe the human body’s physiological processes and record their findings. It’s the observation of all of the physiological functions and vital substances the body thrives on in very basic pre-medical term era.  The first acupuncture needle was a bian stone that was cut and used to stimulate acupuncture points on the body. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when communist leader of China, Mao Dezong,  integrated TCM practices with Western medicine. Clinical methods were reviewed to bring forth a better understanding of chinese medicine.  With this integration, TCM was incorporated into hospital settings and is used today in China.

If you’re interested in learning more about the medicine:  Licensed Acupuncturist Chris Kresser has a great website and gives a wonderful explanation of TCM through a scientifically based lens. Great stuff here.

What does Acupuncture Do?

Acupuncture stimulates specific pathways in the body to elicit specific responses to stimulate the healing process in the body. It treats pain, increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, and reduces stress.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists many benefits of using acupuncture in this report.

Does it hurt?

Acupuncture is different for everyone. Patients may feel a small prick at the insertion site. Other sensations may be a dull feeling, pulsating and heat.  An acupuncture needle is a disposable sterilized filiform needle. I believe 18 acupuncture needles can fit into a hypodermic. They are incredibly thin (width of a human hair).

What does an acupuncturist do?

A licensed acupuncturist has attended an accredited school within the US and is often certified by the NCCAOM.  Masters programs can be between three to four years long and contain many courses including western sciences, TCM theory, practice management and clinical experience.

Speaking of “root down” – The initial appointment will be a series of questions to find out what the root cause of the patient’s health concern, not just a treatment of the symptoms. The initial meeting can take an hour and a half to two hours to complete. The job of the practitioner is to treat the underlying cause to your experienced symptoms and assess lifestyle habits, review medicines and supplements the patient may take, etc. Based on the intake, a treatment plan will be reviewed.

What I love about the medicine is that several people could be diagnosed with a western disease, but have completely different underlying issues that got them to the state they’re currently in. The patient is treated as an individual and not as a disease diagnosis.

If you’ve had any experiences with acupuncture or chinese herbs, please let me know your stories or questions.

Take Care!