Eyes, Blood, Sleep (Tech Challenge)

Day 7-13 of Tech Challenge

I had stopped updating daily as to my progress because it was becoming stale stuff to read. I had failed only once since the last update. So far I am learning that giving myself a break from the glaring screens of our surrounding technology has made it easier to fall asleep. The best part is that I also remain asleep most of the time.

But is it that relaxing our eyes gives us better sleep? I can tell you about the rods and cones in our eyes that continue to “glow” making our brains think that it is still daytime, but this is mostly an acupuncture blog. So let us discuss what East Asian Medicine has to say about it.

EYES, LIVER, BLOOD

According to Chinese medicine, our eyes are governed by the liver. And as our liver is in charge of storing blood, our eyes have a direct relationship with blood. Blood is what nourishes our eyes and relaxes the spirit. When we overuse or deplete our eyes, we use our store of blood that is essential for many things, one of which includes sleep. With all the technology around us, we are straining our eyes more than ever. This has created a pandemic of people complaining of insomnia. Whether it is difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, my clinic is filled with patients complaining of lack of sleep.

So put down the phone, turn off your TV and computers. Close your eyes and allow them to relax. And then, go to sleep.

Stress Inflammation Pain, Part 3

Diet plays a very important role on how our bodies feel. The huge spike in chronic pain cases is indicative of a society embracing a diet that is harmful to our bodies. From poor diet, a condition, described as “dampness in the body,” becomes a problem in the body. Why? Well, let us discuss what damp is.

According to TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine), damp is a condition of the body when things become sticky and dense and heavy. Because of this viscous material in the body, things are not able to circulate properly in the body, such as blood and/or qi (energy). When things are stuck, the body reacts by trying to either push through the blockage or avoiding it all together. When the body tries to push force the blockage out, it uses a lot of energy and sends a lot of qi and blood to the site of the problem. When this happens, it is similar to an overheating car trying to go up a steep climb. In the body, it is recognized as inflammation. Other times, the body will give up after a time and stop feeding qi and blood to the area which results in weakness and numbness in the area.

Now that we have discussed how dampness in the body can create inflammation and pain, let’s talk about how dampness becomes created in the first place.

Dampness comes a from a dysfunctional digestive system.

Your digestive system can be broken due to:

  • not eating enough
  • eating too much
  • many years of eating heavy, greasy and nutritionally empty foods
  • long term illness
  • sedentary lifestyle

Ways you can tell if you are suffering from dampness within the body is:

  • you wake up feeling heavy and sluggish
  • you have cystic acne
  • you catch colds easily
  • allergies
  • you’re tired all day, fatigue
  • overweight
  • you have to use a lot of tissue to wipe after each bowel movement
  • congestion

Foods to avoid when there is damp in the body: meat, dairy, eggs, sugar, refined flours, and processed foods.

For a more complete diet guideline, please go to your nearest acupuncturist. The reason for this is because there are a variety of reasons you may have developed dampness in the body and it may also manifest itself in a variety of ways. For instance, you have dampness in the body with heat symptoms, you may also need to avoid spicy foods. But if you have dampness with cold symptoms, you will need to avoid raw food or cold food.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment.

Quit Smoking with Acupuncture

Nicotine is a powerful addiction. To overcome it, one feels as though they are going through the trials of hell. And when one falls off of the wagon, utter shame is felt, which then leads to more smoking. It is a nightmarish merry-go-round that you just can’t seem to get off.

But know this: you are not alone. There are 42.1 million smokers in the US alone. Nearly 70% of these smokers want to quit. So when you are standing in the smoker’s balcony, 7 out of 10 of them are smoking with you, wishing that they could escape the hellish grasp that nicotine has on them. But if the desire to quit is there, why can’t we quit?

One of the reasons is motivation. As selfish as human beings can be, we are still social animals. So when we tell ourselves that we want to quit for our own health, it doesn’t motivate us enough to quit. But when we change our motivation away from ourselves and place it upon someone else, say a loved one, like a daughter or son, the motivation is stronger.

Another reason is because of habit. It takes only a week for nicotine to be fully metabolized out of the body but because of habit, even after a week, you still feel the need to reach for a cigarette. Does the following sound familiar? You wake up and the first thing you do is go outside to light up a cigarette to have with your morning coffee. Or whenever there is massive traffic, you light up, to either pass the time or “relieve” the stress of traffic. Or you light up after every meal because you feel as though it helps with your digestion or relieves your constipation. There are many more examples, but as you can see, smoking takes up a lot of your time and energy throughout the entire day. How do you go from having it in such a huge part of your life and then go without it?

And the very main reason, of course, is addiction. All over the body, there are nicotinic receptors. Receptors act like locks or doors and when the right key (in this case, nicotine) is placed in these locks, the receptors unload the pleasurable side effects of nicotine. The addiction begins when regular use of cigarettes introduces more than enough nicotine than the nicotinic receptors have use for, which then leads to the disappearance (downgrading) of the receptors. What use are more receptors when the body gets enough nicotine through one “door”? Because of this, the use of cigarettes increases because the effects of nicotine wear off more quickly. When you then quit, the receptors that disappeared increase to more than there were before you started smoking because they are trying to grab as much nicotine as they can. That’s when the insatiable cravings for smoking pounds at you, leaving you with horrible side effects. This leads us to nicotine withdrawal side effects.

Here are the side effects of nicotine withdrawal (information from Webmd.com):

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, drowsiness, and insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Increased hunger and caloric intake
  • Increased desire for the taste of sweets
  • Tobacco cravings

These are difficult side effects to have to go through. And because it’s difficult, it’s easier to convince yourself to start smoking again. And that is where acupuncture comes in.

Acupuncture allows your body to detox nicotine out of your system more efficiently. It also reduces the withdrawal side effects so that staying smoke free is an easier decision to make.

What you can expect from a smoking cessation acupuncture treatment:

-About a week of acupuncture treatments

-Includes an initial overall assessment of the patient so that each smoking cessation is customized to each individual

-During the treatment, one may experience sweating and a bitter taste in the mouth (don’t worry, this is the nicotine coming out of your system)

-Ear seeds (a sticker with seeds on it that provides acupressure to the ears) will be given so that the patient may massage them between acupuncture sessions

-Herbs may also be given to alleviate (which will be an additional cost to the program)

-Nicotine supplements (nicotine gum, e-cig, vape, nicotine patches) will not be allowed as it contradicts the purpose of the treatment, which is to detox the body of toxins

What you can do during and after the smoking cessation acupuncture program:

  • Regular exercise (walking 30 minutes at a brisk pace every day)
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Writing down your reasons for quitting
  • Writing down why smoking will benefit you
  • Meditation (stress tends to be an easy trigger for cravings)

It is also highly recommended to come back at least once a month for a treatment to keep the nicotine cravings at bay.

If you want to quit smoking, look for an acupuncturist near you and ask about their smoking cessation program.

Stress Inflammation Pain, Part 2

In the previous post, I discussed how stress leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to pain. I also talked about how most of these chronic diseases, mostly to do with inflammation, are preventable. So in this blog post, we are going to talk about self care.

Doctors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, etc., for the most part, do a pretty good job at helping their patients. But even the best medical practitioners and physicians are unable to help patients if the patients themselves do not do the work required at home. And maybe that’s the problem. Most of us see taking care of our health as work. And boy do we hate work. We want things to come easy with little effort on our part. That’s why so many fall into the get rich quick schemes and waist trimmers.

Taking care of the only body that we have is not work. It is so much more than that. It is essential and also reflects how we view ourselves. For instance, when we see 2 cars of the same make, model and color drive by, we instantly can tell who takes care of their car with care and pride. One car will be shiny with clean rims, windows and mirrors. If you were to peer in the window, it has no trash lying around. When you hear it drive by, it sounds smooth because they take it in for regular tune ups and check ups. Care and pride went into this car.

The other car, however, tells a different story. It is dirty and the rims are caked. You can see dirty windshield wiper blade marks. Somebody may have written “wash me” into the dirt of the car. When you look inside, trash and other items litter the car, strewn about haphazardly. You can hear the brakes squeak and motor grumble. And to be honest, I am guilty of the unkempt car. I don’t take pride in my car because I don’t view it as very important. It just takes me from Point A to Point B. And the fact that I view my car in this way, is very apparent.

But our bodies should not be viewed in this fashion, ever! We may be able to replace our cars but we cannot replace our bodies. We need to view the bodies that we have as the most precious commodity, because it is. There is no wealth without health.

And how do we start self care? With proper diet and exercise!

When we discuss diet, we are not talking only about calorie restriction. We are talking about quality of food that we put into our bodies. Food is the building block of our bodies. When you think about your body, what is it built with? Is it built with twinkles and cheetos? Or is it built with a variety of whole foods? An easy way to tell if your food is nutritious, is by seeing how easily you can identify the ingredients on your plate. That’s whole food!

The next thing you need to do for self care is exercise. The best form of exercise, is walking. You don’t have to be extreme about it. Just walk.

I have a man in my neighborhood, who I consider my personal hero. He appeared a handful of years ago, out of nowhere. He walked around the neighborhood alone everyday at around the same time. Rain or shine, he was there, walking. When he first started out, I could tell that he was not the healthiest man. He had a rotund and taut belly like Santa. His face had a dark red hue to it, which spoke of circulation or liver problems. But as the years went by, he lost his belly and his complexion improved. And he looked years younger than what I first perceived him to be. And though I’m sure he changed other things in his lifestyle, walking was his definitely his go to exercise.

You don’t have to join a gym. Just walk and make sure to keep at it like my neighborhood hero. Sticking with one exercise and creating a habit of it, is the best thing you can do for yourself.

In the next post, we will discuss more about nutrition. Stay tuned.

Stress Inflammation Pain, Part 1

I had just been to a Nutrition and Health Seminar at UCLA. This seminar inspired me to briefly talk about inflammation. But before we talk about inflammation, we must talk about stress.

Stress leads to inflammation. Now when most people think of stress, they think about emotional stress. But stress that leads to inflammation is not limited to emotional stress. For instance, when you drink too much, that is placing stress on your body. When you eat too much junk food, that is putting stress on your body. When you smoke, when you binge watch TV, when you sleep only two hours, etc. All of this, creates stress upon the body. And as stated before, stress leads to inflammation.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, inflammation is viewed as a heat issue. When one has inflammation, there is swelling, redness, and heat. This unmanaged heat tends to lead to pain. Why? Your body is working over time to make things better but because you’ve been taxing your body too much, it doesn’t know how to do it properly.

Have you ever been given too much to do at work with impossible deadlines? And when you thought that you were just managing it, work gives you another to add to the load. Anger is usually the first reaction. Anger is also a heat condition. Much like an angry, overworked employee, your body reacts in a similar fashion by way of inflammation.

Did you know that 117 million adults in the US suffer from one or more chronic conditions? Did you know that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year to treat chronic diseases? Did you know that the majority of chronic diseases are preventable? And did you know that chronic diseases are essentially inflammation?

117 million people in the US suffer from inflammation in the body. And most suffering from inflammation could have prevented it. How could we let this happen? It’s simple. Though we as humans have evolved slowly, technology has evolved at an incalculable rate. We must get things now. Whether it’s news or food, we must get it now. Patience has become a lost virtue. And because of this, we have lost the patience for our bodies to naturally heal itself. We look to “quick fixes”. Overweight? Take a pill for that. Have pain? Take a pill for that. Insomnia? Take a pill for that. These pills, though they help relieve ailments temporarily, they will not cure. Whatever you suffer from, will come back.

When You’re Sick

As some of you may have noticed, I have not posted anything for a couple of weeks. I apologize for that. I have been quite under the weather. I write this while still battling a persistent cough.

Though I am not fully recovered, I have been able to continue working without any problems. Though rest is the best medicine, not everybody has the luxury to stay home until they feel 100% better. Below is a list of things that I do when I’m sick but need to keep on working.

Sore Throat: Acupuncture has been the best and quickest remedy. If you’re able to go to an acupuncturist, do so. Sore throats will go away that same day. But if you’re unable to go to an acupuncturist, there is always loquat cough syrup. Below is the picture:

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This syrup is based on a Chinese herbal formula and can easily be purchased at any Asian market (ex. 99 Ranch Market). It soothes the throat, helps with coughing and is also an expectorant. The best part is how good it tastes. It’s also safe for children to take in low doses.

Stuffy Nose: Steam is the best way to loosen up all the mucus in the nasal passages. Remember that scene in Crocodile Dundee when Mick Dundee unknowingly made a guy do a steam for his nose when in actuality the guy was doing drugs. Well, you’re going to do the same but without the cocaine. Fill a large basin/bowl with hot steaming water and add peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree oil. Place a towel over your head to tent in the steam. Breathe the steam in. If you feel snot coming out of your nose, go ahead and not rocket into bowl and continue steaming. This really clears up the nasal passages while killing some germs. It’s also best to have a humidifier when you’re sleeping to things moist in your nose and throat. It also helps to have a cup of hot water with eucalyptus oil so that you can smell it throughout the night.

Headache: You would usually have a headache due to a stuffy nose. So do the above remedies. If it is due to a fever, put a cool compress on the head. But make sure it is not too cold.

Fever: Again, acupuncturist is the best way to go but if you, can’t cool compress. Lavender oil dabbed behind the neck also helps to cool things down. Another great remedy is to sweat it out. Drink some ginger and honey tea, wear sweats and wrap yourself with a lot of blankets, and sleep. If you start feeling hot and sweaty, it’s working. Make sure not to unwrap yourself because you don’t want to get chilly. After the sweating has stopped and your fever has broken, make sure to keep your head and neck covered to keep your body warm and protected.

NOTE! If you have a fever, stay home. You are contagious and will spread your illness to those around you. Even if you feel that you have no choice but to work, this is not the time to go to work. You must stay home!

While you’re sick, make are to eat warm and well cooked foods. This is not the time to indulge in any salads. Try my congee recipe for an example of warm and easy to digest food.

If you have any remedies that you use, please share it in the comments.

What To Expect At Your First Acupuncture Visit

You have gone from doctor to doctor and have taken pill after pill for a long time. After all of these ordeals, you have finally decided to go for alternative medical care. You think about getting acupuncture. Why not? All the celebs are getting into it these days and you also know some friends who swear by it. But you’re still hesitant because you don’t know what to expect.

The following is a guide to what you can expect at your first acupuncture visit.

First, you want to know about the needles. You don’t like flu shots so why in the world would you want to get more than one needle into your body?

Acupuncture needles are hair thin.

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The above picture is of an acupuncture needle and a hair from my head. These needles will be placed on and around the body determined by a well thought out diagnosis and treatment plan. You may feel a tiny pinch at times but the feeling should not last. Most people do not feel needles go in at all.

Let the acupuncturist know when you have a sharp pain that lasts more than a couple of seconds. That is not a feeling that we would like for you to experience. But if you experience a dull and heavy ache, almost like a muscle soreness, that is something we would like you to feel. That sensation is what we like to call, “arrival of qi.”

“Arrival of qi” is when the needle has accessed the appropriate point in the body and the body’s energy (the body is essentially electricity, or energy, contained in a carbon-based container) is meeting the point of the needle to activate its healing properties. But this is all after you have been properly assessed by the acupuncturist.

To diagnose you, the acupuncturist will be asking you seemingly unrelated questions to your health concern but for acupuncturists, it is crucial that we know it all. For instance, we will ask about your bowel movements and stool… a lot. We want to know when you poop, how often you poop, what your poop looks like, if your poop floats or sinks, etc. The reason this is so important is because your poop tells us what is going on in your body and essentially your whole body’s constitution.

After we have asked you everything about your bodily functions, you will be asked to stick out your tongue. This is the one time we wouldn’t mind Miley Cyrus sticking out her tongue because we truly want to see it. Why the tongue? It is the only muscle in the entire body that is visible to us. The shape, color, and coating of your tongue tells us more of what’s going on inside your body. We use it to confirm or contradict what we thought during the interviewing process.

TONGUE-DIAGNOSIS

The last thing to expect, before you are needled, is to have your pulse taken. We are taking your pulse for many reasons. We want to know your heart rate. Is it too slow, too fast or normal? We also want to know the quality of the pulse. Yes, the pulse has a quality other than to thump against our fingers. There are many words to describe many different types of pulses but it comes down to wanting to know if you have an excess or deficiency condition (learn more about that from this blog) and to confirm or contradict every other diagnostic tool that we used. We, as acupuncturists, are very thorough.

So now that you know what to expect, go and see your local acupuncturist and experience the greatness that is Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Graceful Points