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.

Throat Soothing Tea

When you have a sore throat and/or cough, having some soothing tea is the best! Below is a recipe for Asian Pear Tea. Asian pears are great for moisturizing the lungs and throat. So if you have a cough due to a cold or a chronic dry cough, this tea will soothe it gently.

Asian Pear Tea Recipe

1 Asian Pear (any pear will do but will not hold up as well as an Asian pear)

Water

Honey

Directions: Cut up Asian pear into one inch cubes and place in a pot. Pour enough water into the pot to cover the pear. Bring water to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Ladle liquid into a mug. Mix a tablespoon of honey. Sip carefully and enjoy!

Feel free to eat the cooked pear either in your the or separately.

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

Last Spire Review: Days 3 – 5

I deeply regret to inform you that I will be returning my Spire as it does not serve the purpose that I longed for. Below are the reasons why I am giving up the Spire long before I had planned to:

  1. It only holds 6 hours of memory.
    • This is a problem because most people are at work for 9 hours. Meaning, for  9 hours, they will not be looking at their phones, wondering if their Spire is working.
    • Another disappointing outcome is that the device cannot work without your  Spire being continuously linked to the app. This means that you will not get your notifications when the device is not linked up to the app. Problematic if you don’t carry your phone with your everywhere you go.
  2. The app drains battery life of phone.
    • I had left my Spire on the charger during the night and left the app on the phone. My phone was fully charged before I went to sleep. I woke up to the battery being at 48% without being used all night. I am trying to reduce stress, not add to it. I do not need the added stress of having to be concerned with charging my phone constantly.
  3. Does not have the ability to track everything at once.
    • This limitation I understand but it’s still a limitation. If your Spire is tracking your breathing it will not track your activity (walking). If your spire is tracking your activity, it will not track your breathing. I see this as a flaw because there are times when we are off rushing somewhere and stressed at the same time. I may need a reminder to breathe during this time but the Spire won’t do it.
  4. Does not track your activity well and yet it tracks too well.
    • Let me explain. When I’m walking around, it doesn’t track my steps very well. And yet, when I’m sitting on my couch, my little movements or even my breathing counts as being active, so it doesn’t remind me to stand and stretch after having watched an entire movie.

I was desperately hoping that this device worked but unfortunately it does not do what needs to be done. I still support Spire and their innovations because they are going in the right direction, but I cannot, with good conscience, recommend this to my patients until all the kinks have been worked out.

Sciatica: Low Back Problem or Butt Problem

There is an epidemic happening in offices everywhere! There is a large number of people complaining of low back pain that radiates or spreads down to their foot. When a person suffers from such ailments, they automatically assume that they have sciatica. Hmmm… that may not be entirely true.

The radiating pain that you experience may indeed involve the sciatic nerve, but that may not mean that you have true sciatica.

TRUE SCIATICA

The sciatic nerve originates from the lumbar (specifically the third lumbar vertebra). When the 3rd lumber vertebra or L3 has a problem with its disc, it may pinch, impinge, or squeeze the sciatic nerve. This causes a low back pain and a radiating pain down the leg to the top of the foot as it is the direction the that nerve travels. When the problem arises from L3, it is sciatica. This problem can be caused by trauma, inflammation or something hereditary. This is a much harder problem to solve.

PIRIFORMIS SYNDROME

The epidemic, that is arising in offices everywhere, is the piriformis syndrome. I have said this many times before and I still believe it: the human body is the most efficient and smartest machine. The body knows when to regulate temperature and defends the body against bacteria and viruses. But as great as this machine is, it has a big flaw: the sciatic nerve is sandwiched between two muscles in the buttocks. These two muscles are the gluteus and pirifomis. When these two muscles get tight or spasm, they squeeze the poor sciatic nerve causing pain to radiate up the low back and down the leg (depending on severity). And one of the causes for piriformis syndrome is sitting too long at an office desk.

Office workers tend to suffer a lot from “sciatica.” This isn’t surprising. You sit staring at a computer screen all day long and because you have a deadline to meet you stay staring at your computer screen when you should stand. You are sometimes so immersed that you skip lunch, forget to pee and some of you hardcore driven office workers purposely deprive yourself of liquids so you wouldn’t have to pee. And so, you remain sitting for almost most of the 8 hours you are there to work. This causes weakening of the muscles all over the body which causes tightening of muscles, which then leads to pain.

Side note: tight muscles does not mean that the muscles are strong. It most often times means that it is so weak that it is in a constant state of contraction because if it relaxes it may not be able to support you.

The muscles that are getting especially weak are the muscles in the buttocks. It’s getting pancaked and weakened by the rest of your body weight. And after all that sitting, you stand, activating weak and lazy muscles. This can cause sudden tightening and spasms. Think of it this way. If you haven’t been weight lifting awhile (or ever) and a person suddenly tells you to lift 50 lbs off the ground, you would protest, too. And when the muscles in the butt protest, they tighten around the poor sciatic nerve and then BAM —>HELLO, PAIN!

STRENGTHEN AND STRETCH

Go back to basics. The best way to prevent piriformis syndrome is to  regularly stand and walk around every hour. During this time try doing some exercises that help strengthen the muscles in the butt. Exercises that help are squats and lunges. Go to this link for simple variations and instructions on how to do these exercises.

Stretching is also great at preventing tight muscles in the glutes. Go to this video to learn a quick stretch that you can do at work.

ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS

When the pain is unmanageable, getting acupuncture for your sciatica or piriformis syndrome is great. My patients have reports immense relief from acupuncture treatments.

Treatments differ from patient to patient and from acupuncturist to acupuncturist. But whatever the treatment, acupuncture bring great relief to patients suffering from sciatica. The reason for this is because underlying all of these treatments is a similar protocol and base. The acupuncturist is either trying to fortify the area or trying to move blood and qi to move the pain out of the site.

To have a better understanding as to how acupuncture works, please read this article.

Graceful Points

Slow Cooker Detox Stew

Mung beans are used throughout Asia as a great detoxing food. For instance, India has their kitchari, which is used as a way to cleanse and detox the body without starving. In Vietnam, a mung bean dessert is given at the end of a meal to help cleanse and cool the body from the meal. In China, mung beans are used to cool the body from the heat of summer. In other parts of the world, mung bean broths are drunk as a way to detox the body after a night out or a weekend of indulgence. In summary, mung beans rock!

I would like to share a simple mung bean recipe that I like to use when I feel the need to give my body an extra push. It can even be used as a hangover remedy.

Mung Bean Stew
1 cup mung beans
2 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth to make it vegan)
2 cups water
2 cups mixed vegetables
1/2 onion
4 cloves garlic (crushed/minced)
salt and pepper to taste

Wash mung beans and add to boiling water.
Cook mung beans for about 30 minutes and then add all other ingredients except for salt and pepper. Bring to boil then simmer for another 30 minutes or until mung beans are fully cooked. Add salt and pepper to desired taste.

Slow Cooker Method: Throw all ingredients into the slow cooker except for the seasoning (salt slows down the cooking process of beans) and cook on high or until the beans are tender for about 3-4 hours. Season to taste.

Option: Cumin, turmeric and basil are also good for seasoning if so desired.

Other than it’s wonderful detoxing and cleansing affects, it is full of protein and can be modified to anybody’s taste preference.

Graceful Points

A Few Easy Tips to Manage Stress

When I was suffering from excruciating pain and the doctors couldn’t find what was wrong with me, they chalked up to my being stressed and told me to stop stressing. But unfortunately, that is easier said than done. If I could stop stressing, I would. I don’t know anybody who wakes up and says, “Hmmm… I can’t wait to get stressed out today. Yay!” Nobody that I know.

Also, how does one escape stress. Stress is an everyday occurrence. You stress when you’re in traffic. You stress when your alarm doesn’t go off. You stress when your child gets sick. I can go on and on. So although not stressing is a wonderful way of curing many ailments, it’s not an option.

What is an option, is learning how to manage it. How you react to everyday stressors make a big difference from being ill to being healthy (mentally, spiritually, physically). Below is a list of simple things that you can do to help manage your stress.

  1. Breathe!
    1. Most people do not breathe properly. If you catch yourself sighing a lot, you may need to learn to breathe deeper and more effectively. Click here to learn how to breathe.
  2. Exercise
    1. Seems difficult but I’m not telling you to do crossfit or run a marathon. Exercise can be as simple as walking everyday, jumping on a trampoline (great for lymph detox), and playing with you Xbox Kinect.
    2. Find a physical activity that you enjoy and do it regularly.
    3. Endorphins are the happy hormones!
  3. Laugh
    1. Laughter is a cure for almost anything
    2. Find a movie that makes you laugh every time.
    3. Hold a pencil between your teeth
      1. This makes the muscles in your face mimic the same muscle movements as smiling. Studies have shown that this can trick the brain into thinking that you are happy and releases happy hormones that will eventually make it true.
    4. Be sure to surround yourself with those who make you laugh
  4. Eat GABA rich foods
    1. GABA is an amino acid that calms the nervous system down
    2. It will decrease your chances of being “wired”
    3. GABA rich foods are almonds, halibut, walnuts, mackerel, oats, walnuts, rice bran, any fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir,etc.)
  5. Get acupuncture 🙂

Graceful Points