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.

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

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

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture

Is your beauty masked by the effects of life?

In Chinese medicine, beauty is not defined by age or your waist size. Beauty is defined as having a clear face. A clear face would be bright eyes, a bright complexion and a bright spirit that shows through with a brilliant diamond-like clarity.

Facial Rejuvenation does not make you beautiful. We cannot make beautiful, what is already beautiful. So be mindful that the first step in facial rejuvenation is accepting that you are and always have been beautiful.

With these rounds of treatments we enhance the beauty that you already possess. We bring forth what has been hidden away due to… well, life! Pollution, stress, lack of sleep, etc., can all mask the beauty that is already there.

What it does:
Facial rejuvenation is able to bring back youth to the face because it revitalizes the qi, blood, energy and life force of the body. With facial acupuncture, blood flow and energy is brought back, not only in to the face, but also into the whole being. Aging is reversed or prevented, by reversing or preventing the effects of an unbalanced life or lifestyle. And there are the wonderful side benefits of less wrinkles and a glowing complexion.

Facial rejuvenation brings back the youthful glow and muscle tone of the face. By placing small hair thin needles into the face, a micro injury is created, which then calls forth blood and collagen to rush to the site to heal it. in this process, an increase in collagen and blood circulation tightens the skin and opens up fine wrinkles and softens up deep wrinkles.

Who it is for:

  • Those in their 20s and 30s: prevent early aging signs, clear acne, look years younger
  • Those in their 40s and 50s: minimize the appearance of fine lines and bring back a youthful glow, look years younger
  • Those in their 60s and 70s: soften the appearance of deep wrinkles and rejuvenate a dull complexion, look years younger.

This is great for both men and women.

What to expect:
In your first consultation, we will determine the the constitution of your skin and body. This will determine the basis of the course for your treatments. Nutritional and skin care advice will also be given based on this first consultation.

  • Needles will be placed in the hands and feet for constitution.
  • Needles will be placed in the face.
  • Treatments will last for 30 minutes once the needles are in.
  • Each session will end with a face acupressure massage using a specially made cream

You will begin to see a slight difference from the 1st treatment and a significant difference by the 8th treatment. For optimal results, it is recommended that 10 treatments be completed either twice a week or once a week. The results will last for a year. Single follow-up treatments are great for maintenance or to look refreshed before a big event.

Call 562.473.5371 for more information and ask for Grace.

Graceful Points

PMS (Chinese Medicine Infographic)

PMS (Chinese Medicine Infographic) | Piktochart Infographic Editor.

I just had to share the above link! It beautifully represents how acupuncture works on PMS. Many thanks to licensed acupuncturist, Patricia Kowal for putting this together.

Here’s a quick run down:

  • 85% of women experience PMS.
  • PMS symptoms range from physical symptoms to psychological symptoms
    • It isn’t a fun ride to be on every month
    • It usually goes away as soon as the period start or can be ongoing and even occur after
  • There are different reasons as to why PMS occurs in some women
    • Stress
    • Too much cold in the body
    • Too much heat in the body
    • Physical exhaustion
    • and more
  • Acupuncturists recognize the myriad of reasons as to why PMS occurs and customize treatments to each individual’s pattern
    • PMS is seen as a symptom of another dysfunction in the body
    • Herbal formulas may be given on a case by case basis to supplement acupuncture treatments.

I hope you enjoyed the infographic as much as I did.

Graceful Points

Digestion: The Boiling Pot

“Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea!” -Pepto Bismol

Do you find yourself reaching for that bottle of pink liquid that tastes of sadness? Do you find yourself popping so many Tums that you might one day poop chalk? If you said yes to either of these questions, then this is the article for you!

Most Americans suffer from heartburn, gas, bloating and indigestion because of the aptly named SAD diet. SAD stands for Standard American Diet. This unhealthy diet consists of high fats, low fiber, and a lot, and I mean A LOT of processed foods.  The human body is a great and highly efficient machine. But you throw enough junk into a machine, it will grind to a halt and make a great mess of noise (yes, I am making a farting reference) in the process. Not only are you feeling gassy and bloated, you may have constipation or diarrhea, bad breath, bad body odor, acne, etc.

Now you find yourself asking, “Well, should I be a vegan then? Should I go on a raw diet?” Before answering that question, we must look at how digestion works under the scope of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine views digestion like a boiling pot of water with a steady fire heating it underneath. The boiling pot of water is the stomach and the steady fire underneath is the Spleen. Digestion is optimal when the pot is in a constant rolling boil and the fire is consistent and strong. But when you mess with either, you end up reaching for the pink bottle of sadness.

First, lets look at how we could end up messing with the boiling pot, the stomach. Have you ever brought a pot of water to a boil and then accidentally kill that boil when you added a cold vegetable? Not only did that cold vegetable kill the boil, but it also took time to bring the water back to a boil. That is what happens in the stomach when you eat cold and/or raw foods. Examples of such foods would be salads, ice cream, uncooked veggies, slurpies, etc. Why did fruits and vegetables get thrown in to this list? Not because of the nutritional value (we love fruits and veggies) but for the temperature of the foods. They’re all cold.

[Before I press on, let me first explain what I mean by cold. All foods have a temperature. Temperature is not only based on how it feels in your mouth or hands but its affect on the body. For instance, ginger can be cold coming out of the fridge, but within the body, ginger has a warming effect. Another example would be the watermelon. It is great for summer, not only because you chilled it in the fridge, but because watermelon has a cooling effect within the body.]

When you eat foods that cool the stomach, your digestion slows and becomes sluggish. Then at the same time the fire, or spleen, has to increase its fire to bring the pot back to a boil, which takes energy away from the rest of the body to concentrate on the digestion. At this point, you feel sluggish and exhausted and have a lack energy after eating.

Cold foods are not the only culprit. Foods that are too hot or too spicy can also have a harmful effect. Examples of such foods would be fries, coffee, lamb, hot sauce, etc. When you consume an abundance of warm or hot foods, this action is similar to making the water in the pot boil over, making a big mess. Just imagine, you had placed all the ingredients into the pot and stepped away to come back to a messy stove with food stuck all over because some of it got burnt on the way down. And as the water boiled over, it also killed the stove’s fire. Now place what is happening in this scenario and translate it into your body. In this scenario, you now have heart burn, burps, and maybe even sluggishness. Sluggish, again?!? Yes, because the boiled over pot of water killed the fire, the body is struggling to start a new fire with a damp flint. And if you tax the body over and over again in a similar fashion, it will no longer have the strength to clean the mess and build the fire, which can later then result in other health problems (weight gain, body aches, headaches, eczema, and more).

Sometimes, the digestion may be poor due to other things rather than a diet consisting of bad foods. It could be genetic. You may have been born with a small fire to begin with (hypothyroidism possibly). Or you may not be eating enough to produce the fire (poor appetite, anorexia nervosa). Or you may be stressing your body out so much that you drain it from being able to do anything, let alone digest.

Since we have gone over what can make digestion go wrong, you’re asking, “What do I do?”

First of all, eat whole foods. Eat a well rounded meal. Eat a naturally colorful meal (not fruit loops), such as a medley of vegetables. Eat foods that have been cooked by means of steaming, boiling, baking, slow cooking, stir frying (but with a moderate amount of oil). Stay away from processed foods. Try to cook more often so that you are aware of what you put in your body and feel more grateful for the food that you are eating. So to answer your question at the beginning of the article, no, do not go vegan. TCM practitioners (acupuncturists, East Asian Medicine Doctors, etc.) strongly believe that eating a well balanced diet, that includes all foods (meat is allowed) in moderation as long as it supports the healthy function of the body.

If you are eating a well balanced diet and exercising regularly but still have issues with digestion, see an acupuncturist. There may be things that need to be addressed, such as eating the wrong diet for your body type or being unable to deal with the stress in your life that your body doesn’t function properly. Whatever the cause, a visit with an acupuncturist will address these issues to ensure proper digestion. Acupuncturist do not only stick needles into the body but prescribe herbs and teach their patients to live a healthy lifestyle.

For more information, come to Graceful Points for a free consultation.