5 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Make You Pain Free

Suffer from pain? Whether it's menstrual pain, low back pain, or pain in your head, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help!

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Why Everyone Should Be Taking Herbs, Even You

Herbs are amazing, and completely underrated.

We've all been told to eat our basil and parsley with dinner, but how many of you are taking your Turkey Tail mushrooms, Turmeric, Astragalus root, Cordyceps or Rhodiola?

These unpronounceable herbal remedies are more than just seasonings or added flavor to your turkey loaf, these substances are DNA-changing, immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol and blood pressure lowering, anxiety alleviating, stress adapting, brain bolstering, memory enhancing, cancer fighting, disease preventing super plants.

acupuncture in chicago

 

There’s A Lot Against Us

With all the processed foods, inflammation, toxicity, sedentary lifestyles, stressful jobs, constant work, lack of play, and over-medication, of course our bodies are rebelling. And our illnesses are just your body’s way of saying, “STOP! I need a break from all this shit!”.


With a change to our diets and lifestyle we can completely transform the way our body interacts and expresses itself. All we have to do is put down the Twinkies and stop binge watching 10 hours of television at a time. It was Thomas Edison who said, “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” What a genius! He’s probably rolling in his grave at the thought of Pop Tarts, Doritos, and Meat Lover’s Pizza. He’d all at once rejoice at the innovations we have created and cry at the absurd laziness and lack of forethought when it comes to our own health and wellness. I mean, we created the Waffle Taco. Humans are gross.


 Health is a symptom of your body working. Illness is a symptom of unbalance. How many of us eat a diet of solely organic, local vegetables and fruits, exercise and move our bodies on a regular and weekly basis, sleep 7-9 hours per night, while taking time out to socialize with friends and family, meditating, and making room to play and do what we love? Yes, adults need to play too. If this person exists, they’re a dreamy unicorn, with undeniably good skin, and I want some of their magic.

While it may be extremely difficult to live the perfect unicorn lifestyle, there are tricks or hacks we can use to make us more prepared for our modern life, and some of these hacks include herbs. Tinctures made from plants are a great way to propel your body back into balance. Herbs have been shown to:
Reduce inflammation, promote blood flow, reduce tumor and cancer growth, lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, improve brain function, increase memory, delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, positively change your gene expression and more!

These plants basically turn you into a badass, super-powered, undercover health ninja. Who’s in?
Herbs obtain various chemical compounds as unpronounceable as polysaccharides, saponins, flavonoids, phytosterols, essential oils, micronutrients, anti-oxidants, thiosulfinates, anti-amyloids, polyphenols and more. Herbs such as turmeric and ginger have become research darlings, with study after study showing the unbelievable health benefits associated with taking these medicinal plants on a regular basis. Who knew?
 

Well…herbalists knew.

 

Rich Traditions

Chinese herbalism dates as far back as 5,000 years, the third oldest form of medicine, only following the Egyptian and Babylonian medical traditions. The discovery of the oldest known list of medicinal herbs can be denoted to the legendary emperor Shen Nung in what is called the Shennong Ben Cao Jing (c. 3000 B.C.). Named the father of Chinese agriculture and leader of the ancient clan, he literally tasted hundreds, if not thousands of herbs to test the medicinal properties of each plant, and which were safe and which were poisonous. Talk about being a team player…there’s no ‘I’ in Herb.

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This rich tradition of herbalism was created from the detailed observation of nature with trial and error, together leading to thousands of years of case studies and proven remedies.
Be it Western or Eastern herbalism, the ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians or Native Americans, all traditions were passed down from generation to generation, healer to apprentice, professor to student.

There are hundreds of thousands of species of plants known today, with more being discovered every year. Countless of unknown plants exist in the world unbeknownst to us, and with healing properties yet to be discovered. Some herbalists go as far as to believe for every human illness that exists, so too does a plant which is able to cure it.

And while hundreds of years ago humans regularly ingested over 100 species of plants and herbs to keep them healthy, today it’s down to 10-20. We are missing out on the integral elements of nutrition and health-promoting parts of our diet and lifestyle. No wonder there’s an epidemic of chronic illness—-our bodies don’t have the necessary tools to work properly. How many of us make sure our cars get the right fuel, oil and care in order to make sure they run smoothly for as long as possible. For many of us, we expect our bodies to run smoothly, but without the same maintenance and care and without the proper fuel.  

Don't Worry, Be Herby

But now the secret is out, and you are savvy to the immense healing benefits that herbs and plants have to offer. And with the right help from a knowledgeable herbalist and practitioner, you will be given the best quality herbs and the right ones for your specific needs. There's immense research out there confirming the health benefits of herbs and plant medicine, but why wait to use them?

Learn more about herbs and what they can do for you by contacting Michelle today.

 

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Why You Should Start Eating More Turmeric

The Spice of Life

Want to get rich, travel the world first class and finally have friends?

You can't do any of those things by taking Turmeric, but you CAN help prevent cancer, alleviate arthritis, reduce inflammation and pain, prevent Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases while simultaneously eating delicious food. Are you sold yet?

Turmeric is one of the most amazing spices on earth, and one of my favorites in the Chinese Materia Medica. If you don't already know, this is Goliath when it comes to research, having been cited in thousands of papers. The amount of information on this tiny plant is astounding, but not as incredible as what this beautiful yellow spice can do. Listen up, folks. This post is important!

Here's a little infographic explaining some of the most valuable aspects of turmeric and it's properties. 

The benefits of turmeric (1).jpg

 

Why is it so amazing?

The potent active ingredient in the spice is actually called Curcumin---it’s what gives turmeric the annoying yellow color that stains your kitchen counters and loses you part of your security deposit.

 Research within the last half century has proven that most of the benefits, once associated with turmeric, are due to its constituent curcumin

As a herbalist, I'm not a fan of the nutraceutical ideal---where emphasis is placed on isolating parts rather than using the whole. It is in my belief that the plant works synergistically offering the most benefit as a whole, rather than extracting one of its components and using it in isolation.

 However, the extensive research on curcumin has been enlightening.  Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anticancer activities having a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic illnesses. There are literally thousands of research papers studying the effects of turmeric. Learn more about turmeric and Alzheimer's here. Turmeric and cancer, here. Turmeric extract and the prevention of type 2 Diabetes, here. Turmeric in the treatment of digestive disorder here. You get the idea...the list is endless. 

 Amazing, right? This herb is so unbelievable that many people have dubbed it "The Spice of Life."

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SpiceGirls-O2Arena-Jan2nd08.jpg You're welcome

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SpiceGirls-O2Arena-Jan2nd08.jpg

You're welcome

 turmeric vs curcumin

Turmeric is a herb with origins stemming from Southeast Asia, making a cameo in many of your favorite curry dishes. Curcumin, however, is a constituent of turmeric which has been found to have many of the researched health benefits. Think of turmeric as being Clark Kent while curcumin is Superman.

But, curcumin only makes up around 2-6 percent of turmeric. So, what's a person to do, how much should you take?

Dosing

 So how can you get the most benefit? Should you stock up on boxes of turmeric and start hoarding them in your basement? How many pills should you cram in your mouth in order to feel the inflammation disappearing in your body? Good news, you can relax. Keep eating your favorite curry dishes and enjoy the benefits of the "spice of life" while gnawing on your chicken tiki masala. You're getting benefits even if you're not injecting yourself intravenously. *Note* If you are cooking with turmeric, make sure to cook with fat and/or pepper in order to get the best absorption rates! And remember, the safest way to take any herb or supplement is via its original form---as a food or spice. 

I remember a nutrition professor commenting on the extremely low rates of four common cancers (colon, breast, prostate, and lung) in areas of India with high rates of turmeric consumption--- high rates of turmeric consumption being a couple teaspoons a day---for a family. Nothing extraordinary. They didn't have special pills, they just had a culinary preference which led to 10 times lower cancer rates.

In fact, prostate cancer, the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. men, is rare in India and this is attributed, in part, to the curcumin in turmeric. Additionally, villagers who eat turmeric in their daily curries have the lowest rate of Alzheimer's disease. It's really not necessary to go overboard in order to reap the full benefits. Stop snorting the turmeric!

But if you want to get the full shebang, the grand slam benefits of what curcumin has to offer, look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. It's also important to add pepper or Bioperine in order to get the best absorption rate. I like this product.

As far as how much to take, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests taking 400 to 600mg doses up to 3 times a day, or as directed by the product. 

****You must always be careful when taking a purported "drug" or "supplement"---especially when there's money to be made. You have to find a quality product and be careful on dosing yourself----it should be a supplementation to your current regimen, not an abused or over-used substance. Don't become the turmeric "guy" waiting for your next fix---there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! ****

Turmeric Tea

Not sold on the turmeric supplements? That's just fine, why not try turmeric tea?

This is a recipe from Okinawa, one of the world's longest living regions. Okinawans drink copious amounts of turmeric tea. Some brew it fresh, but others simply buy cans or powdered instant versions of unsweetened tea from their local stores. If you would like to try it, here's a recipe. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients until you find a combination that suits your taste:

Turmeric Tea!.png

Looking for more recipes with turmeric? Go to my recipe's page here for more options!!

Where does this stuff come from?: A Brief History Lesson for You Nerds.

From its original home of Southeast Asia to its current ubiquitous use around the world, turmeric has had quite a journey. Aryurvedic medicine has been utilizing the herb for around 4,000 years, eventually reaching China’s medicinal texts at around 700 AD. The journey extended to East Africa and then West Africa, eventually landing in Jamaica in the 1800s.

Now, you can find it everywhere, with millions of people around the world disappointingly attempting to recreate their favorite curry dish. 

Even Marco Polo was Dazzled by turmeric, commenting on its similar qualities to saffron.

"Wow! This plant looks really similar to saffron! Cool!"- Marco Polo

In Sanskrit, turmeric has over 50 names, with some of my personal favorites being “harita” which translates to ‘greenish’, mangalprada (who bestows auspiciousness) and vishangi (killer of poison). If that's not a good marketing technique, I don't know what is. 

In Indian culture, the importance of turmeric goes far beyond medicine and its healing properties. The Hindu religion sees turmeric as auspicious and sacred. There's even a wedding day tradition in which a string, dyed yellow with turmeric paste, is tied around the bride’s neck by her groom. This necklace, known as a mangala sutra, indicates that the woman is married and capable of running a household. The tradition still continues in Hindu communities and has been compared to the Western exchange of wedding rings---way more economical version of wedding rings. In parts of southern India, a piece of the turmeric is worn as an amulet for protection against evil spirits.

From India to the stains on your kitchen counters, turmeric is quite an amazing herb, and everyone should be using it generously. Try sprinkling the spice on your eggs, making turmeric tea, or get creative and make turmeric cookies! (Please e-mail me if you decided to make turmeric cookies, I want to know the outcome.) Or, try my favorite Turmeric Scrambled Eggs recipe! 

Either way, this is something that shouldn't be overlooked, but rather used in your kitchen on a regular basis. Get with the turmeric program and live an extra decade, would ya?

like this post? please share! have any ideas for future posts, let me know!

I'll try (almost) anything once!

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Concussions: What Happens When You Hit Your Head?

A Legend Disappears

dave-duerson.jpg

Dave Duerson played for the famed '85 Chicago Bears team, winning the last Superbowl the city has seen. A third-round pick out of Notre Dame in the 1983 draft, Duerson shuffled his way into legend status playing in four Pro Bowls, winning the Superbowl again, this time with the New York Giants, and finally ending his career with the Arizona Cardinals.

Duerson had a great career and a good life, or so it seemed. He became a successful businessman and even entered the Harvard executive program, where he would jet-set to Cambridge, Massachusetts for months at a time to attend class and schmooze with other entrepreneurs. He bought himself a mansion in Highland Park, IL, right near Michael Jordan and placed his NFL number '22' along the driveway, displaying his fortune and legend status for all the world to see.

However, things began to unravel. 

Not long after all his success, he experienced divorce, lost his business, and had his mansion foreclosed on. There were drastic shifts in his personality becoming increasingly depressed and extremely temperamental, even snapping at his wife Alicia and sending her to the ER with cuts to her head, dizziness, and pain. Duerson was charged with several misdemeanor counts and later pleaded guilty to domestic battery. 

After the divorce, he fled to Florida where he hid out alone for months at a time, only returning to Chicago to visit his kids. Duerson would continually suffer from ravaging headaches and unsettling dizzy spells. His once photographic memory was shot, often having to ask for directions in the city he lived in for decades, and his health additionally suffered when he could no longer sleep. At first he chalked this all up to aging but became increasingly concerned as time went on.   

Things were not looking good for Duerson, but he wasn't one to give up. 

That is until February 17th, 2011. 

Tragedy

On the night of February 17th in his beachfront Florida condo, Duerson closed his curtains, laid a shrine of framed medals and an American flag in honor of his father (a WWII vet), and then laid in bed naked where he placed a sheet over his body. He proceeded to take a revolver and shoot himself in the chest. 

At 3 pm the next day, his body was found lifeless on the bed. Only one big pool of blood beneath him showed any evidence of anything amiss---the rest of his house was immaculate. The Miami-Dade police force stated they had never seen a suicide executed so well and so meticulously. 

Right before his death, Duerson sent out texts to friends and family asking that his brain be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease tied to depression, dementia, and suicide. And most likely caused by concussions

Just Part of the Game?

Duerson played football for decades, and had multiple minor concussions but was never hit hard enough to knock him out cold. How is it that he suffered so fantastically if he was never 'badly' injured? New research is shining a light on the major effects of  even the slightest hits to the brain. 

The Research

Patrick Bellgowan is a researcher at the University of Tulsa's Laureate Institute for Brain Research where he scans the brains of college football players and compares them to non-players.

Dr. Patrick Bellgowan

Dr. Patrick Bellgowan

Bellgowan's research specifically focuses on the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays an important role in memory formation and emotional control. It's well known that the hippocampus can be very sensitive to brain injury and that shrinkage of the region is considered a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease as well as correspond with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy; a neurodegenerative disease considered linked to football, boxing, and other contact sports.

Nevertheless, what Bellgowan found in his research astounded him so much he double checked the results, believing the scanners to be broken. Despite his previous knowledge of brain injuries, this new information was stunning.  In a group of 25 college football players with NO history of concussions, the hippocampus's were on average 14 percent smaller than those of the control group who had never played any contact sports. 

If a football player without any history of concussions can have a hippocampus 14 percent smaller than the control, what about the football players who actually received concussions? Well, the football players who received at least 1 concussion, on average, had a 25 percent hippocampal shrinkage compared to the control group. 

To put this number into perspective, Bellgowan says that this number of 25% is:

 

"....A LARGER DIFFERENCE IN VOLUME THAN THE VARIATIONS

SCIENTISTS HAVE OBSERVED BETWEEN THE BRAINS OF HEALTHY PEOPLE AND

PATIENTS SUFFERING FROM ALZHEIMER'S OR SEVERE DEPRESSION."

In essence, these kids' brains were showing the same amount of damage as someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease. And diseases like Alzheimer's will often present with hippocampal shrinkage years or even decades before symptoms present themselves---so are these scans predicting these young men's fate? Are they destined to end up with a neurological disease?

The research being conducted by Bellgowan is just the tip of the iceberg of what is being examined in the whole scientific community related to brain injury and concussions. Not only is research pointing towards a higher risk of Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's and other neurological disorders, but these brain injuries are showing how they are emphatically changing one's personality; concussions and subconscious blows to the head can alter mood, cognition, and behavior causing structural damage to the brain. 

The amount of investigation on the subject is startling, enough to make you want to wear a helmet while going to the toilet. And even if you were the kid who hated sports, but was forced to play for good 'sportsmanship' ---even you, if you got hit on the head or accidentally got smacked by the ball can have some damage to your brain. Scared yet?

 

A Review of the Findings

There have been so many reviews and research done on brain injuries, I've decided to present some of the findings below. Get a cup of coffee or some wine and beer for this one, it's going to take a while. If you are someone who likes to skim text, I bolded the most important takeaways from each study.

  • One study found that teens with a history of concussions are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression as teens who have never had a concussion. 
  • Another study published in PLOS ONE by Jeffery J Bazarian from the University of Rochester found that the effects of traumatic brain injury last for months after the initial trauma. "There is a valid concern that six months of no-contact rest may not be enough for some players." After observing the brains of ten Division III University of Rochester football players before the start of the 2011 season, at the conclusion of the season and after six months of no contact rest found that their brains were still not fully recovered. 
  • A different study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Neurology looked at 50 concussed patients compared to 50 healthy people. They also found that the brains of those suffering concussions showed abnormalities 4 months later, even after their symptoms had already eased to some degree.
  • Research published in the Journal of Neurotrauma looked at retired professional football players that compared the number of concussions sustained during their careers and health problems associated with hormonal deficiency. They found that repeated concussions and mild brain trauma can result in reduced levels of growth hormones, gonadotropin, and testosterone, causing disorders such as metabolic syndrome, erectile dysfunction and overall poor quality of life. 
  • According to the University of Pittsburgh's Brain Trauma Research Center, more than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually in the U.S., and the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent per year of play. More than 62,000 concussions are sustained each year in high school contact sports. Among football players, 34% have had one concussion and 20 percent have endured multiple. 
  • A Study at McGill University in Montreal found that 60% of college soccer players reported symptoms of a concussion at least once during the season. The study also reports that the concussion rates of soccer players were comparable to that of football players.
  • Another study found that concussions are likely caused by many hits over time and not from a single blow to the head, as commonly believed. Which is how a player like Dave Duerson was able to sustain traumatic brain injuries even though he never had a real "concussion."
  • Research presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that damage to the brain caused by a concussion can last for decades after the original head trauma. Even when symptoms of a concussion appear to have disappeared, the brain is still not yet healed. There is abnormal brain wave activity for years after a concussion, as well as partial wasting away of the motor pathways which can lead to significant attention problems.
  • A report found in the Journal of Sport Medicine found that loss of consciousness is NOT an important predictor to how bad a concussion is. People who experience no loss of consciousness may have the same or worse head trauma as those who do experience a loss of consciousness. 
  • Researchers looked at the number and cause of concussions reported among soccer players of 100 high schools across the U.S. between 2005 and 2014. They calculated there were 627 concussions among girls and 442 among boys. The rates of concussions in girls' and boys'high school soccer had risen over the nine-year study period and is the second leading cause of head injury among female athletes. It's important to note that most of the head injuries were caused by body contact between players and not necessarily heading the ball.
  • A study out of the University of Illinois asked  90 college-aged athletes (male and female) to complete a series of tests which measure cognitive dexterity while the researchers measured the electrical activity in their brains. The athletes played a myriad of sports, even track. About half of athletes had been given at least one diagnosis of a concussion and the other half had no previous concussions. Many of the injuries occurred years earlier, and none of the students had any lingering symptoms, and each student performed adequately in college. In the actual testing, the concussed students performed just as well as the uninjured athletes. BUT, when researchers looked at the electrical activity of the brains of those who were previously injured, they found they showed noticeably less activity in portions of the brain associated with attention. It's speculated that as a result of the injury, they were most likely devoting a greater percentage of their total mental reserves to each task than the uninjured students. Could this accelerate the process of declining mental reserves as we age?
  • Dr. Broglio from the University of Illinois found that collegiate athletes who suffered concussions years in the past now displayed small deficits in their balance or walked slightly different than uninjured athletes. They kept both feet on the ground as if attempting to steady oneself with each step. 
  • The Medical Journal of Pediatrics reported that around 375,000 children and teenagers are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for basketball-related injuries. Notably, the amount seeking care for head trauma is on the rise. These numbers are high and still leave out the many thousands injured who are treated at clinics by athletic trainers, family doctors, and pediatricians.

  • Teenagers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion have a significantly higher risk of attempting suicide, being bullied, becoming bullies themselves, using alcohol or marijuana, engaging in antisocial behavior, being prescribed anxiety and/or depression meds and seeking help for mental health issues from crisis help lines. 

Okay, you get the point. There are TONS of studies regarding brain trauma and concussions, and I could go on for 15 more pages, but I'm sure you're done with that bottle of wine by now. 

The NFL and the Boogyman

Concussions have been in the news a lot recently, with reports of NFL players falling prey to their injuries 20 years after playing in the league. Men like Duerson and Junior Seau committed suicide by shooting themselves in the chest in order to preserve their brains for research.

Even Hollywood is getting in on the action, with a new movie creatively called, "Concussion" which hits movie screens this year and chronicles the efforts of forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu on his discovery of a new disease plaguing football players. He famously investigated the brain of Pittsburgh Steeler's player Mike Webster, who suffered a similar fate as Duerson. Living like a vagabond later in life, Webster was a drug addict who became severely depressed and eventually attempted suicide.  The similarities between these football player's lives and their ultimate demise were too familiar. Omalu knew that something was amiss and had to find out what it was.  

Dr. Bennet Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu

Despite normal MRI and CT scans, lack of contusions, regular folds of gray matter and lack of shrinkage, Omalu had to further investigate these football player's brains more than ever before. It didn't make sense; how can they sustain so many head injuries, suffer from emotional, temperamental and cognitive changes, yet show up normal on all these tests? 

After months and months of endless slicing, probing, staining and microscopic research he finally discovered what was plaguing all these athletes: large accumulations of tau proteins. A kind of sludge, clogging up the brain, killing cells in the regions responsible for mood, emotions, and executive functioning. This is why people with traumatic brain injuries go nuts.

Literally the NFL's boogie monster, the organization took to Mafia-like tactics in order to sweep under the rug the damage being done by the sport. Omalu was accused of fraud by the NFL, threatened and even taunted with claims that he was practicing "Vodoo." 

This stuff is very scary, but the scariest part is how concussions (and bad ones) are not soley relegated to professional realms of football players or boxers. Any one of us can get a concussion, and we don't have to be knocked unconscious to be vulnerable to its effects. Whether it be a car accident, fall, spill, workplace injury or banging your head against your cabinet, they can all lead to concussions and its ensuing effects.

 

The brain. The most miraculous part of our body allows us to touch, feel, hear, see and love. But it's also the most tender organ, vulnerable to the outside world. Basically just a spongy mass of tissue surrounded by fluid, it moves independently of the skull, suspended in space. 

 

Every time you hit your head your brain smashes against the inside of your skull. Helmets don't protect against concussions, they just keep your skull from cracking open (which is good, but not good enough). Just imagine what happens when a football player gets rocked to the ground.  Watch Greenbay Packer's player Jermichael Finley as he struggles to stand up and walk after getting hit in the head during a play.

And concussions simply aren't bruises to the brain. They are worse. They're a disruption of the intricate signals and chemical systems that constitute normal brain function. And you don't have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Just because you don't see stars or hear buzzing in your ears, does not mean you're free from suffering a traumatic brain injury. 

What's worse is that having one concussion significantly increases your risk of having another. And multiple concussions are associated with an increased risk of post-concussion syndrome----where symptoms persist for years or decades, possibly forever altering brain chemistry.

Concussions happen in all sports

Concussions happen in all sports

Concussions and Our Kids

A lot of attention has been given to the professional sports leagues, but this doesn't mean that head injuries are relegated to their stature. Head injuries can happen to anyone, especially anyone playing a contact sport, meaning most sports. Kids are the most defenseless to head injuries, with more vulnerability and much more to lose.

But if you think the majority of head injuries happen to boys, think again. Female athletes are TWICE as likely to get a concussion while playing soccer (a sport many consider to be safe), lacrosse or ice hockey. And the next time you think cheerleading is a harmless activity spent on the sidelines, it's probably the most dangerous of them all. In 2011, 37,000 cheerleaders were taken to the ER, many from being dropped, kicked or hit in the skull from aerial maneuvers. And you know their bows aren't protecting their skulls from cracking open. 

                                      Cheerleaders are just as vulnerable to head injuries.

                                      Cheerleaders are just as vulnerable to head injuries.

Robert Cantu is a Colombia and Harvard-trained neurosurgeon who recently published, "Concussions and our Kids." Cantu owns a practice outside Boston treating kids and their concussions on a daily basis. According to Cantu, 90% of kids who have concussions heal fine with proper rest and precautions, but it's the other 10% we should be extremely worried about:

"For reasons not understood, though, the remaining 10 percent contract the malaise called post-concussion syndrome, or PCS. Every day in his office at this suburban hospital a half-hour west of Boston, he sees boys and girls with some of the 26 symptoms on the PCS checklist. Fatigue, dizziness, memory failure; lightheadedness, nausea, lack of focus: these can linger indefinitely in shifting clusters, costing patients a year of school or even more. The bigger blow, however, is to their mental development. 'There's an epidemic of kids whose normal trajectory is permanently stunted by head injury,' says Cantu. Over time, some 'pass grades again and are thought of as fine, but might have been superior instead of average."

The stories surrounding young athletes is startling, with boys dropping dead at the age of 17 from brain hemorrhages---their brain just too vulnerable for another hit.

Even minor blows to the head, a little knock, can be dangerous.  If you already have a history of concussions, it sets off a cascade of worry, leading to brain loss, seizures, and death. This is called Second Impact Syndrome and only occurs to kids under the age of 25. While still being researched and not completely understood, it's thought to be due to the immaturity of the nervous system, an inability to handle the flux of ions and salts that a developed brain can. 

 

The brain needs rest

What's more, most athletes aren't given proper rest. Not only is physical rest crucial for the brain after a concussion, but so is mental rest. It's imperative to avoid all kinds of cognitive exertion. It may be hard to do nothing for days (including no video games, no reading, no television, no phones, no computers), but a failure of fully letting the brain rest sets you up for future concussions and post-concussion syndrome. 

And to make it worse, it's difficult to notice these negative effects to the brain. Many practitioners use symptoms, such as headaches, as diagnostic indicators of the amount of rest a player would need. However, symptoms can be useless when it comes to diagnosing and treating a concussion, especially when most concussions go un-noticed.

 

The Stages of Injury

  • Stage one of the disease is asymptomatic, an insidious killer that preys on these athletes. Many of the only symptoms only include a lack in attention----something that many teenagers and young folks are accused of. 
  • Stage two of the disease, around one's 40's, symptoms come about quicker and with more force. Loss of short term recall, loss of judgement, planning and coordination. This is a whole different kind of mid-life crisis. Depression comes into play as well as temperament changes, a lack in patience and frequent bursts of anger. 
  • Stage 3 comes along in your 50s with the brain shrinking in major centers. The Amygdala (emotion) and the hippocampus (memory) see deficits. 
  • Last but not least, the end stage. This is where you see dementia, ALS, Parkinson's, etc. Sufferers from CTE can live in an Alzheimer's like confusion and distress for decades.


Symptoms

Do you have a child that plays sports or do you yourself love a good game of badminton (why not?). If you are worried about your loved one (yourself included) how can you notice the symptoms of a concussion in order to fully treat one? Here are some of the common signs:

  • Mild to moderate headaches.
  • Drowsiness, dizziness or loss of balance.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Changes in mood (restless, sad or irritable).
  • Trouble thinking, remembering things or concentrating.
  • Ringing in ears.
  • Short term loss of newly learned skills.
  • Changes in sleep patterns. 

Remember: You do NOT have to be knocked unconscious to have a concussion. 

 

What Can We Do About a Concussion Once It's Already Happened?

If you've read this far, chances are this topic is hitting close to home. Either you or someone you know has suffered a concussion and are worried about the long-term effects. It's good to know, however, that 90% of athletes will be fine with proper rest and treatment. 

But what do you do if you've already had one or more concussions? Are there any preventative steps you can take to help your brain heal faster?

Eat for your brain

That's right, nutrition plays a huge role in brain health, and you may have heard that fish oils are good for your brain, or Omega 3's will help prevent Alzheimer's.The same rings true for concussions. Give your brain and body as many resources available to help itself heal. A concussion is a big stew of inflammation, so stay away from foods that further add fire to the flame.

Stay Away From These Foods: Anything fried, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, artificial colors and flavors (those are in most processed foods), vegetable oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, soy, corn, etc) refined carbohydrates (white and powdery stuff). This may sound restrictive, but if you have a concussion, it is imperative to start eating healthy.

Brain Foods: Coconut oil, avocado, grass fed butter, omega 3's, wild caught salmon, grass fed beef, nuts, seeds, all the vegetables, chicken liver, eggs.

The idea is to reduce the inflammation in the body and provide your brain with the necessary fats and nutrients it needs.

In the Journal of Neurotrauma, a study found that supplementing with DHA (Omega 3) immediately following a concussion, at 1000IU per day, may counteract the related cognitive decay, but they also found that supplementing before injury can protect the brain from even more deleterious effects. Remember that quality is key to any supplement and herb.

 

Chinese Medicine and Concussions

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are also strategies to help recover from concussions. Even the U.S. Military is deploying what they call "battlefield acupuncture" to help soldiers better recover from concussions in the field of action.

Developed by Air Force physician Col. Richard Niemtzow, battlefield acupuncture is being utilized for those who have suffered IED attacks, gun battles, and bombs. 

"It (acupuncture) relaxes me a lot. I always feel good after the treatment," Williams said. "The headache is gone. There's still some ringing in my ear, and I'm still working on the balance. But hopefully this week, I'll return to full duty, get back to my Marines."

Stuessi has treated 50 patients with acupuncture, at the specialist Concussion Restoration Care Center at Camp Leatherneck, and describes the results as "phenomenal." After one treatment, patients are often getting a full night's sleep and the headache is greatly reduced in intensity."

Acupuncture is allowing these soldiers to rest, something invaluable when you are trying to heal the brain. It's also noninvasive and allows the nervous system to "reset", turning off the "fight or flight" mode that most soldiers live in for years at a time. 

After concussions, the brain and body become severely imbalanced; the brain requires nutrients and oxygen from the blood, but during a concussion there is a contradictory response. The very time your brain needs more nutrients and oxygen, the body decreases the blood flow to the brain. This is where acupuncture and herbal medicine come into play, increasing blood flow and nutrition to the area. 

Acupuncture being performed on a Veteran 

Acupuncture being performed on a Veteran 

Acupuncture is also able to reduce the pain of headaches, returning patients to feeling how they did pre-injury. It's an important step in treatment allowing a drug free option for injuries that may last years, decades, even a lifetime. The side-effects of taking drugs on a daily basis for the rest of your life should be greatly considered, and acupucnture is a technique that offers pain-relief with no side-effects.

Acupuncture is not the only modality within Chinese medicine which can help those suffering concussions. Herbal medicine is another important factor when it comes to healing and protecting the brain. 

Herbs such as Bacopa monieri and Ginkgo biloba are great to be used as adjunct therapies as well as turmeric, drinking lots of green tea, and resveratrol. Bacopa is a plant used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and is mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts including one dating back to the 6th century. In this text, Bacopa was recommended to support cognitive (mental) performance and to help with concentration. Two randomized, placebo-controlled trials have looked into the effects of Bacopa extract. It found that in healthy volunteers between 18 and 60 years of age, it had a positive effect on mental performance. The maximum benefit was shown after 12 weeks. The speed of processing information as well as the rate of learning and memory all increased. In participants aged 55 to 70 years, Bacopa significantly supported healthy memory function.

Herbs like turmeric and green tea extract show promising results in animal trials. While these compounds are not necessarily known for their ability to enhance brain circulation, they have been shown to decrease CRP (C-Reactive Protein), an indicator of inflammation. Decreasing inflammation may be how these important herbs function. 

More research is always needed, and the quality of the herbs you use makes all the difference. Most of what you find on the market shelves won't get you the needed therapeutic effect, or won't work at all. This is why it's imperative to see an herbal practitioner who can get you the highest quality herbs with clinical knowledge. 

f you are interested in learning more about herbs for brain function and concussion, you can contact me here

Prevention

The most important aspect to treating a concussion is not getting one in the first place. Or, if you do get one, being properly treated and knowing when to rest and when to keep you out of harm's way.

It was once unthinkable to know exactly how many more hits your head could take in a season, or if it's really okay to start playing again after one, two or three weeks. But technology is changing quickly, and there are some amazing new innovations taking stage in the health world. You can find some of these technologies here and here.

Until technology catches up with your son playing football in Ohio or your daughter cheerleading in Minnesota, the best you can do is make sure your loved one is properly cared for, nutritionally and on the field. Every hit, even seemingly minor ones, can majorly affect your brain. Let's help prevent future Dave Duerson's and Mike Webster's from having to take their lives in order to overcome their brain battles. Prevention starts with education, so let's start talking. 

 

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Sitting is the new smoking?

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sitting is the new black lung

The newest craze in health declares how "Sitting is the new smoking" and all of us office dwellers are going to die lonely and painful deaths from our lack of sunlight and low back pain. Pale people with hip displacement aren't as eligible of bachelors as those who are tan and flexible, so get a standing desk and take your pasty butt outside once in a while because you are single and alone and going to get an occupational limp. (Full disclosure, I'm sitting while I write this.)

But, let's dig deeper than the headlines. Are those of us who work at desks destined to wither and perish decades before those of us who have more physical jobs? Maybe.

Let's be honest. You weren't meant to sit in an office all day long under fluorescent lighting while drinking instant coffee with fake milk, watching cat videos...or were you? Maybe you were born to watch cat videos all day and drink bad coffee, and if you believe this to be true, read no further. I commend you and your ability to stay on your true path. Rock on.

However, for the rest of us, these are not things we should be doing 8 plus hours a day, especially while seated. Our bodies are meant to be in motion, but the question is, how much should we move? What's the correct dose?

We Love to sit

There have been a surplus of studies to come out against our national obsession with sitting. And don't get me wrong, I love sitting. I love sitting on boats, in cars, on planes, couches, and on toilets. When a line gets too long, I always wish I could be sitting while waiting rather than standing while waiting. And nothing beats sitting on the commuter train after a long and tired day of working while sitting. I'm also a person who loves to walk. I love both walking and sitting. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

However, the reality is, we are all sitting too often. We wake up and sit, we drive to work sitting, we get to work and sit at our desk, go to lunch and eat our burritos sitting and then leave work just to sit in the car on the way home where we beeline directly to the couch for the rest of the evening. Nothing better to end a day then falling onto your couch to watch a whole season of Mad Men on Netflix. And don't get me started if you work from home. The sitting turns into lying flat on your back for 20 hours a day with only bathroom and Twinkie breaks to break up your horizontal lifestyle. 

But you might say, "I go to the gym everyday and workout for an hour. I'm fine." Not too fast, buddy! You aren't saved either---but I'll get to that later. The moral of the story is, we sit too much folks! On an average day, we are sedentary for 21 hours! And the number one excuse for a break from sitting on a chair is going to sit on the toilet. At least some of us get to stand while relieving ourselves.

We have clearly out-sit our welcome---let's get moving to the research.

Sitting So Much Should Scare You

A Look at The Research

Everyone has been talking about the research out of the 'Annals of Internal Medicine' which gathered information from 47 studies looking at the health effects of sedentary behavior. The results state that more than half of the average person's waking hours are spent sitting, and sitting will kill you. This includes all of our favorite activities: watching TV, working at a computer, commuting, watching "The Bachelor", knitting giant hats, etc. 

Okay, so we're all lazy, dur. But what does this mean? Well, the Canadian (ehhh!) researchers adjusted for different types of activity, from leisure activities, like playing Frisbee while listening to Phish, to more vigorous exercise. And even if you exercise on a regular basis, with strenuous efforts, they did NOT offset the negative effects of sitting all day. Running for an hour doesn't balance out sitting for 8. Uh Oh.

So... exercise is no good?

Not so fast. Exercise is still great for your health and has numerous benefits for your mind, body and triceps. But while exercise won't offset the negative aspects of sitting all day, NO physical activity at all makes things worse. The negative effects (like dying!) were even more pronounced in the people who did little to no exercise. Sorry sedentary folks---no easy out on this one.

Why is sitting bad for your health?

So what are the health hazards of hunkering your bottom down all day long? There are at least 24 chronic disease related to sitting. Some of the effects include; DEATH (okay, a little dramatic but ultimately true), cardiovascular disease, higher rates of type 2 diabetes, cancer, cancer-related deaths and even a higher risk of developing dementia.

And prolonged sitting (12 or more hours per day) has been shown to disrupt metabolic function, resulting in increased plasma triglyceride levels, decreased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and decreased insulin sensitivity (not good).

In conclusion, prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality. Shorter sitting times and sufficient physical activity are independently protective against all-cause mortality not just for healthy individuals but also for those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, overweight, or obesity.

Here's a great video explaining the effects of sitting all day long.


Is Standing Really the Answer?

Star Trek in your office

Star Trek in your office

Before you go out and drop 3,000 dollars on your next spaceship command center, a note on treadmill desks, standing desks and weird desks in general. First, are you really going to use them? Are you going to be that guy in the office who bought the standing desk? Seriously, there is a lot of pressure to being a pioneer, especially when it comes to physical feats. The moment you pull up a stool to reach your high desk and recline, the water cooler will be awash in high chair commentators.

Also, do you even know if you CAN work and stand at the same time? Personally, I find it difficult to write and stand at the same time. And let's not even talk about the treadmill desk. Every time you'll want to type something, your delete button will have to be ten times its current size so you can correct yourself every time you type "jello" instead of "hello".

And will the act of merely standing save your life? Well....not really. Kind of. Maybe.

Listen, hark back to the days when many Americans were standing at their jobs, factory or otherwise. At a time where working in an office was one of a distant dream, only for the most fortunate. The need for chairs increased due to all of the backaches, curvatures of the spine and varicose veins (Oh HELL no!).

Yea, there is no "perfect" way to be when it comes to work. We all have bad posture, and there was never a "glory days" when it came to getting the best spinal positioning at your job. People got hurt from standing too much, walking too much and being too active.

So what IS the best way to prevent all the maladies that come with sitting?

Basically, just get up and move every hour. You don't have to do much. Set an alarm on your phone and every 40 minutes, get up, walk around, say hello to John in the mail-room and then get back to work. That's it. Nothing fancy. No Star Trek themed desks.

Get up once in a while

Dr. Levine on his walking desk

Dr. Levine on his walking desk

Dr. James Levine pictured above---co-director of the Mayo Clinic at the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative and author of the book 'Get UP! Why your chair is killing you and what you can do about it.' (I can tell you what to do about it right now. Stand up.) 

Dr. Levine is the Guru of standing and has been studying the effects of your sagging butt for decades. When he first presented the idea that sitting was bad for your health, colleagues sent letters to senior faculty at the Mayo Clinic suggesting he was psychiatrically ill and was required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. Talk about a supportive community. Why all the haters?

Dr. Levine has since been redeemed with over 10,000 studies confirming what he had believed; sitting in and of itself can be harmful to the human body, separate of other good lifestyle habits. As Levine states:

"It can be quite disconcerting to realize that even if you dutifully go to the gym several times a week and are really fit, it is still not enough to counteract the many hours you sit during the rest of your day..."

Unsettling as this sounds, please continue going to the gym. But don't take one hour of physical activity as an excuse to sit on your butt for the rest of the day. You aren't doing anyone any favors. 

So what happens when you get up off your butt? Why is it so effective? To start, we were never meant to be confined in a chair all day long. Our bodies have evolved to move. And at a molecular level, when you get up from sitting for a while, a bunch of changes begin to happen. After 90 seconds of standing, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol—which are mediated by insulin—are activated. A cascade is set off that impact the cellular function of your muscles. The way your body handles blood sugar is beneficially influenced (this helps with Diabetes, for example). So if you are constantly sitting, your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol will always be too high, as well as increase your risk of cancer.

 the good news? all you have to do is get up. if you are sitting for an hour, that is too much. 

Set an alarm at your desk which goes off every 40 minutes. Take a walk around the office. Say hello to long lost friends, and make new ones. This can be a fun new activity for your office mates. Create treasure maps around the office and hide fun goodies like staplers, extra tape or tickets to see a speed walking event. Yes, those exist. It will be great motivation to move your body. 

Sitting doesn't have to be a death wish, just make sure to counteract it once in a while. 

A Note on Fidgeting

If you are a hopeless fidgeter who gets yelled at by strangers and family alike for the constant rattling of your foot against their chair, good news. You could be doing yourself a favor.

A new study of more than 12,000 UK women suggests that those who claimed to fidget the most were apparently protected against the ravages of being seated.  The women who sat still for hours on end were more likely to have died over the course of the study than those whose limbs tapped, wobbled and gently vibrated. (I once got yelled at in my University library for fidgeting; I couldn't stop rattling my leg while studying. Nervous habit. But joke's on him because I added 10 years to my life, sucker!)

In the study, 12,778 women aged 37 to 78 were asked to provide information on their average daily sitting time and to score the amount they fidgeted on a scale from one to 10, with one being “no fidgeting at all” and 10 being “constant fidgeting”.

The researchers divided the women into three groups, specifically low, middle and high fidgeters. Writing in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine:

"...the researchers found that women who sat for seven or more hours a day were 30% more likely to have died from any cause than those who sat for five or fewer hours, but only if they were low fidgeters. Those in the middle and high fidgeting groups had no greater risk of dying when they sat for the longer periods."

Annoying fidgeters for the win! I always knew I was doing myself a favor. That feeling of wanting to crawl out of your skin is merely a survival technique because your body is so smart. 

The moral of this story is to be smart and active when it comes to your health and your body. Be aware of how long you've been sitting in your chair. If there is a permanent groove in your seat that is the same size as your ass, you know it's been too long. Take this as an excuse for frequent breaks, a good physical and mental rest. And if you decide on spending money on the standing desk, make sure you use it! And don't just stand there, you still have to move around to get the full benefits of standing tall. Our bodies need movement, not just a repositioning into another static pose for 5 hours. 

 One last thing, if your boss gives you a hard time, tell them they are slowly killing you and it's all their fault. That usually works.

 

If you like what you read, please share and subscribe to my blog below! If you have any ideas for a future post, e-mail me! I'll try (almost) anything once!

 

 

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How Mushrooms are Going to Save The World and Your Health

awee_19/flickr creative commons

awee_19/flickr creative commons

A Turkey Tail Miracle

In 2009, a woman by the name of Patti Stamets found herself in an unenviable position. At the age of 84, Patti discovered her right breast was 5 times the size as her left and found six swollen lymph nodes the size of walnuts. Panicked, she called her son Paul, and had explained to him the situation----she didn't tell him sooner as he was 'always busy', and didn't go to the doctor as she was deeply religious. The last time she entered a doctor's office was in 1968, the year after the summer of love,  at an age where smoking was a national pastime. 

The two of them made arrangements to go to the hospital where doctors discovered stage 4 breast cancer, the second worst case the physician had ever seen, and gave Patti a diagnosis of only 3 months to live. She was too old to receive radiation, and couldn't have her breasts removed---there were few options moving forward. Patti was immediately placed on the drugs Herceptin and Taxol, started making funeral arrangements, and picked out a pine casket; the cheapest she could find as she didn't need anything more expensive. She knew she was going to heaven.

Then, the oncologist remembered a study conducted at Bastyr University in Seattle about something called turkey tail. Turkey tail was a mushroom studied for its effects on immunity and breast cancer and Patti was asked if she was willing to go on a regiment of turkey tail supplements. Patty laughed and proclaimed, "my son is the one who supplies turkey tail mushrooms to Bastyr! Those are my son's mushrooms."

Patty gladly went on a regimen of 8 turkey tail capsules per day, hoping to get some relief from the symptoms of her cancer and medications. 

Six years later, Patty is still alive today with no traces of detectable tumors. 

This story was told by Paul Stamets, one of the most famous mycologists in the world. Mycology is the study of mushrooms and Paul Stamets is the King of Mycology. He has studied and spread the gospel on mushrooms for the past 40 years, creating a cultural bridge between the soggy and sometimes misunderstood food, to potential world saving herb. Not only can mushrooms help save our health, but he claims they can help create safe pesticides, clean up oil spills, provide a defense against weaponized small-pox and break down PCBs among other things.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Stamets#/media/File:Paul_Stamets_with_Agarikon.jpg Paul Stamets with Agrikon mushroom

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Stamets#/media/File:Paul_Stamets_with_Agarikon.jpg

Paul Stamets with Agrikon mushroom

Mushroom Hunting Origins

My family originates from Poland, and I remember hearing stories of my mom's mushroom hunting past, spending hours in the forest searching for the edible varietals. It was an activity the whole family did together, scouring for mushrooms by day and eating their prize by night. They knew which were edible, which were poisonous and which were delicious. The things people did before 'Real Housewives of Orange County' marathons.

And little did they know these small bulbs of fungus were providing them with incredible and varied health benefits---benefits unseen to the human eye, not necessarily felt by the body, but so unbelievable as to be the stuff of lore. The activity of foraging for mushrooms was even more popular with my grandparents, as each successive generation has seen less mushroom hunting and more mushroom shopping from Costco. I've never hunted for mushrooms myself, but I love the thought of bringing home a bounty and declaring myself as, "Dog the mushroom hunter". I wonder about all the important nutrients missed out on as a result of not eating the amount and variety of mushrooms as previous generations.

Little cousin Clara with her bounty of mushrooms

Little cousin Clara with her bounty of mushrooms

What I do know is cultures around the world appreciate and relish the use of mushrooms as part of their culinary cuisine. I can't imagine a Polish meal without the thought of mushrooms, it would be sacrilegious. The edible fungus is a part of us, a part of our history and a big part of keeping us healthy. They've evolved with humans and have the potential to save us from our transgressions. So what exactly is so special about them?

"KostrzewskiFranciszek.Grzybobranie.1860" by Franciszek Kostrzewski - Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - 

"KostrzewskiFranciszek.Grzybobranie.1860" by Franciszek Kostrzewski - Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - 

Pictured above: previous generations of Poles enjoying their day mushroom hunting. What a life.

The Mushroom of Immortality                              

Possibly the most studied herb of all time, the Reishi mushroom is the stuff of fairytales. Highly regarded in ancient China and Japan, it's been called "The 10,000-year-old mushroom," "herb of spiritual potency", "divine mushroom," "mushroom of immortality," and "the supernatural mushroom." In Chinese, the herb is called Ling Zhi which translates as Ling: spiritual; spirit; soul; miraculous; sacred; divine, and Zhi: plant of longevity; seed; branch; mushroom. Given the various names associated with this herb, we know it's either something special, or over-hyped like the movie Chappie. (Yea, you have never heard of that movie for good reason).

By Eric Steinert (photo taken by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Eric Steinert (photo taken by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In Chinese medicine, reishi belongs to the category of 'tonics', a classification of herbs denoted for their ability to support foundational health, vitality, and immunity. And among tonics, reishi is king, capable of slowing down time and curing all ills. It's the unicorn of herbs.

Amongst herbalists, many rank reishi as superior, qualifying it as the highest quality substance across all circles, and Taoist priests were among the first to use it for its medicinal qualities claiming it as a powerful 'shen tonic' (shen signifies the 'spirit' in Chinese medicine) where the mushroom can literally nourish your spirit.

The amount of research done on reishi is short of miraculous, with many Chinese and Japanese doctors using it alongside modern Western pharmaceuticals for a myriad of diseases such as autoimmune disorders, cancer, as well as bacterial and viral diseases. And while the existence of a spirit can be debated eternally, reishi has been shown to help relax the mind, calm the nervous system and help the body adapt to stress; otherwise known as an adaptogen.

Adaptogens are an important classification of herbs, which must meet certain criteria; be completely nontoxic, and must have a broad use for health both mentally and physically. Adaptogens literally help the body adapt to stress; whether the stress be physical, like running a marathon, or mental the stress of watching Brittany Spears act in a movie. 

These substances are unique in the fact that no matter the circumstance, they will balance you. When you wake up in the morning and need a boost of energy, they will aid in your pick-me-up, but the same herbal adaptogen can turn around and help you sleep later that night. They help you relax when you are jittery, energize you when you are fatigued, increase your endurance, stamina, and even immunity. The most incredible aspect of an adaptogen is that they will adapt to your specific immune system needs. If you have low immunity or an overactive immunity, the same herb will know to balance, and over time help build a better overall immune response. If you have an autoimmune disorder, consider taking a Reishi supplement.

Reishi obtains over 400 active ingredients found inside (practically its own pharmacy!), and the amount of medicinal applications is astounding. Reishi has been researched in regards to:

  • Antioxidant properties and ability to enhance the immune response.
  • Reduce an over-reactive immune response often seen with autoimmune disorders.
  • Boosts immune system's vigilance against cancer cells.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Targeted benefit for Asthma (Hello Chinese medicine!).
  • Protecting the liver.
  • Various mental diseases caused by environmental stress
  • Alzheimer's
  • Diabetes
  • High altitude sickness
  • Alleviate symptoms of coronary heart disease
  • Chronic bronchitis

The studies continue on and on, with no lack of information and more research being conducted every day. Reishi mushrooms aren't the only fungi to have amazing benefits, though. Even the most innocuous, little mushrooms found inside your cheese omelette have numerous health benefits; button mushrooms have a high vitamin B complex and also the ability to protect against cancer and heart disease. Not bad for the most vanilla variety of them all. 

If you are interested in buying some reishi mushroom for yourself as a daily supplement, I suggest you purchase from no other than Paul Stamets. You can buy his products Here.

 

"Viruses not only challenge the immune system, but they reduce your defenses, making you more susceptible to other diseases. Moreover, mushrooms have immuno-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties that can help the immune system respond without going haywire. This area of research is very dynamic, currently, and we have high hopes for identifying a consortium of new fungal based active ingredients in 2009. At this point in time, it appears the beneficial compounds work synergistically. Mushrooms proffer a composite menu of benefits helping you stave off diseases." -Paul Stamets

 

Turkey Tail:

"The black and green Yun Zhi are beneficial to one's spirit and vital energy and strengthen one's tendon and bone. If taken for a long time, it will make you vigorous and live long."
-Compendium of Materia Medica (Ben Cao Gang Mu) by Li ShiZhen (15th century – Ming dynasty)

Luckily for us, these are some of the most abundant mushrooms on the planet. Called turkey tail due to the various colors reminiscent of (you guessed it!) turkey tail feathers, this is another block- buster mushroom, taking its deserved moment in the spotlight.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/35188692@N00/63524605/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/35188692@N00/63524605/

As experienced by Patty Stamets, turkey tail has been shown to be quite the immune modulator. The clinical study from Bastyr University (funded by the NIH), of which Paul Stamets helped supply, showed that turkey tail improves the immune systems of breast cancer patients. The multiyear study tracked whether or not turkey tail could positively affect the immune system of patients after they ended their radiation therapy. 

It was found to:

"Augment conventional therapies for treating breast cancer by increasing NK and CD8+T cell activity, suggesting that turkey tail mushrooms are an effective adjunct to conventional chemotherapeutic medicines and radiation therapy." -

This is HUGE news, and with absolutely no side-effects, turkey tail has been shown to be one of the most important health discoveries in the mushroom world since Penicillin was discovered from the Penicillin fungi. Turkey tail can not only help patients who currently have breast cancer, but it can also help prevent breast cancer.

We consider cancer a failure of the immune system…When they [turkey tail] are ingested into the body, they stimulate immune cells that line the intestines, and then those stimulate other immune cells all over the body,”

-Dr. Leanna Standish at Bastyr University.

Big news folks! Start taking your turkey tail today to help boost your immune system and start preventing cancer and other diseases. What's more, turkey tail is an anti-viral and has been shown to target HPV and Hepatitis C, both of which may lead to cancers. 

But that's not all. Like Reishi, turkey tail has a myriad of benefits including helping with upper respiratory tract infections, pulmonary disease, elimination of urinary tract infection, relief from digestive tract irritations and a remedy for lack of energy.

BUT You must look for a 100% organic product due to its uncanny ability to pick up heavy metals in bad quality soil. The one product I trust is, yet again, by Paul Stamets. Get it here.

 

The Zombie Mushroom

Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service, United States - SRS-4552, Bugwood.org

Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service, United States - SRS-4552, Bugwood.org

The grossest one of them all, Cordyceps will make your stomach turn and gag reflex appear so don't read this if you're eating cottage cheese. This is a dry post, please.

Cordyceps is not really even a mushroom, and I'll let BBC explain to you in this video below. Again, don't eat anything. Enoy!

As astounding, gross and gag-inducing as that was, people INGEST this stuff for their health and well-being. And while these fungal parasites are dangerous to your average insect, people are eating these zombie-like creatures for not only preventative care, but for added endurance and stamina. Still want to suck this down? No? Okay, more for me.

Why would anyone on this beautiful green earth take this revolting mushroom from hell? Because it will get you world records.

Traditionally it's used as a tonic, to help improve energy, libido, appetite, stamina, endurance and more. It's said to boost both yin and yang in Chinese medicine, making it a valuable medicinal that helps build up your resources and also help energize. There are over 400 varieties of Cordyceps, and as David Attenborough explains, each species of Cordyceps specializes in attacking a different insect; a specialization in death if you will.

In ancient China, only the rich were able to get a hold of it because it was so rare. Chefs would stuff ducks with Cordyceps and roast until well done for a delicious and satisfying menú del zombie. There's even lore surrounding this mysterious and magical substance for its abilities of resurrecting the dead. Now, that's a powerful mushroom.

Cordyceps has been found to be adaptogenic, can stimulate the endocrine glands (responsible for making hormones) as well as increase blood circulation and aid the cardiovascular system. They've even been shown to be a natural "Viagra", increasing the sex drive of men in bathtubs everywhere. It can improve sperm production and help regulate abnormal menstrual cycles. And old people everywhere in China take Cordyceps for fatigue in order to 'enhance their aerobic performance'.

Furthermore, in 1993, female Chinese runners achieved world records in the 1500m, 3,000m, and the 10,000m. How did they manage such a feat? By taking supplemental Cordyceps, or so they claimed.  While there will always be more need for research, a small UCLA study tried to study the effects of Cordyceps on fatigue, (look at the study here).  What did they find?

"These findings support the belief, long held in China, that Cordyceps sinensis has the potential to improve exercise capacity and resistance to fatigue."

Not bad! You too can become a record-breaking runner in the 1500m, 3000m and 10,000m and all you have to do is take Cordyceps and radically change your lifestyle to train 6 days a week, 7 hours a day. Good luck.

Watch below to hear Paul Stamets talk about cordyceps.

Mushrooms have evolved to help us heal, maintain health and prevent disease. What is it about fungus that always wants to help us foolish humans overcome large feats? Why are they so diverse in their functions, yet so effective at the same time? We'll never know, but as long as they're here and willing to help, we should take full advantage of their special abilities.

Want to know more about mushrooms and how they can help save the world? Check out Paul Stamets' book here.

And if you would like to purchase some mushrooms for your health, you can find the famous products below. I don't go a day without my mushroom fix, and Paul Stamets is where I get my supply. 

So many mushrooms, so little time

If you are looking for whole body support and preventative care, I suggest taking the 'Comprehensive Immune Support', or the 'Stamets 7'. I personally take the Myco Botanicals Women, to help support healthy 'female' tissues, if you know what I mean. However, you literally can't go wrong with any of these products, because if you have read this far, you understand each mushroom has the ability to help with a variety of things. I've put together a small list of which supplements you should be taking for certain ailments.

Autoimmune disorsders: Comprehensive immune support, Stamets 7 or Reishi

Prevention: Comprehensive Immune Support, Stamets 7 or Woman (to help support healthy breast tissue).

Fatigue: Cordyceps

Breast Cancer Support: Turkey Tail

Chronic Bronchitis: Reishi

Liver Health: MycoBotanicals Liver (pretty straightforward). 

 

 

I didn't cover every mushroom around, but if you are looking for some delicious, nutritious recipes for Maitake (another health powerhouse), shiitake (healthy again) or even button mushrooms, go here for a ridiculously easy recipe. 

 

Like what you read? Please share and pass along. Have any ideas for a new blog post? E-mail me! I'll try (almost) everything once!

 

 

 

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Take a Hike: Why You Should Walk The Camino de Santiago

If I Could Walk 500 miles...

September, 2014. I’m tossing and turning to the sweet lullaby of fifty people's raucous snoring--not something I imagined would become part of my nightly routine. The sounds were so loud, I wondered if many of them would survive the night.

My mind was on a continuous cycle of 'who's dead and who's alive'. “Their body’s are giving out, I just know it. Why are they hiking 20 miles a day if they can’t even breathe? He hasn’t taken a breath in 15 seconds, should I start resuscitating him?” 

It was almost useless attempting to recall the life-saving techniques of a CPR class I had taken years prior, mentally preparing myself for disappointing failure. “Where the hell do my hands go again? On the ribs? Do we still touch lips these days? What if they have mouth herpes? I’ve gone so long without getting mouth herpes, what if this is how I get it?”

The mind has a tendency to wander without proper sleep--- and for the past month I don’t think I’ve had any decent sleep. I’ve been hiking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain, where night after night is a re-creation of summer camp; 50 to 100 of the most randomly selected strangers all trying to sleep in tiny bunk beds. However, unlike summer camp for kids, this camp consisted of adults (many of whom, retirees) with bleeding limbs, bulk supplies of Advil and gauze, and a lack of proper breathing technique. Who knew so many people have sleep- apnea; it's amazing they all survived till the next morning. 

Take a Hike

 It was an attempt to unwind and get myself together after finishing 4 years of grueling graduate school. I finally had time to myself, and for some reason I thought to hike 20 miles a day for 5 weeks, alone, would be relaxing. Like a trip to the spa, but without the whole spa part. 

 I wanted freedom and room to mentally recover as well as an opportunity to physically test myself. What better way to test your boundaries than a hike across the Iberian Peninsula? Plus, there’s really good wine---so if the days are long and hard, at least the evenings would be short and memorable. 

For years, I dreamt of hiking along the Camino, wandering through beautiful vistas, drinking wine from local vineyards while eating cheese, ham, and other regional Spanish delicacies. All of this happened, yes.

But I also got a blister for every toe on my foot. I listened to grown men sleep-talk, I was daringly close to getting lost on the trail in 100-degree heat, and I learned the art of speed-walking to race hoards of tired and very driven 'pilgrims' in order to secure a bed for the night. Day after day I woke up at 6:00 am in total darkness to hike before the hot sun would scorch my skin. We didn't have the privilege of sleeping until 7 and slowly enjoy a cup of café con leche---that's just absurd. 

Why?

I spent so many years studying the human body, learning about the mind and speculating on all that could go wrong in an attempt to figure out what we can do to help fix it. In a way, I wanted to go on this hike in order to actually witness and endure what the body was capable of, go into the 'field' per se, and experience what was possible rather than read about it in text. 

I wanted to know exactly what would happen to my muscles after walking 20 miles a day. How does one actually prevent baseball-sized blisters? Would my feet eventually fall off in protest? Would all the knowledge I accrued in graduate school give me any advantage?  Did I even have the skill and technique to cure a headache or pop a blister? (shudder).

I wanted to know if I was strong enough, mentally and physically to walk alone for 500 miles. I wanted to prove I had the cojones to make new friends an ocean away, navigate myself towards a far- out destination and sleep in bunk beds used by thousands of people before me. Honestly, the latter was the scariest part of the trip----so many dirty bodies, heads, and FEET rested on the same light blue plastic mattress as myself. The thought was too much to bare, "just keep sleeping", "bodies are bodies are gross bodies". I was an expert at sleeping squarely on my bag---no leg spreading, no arms across the bunk---mummy style. 

They don't teach you about cooties in graduate school, but I have a Ph.D. in avoiding other people's funk; the Camino is one way to overcome your funky fears. How can I be a health care practitioner and be scared of other people's funk? Mental issues or idiosyncrasies (as I like to call it) work in mysterious ways. I can easily listen to a patient talk about their most recent bout of diarrhea and vomiting without so much as a blink of the eye, but sitting on the inside of a booth at your local watering hole makes me twitch; the idea of being next to the wall with gum and gunk causes slight palpitations. My life is about the aisle, easy access in and out. No-gook. 


Happiness in Simplicity

So here I was, trying to sleep in a powder blue bunk the size of a yoga mat, listening to 50 of the loudest snorers on earth. But I was happy. 

Hiking, day in and day out, with nothing but the worry of your next wine and cheese break is the antidote to modern life. If you are overwhelmed by it all, this is the injection you need. Walking in and of itself is healing---a meditation of movement. It provides you a natural rhythm, and if you're lucky to be hiking with those obsessed with walking sticks, you're accompanied by the constant "tick, tick, tick" of your impending mortality---time just ticking away, step by step, literally. I can still hear the damn clicks of those sticks. Click...click...click....click. "Oh look over there, Tom! A free walking stick!."  

So why, as a healthcare practitioner, with a blog about self-care, would I write about my adventure across Spain? Well, this was one of the most important self-care practices I have ever done in my life. The ability to go away and spend 5 weeks "off the grid". To be able to unplug and focus on the simplicity of life; eat, sleep, move, repeat.

Every day was the same routine but under different circumstances. I would wake up in one small town and 7 hours later end up in a completely different, yet oddly similar small town. I would meet different people, yet we were all oddly dressed in the same highly unfashionable quick-dry gear. I would drink different wine but all the same high quality, and sleep in different blue plastic beds, but all the same height and widths. The routine and choices the same, the surroundings different.  

The Camino was a lesson in perseverance and patience. The forced slow nature of walking to your destination allows you to see time and distance in a completely different manner. It would take hours to walk the same distance a car could cover in 20 minutes. I couldn't speed by the small towns forgotten by time and highways. I had to see and experience it all, moment to moment; all the feral dogs and all the town's people. I'll admit it, sometimes I wanted to throw out those moments and exchange them for my precious time because blisters hurt a lot, and walking 20 miles on a mangled toe is no fun. Let's be real, not all of the Camino is rainbows and Rioja. Mmmm Rioja.

My problems got bigger and smaller at the same time. While I didn't have 100 messages, e-mails and decisions to make, I did have fewer yet bigger problems to solve. For example, where I was going to sleep at  night. Would I find a bed? If not, should I walk another 3 miles and waste daylight? Few, but serious decisions. You know what I learned from that? I learned to become an extremely quick walker. I also learned that everything will be okay, as long as you pay attention. Help is abound, but you do have to find it, after all. 

At the end of the trail, I was exhausted, thirsty and confident. What a method to boost self-confidence. The next time you feel like change is insurmountable, the only thing you are good at is Mario Kart, or you feel hopeless in decision making, try going on a long hike. Because when you realize that your body is this amazing instrument, willing to take all the hits, bruises, blisters, mountains, deserts and trails you throw at it, you learn to complain less. You are amazing. Your body is amazing. Your mind is amazing. Learn to use it often and learn to care for it more frequently.

 Once you realize how far your body will take you, how much it will do to obey you, you realize how little you've been doing to take care of it. And this is why the Camino was the most important thing I did for my self-care--it allowed me to realize that I was worth caring for.



Looking for self- care techniques that don't include walking 500 miles or traveling to a foreign country? Read my blog post here.

Have ideas for the blog? E-mail me!

I'll try (almost) anything once!


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Give Patchouli a Chance: A Guide to Essential Oils

Let's oil up together.

Full disclosure, I know nothing about essential oils---I only know that I like the smell of them, as evidenced by my cousin's need to point out how I smell "herby" at every family function. 

"Michelle, you smell like...H E R B S. You smells of herbs again."

I can't tell if it's a complement or criticism---so I'll just go with the former and call it a day. I use essential oils all the time, smearing concentrated formulas with names like, "robust", "relax" and "joy" all over myself. They smell good, but what do they actually accomplish besides their appealing scents and letting you go one more day without showering?  Are there any health benefits? Let’s find out together…

Admit, this is what you think of when you hear the words, "essential oils."

 

A Very Brief History Lesson

Essential oils have been used by almost every ancient culture around, from the Greeks to the Romans to the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese. Even homeboy Jesus loved essential oils---frankincense and myrrh anyone?

It’s believed that the Egyptians are the ones who should take credit for inventing distillation equipment and creating oils infused with herbs for use in medicines, perfumes, rituals and cosmetics.

Fast forward in time and a French chemist named René-Maurice Gattefossé created the now commonly used term Aromatherapy. While working in his lab, Gattefossé (Say that ten times fast) experienced a burn and quickly doused his hand in the nearest liquid (was that really smart?). Luckily, the nearest liquid was a vat of Lavender oil and he was amazed at how quickly his burn healed without scarring. Ohhh, très intéressant!

gattefoss-copia.jpg

 

The healing benefits of the lavender oil piqued his interest and Gattefossé went on to become one of the pioneers in aromatherapy. In 1937 he published the book, Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales (later translated into English as Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy), and is still in print today.

What exactly are essential oils?

Okay, so what exactly ARE essential oils? Well, they aren't oils at all---they don't have any fatty acid content. Instead they are extremely concentrated plant extracts ---and it can take a HUGE amount of one plant to make a small amount of the oil.

For example, it takes 4,000 pounds of Bulgarian roses to make 1 pound of oil.

You can take that information with you the next time you complain that they’re so expensive to the Whole Foods checkout person.

What can they do?

Essential oils claim to be useful for a variety of things, from helping with arthritis, relaxation, sleep, skin, digestion, anxiety, etc. And of course, each different plant and each different mixture will have different effects and purposes. 

An interesting article in the Atlantic talks about the importance of essential oils and their potential to fight off bacterial infections (especially in the livestock industry):

"Numerous recent studies—including several done by the USDA—have shown great promise in using essential oils as an alternative to antibiotics in livestock. One of their studies, published in October 2014 in the journal Poultry Science, found that chickens who consumed feed with added oregano oil had a 59 percent lower mortality rate due to ascites, a common infection in poultry, than untreated chickens. Other research, from a 2011 issue of BMC Proceedings, showed that adding a combination of plant extracts—from oregano, cinnamon, and chili peppers—actually changed the gene expression of treated chickens, resulting in weight gain as well as protection against an injected intestinal infection. A 2010 study from Poultry Science produced similar findings with the use of extracts from turmeric, chili pepper, and shiitake mushrooms. A multi-year study is currently underway at the USDA that includes investigations into the use of citrus peels and essential oils as drug alternatives."

 

That's pretty impressive if you ask me. But wait, there's more:

"...rosemary and oregano oils resulted in the same amount of growth in chickens as the antibiotic avilamycin, and that the oils killed bacteria, too. Additional findings have shown that essential oils help reduce salmonella in chickens, and another study found that a blend of several oils can limit the spread of salmonella among animals. One of the co-authors of that study, Dr. Charles Hofacre, a professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says it’s such a new area of research that they don’t yet know exactly how the essential oils work, but “there is some strong evidence that they are functioning by both an antibacterial action in the intestine and also some have an effect to stimulate the intestinal cells ability to recover from disease more quickly–either by local immunity or helping keep the intestinal cells themselves healthier.”

The research on the potency and effectiveness of essential oils is growing. A  Study in 2013 found promising results in wound healing using tea tree oil. Another study shows promise in the use of Ylang Ylang oil (Included in this post solely based on its name) as a antimicrobial, antibiofilm, anti-inflammatory, antivector, insect-repellent, antidiabetic, and antimelanogenesis substance. I don't know half those words either, but they all sound promising!

ylang-ylang-phetphu-ISP.jpg

Not to be confused with:

Famous Musician

Famous Musician

Enough Already...What are your top 5 essential oils?

Well, how about I give you six?

  1. Lavender: The grand daddy of essential oils and made famous by our French scientist Monseur Gattefossé, lavender is famously known to help you relax and sleep better with an ability to lower stress hormone levels.  But we also know, thanks again señor frog, that lavender is great for bruising, cuts and skin irritation.

  2. Tea Tree: Think skin with this one. It's often used to reduce the appearance of blemishes and help the scalp. It has topical antiseptic and anti-fungal properties as well as antibiotic properties---so you're able to use this one on your nasty toe fungus, rashes and burns. It can also be used on your dandruff--- the natural supply of "snow" on your avant garde paintings.

 

 

3. Frankincense: This herb is often used in Chinese medicine to help with pain, spasms, traumatic injuries, swelling and to enhance skin healing. As an essential oil, many of its uses are the same; it strengthens gums and hair roots, stops wounds from bleeding, speed up the healing of cuts, acne, insect bites and boils.

4. Chamomile: Another favorite, you're probably familiar with chamomile as a tea, but the essential oil has similar properties. It's particularly well known for its relaxing effects, which is why the tea is popular to drink before bed. Have a similar effect with the essential oil by placing a few drops on your pillow before slumber.

5. Eucalyptus: Did you know that there are over 700 different types of eucalyptus in the world? Neither did I. Out of those 700, 500 are able to produce an oil. So how do you know what you're getting? You can go to a very handy website where they are able to explain the different types and uses. However, it's most commonly used as an antiseptic, insect repellent, and treatment option for wounds, burns, and ulcers. Taken orally these oils can be used for pain and inflammation of respiratory tract mucous membranes, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, sinus pain and inflammation, and respiratory infections **CAUTION--Don't take any essential oils orally without consulting a professional first!**

 6. Patchouli: Finally, dear, dear Patchouli. Our favorite hippie scented stench reminding everyone of yesteryear and every Grateful Dead concert. Patchouli is a classic oil that dates back way before Woodstock. Another herb used in Chinese medicine, patchouli has long been employed in skin care for its ability to help alleviate such issues as acne-prone conditions, eczema, inflammation, and cracked, chapped, irritated skin. It is often found in anti-aging skin care for its cell-rejuvenating properties and its ability to lessen the look of scars. Patchouli's anti-fungal properties make it useful in treating athlete’s foot. And for hair, it helps alleviate signs of dandruff and balance oiliness.

Patchouli also helps reduce tension, insomnia and anxiety, while uplifting the mind. It is used today to scent textiles, help repel insects, and is used extensively in the flavoring industry. Don't judge a smell by its...smell. Give patchouli a chance and use it wisely!

 

how to use essential oils:

Now that we've discussed some of the more popular oils, how do we even use them?

Honestly you can use them any which way you want.  Add as a fragrance to soaps, put them to use as cleaning products, create a kitchen scrub or just smell them. The sky's the limit, so be as creative as possible and find websites dedicated to their use. Use them in essential oil diffusers to fill your home with a pleasant scent---it's way better than those gross fake fragrances with names like, "cashmere woods" and "Hawaiian Breeze". What is a Hawaiian breeze supposed to even smell like? I have disdain for scents that make me dry heave for two days anyways. Ahem Glade!

You can find an example of the essential oil diffuser I like to use here. Other uses include, placing a few drops in your hand and applying over your skin. I'm not an expert when it comes to these oils, but I know I love being home when my diffuser is spreading literal "joy" throughout the house.

 

what are the best brands?

This is a tricky one, since there are so many companies that can provide you with good quality essential oils. Remember, essential oils can get pretty expensive---consider how much of a plant it takes to make the tiny bottle you buy. A little bit goes a long way. Quality over quantity, folks.

Do Terra: In my clinic, I tend to use Do Terra essential oils. They are middle of the road price range, and I'm extremely happy with the quality of product. They were also founded by a group of healthcare professionals who all personally use essential oils to help aid their health. You can buy the Do Terra starter kit here. A 3 pack costs around $22. That's a steal.

Young Living Essentials are a very high quality brand. Founded in 1993 with headquarters in Lehi, Utah, the company has all their own farms across the world. Their oils are extremely expensive and are considered an investment. However, the quality of their product is not found elsewhere. You can find their "Joy" mixture here.

Eden's Essentials: This company will probably get you the most bang for your buck. The essential oil products are also 100% pure, not containing any additional bases, fillers, or additives. While not all of their oils are certified organic, they do have some certified organic oils in their line-up. If organic is important to you, shop for those specific product and look out for the correct “certified organic” label. You can get a "Beginner's Best of the Best" set of their favorite 14 essential oils for $55. Considering that a bottle of Young Living Essential oil can run $75, this is a literal bargain. You can find Eden's Essentials here.

 

Essential oils: Yay or nay?

I say a big old YAY to essential oils. The only thing you have to lose is the lingering odor in your bathroom. Even if they don't provide the myriad of health benefits promoted on certain websites, the smell alone should make you feel like a more accomplished person---just think of yourself as Cleopatra rubbing frankincense all over your toe funk. Additionally, more and more research is coming out on the impressive benefits of certain oils---and remember, quality is key. So if you want to feel better, smell better and have better toes, go all out folks.

 

Have any questions? Feel free to e-mail me! And, if you like what you read, please subscribe to my blog.

I'm always taking suggestions on what to try out next, so if you've been itching to get an opinion on the many uses of lemons, or are wondering if flash freezing your body in Cryotherapy is a good idea---ask me! I'll try (almost) anything once!

 




















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Why You Should Join The Gym And Sit On Your Butt

Well...for some of the time.

 

Saunas are your new best friend

Some people have their favorite musicians, some have their favorite authors, I have my favorite nutrition researcher. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a brilliant mind who can talk dirty to you using words like mitochondria, thermoregulatory mechanisms and downstream mediators of growth hormones...are you excited yet?  Here's the bio on her website (Highlighted are her most important attributes; which is mostly everything):

"Rhonda Perciavalle Patrick has a Ph.D. in biomedical science from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis TN and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis TN. She also has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in biochemistry/chemistry from the University of California, San Diego. She has done extensive research on aging, cancer, and nutrition.  She did her graduate research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where she investigated the link between mitochondrial metabolism, apoptosis, and cancer.  Her groundbreaking work discovered that a protein that is critical for cell survival has two distinct mitochondrial localizations with disparate functions, linking it’s anti-apoptotic role to a previously unrecognized role in mitochondrial respiration and maintenance of mitochondrial structure. Her dissertation findings were published in the 2012 issue of Nature Cell Biology. 

Dr. Patrick is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute with Dr. Bruce Ames.  She investigates the effects of micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) inadequacies on metabolism, inflammation, DNA damage, and aging and whether supplementation can reverse the damage. In addition, she is investigating the role of vitamin D in brain function, behavior, and other physiological functions. In February of 2014 she published a paper in FASEB on how vitamin D regulates serotonin synthesis and how this relates to autism.

Dr. Patrick has also done research on aging at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. At the Salk she investigated what role insulin signaling played in protein misfolding, which is commonly found in neurodegenerative diseases."

Feeling worthless and lazy yet? I know I am. She's a rockstar when it comes to science, especially science and nutrition. But what makes her even more interesting is her obsession with saunas. You heard me; the little huts where fat, bald men go to disrobe and drink hefty amounts of vodka---maybe that's just in Russia. 

So, What's The Deal With Saunas? 

In the US, we don't have the same sauna culture as in Russia, Finland or even Japan or Korea. In fact, we don't really have cultural traditions (Binge drinking and college football don't count). Yes, you can find a sauna or two in your local gym or YMCA, but how many people do you know actually take advantage of purposeful heat stroke on a regular basis? Anyone? Anyone?

That's right, because no one I know actually uses them. Most people in this part of the world either find them to be too hot, too gross or don't want to sit next to some stranger's naked body.  Or maybe I'm just projecting. But hear me out. It looks like, yet again, what many tend to assume as folky cultural traditions such as the Russian Banyan, the Turkish bath or the Finnish Sauna are actually extremely healthful practices. Rhonda Patrick believes increasing your core temperature for short bursts is not only healthy, it can also dramatically improve performance.

Instead of getting wrapped up in the science jargon, I'm going to get down to the simple nitty and  gritty to see why it's healthful and how can it help with your performance.

If you want, you can hear her talk about all the effects in this Youtube video. Or, you can read my normal human summary of the video below.

She's a genius.

The Normal Human Rundown on Sauna Benefits

 

heat acclimation = hyperthermic conditioning. i.e. sitting in a sauna forces your body to acclimate to higher temperatures creating certain changes in the body.

 

  1. You can build a generalized tolerance to stress

  2. improve endurance performance

  3. increase the capacity to build muscle.

  4. positively affect brain function and chemistry

  5. another method of achieving "runner's high"

  6. possible life extension properties

Replace "running" with "Sauna-ing" for future use.

Replace "running" with "Sauna-ing" for future use.

 

In More Detail (For the Over-Achievers) 

Endurance

  • Using a sauna increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles. Oftentimes during endurance training your skeletal muscles are depleted of nutrients and then must rely on local glycogen stores. Oftentimes, runner's will report "hitting a wall" which in other terms means they've used up all their local glycogen stores. Sauna's help by reducing your dependence on glycogen stores during activity ----- in other word, you "hit the wall" less often.
  • Sauna's also increase blood flow to the heart, which reduces strain during the same workload---meaning you can do things for a longer period of time (whatever that activity may be!)
  • Saunas help increase blood-flow to the skin and help keep your core body temperature lower, allowing you to do things longer. Endurance, man!

Muscle Growth

  • Sauna use helps increase Growth Hormone levels. And frequency matters. For example, two, 1- hour sessions per day at 80 degrees C caused a 16-fold increase in growth hormone levels.  That's a 1600% increase!
  • Sauna use increases insulin sensitivity
  • Promotes muscle repair

Life Extension

  • Hyperthermic conditioning increases lifespan by about 15% in flies and worms. 
  • Studying the effects of something like hyperthermic conditioning on longevity is inherently hard in humans (obviously), but there have been some preliminary positive associations with variations in the HSP70 gene associated with increased expression and longevity.

benefits the brain

  • Increased neurogenesis, which basically means growing new brain cells.
  • Improved learning and memory
  • Improved Focus (May help with conditions such as ADHD due to increased stores of Norepinephrine) 
  • Decrease depression and anxiety from early life stressful events (due to BDNF or Brain-derived neurotrophic factor)

 

Are you overwhelmed yet? If so, I think you should go to your nearest sauna and let it do the trick. 

Or, buy your own!

If you want more information on Saunas or Dr. Rhonda Patrick, visit her website HERE. She's a wealth of information--- this woman is the real deal. 

If you, like me, is in constant need of noise streaming through your headphones, listen to her appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast. It's lengthy, but informative. 

Like what you read? Please share with friends, family and others!

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How Putting Yourself In a Tiny Box can Reduce Stress and Impact Your Health

It's A Tiny Revolution

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Tiny things are getting a lot of attention these days. From tiny houses and tiny dogs, to reducing your borderline pathological hoarding tendencies to a more manageable amount of "tiny clutter". But how about a tiny tank?

Okay, let me explain myself. What I'm talking about are Sensory Deprivation Tanks or Flotation Tanks. They're basically the tiny version of the Dead Sea, but you are in complete darkness, alone and aren't smothering mud all over your body in hopes of clearing up your acne. Shoutout to Birthright! 

NOT the dead sea

NOT the dead sea

I first heard of these water pods while listening to the 'Joe Rogan Experience' podcast. You can't listen to this podcast without hearing him rave about deprivation tanks and their ability to reduce stress, calm the mind, and basically make you a better person.

As a healthcare practitioner, curious human and a general need to try (almost) anything once, I decided to give it a go. I'm on a quest to find a routine way to de-stress, meditate and practice self-care. Not as easy as it sounds for someone in the healthcare field. 

And exciting as it may sound to be shut in a coffin shaped box filled with salt water while floating in complete darkness--- I still had slight twitches of panic. More like twitches in my right eye. For a constant two days. Seriously, it didn't go away for two days.

So, with my right eye twitch and credit card information on file, I anxiously entered my local Flotation Tank center and took a little swim.

 

The Experience  

Walking through the door into Spacetime Tanks in Chicago was like leaving gritty Gotham City and suddenly finding yourself in Oprah's version of a 'Man Cave'; engulfed with the zen sounds of the pan flute, dim lights and a 'no shoe' policy, I quietly checked in and waited next to the fish tank, watching the sea creatures experience their own float. 

The staff, consisting of just one person, highlighted the relativity of time as I waited for my pony tailed chaperone to finish helping others. In the meantime, I decided to read through the 'float journal' and see what others had to say about their time in the tank:

My first time in the tank was a learning curve for sure as I struggled to convince my body to let the experience happen. I still had great results… my Second float was even better, by the third I fell asleep in the tank and woke up able to walk without my cane or walker, feeling better then I have in over 30 years. I now look forward eagerly to my weekly float. The results last longer each time I go, and I’m far more flexible then I’ve been since a car accident in 1993.

And this:

Floating is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. It’s just like getting to know yourself on your own terms. When they say that it’s like floating through outer space, they really mean it. I have never had so much clarity in my entire life. I was able to perform complex math equations that I had never learned how to do. The world felt so much more real and within my control.

Wait, I could potentially get better at math? Currently at eager- beaver status to upgrade math skills before tax season. My pony tailed friend was ready for me and we made our way into my own personal float room. 

The room

The room

The room is dimly lit, with candles and other calming additions. After looking in every corner of the room for Kenny G, I was ready. The attendant goes through a 10 minute spiel of how the tanks work, what to expect, and what not to do--don't rub your eyes after they've been in the water as they will BURN and ruin your calming experience. Noted.

I was afraid of claustrophobia and voiced my concern to the gentleman, and he confidently told me that due to the complete darkness, I will not have any sense of claustrophobia due to my lack of any sensory awareness. "Okay" I said.What I really meant was, "Are you sure, are you sure, are you sure?".  

The tanks are a light- free and sound-free experience (I put ear plugs in) with a 12" solution of water containing about 1000 pounds of epsom salt---this is what makes you float.

I'm already in love because I am an epsom salt junkie and tell ALL patients to bathe in them---this takes epsom baths to a whole new level. 

After the intro to floating, my friend leaves me in my personal room, I shower and prepare to enter my new home. I open and close the door about 10 times before I get in to make sure I have enough strength to do it on my own, and with a small hope that I'll create some muscle memory. You know, in case I forget how to open and close doors. It's amazing what "precautions" you think of when you're nervous.

I finally step in and sit in the shallow water inspecting my surroundings, making sure there is absolutely no way for me to get stuck or accidentally drown and then gently lay back into the salt water solution. Bear in mind, the door is still not shut. One fear at a time, please.

After 10 more minutes I decide to finally shut the door and very slowly, but progressively, float longer and longer. The tank is big, with enough room to sprawl my arms above my head and practice synchronized swimming routines with myself. After mastering the flamingo position, I tire and lay back, moving my weightless body from side to side, as if now I've entered orbit.

 

Newly minted skills

Newly minted skills

The tank is relaxing and quiet---a peaceful solitary confinement, where no one prepares you for the time spent with yourself with nothing to do but think. I try and meditate, which works for about 5 minutes, and start practicing my synchronized swimming routines again. This time with some flare.  

The time spent in the tank is a constant back and forth of intense meditation and equally intense moments of thought. My inner dialogue consists of scheduling and bills to consoling myself in case fear comes marching in, "I can always just open the door and hangout out in the shower until my time is up. Or sit in the chair, they provide you a chair for a reason." I then slide back to quiet meditation. However, it was in these small moments of meditation that I realized how powerful these tanks can be. I had never been so "in the moment" as I have inside this tank.  

The hour passed by slowly, yet quickly at the same time and when I heard the knock at the door I was simultaneously ready and sad the time went by. Similar to acupuncture, I realize that this is something that takes a few times to become comfortable with and learn to use. It's also quite powerful and knew I needed to sign up for more floats in order to get the full effect.

four floats later

I'm hooked. It's an hour I look forward to and crave. It's a period of time where no phone can reach me, no 'PING' of the e-mail can sway my attention and my body just floats.  Every time I go the experience gets better and deeper, with my mind and body able to dive into meditation with relative ease. The more I go, the better I feel and the less I practice my swimming routine. I feel less stressed, my mind is more relaxed and I'm becoming the zen master I've always wanted to be. If you are looking to add another stress free routine to your life, I highly recommend trying out a flotation tank. However, you MUST go more than once to truly experience them.

Where to go:

Spacetime Tanks, Chicago. Great staff, relaxing environment and very clean.

Not in Chicago? Google is your friend. 

 



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Book Review: Death by Food Pyramid

Denise Minger Wants to Break You of Shoddy Science And Your Nutritional Dogma

Nutrition is not usually the first genre of reading people turn to for thrills or bedtime reads. These books are more often used as coffee table decorations to show your uncle that 'yes, I did read the book you gave me on eating air' just so you can shut him up. I love nutrition, and I love nutrition books, but I understand that most people want to read about elves and wizards, and elves marrying wizards more than they want to read about the different types of Lipoproteins in the body, or the current take on Cholesterol and salt. 

However, if there is one nutrition book that

anyone should read, it's this one. 

 

This book is an easy read in the sense that you get through it with a smirk on your face in anticipation of what this woman is going to say. It's a political thriller relevant to everyone, where personalities shined through rather than science. You're taken through the history of abysmal nutrition research in this country and how politics and ego changed our food landscape. It really takes just one self-conscious dude to change our whole paradigm. 

Contrary to popular belief, America's dietary guidelines aren't the magnum opuses of high-ranking scientists, cerebral cortexes pulsating in the moonlight as they solve the mysteries of human nutrition. What reaches our ears has been squeezed, tortured, reshaped, paid off, and defiled by a phenomenal number of sources. And as my own story proves, the USDA's wisdom, pyramid and beyond, isn't the only source of misguided health information out there. But it is some of the most pervasive, the most coddled by the food industry, the most sheltered from criticism, and--as a consequence--the most hazardous to public health.

And that's just getting started. Minger takes apart the infamous China Study---the often cited and quoted research that vegans and vegetarians alike love to rattle off as proof positive that their way is the best way. (Don't get me wrong, I was a vegetarian for 7 years and still often align my food and animal politics with those in the vegan and veggie realm. However, when it comes to nutrition I politely disagree).

Did you ever want to know why we went from a fat loving, liver eating, meat on the bone, svelte culture into a distasteful, low-fat, cardboard tasting, light-skin, de-boned breast meat, fatter culture? Read this book. 

If you love learning about shady politics, men with low self-esteem trying to get their name in the game and apathetic governments swayed by the food industry...read this book. 

It's enlightening to see someone call BULLSHIT on the medical establishment for placing such unwarranted trust on food regulation, nutritional standards and anyone in a white coat. In fact...

Medical doctors get very little, IF ANY, nutritional education during medical school. 

Many people go to their MD in search of answers on what they should be eating. Unfortunately, they may not be the best source of information when it comes to nutrition. It' disheartening due to their vast understanding of how the body works. They are some of the smartest, most capable individuals on earth----yet many are without a nutritional foundation or understanding. Even more unfortunate is the time restraints placed on many practicing doctors. They are too damn busy to research the current understandings of nutrition research---with new studies coming out constantly, I'd say it's quite unreasonable to expect them to come home after a stressful day's work and research the newest food data. That's why it's important to pay attention, do your own research and make sure you have a trustworthy source. 

Denise Minger is an empowering voice who shows that it's time for you to start using your brain. We are all smart and capable enough to cut through the bullshit---and she can help lead the way. In fact we should start calling her "hacksaw" because she cuts through all the bullshit for us. 

One of the most important aspects in the book is that she teaches you HOW to read research. Many people ask why nutritional science is always changing on a dime, "one year eggs are good for you, then they are going to KILL you. One year butter is the stuff of life, 5 years later they'll KILL you." Basically everything goes from being healthy to deadly in no time. 

Is it going to save me or kill me?

Is it going to save me or kill me?

Denise explains how research is done, how it should be read and interpreted and why it is important to STOP listening to your local news, national news, Fox news, CNN---actually just stop listening to mainstream media for your nutritional information. You come away with knowledge that can help you further understand the sensational headlines and make you more confident in your ability to stay alive another day.

After taking a semester on statistics and learning to read research, I quickly realized all I had to do was pick up this book to get the same quality analysis and instruction of how it all works. Too bad she didn't write this earlier. 

Denise doesn't make you feel guilty for the diet you pro-port works best for you. If you are a committed Vegan, she is committed to making you the healthiest vegan around. If you are a staunch paleo, she is committed to making you the best meat eating, berry picking, nut lover you can be. All she wants to do is make all of us as healthy as possible, without the dogma that usually comes across in mainstream nutrition books. 

Not only this, but she cites the importance of genetic differences that come to play on how all of us react differently to various foods. When one gets great results from paleo another might get even better results from eating more carbs. She realizes the importance of genetic variance and how it plays a role in health.

Basically, this book made me realize what a bad ass Denise Minger is, and what an important new player she is in the nutrition world. I can't wait to read more from her and I am utterly convinced everyone should be forced to read this book in order to gain a greater understanding of how politics and research collide when it comes to our food. 

Don't wait any longer! Buy the book now!

Click above in order to buy the book---if I didn't convince you already, I don't know what will.

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The Importance of Self-Care: Treat Yo Self

Many people look to me for Self-Care Advice

As an acupuncturist, many people believe I treat my body like a temple. People imagine me waking up in lotus pose, receiving IV drips of Kombucha and basing my schedule off the lunar cycle. That may be a stretch, but you get the point. Those of us in the healthcare field are held to a higher standard; personal trainers are supposed to have a ripped core and buns of steal, yoga instructors should be more flexible than Jennifer Beals in 'Flash Dance' and acupuncturists should rise and set with the sun.

  Contrary to popular belief, I DID NOT wake up like this.

 

Contrary to popular belief, I DID NOT wake up like this.

The Reality of Self-Care

In reality, I am terrible at self-care. Throughout my four years of graduate school I gained more grey hairs on my head in 3 months than existed in my entire lifetime. I would have so much stress that my face turned into an Icelandic mountainous landscape and my body started turning against me. My digestive system, menstrual cycle and sense of well-being went down the drain.  My body aged about 40 years in 4, and my mind turned into mud. 

The Turning Point

 It wasn't until after graduation that I decided it was time to take care of myself. It was a simple thought in my head that turned into the act of self-care. I had no more excuses; no more exams, papers, endless class schedules, or studying to take up all my time. It was finally time to start taking care of myself. But where to begin? How exactly do you take care of yourself? Well...it's up to you. We all have to figure out what makes us happy, gets us in the "zone" and relaxes us, and lucky for you I have a few ideas that can help jumpstart the process. So here we go, here's 5 things you can do to take care of YOU. 

1. You are what you eat....how you eat affects how you feel. 

 I always believe that a great place to start is your nutrition. If you are feeling crappy, can't seem to feel good in your body, or if you still think that low-fat diets are the panacea of health, you need to rewind and start again. A great place to start is here and here and here and then read thisI have plenty of sources for books and articles that I offer up on the website for your nutritional pleasure. So put down the ding dongs and start paying attention to what goes in your body. Research shows that what you eat can affect your DNA and and CHANGE your epigenome! No, it's not science fiction, it's real. Changing the foods you eat can make you feel like a completely different person---so why not start in your kitchen?  

2. Get out and Play

You also have to find something that relaxes the mind. Meditation has been getting a lot of attention recently, but if that's not something you resonate with or are intimidated by, find something that puts you in the "zone" or allows you to be in the moment. Small steps work wonders. Does painting allow you to forget all your worries? Does fishing make you feel like a zen master? Are you lost in time when you smack terra cotta on a table and create a questionable bowl that looks more like an extra thick ash-tray? Who cares if you are good at these things, what matters is that you enjoy these things. Research has shown that the act of "play" for adults is incredibly important. Play is vital for creativity, relationships and problem solving. It can facilitate deep connection between adults and healing. Not convinced? Read it for yourself. 

3. Exercise

When it comes to exercise most people think of endless hours on the treadmill, stair-master or elliptical and honestly that all sounds like hell. Instead, think of exercise as moving your body. Get up from your couch and move what your momma gave you. Take a walk, go to the woods, play some frisbee while you listen to Bob Marley and reminisce about your college days. Exercise doesn't have to be tedious, it just has to be frequent and reliable. Going on a walk once a month doesn't count---even though every little bit helps, yadda yadda, yadda--- what matters is that your body can count on you to move it on a regular basis. Going from the couch to the kitchen also doesn't count. What matters is that you enjoy the activity that you are doing, because joining the gym every January in an attempt to get into your high school jeans never gets anyone back into their jeans. What helps is doing something you enjoy, not over training and doing it on a regular basis.

And here's some good news: research has shown that those awful long cardio sessions that you are doing may not actually help you lose weight. Actually, it makes people hungrier and leads to eating more. Also, the high intensity exercise you think is burning off that plate of cheesecake you ate last night is only increasing the inflammation in  your body and causes stress which leads to weight gain. Your body doesn't want to run that marathon as much your mind doesn't---admit it, waking up at 5:00 in the morning is not that fun. Sleep is fun. 

Exercise is necessary for overall health and well-being, just don't over do it. All you need is some interval training, weight lifting and good old walking. Not too much, not too little. Just enough. 

4. Get Pampered

If you are always taking care of your kids, your spouse and the barista before you even think of yourself, it's time to change. It's time to acknowledge that taking time out for you and having someone massage your grubby feet is okay and actually good for you. We all need a little pampering now and then to let us relax and reset. Don't deny yourself.

5. See Friends

Having friends might be one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Researchers are starting to pay attention to the benefits (social, spiritual and health) of having close friendships. Strong social ties have been shown to improve brain health, increase longevity, decrease anxiety and more. In a 2006 study of nearly 3,00 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. Some researchers think that this is one of the main clues why women tend to live longer than men---in general they seem to have stronger social connections.

If this isn't enough to run to your best friend, give her a hug and a bottle of Pinot Gritio, I don't know what is. Friends heal.

Science says they're living longer.

Science says they're living longer.


Change doesn't have to be big!

There are many ways to start your self-care journey, but it doesn't have to be a huge transition. You can start by seeing your best-friend 2 times per week instead of one, or you can go and get a pedicure once a month. The idea of having to meditate and drink gross herbal tea may sound off-putting to some, but luckily you don't have to start there. Find things that ring true to you, and go from there. You may find that you really do enjoy meditating and waking up in Lotus pose, or maybe you enjoy being stuck with needles (I know I do!). But whatever it is, find a way to let yourself unwind and de-stress---it's necessary for your health. 

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Health Insurance....why is it such a pain?

 

'Insurance' is a dirty word

Mention the words 'health insurance' to about any acupuncturist and you'll almost always get a death stare, eye roll or be on the receiving end of a slight panic attack. The topic garners a lot of fodder among holistic health practitioners and many lose sleep at the thought of attacking the gauntlet of co-pays, coverage, plans and billing. 

It's a Bright, New World!

It's important to remember that in many places acupuncture is newly legal. You would think 4,000 years of history would cut us in front of the line for legality. In Illinois, where I practice, acupuncture only became "Legal" in 2005, with previous practitioner's needing a doctor's referral to practice. Since Chinese medicine arrived in the United States in the 1970's, much of its use has been completely illegal, with many practitioner's setting up shop "underground" hoping not to get raided by the police... because nothing is more dangerous than tiny needles reducing inflammation.  Luckily, we are in a new era, with a greater following and increasing amounts of people willing to give needles a chance. But this newly legal status has only put us behind in the insurance realm, making it more difficult for patient's to receive insurance-covered acupuncture treatments. It's time to play catch-up.  

Restrictions on your insurance policy or company

Speaking of playing catch-up, many practitioner's don't take insurance because there are simply not enough plans that cover acupuncture. This is where you come in. Write letters to your insurance companies asking why they don't cover acupuncture. If you receive benefits from your employer this is especially important because you need to let your company know that there is a high demand for acupuncture coverage among its employees! With large numbers of employees touting the benefits of acupuncture and asking for it to be a covered service, an employer is more likely consider adding it to the company insurance plan. 

Acupuncturists aren't covered

Another grievance many Licensed acupuncturists have with insurance is that some plans will cover "acupuncture" but not when it's performed by an actual licensed acupuncturist. While I highly respect and admire Chiropractors and Medical Doctors, unless they have been through the same rigorous training that a licensed acupuncturist has, then let us do the work. I am unable to perform adjustments or prescribe medications because I'm highly unqualified. The same should go for other medical practitioner's attempting to practice acupuncture. Let me do the dirty work---that's what I'm trained for. 

Help an acupuncturist out

If you want acupuncture to be covered by your insurance company, help us out! Write letters to your insurance company and your employer, change your insurance plan, start talking. The more people who demand coverage, the more insurance companies will listen. Times are changing with more patients understanding the benefits of acupuncture--- so now its time to get everyone covered and we can all benefit. 

 

 

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Back away from the Betty Crocker frosting....

Many people ask me the number one thing they can do to become healthier----what's the magic bullet of a healthy lifestyle? My answer----Stop with the sugar!

We eat more sugar today than ever before

When I tell people to stop eating sugar, many nod their heads in approval and say, "Oh yea, I don't eat a lot of sugar," or "that makes sense!". However, most people don't realize how much of the stuff they are really eating.

In 1822, the average American ate the amount of sugar found in one of today's 12-ounce sodas every 5 days. Today, we eat that much sugar every 7 hours. Take a moment to breathe that in...today we eat almost 120 pounds of sugar per year, per person. In 1820 that number was around 7 pounds.  And no, that number is not skewed by the competitive eaters or the Honey Boo Boo's of the world---- you are probably eating that much sugar.

While you may judge a family for letting their 6 year old chug Mountain Dew like it's her job, many people don't realize how much sugar is in the glass of fruit juice they just gave their little one. One glass of Minute Maid apple juice can have 66 grams of fructose per liter. To compare, Coca-Cola has 62.5 grams of fructose per liter and Dr. Pepper has 61 grams of fructose. That's a LOT of sugar!  The World Health Organization says that we should be getting (at most) 25 grams of sugar per day, or 5 teaspoons. And fructose---a form of sugar---is shown to be converted entirely in the liver where it is converted to fat, which increases the risk for fatty liver disease (found mostly in alcoholics until now), diabetes and heart disease. 

Sugar is EVERYWHERE

 Before you pat yourself on the back and tell me you don't eat a lot of sweets or candy, let me tell you how prolific sugar consumption is. Sugar is not relegated to your cakes, sodas, candy's or your annual Krispy Kreme binges anymore. Sugar is in everything from ketchup, salad dressings and bbq sauces all the way to your multigrain bread, crackers, and basically any processed food you can imagine. Those healthy smoothies that you always get? SUGAR BOMB. The healthy "protein bar" that you eat after your workout----sugar. What about your sausages or other processed meats? Most likely there was sugar added. When you tally up the numbers at the end of the day, you are most likely eating more sugar than Stevie Nick's did cocaine (Sorry Stevie--I really love you). 

Sugar is as addictive than Cocaine

Recent research has been showing that sugar is a difficult habit to kick. You know the feeling, the one where your thoughts turn to chocolate kisses while you watch your favorite daytime Soap. Daytime romance is always better with Haggendaz. Just thinking about the chocolate in your mouth makes your mouth water and your body tingle---and what's the harm in one anyways? Just one, you whisper to yourself. I'll have just one...

NO, you can't just have one. This is the thought process of a sweet tooth--- otherwise known as sugar addict. Recent research has shown that sugar is not just a simple, innocent habit to break but an addiction that rivals cocaine and heroin. 

Bart Hoebel of Princeton has shown that rats eating large amounts of sugar when hungry, a phenomenon he describes as sugar-bingeing, undergo neuro-chemical changes in the brain that appear to mimic those produced by substances of abuse, including cocaine, morphine and nicotine. Sugar induces behavioral changes, too. "In certain models. sugar-bingeing causes long-lasting effects in the brain and increases the inclination to take other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol."

Are you addicted?

We Weren't Supposed To Eat This Way

Back in the day (you know, caveman days) we had little to no access to sugar. Our ancestors were lucky to get their mitts on something as sweet as a carrot, because who doesn't love carrot cake? When it came to survival, sugar was everything. Sugar signaled the body to store fat which was a necessity in times of depravity. When our bodies stored fat, we had a chance to survive another day---it was an advantage rather than a hinderance. We have evolved to crave sweets, because it meant survival. But the difference between then and now is that we are eating sugar in absolutely everything, and storing fat like crazy. No child wants a carrot stick for dessert--- they want ice cream on top of cake drizzled with chocolate and gummy bears with a cherry on top. They want the fantastic high that only sugar can bring about with whipped cream up their nose and frosting caked on their lips. Can you imagine a carrot stick hangover? Me neither. 

 

Start Reading

It's time to drop the sugar. It's time to look at every label of food you buy at the grocery store and make sure there are no added sugars. Sugar is big business, and food companies love to hide sugar in almost every food, with sugar coming in over 50 different names including but not limited to; 

Anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup and white sugar, fructose, lactose, maltose, carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol. Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol and zylose. WHEW.

Still think you don't eat a lot of sugar? Next time you are at the supermarket look at how many grams of sugar are in each item you purchase. Add them all up and see how much you are eating per day.

 

Get used to the bitter truth my friends. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let's Start a Practice!

School was the easy part.

Four years of graduate school led me to this point. 

I spent countless hours memorizing body parts, muscles, identifying herbs in little plastic bags that made me look criminal as well as learning the latin and Chinese names. I spent day after day studying acupuncture points and their meridians, diagnosis and disease prevention. My mind expanded ten fold... yet I still don't know how to do my taxes. 

We didn't learn about business in graduate school

I entered my masters program to make a difference, to help people become healthier, feel better and work their way towards a balanced life. Nowhere in that daydream did I expect to learn that Quickbooks has more versions and options than the menu at the Cheescake Factory or which codes I needed to bill insurance companies. I honestly figured I could get away with using a sheet of paper to track finances--- but I quickly realized that the 20th century was calling and they wanted their pencil back. I nod my head endlessly when talking to colleagues about business issues, but in reality I wait for the conversation to end so I can google what was just said. 

I didn't know to look at different credit card carriers or how to create excel spreadsheets or look into the amount of money Illinois steals from me to practice my medicine. My school didn't quite prepare me either---instead they taught us how to create herbal formulas and to stop eating sugar. Everything I learned was valuable, but none of it was business.

Sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end. 

So here I am, 5 months into my new business figuring things out as I go along. Quickbooks is kind of cool, and taking insurance is still as complicated as it was 5 months ago--- I just figured out what Credentialing means as well as the value of hiring help when you don't know what the hell you are doing. Owning a business causes a lot of headaches, sleepless nights and insecurities that don't occur when you are in the insulated bubble of school or a 9 to 5 job. I'm responsible for myself and my clients, as well as those pesky taxes. I'm the one that needs to get clients in the door and explain to them why my medicine is so valuable. I'm also the one that gets to choose my hours and spend time on a job that I absolutely love. Not many people get to say that. When you are your own boss the pressure can seem insurmountable, but it can also be freeing. So instead of worrying when my next patient will walk through the door, or which service to use for online record keeping, I'm just going to go for a swim in the deep end---and I'm going in with a cannonball. 

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This Sh*t Works---Why I Became An Acupuncturist.

For a kid who grew up afraid of needles, it makes sense to explain what led me to acupuncture.
 

I grew up thinking I’d either be Chaka Khan (even though I can’t sing) or a chef (even though I really can’t cook).
 

Doctors told me to ‘stop being stressed’

As a teenager I suffered from debilitating stomach aches, ones which left me lying in bed for hours on end, not able to move because the pain was so bad. The doctors told me I had IBS (Intestinal Bowel Syndrome) and prescribed me pills that only made my symptoms worse, not better. They told me to stop being so stressed and that was the end--- little did I know it was only the beginning.

Without realizing it, I had picked up ideas over the years that formed my beliefs. I learned the power of herbs from my Polish grandmother who frequently uses tinctures of amber and bee pollen to cure all her ailments. I started to become conscious of where my food was coming from as well as the importance of nutrition.  And through it all I learned the value of taking control over your health through knowledge and information.  

 

Taking my health back

It took years for me to figure out how to regain control of my health, and it started with my first acupuncture treatment. I wasn’t sure how the tiny needles were supposed to help and I was terrified they would hurt.

 

As a kid I would cry in fear of going to the doctor for I was petrified of needles,  but I was ready to try anything---including those tiny, thin needles. After one session of acupuncture I remember jumping off the table with a sense of euphoria that lingered with me for days. I can still remember my first words after receiving my initial few treatments, "Damn! This shit works!"  

 

This Sh*t Works: Hooked on Chinese Medicine

I was hooked. With a regimen of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, herbs, continual diet changes and learning how to de-stress, I was able to go from almost weekly debilitating stomach aches down to a few per year.

Chinese medicine gave me my power back.  

What I learned throughout the process was that I have the most control over my own health. I realized that we must be involved in the process of health and healing - and that means the whole process - from what we eat, how we breathe, how we move to how we live.

 

Acupuncture is greater than Chaka Khan

A balanced life leads to better health. The concept was at once so basic and so revolutionary that I was drawn to it immediately.

Through Chinese medicine and my acupuncture practice, I give patients the power to recenter themselves by balancing their minds and bodies. Who knew I’d spend my life making people feel better with something that would have terrified me as a child.

I’ll take that over singing like Chaka Khan any day.

 

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Acupuncture is like Kevin Bacon

Holistic medicine is like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon...believe me.

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Acupuncture and Pain

Many people show interest in acupuncture, but have no idea what it really means. For some it's just a novel concept, a fun new activity they could talk about at a dinner party. However, for more and more people, acupuncture plays an important role in one's life to help maintain health, prevent disease, stop pain, and promote the healing process. One of the most studied aspects of acupuncture is its ability to stop pain. So how does this actually work? As I've stated before, acupuncture is the most studied manual therapy with an amazing assortment of research being done on this ancient technique---specifically regarding pain. PAIN, we all know it and we all want to avoid it...what's worse than constantly being reminded of your aches and constant pains. My brother once said to me, "Pain is just weakness leaving the body" and that made me want to smack him. Yea, I'll show him pain. But here's the thing--while it's necessary to life, it doesn't have to define you, and for many people acupuncture has helped relieve this pain.

So...how the hell does sticking a needle under the skin on your foot relieve your headache? And why are the small needles in the ear supposed to help with my back pain? Now, I could do a whole post on the theory of acupuncture channels and their pathways, and the years of studying it took to learn the theory behind this. I could also talk about the new and exciting research happening that seems to prove the existence of these so called 'channels'. But right now, lets stick to pain (pun intended).

Here are some of the many theories surrounding acupuncture's great success around pain relief.

1) Natural Opioid Substances: I know you've heard of opioids, you've listened to Janis Joplin right? Well, opioids are not just drugs that people took in the late 60s, but they are also naturally occurring substances found in the body. Needling seems to affect these substances--specifically the Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of the naturally occurring opiate substances: dynorphin (acting at a spinal level), endorphin (acting within the brain), and encephalin (acting both in the brain and at a spinal level). Okay, so why is this important? WELL, endorphins and enkephalins are potent blockers or modulators of pain arising from the musculoskeletal system. Dynorphin is a powerful modulator of visceral pain; it has a weaker effect on musculoskeletal pain modulation. So in other words...they help stop pain. Actually, they help reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. However, in contrast to the opiate drugs, activation of the opiate receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence. So basically, acupuncture can stimulate the body's natural opiate receptors but it WON'T lead to an untimely death. Too soon?

In addition to decreased feelings of pain, secretion of endorphins leads to feelings of euphoria, modulation of appetite, release of sex hormones, and enhancement of the immune response. With high endorphin levels, we feel less pain and fewer negative effects of stress.

Here's a clinical review entitled "Acpuncture & Endorphins."

2) The Neurogate Theory: Tested on this study on rats, says that fibers that are stimulated by acupuncture could prevent pain input into the spinal cord. The diffuse noxious inhibitory control theory says that by providing a noxious stimulation (i.e. a non-painful stimulation by an acupuncture needle), the body responds by changing the signals it receives from the painful area being treated. You experience this when you bump your elbow, and it hurts less when you rub it, or the "Honey! I hurt my knee! Can you please massage my back??"

3) Activating the Immune System: The presence of a foreign needle (sterilized single use needle) may act to stimulate vascular and immuno-modulatory factors, including those of local inflammation. Adrenocorticotrophic hormone has been shown to be elevated after acupuncture treatments, suggesting that adrenal activation and the release of endogenous corticosteroids may also result (yes, corticosteroids---the same ones your doctor prescribes). Again, what does this mean? It means that sticking needles in your body creates a micro-trauma which in turn stimulates the activity of immune cells that control inflammation. This is GOOD.

Chris Kresser further delves into the subject:

There are millions of immune cells called mast cells in the dermis of the skin. These cells are like water balloons full of fatty molecules called leukotrienes and prostaglandins A & B. When a needle is inserted into the skin, it pops the mast cells and releases the leukotrienes and prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause the cutaneous nerve in the area to fire (which activates the process described in the previous paragraphs). Leukotrienes are the strongest anti-inflammatory substance the body can produce.

Leukotrienes cause local capillaries to vasodilate and become permeable. White blood cells called macrophages leak out through the capillaries and immediately begin to heal the damage caused by the needle stick.

However, the healing caused by the needle insertion isn’t limited to the damage caused by the needle. If there is other damage in the area from previous traumas or injuries, that will also be addressed by the immune chemicals released by the needle insertion.

What’s more, the micro-trauma caused by the needle starts a systemic immune response. This promotes healing of the soft tissue throughout the body – not just at the needling site. After the needles are removed, the needle-induced lesions continue to stimulate the body until the lesions heal. This means that the anti-inflammatory effect of acupuncture persists for 2-3 days (and sometimes as long as a week) after the needle is withdrawn.

 Research shows that acupuncture can inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines (molecular messengers between cells), reducing neuropathic pain. This study shows that acupuncture inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines in patients with chronic headache. Here's another study on the cytokine-inhibiting, anti-inflammatory effect of acupuncture.

Studies also show that acupuncture influences leukocyte and lymphocyte levels, which, together with cytokine inhibition, can help fight infection and boost immune response.

4) Myofibrillary entanglement: Acupuncture may induce relaxation of ‘stuck’ myofibrils within tissue planes. Myofibrils are basic rod-like units of muscle. Myofibrils are composed of long proteins such as actin, myosin, and titian,and other proteins that hold them together. These proteins are organized into thin filaments and thick filaments, which repeat along the length of the myofibril in sections called sarcomeres. Muscles contract by sliding the thin (actin) and thick (myosin) filaments along each other. ENOUGH OF THE BORING STUFF. Why is this good? Well, it is thought that acupuncture may have a similar effect to the injection of painful trigger points (a common procedure undertaken in pain clinics). Needles may actually relax these myofibrils and reduce pain felt in the muscle.

5) Local blood flow: As I've stated before, acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow (especially locally) which may initiate or catalyze the healing process. Also, acupuncture has been shown to enhance the generation of nitric oxide, which in turn, increases blood circulation, leading to decreased inflammation and increased healing. In one study, acupuncture was shown to increase blood flow in the sciatic nerve, relieving pain & improving the gait of horses suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis.

6) PMR Theory: Japanese researcher Kawakita proposes the polymodal receptor (PMR) theory. Polymodal receptors are nociceptors (pain receptors) which respond to mechanical, thermal and chemical stimuli. These release a variety of neuropeptides which serve as local neurotransmitters. Polymodal receptors are thought to be related to the qi sensation many patients feel with properly inserted acupuncture needles.

OH MY LORD, when will she stop? Have you had enough yet? The research doesn't stop there, but I will. In the next post I'll further discuss the many mechanisms of acupuncture and how it can help with chronic pain.

 http://chriskresser.com/chinese-medicine-demystified-part-v-a-closer-look-at-how-acupuncture-relieves-pain

http://acustef.blogspot.com/2013/01/scientific-research-on-acupuncture-pain.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1754056

http://ceaccp.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/4/135.full#ref-3

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/501973_2

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How does Acupuncture work?

What are your first thoughts on acupuncture? What do you really think when you hear that term? I've heard a few first impressions and they go something like this; Voodoo, placebo, fake, "I hear it's good for pain", "I hear it's good for fertility", needles, no thank you, I don't believe in this 'alternative medicine stuff', the list goes on. And that's why I'm writing this post. When I tell people that I'm an acupuncturist they inevitably ask me if it really works. I always wonder why people ask me this, especially since I spent 4 long years of my life in graduate school studying this medicine, crying over the loss of my twenties and getting a new head of grey hairs. Believe me, it isn't an easy skill to learn. And what I inevitably end up saying is, "Of course! Why would I spend so much time in school learning this medicine if it didn't work!" That's when I realized that the majority of my job is not necessarily treating people, but educating people. The public is just unaware---unaware of the history, unaware of the thousands of years of success, unaware of the current research, etc. And it's my job to help you understand. So here goes...

As far understanding how acupuncture works and the exact mechanisms behind its success, no one is really quite sure. But there are numerous theories running around that seem to explain some of the wonderful benefits that acupuncture provides. What's more, is they are discovering new things about acupuncture and the other techniques involved with Chinese medicine every day. It's an exciting time to be involved in the field, and an exciting time to be sharing all the research with you all.

Chris Kresser, an acupuncturist out of San Francisco points out that in the most basic sense, acupuncture is able to provide 3 primary effects:

1) Relieving Pain

2) Reducing inflammation

3) Restoring homeostasis

Under these three broad headings, the effects of acupuncture goes much further. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress which may be one of the broadest effects of the technique. It is known to release oxytocin, the hormone which creates the mother-child bond as well as the bond between sexual partners. But more recently, oxytocin has been shown to reduce fear and treat anxiety disorders. In the journal of Biological Psychiatry researchers have found that oxytocin may be used to help reduce fear and overwrite painful histories, for example PTSD. That's one of the reasons why acupuncture has been used successfully to treat PTSD. Oxytocin reinforces extinction-- the act of overwriting a memory--which is important in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Acupuncture has been also shown to promote blood flow which is significant for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because everything in the body needs blood in order to heal properly. Restoring proper blood flow is necessary to maintain good health. Not only this, but proper blood flow is important for fertility success. A number of studies show that poor uterine and ovarian blood flow can be an important--often undiagnosed factor--in infertility, miscarriage and IVF failure. Research shows that blood flow may be at the root of 'unexplained infertility' too. This may be one of the reasons why acupuncture can obtain such a high success rate. A recent study from Tel Aviv university found that when combining IUI with Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, 65.5% of the test group were able to conceive compared to 39.4% of the control group who received no herbal therapy and no acupuncture.

Furthermore, acupuncture has been found to 1) stimulate the body's built in healing mechanisms, 2) release natural painkillers, 3) reduce both the intensity and perception of chronic pain, and 4) relax shortened muscles. And this is only the beginning. As I said before, the more research that's done about acupuncture and herbal medicine, the more we are finding out about its amazing effects.

In the next post I'll take a further look into the research that's been done on acupuncture, and the major report of findings. Stay updated by following my blog, and on twitter!

 Bunge-en-China

 

http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/11/15/overcoming-fear-with-oxytocin/77349.html

chriskresser.com

Tel Aviv University study

http://www.aftau.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&;id=15808

http://ict.sagepub.com/content/6/3/251.abstract

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Understanding Acupuncture

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have received a lot of attention in recent years, popping up everywhere from the news to US Weekly's feature on Gwyneth Paltrow's favorite health hobby. As much as I like and appreciate Gwyneth's approval of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, it's still seen as a "New Age" cure for the type of people who name their kids Apple and Moses...no offense Gwyneth. I think it's time to 'consciously uncouple' from this misunderstanding of Chinese Medicine.

Chinese medicine is a sophisticated medical system created by sophisticated practitioners. In fact, the Chinese started dissecting cadavers 500 years before Christ---that's a substantial amount of time to learn about the body and figure out where to poke and prod. The Chinese measured the blood vessels and weighed internal organs at a time when western physicians thought the body was made up of "humors." I mean, really, what's a humor? The Chinese were able to discover the phenomenon of continuous blood circulation 2,000 years before it was discovered in the west.

As Chris Kresser points out, "Chinese medicine is in fact a complete system of medicine that has successfully treated many common health conditions for more than 2,500 years. Chinese medicine was passed through the ages in an unbroken lineage of some of the best minds of China. It was used by emperors and the royal courts to help them live into their 90s and stay fertile into their 80s at a time when the average life expectancy in the west was 30 years."

This medical system is OLD. Older than the son of god, older than Sistine Chapel, older than your great aunt Margret. The first evidence of the type of medicine that led to our current understanding of Chinese Medicine dates back to over 6,000 years, during the neolithic period. Stone tools from this period were found that were especially shaped to make small incisions in the skin. Even Otzi the iceman, the well preserved mummy found in the Otzal Alps between Austria and Italy was found to have tattoos that marked acupuncture points. Chinese medicine has 8,000 years of continuous use, 8,000 years of treating patients, case studies, herbal formulas, and success. Put into perspective, western medicine as we recognize it today didn't come into play until the 1350s (the middle ages). And we all know about the middle ages...and want to forget about the middle ages.

 

 

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There's a reason that Chinese medicine has survived for over 8,000 years and a reason that it's becoming more and more popular in today's world--- and not just by those who have extra money to throw around. One of the reasons why some people still believe this medicine to be a "New Age", "woo woo" shot in the dark is because they don't understand it. The language used in TCM talks about meridians, qi and energy---and if you are new to all of this, it can sound like Voodoo. In reality, these terms are more like a foreign language--- instead of focusing on how the terms sound, focus on what the medicine does.

The Huangdi Nei Jing is the ancient text that much of what we know about Chinese medicine comes from. Many scholars believe it was written around 2,000 years ago, and provided information that the west only found out until relatively recently. For example, they knew that the heart was the organ that pumps blood through the body more than 2,00 years ago---the west figured it out in the early 16th century. This book has detailed sections on pathology, case studies, herbal formulas, lifestyle changes, nutrition and acupuncture prescriptions. Basically, "alternative medicine" was their only medicine--the Chinese invented preventative care.

More and more research is beginning to prove what the Chinese knew about acupuncture---that it works. So how does acupuncture work? In my next post I'll talk about what current research is finding out about acupuncture, what it does to the body and the theories of how this amazing medicine works.

 

www.chriskresser.com

www.acupuncturetoday.com

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Polk Acupuncture

3166 N Lincoln Ave

Chicago

,

Illinois

606578477693312