Chinese Medicine Theory

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Good friend of the nest, and writer, Eric Hawxby is our featured guest blogger. A big thank you to Eric!

As we emerge from the longest, coldest Winter since The Ice Age; consider the Spring season is traditionally known as one of rebirth. It is at this time of year that our natural inclination is to lay to rest our sedentary wintry lives and begin a new existence refreshed and renewed.  Spring-cleaning is performed, dust-bunnies are shooed with a sweep of the broom, ushering in the bunnies of Easter (Spring). While binge-cleaning our homes is a great way to clear the air and freshen the psyche, it’s also an ideal time to treat our bodies to a gentle Spring-cleaning of its own.

Generally speaking, Winter is the season of rich and heavy comfort foods, not only during the holidays but during those bitterly cold nights hunkered down on the couch, armed against Arctic Blasts with our favorite take-out food. Traditional Chinese medicine correlates Spring-time with the liver—our body’s vigilant and dedicated house-keeper. It rids our bodies of dangerous toxins helping it to stay healthy and balanced. In this modern era we are assaulted with toxins which we absorb into our systems every time we breathe, eat, and drink. Toxins are even absorbed through the body’s largest and most vulnerable organ—our skin. At The Nest, in order to honor this Spring, we are celebrating the liver and all that it does to keep us living healthy, productive, and joyful lives.

There are many ways to gently assist the detoxification of our bodies. By cleansing ourselves of built-up toxins we can help boost and sustain our energy levels, enjoy a glowing complexion, and restore balance to our natural bio-rhythms. It’s important to remember that when approaching a cleanse or detox regimen that your goal isn’t to shock your system with an abrupt and drastic fasting or by over-doing it with supplements designed to flush your system; these practices can cause serious short and long term problems for you. Instead, start simply by first reducing the toxins you ingest through the foods and beverages you consume. Cut out or reduce your intake of sugary, chemically-sweetened sodas, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and coffee. Instead, moderately consume organic fruit juices, unsweetened teas and make a concerted effort to drink 8 glasses of  purified drinking water. Avoid drinking out of plastic containers. There are free smart-phone apps that can monitor and encourage your intake of water. Adding fresh lemon and cucumber to your glass of water aids the detox process and is palatable and refreshing. Organic green-tea will help cleanse the body of free-radicals whose only goal is to accelerate the body’s aging process. While growing older is an inevitable and beautiful part of our life-cycle, we don’t need free-radicals pushing us towards the grave. Catechins, found in green-tea, will help you fight off these fun-haters. On the go, order a green-juice drink from the neighborhood health-food joint, or make your own incorporating watercress, spinach, ginger, broccoli, add some fresh mint for taste.

Your Spring detox plan should also include eating smaller meals made with as many whole, fresh, organic ingredients as possible. Mom may know best, but Mother Nature knows even better. Make a point to eat natural foods that come into harvest during the season of the region in which you live; in addition to seasonal produce from other areas. Some healthy Springtime bounties include: artichokes, nettles, lettuces, asparagus, New Potatoes, and Spring carrots. Add some of that fresh mint to your smoothie or iced tea or eat a few leaves as-is. Morels, peas, radishes, rhubarb, green garlic, fiddleheads, fennel, naval oranges and lemons are at their best during the Spring season. Incorporate them into your favorite recipes.

Another effective way to cleanse and rejuvenate the body is by taking a dry sauna or steam bath to open pores and sweat out the accumulated toxins inside our bodies. Obviously, exercise is a great way to induce sweating and should be incorporated into any lifestyle regardless of the season. Detoxing should be a gentle and healthy component of your health regimen. Over-exercising or too much time in the sauna will dehydrate your system and stress the body’s ability to regulate temperature and will purge your body of necessary electrolytes. Treat your body with care and respect and you will be rewarded with the gift of health.

Chinese Medicine modalities can also help facilitate the cleansing and detoxing of our bodies. Cupping and Scaling are gentle and effective ways to increase circulation and draw out harmful radicals traveling through the blood-stream and residing in our muscles. Chinese foot-plasters can also be beneficial in expelling toxins via the many acupuncture points of our feet and are worn while sleeping. Your health practitioner at The Nest can advise you on these treatments and determine if they would be necessary and of benefit to you. Chinese herbal supplements to aid in detox can be specifically designed for the individual needs of our clients. It is always wise to consult a health-care professional before making drastic changes to your diet and exercise regimens. In our modern times we tend to take aggressive approaches to exercise and fad ‘diets;’ while it’s important exchange the harmful habits for healthier ones. The rabbit may be Spring’s icon, but heed the tortoise for slow and steady always wins the race.

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When was the last time you got full eating a meal by filling up your senses — noticing the taste, scents, texture and the feeling of nourishment good food can give you?

We often see eating as something on our to-do list unless we are going out for a special meal when we consciously set aside the time to really enjoy it. Recently, the New York Times reported on the Buddhist practice of Mindful Eating and how it is entering secular places, like the Google campus. Mindful Eating is a meditative practice that can quiet the mind and bring your awareness into your body.

How Can You Practice Mindful Eating?

The Center for Mindful Eating lists one of the principles of mindfulness as, “being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment”. Mindful Eating is defined in part as “Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.”

Benefits of Mindful Eating
This movement might be gaining popularity because it counteracts two aspects of American food culture that could use some intervention. First, it focuses on pleasure which is a welcome change from punishment prone diet concepts. Second, it slows down our ceaseless rushing which allows time for reflection on our food choices — what we like, what agrees with us, and where it comes from — which can connect us to our community and environment. The main benefits are also twofold; by focusing on the pleasures of food and eating, we can feel true satisfaction and become more adept at noticing when we are full. In the New York Times article, Mindful Eating as Food for Thought, Jeff Gordinier writes, “Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough.”

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Healthy Weight
This non-diet/enhanced awareness mindset is very similar to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to regaining and maintaining healthy weight.TCM looks to a root, internal cause rather than external reasons, like food, for weight gain. Usually deficient Qi (lifeforce) or Qi imbalance is the cause. If a body has sufficient Qi, it won’t experience cravings or excessive appetite. Alternately, if there is insufficient Qi, organs may not be able to perform their essential functions well, like eliminating toxins or maintaining proper metabolism. For example, the spleen and liver organ system is key for digestion. If there is imbalance there, you might experience headaches, digestive issues, weight gain, or allergies. Organ systems can become imbalanced for many reasons like viral infections, environmental toxins or emotional trauma. Stress is a common reason for imbalance in various organ systems. The Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation writes, “Perhaps the most profound aspect of TCM’s perspective on overweight conditions is its perception of the role emotions play in overall health.  TCM does not see and treat your body, mind, emotions, and spirit as separate, but rather as an interrelated whole…When TCM looks at digestion, it takes the broadest view:  digestion is the ingestion, absorption, and letting go of food, drink, and emotion…”

Chronically held emotions cause stagnation in the organs, creating an impasse for the flow of chi like a dam in a river. Acupuncture can relieve these blocks to restore the flow of energy and re-establish proper energy exchange. People often feel this immediately as relief, joy, settled nerves, or an energy boost. When the imbalances are righted, the body will ask for what it needs and normal weight will return.

Mindfulness can help us to recognize stress, allowing us to acknowledge it and act or let it go. It can also help us to bring more pleasure into our lives to keep in balance. Mindfulness eating is an enjoyable practice to help us tend to the gift of our bodies with greater care and pleasure.

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New Year ResolutionsWelcome to the New Year! What are you going to do with the bright new days ahead of you?

This is the first post in a series of three of simple ways to to get healthier in 2012.

I know many people balk at making New Years Resolutions but I think most of us do use this time to reflect on the past year and what we would like to build upon and what we would like to change. Consider the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective on this season. Winter is a time for gathering strength in the stillness. For instance, taking more time for rest by going to bed earlier and waking after the sun has risen brings extra energy to the internal organs, thus fortifying the body for the rest of the year. Yin energy is at is peak in this season, drawing energy inward, making it an opportune time for reflection. Contemplation in the quiet of winter can bring peace to our minds and spirits and prepare us for the changes we want to make.

What would you like to enhance or change in your lives in the coming year? How can we all bring more peace, joy, and satisfaction into our lives?

No matter what you are facing, acupuncture will bring vitality to your effort and sustain you on your way!

A seminal study published last month by Experimental Biology and Medicine, http://explore.georgetown.edu/news/?ID=61392&PageTemplateID=295, showed that blood levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY), a protein linked with chronic stress, were diminished following acupuncture. This is thought to be the first study to show molecular proof that acupuncture reduces stress. The author, Ladan Eshkevari, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Georgetown’s School of Nursing & Health Studies is also an acupuncturist. She got the idea for the research when she noticed that most of her patients were reporting a “better overall sense of wellbeing — and they often remarked that they felt less stress.”

Maybe this past year you have been struggling with a chronic illness and you are feeling strained. Acupuncture will not only help by healing the imbalances contributing to the problem, it can refresh and sustain you by carrying away those unwelcome stress proteins and leaving wellbeing in their place. What could be better? Maybe you are considering giving up smoking or coffee. Acupuncture will help with withdrawl symptoms and again, the stress that occur when making changes. Or perhaps you have made wonderful accomplishments this year such as leaps in your career or a steady commitment to exercise.

Reward your self and sustain your health with a feel-good session of acupuncture. You deserve the support and happiness and we wish you much of it this New Year!

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