acupuncture and edema

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Suffering from swollen ankles and feet?  This condition, known as edema, occurs when excess fluids collect in the tissues and is common in pregnancy especially after the 5th month.

Edema can be triggered by the increase in blood volume associated with pregnancy, excess sodium in the diet, a lack of potassium in diet, standing too long, summer heat, and other medical conditions.

It is important to address edema early—when pregnancy-related, before 34 weeks. The longer edema is present in the body, the more it can interfere with the onset of labor, complicating its initiation or progression. When edema is present, it is often an indicator that other imbalances are present in the body. We need to strengthen the body and address fluid metabolism so that the body’s energy can be directed towards the preparation and initiation of labor.

Some contributing factors that put you at risk for edema are:
- overwork, hectic lifestyle
- emotional stress
- overconsumption of cold, raw foods and dairy
- excess sugar, salt or processed foods
- strenuous exercise or sedentary habits

Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent or allay edema:
- try not to sit or stand for more than 20 min at a time.
- stay hydrated
- get regular exercise (improves circulation)
- elevate your feet often
- avoid caffeine

Making some changes to your diet is also helpful. Introduce or increase consumption of these foods:

Coix (yi yi ren)—bland seeds that taste similar to barley. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the sweet bland, slightly cold seed has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of edema.

Barley Water— Helps strengthen the body’s energy, promotes urination and rids the body of excess fluids.

Recipe for Barley Water:

3/4 cup pearled barley
juice of 1 lime + zest (can substitute lemon)
1/2 cup honey (optional)
6 cups filtered water.

Place barley in a strainer and rinse under cold water until water runs clear.  Place barley in a sauce pan with the grated zest and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, simmer for 10 minutes then strain mixture into bowl.  Discard the barley. Add the honey to bowl and stir to dissolve.  Stir in lime juice and let cool.  Can drink warm or cool.

Cucumber—In TCM, these are considered sweet and cool, go to the Stomach and Bladder channels to clear heat, and promote urination to reduce edema.

Grapes—generate fluids and promote urination, reducing edema.

Cornsilk—the silky threads that grow between the husk and the corn. In TCM it is sweet, bland in taste and drains dampness and clears damp-heat from the Liver and Gallbladder, thereby reducing water retention and edema.

Recipe for corn silk tea (which tastes like corn on the cob):

Boil about 1 1/2 cups water.  Place fresh cornsilk (amount from 2 ears of fresh corn) in the boiled water and steep covered for 10 minutes. strain out the cornsilk and enjoy. You can drink this several times a day. (from Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen)

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