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It's Summer time... and the living is easy, when you follow these great TCM Summer tips!
The Summer Solstice isn’t until June 21st, but these 90 degree days are making me feel like Summer is here! For me summer means farmers markets, fresh veggies, warm nights, and BBQ’s with friends and family. As soon as this season hits, you can find me in our backyard on the hammock! This season is a time for growth not just for all of the seeds you planted in spring, for your flowers and gardens, but for yourself! It is a great time for both mental and spiritual personal growth, which we will get to later!
YANG within YANG
Summer is the most Yang season in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which makes since because it is ruled by the element of Fire. It is full of abundance and the outward expansion of energy. The organs related with the Fire element are the Heart and Small Intestine. And thus the heart, mind, and sprit are the focus during this season.
The Heart “holds” the mind in Chinese Medicine. When the Heart is imbalanced we either have “lack of joy” i.e. depression, or we may have an excess in joy, i.e. manic behavior. Some other symptoms that come with and imbalance in the Heart, are nervous exhaustion, agitation, and insomnia. The summer is the time to start the meditation practices that have been getting neglected, or to add in the extra hikes or swims you have been missing in the colder months. Meditation gives the mind time to rest, regroup, and refocus on what is important to your mind, heart, and soul! While adding in a few more activities is a great way to get your blood circulation pumping!
The Heart physically circulates the blood through the body. And in Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a connection between the blood and the “shen” or our emotions. When the blood is deficient, the shen cannot be held, thus making us more agitated, nervous and fearful. But when the blood is abundant and can flow freely, the shen is calm. That is why both mental, spiritual, and physical practices are so important during this season.
As far as meditation goes, I know everyday we don’t feel like we have time to sit and meditate for 20 minutes or more, so I shoot for 5 minutes. I prefer guided meditations and love the app Simple Habits. They provide you with different guided meditations for 5 minutes each day, and of course you can do more then one round in a day if you want! I have found that the commitment of 5 minutes a day feels doable, and not like another task on my already long To-Do list! It gives me time to just sit and be in my body, and since it is on your phone you can do it anywhere! I have done it in my office in between patients, in my bed before I even get up, and even a few times in my car (before I start driving of course)!
So, lets talk about food in the Summer, because I love eating with the seasons! Summer is a great time to hit up your local farmers markets and score great deals on local veggies! If you live in Denver, one of my favorites, which started last weekend, is The Pearl Street Farmers market on Sundays! There you can buy a whole bag of local veggies for $10! I am talking like a whole potato sack of veggies! It is a steal! We usually go every other week and get our bag full, but with a bigger family you can stop by once a week, and it will still be cheaper then the store!
With the Summer heat, in TCM we focus on eating cool or yin foods, so our yang doesn’t go into excess, which is easy to have happen with how hot it gets! Below is a list of some great cooling foods to add to your diet this summer. And also make sure you are drinking lots of water! Adding cucumber to your water makes it even better and cooling for your system!
Here is a list of foods that are beneficial to eat in the summer months:
Allergies got you down? Spring is here and for a lot of people that means allergy season! In Chinese medicine allergies occur because there is a deficiency in a particular organ system, but in all cases Wind is also part of the diagnosis. Wind is able to penetrate and get in because of the weakness in an organ system. Wind can come in many forms wind cold and wind heat is typically seen more in patients with cold and flu symptoms, while wind damp can be seen in seasonal allergies. Wind damp symptoms are typically a sudden onset of symptoms that can come and go (just like wind) including: sneezing, itching of eyes and throat, heavy sensation in head and copious mucus.
The combinations of herbs, acupuncture, and diet can treat the symptoms of acupuncture, but also get to the root of the cause to better support your system to fight off allergies in the future!
DIET For Allergies
Diet plays a huge role in controlling and preventing seasonal allergies. Sweets, dairy, cold, and raw food all increase mucus build up. When the mucus accumulates the allergens are able to stimulate a stronger reaction! So what should you eat to help defend against seasonal allergies? Soups, warmed or steamed veggies, and grains that are easy to digest. We want your digestive system to be as healthy as possible, because with a healthy digestive system there is less likely for mucus build up and the body is better equipped to fight of any invasions! Adding warming ginger and cinnamon to your diet is also helpful! And last eating food in spring that support the Liver in Spring like salmon, scallions, eggplant, broccoli, and dandelion greens will also be beneficial!
ACUPUNCTURE for Allergies
Acupuncture can both relieve the symptoms of allergies, but it can also get to the root of why you are having them! Often in my clinic I see treatment for the symptoms of allergies frequently relieves the symptoms immediately or within the next day! During our treatment I will also determine which organ is deficient, in general for allergies it is either Lung, Kidney, Spleen, or Liver. Each organ deficiency often presents as different allergy symptoms.
For example more issues with sneezing or coughing: your Lung Qi may be deficient. Issues with itchy red eyes: your Live Qi may be deficient. Excess mucus in your nose and throat: your Spleen Qi may be deficient. And Kidney is often involved in all of them, but generally is deficient in people who have experienced chronic allergies most of their lives. In this case the best time to treat the root of your allergies is actually in Winter, which is the season which relates to the Kidneys. Treatment in the winter can actually prevent the allergies from coming in the spring.
To find out if acupuncture is right for you to fight your seasonal allergies, book an appointment or free consultation today!
It’s officially Spring! Although the snow we had on Sunday didn’t feel like it, but I know in the last week or so I have started to feel the changes take place to bring us into one of my favorite seasons!
Spring a time of renewal and cleansing
Spring is the time to get up and moving after hibernating in winter. Spring cleaning is a real thing, not just for our houses, but for our bodies. After the cold months of winter where we were craving rich earthy foods, our appetite in spring eases, and we start to need less food, as there is no longer a need to store energy to stay warm during the cold months of winter. Because of this spring is a great time to reset your body and reach your weight goals. The natural trends of this season of eating less and moving more, supports you in this process.
The organs of Spring: the Wood Season
Why else is spring a great time for cleansing and renewal? Because spring is represented by the Wood Element in TCM, and that includes the Liver and Gallbladder organs. Both of these organs are incredible in their abilities to cleanse and release.
Among the livers many functions in Western Medicine is the formation, cleansing, and filtration of blood to help the body eliminate toxins. And in Eastern Medicine the Livers functions go well beyond the physical function and it includes the spiritual and emotional qualities as well. The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi in our bodies, its energy moves upward and outward. It is responsible for keeping the flow of blood, energy, and emotions moving to support the body, mind, and spirit.
When Qi cannot move it can become stagnant: causing stress, anger, irritability, and depression. If you do not follow the flow of the seasons, this Qi stagnation is likely to occur. Often within the transition between Winter and Spring I will have patients who come in with many of the emotional symptoms already mentioned. By regulating their bodies with acupuncture, food, and regular moment, their emotions will quickly begin to balance out!
Other problems that are associated with imbalances in the Wood element are: muscle tension, sciatica, headaches, visual issues, menstural irregularities, PMS, digestive issues, and High Blood Pressure. Spring can be a time when these can get aggravated or become worse, but it is also the time to treat and relieve these!
Wind can occur in any season, but is generally strongest in Spring. In TCM wind can penetrate and become internal wind causing symptoms such as: dizziness, cramps, inching, spasms, tremors, pain that comes and goes, twitching, pulsating headaches, and ringing in the ears. The nape of the neck in TCM is called the “wind gate.” It is the place that is most vulnerable to wind and cold, which is why wearing a coat or scarf is so important during this season.
How to Stay Healthy this Spring
Foods For Spring
1. Green Foods: During spring, it is recommended to eat foods green in color and rich in chlorophyll that help accelerate rejuvenation of the liver. This includes things like spirulina, chlorella, parsley, wheat grass, kale, Swiss chard and collard greens.
2. Radishes: Pungent in flavor, radishes are perfect for the spring time. They help move liver Qi and open up the liver meridian.
3. Sour Citrus Fruits: Foods like lemons, limes and grapefruit are all good choices that help cut fats that may have been stored up in the body during the winter months, while also keeping the liver Qi moving smoothly.
4. Bitter Leafy Greens: Spring is the appropriate time for liver cleansing, which is what the bitter flavor does. So adding things like dandelion greens, arugula, radicchio, mustard greens and spinach will help tremendously.
5. Chicken: Ever heard the term “spring chicken”? Well this is the appropriate time of year to enjoy pasture-raised, locally grown chicken. And pairing chicken with some of the aforementioned foods can make for a very healthy and liver happy meal.
It’s February! And since February is all about hearts, I thought what better time to go more in depth into the Heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Heart is considered to be one of the most important organs in TCM and is described and the emperor or ruler.
The main function of the Heart is that it governs blood and houses the mind (shen). The Heart is responsible for the circulation of blood just as it is in Western medicine. So when the Heart is healthy there will be a proper supply of blood to all of the tissues, but when the function is impaired blood circulation will lack and you will see cold hands or feet.
The other extremely important function of the Heart is being the residence of the mind or Shen. Shen is used to indicate the whole sphere of both the mental and spiritual aspects of humans. The aspects are listed below and each aspect although closely related to the Heart also has a second Yin organ it is related to.
-Ethereal Soul (hun)- Liver: refers to self-awareness and self-control, it is most closely related to the Western concept of the soul
-Corporeal Soul (po)- Lung: refers to the basic reactive instincts, when it is active pain and other sensations such as itching can be felt, hearing and sight are also related to this
-Intellect (yi)- Spleen: refers to the ability of thinking, studying, concenteration and learning
-Will-power (Zhi)- Kidney: has the function of memory, mental drive and determination
-Mind (Shen)- Heart: controls and regulates all of the above and has the job of processing all of the incoming sensory and intuitive information
SYMPTOMS OF THE HEART
When the Heart is strong and Blood are abundant the emotions will be balanced, the memory will be strong and sleep will be good. When the Heart is weak and the Blood is deficient there maybe mental-emotional problems such as depression, as well as poor memory, mental restlessness, anxiety and insomnia.
THE HEART AND OUR EMOTIONS
The Heart is connected to all of the emotions because of its connection with Shen, but each of the seven emotions: anger, worry, sadness, fear, joy, grief, apprehension are related to a specific organ. And for the Heart, Joy is the emotion that is related. Of all the emotions joy is the most difficult to explain, mainly because in Chinese medicine emotions when in excess emotions can play a role in disease. You may be thinking how can too much Joy be a bad thing, and truly this was one of the harder concepts to wrap my brain around.
With the right amount of Joy in our life the mind will be peaceful and relaxed. But when Joy is excessive such as carving for excessive excitement, the Heart can be injured. This can happen to people who live in a state of continuous mental stimulation. This can be seen as someone who is in a constant manic state, or someone who will do anything to stay in a place of happiness, whether from drugs or thrilling activities. This cause the Heart to become larger, and leads to excessive stimulation of the Heart. Some symptoms of this could be palpitations, insomnia, restlessness, excessive excitability or talking, and red tongue tip.
Sudden Joy can also cause a shock to the Heart, like hearing great news unexpectedly. When this happens Yang Qi floats quickly which can cause the blood vessels of the Heart to open and dilate too much.
FOODS FOR THE HEART
Some foods that are beneficial to the Heart are many red foods such as:
Tomatoes, Beef, Cherry, Saffron, Red Beans, Watermellon, Red Apple, Beets, Radish, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Red Lentils, Longan Fruit, Red Dates, Chili, Cumin