Grief. A Chinese Medicine Perspective

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I have been dealing with a lot of grief lately. This is usually the way it goes. A patient comes in who is suffering with loss. Perhaps it is the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a pet or the death of a loved one. There is nothing more devastating to us than loss. It hurts the heart, and leaves us with an emptiness that is difficult to fill. It is something that everyone on the planet will have to deal with many times in their lives, so I thought that I would talk about some of the ways that it can be made a little easier, less painful, and with minimal suffering in the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

I find that I tend to treat conditions in waves. It is common for a patient to seek out treatment for say, anxiety, and then you find that for the next little while, there is a constant stream of anxious patients coming to see you. You can speculate as to what the reasons for this are, and I suspect that might be the subject of another article, but for now lets just say that in my experience, this is how it happens. And lately many patients have been suffering with grief. Overwhelmingly.

Who doesn’t have to deal with grief at some time or another? Grief is a natural, healthy emotion and is an important part of being human. Unpleasant as it may be to feel, it is important that we feel it, make our peace with it, and let it go. I am not talking about letting go of the memory of the pet, the person you are no longer with, or the loved one who has passed away. Those are memories you will have forever. It is the grief itself that must be expressed so that it can be let go. This is healthy.

So, how do we measure grief? How do we know what we are experiencing is not “normal” and that we may need help in letting it go? It is true that you cannot listen to grief with a stethoscope, or measure it with a blood test. How it is experienced is highly individualistic. The severity of the grief is not reflected in how it is seen from the outside, it is measured by how it is felt by the individual, or experienced from the inside. The breakup of a relationship may to one person be sad but manageable, but to another may cause the fabric of their life to unravel. The loss of a pet to one person may be unpleasant, and devastating to another. The severity of the loss is measured in how it is FELT, not by some external metric, comparing situations with levels of grief.

Chinese medicine is concerned with grief that is repressed, unexpressed, (unable to be expressed), expressed without control or in the proper context. Emotions are only considered pathological when they are particularly intense, felt for prolonged periods, unacknowledged or unexpressed.

eye

So how do we express grief in a healthy way? This is what I would like to share with you. And to do so, we will have to look briefly at the way Chinese medicine sees the body, the emotions and their connection to our health.

The Chinese Approach To Health - A Holistic System

Chinese medicine has a holistic view of the body. Everything is seen to exist within the continuous circle of nature. When the elements of nature are in balance, life is in harmony, and flourishes. Humanity cannot be separated from nature, we are nature, manifest as people. Living in harmony with the world around us is the way to maintain health. If one were to live out of balance with nature, illness would develop.

Another vital aspect of the TCM model is the psychological aspect of our beings. What we feel has a huge impact on our physical bodies, thus, emotional wellness is an important aspect of our health. In the West I believe this connection is just recently being acknowledged and accepted, but the Chinese have known this for thousands of years. How could it not be a factor? Our bodies are the way we physically experience the world, but only one aspect of how we experience our existence. In TCM, every aspect on every level is important, and all must be considered when evaluating a person’s overall health.

Grief - The Emotion of the Lung

The Function of Lungs

Let us look at the lung, the relationship it has to specific mental states, diseases and our ability to maintain health.
Every organ in TCM is associated with an emotion. For example:
Liver = Anger
Spleen = Worry or Over thinking
Heart = Joy
Kidneys = Fear
Lungs = Sadness or Grief

The lungs are responsible for taking clean, oxygen rich air into the body, and breathing out air full of harmful carbon dioxide. They are responsible for taking in the new and letting go of the old, the constant cycle of life.

Every Organ in TCM has a partner organ. One is yin, the other yang and they work together to keep the body in balance. The lungs are yin and their yang partner is the large intestine. The lungs take in the new, and the large intestine releases the waste. Many breathing and bowel disorders are rooted in excess grief and sadness and excessive grieving can lead to disorders of both the lungs and the large intestine. Therefore, our abilities to accept and be open to new experiences, and to let go of things that are painful or harmful is important to both our emotional and physical well being.

Overview of the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, every organ has a series of things associated with it. These are the clues to dealing with the organ when it is out of balance, either in excess or deficient. For example - when the lung is weak, eating pungent foods is beneficial. The best time to tonify the lung is in the autumn when its energy is at its peak, and the emotion of sadness affects the lungs more than any other organ.

Related Organs (Yin-Yang Partner): Large Intestine
Emotion - Grief / Sadness
Season - Fall / Autumn
Flavour - Pungent
Colour - White
Healing Sound - sssssssssss

In Chinese medicine, we don’t use words like “disease” or “illness”. These are Western terms. In TCM, we say the body is suffering from an Imbalance, or a disharmony. In TCM, the emotions can be either the cause, or the result of the imbalance. For example - asthma can be caused by prolonged sadness (the emotion of the lung), conversely, a person suffering from chronic asthma over many years may develop grief (the cause of the grief is the asthma). It is a circle of interaction.

From a seasonal perspective, autumn is the season of the lungs, so this is the season where it is most important to take care of this delicate organ so that we can avoid colds, flus and allergies. From an emotional standpoint It is the season where we should become a little more introspective and concentrate on resolving or at least coming to terms with any underlying emotional issues and letting them go. This will allow us to make new space to bring positive emotions into our hearts and lives. Walks in nature, and breathing in the crisp, dry air will help immensely in this process.

The energy of the lungs is the lung "qi" (pronounced chee). Qi is best translated to “energy”. Lung qi is the energy by which the lung functions take place. If these aspects are functioning properly, then your lung qi is strong. The lungs have many functions in TCM. Here is what the lungs are responsible for...

breathe

Qi and Respiration

The lungs are the organ that take qi from the world and breathe it into the body. The lungs govern qi. Qi is the energy that is needed for all the body’s processes. It is like the gasoline that a car needs to function and go. The stronger the lungs, the more qi they are able to take in and distribute to the rest of the body, necessary for all its vital functions. The weaker the lungs, the less qi there will be, and an imbalance is created.

Skin, Body Hair & Sweat

The condition of the skin and body hair is a direct reflection of the strength of lung qi. This includes the sweat glands which are part of our ability to remove toxins and waste materials from our bodies, as well as protect us from the outside from things like pathogenic factors. The skin, body hair and sweat glands can be loosely translated as a part of our immune system. If your lung qi is weak, you are susceptible to colds and flus. If these colds and flus are not resolved quickly they get deep into the body and can turn into bronchitis and pneumonia. The lungs are particularly susceptible as they are one of the few organs that have a direct connection to the outside of the body.

Dominates Descending

The lungs are the boss of qi. They are located in the upper region of the body and are therefore responsible for making sure the qi descends into the lower part of the body and gets everywhere it needs to go. A chronic cough illustrates this function as a cough in TCM is energy ascending rather than descending due to weakness of the lungs energy.

Opens into the Nose

As anyone with allergies can tell you, we need our noses for breathing. The energy, or qi of the lungs is needed for proper respiratory and olfactory function in the nose. When the lungs are strong, we will breathe easily and our sense of smell will be sharp. When lungs are deficient, we will be congested, have a runny nose and our sense of smell will be impaired.

The Emotional Aspect of the Lungs

The lungs are associated with clear thinking and communication, openness to new ideas, positive self image, and the ability to relax, let go and be happy. When the lungs are out of balance or you are dealing with excessive grief, you will have difficulty coping with loss and change, a sense of alienation, and experience a prolonged sense of sadness that does not dissipate. The lungs are also associated with attachment, so if you have a hard time letting go of people, objects, experiences or spend a lot of time reliving the past, this can point to a deficiency of the lungs. If the energy (or qi) of the lungs is weak, you may experience an overwhelming, constant state of grief that does not ease. This deficiency, if prolonged, can lead to depression and other issues.

In contrast, grief that is expressed fully and resolved is strengthening both physically and psychologically. Therefore it is not avoiding grief, but rather dealing with it in a healthy way that is the key to being happy and maintaining balance in all aspects of life.

What Can I Do To Help With My Grief?

There are many things that you can do to help you through a difficult period of grief. One of the most important is to acknowledge how you are feeling. It is common for people to avoid feeling emotions that are overwhelming and/or unpleasant, but it is only in acknowledging our feelings that we may begin to deal with them and move on. Secondly, don’t judge. One of the most harmful things that we can do is to judge our own feelings. This is often worse than the emotion we are judging.

Here is an example:
I am feeling frustrated because I have been plagued by headaches lately. The pain makes working difficult and it is hard to concentrate or get anything done. When I think about my anger I instantly feel ashamed because my best friend is in the hospital dying of cancer. How can I be irritated by headaches when she is suffering so much more than I am?

You see, anger is the emotion and shame is the judgement. There is nothing wrong with being frustrated by having headaches. That is normal. But judging that emotion is not healthy and only makes you feel worse. It is also entirely self imposed. I mention this because I have seen this so much in practice. I find that people are very hard on themselves, as there is a constant comparison to what other people are dealing with. So, my advice to you is this. Feel what you are feeling. Don’t judge it. It is good and valid. Try to step outside of it. Observe it, and let it pass. And be kind to yourself. I think we could all use a little more self love too.

Below are some exercises specific to grief, some beneficial foods for the Lungs, and other recommendations to help deal with grief in a healthy way, and let it go so we can move onto better things.

breathing

Breathing Exercises - Releasing Grief

Because grief is associated with the lungs, the way to release it most effectively is through deep breathing exercises. By deep I mean by breathing into the diaphragm and filling the lungs to capacity. Deep breathing is practiced in meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong and many of the internal arts. Even more powerful is breathing with visualization which helps to cleanse, detoxify and release grief from the body. Below are some breathing exercises for releasing grief.

Breathing Exercise 1- Deep Breathing

Breathe in through your nose, and think of breathing in all the way to your belly, taking is as much air as possible. Once the lungs are completely full, hold the lungs full for a count of five. Once you have counted to five, exhale through your mouth from the very bottom of your Lungs until they are completely empty. Do this three times. This exercise should be done three times daily.

Breathing Exercise 2 - Healing Sounds

Find a comfortable place to sit with both feet flat on the ground. Place your hands in your lap, left over right. Mentally locate your lungs in your chest, and connect to them. The more clearly you are connected to them, the better and quicker the results.

Practice the breathing technique from above, filling your lungs (through your nose) to capacity. Do this a few times and really connect your awareness to your physical lungs in your chest. As you exhale, tilt your head back with teeth loosely clenched, tongue pressed gently to the roof of your mouth.

Exhale while making an ssssssssssssss sound. It is like the ‘s’ in snake. Repeat at least three times. Do as many times as you wish, but always in multiples of three. You are breathing out the toxicity and negative energy in your lungs. You are literally breathing out the grief and sadness.

The more you do this exercise, the more grief you release and the better you will feel.

love

Breathing Exercise 3 - Love and Light Technique

This technique uses two things along with deep breathing. Love and light. The colour associated with the lungs is white, so we will envision white light.

If your grief is the loss of a person, or animal, imagine a happy time or funny situation you shared with them. This will cause you to smile and feel love. We will use this energy to heal the lungs. Use this technique after doing the healing sounds exercise.

Using the same breathing technique as the healing sounds, take this love energy after a deep breath (through the nose) and hold the breath while directing the love energy down into the lungs. Exhale through the mouth. Send the love energy down into the lungs as many times as possible, at least three times. Sense the love energy in your lungs.

Use the same breathing technique but now, when holding your breath, picture white light flooding your lungs and filling them to capacity. This is white, healing light. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat at least three times and repeat as many times as possible in multiples of three. Sense the white light healing your lungs.

noodle bowl

Beneficial Foods

Below is a list of foods that are beneficial for the lungs. Since these foods strengthen the lungs, eating them will give the lungs the energy they need to help you to move through your grief more quickly.
The flavour of the lung is pungent, so foods that are the most nourishing to the lungs are considered pungent in TCM.

~ Garlic
~ Sweet potato
~ Ginger
~ Onion
~ Cabbage
~ Pears
~ Walnuts
~ Black pepper
~ Radish
~ Rice
~ Chili
~ Cinnamon
~ Cardamom
~ Leek
~ Miso
~ Navy Beans
~ Soy Beans
~ Almonds
~ Asparagus
~ Broccoli
~ Cucumber
~ Celery
~ Mustard Greens
~ Apricot
~ Banana
~ Eggs

acutx

Get an Acupuncture Treatment

Once grief has taken up residence in your body and psyche it is doing damage that is important to have undone. Experiencing prolonged grief has a negative effect on every part of your being. The acupuncturist will help you to rebalance. When you are speaking with your acupuncturist, be honest. Tell them how you are feeling. That you have experienced a loss and are feeling sad is just as relevant to them as having diarrhea or a yeast infection. Acupuncture works to rebalance the body, but is also immensely helpful for moving emotional blockages, and opening things up so they can be released.

I have treated grief many times. I have many protocols for moving it out of the body. There is often crying. Sometimes people cry and can’t stop. Frequently they are alarmed by their own outburst, but I know why they are crying, it is because the grief is moving, and they are finally letting it go. I am prepared with tissues and a kind heart.

In the privacy and safety of an acupuncturist's office, people manage to let go of what has been festering for weeks, months and sometimes years. And that is wonderful. I include this because I think that many people don’t know about both the scope of acupuncture and what it can treat, and the importance of the emotions in the TCM medical model. If you have emotional issues that you are having difficulty dealing with, I urge you to try these exercises and foods, and if they are not enough, to seek out an acupuncturist and work with them to deal with the issues once and for all.

massage

Massage

Massage is a very good way to move any stagnant or “stuck” grief in the body. Massages, like acupuncture are very moving. If you have ever had a massage and been surprised by knots in your muscles that you didn’t know you had, you will understand how emotions affect the physical construct of our bodies.
Unpleasant emotions cause our bodies to constrict and stiffen up. That is why when people are sad, depressed and angry, their bodies often ache and they have a tendency to headaches, and other problems. These are the body’s way of communicating to you that there is something wrong. Massages of all sorts are wonderful for releasing tension, alleviating pain and moving grief and sadness.

Like acupuncture, it is not uncommon for someone to cry when they are having a massage. But, that is good, that means that the pain, grief and sorrow is being released and moving out of the body. A massage along with the breathing techniques listed above, walks in nature (while breathing in the fresh, new air), and adding some beneficial lung foods to your diet will have a huge impact on your ability to deal with your grief.

Self Massage

Another thing that you can do to help with grief is to massage along the lung meridian, which is located on the arms. When a patient comes in suffering with grief, I always include this in the treatment to help move it. The lung meridian is located bilaterally (on both sides of the body), begins under the clavicle, and descends down the arms, terminating at the corner of the nail on the thumb. I have included an image so you can more easily visualize it. Massaging the arms along the lung meridian is helpful, and they will often be sore if you are grieving. You can massage your arms, or have someone do it for you. Remember if you are using long, sweeping motions, always massage towards the heart.

In summary, I hope this gives you a better understanding of grief and how it is viewed in TCM. One of the reasons I wanted to write about it is because grief is so common and something I see so much in my practice. It is something we all experience, and Chinese medicine offers us many ways in which to deal with it in a healthy way. Our emotional lives are just as important as our physical ones, so staying balanced in all aspects is important to our overall health and wellbeing.

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If you suspect you are having problems with grief or your lungs and would like an expert opinion, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers skype consultations. Please email us at info@chinesemedicineliving.com for more info.

 

 Grief. A Chinese Medicine Perspective 


Acupuncture and Addiction

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Acupuncture has been successfully used to treat addictions for many years in the West. It has been used in hospitals in conjunction with standard Western treatments, like methadone for heroin addictions, and many addiction clinics operate using acupuncture to combat the symptoms and root causes of addiction.
The ancient healing art of Chinese medicine has been used to treat illness and disease for thousands of years, but it is only relatively recently that it has been used in the West to specifically combat the effects of addiction. Acupuncture has been proven effective for treating many types of addictions, from cocaine and heroin, to nicotine and even overeating.

A Tale Of Success

There is excellent clinical evidence that acupuncture is effective in treating addictions. The first acupuncture detoxification clinic in the United States, called The Lincoln Clinic, opened in 1974 in the South Bronx borough of New York. At first, heroin addicts were being treated with a combination of acupuncture and methadone. The acupuncture treatments proved so successful however, that methadone was dropped from the program. According to Dr. Michael Smith, the clinic’s director, the success rate using acupuncture is substantially higher than with other, more conventional programs.

Here is some information about The Lincoln Clinic, taken from an article about Acupuncture and Addiction:

The Lincoln Clinic

The Lincoln Clinic in New York City is the premiere detoxification center utilizing acupuncture in the U.S. Its director, Dr. Michael Smith, says the need for effective substance abuse treatment in the clinic's neighborhood is evident:

The South Bronx is a racially marginalized, high poverty, high unemployment, high crime, high infant mortality, low literacy neighborhood devastated by several decades of substance abuse.
When the doctors at the Lincoln Clinic read in 1974 that a neurosurgeon in Hong Kong, Dr. H.L. Wen, had noticed a reduction in the withdrawal symptoms of opiate-addicted patients to whom he had been giving acupuncture treatments, they decided to experiment with the procedure at what had been until then a methadone clinic. Over the years they developed a protocol that they have taught to more than 500 clinicians in 150 different programs.

The Lincoln Clinic protocol relies on four major tools in helping serious addicts recover: acupuncture detoxification, urine testing, individual counseling, and participation in 12-step group-based therapy. Smith argues that the advantages of integrating acupuncture into more traditional treatment programs are overwhelming. The primary value of acupuncture, however, is that its immediate effect is often a cessation of withdrawal symptoms, encouraging patients to come again for treatment in the future.

Smith cites a few remarkable statistics to support the effectiveness of the Lincoln Clinic method. Among pregnant women with a history of abusing crack cocaine, those who receive acupuncture have higher birth weight babies than those who do not receive the treatment. Mothers with more than 10 visits have babies with an average weight of 6lbs. 10oz, while those with less than 10 visits have babies weighing an average of 4lbs. 8oz.

A seven-day inpatient drug treatment program in Delaware using the Lincoln Clinic method reported a decline in rates of recidivism from 87% to 18% one year after the date of admission.

Dr. Smith attributes this effectiveness to a number of factors. One of acupuncture's greatest strengths, he argues, is that it forges a bond between doctor and patient even before verbal communication is established: "acupuncture will be just as effective even when the patient lies to us." Unlike verbal counseling, during which the patient may be in denial or feel angry or intimidated, acupuncture's immediate effects are not dependent on the cooperation of the patient.

As stated previously, acupuncture's primary effect is to stimulate relaxation. "In addition to reducing withdrawal symptoms acupuncture provides a strong calming effect on substance abusers and substantially reduces drug craving. Clients describe the effects of acupuncture as allowing them to feel relaxed yet alert," according to Dr. Smith. That feeling of relaxation is the essential benefit of the acupuncture protocol. Unlike methadone treatment, acupuncture affects the patient's state of mind during withdrawal, not the body's need for a drug.

Addicts enrolled in the program reported a marked reduction in cravings for drugs, feeling more relaxed and less anxious, relief from symptoms of withdrawal and improved sleep. The success of The Lincoln Clinic and its results have inspired the opening of publicly funded acupuncture detoxification programs across the country and abroad.

addiction

How and Why it Works

Auricular - Acupuncture of the Ear

Addiction treatments with acupuncture are done with acupuncture points (specific anatomical locations) in the ear. There is an entire branch of Chinese medicine dedicated to treating the body and its disorders using only the ear. Acupuncture practiced specifically on the ear is called auricular acupuncture. An important discovery occurred in 1955 by a French doctor - Dr. Paul Nogier, who, by testing electrical activity on the surface of the skin found that every traditional acupuncture point had a corresponding point on the human ear. Through his discovery, auricular acupuncture was created. Auricular has been the most effective treatment for addictions, and has the advantages of not requiring privacy (no need to remove clothing so points can be applied), and thus, the ability to treat many patients in the same room at the same time. Many standard auricular addiction protocols have been developed, and their ease of use makes them easy to teach to both physicians and acupuncturists.

Western Medicine

In Western medical terms, the positive effect of acupuncture for treating addiction can be attributed to the fact that research has shown acupuncture to raise endorphin levels in the nervous system. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and are similar in structure and function to opiates (heroin) which also have a strong analgesic effect. Research suggests that combating the strong withdrawal symptoms for people suffering from addictions to drugs is to raise endorphin levels in the nervous system. The desire to eat is also mediated by endorphin levels, which would also explain why acupuncture has a beneficial effect on people trying to lose weight by helping to control their appetites.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine has its own way of explaining why it is so effective in treating addictions. Chinese medicine is a holistic system where every part of the body works synergistically. It is a unified system. The concept of yin and yang is at the core of Chinese medical theory. Yin and yang are two opposing forces, and when a person is in good health, yin and yang are seen to be in relative balance. Yang is the “fire” aspect, and yin is the “water”. Yang is substance, yin is function. Yang consumes and yin nourishes. Addicts are very often deficient in yin. Physiologically, an excess of yang causes hyperactivity, restlessness and an excess of frenetic energy, behaviours which push an addict to constantly seek out drugs. Psychologically, excess yang causes anxiety, agitation and anger.

These yang attributes are dominant because there is not enough yin (or water) in the body, to balance, or tame the yang (or fire). An abundance of fire (yang) drives the addict to use, which exacerbates fire and depletes yin (water). Narcotics also are considered yang, which continues the cycle. Addicts feel anxious and restless, seeking out drugs to make them feel “better”, which in turn introduces more yang into the body, further depleting the yin they desperately need to rebalance the system. A vicious cycle.

The treatment involves nourishing yin by doing acupuncture points in the ear. There are several protocols, but usually 1-5 points are needled in each ear and retained from 30-45 minutes. The patient can be lying down or seated, and most patients find the treatment is very relaxing and calming to the mind and body, adding to a sense of well being which is so often absent for the anxious patient suffering with addiction. As an adjunct, and especially helpful in treating addiction, ear seeds are used in between treatments. These are tiny metal balls, or natural seeds (vaccaria seeds are most often used) applied to the acupuncture points of the ear with stickers, and patients are told to press on them to stimulate the points in between treatments to help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Points on the ear for treating addiction include the lung, kidneys and liver, the major organs of elimination that aid in removing toxins from the body, imperative in treating addiction.

The frequency of treatment for addiction depends on the substance. People addicted to “hard drugs” are advised to have treatment daily until they are clean and then a couple of times a week thereafter until they feel able to manage cravings on their own and are not tempted to use. Alcoholics also receive daily treatments in the initial stages of treatment, and it tapers off as their symptoms decrease. Interestingly, alcoholics receiving acupuncture rarely suffer from seizures during the withdrawal period.

Nicotine addictions are in a different category as nicotine is seen as a milder drug. It does not produce the dramatic physical effects “hard drugs” do, but is more prevalent and may be seen as more insidious. Treatments are usually not needed daily and smokers usually notice a drastic decrease in cravings for nicotine after the second or third treatment. Duration of treatment is dramatically less for smokers, and the average length of treatment is 2-3 weeks. After 4 or 5 treatments spread out over a 2-3 week period, 7 out of 10 patients have kicked the habit. Others will have drastically cut down on the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Ear seeds will be applied to the ears with instructions for patients to apply pressure to them often which will help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms in between treatments.

The Desire to Quit

The desire to quit cannot be overstated. As with most things, change cannot happen without first the acknowledgement of the problem, and the desire to make that change. Acupuncture, or any other treatment cannot be effective without the participation and desire of the patient. Treatment is always a joint effort, and the patient's desire is paramount for a favourable outcome.

For treatment of something as complex as addiction, acupuncture cannot exist in isolation. Addiction is not solely a physiological issue, it has deep psychological implications which must be addressed for recovery to be achieved. Acupuncture in conjunction other modalities such as therapy which addresses the psychological aspect as well as a strong support system are important parts of a complete treatment program. The relapse rate for addicts is high, so it is important that these treatments exist not only during the treatment itself, but remain afterwards to support the recovering addict on the long and often difficult road to recovery.

*Footnotes
“The Lincoln Clinic”
http://www.ndsn.org/sept95/guest.html


Summer Recipe - Artichoke, Zucchini & Olive Pasta

This light, delicious pasta is perfect for summer. All ingredients are beneficial for us in the summer season.

Ingredients
Artichoke hearts - 1 can (even better if you can get fresh)
Green olives with pimento - 1 cup
Zucchini - 1 medium, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Red wine vinegar - 1/4 cup
Fresh Oregano & Basil - 1 tbsp. each
Pasta - 1lb
Olive oil - 1/4 cup
Garlic - 6 cloves, smashed
Salt & pepper - to taste
Red pepper flakes - 1 tsp
Corn starch - 2 tbsp.
Water - 1 cup

Instructions
1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add a tsp oil so pasta doesn’t stick.
2. Wash, cut in half, then slice the zucchini
3. Drain artichokes, and slice. Take olives and slice in half
4. In heavy pot, add olive oil and heat on low. Add smashed garlic and stir so it doesn’t burn. Wash and add oregano and basil. Add red wine vinegar & water.
5. When water boils, add pasta.
6. Add zucchini, olives and artichokes and turn heat up to medium, stir constantly. Add salt.
7. Cover and let zucchini soften, about 10 minutes.
8. Once Zucchini is soft, add pepper, and more oil/red wine vinegar to taste if necessary. Add red pepper flakes.
9. Put corn starch in small glass and add enough water to cover. Stir. Add to sauce and keep stirring to thicken. About 2 minutes. Taste sauce and make sure it is delicious.
10. When pasta is done, drain and add into sauce. Stir well until all pasta is coated.
11. Serve and top with fresh grated parmesan or Romano cheese if you wish. Enjoy!

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Summer season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Summer Season in Chinese Medicine.


Love Your Spleen.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Helpful tips - How to Keep Your Spleen Strong According to TCM.

One of the most common things I see in my practice is problems with digestion. Interestingly, this isn’t usually the reason that people come to see me, but when I am going through the medical history, it usually comes up. The sad thing is that most people live with digestive problems when in TCM they are relatively easy to fix with a little treatment ,nutritional counseling and some tips on how to help support and strengthen our digestions.

Now, a lot of people think of the spleen as in the western medicine spleen, part of the immune system and responsible for the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and removal of old red blood cells. It is not the same as it is in TCM. The spleen in Chinese medicine is paired with the Stomach, and both are the main organs of digestion for the body. The difference is that they not only digest food, but also stimulus and information - everything that comes into the body through our sense organs.

What you learn your first year in Acupuncture school when learning TCM theory, is that we live in a Spleen deficient culture. We are constantly taking in information, and that information has to be processed by, you guessed it, the Spleen. We eat in front of the TV (taking in food, and stimulus at the same time), we are constantly looking at our mobile devices on the road and wherever we go, and we are always multitasking. Never doing just one thing at a time. And thus, we are overloading our poor Spleens.

So, what can we do? There are lots of things that, once you are aware of them, can help take the burden off your Spleen.

Don’t Put Ice In Your Drinks. Avoid Cold Foods.

The Spleen hates cold, so one easy way to help your Spleen is to avoid ice in your drinks. Because the Spleen is responsible for breaking down your food through the process of digestion, and this is powered by heat. Eating and drinking cold foods such as icy drinks, eating ice cream (a TCM nono!), or eating a lot of frozen or very cold foods (many foods in raw form are considered “cold”) taxes the Spleens energy, as it has to heat up again to be able to do the work necessary for digestion.

Be Mindful.

This is not just good advice for helping your Spleen, but a good life philosophy. One of the best things you can do for your Spleen is to do one thing at a time and be absolutely mindful when you do it. This means when you are eating, JUST EAT. Don’t sit in front of the TV, read, study or catch up on work. In such a fast paced world where everyone is short on time, it is understandable that people are always doing many things at once, but this small thing will not only help your Spleen, it will relax your mind and body as well.

Chew Your Food.

We can all help our Spleens by making sure that we really chew our food well. We tend to all be in such a hurry that we do not chew our food nearly as well as we should. Chewing will help the breakdown of the foods before they get to the stomach, making the Spleens job a little easier.

Eat Soups.

Since most of us have at least some Spleen deficiency, one of the best things you can do to be kind to your Spleen is to eat soups. These are warming (the longer and slower they are cooked, the more warming they become) and they are very easy to digest which is why they are prescribed to you when you are sick - your body requires less energy to digest them, focussing its energies to fighting pathogens and getting you well. Soups do not take a lot of energy to digest, saving the Spleens energy for other things. There are many foods that are beneficial to the Spleen which I will list later in the article. I will also list foods that the Spleen is not so fond of so you can at least be aware of what they are and avoid them when you can.

Take A Break.

Because we live in a culture that is so bombarded by stimulus, most people have deficient Spleens. The Spleen must take in and process ALL that information, including the food we eat and liquids we drink, so you can imagine, it is a very hard working organ. Something that you can do to give your Spleen a break, is to literally, take a break. Go for a walk outside. Leave your phone at home. Sit somewhere quiet and meditate away from the TV, the phone and try to avoid interruptions. Doing this even once a day for a few minutes will really help the Spleen and you will notice a big difference in how you feel. You will notice that you are calmer, more aware and feel more at peace. And your Spleen will love you.

The Spleens Functions in TCM

The Spleen is responsible for many functions, so that if you have symptoms in any of these areas, they point to a disharmony of the Spleen.

The Spleen Controls Blood

The Spleen is responsible for manufacturing the Blood and the Spleen Qi keeps it in the vessels. If Spleen Qi is weak, a person will bruise easily, and/or will have problems with bleeding.

The Spleen Controls The Muscles And The Four Limbs

The Spleen is responsible for circulating nutrients to the muscles and tissues. If the Spleen is weak, then the muscles and limbs are not nourished and become weak and tired.

The Spleen Is Responsible For Transformation & Transportation

The Spleen is responsible for the intake, processing and distribution of nutrients extracted from food and drink. The Spleen takes these nutrients and creates Qi and Blood, both vital substances for all the body’s functions and maintaining proper health. If transformation and transportation is functioning properly, the Qi is strong, digestion is smooth and the body is kept moist. When malfunctioning, the Qi is weak (lassitude and lethargy), the appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish and the stools are loose and watery.

The Spleen Opens Into The Mouth & Manifests In The Lips

Chewing is necessary for the functioning of the Spleen and if the Spleen is deficient, the sense of taste may be dulled. Red, moist and vibrant lips indicate a healthy Spleen. If the Spleen is deficient however, the lips will be pale from lack of nourishment.

Controls The Upright Qi

The Spleen is responsible for the body’s “holding” function. This is called the upright Qi. It is specifically the force that counteracts gravity when it comes to holding things, specifically the organs, in place. This is very important! Without healthy upright Qi, all of our organs would be at the bottom of our abdomen! When the Spleen is weak, we see prolapse of organs (uterus, bladder, stomach), prolapse of the vagina as well as things like hemorrhoids (prolapse of the anus, PLUS bleeding also attributed to the Spleen).

Houses Thought

Every organ in TCM is seen to have its own unique Spirit, and the Spirit of the Spleen is called the Yi. The Spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking. How well we manage our thoughts, concentrate, exercise discernment and form intentions is dependent on the strength of the Spleen.

Worry - The Emotion of the Spleen

All organs in TCM also are associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the Spleen is worry. This works in two ways. Excessive worry will damage the Spleen Qi, and a deficient Spleen can weaken the mind and our capacity to think clearly and focus, leaving us susceptible to worry.

Foods Beneficial For The Spleen

  • Organic lightly cooked vegetables, corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, radish, caper
  • Brown rice, barley, amaranth, rye, oats
  • Legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils
  • Small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • Small amount of whole fruits, lemon
  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed, kelp
  • Green tea, jasmine tea, raspberry leaf tea, chai tea
  • Raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry
  • Walnut, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Lamb, venison
  • Lobster, mussels, prawns, shrimp, trout
  • Black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, cayenne, nutmeg

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, breads
  • Cold raw foods
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Coffee, alcohol
  • Deep fried foods
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Bananas, avocado

When the Spleen is functioning well a person will feel energetic, their digestion will be smooth, their bowel movements will be regular and firm (not soft), thoughts will be clear and one will be able to concentrate.

When the Spleen is imbalanced there will be symptoms of digestive upset, loose stools, poor appetite, low energy, edema (water retention), nausea, vomiting, weakness in the four limbs, pale lips, organ prolapse, bruising and a feeling of cold.

Because most of us have some level of Spleen deficiency, we can all help our Spleens by being aware of simple things we can all do to take some of the pressure off this important organ. Your Spleen will love you for it.

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Would you like to learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine? Check out these downloadable info sheets available on www.learnchinesemedicine.com -

The Spleen - Theory in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Dampness in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Patterns in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen Associations in Chinese Medicine - Poster

Love Your Spleen. : Chinese Medicine Living


Living With The Seasons - Summer

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

There are 5 seasons in TCM, corresponding to the 5 elements (Fire/Earth/Metal/Water/Wood). Summer, Late Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring respectively.

Summer represents the outward expression of energy, expansiveness, movement and activity. It is the most yang of the seasons and is ruled by fire. Life and energies are at their peak. Summer in TCM is the season associated with the heart and the small intestine. The colour is red, the emotion joy, and it is a time for growth, expansion, light, abundance and is the manifestation of all we have been cultivating throughout the spring.

Many look forward to summer all year round. The weather is hot and the sun is out, improving people’s moods and people are drawn outdoors to participate in all the activities they have been longing for all winter. Plants grow quickly, people are full of energy and the body’s qi and vitality are at their peak. It is a time to cultivate the yang energy (fire), while making sure that it does not come to excess. In TCM, the heart, mind and spirit are ruled by the fire element, so priority should be given to these important aspects of ourselves in the summer season.

Rising early in the summer allows us to benefit from the suns nourishing rays. Being up early enables us to get all of the suns nourishing energy which is the most bountiful at this time of year. In summer, our work, play and relationships should be filled with joy and should instill in us a feeling of happiness and delight. We should live our lives and go about our daily activities with joy, passion, and laughter. This is how we know that the heart energy is balanced in us.

Physically, when we are properly balanced, the heart circulates oxygen rich blood throughout the body, and assures proper assimilation in the beginning stages of digestion in the small intestine. In Chinese medicine, mental acuity is associated with the heart therefore memory, thought processes, emotional well being and consciousness are also attributed to the heart and the fire element. This is a time to nourish our spirits, realize our life’s potential, finding joy in hot summer days and warm summer nights.

When the heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we sleep deeply and wake rested. When the heart is imbalanced, we may lack joy (which manifests in depression) or have an excess of joy (mania or manic behaviour). Some indications of a heart imbalance are nervousness, insomnia, heartburn and confusion, red complexion, poor memory and speech problems.

Emotionally, because the heart is connected to our spirits, summer is the best time to heal emotional wounds that we have carried with us from our pasts. Healing these wounds frees up space that we can fill with love, joy and happiness and ensures that we will not carry our old hurts with us into the future.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of the summer season:

Drink plenty of water and other fluids
Wake up earlier in the morning
Go to bed later in the evening
Rest at midday
Add pungent flavors to your diet
Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered. (anger causes and exacerbates heat!)

Summer is about abundance, and this is definitely the case with foods. Fruits and vegetables abound in summer, and we are lucky to have a multitude of choice when it comes to what we eat. Because it is the season of maximum yang, it is important to stay cool and hydrated. There are many foods that are beneficial to eat during this season. All foods in Traditional Chinese Medicine have a temperature, and energetic properties so in summer, we eat cool, yin foods that are moistening to balance the heat. Many raw foods are seen to be cooling in nature, so summer is the perfect time to indulge in salads, which are full of raw vegetables, very cooling and hydrating to the body. Eating more foods with pungent flavours and reducing bitter flavours help to strengthen the lungs - responsible for sweat so helps to maintain the normal sweating mechanism . Foods with cooling properties also clear heat, can reduce toxins and help to generate body fluids. Generally, most vegetables and fruits are cooling, eating them raw makes them cooler still, and many seafoods are also cooling in nature.

Here is a list of foods that are beneficial to eat in the summer months:

  • Apricot
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Lemon
  • Peach
  • Cucumber
  • Orange
  • Asparagus
  • Sprouts
  • Bamboo
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Corn
  • White mushroom
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Watercress
  • Seaweed
  • Mung means
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Bitter gourd
  • Mung beans
  • Wax gourd
  • Lotus root
  • Lotus seed
  • Job’s tears
  • Bean sprouts
  • Duck
  • Fish

Living in harmony with the seasons is at the core of Traditional Chinese wisdom. It was based on living in harmony with nature and one's environment. Traditional Chinese Medicine is also a system that is rooted in prevention. Food is medicine and the ancient Chinese used food and its healing properties to build up the body when deficient, cleanse it when toxic, and release it when in excess. With these basic principles of eating with the seasons, and an awareness of the organs associated with each phase and their emotions, we can all stay healthy, strengthen our bodies, minds and spirits and live long, happy healthy lives.

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Summer Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Summer Season in Chinese Medicine.

Living with the Seasons - Summer : Chinese Medicine Living


Tai Chi - History & Health Benefits

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

China has a long tradition of using exercise techniques to promote health and longevity. Its roots go back to ancient times. In the 6th century BCE (Before the Common Era) Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, ‘Yield and overcome, bend and be straight.” From these origins of Taoism comes the central philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan – literally Supreme Ultimate Fist.

In 250 CE the physician Hua Tuo developed a system of exercise based on the movements of five animals. He believed that regular exercise was necessary for good digestion and circulation, and that this would assure a long and healthy life. These Five Animals Exercises form the basis of the modern systems of Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong.

In the 6th century CE an Indian monk named Bodihdharma came to China to the Shaolin monastery. He noticed that the monks there were in poor physical condition from meditating too much and moving too little! He developed an exercise system called the Eighteen Form Lohan Exercise, from which came Kung Fu and all other external martial arts forms. Some of these exercises survive today in modern Tai Chi Chuan.

tai-chi-2

Today Tai Chi Chuan enjoys a world wide following of people with little or no interest in martial arts. They practice Tai Chi for its physical and mental health benefits. Concentrating on the movements of the forms and regulating the breathing brings about a state of mental calmness and clarity. The physical movements rotate the joints of the body to about 95% of their capability, keeping one limber and flexible. No other Western exercise comes close to this range of movement.

Researchers have found that Tai Chi practice improves balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. Other health benefits include relief from pain, fatigue, insomnia, depression, and symptoms of diseases such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, ADHD in adolescents and many others.

Tai Chi’s gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing, and nearly as many as downhill skiing! These many health benefits explain the huge popularity of Tai Chi Chuan world wide.

 

*Note - CE (common era) is the same as AD (anno domini). (ex: 1400 CE is same as 1400 AD)