Loving Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Taking Care of Your Spleen Will Do Way More Than Improve Your Digestion

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

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 their medical history, it usually comes up. The sad thing is that most people live with digestive problems when in Chinese Medicine they are relatively easy to fix with a little treatment, nutritional counselling 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 Chinese Medicine. 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 Chinese Medicine 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 Chinese Medicine

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.

muscles

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 are 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 manifests on the lips

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 haemorrhoids (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 are dependent on the strength of the Spleen.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

Worry - The Emotion of the Spleen

All organs in Chinese Medicine also are associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the Spleen is worry and overthinking. 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.

Colour food circle

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
  • A small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • A small number of whole fruits (as opposed to just the juice), 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

preparing food

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, bread
  • 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, oedema (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 of this important organ. Your Spleen will love you for it. :)

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If you suspect you are having problems with your spleen and would like an expert opinion, Emma offers skype consultations. Please email emma@chinesemedicineliving.com for more information or to set up an appointment.

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Loving Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Living With The Seasons in Chinese Medicine - Summer

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

There are 5 seasons in traditional Chinese Medicine, corresponding to the 5 elements - Fire / Earth / Metal / Water / Wood. They correspond to 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 Chinese Medicine 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.

surfing

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 Chinese Medicine, 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.

journaling

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 instil 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 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.

memory

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.

living with joy

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 flavours to your diet
  • Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered. (anger causes and exacerbates heat!)

heart fruits and vegetables

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 types of seafood 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 beans
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Bitter gourd
  • Mung beans
  • Wax gourd
  • Lotus root
  • Lotus seed
  • Job’s tears
  • Bean sprouts
  • Duck
  • Fish

watermelon is good in summer

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.

Summer sky



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The Raven's Warrior

Chinese Medicine Living friend and contributor Vincent Pratchett offers a teaser from his new novel - The Raven's Warrior. And we are so happy that this, his debut novel, is getting rave reviews (2 of which are included below) - congratulations Vincent!!!

By Vincent Pratchett - www.vincentpratchett.com

From Wikipedia

The British historian Joseph Needham and the American historian Robert Temple write that the practice of inoculation for smallpox began in China during the 10th century.[6][7] A Song Dynasty (960–1279) chancellor of China, Wang Dan (957–1017), lost his eldest son to smallpox and sought a means to spare the rest of his family from the disease, so he summoned physicians, wise men, and magicians from all across the empire to convene at the capital in Kaifeng and share ideas on how to cure patients of it.[8] From Mount Emei in Sichuan, a Daoist hermit, a nun known as a "numinous old woman" and "holy physician"—who Temple says was associated with the 'school of the ancient immortals' and thus most likely specialized in 'internal alchemy'—introduced the technique of inoculation to the capital.[9] However, the sinologist Joseph Needham states that this information comes from the Zhongdou xinfa (種痘心法) written in 1808 by Zhu Yiliang, centuries after the alleged events.[10]

From The Raven's Warrior

This Chancellor, once the emperor’s most trusted minister, ambled throughout the palace grounds like a wraith. He had always borne the responsibility of his post well, but now it paled by comparison to the weight that pulled him down and slowed his every step. He was without purpose, a man who knew that in reality his life had amounted to nothing. Sorrow was a heavy burden, and the fact that he would never really know his son added to it greatly.

His regrets were many. Their time spent together was as an official with his heir, he wished now it had been much more as a father with his son. There was no comfort and no solution, and for all his worldly influence, he was now utterly powerless. He had steered his boy away from all things frivolous, but would now give anything just to hear that childish laugh once more.

With no real way to escape his pain, he wandered vacantly to the only place that gave him small respite. As he approached this private spot, he froze when he saw another in his place. He stood quietly and watched carefully to see what the boy had come to steal. Instead he saw the page light an offering before the urn that held the ashes of his son. The smoke rose and circled as the boy bowed three times and thrust the incense into the bowl of alter sand.

An image of chopsticks stuck in a rice bowl came to mind. He walked forward, and at the sound of his closing footsteps, the page’s tear-wet face turned suddenly in his direction. The frightened boy stood clumsily and prepared to flee. “Stay,” the minister bid, and reluctantly but without choice the boy sat once more. “Why are you here?” the chancellor asked, and when the page answered, “I came to visit my friend,” his eyes could not hide their surprise.

He raked through memory for anything his son may have told him about this friendship, but there was nothing. He did remember the distain his boy had of the rough commander, and what once he thought irrational now began to make more sense. Their status was as opposite as night and day, but their ages were similar. In the adult realm of the palace, the minister was starting to believe that his son may have had a secret friend. The Chancellor asked bluntly, “What besides your years could you two possibly have had in common?”

The page responded with an unwavering stare, and with an answer that took the emperor’s highest official completely off guard, “Horses, Sir. Your son loved horses.” There was a time his boy walked into the palace smelling like the stable, and the memory of how he had rebuked his child now scalded him like bitter tears.

Over the course of the afternoon he gleaned many details from the page about a boy that he didn’t know. The minister heard about his son’s dreams of one day joining the military. Proudly he heard that his son was kind to the page and the animals that he tended. In a short time the minister realized that this boy knew his son much better than he did, and he took delight in every hidden detail.

The page eventually apologized but explained that he had his duties to attend to, and that any slip would bring harsh retribution. The minister did not want him to go but understood the workings of the palace. He felt much lighter as he stood to face the page whose position now grew more desperate with every passing moment.

"Sir,” the page intoned with one final recollection, “It was your son’s strongest desire to rid the land of the sickness that came in time to claim him.” With an awkward and uncustomary embrace the minister said, “Goodbye.

The minister walked with new direction, grateful for the gift the young page had given him.  He was clearer in thought and lighter in spirit than he had been since his son’s departure. Once inside his private chamber, he took his position behind his desk. He sat straight and breathed deeply as he looked at the blank silk paper that lay before him. Gathering in mind the spirit of his boy, he dipped the brush and began to write in his beautiful cursive script.

Before assigning his seal, he examined carefully his first official decree since the death of his son, and was well satisfied. The minister had written a summons to physicians, wise men, and magicians from all over the empire, to come to the capital and try to find some remedy.

The official proclamation was sent out across the entire kingdom. It went out over the land like the smoke of the many funeral pyres, and touched the furthest corners of the realm. 

The Raven's Warrior by Vincent Pratchett

Reviews of The Raven's Warrior

The Raven's Warrior is a most fascinating and splendid read! The marvelous Vincent Pratchett has fashioned one of those great adventure novels that literally grab you with the first sentence and never lets go. What a truly wonderful literary ride it is!

The attention to detail, the sense of history and fantasy, the vivid characters who leap off the pages, are all seamlessly integrated to produce a most memorable read. Mr. Pratchett has a magnificent way with a sentence.It is as if there is not a single superfluous word..every word is integral to the whole.

The Raven's Warrior combines so many terrific elements..Celtic history, Arthurian Legend, the supernatural..and all fit in so well in the overall narrative. The adventures and startling life of Arkthar, from kidnapping by Viken raiders and descent into the Baghdad slave market is brought so vividly to life. When Arkthar arrives in the Middle Kingdom..the reader feels as if they have accompanied him on the remarkable journey. Everything a great book should be!

I must also applaud Mr. Pratchett for the immense amount of research that has obviously gone into THE RAVEN'S WARRIOR..there is quite a bit of fact mixed with fiction..together producing a rollicking adventure..and a must read!

AN OFFICIAL JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB MUST READ

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ForeWord Review

Original review here - The Raven's Warrior - ForeWord Review

Terry Pratchett’s kin crafts a smooth, new branch of the Arthurian legend.

Debut novelist Vincent Pratchett takes readers from Celtic Europe to China’s Middle Kingdom in a fantasy tale that commingles Western European, Northern European, Middle Eastern and Chinese landscapes and cultures. The result is a novel full of spiritual growth, rousing fight scenes, and a respectful use of martial arts in both their philosophical and martial aspects.

Celtic warrior Vincent is taken by Norse raiders to a slave market far from his homeland. Dusty, weak, wounded, and near death, he is bought by a man and his female servant and settled into a wagon. The pair, whose names he mispronounces as Merlin and Sea Lass, are actually Mah Lin, a former Buddhist monk, and his daughter, Selah, a healer and herbalist. Vincent mistakes them for wizard and sorceress on first meeting. As Selah tends his wounds, she reveals their true callings. Vincent has also gained a guardian, of sorts: a raven has followed him since his Norse captors wended their way to that slave market.

On the way to the Middle Kingdom, Mah Lin teaches Vincent the way of the warrior priest and Selah educates him on nature’s warning signals and herbs’ efficacy. Another case of mispronunciation leads Selah to call him Arkthar, which is approved by the raven’s raspy repetition of his new name. His healing way and physical education are, however, in danger: an imperial commander seeks Mah Lin to revenge himself for a long-ago event.

Thus the mystical circle that began with Mah Lin/Merlin finds and joins with Vincent/Arkthar, the connection is made, and the readers know that The Raven’s Warrior is another branch on the tree of Arthurian legend.

Finishing a novel is a challenge; being first cousin to Terry Pratchett, one of the most beloved fantasy writers alive, might add even more reason to expect a well-written debut. Readers are in luck: Pratchett is a natural storyteller and he knows how to structure a fantasy novel that’s much more than that.

Pratchett’s approach to the Arthurian legend is rare if not unique. Katy Moran’s 2010 novel Spirit Hunter has several similarities toThe Raven’s Warrior. Pratchett’s addition of a might-have-been China, an imperial ruler, and the deep knowledge of a martial artist cause a reader to pay closer attention to the story and how it unfolds. A ribbon of concern for the loss of old ways and skills (and their rescue) weaves through the novel as well. This is not your grandma’s Arthurian saga.

From his personal experiences as a traveler across Asia via ancient roadways (the routes of Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and Marco Polo), a martial artist and instructor, firefighting and teaching, Pratchett has indeed crafted a new branch of the Arthurian saga. The novel flows smooth as silk, the characters are as real as your next-door neighbor, and the setting and pacing are spot-on.

The Raven’s Warrior reads like the work of a mature writer well seasoned with much background material on which to draw. It will be interesting if Pratchett returns to this world for more of his vision of Arthur—the quality of this first foray into novel-length fiction bodes well for such ventures.

Janine Stinson


Menopause - A Chinese Medicine Perspective

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Menopause is a time when a woman’s life transitions from one stage into another. Ideally, this is done gracefully, and without any problems or health concerns.

In reality, I see women entering menopause with dread and fear. They have been taught that menopause is a disease and that it will be a time for unpleasant symptoms and hormone therapy. Much of our culture supports this, and it is no wonder women feel this way. So why is it that women in the West react this way to a natural life process while their contemporaries in the East do not? In an interesting bit of trivia, the Western thinking on the subject it seems, was fuelled by a physician and a book he wrote on the subject in the 1960’s...

“The current medical wisdom is the product of an industrially manufactured consciousness. In 1966 Searle, Upjohn, and Wyeth-Ayerst pathologized the perception of menopause, transforming it from a transitional life stage into a chronic disease process by hiring a Brooklyn physician named Robert A. Wilson to write a book called Feminine Forever, proclaiming that estrogen would protect a woman's youth and save her from "living decay." The book injected fear by insisting that without estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), bones would dissolve, hearts clog, vaginas shrivel, breasts sag, skin crinkle, and minds deteriorate.”

By Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efram Korngold, L.Ac., OMD from their article Recognition and Prevention of Herb-Drug Interaction for Menopause

In China, women do not fear this natural stage of life. It is not part of their culture, or their experience. Menopause is not something that should cause anxiety, as it is seen as a completely natural process and not an illness that needs medicating. It is a time that a woman moves out of the reproductive part of her life and enters deeply inwards, bringing the focus to herself, often after many years of focussing on others. It is a time that is welcomed and honoured.

We are a culture that reveres youth and beauty. The transition into menopause is seen as a permanent loss of both. In China, one’s elders have great importance in both the family and social structure. As we move through life, we are seen to be accumulating something very valuable - WISDOM.

As we age, both our yin and yang energy are seen to be in a gradual state of decline. This is a natural part of life, and we are certainly able to supplement them by eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising and taking care of our bodies, minds and spirits.

Jing - The Essence of Your Being

To understand menopause, we must first understand what is called Jing, or essence - which is stored in and regulated by the Kidneys. Jing can be loosely compared to our genes or DNA. Jing is like our life force, and we are all born with a finite amount. This is supplemented throughout our lives by the food we eat and nutrition derived from the external environment, so the better we eat and take care of ourselves, the less we are drawing on our Jing or essence. A good way to illustrate how Jing works, is to think about it as a savings account. The better your health in your adult life, the less you will have to draw from your Jing account, and the more you will have when you get older (which is when you really need it).

How difficult menopause will be for a woman is largely dependent on the physical, spiritual and emotional health she has maintained throughout her adult life. At the first signs of menopause, or perimenopause, a woman will often seek out her doctor or gynaecologist and the recommendation is often Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT. While this is an option for some women, there are certainly alternatives, and Chinese medicine has been treating gynaecological issues for more than 2000 years. In Chinese medicine, menopause is not seen as a disease, but merely a stage of life where the needs of the body change. If a woman has led a relatively balanced life, then she will go through menopause without incident, and yes this does happen! This is largely the experience in China. If a woman has had a lot of stress, emotional upheaval, poor nutrition and insufficient exercise, the effects will be felt when she enters menopause. When we are young our bodies are able to handle a lot more abuse and bounce back - living an unhealthy lifestyle would be constantly drawing on the Jing in our savings account, and it is when we are older, when we continue the behaviours of the past, that we notice that our bodies don’t respond as quickly or as well to our demands. In a bank account that was overflowing in our youth, we are now functioning at a deficit.

The Jing, or essence is stored in the Kidney and is the source of all our body’s vital energies. When the Jing becomes deficient we lose our capacity to remember, have vision and hearing problems, our libido is compromised, stamina decreases, bones become thin and brittle, our minds become dull, teeth and gums deteriorate, we experience vaginal dryness, have sore lower back, hips and knees and emotionally we become apathetic and prone to despair. These are symptoms of a deficiency of Jing in Chinese medicine, but, as you can see, they are also in our experience, signs of aging.

A deficiency of Jing, as it is at the core of our health, has huge consequences as everything else draws from it, leading to deficiencies of yin and yang, qi and blood. Deficiency of qi presents as symptoms of fatigue, feeling unmotivated, unable to think and concentrate, an overwhelming desire to sleep and feeling sad and melancholy. A deficiency of blood manifests as dizziness, memory problems, numbness and vision problems. Insufficient blood is unable to nourish the body’s tissues, causing it to stiffen up, losing its suppleness and flexibility, not only physically, but there is a lack of emotional flexibility as well. Yang deficiency is literally a lack of the warming energies of the body manifesting as chills, cold limbs, loose stools, and spontaneous sweating. Hot flashes are a symptom of yin deficiency, as yin is not able to anchor yang fire, causing it to rise up uncontrollably. Yin deficiency also causes anxiety, and night sweats which are so often associated with menopause.

Diet & Nutrition

Menopausal women often notice a change in the way they process food, therefore, dietary changes can be hugely helpful for dealing with symptoms. Women going through menopause often become lactose intolerant, so eliminating dairy products will help eliminate bloating and gas. Supporting the beneficial bacteria in the body like probiotics will help to normalize the functions of the digestive system.

Another dietary consideration is that of carbohydrates and insulin. Carbohydrates (bread/grains/cereal/pasta/potatoes) are broken down into sugar or glucose which causes the body to release insulin. The role of insulin in the body is to break down glucose. Increased consumption of carbohydrates leads to increased insulin levels which interfere with the cells ability to respond to hormone stimulation. Women with symptoms of liver qi and blood stagnation (sx: anger, irritability, frustration, depression, feeling emotionally ‘stuck’, lump in the throat, anxious and easily stressed, severe pain that is fixed, stabbing severe, fixed masses, dark complexion, bleeding with clots, purple lips and nails), are likely estrogen dominant and would most benefit from a limited carbohydrate intake, preferably one meal a day.

Dietary Recommendations for Menopause

Smoking - smoking is extremely drying to yin fluids which are needed to combat common menopausal symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes, so either quit or cut down and try to stay away from secondhand smoke.

Avoid foods like sugar, dairy, alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine and red meat as they aggravate symptoms like hot flashes and decrease emotional stability causing mood swings.

Beneficial Foods

Include foods rich in phytoestrogens like soy (from non processed or GMO soybeans) including tofu, tempeh and miso pastes, flaxseed, sesame seeds, hummus, dried apricots and dates, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts and pistachios. Soy is not a popular food choice in North America, but it is a staple of the Chinese diet and the highest source of phytoestrogens known.

estrogenfoods

Also including foods that are a source of progesterone is important in menopause. Those foods include yams (not to be confused with sweet potatoes), turkey, walnuts and fortified cereals. Eggs, dairy products and chicken are good sources of progesterone, but it can be difficult to find sources that have not been given antibiotics or hormones which you want to avoid.

Other Things You Can Do To Ease Menopause Symptoms

You may be wondering if you have lived a less than healthy lifestyle up until now, if your menopausal symptoms can still be treated - and the answer is definitely yes. Women with menopausal symptoms, sometimes very severe or debilitating ones, are often seen in clinical practice. Even though the basis of Chinese medicine is on prevention, it still offers us an incredible array of tools that can be used to help reduce the symptoms of menopause.

Get some acupuncture. A practitioner of Chinese medicine with their robust skills of interrogation and diagnosis will ferret out the source of the imbalance and has many tools at her disposal with which to correct it. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat gynaecological disorders and work very well to combat menopausal symptoms. As I often tell people, there is no miracle formula or acupuncture point for night sweats or hot flashes. Chinese medicine is a holistic system, and the reason that you are having the symptoms is because the body is simply out of balance. It is the job of the acupuncturist to discover the root of the imbalance and correct it, while educating their patient on things like nutrition, lifestyle, exercise and meditation so that the body will remain in balance and the symptoms will never reappear.

Menopause should never be a time for worry and fear, it should be a time for inner reflection, and many women find it is an incredibly powerful and edifying part of their lives. All stages of life are important, so if you are experiencing problems, just know that you are not alone and that Chinese medicine can offer relief.


Happy Spring-Time!

Written by Michael Margulis, Ac.

Just a few words about the spring season according to Chinese medicine.

The spring is a time of upward and expansive movement of creativity, planning a brighter future, vision and perspective; our goal as always, is to harmonize ourselves with the movement of the prevailing season. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver and the Gall-Bladder correspond to the spring and are charged of the smooth flow of energy throughout the body, storing and detoxifying the blood. Our activities should be geared towards creativity, determination and the expression of our inherent mental, emotional and spiritual intelligence. Much in same way that many of us engage in an annual spring cleaning of our external environment, our bodies do the very same thing within our internal environment; physically and emotionally.

We are now nearing the time of year when we will see the newly formed buds on the trees doubling in size daily, this is nature's expression of determination and creativity associated with the spring. Similarly, we too should engage in activities that put our determination, creativity and innate intelligence into motion. In Chinese medicine we always look at nature for insight to the energetic momentum, and strive behave similarly. Just as the buds on trees are sprouting and doubling in size daily we should also be pushing our self imposed boundaries and seek personal development and growth. We should engage in uplifting and creative activity that expands our energy and consciousness, this is why we have been blessed with the spring, the season of creativity, growth and renewal.

This is the perfect time of year to let go of stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs, as the expansive, stimulating movement of the spring gives us that boost naturally. We can also take advantage of this natural boost of energy to begin to exercise moderately on a daily basis, this too helps us to feel alive and refreshed. By shaking off the “cob webs” of the dormant season (winter), sweating out toxins, stimulating serotonin and dopamine in the brain, and revitalizing our energetic, blood and lymphatic circulation.

According to Chinese Medicine the Liver houses the aspect of our spirit that never dies from one lifetime to the next and therefore contains our reason for being. This is why the Liver has the capacity of determination and vision and planning; this way we can spring into action, express our greatest innate qualities needed to realize our spiritual destiny.

The name of the game during the spring is; to face everything and avoid nothing that stands in the way of our evolution; to hide nothing from ourselves; repressed desires, emotional needs and pain should be gently extracted from our depths and brought to the surface so that we may consciously release them (spring cleaning). This is the most propitious time of year to stop procrastinating and face the challenges that emerge from deep within our being or in our day to day lives that can impede us from our primordial spiritual evolution (the summer). In order to do this we must have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual clarity and cleanliness.
Most of the pain we experience have a tendino-muscular or a neuro-muscular component and according Chinese medicine all pain involves some sort of stagnation; be it of the blood, energy, body fluids, emotion or mental. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver and Gall Bladder govern the muscles, tendons and the nerves, by promoting proper heath and functioning of the Liver and Gall-Bladder we can keep the body, mind and spirit harmonious and pain free.

The positive mental-emotional attributes of the Liver/Gall-Baldder are;
Compassion, patience, acceptance, benevolence and honesty (both within and without).

The negative mental-emotional attributes of the Liver/Gall-Bladder are;
Anger, frustration, resentment, irritability and belligerence.

Just as the body is a microcosm of our world, the body is also equipped with acupuncture points that resonate with the spring equinox and have the power to harmonize us with this very powerful time of year. They synchronize us with the ambient movement and expression of positivity, determination, expansion creativity and cleanliness that is proper to the spring.

These points and they are very often of the most important acupuncture points to stimulate on the spring equinox or during the week of the spring equinox. It's best to stimulate these points starting with Gall-Bladder 41 and ending with Liver 1.

Gall-Bladder 41 (GB 41)

Liver 1 (LV 1)

Wishing you a beautiful and abundant spring full of health and happiness!

Straight ahead!

Michael Margulis, Ac.
Clinic GEM
514-271-3963

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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 Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.


The Raven's Warrior - Martial Arts Meets Chinese Medicine

The Writing of The Raven’s Warrior—A Novel

By Vincent Pratchett

Many people have an interest in martial arts. That interest however, is as unique as every individual who has trained and sweated through any art pursued. We bring a modern western perspective to an ancient eastern discipline. For me, the very first time I entered the dojo a new world opened up. The bowing, the white gi and the white belt I tied it with, the foreign names of the martial technique I learned, all took me to a place far different from the neighborhood I grew up in. Almost inevitably, the student at some point will turn their attention to the origins of their endeavor, both personally and historically. It is this understanding that provides the strongest foundation of who we are, and what we do.

At the University of Guelph I took a course in Chinese history, and felt once again that sense of wonder. In the library I poured over volumes of books on the science and technology of ancient China. This vast empire, isolated from the rest of humanity, developed and produced inventions and innovations that made the rest of the known world seem a very primitive place. The European world of A.D. 900 was a harsh environment. Ireland was regularly besieged by Viking raiders. Life in many places was as simple as defend or die. In contrast, China at this time was flourishing.

Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist doctrine formed the basis of their unified society. The Chinese had weapons of steel, while the rest of the world wielded iron. They had the compass while all others navigated by wind and star. Theirs was a working cosmic understanding of the earth and the universe, while for the rest of humanity the world was still quite flat. Advances in medical theory, arts and literature, paper and printing set them apart. It was here that the discovery of the destructive power of a volatile black powder would change the nature of war for centuries to come.

I have always been a writer. I was born with an Irish soul. Inherent in this culture is a deep love and respect for both the written and spoken word. How these words come together to form stories is really the heart of the magic and the enigmatic beauty of creation. Within my family I was taught that stories surround the tellers silently like the air that they breathe. Their gift is to listen and to record, to bring tales from the ether, and give them voice. As one raised in Canada I was skeptical, but now that The Raven’s Warrior is finished, I don’t think that this explanation is without merit.

The stage was set.

In my mind’s eye I could see and hear the savage warrior of my ancestral land dropped into the advanced civilization that was theirs. The writing of the novel began with the first sentence. It came to me as soon as I sat with pen and paper. With the first complete thought inked onto paper, the process of listening and recording was underway. Like the successful application of a martial technique, writing this novel was simply creativity drawn from the heart of chaos.

A man sees the world through the eyes he has been given. The wounded Celtic prisoner of war ripped from his homeland, is liberated by a priest and his daughter in the land called China. For him, hazy images of silk, steel, herbal potions, and healing needles, can lead to only one conclusion, he has fallen into the hands of a wizard and his witch, and Arkthar fears for his very soul. Although the grueling physical journey is over, his spiritual journey has just begun. Under Death’s plotting eye, a warrior, a priest, and a healer embark on a quest to save a kingdom. I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

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Every man’s life story begins at first breath, but this is not my story alone, and so it begins much closer to my last.

Chapter 1 – The Beginning

I soar in effortless circles around the plodding caravan far below me, gently riding the desert winds. It is not the glitter of sunlight on jewels that attracts me, for I do not covet the spoils of war, but crave only my humble share of war’s terrible outcome. The hot rising air is cradled beneath the feathers of my outstretched wings, and carries with it the tantalizing odor of sand and blood. I fly on, driven by primordial hunger and beckoned by the smell of death. Drawn closer now, I am intrigued, for I have found its source.

I can see him clearly. He is chained behind the cart laden with plunder and pulled by great horned oxen. He jerks and stumbles forward at every tug of the cattle’s methodical steps. Blood is the clothing that covers his body. Wounded and tortured, decay did not wait politely for death’s cue, and the flies have already joined the feast.

My spirit knows that this cruelty is the work of men, nature is much more merciful. I can see that the dying captive is mad. He raves with agony and fever at every near fall. Nature mercifully has removed mind from body, so his mind knows nothing of its body’s plight or pain, and by nature’s mercy I sense his journey will soon be over.

But that time has not yet come, and I fly upwards towards the heavens to banish my gloom. As clouds part and early stars move slowly before my eyes, I bite and savor simple concepts, tasting the timeless comfort of universal truths. With pain and blood they are born, they live, create life and take life, and then with blood and pain they leave through Death’s cold gateway. It is Death’s black finger that puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence.

It was then that I heard Death laughing, and when he had finished his chuckle he began to speak. “I have heard the delirious ramblings of countless dying minds. I am amused by yours. Heavy philosophy to hapless metaphor, ‘my black finger puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence?’ That is very funny given your circumstance. Fly down with me to see the wretch again.” As we flew lower Death continued to speak.

“Many times in many battles I came to take him, but he was elusive and agile. Even though I couldn’t reach him, he did my work well and sent me many. Did you know I have whispered to him every step of his journey and still he will not come? Yet even if he does not die along the way, he knows I wait to embrace him at the executioner’s block. Why does he resist?”

We angled closer to the man as he continued. “I know this unreasonable tenacity is testimony to the power of life and creation, and to feel life’s pulsing strength is a new experience for me, an experience for which I will always be grateful.” We flew closer still, and hovered. The stench was intoxicating. I saw the war prisoner’s wild eyes, and in a heartbeat ravenous euphoria was replaced by terror.

I saw and understood that this smell of what was once a man was me, and in panic I began falling from the sky. Death steadied me, “Do not be afraid,” he said as I plummeted towards myself. “I came once more to take you, but I am in your debt. You have challenged me, aided me, helped me hear life’s song, and finally you have even made me laugh. ‘My black finger puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence,’” and his laughter began all over again.

We had begun the final dive of a bird of prey. There was no turning back. We were very close and flew very fast, faster than the speed of reflex. For me there could and would be no stopping. A wing tip away from impact, he flashed his final words. “No punctuation yet, your life sentence has just begun.”

Instantly my world blazed white. Like the coals of a forge it cooled, sinking steadily through a sea of red and orange. Finally it settled into the black cold depths of the night, from where I emerged and moved as a man once more.

The fever had broken. The heat and redness around the wound still remained, but my arm no longer ached at every passing heartbeat. The blood that had seemed unstoppable had slowed to a trickle and had cleaned the wound as best it could. Dead flesh was gone, and the children of the flies had also vanished. A mind forced away by the body’s anguish has returned to its temple to worship at its altar of bearable suffering once again.

I had survived, I had begun to heal, and I had forgotten everything that Death had said to me.


The Science of Acupuncture - BBC Documentary

For thousands of years, what we now think of as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) was the only medicine; now, traditional cures are being treated with a fresh respect. For BBC TWO, scientist Professor Kathy Sykes from Bristol University Kathy Sykes investigates why science is starting to respond to these centuries-old remedies....

Part 1: Alternative Medicine: The Evidence on Acupuncture

Kathy begins her journey in China where she sees some incredible demonstrations of acupuncture. The most astonishing is a scene in a Chinese hospital in which doctors perform open heart surgery on a young woman - using a combination of acupuncture and conventional pain relief instead of a general anaesthetic. In China, she discovers, acupuncture is used alongside western medicine and, at times, as a replacement.

So, what does western science make of these claims? Kathy meets the key scientists, both in the UK and in the US, who have put them to the test. She discovers that - although for most conditions and illnesses acupuncture cannot be shown to work - scientists have, intriguingly, uncovered a number of conditions relating to chronic pain in which they can be fairly certain acupuncture is having a powerful effect.

Kathy recruits a team of top scientists and alternative practitioners to find out if acupuncture might be having an effect. Over several months they devise an experiment which they hope will find the answer and finally uncover the secrets of acupuncture. Kathy and her team scan the brains of volunteers undergoing acupuncture. The conclusions challenge current understandings of the workings of the brain and throws new light on this ancient practice.


9000 Needles Documentary - Review

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Devin Dearth looks like he could bench press a group of ten year olds without breaking a sweat. He is a championship bodybuilder and goes to the gym every morning to train. A loving husband and father and devout Christian, he and his family live in a small town in rural Kentucky and by all outward appearances, he seems to have the perfect life.

DevinBodybuilder

At 40, Devin suffers a devastating stroke caused by a bleed in the brainstem which leaves him paralyzed on one side, unable to walk, with blurred vision and  difficulty speaking. In an instant, his life is changed forever.

On top of adapting to the challenges of a serious brain injury, the Dearth family begin their difficult journey as they navigate the healthcare system trying to get Devin the care he needs to recover. They face many obstacles as they discover the frustrations and limitations of the US healthcare system.

DevinHospital

As Devin moves from rehabilitation into home care, his family can see that the progress that he showed soon after treatment began has slowed and they worry that without continuous and intensive medical care, Devin will lose his chance to make a full recovery.

Doug Dearth, seeing his brother grapple with his condition and his family struggle to take care of him and administer his care, decides he needs to find an alternative to give his brother a better chance at recovery. He finds a program in Tianjian China that offers a stroke rehabilitation program combining Western and traditional Chinese medicine like herbs and acupuncture. The brothers don’t know anything about Chinese medicine, but they are running out of options and the window for recovery is quickly closing. After proposing it to Devin and his family, they decide to travel to China to try the program.

The community, hearing about this new hope for Devin’s treatment and recovery, rally to the family’s aid and help them raise the funds they need to travel to China so he can participate in the stroke rehabilitation program. Devin and his brother Doug, who is also a documentary filmmaker, go to China and Doug documents the mysterious treatment that his brother receives using acupuncture, herbs and other Chinese medical modalities. We are witness to Devin’s treatment and the struggles he faces while he fights his way to recovery with the encouragement and support of a group of doctors assigned to his care. With their kindness, compassion and wisdom, Devin’s doctors and caregivers in China help him to face the daily challenges of treatment and rehabilitation, and the outcome teaches us that with the fierce determination of the patient and wisdom, knowledge and compassion of the doctor, there is nothing that cannot be overcome.

DevinChinaDocs

An incredibly inspiring story.

Watch the trailer.

 

If you would like to buy the 9000 Needles DVD, please click here.

 

 


Why Acupuncture Works for Seniors

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

For more than two years I worked at a pain clinic that happened to be attached to a long term care facility inhabited by elderly patients. Many of them were my patients, and although their treatments at the clinic were multidisciplinary (seeing many types of doctors and receiving different types of treatments depending on their issues), I found that acupuncture really worked wonders on the eldery patients from next door.

Older patients present some unique problems. Firstly, many of them are on a myriad of medications for a wide variety of conditions. I found that I really had to sit down with them and take the time in the initial consultation to document what medications they were on and then research and make sure that none of them could be reacting with each other and causing any of the problems they were coming to see me for. I was really amazed at how many medications my elderly patients were taking. Many of them weren't sure what they were for, and others had been on them for so long that they had forgotten why they had been given.

In Chinese medical theory, as a person ages, their vital energy, life force or "Jing" is seen to be in a gradual decline. This is healthy and a natural part of aging. However, we are only born with a finite amount, and the way we live our lives determines how it is used, wheather it is wisely, or not. This is illustrated by a person who has lived hard, done a lot of partying, drinking, drugs... they usually have a worn out appearance and often look older than they actually are. They have been depleting their Jing, and it is aging them prematurely.

The other thing that I noticed about the seniors that I treated, was what a huge difference taking some time to sit and speak with them made. Making a connection and showing that I was really listening to them made a huge difference in their treatment and ultimately, their prognosis. This may seem obvious, that a little kindness goes a long way, but often in the medical profession, and in particular with seniors, doctors don't have (or take) the time to really listen. Of course, they are the experts on disease and illness, but who knows their body better than the patient? Allowing a patient to relay to you their experience of what is happening, what is out of balance or causing them pain is an important aspect of the treatment and subsequent healing process.

Another thing that I noticed is that my senior patients were rarely touched. Touch is such an important part of our lives. Important physiologically for things like the nervous system, and emotionally for a feeling of connectedness, affection and purpose. I found that sometimes they would hold my hand while telling me how they were doing just to feel a connection to another person. So, I always tried to incorporate some massage into the treatment which they always loved. Because stagnation occurs often in the elderly, massage (and acupuncture of course) are very moving and stimulating to the body helping to move stagnation and keep things flowing freely.

Why Acupuncture is So Good for Seniors

Because of all these factors acupuncture works very well for seniors. You don't have to worry about drug interactions (which are especially dangerous in the elderly), and it can be applied in as gentle a fashion as needed depending on the patients requirements.

Because many seniors exhibit long standing deficiencies, they are not as sensitive and by the time a symptom is felt, it is often very serious (children are the opposite), and acupuncture is a powerful tool and able to be used on sensitive or very deficient patients. It's many modalities are also useful like dietary therapy (I found many seniors were not eating a balanced diet), emotional wellness (which I was attending to by speaking with them and allowing them to express what they were feeling), and the importance of exercise. Many did not get out or even do much moving around. As part of their treatment I always advised walking, even if it was around the halls, but going outside and getting some fresh air and being out in nature is always preferable. This is good for moving energy, getting the blood flowing and improving mood.

We had a physiotherapist in the clinic and we set up a program for her to go next door 3 times a week to do an exercise class with the seniors. It was so popular the class was always packed and the staff noticed a marked improvement in the overall health and mood of the residents.

Another common problem is depression. Often senior citizens are living in facilities like this because they are unwell, unable to take care of themselves, and have lost a spouse. These all take a toll on our psyche, so depression is common. Any of these on its own is a huge adjustment, but they often come together so it isn't hard to imagine that many people become depressed when these major life changes occur. Some withdraw and shut down, some become angry and frustrated at their situation, and some become sad and depressed. I found that the more connected to the world and other people, the better they did. If they had visitors, saw their friends and children, or went on outings, they were happier and more balanced and overall, healthier.

Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have many ways to deal with depression. Like everything in TCM there are many types of, and reasons for depression to take up residence, but a thorough intake and accurate diagnosis can help the patient on their way to recovery. I saw many patients improve dramatically, and seeing their healing was perhaps the most rewarding of my career. My senior patients were some of the most interesting (the stories! They have seen so much of history!), most kind hearted and appreciative patients I have treated.

We live in a society that does not value its older citizens the way most cultures do. In many cultures around the world the oldest members of the family, village, or town are the most revered as they have something the younger people do not... wisdom. And wisdom is something that can only be gained by living, so the oldest among us are the wise. In our culture in the West we do not have the same reverence for our elderly, and they are often put into homes, abandoned and forgotten when they have so much to offer and to teach us. I learn so much from all my patients, but I think I have learned the most from my senior patients who have lived longer, seen more and experienced life to an extent that I have not, at least not yet... ;)