The Benefits of Breastfeeding

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese medicine has always seemed like such a logical, common sense approach to medicine, at least to me. It takes what is natural and enhances and supports it to gain the maximum benefits. Whenever I am wondering about something, or how to tackle a problem or health concern, I always go back to nature because while nature may not always be kind, in my opinion, it is always right.

Human beings were brilliantly designed. Chinese medicine believes that the body has its own intelligence (that far exceeds our own which we attribute mostly to our brains), and this is what is really at the heart of the philosophy of Chinese medicine. It is also one of the reasons that it works so well, even now, 4000+ years after its inception. And so, when we look at having babies, it is the same. The body amazingly, has everything it needs to create life and nourish it after it comes into the world. All we have to do is support our bodies and give them what they need, and if everything is in balance and working properly, we are able to have babies and feed them everything they need to grow and develop into healthy children and hopefully, adults.

this sweet image from todaysparent.com

Breastfeeding Statistics

Recently, I was reading an article about the results of a study analyzing global trends in breastfeeding. I was surprised when it cited some statistics on the percentage of women who breastfed. In fact, it stated that only one in two hundred women in the UK breastfeed their babies until they are a year old. That is 0.5 percent and is in fact, the lowest rate anywhere in the world. The article continued...

To put that in context: 27 percent in the U.S., 35 percent in Norway and 44 percent in Mexico were still breastfeeding after one year. The rates were remarkably higher in much of the developing world, with Senegal (99.4 percent), Gambia (98.7 percent) and Malawi (98.3 percent) topping the league table.

The interesting thing to me as I read the article was that breastfeeding rates were far higher in countries that were poor compared to wealthier countries where breastfeeding rates were much lower. The truth is, that women is poorer countries breastfeed because that's what they have always done, for generations. Breastfeeding is not only free, but has immense health benefits for both mama and baby. In wealthy countries like the United States, Canada and Europe pharmaceutical companies have managed to work their way into hospitals and very often new mother's are offered free formula and told it has many added benefits and that breastfeeding is inferior. Out of a desire to do what is best for their babies, mother's often take the formula and never look back. The formula company has now gained a customer, which, at least in my opinion, is the whole point.

I remember in my first pregnancy, I got offered more formula than I could ever want. It felt like every time I bought anything baby related, I ended up receiving boxes of formula on my doorstep, and I kept having to give it away. I actually found it pretty aggressive they way it would show up at my door, and I would receive email after email asking me to redeem my coupon for free formula because it was the best thing I could give my baby. I ended up taking all of the formula to the birth centre and offered it to the midwives. They said they didn't want it and politely asked me to take it away. Their thinking was that if a woman CAN breastfeed, she should. And I agree.

Breastfeeding is Not Always Easy

It has been humbling for me to have studied and practiced Chinese medicine for many years, and having treated many pregnant patients because I had some very definite ideas about things, like breastfeeding. I was all about the breastfeeding and knew I would breastfeed my children for as long as I could. But when I had my first baby, I had a really hard time with it. We both struggled, and he finally gave up after five months. At that point I had to supplement with formula which was devastating, and at the time, felt like a failure. With my second baby - who is now two months old - breastfeeding is going smashingly. I thoroughly enjoy my time feeding her (it is a wonderful time to bond with her cuteness) and she is gaining weight and growing like a weed. A completely different experience from that with my first baby. Why has it been so different? Am I more confident as a mother? Yes. Do I still have anxieties about my ability to be awesome and provide for their every need? Of course. Am I under different stresses than I was when I had my first baby? Certainly. Does common sense and intellect go out the window when your hormones are all over the place and you haven't slept for more than 3 hours at a time? Absolutely. The answer is probably a combination of the above as well as the fact that every baby is different. I am just grateful that this time things are easier, for both mama and baby. If being a parent has taught me anything, it is not to be too rigid with my ideas. Being flexible is how you maintain your sanity. It is a constant battle. :)

So, why is it that the numbers of women in wealthy countries who breastfeed are so low?? Well, let me be honest. In my opinion, pregnancy and especially childbirth have been so medicalized (if you would like to watch a sobering film on the subject, watch The Business of Being Born) - that women are taught that they cannot trust their bodies and that doctors always know better. And when it comes to breastfeeding, the pharmaceutical companies now have their formula in hospitals where it is pushed on new mothers who are often overwhelmed, unsure of what to do and wanting to do what is best for their babies. The problem is, and I will be frank, pharmaceutical companies have a profit motive, and are more interested in making money than making sure your baby is getting everything it needs to grow and develop into a healthy toddler. So, if you must use formula, please do your research. Below is an excellent recipe for a home made formula as well as a very good store bought formula with clean ingredients.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Mother's milk is the best thing you can feed your baby. It has everything the baby needs nutritionally (granted mama has a good diet), and gives baby immunity to infection and disease. Colostrum, the fluid that mother's produce in the first days after birth, is the best thing you can give your baby and is an important part of building up their brand new immune systems. Ideally, breast milk is high in fats which your baby needs to nourish their growing brain and nervous systems. Breastfeeding also serves an important emotional purpose as it is a time  for bonding between a mother and her baby which releases hormones that strengthen that bond like oxytocin. Breastfeeding helps the new mother lose her baby weight as well as protecting her from osteoporosis and breast cancer later on. Breastfeeding is also inexpensive (although your investment is in your diet to ensure your breastmilk is the healthiest it can be for your babe), as well as being convenient (you never run out) as well as highly portable (you have a supply everywhere you go!).

Breastfeeding and The Mother's Diet

There is a misconception that new mother's don't need to worry about what they eat, and that their breast milk will have everything that their babies need. This is simply not true. What a mother eats has a huge impact on the quality of her milk and ultimately, how her baby will grow and develop. Mother's milk should contain long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP) which are important for a developing nervous system and cognitive health. Because these long chain fatty acids are stored in the retina an brain, a deficiency can lead to visual problems and learning disabilities. Some of the best sources of LCP's are arachidonic acid (AA) of the omega-6 family, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) of the omega-3 family and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), also of the omega-3 family. Vitamins and minerals are also of vital importance for breastfeeding mothers and the best way to get everything you need is from a healthy and varied diet. Eating organic (foods free of genetic alterations, pesticides and such), foods that grow locally and are in season and that are fresh are the best foods to consume - when you are breastfeeding and at all times for good health. Breastfeeding mothers also need to be getting at least an extra 500 calories a day when they are breastfeeding as it is depleting, so eat up mama! Processed foods should always be avoided, especially processed oils, soy (which is a hormone disruptor amongst other things), and processed sugar (which is in so many processed foods). Also be sure to take caution not to be around any environmental toxins, or things like commercial paints, cleaning products or airborne pollutants. Think of your diet during both pregnancy and breastfeeding as the best investment in your child's (and your) overall health.

The Importance of Water


If you would like this sassy bottle, you can buy it here

One thing that the midwives drilled into me when I was breastfeeding was how important it was to get enough water. Their advice was to always have a very large glass of water beside me wherever I was breastfeeding and to finish it all. Every time your baby eats, you need to be drinking water, and the cleanest and purest water possible. When I was a child, I fondly remember going with my grandparents to a nearby spring to collect drinking water in clear jugs. I remember how amazing it tasted and am so glad that I was able to drink such wonderful, pure water when I visited them (they lived in the Laurentian mountains in Quebec). When I was living in the U.S. I remembered this and found an awesome website - Find A Spring -  where you can do a search for the location of a natural spring where you can get clean water near you. I believe that they post springs from all over the world and you are able to submit a spring if you know of one near you. It is a wonderful resource, so please check it out. The water we drink is so important to our health! I am so grateful to this website for the service they offer all of us for the good of our collective health.

One Last Thought

Not everyone wants to breastfeed for their own reasons. Of course, the choice is up to each individual. In some cases, there are women who are not able to breastfeed and must rely on formula to feed their babies. If this is the case, here is a link to what I think is one of the healthiest formulas you can give your child, and you can make it yourself. Home made baby formula.

If you must use store bought formula, try to find one that is organic (free of GMO's) and especially, free of soy. A good one is Earth's Best Organic Infant Formula.

Despite the good intentions of friends and family members, as well as some doctors and midwives, sometimes new mother's can receive a lot of unsolicited "advice". This can be overwhelming and, depending on the delivery, hurtful. Motherhood is wonderful, but often an overwhelming responsibility, especially at first. So let me give you some unsolicited advice. Mother's should trust themselves and their instincts and that they ultimately know what is best for their babies. If you are struggling with something regarding your baby, speak to someone you trust and who will not be judgmental and talk it through with them. Do not isolate yourself, there are millions of mother's out there, so whatever you may be struggling with, just know you are not alone. In an environment of information overload, I always go back to nature. Breastfeeding your baby is one of the best things you can do for them, for many reasons. It is also some of the best time you will get to spend with them in the very brief time that they are babies.

 

**The lovely featured image from motherrisingbirth.com

 


Fall Recipe - Honeydew Melon Soup

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Eating in the Fall Season - Fall Recipes

Fall is the time when dryness and cooler temperatures predominate. Fall is also when your lungs are most vulnerable to attack. Symptoms related to dryness include coughing with sputum, dry nose and throat, dry skin and lips, chest pain and dry stools.

It is important to increase the intake of soothing fluids to balance the effects of external dryness. The cooling temperatures can increase your appetite, especially for meat, but it is important to change gradually from a diet high in vegetables and fruit over the summer months to one that is a mix of meat and vegetables so that the digestive system can adjust more easily. In fall, eat less eggplant because they can turn the digestive system sluggish.

The following super foods are highly recommended to be taken more in fall to counter the dry seasonal effects.

Fresh Lily Bulb

Excellent for moisturizing lungs and is regarded as vegetable ginseng because of its high protein, phosphate, potassium, calcium and rich multivitamin content.

Red Dates/Jujube

Promote energy, reduce stress of liver, benefit the formation and maintenance of the blood stream, body hormones, bones, muscles, skin, hair, body enzymes and neurotransmitters.

Sweet Potatoes

High in fiber and nutritional content can help to prevent constipation and adding pounds.

Goji-berries

Goji-berries have many health benefits and can improve immune functions to prevent sickness.

Pears

Excellent in lowering heat and moisturizing lungs, prevent cough and clear phlegm.

Pumpkin

Moisturizing, strengthen stomach and spleen functions.

Honeydew Melon Soup

Symptoms

n/a

Therapeutic Effects

Moisturize internal systems, promote blood and energy.

Ingredients

  • Honey dew melon 青蜜瓜 – one whole
  • Rehmannia Radix (sheng di) 大生地 – 30gm
  • Lotus Seeds (lien zi) 蓮子 - 30gm
  • Glehnia (bei sha shen) 沙參 - 30gm
  • Solomon's Seal (yu ju) 玉竹 - 30gm
  • Honey dates 蜜棗 - 8
  • Sweet apricot kernel 南杏仁 – 60gm
  • Bitter apricot kernel 北杏仁 – 12gm
  • Lean pork/pork hock 豬展 – 180gm

Directions

1.   Rinse pork, cut into large pieces and put in boiling water to cook for a few minutes, retrieve and rinse.

2.   Soak apricot kernel for at least 2 hours and keep aside.

3.   Remove skin and seeds of melon and dice into cubes.

4.   Rinse other herbal ingredients and put together with pork in a soup pot with about 2 litres of water. Bring to boil, remove foam and reduce heat to medium to cook for 30 minutes. Add melon to cook for another 15 minutes.

5.   Put apricot kernel in a grinder to grind into a fine paste and filter out any large pieces. Add the juice to the cooking and cook for another 15 minutes.

6.   Add salt to serve. Eat some melon with soup.

Usage

No restrictions.


Detoxifying & Balancing 6 Vegetable Stir-Fry

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Detoxifying and Balancing

Toxins are a fact of life, but taking proactive actions to expel them and not allowing them to accumulate in our body can make a big difference. The best approach to detoxify is to eat fresh clean food with high fiber and antioxidant content, drinking plenty of good clean water to flush the system and passing bowel at least once or twice daily. Exercising and taking sauna bath occasionally are all effective in helping the body to expel toxins through sweating.

Eating foods such as carrot, pumpkin, garlic, seaweed, green tea and foods with high vitamin C content such as oranges, lemon, leafy green vegetables, water chestnuts, etc. are excellent in cleaning out heavy metals from our body such as lead. Blueberry is high in anti-oxidant but purple or black glutinous rice is even higher in vitamin E and anti-oxidants.

To get the most disease-fighting antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, choose those with color; usually the deeper the color, the more antioxidants. Also fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables have more antioxidants than those that are canned, processed or heated.

Therapeutic Effects

Benefits all five organs, balancing yin and yang.

Ingredients

  • Chinese broccoli 芥蘭 – 3 to 4 stems
  • Bitter melon 涼瓜 - half
  • Lotus root 蓮藕 – a small section
  • Carrot 甘筍 – one
  • Fresh mushrooms 鮮磨菇 - 6
  • Fresh lily buds 鮮百合 - 2

Directions

1.   Wash all ingredients. Cut broccoli stems, bitter melon, lotus root, carrot and mushrooms into thin slices.

2.   Remove stems of lily bulb to separate petals and cut out any blackened edges.

3.    Heat a spoonful of oil in a wok to stir-fry carrot, broccoli, lotus root and bitter melon together. Sprinkle in a spoonful of cooking wine and a spoonful of water and cook for a few minutes or to desire softness.

4.   Add mushroom to cook for a few more minutes. Add seasoning (salt, sugar, pepper, sesame oil and a little oyster sauce) and mix well.

5.   Mix in lily and add a little corn starch water to finish.

Usage

No restrictions.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Featured imagePhoto by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 


Postpartum Recovery Chinese Herbal Soup – Restoring A Woman’s Body

By Cindy Mai of Root+Spring

During pregnancy, it’s often stressed to mothers that they should take special care of their health, because it directly affects the development and growth of the baby. However, in traditional Chinese medicine, maintaining a woman's health is also greatly important in the postnatal period. Just like the special attention mothers-to-be take during their pregnancy, the care a woman receives immediately after childbirth is often thought to impact her health far into the future.

this image from telegraph.co.uk

In Chinese medicine, the postpartum period refers to the four months following labor and delivery, the first month being of utmost importance to be thoughtful of nourishment to the body. It isn’t until the end of the fourth month after delivery that the yin and blood are considered “replenished” again, and the womb fully recovered.

In addition to hormonal and body changes, during pregnant a woman’s blood also almost doubles in volume in order to encourage the placenta and the developing fetus. However, labor is called labor for a reason: as beautiful as childbirth is, it takes a toll on a woman’s body.  Blood loss during delivery can deplete the mother’s qi and blood. And because breast milk is formed from the same substrate as blood, breastfeeding is comparable to a constant loss of blood. For these reasons, women are often qi and blood deficient after their labor. The overworked spleen, temporarily worn out from replenishing blood, can result in poor digestion, poor appetite, and possibly poor breast milk production. Difficulty falling asleep due to qi deficiency is common as well. The resulting fatigue and sleep deprivation can be a cause of several postpartum health concerns. It cannot be said enough that supporting the middle burner and tonifying qi and blood with healthful food and herbs immediately after childbirth is highly recommended.

There is a superb Chinese herbal formula that is by far, the standard nourishing recipe to give to new mothers after giving birth. It has been taken for thousands of years and is considered a staple in China and Taiwan, usually taken for one to two weeks immediately following childbirth. This herbal medicine is called Sheng Hua Tang, and literally means "generating and transforming decoction" or "giving birth" decoction.

As the name suggests, Sheng Hua Tang aims to help generate and transform the body. Sheng Hua Tang's primary action is moving and warming the blood in the body, contracting the uterus to return it to its normal state, promoting discharge of the lochia (vaginal discharge of old blood, mucus and uterine tissue which occurs for 4 to 6 weeks following labor), warming the meridians, and dispelling pain. It is a great formula to also strengthen the health and immunity of the new mother.

Sheng Hua Tang vitally ensures that the uterus is clean, clear, and warm after childbirth. A healthy uterus will have a positive impact on the breast milk and can prevent a host of postpartum health concerns.

Sheng Hua Tang is almost always consumed as a nourishing soup by adding chicken, pork or beef bones to create a bone broth. Additionally, it can also be consumed as a tea (vegan approved!). Just omit the meat and mushrooms, and add sweetener instead of salt in the below recipe. Chinese herbs are great and versatile in that way.

This herbal soup is most effective when consumed during the week immediately following childbirth, up until one month.

Recipe for Postpartum Recovery (Sheng Hua Tang)

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

this yummy image from superfoods-for-superhealth.com

  • 1 root + spring’s  Postpartum Recovery herbal mix
  • 2 1/2 pounds of chicken, pork bones, or beef bones
  • 4 slices of ginger, each at least a quarter inch thick
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dried
  • 6 - 8 cups of water

this image from authoritynutrition.com

Directions

  1. Lightly rinse herbs under running water.
  2. Optional: Some Chinese people believe par-boiling the meat for ten minutes first helps to remove any residual fat and toxins the meat.  If you’d like to include this step, simply cover the meat with enough water in a pot, bring to a boil for ten minutes, and remove. Rinse the meat. It is now ready for Step 2.
  3. In a pot, combine herbs, meat, ginger, mushrooms and water.
  4. Bring to a boil before covering and simmering for 1.5 hours on stovetop, or 3 hours in a slow cooker.
  5. Salt to taste.
  6. Consume this soup regularly for the first two weeks after labor. Do not consume after one month past labor, or while pregnant.

Cancer & Chinese Medicine - Part 3

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Treatment of Cancer with Chinese Medicine

Because of the way that Chinese medicine looks at health and the human body, the treatments for any disease in Chinese medicine are varied and complex. In Chinese medicine, a practitioner is not treating cancer, they are treating YOUR cancer. And they are not in effect treating the cancer, they are treating you. In essence, Chinese medicine works to treat the person, not the disease. And although this might sound like a nice tagline, it is the way Chinese medicine works, and why it is so effective.

When a patient comes in with a diagnosis from a Western doctor of cancer, the first thing we do, is to look at what is happening in the body and what is causing the cancer. We do not just treat the cancer, because if you treat the cancer without fully understanding why it has occurred in the first place, then even if you do manage to get rid of the cancer, the factors that created it are still present and the cancer will return. This is the reason why looking at absolutely everything about a persons health, be it physical, emotional and especially their lifestyle is integral to successfully treating any disease in Chinese medicine. The cancer is the symptom, so we must, as practitioners, find the root.

There are literally an infinite amount of factors that contribute to diseases, especially one as complex as cancer, so the search for the cause or, more likely, causes is not an easy task. Many factors are things I wrote about previously in this article - nutrition, toxins, unresolved or unexpressed emotions, the quality of our water, stress, the list goes on. This vast ocean of potential causes is the reason why the practitioner of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) does such a thorough intake and asks many questions at each session, trying to collect as much information as possible. Something I always tell my patients when we are talking is that they should tell me everything, no matter how silly or seemingly irrelevant it may seem, because in my experience, everything is significant and is another piece of the puzzle that I am trying to create for each patient to get to the bottom of their present condition.

As a side note, this is why many times patients will ask why, if they have come in for sleep problems, would I be asking about their digestion or emotional state? I tell them it is all connected and we do not draw distinctions in a holistic model of medicine. It is not the reductionist model of allopathic or Western medicine that likes to reduce the body into parts, focussing on each if it breaks down. In a holistic system, every part functions synergistically with all the others, they cannot function in isolation. Every part affects every other part. This is the reason that we need a picture of the whole to determine what is going on, and why it works so well, because treatments are tailored to the individual. Cancer can arise from a myriad of reasons, so we need to understand why the cancer has manifested, correct those imbalances and the body will readjust to a healthy balance and the cancer should disappear. Chinese medicine believes in the body's powerful and innate healing abilities, so when we are diagnosing we must ask ourselves: "what it is that is blocking the healing process? Why is the healing not being allowed to occur?" Chinese medicine also believes that if the body has everything it needs, then health and certainly healing will be the result. Disease is just the body's way of telling us that something is missing, and needs attention. This is why listening to your body is also so important for your health. Your body will always tell you when things are not right. At the beginning when the imbalance is only minor, it may only be a whisper, which gradually moves to a full blown yell by the time we get to a very severe imbalance which is what we see in cases like cancer. Learning to listen to the subtle communications of your body is such a good way to be able to correct things before they become more serious and practice what Chinese medicine is all about - preventative medicine.

Self Love and Loving Kindness

One of the biggest things that practicing Chinese medicine has taught me has not been about medicine at all. It has been about the pain and the immense struggles that human beings go through in life, and often, on a daily basis. The things that I have heard from my patients over the years about what they have been through have been humbling to say the least. As I am a highly sensitive person who can strongly feel what others are feeling simply by being in the room with them, this information, at least at first, was very difficult to process. Hearing stories of such pain and suffering took a toll emotionally and I quickly had to learn to manage those feelings so that I would not be consumed by them (because they could also make me sick!). This also taught me something very valuable. That I could never, ever judge someone from what they were projecting on the outside, because I realized that I had no idea what was going on in their life and what struggles they were facing. It gave me enormous empathy for people, especially ones who were rude or otherwise unpleasant to be around. It also made me realize why people get sick as I began to see a correlation with these struggles and pain, and the kinds of illnesses that people develop. Many people are suffering alone because they feel they have to. Many people have no outlet for such problems or simply do not want to burden others. I think this is what we desperately need from each other. We need each others kindness, love and understanding. We need to really listen to each other and not just wait for our turn to speak.

The other part of this is that I think we need to be kinder to ourselves. To look at any TV reality show or movie you would think this was insane. From what we see in the media, it seems that we are a hedonistic bunch, very capable of looking after ourselves, and only ourselves, and that is certainly the culture we are living in these days. It feeds this kind of narcissism. But, in my experience, overwhelmingly, people are working hard, sleeping less, and struggling more. It seems to be getting harder, certainly in the last generation or two, to get ahead and be able to live a simple life and provide for our families. Gone are the days when someone could have the same job working at the same company for their entire lives or that a married couple could survive, and even thrive on the salary of one working person. Children now leave school saddled with so much debt that they cannot afford to leave home, and things like social security are something my generation and the ones after will never see. It is these things, these stresses in our lives that contribute to disease. We must all have hope. We must all believe that we can achieve our dreams and make a life for ourselves if we are smart and work towards that goal.

Self love is a hard thing for a lot of people, and it is something I talk to a lot of my patients about. We are all energetic beings, and when we are so stressed and exhausted by modern life, it is difficult to find the time to take proper care of ourselves. And this is so important for our health. Having the intention of being kind to ourselves, eating well, spending time with our friends and people we love, doing things that feed us energetically and make us happy are just as important to health as herbs and acupuncture. And this goes back to listening. If you have had a particularly stressful day at work, or have had a particularly negative interaction with a stranger on the way home, recognize how it is making you feel and take the time to cleanse that energy and feed yourself to build yourself up again. Take a walk in the park and breathe deeply the cool, clean air. Have a hot bath and read that book that you have been meaning to start for weeks. Make yourself something delicious and eat it mindfully, really savouring it. These are the things that recharge batteries and let your body and psyche know that you love it and are taking care of it. In the cases of cancer that I have treated and indeed in so many of the illnesses that I treat, there is a definite connection to this loss of self love and care. Think of these personal acts of kindness as medicine of prevention. It is your health insurance policy, a way to make sure you never get sick.

In conclusion, when it comes to a disease as complex as cancer, there are many factors at play both in its development and treatment. In a holistic system like Chinese medicine, it is not the cancer that is important, it is determining why the cancer has manifested and making corrections necessary so that the cancer is both able to resolve itself, as well as not be recreated in the future. In contrast, in a Western model of medicine, giving chemotherapy or radiation without any investigation to the causes, the factors at play in the persons life, no nutritional counseling, no inquiry to the persons emotional life might lead to a temporary remission of the present cancer, but it will no doubt return as the circumstances that created it are still present. This is not to say that Western medicine does not have its benefits, not at all. I only say that the approach to healing is different, and in my opinion, by not looking at the system as a whole, there is so much that is missing. Treating cancer, like any other disease is a delicate balance of searching for the reasons that it has manifested, dealing with them thoroughly especially any emotional ones, rebalancing the system and giving the body, mind and spirit everything it needs to thrive allowing us to regain our health so we can be healthy, happy human beings.


Stress Relief Chinese Herbal Soup - Just 5 Ingredients in 5 Minutes!

By Cindy Mai of rootandspring.com

Stress….need I say more? With the pressures of our now modern life, none of us are immune to stress. Small daily challenges like work deadlines, multiple errands, and traffic jams can build up stress, which then interferes with optimal wellness. What stress does is it can cripple the immune system (which is why people get physically sick after being stressed for too long), upset delicate hormones, and disrupt digestion, among other things. Most dangerous of all, it can build up inflammation in the body.

Now, It is quite common for people to pour a glass of wine or beer at the end of the day to de-stress. Yet, there are other more healthful ways that can help, to not only de-stress, but actually support the body nutritionally. In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a classic combination of four herbs that support the adrenal function. This same classic combination is what inspired our “Stress Relief Herbal Mix", and in ancient Chinese literature is referred to as having effects like “meditation in a bowl”. They are: Poria, Chinese Wild Yam, White Lotus Seeds, and Euryale Seeds. In Chinese herbal medicine, a great infusion of herbs can work wonders on your mind and body, and when these herbs are consumed, it can help reduce stress and anxiety as well as calm the heart and spirit.

Poria

Chinese Wild Yam

White Lotus Seeds

Consuming herbs is arguably one of the best ways to increase intake of medicinal herbs. With the right measurements, this classic combination of stress relieving herbs can be prepared in a soup or tea. In a soup, it will create a beautiful broth that helps your body decrease tension, and soothe the mind. Plenty of vegetables can be added that would further enhance the properties of the soup for your body most of which you can find at your local market. According to traditional Chinese medicine, foods act just like herbs and can and should be selected and prepared appropriately to match your body. It is important to know about the energies of food because different energies act upon the human body in different ways and affect our state of health. If a person suffers from acne that worsen when exposed to heat, it is beneficial to eat foods with Yin energy (cold or cool energy) such as bamboo shoots, lotus roots, spinach, or mushrooms to relieve the symptoms. A general rule of thumb is if you eat predominantly Yin foods, your body will be capable of producing more Yin energy - darker, slower-moving and colder. In contrast, eating predominantly Yang foods (onions, asparagus, peppers, ginger) will produce more Yang energy - faster, hotter and much more energetic. It's helpful to remember certain rules to determine the type of energy a food produces, so that you can prepare soup accordingly to what type of stress you’d like to rid.

Euryale Seeds

A super simple recipe that takes just a handful of ingredients and five minutes to prepare to get your mind and body right.

Stress Relief Herbal Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pounds of chicken, pork bones, or beef bones
  • 43 grams of Poria
  • 31 grams of Chinese Wild Yam
  • 29 grams of White Lotus Seeds
  • 26 grams of Euryale Seeds
  • 8 - 10 cups of water
  • Salt (optional)

Directions

  1. Lightly rinse herbs.
  2. In a pot, combine herbs, meat, and water.
  3. Bring to a boil before covering and simmering for 1.5 hours on stove-top or 20 minutes in pressure cooker.
  4. Salt to taste.

This delicious image from the omnivorescookbook.com


Cancer and Chinese Medicine - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Nutrition - The Biggest Weapon Against Cancer

It is always amazing to me that patients receiving conventional treatments for cancer (chemotherapy and radiation) are given little to no information about what to eat. I know because I always ask if there was any nutritional counseling that went with the other therapies and more often than not, the answer is no. This shows an alarming lack of understanding about how important what we eat is to our health, and especially in the case of cancer.

I think that the correlation between what we eat and our overall health is understood by many industries, and certainly by many informed people, but the cancer industry (and I say that because it has turned into an industry), seems to be decades behind. Now, without getting into why that might be (which would be a whole other article), let's just say that there is a tonne of evidence to suggest that our food can both give us cancer and help keep us healthy so that we never get cancer. Food is also a powerful weapon in detoxing the body and healing from a cancer that already exists.

Foods to Avoid

Sugar

In my opinion, the number one thing to know concerning diet and cancer is to stop eating sugar. Completely. It is literally the food that cancer eats. The tests that Western medicine uses to find and diagnose cancer in the body, called PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans, actually inject glucose - a type of sugar - and watch the cancer gravitate to it because sugar is what cancer eats. Eliminating sugar from your diet is the most important thing to do if you are either struggling with cancer, or having health issues in general. Sugar is a poison to the body, and most people in the developed world eat far too much of it. Now, let me be clear, I am talking about refined sugar which is in a huge amount of our foods, especially processed foods. There are naturally occurring sugars in things like fruits, and although we need some of these, it is a good idea to cut back when you are trying to heal from cancer. Refined foods of all types should be avoided whenever possible, and refined sugar is the worst of all.

Chemicals

We also have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of chemicals used in our foods, many of which are untested on human beings and cause harm to not only us, but pollute the earth we live on, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Our food becomes more and more processed all the time with the addition of these dangerous chemicals, and our bodies are not designed to deal with them. There are also the dizzying amounts of chemicals in other products that we use in our homes, like makeup and personal care products, soaps and detergents, cleaning products, gardening products, etc.. not to mention toxic chemicals that are the byproducts of industries which are released into our soil, water and air.

It is a good idea BEFORE you get sick to have a look at how many of these chemicals you have in your home and are coming into contact with on a daily basis so that you can eliminate any that are not absolutely necessary. I would always recommend eating fresh, local, organic food (more about that below), using completely natural beauty and personal care products free of toxic ingredients, make sure the water you are drinking is as clean as possible and limit any environmental toxins that you can. All these toxins combine to place a huge burden on our immune systems which we need to be at full strength to keep us disease free.

Eat Real Food

Because of the philosophy of living as harmoniously with nature as possible, this obviously bleeds into the foods we consume as well. I believe that many of our current health problems as a society are due to the UN-natural nature of the foods that we eat. Small farms are disappearing and being replaced by large-scale factory farms, our soil is depleted of essential vitamins and nutrients, and men in hazmat suits spray toxic herbicides and fungicides on the foods we are supposed to confidently feed our families. It is becoming increasingly difficult to even understand food labels, and corporations spend billions of dollars to keep what is actually IN our foods off the labels, which is certainly a worrying trend and not designed to make us feel confident about what is being put into our food.

My solution is to keep it simple. Eat as few processed foods as possible (this means anything in a box or can that has been altered from its natural state), eat as many fresh, local and organic foods as possible. Keep your diet mostly plant-based, especially if you have cancer. If possible, grow as much of your food as you can in a backyard or front yard garden. Vertical gardens are awesome for this! If you have limited space or live in an apartment, make friends with a local farmer, or frequent a farmers market. Also, take time to lovingly prepare meals for you and your family. Energetically, this is important too. Be mindful and thankful to the food you are eating for sharing its life force with you. Being grateful is also a powerful tool and beneficial to your health and the way you feel.

Acid & Alkaline Foods

Disease thrives in an acidic environment and cancer is no exception. As a culture, we eat a disproportionate amount of acidic foods (as you will probably see the list below) and precious few alkaline ones. Use the information below as a guide and a good way to begin is to slowly start replacing acidic foods with alkaline ones. It may seem hard at first (because who doesn't love a burger every once in a while?), but you will soon notice how much better you will feel, as that you will no longer have the cravings for the fatty, sugary foods that are so acid forming once they have been out of your system for a while. I promise you will definitely feel a difference!

Acidic Foods

**Note - there are different ways to measure the acidity and alkalinity of foods, but this one - from Energise for Life - makes the distinction of measuring a foods acidity and alkalinity AFTER it has been ingested - therefore, how it is affecting your body. If you would like to have a copy of a good few charts detailing acid and alkaline foods, you can find them here - Energise For Life.

Below is a list of acidic foods. If dealing with cancer, cut out as many of these as possible (I would recommend ALL) and introduce alkaline foods as an alternative. Remember, cancer thrives in an acidic environment.

Acidic Foods

Look yummy? *sigh*, I know. But these foods are highly acidic. Try eating some cucumber instead!

MEAT

  • Bacon
  • Beef
  • Clams
  • Corned Beef
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Organ Meats
  • Venison
  • Fish
  • Oyster
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Sausage
  • Scallops
  • Shellfish
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Veal

DAIRY & EGGS

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Whey
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts & Seeds!
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Oils!
  • Cooked Oil
  • Solid Oil (Margarine)
  • Oil Exposed to Heat,
  • Light or Air
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Ice Cream
  • Sour Cream
  • Soy Cheese
  • Eggs

FRUIT

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tropical Fruits
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Orange
  • Pineapple
  • Plum

NUTS & SEEDS

  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts

DRINKS

  • Alcohol
  • Black Tea
  • Coffee
  • Carbonated Water
  • Pasteurized Juice
  • Cocoa
  • Energy Drinks
  • Sports Drinks
  • Colas
  • Tap Water
  • Milk
  • Green Tea
  • Decaffeinated Drinks
  • Flavoured Water

SWEETENERS

  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Carob
  • Corn Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Processed Sugar
  • Saccharine
  • Sucrose
  • Sucralose
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup

OILS

  • Cooked Oil
  • Solid Oil (Margarine)
  • Oil Exposed to Heat,
  • Light or Air

SAUCES

  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Soy Sauce
  • Pickles
  • Vinegar
  • Tabasco
  • Tamari
  • Wasabi

OTHER

  • Mushrooms
  • Miso
  • White Breads, Pastas,
  • Rice & Noodles
  • Chocolate
  • Chips
  • Pizza
  • Biscuits
  • Cigarettes
  • Drugs
  • Candy

Alkaline Foods

Some super yummy alkaline foods. They look fresh, cleansing and delicious, don't they? ;)

VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Chilli
  • Capsicum/Pepper
  • Courgette/Zucchini
  • Dandelion
  • Snow Peas
  • Green Beans
  • String Beans
  • Runner Beans
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Wakame
  • Kelp
  • Collards
  • Chives
  • Endive
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Potato
  • Coriander
  • Basil
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Beetroot
  • Eggplant/Aubergine
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Broad Beans
  • New Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish

FRUIT

  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Fresh Coconut

GRAINS & BEANS

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Brown Rice
  • Chia/Salba
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Nuts & Seeds!
  • Almonds
  • Coconut
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Oils!
  • Avocado Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Udo’s Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Lentils
  • Lima Beans
  • Mung Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Red Beans
  • Soy Beans
  • White Beans

GRASSES

  • Wheatgrass
  • Barley Grass
  • Kamut Grass
  • Dog Grass
  • Shave Grass
  • Oat Grass

NUTS & SEEDS

  • Almonds
  • Coconut
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds

OILS

  • Avocado Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Udo’s Oil
  • Olive Oil

BREADS

  • Sprouted Bread
  • Sprouted Wraps
  • Gluten/Yeast Free
  • Breads & Wraps

SPROUTS

  • Soy Sprouts
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Amaranth Sprouts
  • Broccoli Sprouts
  • Fenugreek Sprouts
  • Kamut Sprouts
  • Mung Bean Sprouts
  • Qionoa Sprouts
  • Radish Sprouts
  • Spelt Sprouts

This comprehensive list of acid and alkaline foods came from a great chart I found from energiseforlife.com There is an 8 page PDF that you may download with more information which can be found here - Acid & Alkaline Food Information.

Water

Water is also something that I don't think people think about enough in terms of health. I think there is a misconception that if we are drinking bottled water and not water out of the tap that we are somehow safe from many pollutants that may be in our waterways and make their way into water processing plants. Unfortunately, this has been shown not to be true, and many bottled waters' are just as unhealthy as drinking straight out of the tap. If you must drink tap water, find out from your local city or town, what they are adding to it. Is there flouride in it? What levels of certain contaminants are acceptable as far as they are concerned? Do some research. If you have a water filtration system, again, do your research and get one that filters out as many undesirable chemicals as possible. Water is incredibly important for our health and it is worth the effort to be drinking the healthiest and cleanest water possible. The good news is, that there are many good water filtration systems out there that will allow you to enjoy clean, healthy water which is essential for a strong, healthy body.

Emotions

Expressing emotions freely is just as important to our health as a strong, flexible body.

I really feel that the emotions do not get enough attention or recognition for the role they play in our health. This is another area that seems often entirely left out of the diagnostic as well as the healing process in Western medicine. In Chinese medicine, the emotions are just as important as what is physically happening in our bodies. The two are inseparable and when someone is going through the intake process with a doctor of Chinese medicine, there are a lot of questions inquiring about a person's emotional life. You may be wondering how much of a role the emotions can play in a disease as devastating as cancer. My answer is - a HUGE one.

In my experience with my own cancer patients, the emotions are often where it starts. Complex and serious diseases often begin with extremely stressful, difficult, and emotionally devastating events that the body is simply not able to cope with. Preceding almost every case of serious disease I have treated, there was either one or a series of extremely stressful/emotional or difficult events that the patient had to contend with. I have made this observation over and over again. The body can handle a lot, but it has its limits, and the way we live along with the pressures and stresses we are under often are too much for our bodies and psyches to bear which can result in disease and illness.

In terms of how this relates to the emotions I want to be clear, it is not HAVING emotions that can make us sick, in Chinese medicine, it is how we deal with our emotions that is the key. In modern culture, at least in North America, we are not taught what I like to call "emotional intelligence". We spend decades in school learning how to live in this world, but I find that so many of the most important things that we need to be healthy and happy in our lives are missing. How to express our emotions in a healthy way is one of them. This expression is important not only to our health but to our happiness and well-being as well. So often our emotions can come out in hurtful or destructive ways to ourselves or the people around us, or worse, they are held in where they fester and eventually turn into disease. So, find healthy ways to express the emotions you are having. Write, talk to a friend, acknowledge them, process them in a healthy way and let them go. They are taking up precious space, that, once they are dealt with and let go, can be replaced with lovely things like love and light, happiness and feelings of joy and gratitude.

Managing Stress

Stress is something we hear about a lot and I believe is also a huge factor is our health and well-being. Stress is something I ask every single patient about both in our initial consultation, and at almost every visit. I give it a one to ten scale and ask patients to rate where their stress is in relation to that scale. Most people are at the top end, and many have become resigned to living there. Stress is difficult to avoid, but what we do have control over is how we deal with it. Managing the stress we are feeling is the key, not eliminating it altogether. I am not even sure if that is possible considering the world we live in. I have seen patients doing everything right - eating the right foods, exercising, sleeping enough, really taking care of themselves and still they get sick. Those cases very often lead back to stress. You can't work hard to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle but be in an unhealthy relationship that is driving you crazy or going to a job that you hate every day and still expect to be the picture of health. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like that. In Chinese medicine, as in life, it is all about balance.

One of my keys to managing stress is meditating. Now the thought of meditating can be intimidating for some people and I understand that. This doesn't mean having to give up all your worldly possessions, shaving your head and going to live in a cave in the Himalayas. That is totally cool if that is how you want to do it, but what I am talking about for the rest of us is just taking some time for yourself every day to sit quietly and try to empty your thoughts. In our hectic, modern lives, we hardly ever get a chance to do this. Stop. Listen. Relax. Breathe deeply. Meditating is like a gift you give yourself. It benefits your brain, your nervous system, your heart and your psyche. Think of it as preventative medicine. I think we all need to start thinking about medicine and health differently and Chinese medicine can teach us how to do it. Do small things every day. Tend your garden (the body and spirit), and disease will never develop. Disease cannot thrive in a healthy garden.

If you would like to read about a bit of a hardcore immersion into meditation (and the amazing benefits that it yielded) you can read about my two intense Vipassana meditation retreat experiences. They are not quite the shaving your head and disappearing into the Himalayas, but they were definitely the most intense meditation experiences I have ever had. They were also the most edifying and positively life-changing experiences of my life.

 


Steamed Eggplant - Cancer Fighting Recipe

By VIcky Chan of NourishU

Cancer

Cancer is a sickness that is highly preventable but only treatable at the early stage. When the damages are too widespread, there is no medicine in the world that can cure cancer. Surgical removal of malignant parts from the body is just like cutting off the tips of the iceberg. If the underlying condition remains unchanged, cancer will just find other weaker areas to pop up. The only possibility to eradicate cancer is to completely change the underlying condition to one that is so hostile that cancer cells can no longer exist.

Oxygen Deficiency

Oxygen deficiency is one known cause of cancer. When the human body is supplied with abundant amounts of oxygen, all cancer cells, viruses, harmful bacteria, toxins, pathogens and disease microorganisms are killed because they cannot survive in a high-oxygen environment. People who do not exercise are more likely to have oxygen deficiency. Extensive research done in the last decade have proven that our diet have a profound effect on whether we will have cancer or not. A high sugar  and highly acidic diet from meat are known to breed cancer. A melancholy mind provokes an increase of stress hormone - cortisol, which has been directly associated with the worsening of cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is also found to breed cancer. A large-scale controlled study have found that vitamin D can cut overall cancer risk by as much as 60 percent

Prevention

Good habits of health such as avoiding smoking and drinking, avoiding fatty or deep fried food, over burnt meats, preserved foods, spicy and highly processed food, and eating smaller meals to avoid over eating are the basic prerequisites for good health. Eating a diet of at least 50% of vegetables, beans and seeds for rich nutrients, minerals, fiber and antioxidants is vital in preventing cancer. A healthy gut with good bacteria can help the immune system to fight and break down carcinogens and turn them into nutrients and harmless molecules.

Acidic Cancer Forming Foods

The acidic cancer forming foods are sugar, milk, meat and caffeine. Chicken in particular should be eliminated from the diet of cancer patients because it benefits cancer growth. For patients receiving chemotherapy and suffering from destructive side effects, eating fresh and rejuvenating plant-based diet is important to clear out toxic materials. Taking one to two glasses of fresh vegetable juice daily is best to get plenty of anti-oxidants. People taking one glass of fresh organic potato juice before meal for up to three months have shown promising result in fighting cancer. Reducing salt in food is necessary to lower the burden on the kidney, heart and liver so that the body has more energy to fight cancer.

Alkaline pH Balance

This helpful image from tes.com

Maintaining the body in alkaline pH balance is needed to prevent and stop cancer growth . Seaweed and kelp are high alkaline foods and should be taken regularly. Eat fresh mushrooms, organic brown rice, egg, fish, tofu, soy beans, yogurt and some lean pork for balanced nutrition to improve immune function and overall health. Don't forget to add plenty of lemon  (highly alkaline) to your food to prevent cancer.

Anti-Cancer Conditions

Besides diet and lifestyles, it is important to control stress. Life is a series of choices and being free from stress is one of those choices that is under our control. Exercise can help to relax the body and mind, lower stress and promote good sleep. Sleeping is vital for the body to repair, recover and rejuvenate itself. Getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure is also vital in preventing and fighting cancer. When we take good care of our health, we can promote an internal condition that is not suitable for cancer cells to survive or grow.

TCM Treatments

Chinese medicine can only play the role of complementary treatment for advance cases in lessening the side effects of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, controlling pain and helping to strengthen the immune system. Chinese Medicine finds cancer as coagulation of toxic energy in our body which is causing obstruction to the normal flow of blood and qi, therefore causing tumor growth. There are four vital areas in our body where toxic energy can accumulate: the upper body around the lungs – the upper burner, the middle body around the abdomen – the middle burner, the lower body around the kidney – the lower burner and the back of our body behind the lungs – the outer burner. It is important to keep qi circulating freely in these areas to prevent sickness and cancer. Qi-kung and tai-chi use deep breathing exercise to move energy and blood around the body. Herbs such as dandelion, astragalus and pubescentis are commonly used to promote the circulation of qi.

Food Treatment

In Chinese food treatment, a well-balanced diet to promote the health of the vital organs and the normal production of body fluids are deemed as most important. Any deficiency or abnormality in body fluid level can trigger abnormal cell development and tumor growth. Blood and qi tonic, kidney tonic, antioxidant foods, foods to promote blood circulation, diuretic foods to expel dampness and blood clots are all commonly used to treat cancer.

Steamed Eggplant - Cancer Fighting Recipe

Chinese Eggplant

Symptoms

High Blood Pressure / High Cholesterol / Hardened Arteries / Gout Pain / Tumors

Therapeutic Effects

Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, soften arteries, alleviates gout pain, anti-tumor growth.

Ingredients

  • Chinese Eggplants – 2
  • Minced ginger – 1 spoonful
  • Vinegar – 1 spoonful
  • Sesame oil – 1 spoonful
  • Soy sauce – half spoonful

Directions

1.   Rinse and cut eggplant into finger-like pieces and put in cold water with one spoonful of salt to soak for 10 minutes. Remove and drain.

2.   Put eggplant on a plate and steam for 15 minutes.

3.   Remove from heat and mix in the above seasoning to serve.

Usage

No restrictions.


Integrative Approaches to Cancer Palliative Care

By Dr. Kevin Curran

Dr. Kevin Curran, a cell biology professor, and Dr. Walter Tsang, an oncologist, have co-written a summary about integrative approaches to palliative care. Serious diseases, like cancer, often lead to some incredibly uncomfortable side effects. Often, there are no traditional medicines available to treat these issues. In these moments, it is good to remember that there are alternative remedies that can be very effective in relieving the problem.

A Review of Effective Treatment Options for Cancer - Related Palliative Care

By Walter Tsang MD and Kevin Curran PhD

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a form of medical care that is focused on providing relief from the symptoms of a serious illness.

A serious illness, such as cancer, creates many stressful and uncomfortable symptoms (nausea, fatigue, anxiety). These symptoms may be caused by the biological progression of the disease or they may be the side effects of the treatment.

Palliative care seeks to improve the quality of life for the patient and the patient's family by providing relief from the symptoms of an illness and the side effects of treatment.

An integrative approach to palliative care includes both conventional and alternative treatment options.

  • Conventional therapy includes:  prescription drugs, surgery, chemotherapy
  • Alternative therapy includes:  herbal supplements, vitamins, diet, probiotics

It makes sense to be open to the best possible palliative care. Often, the best treatment includes a combination of both conventional and alternative therapy. Below, we summarize the most effective integrative approaches to common symptoms experienced by patients struggling with a serious illness.

Read Full Article Here - A Review of Effective Treatment Options for Cancer - Related Palliative Care

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Featured image photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash


Cancer and Chinese Medicine - Part 1

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Cancer and Chinese Medicine

I get a lot of people writing to me, telling me that someone they love has been diagnosed with cancer and asking if there is anything Chinese medicine can do. This is a good question, but it has a complex answer. It means looking at a disease like cancer in a completely different way than we have all been taught to look at it through the eyes of science, which is difficult especially if the world science is all you have ever known.

To begin a discussion about cancer and Chinese medicine, we must first gain an understanding of where Chinese medicine came from, the philosophy behind it, and a little bit about how it works. Let us begin.

The Proliferation of Cancer in Modern Society

For at least the last fifty years there seems to have been an explosion in cancers, especially in industrialized nations. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 1,688,780 new cancer cases diagnosed and 600,920 cancer deaths in the US in 2017. According to a WHO report, there has been an alarming increase in cancer rates all over the world. The report also states that:

"Globally, life expectancy has increased from 45 years in 1950 to 66 years in 2000, but the population of the world is aging rapidly—the median age will have risen from 23.5 years in 1950 to 36.5 years in 2050. By 2050, more than 20 percent of the population will be 60 years and over, versus 10 percent in 2000. By comparison, the number of cancer deaths increased by 35 percent during the period 1985-1997. The report states that “[w]hile extending life expectancy is desirable in itself, it is equally important that increased expectancy is accompanied by freedom from any prospect of years of suffering as a consequence of chronic diseases, pain or disability.”

Why is There So Much Cancer?

Why is this? Why has there been such an apparent increase in the numbers of people getting cancer in the world? Perhaps our diagnostic methods have gotten better, and there is certainly truth in that. Perhaps people are taking better care of their health and going for regular checkups more than they have in past years and that is also probably true. But would these factors account for the explosive numbers of cancer diagnoses in the past half a century?

Living in an Unhealthy Way

In my experience and opinion, these are not the main factors contributing to the huge numbers of cancer being diagnosed every year, it is the way we are LIVING. And what you may ask, do I mean by that? Well, that is what I am going to try to tell you. Most human beings on this planet, save a few communities scattered around the world, are living in a way that is not conducive to health. This lifestyle becomes more toxic every year resulting in more disease, mental health problems, addictions, violent crimes, and suicides. We are an unhealthy and deeply unhappy culture.

Chinese Medicine and the Importance of Lifestyle

Our culture, with its ambitions, innovation, and reliance on technology as well as its obsession with bigger, faster and MORE has largely become disconnected from the way we were designed to live on this planet. We have, as a people, become disconnected from our true nature. This idea goes far beyond the reaches of Chinese medicine, this is a human being issue that touches each and every one of us regardless of religion, race, gender or nationality. But for the purposes of this discussion, let us talk about Chinese medicine, and how it views the human being and how it is designed to live in a harmonious and healthy way. I feel like the name Chinese medicine really limits the seemingly endless wisdom that encompasses what it represents. People think, oh yes, Chinese medicine means things like acupuncture and smelly herbs, but in fact, Chinese medicine grew out of Eastern philosophy that had been explored and understood for thousands of years, a wisdom that many people seldom encounter in their day to day lives. Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher credited with developing Taoism (or Daoism) is where much of Chinese medicine wisdom springs from. In Taoist philosophy, the person is connected to every other living creature, the planet and the universe itself. They are all one energy and indivisible. You cannot separate them into parts, or you would be hurting the sum total. Whatever happens to one part, also happens to the whole.

this incredible illustration from theawesomedaily.com

Our Relationship with Nature

What people have been doing (and only really for about the last 10,000 years, starting after the beginning of agriculture by then hunter gatherers), is that we decided in our wisdom that we did not belong in the throng with the rest of the plants and animals, living harmoniously within the perfectly balanced web of life. We began to have delusions of grandeur and wanted more for ourselves. It was at this point in history that people removed themselves from the food chain and started to grow crops, and begin to have more than they needed. This move also began a long descent into a relationship with nature that was no longer symbiotic and mutually beneficial, human beings began to try to dominate and control nature for their own personal gain.

A Medicine of Prevention

According to the philosophy behind Chinese medicine, a person doesn’t wait until they get sick in order to correct the illness. This philosophy teaches a way of life. The philosophy is intensely pragmatic, understanding (in a way that many modern people have forgotten) that living in a healthy way, or preventatively, is a much better approach to health that waiting until things become catastrophic (i.e., a disease) to correct the problem. So how did Chinese people live preventatively? Well, for the sake of explanation I love to use the analogy from the wonderful book Between Heaven and Earth - that the body is like a garden. You must tend your garden for it to flourish and grow. You must go out into your garden every day, pull weeds, water and inspect your plants to see what the garden needs. Small changes every day are much easier than large changes every few years, often when it is too late. This, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of Chinese medicine and part of what makes it so effective. That said, because of the ways that Chinese medicine describe the body, the organs, qi and their relationships, it is also excellent for correcting diseases when they do arise, and this is why it is so effective, even after 5000 years, at treating modern diseases in the Western world.

Waiting Until It's Too Late

In the West, we tend to wait until something is quite wrong before we seek medical attention. We wait until something hurts, there is a pain we can no longer ignore, a lump or some other symptom before we go to the doctor to get it checked out. We are not taught the value of living in a healthy, balanced way and instead, we rely on doctors, surgeons, and pharmaceuticals to cure our ills when they come up. It is a different approach, and we are not entirely to blame because it is the way we were taught by our parents before us and that thinking is galvanized by advertising as well as the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry. This reliance on medications and complex surgeries seems to have increased also in the past fifty years (and is increasing all the time) as we become more and more disconnected from nature, each other and ourselves. In a country like the United States where people spend more than any other country on health care, they are some of the sickest people on the planet. Do you see something wrong there? In a PBS newshour report published in July of 2016, the United States saw a rise in healthcare spending that reached a mind boggling $3.35 trillion dollars which works out to $10,345 for every man woman and child. The report also stated that US healthcare spending is wildly unbalanced reporting that about 5% of the population, which encompasses the most frail and ill, accounts for nearly half of all healthcare spending in any given year.

this amazing illustration from theawesomedaily.com

A Healthy Way of Life

To give a brief overview of the “way of life” that the Taoists were talking about and Chinese peoples subscribe to, as I said above, Chinese medicine is a medicine of prevention. This means that there is a constant awareness of what is happening in (and out of) the body and that you learn to really LISTEN to what your body is trying to tell you. Does this sound strange? It may, but your body talks to you all the time. Consider your last headache after a long stressful day, pains in your stomach when you knew you had a presentation at work, the hair that stood up on the back of your neck when that person got on the bus behind you, the sense you got that maybe you shouldn’t eat that piece of sushi… there are all ways that your body speaks to you. And it is speaking to you all the time. Are you listening?

Living in Harmony with Nature

Because the Chinese were living in a way that was much more in tune with their natural environment, the way they lived changed in subtle ways according to the seasons. The foods they ate, their daily activities including how much and when they slept and how much physical activity was appropriate were ways in which they were able to stay healthy. Foods were eaten that were available at that particular time of year and grown locally, as these were the healthiest according to Mother Nature and her wisdom, and the people recognized this. The amount of sleep a person would strive for depended on how much energy would be exerted during the day. If a persons energy was to be conserved (as in winter) or expressed freely (as in summer). Internal practices were also important as things like Qi Gong and Tai Chi were a way to keep the body and mind supple and agile well into old age. 5000 years ago there was no retirement, a person had to work until they were no longer able, so keeping your body and mind in the best shape possible was the main motivation.

The Importance of Emotions

Another thing and this is unique to Chinese medicine and very different from how we view health in the West, was and is the importance of the emotions. A healthy emotional life was just as important as a strong, flexible body. The emotional life of a human being is complex, just as complex, it seems, as the workings of the human body. And being emotionally healthy has a great deal to do with a person's overall health. The fascinating part is that in Chinese medicine each emotion is associated with a specific organ so that an imbalance in that emotion can point to a problem in its respective organ and vice versa, an imbalance in an organ can point to problems with a particular emotion. It is all interrelated. So, being able to understand, and freely express emotions was and are an important part of overall health.

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Chinese Medicine and the Organs

Without getting too deep (because we could get so SO deep into this), let me explain a little bit about how the organs work in Chinese medicine and how important they are in the process of diagnosis. One thing that is important to note, is that the organs in Chinese medicine have very little similarity with the organs and their functions in Western medicine. This causes a lot of confusion when explaining things to patients so it is good to clear that up right away. There are certainly some similarities, but there are far more things that are completely different and unique to the organs in Chinese medicine. The organs in Chinese medicine each have a list of responsibilities. Processes in the body that they are responsible for. The organs are also, all connected. So, if there is a problem with one, then you must look at them all to discover where the root of the problem lies. This is another unique feature of Chinese medicine, is that everything is connected and nothing, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, exists in isolation. This is why as a practitioner, you have to have a very solid understanding of, well everything before you can begin to understand anything that might be happening to your patient. Our intake procedure and questioning are thorough and complex, and this is why.

How Symptoms Point to Specific Organs

Knowing each organ, its associated emotion and its list of responsibilities help one to understand what might be going wrong when problems arise. If someone is struggling with the loss of a spouse and having lung symptoms, in Chinese medicine, this would make perfect sense, as grief is the emotion of the lung. If a particularly angry person comes in with symptoms of red eyes, headache and bitter taste in their mouth, this would point to excess heat in the liver as anger is this organs corresponding emotion. Understanding the connection that the organs have to each other is also important as an excess or deficiency in one can spill over to the next in the cycle, affecting it adversely. Time also is very relevant, as the longer an imbalance has been active, the worse the imbalance will become, creating more severe symptoms and being more difficult to correct.

Location is Important

In a disease like cancer, we are always looking at where the cancer has been found which can tell us a lot about why it has come about in the first place. It is because of the way Chinese medicine sees the organs, their responsibilities, and their interrelationships that the location is so important. In treating my own patients with cancer, it became obvious after the initial consultations why the cancer had presented itself. Often, in listening to a patient's history it is clear that there have been particularly severe stresses on either the body, the psyche or both that have pushed the body to its breaking point, and cancer is the result. There is also often a long history of signs and symptoms that the patient has had but has either not been aware of or unable (or unwilling) to deal with for various reasons.

Having an understanding of the philosophy of Chinese medicine and the organs and their functions can do a lot to help you to stay healthy, and be able to recognize warning signs; ways that your body is telling you that something is not right. Cancer in many cases is the result of many years of imbalance that started small, building into something larger and more complex and thus, is more difficult to treat.

Resources

WHO report - increase in cancer rates: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2003/04/canc-a26.html