Fending Off the Common Cold with Black Elderberry

By Dr. Kevin Curran

We all know there’s no cure for the common cold. But the question remains…is there a natural way to treat the symptoms of a cold. Plant-based, natural remedies for cold or flu infections are popular because they tend to be less invasive and yield fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. Black elderberry is one of these popular natural therapies. However, just because a remedy is popular, that doesn’t always mean it’s an effective approach. In this article, we explore the biology behind the proposed health benefits of black elderberry.

What is black elderberry?

Black elderberry is a shrubby tree native to the temperate regions of Europe. Black elderberry, or Sambucus nigra, has become widely used as a medicinal plant. This deciduous tree grows up to 30 feet in height and produces clusters of small, white flowers. These flowers generate green berries, which turn black at the end of summer.

The use of elderberry by humans is not a new concept. Archaeologists discovered that early humans buried their dead with elderberry branches. In North America, early settlers have been using black elderberry for the past 10,000 years. Native Americans ate the berries for food but they were also aware of the healing properties of the plant. They consumed the berries, leaves and flowers as a means to defend against rheumatism and viral infections.

Lately there’s been a resurgence in interest the health benefits of this medicinal plant. Fortunately this resurgence of interest has been accompanied by quality clinical and laboratory studies. These studies explore the capacity for black elderberry to strengthen our immune system and, thereby, minimize the negative effects of a cold or flu.

Below, we’ll explore some of this published work and, in doing so, we will explain how elderberries can help us stay healthy.

Black Elderberry for Fighting Colds : Chinese Medicine Living

Clinical tests probe the ability of black elderberry to treat colds or flu infections.

There are two notable clinical studies that both demonstrate the ability of black elderberry to reduce the symptoms associated with a cold or flu (Zakay-Rones, 1995; Zakay-Rones, 2004). One of these clinical trials, performed in Norway, tested 60 patients of varying ages. All of these test subjects had just begun to feel the effect of a flu (extreme fatigue, high fever, aching body, congestion). These recently ill patients were given 15 mls. of black elderberry syrup for a duration of 5 days. A similar control group was given a placebo treatment. The scientists found that patients who received elderberry treatment became healthy approximately 4 days earlier then the control group. The authors conclude black elderberry treatment is an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.

In summary, these clinical trials demonstrate the capacity for black elderberry to reduce the time duration of a flu.

How does black elderberry strengthen our immune system?

The primary job of our immune system is to attack and kill invading pathogens. In regards to a cold or flu, these invading pathogens tend to be either a bacteria or a virus. When our bodies fight a sickness - our immune system shifts into battle mode. Specialized immune cells are sent out to destroy the pathogens that have caused our sickness. Laboratory studies have explored the benefits of black elderberry syrup for colds. These studies have concluded that black elderberry strengthens our body by regulating our cytokine levels and by delivering antioxidants. We will explain all this biology below.

Anti-oxidants prevent cellular damage

First of all… what are anti-oxidants? Anti-oxidants are small molecules that defend our cells from free radicals. Free radicals are small, charged molecules that can bang around the inside of our body and cause inflammation and cellular damage. This is why you want to eat foods that are full of anti-oxidants.

Plants are a rich source of antioxidants. Turmeric, for example, the tropical plant used as a curry spice, is enriched with a powerful antioxidant called curcumin. Curcumin is a potent bio-active compound that fights free radicals. This antioxidant capacity makes turmeric a natural remedy for inflammation related health issues, such as arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Black elderberry is another plant that is enriched with antioxidants. In particular, black elderberries contain molecules called flavonoids. Flavonoids are a class of antioxidants often found in leafy plants and dark colored fruits. Multiple studies demonstrate that flavonoids in black elderberries protect cells from oxidative stress. In these experiments, living cells are exposed to damaging, oxidizing free radicals such as hydrogen peroxide, AAPH and α-tocopheroxyl. The authors then present data showing that the presence of flavonoids protects these cells from this free radical damage (Abuja 1998).

In summary, taking black elderberry delivers antioxidant flavonoids to our body. These flavonoids help protect our body from the damaging effect of free radicals.

Black elderberry controls our cytokine levels

Cytokines are small molecules that are incredibly important for our immune system. These small molecules move throughout our body and act as chemical messengers. Cytokines send signals that tell our body to either increase or decrease the intensity of an immune response. When cytokine signaling is functioning properly, our body will only mount an aggressive immune response when necessary. In contrast, if there is no threat to our body, then we want our cytokines to tell our immune system to take the foot off the gas. If our immune system is overactive, our body will experience chronic inflammation and tissue damage. We need our cytokines to help us mount an appropriate response to an infection.

Multiple laboratory studies reveal that a treatment of black elderberry can increase and regulate the cytokine levels in our immune system (Middleton, 1992). One especially convincing report by Barak et al., demonstrates that black elderberry extract activates a series of cytokines that are critical to our immune system (IL-6, IL-1 and TNF-α).

In summary, taking black elderberry when we’re sick can modulate our cytokine levels. Properly regulated cytokine levels leads to an appropriate immune system response.

When taken together, the clinical and laboratory studies discussed in this article certainly suggest that using black elderberry is a reasonable course of action. Our body is bolstered by the cytokines and antioxidants derived from the black elderberry tree. So, next time you feel a cold or flu sneaking into your body, consider lending your body a hand with this medicinal plant.

Black Elderberry for Fighting Colds : Chinese Medicine Living

Citations:

Abuja, Peter M., Michael Murkovic, and Werner Pfannhauser. “Antioxidant and prooxidant activities of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) extract in low-density lipoprotein oxidation.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 46.10 (1998): 4091-4096.

Barak, Vivian, Tal Halperin, and Inna Kalickman. “The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.” Eur Cytokine Netw 12.2 (2001): 290-296.

Middleton, Elliott, and Chithan Kandaswami. “Effects of flavonoids on immune and inflammatory cell functions.” Biochemical pharmacology 43.6 (1992): 1167-1179.

Zakay-Rones, Zichria, et al. “Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1.4 (1995): 361-369.

Zakay-Rones, Z., et al. “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” Journal of International Medical Research 32.2 (2004): 132-140.

Image Credits

Featured image - www.tophealthremedies
Black Elderberry closeup - www.gartenjournal.net
Black Elderberry Bush - science.halleyhosting.com

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

 


Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

Pregnancy, until recently, had been a bit of an abstract concept for me. I have always thought of it as a wonderful, magical and beautiful experience, and one that is probably one of the most important and profound in any woman's life, I just hadn't ever done it before. So far, it has been an amazing education, and it is only going to get more intense in the next couple of months, especially when I get to the birth part. I have always found that going through things is the best way that I can learn and bring those experiences to my patients. And what I have learned so far, is that pregnancy is the ultimate exercise in letting go.

In my experience, how you are pregnant (and give birth) has a lot to do with how you live your life. It has been interesting to see all of the pregnant ladies coming and going from the birth centre over the past many months. Most seem relaxed, and that meshes well with the general atmosphere of the birth centre, as it is quiet and very comfortable, looking more like a little house - with comfy couches with lots of pillows - than a medical facility with bright lights and people rushing around in scrubs.

My experience with people outside of the birth centre environment has been a little bit different. There are always a lot of questions and anxiety surrounding pregnancy and birth. Inside my circle of friends, there is support and calm about the whole situation. We are all on the same page when it comes to this subject. Many of us are healers. Hippies. Trust in the universe, nature and our bodies. There is no anxiety, only love and support. But from the outside, the reaction is noticeably different. For one, pregnancy seems to be the ultimate conversation starter. Complete strangers will come up to you and ask about how far along you are, if it is your first baby and if it is a boy or a girl. It is sweet to see how seeing a pregnant girl really brings out feelings of joy in complete strangers. People in the grocery store see your belly and smile. Random strangers will come up to you and congratulate you, or tell you that you look beautiful and radiant which has been really lovely. Everyone seems to be really excited and happy about impending babies. And they are pretty cute, so who can blame them?

From what I can tell from past patients and many mothers that I have spoken to, is that I have been really lucky with my pregnancy so far. I have not had any morning sickness or any problems whatsoever. There were periods of intense eating (which was alarming to anyone around me who had the pleasure of witnessing me eating for eight or nine people), and a few weeks, after a large growth spurt, some intense sciatic pain accompanied with pain in my back. But thankfully the pain resolved itself and the insane eating has slowed down a little and now it seems I am only eating for five or six. It is still impressive to watch and my mother almost cries with joy to see me eat that much as I have always been thin, *too* thin as far as she is concerned.

Pregnancy and Letting Go

One of the most profound things I have experienced being pregnant is the overwhelming feeling of having to let go. Perhaps this is difficult to explain, but I will try. The first thing that went, although I did have to willingly let it go, was all sense of dignity. Granted, after med school and learning about all the things that can happen to human bodies, your sense of dignity is significantly altered. But going through something like pregnancy takes it to a whole new level. First of all, your body is doing things that you never thought were possible. There are the things that you learn about pregnancy in your textbooks, and then there are the "other" things that happen when you are pregnant that are new and surprising. Not everyone experiences all of these things of course, and there is a wide array, but without getting into details let me just say that this has been humbling.

 

Pregnancy and Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from www.thespiritscience.net

We have a lot of body issues in our culture. Women are taught to not only be wildly successful in their careers and at home, but they are taught that being beautiful, fit and thin are virtues as well. It is a lot of pressure, and I know from the ladies I see in my practice, that it takes a toll. Many women come with feelings of inadequacy, who are constantly fighting their bodies and who give way more to the people in their lives than they give to themselves. And it still amazes me how these women - beautiful, successful women with amazing talents, who have incredible children and great relationships can still feel that they are not enough and should be doing better. We could all, in my opinion, use a little more self-love.

Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

When you are pregnant everyone wants to give you advice, and the number of books and blogs out there about pregnancy are overwhelming. I actually found some articles about how to lose weight when you are pregnant. Yes. Why in gods name would you want to lose weight while you were pregnant? The answer is that you wouldn’t. And there are lots and lots and LOTS of articles about how to lose weight after pregnancy, how to tighten up belly skin (and other things), get rid of stretch marks and so forth. I see a lot of information about how to get your post-baby body back and I know it is a concern for a lot of ladies. The thing is, that when you have a baby growing inside you, you are supposed to gain weight. Granted, you should be eating well and getting everything you need to help your baby grow and develop but that is going to cause your body to change. And that is ok. It is marvelous actually. You are making a human being, and that is awesome.

I know that this whole process, the process of pregnancy and birth, is a lot easier if you can relax and let go. Easy to say I know but for some, so much harder to do. One of the reasons that I chose to have a baby not with a doctor or OBGYN and instead with a midwife, is that midwives respect this process. Their job is not to intervene, but to support you and your body because they believe (and I also believe) that your body at least, knows EXACTLY what it is doing. It was designed to do it. If you can really accept that this is true, then pregnancy and birth will be a lot easier for you.

There are a lot of things that women fear about childbirth, which is understandable. For instance, pain is one of the biggest. It is completely normal that when you actually think through what is going to happen, that you would have some feelings of anxiety about it. Of course. But there are many ways in which we can cope with that pain. Women, especially, are very good at this. Many meditative practices are excellent for pain management. Deep breathing. Internal martial arts. And being in control of your state of mind are some. Fear, as an emotion, contracts. It tightens and makes things small. And many women go through pregnancy and labour with these feelings which actually intensifies pain. The hospital environment also, with all the chaos, bright lights and doctors taking control away from the mother, all feed this fear and can intensify pain. Creating a relaxed and calm atmosphere can decrease feelings of discomfort and pain enormously. Because everyone has a different idea of what a comfortable environment is, it is good to think about it so that you can consciously create it for yourself. Not just with things like pregnancy and childbirth, but with any situation that you know scares you or makes you uncomfortable. Do things for yourself that calm and soothe you and help yourself get through the experience with positivity, expansiveness and joy instead of fear and trepidation.

Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

Another thing that I have noticed that I have really had to let go of, is my ideas about how I want this whole thing to go. Not only my pregnancy but giving birth as well. I am a strong willed and extremely stubborn person, so this whole letting go thing has not come easy. I have been working on it my whole life. A lot of it came from the discipline of many years of martial arts (bless them). A lot of it has come from some serious work on myself, self-reflection, writing and working through demons, and some more has come from my meditation practice which has helped me more than I can express to get through difficult times and put things in perspective. These things have helped in every aspect of my life, and I know are helping me now with my pregnancy and will help with the birth process.

When thinking about it I realized that I had some fears when it came to the birth. I had to be honest with myself and realize that what scared me was what I didn’t want, which was to have a baby at the hospital. I didn’t want to deal with doctors who might try to force me to have drugs or a cesarean which might inevitably lead to me putting said doctor into a headlock or worse and us both ending up on the evening news. So I had to face this fear and really come to terms with the fact that if for whatever reason I do have to go to the hospital to have a baby, I will have to accept it and not fight. I will have to let go and accept it or the entire process will be unpleasant for me, and for my baby.

In conclusion, I have tried to keep my ideas about pregnancy and birth pretty loose as far as how I would like everything to go. I keep my desires about things general like - I would like to have a healthy baby, rather than I must have a water birth with a midwife with no drugs on or after my due date. Of course, I have an idea of how I would like things to go, but I am not married to it and if it changes I have worked through my feelings so that I will not be devastated or disappointed. A lot of this is the excellent keeping things in perspective skills I have acquired over the years. So, what is amazing about this experience. I have had an amazing, practically symptom-free, healthy pregnancy. At the ultra sound (which was a mind blowing experience, wow!!) I learned and saw that I had a fully formed beautiful baby who has all fingers, toes, organs and is super healthy. I am having this baby with a person that I love madly and who is an amazing partner and will be an incredible father. Every one of those things is a blessing and I am grateful for every single one of them, and I make sure to be thankful for them every day. I am grateful and I want to make sure my baby can feel that too.  In the end, the most important thing is that whatever happens, a healthy baby is the result. How he or she decides to come into the world is largely up to him or her. I for my part, will do my best to be calm and relaxed and make the journey as easy and lovely as possible. And I am thankful for all these lessons in letting go and look forward to applying them to the rest of my life - and I am sure that they will be useful when raising a tiny human too. :)

Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

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

Pregnancy - The Ultimate Exercise in Letting Go : Chinese Medicine Living

 


Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

English Name: Reishi mushroom
Pinyin: Ling Zhi
Latin: Ganoderma
Temperature: Neutral, warm
Organs/Meridians Entered: Heart, Liver, Lungs, Kidney
Parts Used: Fruiting body (mushroom), spores, mycelium

Reishi mushrooms are one of the most powerful tonics on earth, and have been used since the beginning of human history as a protector herb, longevity tonic and to aid in spiritual development. Research has now confirmed that reishi is an immune modulator and a very potent antioxidant, and it is being used in modern treatment of cancer and to combat the effects of chemotherapy in China as well as in the West.

Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality : Chinese Medicine Living

Reishi Mushroom History

Reishi mushrooms were first described by the famous herbalist Shen Nong in the Shu Dynasty more than 2400 years ago. Reishi was classified by Shen Nong as a superior herb - meaning that it could be taken continuously without side effects. The definition of a superior herb is an herb that it is a substance that it essential to life, can be taken continuously without negative side effects and promotes excellent health and long life by harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.

Shen Nong said of Reishi that "if eaten customarily, it makes your body light and young, lengthens your life and turns you into one like the immortal, who never dies."

Shen Nong observed that there were at least six different types of ganoderma; red, purple, green, black, white and yellow. Red and green are the types that are commonly found in Chinese herbal shops, and purple is the most rare and difficult to find. Black reishi is fairly common and can be found in most Chinese herbal shops that sell bulk herbs. As the reishi becomes older, it gets larger, but larger is not necessarily better for medicinal use. You want to choose a reishi that is still relatively fresh and moist inside. When reishi age, they become dry and brittle. One way to identify a reishi is good enough to use is that if it is between about 6 - 10 inches in diameter and the skin is highly glossy.

Duan wood reishi are the best of the best of reishi mushrooms. They are grown on specific varieties of wooden logs, without chemicals (reishi's should never be grown with chemicals!), in a pristine mountain environment. In the wild, reishi's grow on a large variety of trees in forests throughout Asia, and like humans, they are what they eat. Depending on what type of wood the reishi grows on determines its strength and potency. Ideal types of trees for potent reishi mushrooms to grow on are specific types of hardwood trees indigenous to parts of China. The Chinese have made extensive studies on reishi's and the types of trees that they grown on and how they affect their potency and medicinal uses.

Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality : Chinese Medicine Living

Reishi Mushroom & Traditional Chinese Medicine

Reishi or Ling Zhi have a very long history in Chinese medicine. As mentioned above, they were first recorded by the famous herbalist Shen Nong almost 2500 years ago and have long been known for their powerful healing properties. Some of reishi, or ganoderma's medicinal properties are as follows:

  • A super immune tonic, strongly protects the entire body from disease
  • Tonifies the three treasures - Jing, Qi and Shen
  • Nourishes the heart
  • Protects the liver
  • Used traditionally as an anti-aging herb
  • Improves vitality, strength and stamina
  • Has a mild tranquilizing effect on the central nervous system
  • The ancient Chinese have traditionally used it to enhance spiritual and meditative practices. It is often called "the mushroom of spiritual potency" by Taoist adepts and spiritual seekers.

As you can see, reishi mushrooms, or Ling Zhi, have many medicinal uses in Chinese medicine. They are considered sweet and neutral in nature and enter the heart and liver meridians. Reishi are used traditionally in Chinese medicine to tonify the "three treasures" which are jing, qi and shen. Reishi is a strong protector of the entire body, is an herb that is said to have strong anti-aging properties, and promotes calmness, balance and inner awareness.

The discovery by modern science that they are immune modulators have made them popular in treating cancer patients, helping to build the immune system to fight the cancer, as well as combat the destructive effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Reishi Mushroom as a Spiritual Aid

Reishi Mushrooms for Meditation : Chinese Medicine Living

Reishi has a long history of being used by those seeking the spiritual life - monks, Taoists and mountain hermits. Reishi was used because it was believed to help calm the mind, relax the body, strengthen the nerves, improve memory, heighten concentration, improve focus, increase will power and ultimately, result in deep wisdom. This is why it was referred to as "The Mushroom of Spiritual Potency" by these seekers. Reishi is still revered all over Asia for the attainment of overall health, longevity and spiritual attainment.

Reishi Mushroom and Cancer

Because of mushrooms' powerful immune boosting properties, many mushroom extracts are now being used as cancer fighting medicines because they strengthen and modulate the immune system and have anti-cancer, anti inflammatory, antiviral and liver protecting effects. Ling Zhi is used in Chinese medical cancer treatment to build up the body, increase vitality, increase overall strength and prolong life. Reishi mushroom is a strong immune booster and has been proven to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy like nausea and kidney damage, and has been shown to protect cellular DNA because of its strong anti oxidative properties.

Other mushrooms used in cancer treatment include shitake mushroom (xiang gu), turkey tail mushroom (yun zhi), Chinese caterpillar fungus (dong chong xia cao), cloud mushroom (hui shu hua), and chaga mushroom. Each has proven to be powerful medicine against cancer and its effects.

 

Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality : Chinese Medicine LivingHave you loved a Reishi today?

Reishi mushrooms are incredibly powerful tonics that protect the entire body, build the immune system, help with spiritual practices and have anti-aging properties. The Chinese have been using them for thousands of years for all of their beneficial effects. It is wonderful that they are also now being used in modern cancer treatment for their immune boosting effects and their ability to combat the effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Nature offers us many gifts, and it seems that reishi is one of the best and most researched one of them all.

Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living

 

Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality


The Nocebo Effect

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

What Is The Nocebo Effect?

Have you ever heard of the "nocebo effect"? The nocebo effect is basically the opposite of the placebo effect. Lets define both terms.

The placebo effect is a measurable, observable or felt improvement in health or behaviour which is not attributable to a medication or any procedure that has been administered to the patient.

The nocebo effect is an opposite tendency - and one that has been largely overlooked by the medical/research community. Put simply, the nocebo effect is the phenomenon in which inert substances, suggestions of substances or the words of a medical professional can actually bring about negative effects in a patient or research participant.

The Nocebo Effect And Cancer

The nocebo effect is real and very powerful. I have seen it in action in my practice and in my patients. Nowhere is the nocebo effect more noticeable than with my cancer patients. And in those cases, it was elicited simply with words. Patients aren't feeling well and go in to the doctor to try to ascertain what is happening. There is testing and then a doctor's visit to discuss the results. In the session, the doctor tells the patient that they have found something irregular, and that it is cancer. They are told where the cancer is and at what stage it is at according to the staging system which is comprised of four stages. The stages help the doctor to determine the appropriateness and aggressiveness of the treatment required and determine the prognosis, or outcome for the patient. Stage four is the last and most serious stage, meaning that the initial cancer or tumor has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). And in these discussions, something often happens. The oncologist will tell the patient how long they have left to live or can expect to survive. This is usually *if* they start treatment right away. If they refuse treatment or ask for some time to consider the options, they are often told that the clock is ticking and that they are wasting precious time because death, is racing towards them.

 

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living

Cancer is the extreme example because it evokes such an intense fear response. No one wants to receive a cancer diagnosis, because in many cases they believe that it is literally a death sentence. The truth is, that we are all living with cancer in our bodies every day, and if our immune systems are healthy, then we are fighting it off on a regular basis. It is when the system gets out of balance due to various factors like extreme stress, poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle that we are no longer able to fight off disease causing agents in the body and things like cancer can develop. The other thing that is important to remember, is that many cancers take between 5-12 years to develop to the point where they are measurable with modern medical equipment.

The Power of the Word

I am not sure if most of us realize how incredibly powerful words can be. The nocebo effect is a clear illustration of their destructive power. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the placebo effect does not only have to be medications, treatments or procedures that have a beneficial effect, it can be the words themselves that do the healing in the body and the psyche. There is a wonderful book that talks about this concept in detail called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is definitely worth a read. In the book it talks about the importance of being impeccable with your word, which means being very careful with what you say, as words can create destruction as well as joy in the person they are being said to (and in the person saying them).

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living

While I was writing my thesis in my last year of Chinese medicine school I read a lot of books on the power of the mind and its ability to heal the body (I wrote about the mind/body connection and how it related to healing). In my reading I discovered many documented cases of people who had been unknowingly living with cancer for many years, and it wasn't until they got diagnosed that they got sick and died. This got me thinking about the power of words and how important it was to be responsible with my own. In another book I read about how, in some experiments with olympic athletes, they had hooked them up to electrodes that measured their brain activity and muscle activity simultaneously. The athletes were asked to visualize themselves doing their events in their minds. The thing the scientists discovered was that the muscles that they would be using to do their events were firing as if they were actually doing them which led them to conclude that the mind doesn't know the difference between actually running an event, and visualizing it. What is happening physiologically can be profoundly affected by our thoughts and emotions, which is something that I believe Western or allopathic medicine is just beginning to recognize.

The Nocebo Effect And Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine the nocebo effect is well understood. Not by that name, but the integration of all aspects of a person's being in how it relates to health and wellness are built into the foundation of the medicine. The nocebo effect is a Western term for a phenomenon that the Chinese have understood for thousands of years. Words like "cancer" don't exist in Chinese medicine, they are a result of a long term imbalance in the system. When things have been out of balance for so long that disease develops, cancer can be the result. In the office of a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner you will discuss many lifestyle options when it comes to your diagnosis and treatment. An extremely detailed initial consultation is one of the ways in which the practitioner can determine where the imbalances lie. The more information that is gathered, the more detailed the entire picture of what is going on with the patient. And, the more information about the patient and how the imbalance was created, the better and more targeted the diagnosis and treatment. One of the reasons that Chinese medicine is still so effective after thousands of years, even for diseases that are attributed to modern living, is that is is based on principles that don't change. The effect of our physical, psychological and emotional lives all have an impact on our health. What we eat, how much we exercise, how well we sleep... these are the pillars on to which our health and wellbeing are built. And each person is given a thorough intake and therefore receives a very personalized diagnosis and treatment. Cancer is one diagnosis, but there are a million reasons that cancer can develop. It is the job of the TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) practitioner to determine WHY you have that cancer and give you recommendations and lifestyle advice along with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and other modalities to help your body to heal itself. The TCM practitioner believes in the body's innate ability to heal itself if it is given everything it needs to do so. They are your partners, helping you to find the balance that will bring you back to ultimate health, harmony and happiness.

 

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living

 

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

References 

Smithsonian - www.smithsonianmag.com

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living

 

The Nocebo Effect : Chinese Medicine Living


HPV - What You Need to Know

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

HPV, or the human papillomavirus, has become a bit of a buzz word lately, especially with the release of vaccines like Gardasil and the controversy surrounding it. Although this will not be a discussion about vaccines, I am careful about what I say to patients about them. It is my belief that everyone should make their own choices about their health, and that includes vaccines and whether or not to have them. I encourage people to always get all the information before doing so, so that they may make an informed decision. It is my job to give them information and allow them to decide for themselves. Below I have listed some helpful resources about HPV and the Gardasil vaccine so that you may read up on them if you like.

What is HPV?

There are approximately 70 types of human papillomavirus which infect the skin and mucous membranes that have been identified. There are many different types of HPV which affect different parts of the body. The types that are most commonly associated with genital infections are types 6, 12, 16, 18, 31, 33 and 35. Infections of these types typically occur through mucous membranes or traumatized skin, although oral infection is also possible.

Certain types of HPV have been strongly associated with certain types of cervical, vulval and anal cancer in women (types 16, 18 and 31). There is also thought to be a connection with certain HPV types with anal and penile cancer in men. Approximately *11,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the United States.

The HPV virus is so common, that it is estimated that most sexually active people will be infected at some point in their lives. There are presently *79 million people infected with the HPV virus in the United States.

30 strains of HPV are sexually transmitted and approximately 15 are thought to lead to various cancers if the HPV infection persists over a long period of time. In the majority of cases the HPV virus resolves on its own with a healthy immune system in about 2 years.

There are currently *79 million people infected with HPV in the US. There are *14 million new cases of HPV diagnosed every year.

HPV Transmission

So, how is HPV spread? Well different types are spread in different ways. Most are spread through skin to skin contact and through abrasions or tears in the skin. The genital types of HPV are spread through contact with infected genital skin, mucous membranes or bodily fluids and are spread through sexual contact (not necessarily intercourse), vaginal sex, anal sex or oral sex. Because many people are carriers of the virus but have no symptoms, practicing safe sex is a good way to cut your risk of getting the virus. People can develop symptoms for HPV years after their initial contact, so it is sometimes difficult to figure out where you got the initial infection. Remember, that using condoms does not keep you safe from the infection if it is located in other regions other than the penis.

HPV and Genital Warts

Certain types of HPV cause genital warts. About *360,000 new cases of genital warts are diagnosed in the US each year. Most cases of genital warts are asymptomatic so it is possible to have the strain of HPV responsible for genital warts without manifesting the warts themselves. This means they can be spread even if the person has no symptoms. When they do appear, genital warts are pinkish brown masses, usually in clusters on the penis, vulva, cervix, perineal or perianal region. They can appear anytime between one and eight months or more after infection and then resolve spontaneously after one to two years.

HPV Vaccine

The original Gardasil vaccine, which was first released in 2006, protects against four strains of the HPV virus - 6, 11, 16 and 18. In 2014 the FDA approved Gardasil 9 which vaccinated against five additional types of the HPV virus (making a total of nine) - 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. If you are already infected with one of the nine types of HPV, getting vaccinated will not eliminate the infection. Please do your research before considering the vaccine. There are many helpful resources that you can use to read up on the vaccine and its effects. Some are listed at the end of this article.

 

Pap Tests Prevent HPV : Chinese Medicine Living

HPV Prevention

In the last 5 decades pap tests have become part of most women's yearly health screening, and are by far the best, least expensive and least dangerous way to prevent cervical cancers. Cervical cancer has become one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer. Regular pap tests can identify chronic HPV infections and pre cancerous cervical lesions so that they can be removed and treated before they can develop into cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer rates have dropped more than 70% in the United States since the 1960's when pap tests became a routine part of women's health care. Your risks can be greatly reduced if you practice safe sex by using condoms, and by having regular pap tests. Other risk factors include:

  • smoking
  • infection with other STD's like chlamydia or HIV
  • weakened or compromised immune system
  • long term use of the birth control pill

Healthy Lifestyle & HPV : Chinese Medicine Living

Eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly and getting enough vitamin D are important to maintaining a healthy immune system. Because HPV is so ubiquitous, most people are likely to become infected at some point throughout their lives. But, if we stay healthy chances are that it will resolve on its own and never become a life threatening problem. So keep healthy, practice safe sex and ladies, keep getting regular pap tests to keep the lady parts healthy too. :)

I will follow this article with one on how we identify and treat HPV in Chinese medicine as well as prevention including dietary therapy so stay tuned!

 

*These are statistics from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control)

 

Resources

Gardasil Vaccine - from the Gardasil Website

HPV Vaccine Can Make You Susceptible to More Serious Strains of HPV 

The HPV Vaccine: Herd Immunity or Human Sacrifice?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) - HPV Vaccine - Questions & Answers

WHO (World Health Organization) Vaccinating Against Cervical Cancer

Mushroom Extract Might Eradicate HPV Infection

National Cancer Institute - What are Human Papillomavirus Vaccines?

 

Peace Love & Acupuncture Button : Chinese Medicine Living

HPV - What You Need to Know : Chinese Medicine Living


pH - What Is It, And Why Does It Matter?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

We've all heard of the pH scale and may even remember it from high school science class, but what does it have to do with our health?

The body is constantly working to maintain a delicate balance between acid and alkaline (or base) - the body's pH. The scale ranges from 0-14. 7 is considered neutral and 0 through 7 is acidic, while 7 through 14 is alkaline. An example of something that is relatively neutral is most water weather it be from the tap, the ocean, springs or bottles. pH stands for "potential hydrogen" and represents the hydrogen ions that are present in, when we are speaking about health, the body. But, pH also affects things like the quality of our soil and the water in the oceans.

pH And Your Health : Chinese Medicine Living

The pH Scale And Your Health

When it comes to the human body, the pH varies depending on what part of the body you are talking about. For example, the pH in the bowels, stomach, skin and vagina should be slightly more acidic because they need to fight off invaders in the form of bacteria, whereas the pH of saliva is more alkaline. Also, the body is constantly dealing with the naturally occurring  byproducts of cell breakdown, respiration and metabolism all of which are acidic and affect the body's overall pH levels.

As a culture, at least in the US and Canada, most people are highly acidic. Disease thrives in an acidic environment. It is host to inflammation and degenerative diseases. The most acidic foods are the ones that are the easiest to find and often the least expensive. But in the long run, they really cost much, much more if you take the long term consequences and the future health care costs into consideration. Below is a list of acidic foods.

Acidic Foods

Acidic Foods for Health : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Coffee
  • Meats, especially red meat
  • Soda
  • Cheeses
  • Processed foods
  • Chemicals like aspartame, nutrasweet & sweet 'n' low
  • Vinegar
  • Black Tea
  • Wine
  • Pickles
  • Fruit juices
  • Grains
  • Pasta

In contrast, here is a list of some alkaline foods.

Alkaline Foods

Alkaline Foods for Health : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Sprouts
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Green juices
  • Green tea
  • Figs
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Kale
  • Asparagus
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Cabbage

To help, below is a chart which shows the entire pH scale and the foods that belong in each category.

Acid & Alkaline Foods & Health : Chinese Medicine Living

 

The body's pH is extremely important to maintaining health. The way we most often measure pH, is in the blood. The pH of blood should be slightly alkaline at around 7.4. The body is constantly working very hard to maintain this balance, so if we are feeding it all kinds of acidic foods (like the ones that comprise the average American diet), the body is forced to work even harder, taxing the body's resources to achieve that balance. Your incredible body, in fact, if it needs to restore that balance will take alkalizing materials like calcium, magnesium and potassium from other parts of the body like the bones and teeth and even your organs to restore the pH. Amazing, but this can have long term, detrimental effects like osteoporosis, cancer and stroke to name a few.

Here is a list of diseases that can be caused by a highly acidic body.

  • migraines
  • gout
  • allergies
  • stroke
  • obesity
  • osteoporosis
  • arthritis (both osteo and rheumatoid)
  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • arteriosclerosis
  • diabetes
  • constipation
  • gout
  • cancer
  • acid reflux
  • nausea
  • kidney stones

Now, this may all sound like very bad news, but it isn't. The good news is that you can, through a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits alkalize your body and prevent disease. It's all up to you!

How To Have A More Alkaline Body

Here are some tips on how you can shift your body's pH balance in a more alkaline direction.

  • Eat a diet rich in leafy greens, sprouts, avocado's - plant based, fresh foods
  • Drink fresh, green juices daily
  • Drink lemon water every morning (this is very alkalizing)
  • Exercise daily, even if it is just going for a short walk to move your qi around
  • Manage your stress
  • Stay away from chemicals in your food, beauty and cleaning products
  • Keep environmental toxins to a minimum
  • Get enough sleep

If you want to test your pH you can buy litmus paper strips (for about $10) that you pee on, usually first thing in the morning (or the second pee of the day is usually better and will be a little more balanced). This will allow you to see where you are on the pH scale. You can track your progress with changes to your diet and the other things on the list and see if you are moving in a more alkaline direction. Even doing one or a few of the things on the list will have an impact on your overall health, and probably make you feel a whole lot better too.

The important thing to remember is that if you are flooding your body with unhealthy foods, you are forcing your body to work even harder to maintain the pH balance and health in general. If this is ongoing it can lead to problems down the road. So, being kind and giving it fresh, natural foods and doing things like exercising, sleeping enough and managing stress are huge when it comes to keeping your body healthy and happy for many years to come.

Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living

 

pH - What Is It And Why Does It Matter? : Chinese Medicine Living

 


Antibiotics. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The term antibiotics literally means "against life." In this case, against microbes. When most people think of antibiotics they think of antibacterial drugs, used to treat bacterial infections, but antibiotics actually covers a much larger group of medications including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic drugs.

A Brief History

The History of Antibiotics : Chinese Medicine Living

Treating wounds and infections with moulds goes far back into ancient history, long before the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish biologist, in 1928.

  • Greeks and Indians used moulds and other plants to treat infections.
  • In Greece and Serbia, mouldy bread was traditionally used to treat wounds and infections.
  • Warm soil was used in Russia by peasants to cure infected wounds.
  • Sumerian doctors gave patients beer soup mixed with turtle shells and snake skins.
  • Babylonian doctors healed the eyes using a mixture of frog bile and sour milk.
  • Sri Lankan army used oil cake (sweetmeat) to serve both as desiccant and antibacterial.

The discovery of penicillin from the fungus Penicillium notatum perfected the treatment of bacterial infections such as syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis. Alexander Fleming also contributed immensely towards medical sciences with his writings on the subjects of bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy.

One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.
- Sir Alexander Fleming on the discovery of penicillin

The discovery of antibiotics, made by a succession of cultures and people throughout the ages and perfected by a handful of scientists spanning from 1640 to 1932 was one of the most significant discoveries in Western medical history. Antibiotics have led to the eradication of many infectious diseases in the developed world and saved countless lives.

Antibiotic Resistance

The problem we face presently, is antibiotics being over prescribed, often unnecessarily and this has led to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and "superbugs". Each year in the United States an estimated 2 million people are infected with such antibiotic resistant bacteria and a staggering 23,000 people die every year as a result of these infections.

Perhaps the most famous of these drug resistant bacteria is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which is caused by antibiotic resistant strain of staph bacteria used to treat common staph infections. About one third of people carry the staph bacteria in their nose or on their skin and have no symptoms. A MRSA infection contracted outside a medical setting usually results in a skin infection. MRSA infections are particularly dangerous to hospital workers or other health care providers which is where many MRSA infections are contracted. MRSA infections are typically associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints. In medical facilities, MRSA can cause life-threatening bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections. MRSA is usually spread through contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands or equipment. People who carry MRSA and do not have any symptoms can also spread the infection to others which is why rigid disinfecting procedures are practiced for all hospital equipment and by all medical staff that have access to patients.

This is a cute animation on what causes antibiotic resistance. Video by Kevin Woo for TED Ed

Antibiotics & Chinese Medicine

Widespread antibiotic use is something commonly seen in clinic. I have many patients who come to me for the express purpose of getting off of many of their medications and looking for more natural alternatives to treat their ailments. For serious infections antibiotics are sometimes necessary, but there are consequences to the body. Antibiotics may be good at killing the infection, but they generally weaken the body and cause imbalances in other organ systems that need to be corrected.

Many infections in Chinese medicine are seen as a combination of heat and dampness. Antibiotics are generally good at resolving many of the heat symptoms (fever, swelling, sort throat, redness), but they do nothing to treat dampness (phlegm, loose stool, vaginal discharge, dizzy, heavy feeling, edema, tiredness and a fuzzy feeling in the head). The spleen is the organ responsible for dampness is the body, so if you have an infection, chances are that your spleen is already deficient. If you add to this the fact that antibiotics are very cold in nature according to Chinese medicine, the spleen is taking another hit (the spleen likes to be warm and dry). On top of that the spleen is the main organ (paired with the stomach) of digestion, and the use of antibiotics severely decreases the amount of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. There are over 500 different species of beneficial bacteria that collectively destroy pathogenic microbes while also neutralizing harmful chemical toxins that the body is trying to get rid of. When the amount of beneficial bacteria is compromised the result can a proliferation of colonies of harmful fungus and bacteria that can be detrimental to health. This beneficial bacteria is also an important part of a healthy immune system, so although use of antibiotics can deal with an infection, it can wreak havoc on the rest of the body, weakening it and making it more susceptible to future infections.

One of the important things to do after you have done a course (or many courses) of antibiotics is to get the beneficial bacteria built up again. You can do this in many ways be taking acidophilus, or eating yoghurt with a high count of beneficial bacteria (in the billions if you can). I often use Chinese herbs to strengthen the immune system and tonify the spleen after a patient has taken antibiotics to attempt to bring them back into a healthy balance.

The other thing to consider before taking antibiotics is that there are many Chinese herbal formulas with antibacterial properties that combat infections very effectively with no side effects. They do not weaken the body or immune system and attempt to restore the balance of the entire organism. Chinese herbal formulas do not use a single herb but a combination of herbs that work synergistically to treat various types of infections often in a few days. If the infection is not serious (an outpatient infection), consider seeking out a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine who can prescribe the right formula for the type of infection that you are experiencing. Repeated use of antibiotics often causes subsequent infections due to the hit on the immune system, and patients often come in who have been on one or several antibiotics that have either not worked for the initial infection, or dealt with the initial infection but have caused subsequent infections that are being treated the same way, more antibiotics. It is a bit of a vicious cycle. Many Chinese herbs have antibacterial and antiviral properties and have been well documented over thousands of years. Before getting that prescription, consider all your options.

Detoxing from Antibiotics Use

Antibiotic Resistance : Chinese Medicine Living

 

Drugs, both medicinal and recreational, are stored in the body long after use in various tissues such as the liver, and brain. The residues of these drugs, like alcohol, nicotine, LSD, pain medications, birth control pills and antibiotics build up in the body and their accumulation can cause reactions that cause a buildup of toxins that threaten health. A grain and vegetable based diet along with green foods helps to cleanse these residues from the body.

If the use of medications or drugs is prolonged, an excellent remedy is the herb chaparral (Larrea tridentata), also known as greasewood and creosote bush, which cleanses toxins and drug related deposits from the body. Chaparral's medicinal properties can be extracted in water, but for maximum effectiveness the entire plant should be consumed, or it can be taken in a tincture (extracted with alcohol).

Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India) uses an herb called calamus root (Acorus calamus) which helps to restore mental damage resulting from prolonged drug use.

Eat Your Medicine

Thankfully, there are many foods that also have antibiotic properties, and can be added to the diet in the event of an infection. Here is the list of some of the best ones:

Natural Antibiotic Foods : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Honey
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Coconut Oil
  • Fermented Foods
  • Turmeric

Ginger Natural Antibiotic : Chinese Medicine Living

 

There are also herbs and tinctures with strong antibiotic properties like:

  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Oil of Oregano
  • Echinacea
  • Golden Seal
  • Olive Leaf Extract

Essential Oils Natural Antibiotics : Chinese Medicine Living

It is unfortunate that today, with more information than ever about the human body and natural medicines, that antibiotics are so overprescribed. Although sometimes they may be necessary, often times they are not. I believe that this has led to both the prolonged weakening of the immune systems of their recipients as well as the development of antibiotic resistant organisms that put both health care workers and the public in danger. Thankfully, there are numerous natural ways in which we can treat infections from various microbes, from foods to herbs to acupuncture. Chinese medicine has been developed over thousands of years and has many herbal formulas that are excellent for treating infections of various kinds often more quickly and effectively than antibiotics would, and without the damage to the immune system, side effects and risk of subsequent infections. I am a firm believer that the body has an incredible ability to heal, if we only give it what it needs to do so, and often that is a change in diet, or a rebalancing with natural but powerful medicines like acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

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

Healing with Whole Foods - Paul Pitchford
Explorable - History of Antibiotics

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living

Antibiotics and Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Birth Without Fear

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I would like to preface this by saying that I believe that everyone has the right to choose how they live their lives and how they choose to give birth. If there is anything that travel has taught me, is that I am very lucky to live in a place where we are able to have choices over a great many things. What I wish to present here is how I have chosen to travel this path, and to give information. I have seen through many years of clinical practice that many people are unaware of how medicalized the process of pregnancy and especially birth has become in this country. I only wish to educate so that people may make the most informed choices possible and fully understand all possible outcomes for the choices they are making.

Giving Birth Naturally : Chinese Medicine Living

This beautiful image from http://www.hartshornportraiture.com/

It was years ago when a pregnant patient told me about a documentary that she had watched called The Business of Being Born. The doc discusses the history of prenatal and natal care and the increase in the use of doctors and hospitals as well as medical procedures during the birth process in the last century. It is also a film about midwives and the important role they play in pregnancy and birth. Here are some statistics taken from the film (which was released in 2008):

  • Midwives attend more than 70% of births in Europe and Japan
  • Midwives attend less than 8% of births in the US
  • The US has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world
  • The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among industrialized countries
  • In 1900 95% of births took place at home
  • In 1938 half of all births took place at home
  • Since 1996 the cesarean rate in the US has risen 46%
  • In 2005 cesarean sections were performed for one out of every three births
  • A cesarean section is now an elective procedure
  • The US spends two times as much per birth than any other country in the world

Natural Pregnancy and childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from blog.vonbon.ca

Natural Pregnancy and Childbirth

I am presently pregnant with my first child. Ironic as I have treated many pregnant women in the past with the book knowledge but without the direct experience. I watched the film again and it was with a fresh, and perhaps more invested perspective.

I should say that for me, I always knew that when I had babies that I would have them with a midwife, preferably at home and in water. This has always been normal to me. Perhaps it is because my mother also had me with a midwife, in England, where apparently, that sort of thing is considered more "normal". Once I was born I remained in the same room as my mother, and my father was allowed to also stay in the room,  and bring my mother any foods or drinks she liked. Anything to make her more comfortable. I have been pretty surprised by some of the reactions that I have gotten from people when I tell them I will not be having my baby in a hospital, but in a tub, at home, with a midwife. The eyes get very large and there is a pause, as if they are waiting for me to say that I am just kidding. This reaction surprises me, but after watching that film, I realize that it shouldn't. Among me and my close friends, this way of having a baby reflects the way in which we choose to live our lives. Naturally. Gently. Kindly. And with the reverence and respect for our bodies and that they know exactly what to do without intervention. Anyone outside that small circle seems to be a bit horrified and sometimes angry at the idea, saying that it is irresponsible and dangerous if anything were to go wrong. So let me tell you a few things about how having a baby with a midwife works, because many people simply don't know, and knowledge is the best antidote to fear.

Natural Childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

One thing that really surprised me was that people in the US on the whole seemed to not know very much about midwifery in general. One person, when asked, likened it to having a baby in a barn which made me laugh out loud. And then I realized that they were serious. The other thing was that a bunch of women with small children were asked if they had ever considered having their baby with a midwife and none of them had and they seemed a little freaked out by the idea, like it had never ever crossed their mind.

Midwifery

In the film it states that in the 1900's began a bit of a smear campaign demonizing midwives as primitive, dangerous and unclean. Up until that time throughout the world, they had been the ones delivering all the babies. But modern medicine was being developed and techniques that were thought to make the birth process safer, cleaner (and certainly more profitable), began to be employed, and births moved from the home to the hospital.

I think because of this there is a lingering idea that if you decide to have a baby with a midwife she will somehow not be as qualified as a doctor or OBGYN if there are problems or complications with the birth. I believe that this is completely untrue.

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living

First of all, midwives (at least in the US) only deal with low risk mothers. I am sure this is determined in different ways depending on where in the world you are, but here it is a point system. At your initial appointment, the midwife takes a detailed medical history about you and your partner. This is similar in scope and detail to an acupuncture initial appointment (without the spouse part ;) And there are certain criteria that are given points, like certain medical conditions, genetic history, age of parents, etc... In this system you are allowed 3 points. More than that and you will not be offered care because you are no longer considered low risk. At that point, you must have your baby with a doctor in a hospital as you are considered slightly higher risk.

The appointment continues with the midwife listening to your heart and taking a lot of blood for labs. They check for the same things a doctor would, making sure that you are free of disease, infection, STD's and to make sure that all your levels are within a normal range. You are also asked to do a series of urine tests to test for levels in your body and determine your general health. You are asked where you would like to have the baby, at the birthing centre, or at your home, and if you would like to have the baby in water (which is available in both places). You and your midwife have to know where you are planning to give birth and if it is at your home, then the midwife makes a trip to your house and makes sure everything is ok before the event. They also bring with them everything they need for you to give birth, everything they would have at the centre. You must also be within 15 minutes of a hospital in case of an emergency so that you can get there safely and quickly.

Natural Childbirth : Chinese Medicine Living

Although birth centres vary in design, the ones that I have seen have many of the following features. They are often in old houses and non commercial structures. The appointment rooms are designed like large, comfortable bedrooms, with normal beds, lots of pillows, a rocking chair and bathtub and shower. Like a lovely bedroom in a quaint bed and breakfast, a place you would want to be. They are not clinical environments, and the energy is relaxed. Although all the medical equipment needed for each appointment is in the room, it is put away in drawers and cupboards, to keep the environment comfortable and to keep the mothers and their spouses relaxed.

The rest of the centre also has a relaxed atmosphere, and people smile and say hello. You get to know your midwife (often several midwives, as they are all on call all the time) and the staff. When you arrive there are often mothers having their babies in the adjacent rooms, and children playing. There is often a lending library with books on a wide variety of subjects that can be borrowed. There are various classes offered for you and your partner from birthing, to breastfeeding to help prepare you for what is happening, and what is coming.

Meeting with your midwife for appointments, there is always a discussion and they are happy to answer any questions that you have. Midwives are there to answer questions and give you information, not to make decisions for you about your pregnancy or birth. The decisions are always up to you. They also have a great respect for the process of pregnancy and birth and are there to support it and help when they are needed.

What Have We Lost?

Ina May Gaskin is a pioneer in the field of midwifery and has been delivering babies at The Farm Midwifery Centre in Tennessee where she is founder and director since it opened in 1971. I have posted a TED talk she did below where she discusses the culture of fear surrounding birth in the US. It is a powerful talk.

Ms. Gaskin's talk really resonated with me for many reasons. The main one is that she states that women have become afraid of the act of childbirth and that the confidence in their own bodies and their innate knowledge has been lost. To take that thought even farther, I think that we have largely lost our connection to our own bodies. And, more importantly, I think that we have forgotten to trust that our bodies have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to do things like give birth. One of the reasons that I chose to study Chinese medicine, and the reason that I connected with it so strongly is that the entire system has not lost this connection. In fact, the medicine has been built with this at its foundation. We are not doing something to the body, we are supporting the body and giving what it needs to heal itself. And this is the way, the graceful dance of the midwife and childbirth, that the process can happen. Without fear, and with joy. They are not standing over you, calling the shots, telling you what to do because they know best. They are supporting you through the process and giving you what you need to do what you already know how to do.

I believe that the medical industry has exacerbated this problem and fed the fear that women now overwhelmingly feel about childbirth. Countless images of childbirth in the media have women screaming in pain and begging for painkillers. Medical interventions for women giving birth in hospitals are commonplace and seem to be based on the doctors convenience rather than concern for the wellbeing of the mother and baby. The rate of Cesarian section in the US is much higher than anywhere else and increasing every year.

For me, a hospital is where you go when you are sick. Having a baby is not a sickness. And doctors are not trained in health, they study and treat disease. They are experts in illness. Things aren't exciting for a doctor unless there is a pathology, something is going wrong. That is what they are trained for. Most doctors or OBGYN's haven't even experienced a natural live birth. They are familiar with administering pitocin (a drug that induces or speeds up labour), episiotomies (a cut in the perineum which is the space between the vagina and the anus) and epidurals (an injection into the lower spine through which pain medications are administered). All of these procedures have their downsides, and those are the ones that they will likely not discuss with you. Sometimes, of course, these procedures are necessary, but unfortunately, many times they are not. I urge you if you are having a baby, or care about someone who is to arm yourself with all the information so that you can make the most informed decision possible.

Pregnancy and childbirth are a wonderful, exciting time in a woman's life. It can certainly be an overwhelming time for a lot of reasons as well. There is a lot of information out there and we tend to be bombarded with advice, books and websites telling us the best way to do things. My advice would be to listen to your gut. Your instinct. You have it for a reason, and it has evolved over many thousands of years to serve you and keep you safe. It does not have to be a scary experience, in fact it can and should be a wonderful and edifying experience, one of the most powerful ones you are bound to have in this lifetime. To create life is one of the most profound and beautiful experiences that we can ever hope to have, and I wish for any of you who go down that path that it is incredibly joyous and empowering, and one you will never forget.

Midwives : Chinese Medicine Living

 

Reducing Fear of Birth in US Culture -
Ina May Gaskin at TEDx Sacramento

The Business of Being Born

Resources
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
The Business of Being Born
Ina May Gaskin
The Farm Midwifery Center - The Farm Midwives
Books By Ina May Gaskin
Birth Matters: A Midwifes Manifesta
Ina May's Guide To Childbirth
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
Spiritual Midwifery

Peace Love & Acupuncture Button : Chinese Medicine Living

Birth Without Fear : Chinese Medicine Living

 


Constipated? These Foods Will Help.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Constipation is very common and can be due to several factors. One is dehydration or dryness, meaning that the body is simply not getting enough water. Another is that things are not moving through the bowels quickly enough and that things are sitting too long in the colon. This can be due to several factors, like not having enough fibre in your diet, the colon needs roughage to push against and move things through the colon. Another is that you are simply not moving enough and things easily stagnate. The third is eating foods that are very warming and are drying out the colon so that things don't move freely. There are other factors as well. Many medications are extremely heating to the body and have constipation as a side effect. Alcohol also introduces a lot of heat (and dampness) into the body. You may also have a very yang constitution and be predisposed to things like constipation and other heat symptoms. Another factor is smoking which tends to be very heating and drying to the body and all of its systems which inevitably leads to constipation.

In Chinese Medicine, constipation has many causes as well. The most common is an excess type which is from liver heat. Excess liver heat dries body fluids and stools become hard, dry and difficult to pass. An excess liver also disrupts the flow of qi so the peristalsis, or muscular contraction of the intensities which allows waste to move through them, is inhibited, exacerbating constipation.

Deficiency type constipation is due to a lack of blood and yin fluids in the body. When this deficiency is present the body compensates by absorbing too much fluid out of the food in the intestines which creates dryness and, constipation. This type of constipation is more difficult to treat than the excess type because rather than purging the excess, we must build up the body's reserves of yin and blood which is a more lengthy process.

An important distinction between Chinese culture and Western culture is something I discovered when I was living there in my 20's. The Chinese, at least the family I was living with, do not drink while they eat. This was a hard one o get used to, but the feeling is that drinking while eating dilutes stomach acids that are important for breaking down food effectively. In our culture it is customary to have a glass of water or some kind of drink with a meal. When you walk into a restaurant, the first thing the waitress/water does is brings everyone water. This is further complicated by the fact that much of the water we drink has ice in it which puts a strain on the poor Spleen. The Spleen, being the main organ of digestion in Chinese Medicine, likes heat and dryness so cold foods cause it to use more energy to heat things up again so that food can be digested. We all have some level of spleen deficiency (just by virtue of our culture of multitasking, cold foods, worry and overthinking) so doing this one small thing - not drinking with meals and not putting ice in drinks - will have a huge impact and your spleen will be much happier.

Other Factors To Aid Constipation

Chew Your Food for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Chew your food very well
  • Drink plenty of water (but not with meals and without ice!)
  • Squatty Potty! This helps put you in the more natural pooping position. See more about it here - Elimination Issues - How to Have a Happy Colon

Foods That Lubricate the Intestines

Foods for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Almond
  • Prune
  • Pear
  • Peach
  • Honey
  • Walnut
  • Pine Nut
  • Soy Products
  • Beet
  • Okra
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Whole Fresh Milk (small amounts of high quality milk help ease constipation)
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Sesame Seed Oil
  • Seaweed

Foods That Promote Bowel Movements

Foods for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Cabbage
  • Coconut
  • Castor Oil
  • Asparagus
  • Black Sesame Seeds
  • Figs
  • Papaya
  • Peas
  • Sweet Potato
  • Bran from Oats, Wheat or Rice

Foods To Avoid With Constipation (All types)

Foods To Avoid with Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • All Products with Baking Soda/Powder
  • Yeasted Breads (use sourdough or "Essene" breads)
  • Refined "white" foods such as all white flour products, white rice, white sugar, white (low quality) oils

Herbs for Constipation

Demulcent Herbs

Marshmallow Root for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

Marshmallow Root

When the membranes of the digestive tract are irritated or inflamed demulcent herbs act to soothe and protect them from further irritation.

  • Marshmallow Root
  • Licorice Root
  • Psyllium Seed
  • Fenugreek Seed
  • Flax Seed
  • Comfrey Root
  • Hops
  • Iceland Moss
  • Oats
  • Irish Moss
  • Quince Seed
  • Slippery Elm

Laxative Herbs

Dandelion Root for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

Dandelion Root

Many herbs can promote the evacuation of the bowels and they range from mild laxatives to stronger and more violent purgatives. These are to be used with caution and under supervision! The best laxatives are those that stimulate the natural secretion of the digestive juices like bile which naturally causes moving of the bowels.

  • Dandelion Root
  • Barberry Bark
  • Rhubarb Root
  • Cascara Bark
  • Wahoo
  • Licorice
  • Yellow Doc

The occasional bout of constipation is not a big deal and one can usually add a few foods to the diet, perhaps remove a few others, drink a little more water and try some herbal remedies. These combined should do the trick. Nature gives us many ways in which to rebalance, so if you know what to do, you can keep things moving now and in the future too. :)


Documentary - Cancer Is Curable Now

This is a very interesting documentary about curing cancer with non-conventional (non Western) treatments. Is this even possible? YES, and it has been going on all over the world for years. There are many, many alternatives to the standard Western treatments of radiation and chemotherapy. Cancer is big business, especially in the United States, so many of the other treatments available for cancer are suppressed so people don't find out about them. Most of these treatments are safer, less expensive and way less destructive than conventional treatments. If you know anyone with cancer, this is definitely something they should see. Everyone of course has the right to choose what treatment they would like, but it is important to make an informed decision and get all the information about what it out there.

Many of these treatments use the philosophy that if you rebalance the body and give it what it needs then it will heal itself. (This is also the Chinese medicine philosophy). This is so often why conventional treatments may work temporarily but the cancer inevitable returns. It is because it is dealing with the symptoms (the cancer), and not the reason the cancer developed in the first place.

There is a lot of excellent information in here, and hopefully this will introduce some of you to some treatments that you did not know about. It all seems like common sense to me, but I will let you be the judge. Knowledge is power. :)

Documentary - Cancer is Curable Now

 

Natural Laundry Soap : Chinese Medicine Living9000 Needles : Chinese Medicine LivingChinese Herbs : Chinese Medicine Living