Personal Story - Why We Need to Speak Our Truth

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

I just had surgery to remove a lump in my neck. It was small (about the size of a dime) but had been there for almost 2 years. It revealed itself just after I had my daughter, and my OBGYN said that it was normal - the result of hormonal fluctuations - and that after I was finished breastfeeding, it would probably disappear.

Almost 2 years later, it didn't seem to be going anywhere, so I went back to him asking what we could do. He had a look and did a quick ultrasound with a machine he used for pregnant ladies in his office. He said it was nothing to worry about, but I might consider having it removed. I said yes, please.

To be honest, I hadn't thought much about this lump simply because I didn't have the time or energy to give it. I was raising 2 babies in a foreign land and taking care of them, as well as all the other things that life throws at you was all consuming. I believed my OB when he said it was a normal result of hormone fluctuations following pregnancy and birth - and I was certainly experiencing those in all kinds of ways - so I hoped one day it would simply disappear.

When it didn’t, and several people asked me what was that thing in my neck - I decided it was time to deal with it.

For the first time, I brought my focus to it - this lump in my neck - thinking about what it was, and why it might be there… and suddenly,

I made a connection.

Coming to Costa Rica

Two and a half years ago, my husband and I arrived in Costa Rica with our then eleven-month-old baby boy. The stresses of moving to a foreign country were overwhelming and continued to be so long after we arrived. When we got here, I found out that I was pregnant. I was happy, but the news added a new layer of overwhelming to the picture. I was now going to have to figure out how to go about the delicate business of having a baby in another country.

After a lot of research, I thankfully found a much loved and well-respected doctor. He was willing to deliver the baby at home, without medications and in water which was my preference. I was so relieved. He was less than an hour of where I was living, so I went to my monthly appointments, and everything with my pregnancy went smoothly and I anxiously awaited the arrival of our baby girl.

One afternoon, about 3 days before my due date (which was my birthday, amazingly), the doctor arrived at the house. He said he wanted to check and see how everything was going. We had a big Tupperware bin with an inflatable pool and all the doctor's gear by the door, waiting for when I went into labour. After the doctor checked me out, he said the baby was very low and he could touch the top of her head. He said she would arrive any moment now and that my labour would be very quick, just like my first.

We sat quietly on the couch and he seemed distracted and slightly uncomfortable. I offered some tea. Finally, he looked at me seriously and said he needed to talk to me about something. I said, “ok, of course” - my mind racing. What is going on?, I wondered. He said that he needed to go to a conference in the US - a gynaecological conference he goes to every year and that he had spoken to a colleague who would come and deliver the baby… at this point, his voice got very faint and I wasn’t listening… my mind was all over the place, trying to wrap itself around this new information. I came back and he was finished, looking at me expectantly.

I allowed myself to breathe for a moment and smiled. I said, “well, she is due any day now, when do you have to leave?” He took a deep breath and said: “in the morning”.

I am not exactly sure what happened after that except I felt a surge of emotions flood through me and everything was going in slow motion. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, being lifted up and down, losing my equilibrium. I suddenly felt quite sick and must have grimaced as the doctor said - oh, I think you don’t feel well. And then it slowly became clear. I said - “I think I am in labour.” He looked serious, and said, “yes, I can see that.”

At that moment, everyone scattered. My mother swooped in and took my son to her house (which was down the hill). My husband and the doctor disappeared, and I was left, sitting alone on the couch. Another contraction came and felt like a wave of pain smashing into me. I thought I would have a warm shower which might help the pain.

When I got out, my husband was there. I asked where the doctor was? I assumed he had gone out to his car to get something. He said - Oh, he left. I said, left?? What do you mean? Where did he go? He told me he had gone back to the city to get some things.

I sat hard on the couch, confused. Disappointed. Hurt.

"He left?"

He didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t check to see how far apart my contractions were. Talk to me to see how I was feeling. He just left.

Without going into details, what followed was an extremely intense, painful and scary labour and birth. My contractions became very intense and close together very quickly, and my poor husband was frantically blowing up the inflatable pool so that I could get into it and have our baby. The problem was, that because he was blowing up the pool, and the doctor was gone, I was alone. My husband would run in for a contraction summoned by my shrieks, then race out again and continue blowing up the pool. He never did get it blown up...

From the time of my first contraction sitting on the couch to the moment my daughter emerged was one hour and 20 minutes. It was the scariest hour and 20 minutes of my life. I had been alone through a process where I desperately wanted support and comfort, and there was none. I had no friends, and my only family were occupied and not able to help. The pain had been unimaginable, and I am sure this was intensified by my fear and anxiety. Both my husband and I had tried over and over to reach the doctor to ask where he was and were not able to connect to him.

When he did finally arrive, I was crouched on our bedroom floor, holding a screaming baby on my knees, shivering and in shock. I was not able to pull the baby up to my chest because the umbilical cord was so short it would not reach. It was quite a sight. It was almost half an hour after the baby was born.

The doctor helped cut the cord, deliver the placenta and cleaned up, then left. I was still in shock.

I didn’t hear from him for more than a week. I finally texted him asking if he would like to see the baby and make sure everything was ok? He wrote back saying yes, come in tomorrow.

When I went to see him, he acted like everything was fine. The emotions I was feeling were still so raw that I was on the edge of tears the whole time, being angry and hurt at the whole situation. The fact that he had not reached out since had only poured salt on a very open wound.

And here is the connection.

Everything is Energy, & Energy is Everything

In India, the Hindu’s believe we all have seven chakras which are centres of energy. One of them, the fifth chakra, resides in the throat. It is responsible for our ability to express our feelings, needs and desires. To speak our truths. To be honest with ourselves, and express that truth to others.


Here is a chart which briefly describes each of the chakras
Image from Andrew Noske

The symbol for the throat chakra

In Chinese Medicine, the emotions are actually considered a cause of disease.

In Chinese Medicine, there is an acupuncture point that I have used for this exact purpose for many, many years. It is called REN 22 and is located at the base of the throat, on the midline, in the depression between the two clavicles. Using this point clears any stagnation occurring there and helps the recipient to express themselves freely.

Ren 22 Acupuncture Point - From A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

When Emotions are Unresolved

The pain and trauma of the birth of my daughter lingered, unresolved, and unexpressed. Shock was followed by a deep depression which has lingered and is still with me, like an uninvited friend.

Interestingly, I have been doing a lot of research on grief for a new project I am working on. One of the books I was reading was written by a woman who had lost her infant daughter, shortly after she was born. She never recovered from her death and ended up making a career counselling others suffering with traumatic grief - something she deeply understood. Her story was both heartbreaking and uplifting, and the book was filled with stories of her clients and the horrific stories that lead to their own grief. I found myself crying a lot reading those stories, and some of the times I tried to hold back my tears, something interesting happened.

I felt a pain.

A searing pain, and the epicentre was the lump in my neck.

My grief had literally manifested as a mass right next to my throat chakra.

 

I know this may seem far fetched to some people, and I understand. But from everything I know and have learned in my life and work, and the feelings that came when I made these connections, I believe this is what happened.

Many doctors visits, consultations, tests and ultrasounds later, I did have that lump removed in a surgery a couple of weeks ago. That process alone was an exercise in expressing what I needed and was very cathartic. The surgeon told me that the lump was in fact much bigger and went much deeper than expected, but that the surgery went well and they got everything out. A biopsy revealed that it was benign. Buddha bless me.

My husband tells me that after the surgery when I was still under the effects of the sedative, they brought in a little bottle and showed me the lump itself. He said I looked at it for a long time. I don’t remember anything from those few hours afterwards, which deeply disappointed my husband because he said he was being so wonderful, loving and attentive. Ha.

The Moral of the Story

So, why am I telling you this? I am sharing this story because I believe that it is relevant. I have seen so much of this with the people I know in my life and with my patients over the years. So many of us have things that have hurt us. Demons we are running from, pains that we dragging from our pasts into our present and things that are hurting us in our everyday lives, as we live them. It is unavoidable. It isn't always easy to express those feelings and the thing about our society is that many of us have never been taught how to do so. Emotional intelligence is so important for our health and wellbeing, and yet, so many of us struggle to become aware of how we feel, acknowledge how we feel, and then allow ourselves to feel it.

When I was able to finally take some time and think about this lump in my neck, then look back on what was happening in my life when I first remember it being there, I was able to make the connection. And the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became. This was a hugely painful event that I was not able to verbalize, even to myself. I was trying to be thankful for having a healthy baby girl and not focus on the negative. And this is what we are told. Be positive. Look on the bright side. And while that is all well and good, sometimes there are unpleasant things that are happening, and we must acknowledge that they are there and deal with them, too. I am saying this to myself (maybe more) as much as to you. But it was so clear, that it felt like a huge lesson from the universe, and I am passing it on in the hope that it may help you, too.

P.S.

 


Here is a photo of the scar. It will forever be a reminder of how important it is that I express
my feelings and speak my truth, to others, and to myself. 

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Featured image by

Matt Botsford


The Anti-Cancer Walk: An Introduction to Guo Lin New Qigong Therapy

by John Voigt

From a Chinese clinical treatment standpoint, Guo Lin Walking Qigong became the most popular and effective form of Qigong for cancer.  qigonginstitute.org

Guo Lin’s New Qigong Therapy is composed of many different gestures, breathing patterns, meditations, mantra-like sound utterances, all used by varying social groups within various physical settings. Space limitations, as well as the limited abilities of its author, force this article to focus on the main part of its practice known as Natural Walking Wind-Breathing Anti-Cancer Qigong.

Guo Lin Biography.

The Walking Qi Gong to cure cancer was created by a Chinese woman named Guo Lin. In 1949 when she was forty years old she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and a hysterectomy was performed. In ten years the cancer returned, and had metastasized to her bladder. After six more unsuccessful operations, she refused a seventh and was told that she would die within six months. She began to practice several Shaolin qigong forms that her grandfather had taught her when she was a child, but they didn’t seem to help.

Always known for her strong will, she now increased her studies, reading traditional Chinese and western medicine text books; as well as experimenting with various historical qigong exercises, and Daoist breathing and relaxation meditations. She practiced for many hours a day, seven days a week. The result was that she created her own qigong and within six months, even to her own surprise, the cancer went into remission and her health returned.

Guo Lin publicly unveiled what she called her “New Qigong” therapy on September 4, 1971 in Dongdan Park in Beijing. This was the time of the Cultural Revolution when anyone doing anything related to China’s pre-communist past such as qigong, or traditional Chinese medicine put themselves in danger, for at that time such practices were called “anti-revolutionary fake and fraudulent," and were politically and culturally unacceptable. Guo Lin, along with those who helped her, could be incarcerated for political indoctrination and re-education. Additionally, she and anyone practicing qigong with her were in constant danger of being physically attacked by the teen-aged thugs collectively known as the Red Guards and being beaten, or even murdered, by them.


Red Guards in Beijing, June 1966, at the beginning of China's Cultural Revolution. More than one million people
are believed to have died during its ten years of social chaos.

Source: Jean Vincent/AFP/Getty Images.

In 1976 the Cultural Revolution ended with Chairman Mao Zedong’s death. “By 1977 [Guo Lin] had achieved such tremendous results that she publicly announced that qigong could heal cancer, and thus her classes grew to 300-400 students a day.”  http://www.orientalhealing.net/qigong/

“Since then, thousands of cancer patients have taken part in her Qigong therapy classes at various coaching centers, located over twenty cities and provinces in China, and have attained remissions from this life-threatening disease.” http://guolinqigongpuchong.blogspot.com/2007/

Caring more for others than herself, and by being over-committed to her work—(her husband said that “she had her patients in her heart and mind and not herself.)—at the age of seventy-five she suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage, and died on December 14, 1984.

By the mid-1980s it was estimated that there were more than one million people practicing her Walking Qigong in China. There also were many Walking Qigong institutions, associations, health resorts and hospitals established. http://www.qigongchinesehealth.com/walking_qigong

In 1998 after extensive examinations by the Chinese government, Guo Lin Qigong was approved of as being effective for the health of the masses. [David A. Palmer. Qigong Fever. p. 181-2 https://books.google.com/books?id=RXeuibmD2dsC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=there+were+no+officially+sanctioned+qigong+activities+in+China&source=bl&ots=aNIlwjgoL2&sig=zUv9AUh_SUsoK4_vQagmuXSr5dQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj2osrW3bnfAhUI01kKHV__CSsQ6AEwCXoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=there%20were%20no%20officially%20sanctioned%20qigong%20activities%20in%20China&f=false

More than two million copies of books by Guo Lin and her “New Qigong” have been published in China, making her the author of the largest number of books about qigong ever to appear in that country. [http://www.ed2kers.net/资料/体育健身/130644.html.] Presently [May, 2019] there is no available translation in English or  in another western language, of any book ever written by or about Guo Lin.

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Disclaimer: Before commencing this or any other exercise program consult your physician, or appropriate medical professional. This entry is not offered as a cure for cancer or for any other disease. It is not intended to replace any cancer therapy prescribed by a physician.

Guo Lin wrote, To achieve a reasonable treatment, organically combine Chinese and Western medicine, qigong, diet, and psychology. Adopt their respective strengths and avoid their shortcomings. This will make us more likely to recover, live longer, and live a better quantity of life. Guolin New Qigong: An Introduction, p. 20.

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Natural Walking Wind-Breathing Anti-Cancer Qigong: The Preparatory Exercises.

1. Stand in a Relaxed Fashion.

The eyes are closed. The shoulders are loose. The knees are slightly bent. The tongue is on the upper palate. If necessary, silently count to sixty to still the mind. Cancer patients generally stand this way for two to three minutes. Those with chronic diseases generally stand from three to five minutes. The direction you face in depends on the location of the disease. 1. East: liver, gallbladder. 2. South: heart, small intestine, brain, tongue. 3. West: lung, large intestine, nose, skin. 4. North: kidney, bladder, ear, bone, reproductive organs, endocrine. 5. Southwest: spleen, sarcoma. 6. Northeast: stomach, esophagus. 7. If not sure of the location of the disease face North. From: “Guolin Qigong: Preparatory Exercise” beginning at 1:40.


2. Three Special Breaths.

Place the hands on the lower abdomen just below the navel. Men place the right hand above the left; woman place the left hand above the right. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Then one normal breath in and out through the nose. Do this same pattern for a total of three times. See: “Cancer – We Can Beat It” - from 23:56 to 27:35.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRAuzeVEwns

3. Opening and Closing Hand Movements

(Also called “Opening and Closing the Dantian”). The body, shoulders, arms, and hands are relaxed. The eyes are closed, and the tongue is on the pallet. The palms face each at the level of the waist. Gather in (close) the hands as you inhale through the nose. Open the hands with the palms facing downward as you exhale through the nose. Do this three times. See the video “Cancer – We Can Beat It.” (posted above) from  27:40 to 29:20.

Note: the Dantian is the major location for the storage and cultivation of vital life energy [Qi] located slightly beneath and under the navel, in the center of the lower torso.

Natural Walking Wind-Breathing Anti-Cancer Qigong: The Main Exercise.

Women take two quick inhalations and swing both hands to the left and step forward with the right foot by first lifting the toes up from the ground and then having their right heel step down on the ground. As the heel touches the ground, exhale through the nose and swing both hands to the right, and step forward with the left foot.

Take two more inhalations, and again swing both hands to the left, and step forward with the right foot. As the right heel touches the ground exhale and swing the hands to the right and step out with the left foot; but now (with loose shoulders and waist) turn the head to look to the right.

If the woman’s health and level of comfort allow for it, continue this pattern for fifteen to twenty minutes, then reverse sides (right becomes left and left becomes right) and continue for another fifteen to twenty minutes.

Men do the opposite. Take two quick inhalations and swing both hands to the right and step forward with the left foot by first lifting the toes up from the ground and then having the left heel step down on the ground. As the heel touches the ground, exhale through the nose and swing both hands to the left, and step forward with the right foot.

Take two more inhalations, and again swing both hands to the right, and step forward with the left foot. As the left heel touches the ground exhale and swing the hands to the left and step out with the right foot; but now (with loose shoulders and waist) turn the head to the left.

If the man’s health and level of comfort allow for it, continue this pattern for fifteen to twenty minutes, then reverse sides (left becomes right and right becomes left) and continue for an additional fifteen to twenty minutes.

After completing one of these 30-to-40 minute sessions, and before commencing another such session, both men and women should do  the Opening and Closing Hand Movement for three times. This helps settle the newly activated qi-life energy into the lower dantian.

The question of how many and for how long such a 30-to-40 minute session should be repeated will be addressed directly below.

The  Concluding Exercise in Three Parts.

When coming to the end of a completed Walking Qigong practice, perform the Preparatory Exercises again, but now in an inverted order. First do the Opening and Closing Hand Movements: Inhale and close the palms hands towards the belly, and exhale and open the hands with the palms facing downward; do this three times. Next do the Three Special Breaths: Place the hands on the lower abdomen. Women left hand on top of right. Men right hand on top of left. Inhale through nose, exhale through mouth. Then take one breath in and out through nose. Do this for a total of three times. Next Stand Relaxed For two or three minutes. This brings the practice to a close. Return to your normal day’s activities.

How fast and for how long should a person or a group of people spend in practicing Natural Walking Wind-Breathing Anti-Cancer Qigong? Properly speaking, the length, speed, and nature of the exercise should be determined by a skilled and experienced instructor based on observations of the health and stamina of the practitioner.

Qigong Master John Dolic writes, [Gou Lin] Walking Qigong should be practiced for two to five hours a day. The practice is done in 15-minute intervals with plenty of breaks in between. In other words, it is not a solid two to five hours’ worth of practice. Those who cannot walk for even 5 minutes can take a few steps, then stop and rest, then another few steps and so on (to start with). Gradually, as their stamina improves and they become able to walk for two hours, they should keep that as their daily minimum. Qigong Chinese Health
http://www.qigongchinesehealth.com/walking_qigong

Guo Lin said it depends on the person and the state of their health, and if the person feels exhausted the next day, they should reduce the extent of their practice. She also said the entire practice with its repeating sessions can take up to four to five hours a day. Guo Lin would often advise that, “Patients suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic diseases should use a weak wind-breathing [two inhalations, one exhalation] or perhaps just normal breathing, and their rate of walking should be slower. Those with poor physical weakness can walk in less than twenty minutes intervals.” Source: Guolin (Guo Lin) Qigong .pdf in English [sic] & Other Language.
http://cancer-qigong.blogspot.com/2012/04/guolin-guo-lin-qigong-pdf-in-enhlish.html

Very Important Note About Heart Disease

Throughout information on the internet, it often is advised not to practice Guo Lin’s Natural Walking Wind-Breathing Qigong if the person suffers from heart disease, or hypertension (high blood pressure). Here again it is absolutely necessary to consult with your physician or professional medical consultant.

Additional Comments.

For cancer of the liver, gallbladder, both male or female patients begin by first stepping forward with their right foot.

The practice is called “Wind-Breathing” because the air coming into the nose should feel like wind blowing through a small passage, and sound as if you are sniffing a flower. To accomplish this, you should quickly inhale twice and exhale once through the nose. To keep track of this breathing and its required movements, think—or have someone say—in-in out; in-in turn. On some Chinese videos you might hear something like, she-she, ho; she-she, dwahn. Which means, inhale-inhale, exhale; inhale-inhale, turn [the head].

Any saliva generated in the mouth is to be thought of as healing Qi. Swallow it in three mouthfuls down into the (lower) Dantian.  

Conclusion.

This entry is no more than a short introduction to Guo Lin’s anti-cancer walking qigong meant only to introduce it to an English-speaking audience. As already mentioned, her complete “New Qigong” Therapy is composed of much more than what is presented in this article. A future article in Chinese Medicine Living will briefly explore her theories on how and why her qigong works through the use of breathing, psychology, meditation, bioelectricity and social gatherings—and even by the use of singing and dancing as successful healing modalities. There will also be more about the powerful creative personality of Guo Lin. Also additional videos and internet resources will be listed—(mainly in Chinese because there is so little available in English). And we will finish by listing various worldwide Guo Lin Associations.

And as always, consult your physician—trained in western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, or preferably both—before commencing this or any other exercise program.

Sources Consulted for this Entry - Books:

郭林氣功 - 簡介.(Guolin New Qigong: An Introduction); [in Traditional Chinese script]. http://www.cllam.com/contents/contenthtml/SSW-Doc/0804kuolin.pdf.

郭林新气功什么能治病抗癌. (Why Can Guo Lin New Qigong Cure Diseases and Fight Cancer?). ISBN-13: 978-7-5009-3889-7. People's Sports Publishing House, 2016. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003SRJE4A/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

郭林新氣功治癌功法.(Guo Lin New Qigong Cancer Treatment); [in Traditional Chinese script].  ISBN 9579263140. Taipei City: Lin Yu Culture, 1995.

Websites:

John Dolic. Qigong Chinese Health: “Walking Qigong: The Anti-Cancer Qigong.

“Guolin (Guo Lin) Qigong .pdf in English [sic] & Other Language.” http://cancer-qigong.blogspot.com/2012/04/guolin-guo-lin-qigong-pdf-in-enhlish.html

Videos:

Jack Lim. “Cancer – We Can Beat It.” © Jack Lim. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRAuzeVEwns.

Guolin Qigong, Natural Walk, Walking Qigong, Anti-Cancer Qigong. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12RSk3BkCFw

Guolin Qigong: Concluding Exercise. YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt-QSno0-dI.

Guo Lin Book (in Chinese)

 Guo Lin New Qigong: Therapeutic Exercises.
(The book is in Chinese. Its title is 郭林新气功:治功法挖掘功法中高功法.)
See Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Guo-Lin-Qigong-treatment-Paperback/dp/7500917813

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Featured image

Guo Lin Teaching New Qigong Walking

from http://ftpguolinxqg.cl543.4everdns.com/index.php?r=pages/category/index&cid=55 51La


Incorporating Chinese Medicine Into Your Weight Loss Program

By Sally Perkins

Half of Americans say they are trying to lose weight. That’s over 163 million people in the United States alone who are unhappy with their weight, and that doesn’t take into account the rest of the people around the world who are also trying to be healthier. Traditional Chinese Medicine has many principles that contribute to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle, as it relates to food consumption, digestion, metabolism, and other bodily functions that relate to weight. There are many of these principles you can incorporate into your daily routine to aid your body in processing fuel and help with weight loss.

Definitely Your Cup Of Tea

Igor Miske

Many people equate tea, especially green tea and black teas like oolong, with Chinese culture. This is for good reason, as many Chinese people drink tea every day, and it is thought that drinking tea has many health benefits. Tea contains polyphenols, a specific type of antioxidant, which can help keep your metabolism from slowing as you lose weight. Polyphenols can also assist with digestive issues, and, as with other antioxidants, help repair cells. You can reap the benefits of polyphenols by drinking just one cup of tea per day. You can easily add this to your daily routine; just brew one cup every morning as part of your morning ritual. Just like other small habit changes you can make to improve your health, like drinking more water, standing instead of sitting at work, or going to bed half an hour earlier in order to get more sleep, this is a small modification that can yield great benefits. Sometimes the best way to make positive changes for overall health is to make one or two small changes at a time, allowing those changes to become habits before taking on more.

Eating For Energy

Qi is the energy that runs through our bodies, and maintaining a healthy, balanced qi is essential for proper health. Habits that drain your energy can be detrimental to your weight loss efforts. Unhealthy habits like eating late at night, eating raw, cold foods, and skipping breakfast can stress your digestive organs and cause your qi to become unbalanced. Something as small as adding breakfast to your daily routine can help to restore balance to your body and increase your energy, making it easier for your body to lose weight.   

Joseph Gonzalez

Supplement Your Diet

In addition to eating the right foods for your organs and to aid in digestion and energy levels, there are many Chinese herbs that can help with weight loss. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that excessive weight is caused by an accumulation of “dampness,” and therefore attempts to lose weight are made by relieving this dampness. Herbs that help to balance this condition and aid in weight loss include Bao He Wan, He Ye or lotus leaf, Fu Ling and Huang Qi. You can develop a supplement plan with a TCM specialist, and by adding your personalized combination to your diet, you can help restore your body’s balance.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine can assist with weight loss, whether you subscribe to TCM principles completely and transform your lifestyle, or simply incorporate some of them into your existing routine. You can use TCM to aid you with a particular issue, or to achieve a generally healthier way of life. Traditional Chinese Medicine can be highly customized to create a specialized regimen for your body and your lifestyle and weight loss needs. The more research you can do on Chinese medicine and the different ways it can improve your body’s functionality, the more ideas you can integrate into your life.


Applying Lessons from Chinese Medicine and Nutrition for Weight Loss

By Samantha Wiggins

Everyone wants to look good. But all too often, our pursuit of beauty comes at the expense of our health. It's important to remember that looking and feeling good isn’t just about the amount of food and exercise you get every day. It’s also about successfully nourishing every part of your being. That’s exactly what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is all about. In TCM, food is viewed as medicine — something you can use to nourish and harmonize your mind, body, and spirit.

To the Chinese, the overall well-being of the body is more important than how it looks. In fact, TCM practitioners use the food energetics system to teach patients how to heal their bodies through what they eat. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as each person has a particular body constitution that they must eat according to. For example, a person with a body constitution that is dry and warm would benefit from food that can bring moisture to the body. If you want to lose weight the healthy way, here are some lessons you can pick up from TCM:

Follow a Balanced Diet

You hear this advice even in Western medicine, but in TCM, the focus is the spleen and the stomach. It's important to not eat too much, but also not too little. Men's Health Magazine explains that when you gorge yourself with food regularly, your spleen and stomach fail to handle the load. This eventually leads to a whole host of problems — from poor digestion and slow metabolism to food stagnation and internal phlegm. Therefore, it's important to focus on consuming food that can boost your metabolism, promote bowel movement, and prevent fluid retention.


This delicious Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash

Help Your Digestive System

Poor nutrition, coupled with a stressful and hectic lifestyle, is a recipe for weight gain. By getting digestive organs in good form, you would be able to digest food properly. This, in turn, allows you to harness the energy and nutrients that your body needs to prevent energy drain. In order to help your digestive system, eat food that corresponds to the organ that you want to nourish. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation notes that sour foods support the liver, so if you're craving sour food, that might just be your liver asking for an extra boost.

Boost Your Metabolism

Here on the Chinese Medicine Living site, we previously listed the 10 best foods you can eat to stimulate your metabolism. This includes food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which you can find in salmon, herring, and tuna. This can help balance your blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and regulate your metabolism. Green leafy vegetables, garlic, onion, nuts, seeds, green tea, and grapefruit are other examples. If your metabolism is slow, your meals are broken down less efficiently, leading to weight gain. Drinking plenty of water is also important.

If you ever want to try losing weight with the help of modern methods like diet pills, choose the kind that mimic what TCM does — helping the digestive organs work better and ridding it of waste. Many dietary supplements are designed to help cleanse your digestive system. This works to remove toxins and promote faster metabolism. And when your body effectively rids itself of toxic materials, you can achieve a balance that can lead to long-lasting weight loss.

All in all, rebalancing your life and managing your weight shouldn’t be difficult when you follow the techniques of TCM. All it takes is a little discipline and awareness about what your body needs. 

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Featured image photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

 


Healing Acne Holistically With Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States — 50 million Americans experience breakouts each year which can continue into your 30’s and 40’s, the American Academy of Dermatology reports. While most of us turn to skincare or makeup to externally treat acne, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) addresses the underlying root causes. TCM recognizes acne as typically the result of excess internal heat caused by imbalances in the body. Treatment involves herbal formulas targeted to specific skin types, as well as dietary changes which eliminate inflammatory foods. In most cases, acne improves in as little as one month but takes roughly six months to disappear completely.

Excess Internal Heat


This awesome photo by Ryan Cryar on Unsplash

In Chinese medicine, acne is primarily caused by excess internal heat. Excess heat builds up in the body when it’s under constant stress or hormonally imbalanced. This acne-causing internal heat is generated in the lungs (which control the skin), intestines, menstrual system, and by specific toxins in the body. Often, however, acne doesn’t just originate from one place; there can be multiple influences involved. For example, facial acne can result from a block in both the lungs and stomach.

The Problem of Stagnation

Chinese medicine also recognizes stagnation (or impaired blood circulation) as a root cause of acne. If stagnation is the reason for your acne, your spots may be sore, stubborn, deep red, or even purple. You may also breakout before your period and experience painful menstrual cramps. Alternatively, fluids in the body can stagnate and result in phlegm. Cystic acne is often a result of phlegm stagnation (as well as blood stagnation).

Clean Diet for Clear Skin


This yummy photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

TCM recommends avoiding inflammatory foods — particularly greasy, spicy, and damp foods — as they heat up your blood, which results in breaks outs. Don’t eat anything too hot or cold in temperature, either. Sticking to room temperature food will prevent contributing to excess internal heat. Your body needs to be relaxed in order to function optimally, rather than devoting its energy to digestion. Reducing overall stress also helps calm the body and clear the skin. Low cortisol levels help your skin stay clear and blemish-free.

Restoring the Body with Herbs

Herbs are essential for stabilizing the body. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment includes herbal mixtures which calm the body, cool the blood, boost circulation, and detox the lungs. Adaptogens are used to balance hormones, soothe the nervous system, and improve digestion — with the result of beating acne and calming irritated skin. The specific herbs used depends on your skin type and can be determined by your dermatologist.

Unlike Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Dermatologists tailor treatment to suit each specific case with the aim of cooling excess internal heat, cleansing and detoxifying the body and externally healing the skin. Your dermatologist will work with you to find natural, effective, and holistic treatments to keep your skin healthy and acne at bay for life.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash


Stages in a Woman's Life According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the reasons that I fell in love with Chinese Medicine was the beautiful way that it sees the body, health - and when expanded outwards - everything in existence. It is simply a way of looking at things that, to me, makes perfect sense and resonates deeply and profoundly.

Women's medicine is the way that I came to Chinese Medicine - I found it when Western medicine was not able to help me. Just one session with my wonderful acupuncturist and I was left with an overwhelming feeling that this system was what medicine was supposed to be. At its foundation was true healing, empowered by the individual and facilitated by the practitioner.

The Concept of Jing

Jing is a concept that is unique to Chinese Medicine and is sometimes difficult to explain. Jing is considered to be one of the three treasures in Chinese Medicine. Jing, Qi, and Shen comprise the three treasures. Jing is defined as the source of our life, health, and longevity. Qi is like our life force - and the force that animates all living things. Shen is the spirit and is closely associated with the heart and "the mind" in Chinese Medicine. All three treasures must be balanced for us to be functioning at an optimum state of health and wellbeing.

The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine is one of the oldest medical textbooks on earth and was written around 240 BCE. It is in this text that the cycles of women and men are discussed. Women grow and mature in seven-year cycles and men in eight-year cycles.

Cycles for Women in Chinese Medicine

Women - 7 Year Cycles

7 years old

A woman’s kidney energy becomes abundant, teeth change and hair grows strong.

Kidney is a special term in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It not only has the function of controlling the urinary system, but also has a very important role – control the developing, growing, and reproduction. In terms of reproduction, you can think Kidney as a “Small Kidney”- the ovaries or testis.

At the age of 7, a woman’s reproductive system starts to develop.

14 years old

Her menstruation appears as the Ren meridian (the sea of Yin) flows and the Qi and blood in the Chong meridian (the sea of blood) becomes abundant, she can have children.

At the age of 14, her menstruation appears and she is able to have a child. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the age of menarche is one important factor to help make a diagnosis. If menarche is later than 14 years old, it often indicates lower fertility energy.

21 years old

Her kidney energy is balanced, her adult teeth become completely developed and her body grows to full height.

A woman’s energy, especially fertility energy is full at the age of 21.

28 years old

Vital energy and blood are abundant, her bones and muscles are strong, her hair grows to full length and her body is in optimal condition.

At the age of 28, a women’s fertile energy reaches its peak. This is considered the best age for her to have children.

35 years old

Her peak condition declines gradually. Her energy in the yang ming meridian declines. Her face starts to wither and her hair starts to fall out.

From 35 year old, she starts to have wrinkles on her face, and her overall energy and fertility start to decline. She is still however, able to have children.

42 year old

The three Yang channels - Tai Yang, Yang Mind, Shao Yang - energy begins to decline. Her face wanes and her hair begins to turn white.

From the age of 42, her physical energy and fertility energy declines and it becomes more difficult to conceive.

49 years old

The Ren meridian (Conception Vessel) and Chong meridian vital energy declines, her menstruation dries up, her physique turns old and feeble and she is no longer able to conceive.

From the 7-year-life cycle, we can see that, according to Chinese Medicine, a good age for a woman to have children is from 21 to 35, and the best age is around 28 years old when her energies are at their "peak".

These cycles are still relevant in diagnosing and treating women's health issues in the context of Chinese Medicine. These stages are of course just a guideline, but they are immensely helpful in understanding - in a general way - how men and women move through their lives and what strengths, needs and imbalances they may face in different stages. Chinese Medicine is incredibly complex and has a vast body of knowledge that has been collected over thousands of years, and this is why it is still able to treat the health problems that people in our modern world face.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash


Osteoporosis: Western & Eastern Medicine

Osteoporosis in Western Medicine

By The National Council for Aging Care

Are you one of the 44 million people at risk for Osteoporosis?

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, more than 44 million Americans aged 50 and older either have or face the threat of developing osteoporosis. Projections put this number at more than 60 million by 2020. Across the world, a fracture due to osteoporosis happens about once every three seconds, causing nearly 9 million fractures—just from stress being put on weak bones.

Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that causes the loss of bone mass and bone tissue.

There are little to no symptoms of the disease, so easily breaking a bone may be the first sign that you have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis can develop from a wide range of reasons, including:
• Menopause
• Cancer
• Poor diet
• Autoimmune Disorders
• Medications
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Tobacco use
• Inactive lifestyle (not regularly exercising)
• Diet lacking in vitamin C and vitamin D

Continue reading to discover the symptoms, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Defined: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments - By The National Council For Aging

Osteoporosis in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone density that causes the bones to become brittle, thus increasing the risk of fracture. Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis because of the steady loss of estrogen after menopause. There are some risk factors that contribute to your chances of developing osteoporosis and they are:

  • Age – bone density decreases naturally as we age
  • Heredity and genetics – osteoporosis tends to run in families
  • Being thin with fine bones increases your risk
  • A diet high in sodium
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Stress
  • Dieting
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Excess sugar intake
  • Certain medications such as the birth control pill and drugs for hypothyroidism weaken bones
  • Lack of exercise – weight bearing exercises cause the body to lay down new bone, increasing bone mass
  • A diet lacking in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D
  • Too much animal protein in the diet can leach calcium from the bones
  • If you have broken many bones in your adult life, you are more susceptible

Although some of these risk factors cannot be avoided, many can and things like diet and exercise are vital to the health of your bones. Eating a diet high in calcium and balancing that with adequate levels of vitamin D which is responsible for the absorption of calcium, are important for the strength and density of bones. Most people associate dairy products with foods high in calcium, but for those who prefer not to eat dairy, there are many foods that are extremely high in calcium. Here is a list of non dairy sources of calcium.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Non Dairy Sources of Calcium

  • Tofu
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds (ground or pulverized for better absorption)
  • Tapioca
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • White beans
  • Figs
  • Black eyed peas
  • Broccoli
  • Sardines with the bones
  • Seaweed
  • Turnip greens
  • Oranges

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Vitamin D & Calcium Absorption

Getting enough vitamin D is crucial to absorption of calcium. Common wisdom says that 30 minutes of sunshine a day is adequate for the average adult. Note that people with a diet high in animal proteins will cause calcium to be absorbed poorly, so if you are trying to build up calcium and strengthen bones, consider limiting your intake of animal proteins. It is also important to note that if we are not getting enough calcium in the diet, the body will take the calcium it needs from the bones, so make sure you are getting enough! The recommended daily amount is between 800 milligrams – 1200 milligrams for lactating women.

Fosamax and Boniva

Fosamax (Alendronate) and Boniva (Ibandronate) belong to a group of drugs called bisphosphonates. They alter the cycle of bone formation and breakdown in the body, decreasing the rate at which bone cells are absorbed. They are both commonly prescribed to postmenopausal women for osteoporosis.

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs

Although sometimes drugs like this are a good option if your are suffering from severe bone loss and your bones have become dangerously brittle, my suggestion would be to always try to rebuild bone naturally. Medications often just treat symptoms and do not tackle the underlying problem which is what Chinese medicine is all about. Of course there are times when medications are necessary, but even so, I would always encourage a patient to be working towards balance so that eventually they did not need the drugs.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to be extremely effective for osteoporosis. There have been many clinical trials that show that both acupuncture treatments as well as Chinese herbal formulas that treat the kidneys (in Chinese medicine the kidneys govern the bones, growth and maturation) are very effective in building bone mass making the bones less brittle and susceptible to fractures.

Exercise

Weight bearing exercise is what the body needs to lay down new bone and this type of exercise is prescribed for people with osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise is defined as exercises one does on your feet working the bones and the muscles against gravity. While that doesn’t mean going to the gym and pumping weights, there are many types of exercises that fall into this category and will improve bone health.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Golf
  • Gardening or working in the yard

As you can see, these are activities that almost anyone can do. Exercise is not only good for osteoporosis, it is also vital to our overall wellbeing. I always encourage patients to try to go outside every day, take some deep breaths and spend time in nature. It is a very grounding activity and often pulls us out of our heads and reminds us of what is important.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

In conclusion, my best advise on what to do about osteoporosis is to make changes to your diet, including as many calcium rich foods as possible, as well as making sure that you are getting adequate vitamin D to ensure that the calcium you are eating is being absorbed fully. Remove things like excess salt, sugar and alcohol from your diet and try to limit caffeine. Take some time every day to exercise, even if it is going for a walk to give your bones a workout which will stimulate them to lay down new bone and increase your bone density. And last but certainly not least, I would highly recommend seeking out an acupuncturist for regular treatments with the addition of Chinese herbs which are excellent for building up the kidneys and building strong healthy bones.

*Beautiful featured image photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash


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

 


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.

Natural Pregnancy & Childbirth 2.0

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I am presently pregnant with my second baby. My first is 18 months, and I am expecting to give birth any day now. It has been an intense year and a half. I described motherhood to a friend as like being swept up in a tsunami and just having to let go while trying your best not to drown. It is a kind of chaos, with terrifying moments and wonderful ones, all shaken up together. Your life before you had a baby is a distant memory, as there is nothing that remains from it now as you become unrecognizable, even to yourself. Emotionally, the best way that I could describe it, is that having a child is like having a piece of your heart walking around on the outside of your body.

Pregnancy Number One

This picture of my pregnant belly taken by the lovely Michelle Donner, of Michelle Donner Photography <3

My two pregnancies have been very different. During my first, I was in my lovely healing community of Sarasota. I was having my friend - a ninja massage therapist, yoga instructor and reiki master - giving me massages every two weeks. I was going to her yoga class several times a week. I was meditating on my own and going to my awesome women's meditation group every two weeks. I was walking around my neighbourhood every day and walking on the beach at least once a week. I was taking supplements every day and eating like a superhero. I was meeting friends for tea and doing everything I could to be a healthy, happy human in preparation to bring a life into the world. I felt awesome and didn't suffer with any unpleasant symptoms that I had heard about from so many patients over the years. I was so lucky.

I was also very lucky to be in a place where I had a whole community of healers who I had relationships with, us all treating each other, to keep me healthy and balanced. There were many birth centre's in Sarasota and a wide variety of midwives which was amazing. I went to a few places and decided on the one I liked the best. My appointments were uneventful as everything was going well and I was feeling great. I ended up giving birth almost a month early to a healthy baby boy. I had him in the tub (where my husband was with me) all natural with no medications and although I was not prepared for how intense it was going to be or how much pain was going to be involved (no words could possibly express this), it was an incredible experience and one in which my husband and I participated fully. There were two midwives present, but they just observed, occasionally checking vitals, but other than that, they were just there to make sure everything went smoothly and not to interfere. A friend who was there said it was incredible, and that my hubby and I totally gave birth to that baby all by ourselves. She cried throughout, and said it was a beautiful thing to have witnessed. I was under the impression that my labour would take a while (first time mamas usually have longer labours) and that we would get to chat and have tea, but I said not one word to her the entire time as my labour went insanely fast. It took 4 hours start to finish. I was busy concentrating and was completely unaware of my surroundings for most of it. I was trying not to pass out from the pain. I was concentrating on making it through each contraction. It also became immediately apparent that the process was almost completely out of my control and that I just had to let go and let it happen or I would make it a whole lot more uncomfortable for myself. So many lessons, oh my!

Baby Liam was born at just after 10pm and for those first couple of hours, he never left my arms. He was measured and checked and left to be with me. There was a brief moment when the midwives lifted him gently into a blanket and weighed him then handed him back to me so he could get maximum skin on skin time. I was given something to eat and escorted to the shower so I could rinse off and baby Liam got some daddy time. Then I was told everything was fine and we could go home and get some sleep. This was about 2am. The midwives asked us to bring in the car seat and helped us put our tiny baby into it safely. The midwives had washed and dried our clothes and had gathered up our things and walked us out to our car. They made sure the baby was put into the car properly and hugged us goodbye. They said they would come to the house in the next 48 hours to check on the baby and I to make sure we were doing well. I then drove us home and we all went to bed.

Pregnancy Number Two

I found out I was pregnant a couple of days before I was to get on a plane, leave my entire life behind and relocate my little family to Central America. This was not planned so it came as a bit of a surprise. I had so much on my mind with the enormity of what we were about to do that I had to tell myself that I would deal with it when I got there, and that the "getting there" part was what I had to focus on at the moment. Now, relocating your entire family to another country is no small thing, especially because we had never seen the house we would be renting and really had to hope that there was a van there to pick us up at the airport. There was a lot of just having faith that things would be ok which, at least in my experience, is what a lot of travel is about. This becomes slightly scarier when you have your entire family in tow including an 11 month old baby, but we did it and the next many months were a kind of chaos and emotional rollercoaster that I could not possibly describe in words. We were living in an extremely remote place on a beautiful but treacherous road learning to drive a standard car and just figuring out how life worked in our new home. It was intense. It was sort of like being thrown off a cliff and hoping that your parachute would open before you hit the ground. Those first many months were hard, and there were a lot of difficult times, but we all got through them, and things started to settle.

I of course realized soon after we arrived that I would need to see a doctor or midwife and began the task of figuring out how to go about such a thing. We were about an hour from anywhere, knew exactly 2 people and spoke only basic Spanish. I got to work.

Luckily, I happened to find a blog written by an American couple who had moved to Costa Rica and had a baby and thankfully, had written about the experience. Amazingly, they happened to live pretty close to where we were. I reached out to them to ask if they might share the name of the doctor they had used who they liked very much and said was very into natural births and would come to your house and bring a pool if that is what you desired. The woman wrote back and said she was happy to share the name of this doctor and said he was located in a city about an hour away. Amazing! I was, at that moment, in love with the internet and the doors it could open when you were in the middle of nowhere.

I called and made an appointment to see the doctor and loved him immediately. He spoke a tiny bit of English and with my tiny bit of Spanish, we could speak to each other. He had wonderful, kind energy and was very laid back and knowledgeable. I thanked my lucky stars to have found him and told myself to write a thank you note to the woman with the blog for connecting me with him.

Pregnancy & Childbirth in Costa Rica

As it turns out, this doctor is an anomaly in Costa Rica. He is an OBGYN and ten years ago he was asked by a patient from the Netherlands if he would deliver her baby at home. He said initially he thought this was crazy, but she was very insistent so he agreed. He explained that after speaking to her about how they handle pregnancy and childbirth in Holland, that he started reading about it. After that, with each foreign patient, he asked about how they viewed pregnancy and childbirth in their country, trying to find documentation so he could learn. For the past ten years he has done almost nothing but home births, with his mostly foreign patients. He says that in Costa Rica this is not a common practice and people still have their babies at the hospital. He shared that when he goes to his yearly gynecological conference in the capital city of San Jose that his colleagues affectionately refer to him as "the crazy" doctor that does home deliveries. I have met many expats here who call him "the baby whisperer" and sing his praises. When I had my first baby I received a binder full of information/articles about pregnancy and childbirth from the birth centre which I brought to one of my appointments and offered to share with him. He was very grateful and very much wanted a copy so he could learn about how one can have a baby in the US, as well as be able to share the information with his Costa Rican patients. I am so happy to have a doctor that is so open and curious. I feel that I am in very kind and capable hands.

I am about to have my second baby any day now. I am trying very hard to finish this article before I do so I can get it published, as after the baby is born, your life slips into a sort of chaos which makes doing anything but feeding and sleeping that baby difficult. My lovely doctor will come to the house when I call and let him know I am in labour or (probably in my case) my water breaks. He will bring a tub so that I can deliver in water if I wish (and I do wish it!). He says he doesn't believe in interventions unless they are necessary, and he brings with him everything that might be needed. We are about 20 minutes from a hospital, and I was told to have at least 10 coconuts (known as pipa's in Costa Rica) as drinking the water inside is one of the best things for hydration, nutrients and electrolytes. I am going to need them in labour. Thankfully, they grow on the property and there is a growing pile of them outside the front door in anticipation for my labour and delivery.

Pregnancy & Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, pregnancy and childbirth are considered a very powerful time for women. They are also a time when mothers need to take especially good care of themselves as pregnancy, and particularly childbirth, are extremely depleting of the woman's precious resources. Herbs and acupuncture are used both during and after the birth to build up the mother so that she can regain her strength. There is also something called "golden month" (I will write about this in a post later) in which the mother is supposed to do absolutely nothing for the month after the birth of her child. She is not even supposed to shower and is to be waited on hand and foot so that she can properly and completely rebuild her body and rebalance her psyche and emotions. This is to combat the depleting effects of her pregnancy and the subsequent birth of her child. In our modern world, mother's often have to go right back to work after having their children which, in the Chinese medicine view at least, does not give them the time they really need to heal and recover from such a depleting experience. It also does not allow them to bond with their new babies in the same way, which is an important part of the babies' development both cognitively, emotionally and physically. Pregnancy and childbirth are sacred, and must be treated with reverence and respect allowing the mother to fully heal and give her the time needed to bond with her new child.

this adorable image from wishviewkids.com. Look at those cheeks!!!

Women have an enormous amount of pressure on them to do it all. They have careers and often are taking care of their homes as well as raising children. Many women are choosing to have children later in life so that they can establish their careers first, and have their children later. Raising children has also become more difficult financially, and many families struggle as both parents have to work to be able to cope with the costs of doing so. It seems that gone are the days when one parent could support a family with children so that the other could stay home and raise them. Women often go back to work right away after having their babies when they are depleted and exhausted because they financially have to do so. And children are sent to daycares earlier and earlier as their parents must work to keep it all going. I completely sympathize, as I am now in the same situation. Or I was.

Part of my move to Costa Rica was to have the lifestyle that was important to me, and to give the best life to my children. In Sarasota, my husband and I both worked full time and managed to look after a tiny infant. I am still not sure how we did it. We lived in a tiny apartment and were just making it financially because of the high cost of living and debts that needed repaying. We were exhausted and never had a break or any time to recover. I was going to work every day treating patients and trying to help them to stay balanced and healthy and practically killing myself while working with a new baby. It felt wrong. What I really wanted more than anything and what I had always envisioned: to stay home with my babies, especially for the first 5 years (the formative ones) and enjoy them as much as possible. I wanted to be the one to teach them about the world and be able to see the magic of their world through their eyes. In Costa Rica, I am able to be home with my baby son, and soon with my newborn daughter. I still work, but less and mostly from home. My husband works remotely for a company in Canada, where we are from. We live on one salary which we can do here because we choose to live simply and have LESS. There are a lot of things we give up to be here, but to us anyways, it is worth it because we are trying to make a better life for our children, and, ourselves. I know it is worth it when I walk out the door and across to the horses with my son so he can feed them. The look on his face tells me we are doing the right thing. At least for us. We live in a beautiful, peaceful place. And we have a very happy and contented child. We are less stressed and are under less pressure to earn and spend. Living simply suits us, and so it works. It is important for each and every one of us to find the things that will make us happy and go after them. There is nothing more rewarding in this life than knowing what will make your heart happy, and then doing everything you can to make it happen. We all deserve it. <3