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

 


Cancer and Chinese Medicine - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Nutrition - The Biggest Weapon Against Cancer

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

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

Foods to Avoid

Sugar

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

Chemicals

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

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

Eat Real Food

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

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

Acid & Alkaline Foods

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

Acidic Foods

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

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

Acidic Foods

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

MEAT

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

DAIRY & EGGS

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

FRUIT

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

NUTS & SEEDS

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

DRINKS

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

SWEETENERS

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

OILS

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

SAUCES

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

OTHER

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

Alkaline Foods

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

VEGETABLES

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

FRUIT

  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Fresh Coconut

GRAINS & BEANS

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

GRASSES

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

NUTS & SEEDS

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

OILS

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

BREADS

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

SPROUTS

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

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

Water

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

Emotions

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

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

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

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

Managing Stress

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

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

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

 


Happy Fun Qi Gong - Part 2

**This article originally appeared as "Happy Fun Qigong."Qi JournalVol. 25, No 3, Autumn 2015.**

By John Voigt

Qi-Balling

1. Sensing qi.

Another fun and seemingly magical gymnastic is to have the group rub their hands together, then have them pretend they are playing small accordions. When their hands go out, they should inhale. When the hands come in, they should exhale. I have them do this for awhile, and then ask, “Does anyone see the qi between your hands?” If no one does, I suggest they look for an ethereal mist, a commonly used description of qi energy. (The Chinese word “Qi” originally meant “vapor”—like the phosphorescent mist you see hovering over a lake very early in the morning.) We do some more squeezing in and out then I ask, “What does it feel like?” If they do sense it, their answers often are, a heaviness, a tingling, magnetic, electromagnetic, prickly, it’s hot, cold, a suction. If they see or feel nothing, I tell them, to imagine it. Using the imagination can be effective in preparing someone to gain more skills in their qigong practices.

2. Forming a qi ball.

Have them mold a ball out of the qi between their hands; as if the qi were a clump of moist flour dough and it was being kneaded on a cutting board. If they don’t get it tell them “Pretend you’re playing a game.”

3. Tossing the qi ball.

Now have them toss the qi ball from one hand to the other. Tell them to watch the ball as it goes back and forth (that will enhance the experience). Suggest they feel the ball in their hands when they catch it.

4. Lifting the qi ball.

Then have them lift the ball from side to side. The right-hand lifts the qi ball up to the left shoulder and holds it there for a few seconds. Then the right hand comes back down dropping the ball into the left hand. Then the left hand lifts the ball to the right shoulder, holds it for a few seconds, and returns down dropping the ball into the right hand. These movements should be repeated for a few minutes. Once people are comfortable doing this, when the hand is at its zenith they should toss the ball a tiny bit straight up in the air, and quickly catch it.

5. Tossing the qi ball around.

This is an exercise in which we create through our imaginations the sensations of sending and receiving qi with other people. We pretend we are all at a playground tossing our newly created qi balls to each other. I occasionally stir the process up by saying, “Hey, not so hard!” when they toss the ball too vigorously at me. Imagination is wonderful. You can do so much with it if you only allow yourself to.

6. Basketball - the Qi way.

Here is a way to combine all the Qi Ball gymnastics. I call it the “Free Throw Game.” I introduce this by saying, Did you ever watch an NBA basketball player shooting a free throw? Next time you do, study how he coordinates his breath, body posture, and mind to project a ball towards a basketball hoop. That is pure qigong ladies and gentleman: body, breath, mind, energy all being used together. Okay, time to play ball. Feel that energy ball as a basket ball between your hands. Toss it from hand to hand. Take a deep breath and imagine you are LeBron James (or your favorite basketball player) and walk around and bounce it off the floor, dribble it. Hold the ball in front of your the solar plexus (the second dantian). Center yourself by breathing into the lower abdomen and allow gravity to ground you. Take a few more deep breaths and fill your lower belly dantian with pure high powered qi-energy. Your whole torso should feel like a balloon filled with water, pleasantly heavy and bouncy. Once again feel the energy resonance between your hands and the basketball. Mentally picture seeing the ball going into the hoop, and after that relax your shoulders and entire body and toss the ball in. Another point for your side.

Happy Fun Animal Frolics.

In ancient times Chinese Shamans, usually women called “Wu”, would do ritualistic dances to gain the energetic powers of animals and birds. As time passed such practices were recast into the first documented qigong form, the classic Wu Qin Xi, or Five Animal Frolics.4 But be prepared for a new spin on an old theme. Our Happy Fun version may look more like dances from1960’s—as in the Bird, the Duck, the Funky Chicken, the Horse, the Pony, the Raccoon, the Dog, the Funky Penguin, the Monkey, etc.

Tarzan Thumps His CV-19 and Makes the Victory Cry of the Bull Ape. The ancient Chinese were not the only ones seeking
to gain the power of wild animals, Tarzan did too. Here is a Happy Fun Qigong TCM version: With closed soft fists, or with percussive fingertips, thump or tap on the center of your upper chest, between the breasts (over and around the acupuncture point CV-19). Do this about twelve times and not too hard. Then you might add your version of Tarzan’s Call of the King of the Jungle - however, this is optional, especially in public. You can hear and see it on many YouTube sites, just type in “Tarzan Call.”

Benefits

This type of exercise is said to revitalize the thymus gland, a source of T-lymphocytes (T cells), which kill virally or bacterially infected cells and naturally eradicate cancer cells. I have no idea what benefits accrue from making that weird Call of the Jungle - but it is so much fun I like to do it anyway, and suggest you might too.

CV-19 (ZiGong) Acupuncture Point

Note

If any women have a problem with visualizing themselves as a semi-nude male pretending he is a big monkey doing silly things and making funny sounds, this gymnastic can work just as well for them if they turn themselves into a Jane the Queen of the Jungle Beats On Her CV-19. The original Jane did; go to YouTube and search Jane Tarzan call.

Tiger Claws.

Make your hands into tiger claws. The hands are cupped and squeezed in as if squeezing a tennis ball, but the middle finger is a bit extended. Members of the group can walk around waving their claws at each other. Any growling is optional. Occasionally they should bend forward and trust out their arms and grasp at imaginary prey with their paws.

Benefits

Squeezing your hands this way will compress qi and cause it to be absorbed into the fingers, hands, and possibly into the muscles and bones of the arms and shoulders. This resembles a martial art technique called “Iron Shirt” which internally armors the body to prevent injury. Tiger qigong is said to be good for the Liver, and also to stimulate the flow of qi in the du mài and rèn mài channels of the microcosmic orbit (the major pathway of qi up the back and down the front of the torso.) The grasping motions help open the six acupuncture points at the tips of the fingers.

The Phoenix.

The Phoenix is a mythological creature that reincarnates itself by rising from the ashes of its past. In Chinese Mythology it is called Feng-huang, the “Bird of Wonder,” and signifies the merging of masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) life forces, which brings about good fortune. So in this gymnastic there is an implied re-birthing of the self along with the gaining of good fortune. That all sounds pretty good to me.

                       

The Gymnastic

With feet spread apart wider than shoulder width, turn to the right, inhale and keeping the wrists limp and fingers hanging down, lift the arms up by your sides. The heel of the left foot should rise up as you do this. When the hands are level with the ears, open and unfold your hands and arms out to your sides as if you were a beautiful Phoenix unfolding its wings. Pause as if you were floating high up in the sky. Then slowly exhale and float your arms (wings) back down and return to facing forward with arms hanging down by your sides. Then turn to the left and repeat this rising up and down gesture. When turning to the left, the right heel should lift off the ground. Do this exercise for six times or for as long it feels good to do.

Benefits

Shifting the weight of the body from side to side and rising up with extended arms increases the circulation of blood, as well as the flow of qi in all the meridians of the body. Bending to the left and right will smooth strengthen and harmonize the yin and yang energies of the practitioner. Therefore this gymnastic is good for all the organ systems of the body, but especially for the Lung, Pericardium and Heart.

Peacock Spreads Tail To Show Beautiful Feathers.

Raise your hands straight up, palms facing out. As they go above your head spread your arms open. From the sides of your eyes using peripheral vision imagine your beautiful feathers. With your arms uplifted and palms facing out, slightly bend the elbows and slowly sway to the left and right like audiences at a rock concert.

Air Dancer.

In our present day urban environment it is not easy finding free roaming apes, tigers, peacocks, and just forget about the phoenix. But it is easy to find Air Dancers: they’re endemic in the city – they are often used to advertise car dealerships, gas stations and other automotive places. When you do the Air Dancer you freely wave your arms around and bend over a lot. (If you have health issues, especially uncontrolled hypertension, you shouldn’t do this without a doctor’s approval). The Air Dancer I work out with is advertising oil changes. However, I’m advertising we all get “qi changes” by flushing out the old bad qi and breathing in some good new qi. For those skeptical about the reality of this, I propose that circling and bending up and down from the waist facilitates bowel, kidney, and bladder functions. So don’t be shy, try it out for yourself. But do make sure there’s a bathroom close by. You can find varied kinds of Air Dancers doing their thing on YouTube or better yet somewhere in your neighborhood. But seriously, take it easy unless you too are made out of heavy rubber tubing.

Rather than an oil change, the author is attempting a Qi change.

**Beautiful featured image from combinedarts.org

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Happy Fun Qi Gong - Part 2 : The Health Benefits of Qi Gong Exercise : Chinese Medicine Living


China Issues First White Paper on Traditional Chinese Medicine

Source -   Xinhuanet.com

BEIJING, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government published its first white paper on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Tuesday, detailing policies and measures on TCM development and highlighting its unique value in a new era.

"TCM has created unique views on life, on fitness, on diseases and on the prevention and treatment of diseases during its long history of absorption and innovation," said the white paper, Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, published by the State Council Information Office.

As ideas on fitness and medical models change and evolve, traditional Chinese medicine has become more and more profound in its value, the document said.

"TCM has been comprehensively developed in China which is now able to offer health services covering the life cycle of citizens," said Wang Guoqiang, director of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

TCM and Western medicine have different strengths. They work together in China to protect people from diseases and improve public health. This has turned out to be a unique feature in the development of China's medical and health sector, Wang said.

Hailing the establishment of a TCM medical care system, covering both urban and rural areas in China, the white paper said there were 3,966 TCM hospitals, 42,528 TCM clinics and 452,000 practitioners and assistant TCM practitioners across the country by 2015.

In addition to making contributions to the prevention and treatment of common, endemic and difficult diseases, TCM has played an important role in the prevention and treatment of major epidemics, such as SARS, HIV/AIDS, as well as Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, it said.

TCM also played an important role in the reform of the medical care system, according to the white paper.

With relatively low cost, TCM has contributed rather a higher share of services in relation to the resources it has received, it said.

The medical care services provided by TCM institutions increased from 14.3 percent to 15.7 percent from 2009 to 2015, according to official statistics.

In 2015, out-patient expenses per visit and in-patient expenses per capita at public TCM hospitals were 11.5 percent and 24 percent lower than those at general public hospitals, respectively.

There were 910 million visits in 2015 to TCM medical and health service units across the country.

China has established a modern Chinese medicine industry based on the production of medicinal materials and industrial production, tied together by commerce, said the white paper, while also noting the rapid development of TCM pharmaceuticals.

A number of laws and regulations have been passed to protect TCM medicinal resources in the wild; and artificial production or wild tending has been carried out for certain scarce and endangered resources, the document said.

To date, 60,000 TCM and ethnic minority medical drugs have been approved, and 2,088 pharmaceutical enterprises that have been approved by the Good Manufacturing Practice of Medical Products to manufacture Chinese patent medicines.

In 2015, the total output value of the TCM pharmaceutical industry was 786.6 billion yuan (114.21 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for 28.55 percent of the country's pharmaceutical industry, making it a new source of growth in China's economy.

TCM Development A National Strategy

Wang stressed the need for comprehensive reform of TCM, including supply-side structural reform, to lift service capability, noting disharmony between TCM and existing laws, policies and institutions.

Elaborating the country's policies and measures to promote TCM development, Tuesday's white paper said China has made TCM development "a national strategy."

A series of major policy decisions have been made, and a number of plans have been adopted to promote TCM development since the Communist Party of China's (CPC) 18th National Congress in 2012.

In 2015, the executive meeting of the State Council approved a draft Law on Traditional Chinese Medicine, submitting it to the top legislature for approval, intending to provide a more sound policy environment and legal basis for TCM.

In 2016, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Outline of the Healthy China 2030 Plan, a guide to improving the health of the Chinese people in the next 15 years.

In the same year, the State Council issued the Outline of the Strategic Plan on the Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine (2016-2030), which makes TCM development a national strategy, with plans to develop TCM in the new era.

The white paper described these plans as "a grand blueprint" that focuses on the full revitalization of TCM, saying they ushered in a new era of development for TCM.

Stressing the innovative development of TCM for health preservation, the white paper said China aspires to enable every Chinese citizen to have access to basic TCM services by 2020, and make TCM services cover all areas of medical care by 2030.

Meanwhile, TCM is going global, with the white paper saying TCM has spread to 183 countries and regions around the world.

In the past, international exchanges were basic, but now substantive cooperation at the operational level of TCM is taking shape, said Zhang Boli, president of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.

According to the World Health Organization, 103 member states have given approval to the practice of acupuncture and moxibustion, 29 have enacted special statutes on traditional medicine, and 18 have included acupuncture and moxibustion treatment in their medical insurance provisions.

"TCM offers a valuable reference to other parts of the world in terms of curbing the fast growth of medical expenses to make medical care affordable," Wang said.

At present, governments of 86 countries and regions have signed agreements for TCM cooperation with China as TCM gains more popularity and recognition globally, Wang said.

**The featured image from Apricot Forest Chinese Medicine Hospital