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

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

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


Birth and Beyond

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I thought I might write about what my birth experience was like and how motherhood has changed me, both as a person and as a practitioner. Because this could easily be a 50-page article, I will be succinct. At least I will try. My baby is 10 months old now! He is talking, walking, laughing and growing like a weed. That sweet baby is the light and love of my life.

It has been a fascinating/joyful/frightening/blissful experience to have a baby. Nothing could have prepared me for what it was and is like. And that is the thing about it, I don't think there is anything you can do to prepare for how it is going to make you feel, and how it will, in every way, change your life.

Natural Pregnancy & Birth : Chinese Medicine LivingMy very pregnant belly! About a month before I had Liam.

Labour

I was at work, treating a patient when my water broke almost a month early. I knew, and my midwives told me, that what we see in movies - the pregnant woman in the grocery store whose water breaks - is not usually the way you go into labour (this only happens in about 10% of cases). I also knew that most first time mamas go beyond nine months, often by a couple of weeks. So, let's just say that I was a bit unprepared when I was writing out notes with a patient on the table when my water broke. I wasn't sure at first what had happened, probably because I wasn't expecting it. It only took a second to figure it out, and then my mind took me all the way to the end of the thought... I was going to have a baby. Today! I politely waited for my patient to have her time on the table and then went in and whispered to her (thankfully, she was also my friend), that I thought my water had just broken and that I should probably call my midwife. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she said "just calmly take out my needles, and I am going to help you. My gods, we're having a baby today!"

My midwife said that I should come in and make sure that my water did in fact break. I asked if I could go home and get my hunny first and she said of course. I texted him and told him my water had broken and his response was shock, disbelief and surprise. My friend piled up some towels on my car seat (when your water breaks, the amniotic fluid keeps producing so it is like a continuous flow) and I drove, as calmly as I could, home. When I arrived, everything I needed was in a bag and on the bed. My hunny had been busy and looked like he was having a small heart attack when I walked in the door. We looked at each other and smiled, knowing our baby was on its way. We got into the car and drove to the midwives where they checked and confirmed that my water had indeed broken. If your water breaks before you are in labour, you have 24 hours to begin labour (at least this is the rule in Florida where I live) or you put the baby and yourself in danger because the "water" or amniotic sack is there to protect the baby and keep everything sterile, so there is some pressure to get things going once your water has broken. The midwives checked me over and said everything seemed fine, but that I needed to get things moving. They told me to go get a couple of homeopathic remedies to help speed up labour and said to go home and make out with my hunny, which was a sure fire way to kick start the process. They told us to call them as soon as my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, or in 4 hours, whichever came first.

A Note on Pain

Now, I want to be really honest with you about what came next. And by that, I mean the pain. I don't think there is anything I could have done to prepare myself for what contractions and ultimately birth felt like. I know that everyone has a different experience, and I certainly watched a thousand videos of women giving birth in the months before I was due. But none of them accurately conveyed what it *felt* like. It is a difficult thing to accurately describe, so let me say this. I think, because of various things and experiences that I have had in my life, that I have, or had a pretty high tolerance to pain. Previous to having a baby, my pain scale went from one to ten. I was blissfully unaware of any pain, capable of breaching the ten ceiling. My pain scale now goes to 37, and that is not an exaggeration or an inflated number used to be dramatic - that is a relative increase, a mathematical equation used taking my maximum experience of pain before birth and multiplying it appropriately.

Natural Water Birth : Chinese Medicine LivingYup, that was the pain. Woo, it hurt.  

The things I have heard over and over again from women about birth are the fears they have of how much it is going to hurt. This is why there is a delectable assortment of drugs used to dull the pain of childbirth and I would never judge any woman for using any of them. Especially not now. Of course, the intensity and quality of pain varies from person to person, but I have to say, the pain I experienced during childbirth was something that I could not possibly express in words. It was a pain I never knew existed, and the most painful experience I have ever had in my life.

But I don't want to scare you about the pain. Do I regret it? No. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I wish I had been a little more aware of how intense it was going to be beforehand so that I could have been more psychologically prepared? Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe. Was it worth it and one of the best, most incredible experiences of my life? Yes. The pain, much like the giving birth, were literally cutting new experiences into both my body and my psyche. They were experiences so intense that they literally take you to another place that anything less would never be able to take you. Words, again, cannot possibly express the depth and breadth of the experience, but alas, they are all I have at this moment.

Birth

My labour, once it started, went so quickly that my contractions were almost immediately on top of each other. I was unaware of anyone or anything else in the room, except my love, who was clutching me through each contraction. I would lean into him, gritting my teeth, crying out, focussing all my energy on making it through each one. I didn't have time to think. I didn't have time to fear. I only had enough energy to focus on making it through each contraction. I didn't even have time to think about something that might help the pain. Not once did this thought enter my head, which was swimming in a pain I scarce thought existed. The only time I came out of my pain was when I looked up and said "girls?" There were two midwives in the room, apparently watching closely, but sitting back, not wanting to crowd the experience. I saw them then and Christina asked, "yes?" I remember asking - "Can you die from pain?" She smiled and assured me that I could not. I remember then deciding that if I couldn't die from it, then I could endure it, and that was what I was going to do. That was the only time I remember being aware of the room or the people in it. My friend Michelle was there, sitting in a rocking chair in the corner, photographing the whole thing, but I was completely unaware of her presence. I had ridiculously told her that we would have a wonderful chance to catch up and perhaps have a tea while I was in labour and it would be so great that she would be there. Unfortunately, I didn't say one word to her the entire time, I was engrossed in my work.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was in fact only a couple of hours from the start of my intense contractions), I was checked and told that I had dilated to 6 centimeters and asked if I would like to get into the tub. It had been my plan to have a water birth, but I knew that I had to be flexible and decided I would see how I felt when the time came. I eagerly said yes and thought that the warm water might dull the sharp nature of the pain. It did. The tub was a large jacuzzi style in the pretty bedroom we were in at the birth centre. My hunny and I both got into the tub and the contractions continued with me changing positions every few seconds as nothing felt comfortable. I kept trying to find a way to position myself that made the pain tolerable. Very quickly I got the urge to push. I remember looking up and there was one of my midwives smiling at me. I asked her if I could push, and she said if I felt like I wanted to, then I should. Things are a bit of a blur after that, but I remember only pushing a couple of times, and when I finally did push out my baby I didn't realize it right away. I remember hearing Christina, my midwife, calling my name, telling me to catch my baby. I then have a vague memory of Mathieu diving across me and scooping up the baby and putting it into my arms. It was a feeling of disbelief. The baby was here!! I looked at this tiny creature in my arms with wonder and disbelief. I remember coming out of it and asking if it was a boy or a girl... it was a boy. A boy!! We had both thought from the beginning that our baby had been a girl, even after an ultrasound had said it was a boy. He was so tiny! Tiny feet and tiny hands and he lay still curled up into my chest as I held him close. He did not cry. Mathieu and I looked at each other and then at this tiny being that had been so active in my belly for months. He was beautiful. And a darkish purple. And covered with a waxy substance all babies are born with called vernix. He had a full head of dark hair. I sat, in the tub with my new little family in a sort of daze, with love pouring out of every pore of my body and being. It was done. He was born. :)

A Baby

Sweet baby Liam was born in the tub and all natural after 4 hours of labour. He arrived more than three weeks early but was born a healthy baby to very happy parents.

After a few minutes in the tub together, the midwives said I should get out and come over to the bed so that they could listen to the baby's heart and prepare for the arrival of the placenta. As I held him, I was helped to stand up and get out of the tub making my way over to the bed where the midwives listened to his heart and measured him. All the while, he never left my arms. I laid on the bed, marveling at this tiny creature who seemed so calm. His eyes were closed and he snuggled into me as I stared in wonder at his tiny body.

The midwives checked him over and made sure he was healthy. My husband got to cut the umbilical cord after some time so that the baby could benefit from the blood coming from the placenta. I was then told that I would have to deliver the placenta. My midwife said that I shouldn't be concerned, as although it was about the same size as the baby, it had no bones and would be easy to deliver. One of the midwives held on to the umbilical cord and pulled slightly at the same time that she told me to push. The placenta came out in one push and was taken by the midwives to be processed, as I had requested for it to be encapsulated.

After that, I was sewn up. I had torn quite badly - probably because everything had happened so fast (one of my midwives remarked that my labour had been the fastest first-time mama labour she had ever seen). The sewing up was intense and there was no anesthetic. It felt like it took forever, and my midwife kept telling me to focus on my beautiful baby and stop focussing on the pain. I remember wondering how much more trauma my poor lady parts could endure...

I was then asked to sit up and eat a little something and was handed a plate of cottage cheese and fruit which I ate, not realizing how hungry I was. While I was eating, the baby was taken out of my arms and weighed beside me, then given back to me. I was told that I needed to have a shower and that a couple of the midwives would help me to the bathroom and stay in the room in case I felt a bit faint. I remember getting up and feeling a bit woozy. I had a shower (which felt great) but soon did feel a bit dizzy so was told by the midwives to sit and just soak in the hot water for a bit. After that, I was lead back to my room where I was shown how to nurse and then told to relax until we were ready to go. It was so nice to just all sit in the bed together, my new little family and bask in our love for a little while. It was surreal and wonderful. I remember thinking that it was the reason we were here and that I couldn't have felt any more love at that moment. Once we had sat for a bit, we dressed the baby in his tiny shirt and pants and a hat and the midwives helped us to put him into the car seat, showing us how to strap him in safely. The midwives gave me the clothes I had worn when I arrived, nice and clean from the wash (they had washed and dried them, bless them!) and we dreamily got into the car. I hugged my midwives and drove my little family home. I remember being so grateful for having such a wonderful birth experience. I felt safe and like the midwives were there if I needed them, but that they were hanging back and letting us have our baby ourselves. My friend Michelle said to me the next day - "my gods, you guys had that baby yourselves, it was incredible!!" She took amazing (and emotional) pictures of the birth. They really convey the intense emotions of the experience.

The Placenta

Now, I wasn't sure that I would talk about the placenta, as it is a subject that many people find strange. For me, ever since I could remember I knew that I wanted to ingest my placenta, as many animals in the wild do. The placenta offers many vitamins, nutrients and health benefits to the mother after the hardship of pregnancy and birth. I am not sure they would give you this option at the hospital, but most midwives and birthing centre's have the option to keep your placenta. Something that was new to me, was that they can now do something called "encapsulation" which means that the placenta is taken after delivery and refrigerated, then dried and made into capsules to make it easier to ingest. This is pretty cool as you used to get the placenta in its entirety and would have to cut it up into bits and be creative about what you did to it, either juicing it, adding it to a stir-fry or whathaveyou.

Because the encapsulation process takes between 24-48 hours, my midwife kindly cut a piece off to give to us so that I could have it for the next day or two until she could get the capsules to us. My husband and I ate it the next evening fried up with some oyster mushrooms. It was a bit spongy but surprisingly good (oyster mushrooms make everything delicious, don't they??). And let me just say that if you are lucky enough to find someone who believes the same things you do, will be in the tub with you while you have a baby and also eat the placenta with you, you are very lucky indeed. <3

I honestly feel that in those weeks after giving birth I felt better, stronger and more even keeled emotionally because of the fact that I was taking my placenta capsules. In Chinese medicine, pregnancy, and especially childbirth are very depleting to blood and qi, so resting (the Chinese concept of "golden month' is something I will write about later) and doing everything you can to build blood and qi are important for the mother's recovery.

The Aftermath

Calling this section "the aftermath" may seem a bit negative, like the phase experienced after a war, but that is literally what it felt like. Physically and emotionally, I felt like I had been through a sort of war. I was very lucky to have had an easy pregnancy with very few symptoms or discomfort. My appointments at the midwives usually consisted of a conversation like this:

Midwives - "How are you feeling?"
Me - "Great! I am feeling really good."
Midwives - "Ok, excellent, we will see you next month."

Near the end, things got a little uncomfortable - and that is just because you are so enormous. Things like sleeping, lifting things, and getting around get a little harder too. All in all, I had a very easy pregnancy. I remember thinking during all those midwife appointments that I barely needed them. Little did I know, I would need them later. A lot. :)

The first couple of weeks after the birth were the hardest. The worst part was that I couldn't sit. Everything was so, um, sore that sitting was impossible. I had to get very creative about nursing. My body was exhausted, and all of my focus was on this tiny person, who, for many days didn't even have a name. My husband and I were so absolutely sure that we were having a girl that we didn't have a name for a boy and it took us some time to choose the right one. ;) The baby was nursing every few hours and he was so tiny that I was terrified that he would get crushed or that we would roll over on him or that the cat would try to eat him... and you are so tired that everything becomes very surreal and your ability to cope becomes eroded because of a serious lack of sleep. I also had terrible digestive problems after Liam was born that went on for about 6 months. We had a lot of company in those few months after he was born too, which was difficult. Of course, your friends and family are so happy and want to see the baby, but you are not at your best and still figuring out your new life with your babe and having people there all the time was stressful and made me more exhausted than I already was. I think if I were to do it again I would take some time, at least a month or two before I would have family come and stay just to get some time to bond with my new family.

I also had a hard time nursing and the baby was underweight at my first postnatal appointment which was hard and very emotional. He was put on a rigorous feeding schedule and I had to keep track of every feeding for weeks as well as have him weighed constantly to make sure that he was gaining enough weight.

All in all, those first few months after Liam was born were the most difficult. You have this new life to worry about that is completely dependent on you and your good judgment. Everything is new and you are trying your best to do everything right while only sleeping a few hours at a time (if you're lucky). You are feeling like an emotional train wreck because your hormones are readjusting and everyone around you is giving you advice and telling you what to do. Your body feels ruined and like it will never be the same. You want to cry because you are so happy. You want to cry because you are so tired. We got through it, and things got better once I set up a bit of a schedule and returned to listening to my instincts, which have never failed me.

The Choice is Yours

With all the books, blogs, doctors and mothers out there, having a baby can be a daunting experience. Everyone has advice they want to give you. Often when you have not asked for it. There are a billion theories on how to have a baby and raise a child and it is hard to know what to do. If you are strong willed and stubborn like I am, then you have some pretty clear ideas about how you want to do those things and you may spend a lot of time justifying and explaining to friends and family who don't agree with the way you are doing things. This uses up precious energy that you should be spending on your sweet baby!

I think that we live in a world of magnificent diversity, and there are many ways to do all of the things we do. Each person needs to find the way that resonates with them. This is sometimes easier said than done, but having a baby and raising children is an intensely personal experience and I believe everyone needs to do it in a way that makes sense to them. I decided to have a baby at a birth centre, in the tub, with midwives because that was important to me. I wanted to bring my child into the world in the most natural and gentle way possible. I wanted to be in control (well, as much control as possible) of my birth experience, and I knew that my midwives would respect my wishes. They absolutely did and I ended up having a wonderful birth, exactly the way I wanted it. I feel very lucky that I could choose to have that experience because I know that many women do not have the luxury of choosing how they give birth.

A New Life

Sweet Liam is now 10 months old, and a very sweet, good-natured, happy baby. I learn so much from him, and I love watching him discover and explore the world. He is a pure Buddha in that he is absolutely in the moment and the embodiment of joy and love. I realize that all of the experiences that I have had and all the things I have done in my life were to make me a better mother for him, so that I could share the things I learned and give him the wisdom of those experiences. I also feel so blessed that I get to be his mother in this life. I believe that children choose us, and I am honoured that he chose us to be his parents. I love him more than I knew was possible.

Something else that I have noticed, is a razor sharp focus on my child and my new family. I want to fully experience every moment and look forward to every day I have with my new family. I have had a crazy life. I could write several books on the insane experiences, wild travel and other crazy things I have done. Let's just say that I have lived my life FULLY. I am so grateful now, that I did all those things before I had Liam. I can't wait for the next chapter when I get to live this new adventure with him and my sweet little family. <3

 

Natural Water Birth : Chinese Medicine Living

** to my wonderful friend and excellent photographer Michelle Donner who was there throughout (although I didn't say a word to her as I was really concentrating) who beautifully photographed the entire event. She took all the photographs in this post. Please see her site here for more of her beautiful photographs. **

Thank you my friend. I love you.


Chrysanthemum & Licorice Tea for Liver Detoxification

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Liver/ Gallbladder Disease

The liver is the sole organ in promoting and detoxifying the blood. Promoting liver health is similar to promoting blood. Spring is the best season to address liver health because it is the beginning of a new cycle of growth and the liver needs to produce more blood to support the growth. To protect and improve liver health, we need to observe the following guideline:

1. Drink More Water

Water is important to keep fluid moving and to clean out toxins from the body. Water helps in digestion, circulation of nutrients and detoxification of blood. The more toxins we can clean out of the body, the lesser burden it will be for the liver. Green color foods can increase the detoxifying function and mung bean is the best choice. Cooking mung beans in boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes and drink the green water regularly throughout spring and summer is best to support detoxification and can cool down internal heat.

2. Eat A Regular, Balanced Diet

Both overeating or under eating can cause abnormal production of digestive enzymes and bile by the liver, therefore affecting its normal function. Foods should be bland in taste in spring and not too hot or spicy. It is best to eat more fruits and vegetables.

3. Not Too Much Alcohol

Moderate drinking can uplift liver yang energy but too much alcohol can damage the liver by giving it too many things to detoxify.

4. Stay Positive and Be Happy

Anxiety, anger, sad and worry are the emotions that can cause suppression to liver energy and damage the liver. Controlling these emotions can give positive and uplifting energy to the liver so that it can work at its best.

5. Get Adequate Exercise

Light outdoor exercise in spring such as hiking, jogging, and tai-chi can promote blood circulation which is good for promoting liver function.

6. Eat Foods That Benefit The Liver

Foods such as chrysanthemum, animal's liver, goji-berries, angelica, etc. can lower liver heat and enrich the blood. Eating some sour taste foods can help to promote liver health but overdoing it can suppress liver energy.

The Liver in Environmental Illnesses

The importance of the gut flora in ill health is becoming increasingly obvious as it is implicated as a cause of an increasing number of illnesses. The health of the gut has a substantial impact on the health of the liver as everything absorbed from the intestines passes through the liver so that harmful substances can be detoxified before the rest of the body is exposed to them.

In one study by doctors at Biolab UK, 61% of sufferers of undiagnosed chronic illnesses with predominant fatigue were found to have overgrowth of both bacteria and yeast in the gut1. As a result of their normal metabolism, these micro-organisms produce waste products that in increased amounts can be harmful to the liver and the person’s health as a whole. Yeast in particular produce a large amount of ethanol (drinking alcohol) which is highly toxic to the liver, in fact, alcohol is the single most toxic substance to liver cells. As well as producing increased amounts of toxic substances for the liver to deal with, yeast or bacterial overgrowth also causes damage to the intestinal lining causing 'leaky gut'.

Increased gut permeability results in even more potentially toxic substances from the gut being absorbed to put further stress on the liver's detoxification pathways. A study of liver disease in alcoholics found that only the patients with a leaky gut developed cirrhosis of the liver2. This points to the possibility that in people with gut dysbiosis, not only is there chronic ingestion of alcohol but the leaky gut caused by bacterial and/or yeast overgrowth leads to more severe effects on the liver from the alcohol produced. If the liver is overwhelmed by toxins from the gut and from chemicals in everyday use it won't function correctly and may even become damaged and inflamed. As a result, not all toxins entering the liver are detoxified and gain access to the bloodstream to travel anywhere in the body. These toxins and the excess of free radicals (highly reactive forms of oxygen) caused by poor liver function can cause direct damage to tissues and also initiate allergic or auto-immune reactions. Un-neutralized toxins are also expelled into the bile in this situation and can further damage the intestinal lining, setting up a vicious cycle in which gut dysbiosis and leaky gut cause poor liver function which in turn worsens the gut dysbiosis and leaky gut.

As mentioned earlier, the liver requires large amounts of energy and nutrients to function efficiently. If the liver is overwhelmed by toxins, these nutrients can become depleted and the liver will function inefficiently resulting in numerous symptoms and problems throughout the body. Many of these nutrients can be replaced by supplementation, improving the functioning of the liver. There are also a number of herbs and other methods that can heal a damaged liver and improve detoxification functions.

Herbs for the Liver

Milk Thistle (Silymarin)

Milk Thistle for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image from medicinalplantsindia.com

The milk thistle plant contains silymarin and related flavonoids which are some of the most potent liver-protecting substances known. These flavonoids are powerful antioxidants so protect the liver from damaging toxins and free radicals. They also stimulate healing and the production of new liver cells and cause the liver to increase production of glutathione, the bodies most important antioxidant and detoxifying substance. Silymarin has been proven to both protect liver cells and repair existing damage in animals intoxicated with mushroom toxins, medicines, heavy metals or toxic organic solvents3. Human studies have also shown decreased mortality in patients with alcoholic liver damage who are treated with silymarin3. Milk thistle is commonly available in capsule or tincture form and a common dose would be 200mg 2/3 times per day. For hepatitis and cirrhosis doses of 400mg or more 3 times per day are common.

Burdock

Burdock for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image from commonsensehome.com

Burdock contains a number of nutrients important to liver function. These include vitamins B1, B6 and B12 which are essential for the function of phase 1 liver detoxification's pathways, vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant and sulphur which is essential for a number of important phase 2 liver detoxification pathways in which potent toxins created by phase 1 detoxification are neutralized. Phase 2 pathways requiring sulphur include those utilizing glutathione. Burdock also contains other substances such as arctiin which act to improve liver and gallbladder function.

Dandelion

Dandelion for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine LivingThis lovely image from smallfootprintfamily.com

Clinical studies have shown dandelion extract to have protective effects against lipid peroxidation and free radicals, both damaging products of a poorly functioning liver4. Like burdock, dandelion contains a wealth of nutrients important to liver function, especially the B vitamins. It cleanses the liver and increases the production of bile. Dandelion is often used as a herbal treatment for all liver diseases of the liver including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and jaundice.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an infection or inflammation of the liver due to viruses of "A", "B" and "C". Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated seafood can result in hepatitis A. It can easily spread through person-to-person contacts. Hepatitis B is usually contracted from bad blood or infected needles or sexual activity. Hepatitis C is always acquired from blood transfusions. The major symptoms are fever, flu-like symptoms, weakness, poor appetite, fatigue, dark urine and light-colored stools. Most people who got hepatitis can eventually recover with proper nutrition and complete rest. However, liver disease caused by alcohol can lead to death.

Chinese medicine sees hepatitis as damp heat invasion causing spleen dampness, liver energy congestion, blood coagulation, disharmony of liver and spleen, and liver-kidney yin deficiency. An Infectious virus, excessive alcohol consumption, and irregular eating habits can impair the normal functions of the spleen, therefore affecting liver and gallbladder's ability to regulate bile. Bile will then deposit in muscles, skin, bladder, creating yellowish eyes, face and urine. Treatments focus on clearing heat, removing dampness, harmonizing spleen, and nourishing yin. Herbs commonly prescribed are capillaris, atractylodes, aconite, persica, and carthamus.

Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin. Jaundice is often seen in liver diseases such as hepatitis or liver cancer. It may also indicate obstruction of the biliary tract, for example by gallstones or pancreatic cancer. Turmeric in yellow curry is effective in treating jaundice.

The diet for people with liver disease should be low in protein, low fat and avoid raw fish and shellfish. Avoid spicy and highly processed foods. Sweet potatoes can lower the yellowish color in the skin. Foods that are diuretic, such as job's tear, are useful in removing dampness. Drinks made of bitter melon and dates are tonics for the liver. Dandelion and burdock are effective in cleansing the liver and the bloodstream. Licorice is used for treating viral hepatitis. Honey can promote proper functioning of liver cells, lower liver fat and promote proper circulation of blood and lower blood pressure. Green pepper and bitter melon are best for releasing liver fire with symptoms of red and dry eyes. White turnip soaked in vinegar can promote bile movement and help to secrete gall bladder stones and kill cancer cells.

Gallstones

Gallstones are formed by stagnant bile flows, secreted by the liver and passed to the gallbladder for storage. First, it formed sludge and then stones. When the stones are small, they will pass through into the intestines and out. If they are large and got stuck in the bile duct, they will cause a sharp, stabbing sensation. Most elderly people have gallstones due to excess cholesterol, high sugar and fat diet and overweight. Women on the pill are more likely to have gallstones. The symptoms are bloating, upper abdominal discomfort, flatulence and food intolerance.

Diet plays an important part in preventing the formation of gallstones and reduces the frequency of their attacks. The preventive diet consists of fruits, vegetables, fiber, no sugar, and little saturated or unsaturated fat. A vegetarian diet is recommended. Lemon juice with olive oil before bedtime will help to eliminate gallstones. Apple juice, pear juice, and beet juice are good for cleaning out the system. Sour white turnip promotes the production of bile and prevents the formation of gallstone. Walnut and celery can help to pass out small stones and so is sour plum juice.

Chrysanthemum & Licorice Tea

Chrysanthemum Flowers for Liver Health : Chinese Medicine Living

Chrysanthemum Flowers 

SYMPTOMS:

Eyes with white secretions at both corners of the eyes, especially upon waking up in the morning.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS:

Lowers liver heat and clear toxins in the eyes and liver.

Licorice Root : Chinese Medicine LivingLicorice Root : This lovely image from Mountain Rose Herbs

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chrysanthemum (ju hua) 菊花 – 30gm
  • Licorice (gan cao) 甘草 – 15gm

1.   Rinse herbs and cook both ingredients with 3 cups of water over medium heat down to one cup of tea (about 15 minutes).

2.   Strain and drink tea.

USAGE:

No restriction.

The beautiful featured image photo by Marisa Harris on Unsplash


Oyster Noodles for Osteoporosis

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition of weakened bones caused by an imbalance in bone building and bone repair, which is usually accompanied by aging. It is a common problem affecting women after menopause when their bodies are not generating enough estrogen to build bone. People with low calcium intake, physically inactive, smoking, a small frame or very low body weight have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis may lead to easy bone fractures at the wrist, hip and spine, and eventual immobility.

Osteoporosis Recipe : Chinese Medicine Livingthis image from  cdn.nof.org

The Bandage Approach

After many decades of subscribing drugs and calcium supplements to treat osteoporosis by modern medicine, there is enough clinical evidence to show that these interventions did not work. The results showed not only no improvement in preventing bone fractures but worse, it caused serious side effects such as nausea, abdominal cramping, flatulence, diarrhea, severe constipation, inflammation and ulceration of the esophagus, chest pain, heartburn, difficulty swallowing, etc. It clearly demonstrates once again that the bandage approach used by modern medicine is doing more harm than good.

The fact is that by increasing bone mass artificially makes bones more brittle and makes fractures more likely when there is a fall. And when injecting a heavy dosage of calcium into the body, it can cause "calcium in the wrong place" such as calcification of joints and arteries causing heart disease which is so dangerous.

Leaking Calcium

To treat osteoporosis, it is the underlying problem of leaking calcium which needs to be addressed. Diet and other health problems should be the main concern in diagnosis and treatment. A diet that is highly acidic can upset the body's PH balance. To compensate, the body’s natural response will draw calcium from bones to neutralize the acidity. When the acidic condition persists, severe bone loss is the result. Stress is the main cause of depleting calcium from our bodies. Many people living very stressful lives are suffering from adrenal fatigue. The fight or flight response of the body will produce large quantities of the stress hormone cortisol in order to cope. Calcium is the main ingredient used to make cortisol, so it uses up calcium and depresses bone repair and bone formation. Calcium loss can also be a side effect of pharmaceutical drugs treating other health problems.

The Best Defense

The best defense to prevent and fight osteoporosis is through diet, exercise, and sleep. Exercise promotes better blood circulation which in turn promotes healthy metabolic functions of the body including the repair and building of bones. Weight lifting exercise is found to increase bone mass. Eating a healthy diet which is slightly more alkaline than acidic can prevent calcium loss. Fruits and vegetables are mostly alkaline. Meats, dairy products, soft drinks, coffee and tea are acidic, so milk is bad for bone not just cardiovascular health. Sleeping the eight hours sleep, especially at night is vital. The body detoxifies and makes new blood, repairs and builds bones at night.

Dark leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, turnip greens and cabbage are rich in calcium and vitamin K and are best to promote strong bone. Other foods with vitamin K include spinach and collard greens. Parsley, green olives, basil and thyme also have vitamin K. Garlic, onions and egg are rich in sulfur which is needed for healthy bones. Onion is found to be more effective than drugs to prevent osteoporosis. Egg yolks and organ meats such as liver are rich in vitamin K2. Canned salmon and sardines with bones, soy products, sesame seeds and almonds are all good for bones. Soy products, which are high in isoflavon, can reduce bone loss or even increase bone density. Shrimp is high in vitamin B12, which aids bone density and is crucial in the generation of new cells. It is also a good source of vitamin D, an essential ingredient for bone strength. Your best source of vitamin D is sunshine. You don’t need more than 20 minutes out in the sun to get all your vitamin D for the day.  Other food sources of vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, tuna fish, sardines, eggs, beef and cheese. Reduce sodium intake and use herbs and spices for natural flavoring. Selenium protects bones. The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which contain a whopping 544 micrograms in just one ounce. You can also get selenium from red meat, tuna, eggs and walnuts.

Chinese medicine sees osteoporosis as blood deficiency and blood coagulation, kidney and spleen deficiency. Food treatments are for promoting kidney health, improving blood production and circulation.

Oyster Noodles Recipe

SYMPTOMS

Blood deficiency syndrome of osteoporosis, constipation with hard stool, dizziness, dry lips and mouth, fatigue, fever, blurred vision, muscle spasm, pale complexion, and insomnia.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Act on the kidneys to produce bone marrow, energy (qi), and blood.

He Shou Wu : Chinese Medicine LivingHe Shou Wu Root
This lovely image from www.stemcellnutrition.net

INGREDIENTS

  • Chinese cornbind (he shou wu) 何首烏 - 10gm
  • Fresh oysters -100gm
  • Rice noodles - 50gm
  • Salt, soy sauce or miso

Oysters for Osteoporosis : Chinese Medicine Livingthis delicious image from www.tastewiththeeyes.com

  1. Cook cornbind with 3 cups of water over medium-low heat and boil down to 1 cup of tea and strain.
  2. Cook rice noodles in hot water for a few minutes and put noodles through cold water bath and drain.
  3. Wash oysters a few times, and then use a spoon of salt and then a spoon of corn starch to wash them again. Rinse clean and drain.
  4. Re-boil cornbind tea, add oysters and bring to a slow boil. Add noodles and seasoning to serve.

Oyster Noodles for Osteoporosis : Chinese Medicine Livingthis pretty image from www.dishinanddishes.com

USAGE

Eat as or with meal. No restrictions.

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

**Featured image from foodamentals.com

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

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living