Loving Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Taking Care of Your Spleen Will Do Way More Than Improve Your Digestion

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the most common things I see in my practice is problems with digestion. Interestingly, this isn’t usually the reason that people come to see me, but when I am going through their medical history, it usually comes up. The sad thing is that most people live with digestive problems when in Chinese Medicine they are relatively easy to fix with a little treatment, nutritional counselling and some tips on how to help support and strengthen our digestions.

Now, a lot of people think of the spleen as in the western medicine spleen, part of the immune system and responsible for the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and removal of old red blood cells. It is not the same as it is in Chinese Medicine. The spleen in Chinese Medicine is paired with the Stomach, and both are the main organs of digestion for the body. The difference is that they not only digest food but also stimulus and information - everything that comes into the body through our sense organs.

What you learn in your first year in Acupuncture school when learning Chinese Medicine theory, is that we live in a Spleen deficient culture. We are constantly taking in information, and that information has to be processed by, you guessed it, the Spleen. We eat in front of the TV (taking in food, and stimulus at the same time), we are constantly looking at our mobile devices on the road and wherever we go, and we are always multitasking, never doing just one thing at a time. And thus, we are overloading our poor Spleens.

So, what can we do? There are lots of things that, once you are aware of them, can help take the burden off your Spleen.

Don’t Put Ice In Your Drinks.
Avoid Cold Foods.

The Spleen hates cold, so one easy way to help your Spleen is to avoid ice in your drinks. Because the Spleen is responsible for breaking down your food through the process of digestion, and this is powered by heat. Eating and drinking cold foods such as icy drinks, eating ice cream (a TCM nono!), or eating a lot of frozen or very cold foods (many foods in raw form are considered “cold”) taxes the Spleens energy, as it has to heat up again to be able to do the work necessary for digestion.

Be Mindful.

This is not just good advice for helping your Spleen, but a good life philosophy. One of the best things you can do for your Spleen is to do one thing at a time and be absolutely mindful when you do it. This means when you are eating, JUST EAT. Don’t sit in front of the TV, read, study or catch up on work. In such a fast-paced world where everyone is short on time, it is understandable that people are always doing many things at once, but this small thing will not only help your Spleen, it will relax your mind and body as well.

Chew Your Food.

We can all help our Spleens by making sure that we really chew our food well. We tend to all be in such a hurry that we do not chew our food nearly as well as we should. Chewing will help the breakdown of the foods before they get to the stomach, making the Spleens job a little easier.

Eat Soups.

Since most of us have at least some Spleen deficiency, one of the best things you can do to be kind to your Spleen is to eat soups. These are warming (the longer and slower they are cooked, the more warming they become) and they are very easy to digest which is why they are prescribed to you when you are sick - your body requires less energy to digest them, focussing its energies to fighting pathogens and getting you well. Soups do not take a lot of energy to digest, saving the Spleens energy for other things. There are many foods that are beneficial to the Spleen which I will list later in the article. I will also list foods that the Spleen is not so fond of so you can at least be aware of what they are and avoid them when you can.

Take A Break.

Because we live in a culture that is so bombarded by stimulus, most people have deficient Spleens. The Spleen must take in and process ALL that information, including the food we eat and liquids we drink, so you can imagine, it is a very hard-working organ. Something that you can do to give your Spleen a break, is to literally, take a break. Go for a walk outside. Leave your phone at home. Sit somewhere quiet and meditate away from the TV, the phone and try to avoid interruptions. Doing this even once a day for a few minutes will really help the Spleen and you will notice a big difference in how you feel. You will notice that you are calmer, more aware and feel more at peace. And your Spleen will love you.

The Spleens Functions in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen is responsible for many functions so that if you have symptoms in any of these areas, they point to a disharmony of the Spleen.

The Spleen Controls Blood

The Spleen is responsible for manufacturing the Blood and the Spleen Qi keeps it in the vessels. If Spleen-Qi is weak, a person will bruise easily, and/or will have problems with bleeding.

muscles

The Spleen Controls The Muscles And The Four Limbs

The Spleen is responsible for circulating nutrients to the muscles and tissues. If the Spleen is weak, then the muscles and limbs are not nourished and become weak and tired.

The Spleen Is Responsible For Transformation & Transportation

The Spleen is responsible for the intake, processing, and distribution of nutrients extracted from food and drink. The Spleen takes these nutrients and creates Qi and Blood, both vital substances for all the body’s functions and maintaining proper health. If transformation and transportation are functioning properly, the Qi is strong, digestion is smooth and the body is kept moist. When malfunctioning, the Qi is weak (lassitude and lethargy), the appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish and the stools are loose and watery.

The Spleen manifests on the lips

The Spleen Opens Into The Mouth & Manifests In The Lips

Chewing is necessary for the functioning of the Spleen and if the Spleen is deficient, the sense of taste may be dulled. Red, moist and vibrant lips indicate a healthy Spleen. If the Spleen is deficient, however, the lips will be pale from lack of nourishment.

Controls The Upright Qi

The Spleen is responsible for the body’s “holding” function. This is called the upright Qi. It is specifically the force that counteracts gravity when it comes to holding things, specifically the organs, in place. This is very important! Without healthy upright Qi, all of our organs would be at the bottom of our abdomen! When the Spleen is weak, we see prolapse of organs (uterus, bladder, stomach), prolapse of the vagina as well as things like haemorrhoids (prolapse of the anus, PLUS bleeding also attributed to the Spleen).

Houses Thought

Every organ in TCM is seen to have its own unique Spirit, and the Spirit of the Spleen is called the Yi. The Spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking. How well we manage our thoughts, concentrate, exercise discernment, and form intentions are dependent on the strength of the Spleen.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

Worry - The Emotion of the Spleen

All organs in Chinese Medicine also are associated with an emotion, and the emotion of the Spleen is worry and overthinking. This works in two ways. Excessive worry will damage the Spleen Qi, and a deficient Spleen can weaken the mind and our capacity to think clearly and focus, leaving us susceptible to worry.

Colour food circle

Foods Beneficial For The Spleen

  • Organic lightly cooked vegetables, corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, alfalfa sprouts, button mushrooms, radish, caper
  • Brown rice, barley, amaranth, rye, oats
  • Legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils
  • A small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • A small number of whole fruits (as opposed to just the juice), lemon
  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed, kelp
  • Green tea, jasmine tea, raspberry leaf tea, chai tea
  • Raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry
  • Walnut, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Lamb, venison
  • Lobster, mussels, prawns, shrimp, trout
  • Black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, cayenne, nutmeg

preparing food

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, bread
  • Cold raw foods
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Coffee, alcohol
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Bananas, avocado

When the Spleen is functioning well a person will feel energetic, their digestion will be smooth, their bowel movements will be regular and firm (not soft), thoughts will be clear and one will be able to concentrate.

When the Spleen is imbalanced there will be symptoms of digestive upset, loose stools, poor appetite, low energy, oedema (water retention), nausea, vomiting, weakness in the four limbs, pale lips, organ prolapse, bruising and a feeling of cold.

Because most of us have some level of Spleen deficiency, we can all help our Spleens by being aware of simple things we can all do to take some of the pressure off of this important organ. Your Spleen will love you for it. :)

 

Featured image photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash



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Loving Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine | Chinese Medicine Living


Ask An Acupuncturist. - Do You Do Acupuncture On Yourself?

Question

As an acupuncturist, do you do acupuncture on yourself?

Answer

This is a good question and I am a bit surprised that I don't get asked it more often. The answer is yes, I do do acupuncture on myself when I really need it. For me, it is always preferable to have an acupuncture treatment performed by another acupuncturist (this is a more relaxing experience), but I certainly do points on myself when I can't get to see an acupuncturist myself.

I used to always travel with needles, but after a few incidents at airports, I am a bit leary of carrying needles with me on airplanes (the TSA is so sassy!), but I usually have a little acupuncture medicine kit with me with needles, herbs and other things like herbal burn cream, ear seeds and moxa for anything that might come up.

I do acupuncture on myself mainly when I have a headache, cramps, digestive issues or a cold or flu. Sometimes it is a bit tricky to get needles in, and because you are doing the work, it isn't the most relaxing experience, but it gets the job done and for me, is always preferable to taking a pill.

There are also theories that propose that when you work on yourself that you are interrupting your own energy, so that any theraputic effects are diminished. I can understand this, as when I do points on myself I am concentrating, and never entirely relax, whereas when you are being treated by someone else, their energy is going to treating you in its entirety, and you are able to take in the treatment completely which is your focus, and you are able to relax.

There are certain things that I cannot easily treat myself like points on the back and neck, but anything else, at least that I can reach I can treat myself. I would always go and have a proper treatment from an acupuncturist if I had the choice, but it is really nice to have the option to treat myself if I need to. :)


Escape Fire - The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare - A Review

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Escape Fire is a documentary film that presents a sobering exploration of the US medical system, and how it is largely failing the American people. In a country that spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world ($2.7 trillion annually), it seems that there should be a direct correlation with the amount of money spent and the overall health of the population. Instead of being at the top of the list in life expectancy, the United States is number 50. The film states that in the US, 75% of healthcare costs go to treating chronic diseases that are largely preventable. It is also estimated that 30% of healthcare spending (roughly $750 billion annually) is wasted and does not improve health.

The film presents some of the reasons that the present system is not working and why, despite the enormous amount of money spent, Americans are so unhealthy. The first and most fundamental is that it is a system not based on health, but on disease. Disease is the focus of both medical education and practice and therefore, doctors are not taught basic things like nutrition and prevention and instead specialize into fields where the focus is on disease. This focus on disease means that the entire system does not even enter into the equation until the disease has already manifested, and is thus based on intervention after the problems have already developed.

A Design Flaw in the System

Doctors making money

Another problem with the present system is pay structure. Doctors are paid not for having healthier patients, but by seeing as many patients as possible, making it a numbers game. This leads to frustration for many doctors, as there is not time to flush out the root of the problems they encounter with their patients, so they are only treating symptoms, which means that patients come back with the same problems, again and again. The system is not based on outcomes, no matter how complicated or how much time they spend with a patient, it is based solely on how many patients they see. Doctors are doing what they can, cramming their schedules, but this approach is about quantity, not quality.  Everyone is doing what they think is right, the government pays hospitals to be full, so they try to be full, and pays doctors to see patients, so they try to see as many patients as possible. Everyone is doing their jobs, it is just that their jobs have been designed wrong.

Dr. Andrew Weil, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Arizona, says

“What’s wrong with medical education is that it simply doesn’t address whole subject areas that are absolutely essential to understanding human beings, health, illness, and treatment. An obvious one is nutrition which is almost omitted from medical education.”

In 1994 Dr. Weil started a fellowship to retrain people who had been through medical school. In the fellowship, he exposes them to a broader way of seeing their patients, and arms them with a deeper understanding of healing, thus giving them a wider range of tools that they can use to help their patients.

Lifestyle Chioces

Healthy Eating

Dr. Dean Ornish, President of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute has spent more than 30 years conducting studies that show that heart disease can be reversed by what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much we exercise and the amount of love and support we have in our lives. He believes that the underlying causes of chronic disease are largely lifestyle, and therefore both preventable and reversible. In his model, the doctor acts as quarterback and assembles a team to work with the patient - a nurse, yoga instructor, exercise physiologist, registered dietitian and clinical psychologist. In this way, the patients empower themselves to change their lives and regain their health.

Love support friendship

After 16 years of trying to get Medicare to recognize his program, it was finally announced in August 2010 that Medicare would reimburse Dr. Ornish’s heart disease lifestyle program. Dr. Ornish said that getting Medicare to recognize his work and agree to cover his program was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life, but thanks to his tireless work, his program will be covered and the information and treatment will hopefully spread, giving people another option to surgery and drugs for not only heart disease, but eventually for all diseases.

The Pharmaceutical Industry

Pill Person

The US spends a staggering $300 billion a year on pharmaceuticals, almost the amount of the rest of the world combined. In the 1950’s people were taking pharmaceuticals at 10% the rate they are now. So, what happened? It turns out that there are only 2 countries that are allowed to advertise pharmaceuticals. The United States is one, and New Zealand is the other and these ads seem to drive demand. The ads always  say, “Ask your doctor!” and apparently, people do. People ask their doctors about that new drug that is supposed to be wonderful for high cholesterol, or elevated blood pressure, and doctors, wanting to help their patients, prescribe it. As a result, the US has turned into a hugely overmedicated society, and the pharmaceutical industry is raking it in.

Prescription drugs have also become a huge problem in the military. Soldiers’ use of prescription drugs has tripled in the past 5 years and has lead to other problems like an increased number of suicides. In fact, according to Pentagon statistics, the US military set a record - 350 suicides among active-duty troops. That’s more than the number that died in combat in Afghanistan, and more than double the number of reported suicides from a decade ago.

Acupuncture in the Military

The Military

Dr. Wayne Jonas, President of the Samueli Institute for Military Medical Research says:

“15 years ago a consensus conference at the NIH (National Institute of Health) asked a question: “Do we have good evidence to show that acupuncture is safe and effective for any condition?” They said, “Absolutely, it’s been demonstrated that acupuncture is safe and effective, especially with postoperative and injury pain.” He continues, “Fifteen years later you can’t walk into your average hospital and get acupuncture. Its not that it doesn’t work, it is that we haven’t figured out how to get it into the system.”

Dr. Richard Niemtzow, who is Director of the US Air Force Acupuncture Center has been using auricular acupuncture (acupuncture of the ear) to reduce pain in troops, some of whom were originally on a number of painkillers and has experienced great success with this program.

Ear Acupuncture in the Military

The military is looking into using acupuncture on injured soldiers being evacuated to medical centers in the United States, as it would reduce pain and the number of medications needed, thus avoiding the risks of dependency and overdose.

It may seem strange that something like acupuncture, which comes from Eastern medicine with its emphasis on a holistic system that seeks to balance  mind, body and spirit, could coexist inside an institution like the hard core military. The explanation, according to Dr. Jonas, is that the military has seen unprecedented numbers of soldiers suffering from drug addictions, psychological problems like PTSD, both of which have lead to an dramatic  increase in the number of suicides. It was this alarming trend that drove the military to seek out other treatment options like acupuncture.

There is an exciting program that is showcased in the film at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where troops are sent when they return from combat with injuries. The program incorporates yoga, meditation and acupuncture in their recovery. The film follows one soldier who returned from Afghanistan where he lost many of his men and was suffering from physical injuries as well as PTSD. His journey through the program illustrates that healing is needed not just on a physical level, but on all levels and that the program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is getting results.

Military Meditation

A for profit business

All of these statistics lead us to believe that something is terribly wrong. Sick people are not getting the care they need, and despite the enormous amount of money spent, Americans are not healthier and do not live longer. So something needs to change, right? Well, to find out why that change has been so slow to arrive, we need to look at who is benefitting from the system in its present incarnation. In a for profit system, the emphasis will always be on profit, and not health. The ones benefiting are the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies and the lobbyists in Washington who have a huge influence on policy making due to their deep pockets and generous campaign contributions.

People Over Profit

The Solution

It seems obvious that the present healthcare system is not fulfilling its job of caring for the health of the American people, so what is the solution? The film suggests that the problems are not small or easy to fix and that it would be a complete restructuring of the system from the ground up that is needed. Medical education needs to be reevaluated and changed from a disease focus to a focus on health and prevention, or perhaps a healthy balance of the two. And perhaps most importantly, the public needs to become engaged, and incite change with their actions and more importantly, their dollars. If patients go to their doctors asking for nutritional advice and information about vitamins and supplements, then doctors will be compelled to give it. As it stands, the system is broken, but the United States still has amazing resources, doctors and hospitals.  It is second to none in critical care, emergency medicine and complicated surgeries and there is incredibly important medical research being done in this country. So it is not that it isn’t possible, it is how the care is being delivered, pay structure, and a lack of prevention or focus on a healthy patient. The present healthcare system tends to be implemented after there is already a problem which is in contrast to other models (like Chinese medicine) which are focused on prevention, and empower the patient to be the master of his own health.

The good news is that, despite the problems the United States faces with healthcare, one of the most amazing and powerful things that is built into its foundation is democracy and the ability for the people to enact change on a large scale. Even though it seems that large corporations like insurance companies, big pharma and lobbyists are holding all the cards, an engaged and educated public can change the entire system, and it seems that perhaps, that time has come. :)


Ask an Acupuncturist. - Why are you putting that point there?

Question

I have been going to an acupuncturist (who is Chinese and speaks very little English) for my terrible headaches, and I am just wondering, why he is putting needles in my legs, stomach and hands and not in my head?

Answer

Ha. Good question. This is particularly confusing to those of us who grew up in the West with the Cartesian model of medicine where we tend to treat the part that is giving us problems directly (if we are suffering with headaches, we look for problems in the head, etc..). The Chinese medical model however, has a different approach. Because it is based on a holistic system, it is the entire body that is assessed to discover where the imbalance is that is creating the headache, instead of treating the head directly. In TCM there are many, many reasons that one may suffer from a headache, and each person's headache must be flushed out and the root of the problem discovered so that it can be treated. Often, the cause of headaches can be an excess of yang or fire energy in the body which flares upwards causing things like headaches, red eyes, anger, and bitter taste in the mouth. To treat this, the yin, or water energy of the body must be supplemented which is often done with points in the lower legs, we would also often treat the lower part of the body in an attempt to draw the heat down and anchor it which would alleviate the symptoms.

So, although in Chinese medicine there are many causes for headaches, the acupuncturist is always looking for the root cause so that it can be corrected, so that often means treating points in other parts of the body and not the head directly.


Why Acupuncture Works for Seniors

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

For more than two years I worked at a pain clinic that happened to be attached to a long term care facility inhabited by elderly patients. Many of them were my patients, and although their treatments at the clinic were multidisciplinary (seeing many types of doctors and receiving different types of treatments depending on their issues), I found that acupuncture really worked wonders on the eldery patients from next door.

Older patients present some unique problems. Firstly, many of them are on a myriad of medications for a wide variety of conditions. I found that I really had to sit down with them and take the time in the initial consultation to document what medications they were on and then research and make sure that none of them could be reacting with each other and causing any of the problems they were coming to see me for. I was really amazed at how many medications my elderly patients were taking. Many of them weren't sure what they were for, and others had been on them for so long that they had forgotten why they had been given.

In Chinese medical theory, as a person ages, their vital energy, life force or "Jing" is seen to be in a gradual decline. This is healthy and a natural part of aging. However, we are only born with a finite amount, and the way we live our lives determines how it is used, wheather it is wisely, or not. This is illustrated by a person who has lived hard, done a lot of partying, drinking, drugs... they usually have a worn out appearance and often look older than they actually are. They have been depleting their Jing, and it is aging them prematurely.

The other thing that I noticed about the seniors that I treated, was what a huge difference taking some time to sit and speak with them made. Making a connection and showing that I was really listening to them made a huge difference in their treatment and ultimately, their prognosis. This may seem obvious, that a little kindness goes a long way, but often in the medical profession, and in particular with seniors, doctors don't have (or take) the time to really listen. Of course, they are the experts on disease and illness, but who knows their body better than the patient? Allowing a patient to relay to you their experience of what is happening, what is out of balance or causing them pain is an important aspect of the treatment and subsequent healing process.

Another thing that I noticed is that my senior patients were rarely touched. Touch is such an important part of our lives. Important physiologically for things like the nervous system, and emotionally for a feeling of connectedness, affection and purpose. I found that sometimes they would hold my hand while telling me how they were doing just to feel a connection to another person. So, I always tried to incorporate some massage into the treatment which they always loved. Because stagnation occurs often in the elderly, massage (and acupuncture of course) are very moving and stimulating to the body helping to move stagnation and keep things flowing freely.

Why Acupuncture is So Good for Seniors

Because of all these factors acupuncture works very well for seniors. You don't have to worry about drug interactions (which are especially dangerous in the elderly), and it can be applied in as gentle a fashion as needed depending on the patients requirements.

Because many seniors exhibit long standing deficiencies, they are not as sensitive and by the time a symptom is felt, it is often very serious (children are the opposite), and acupuncture is a powerful tool and able to be used on sensitive or very deficient patients. It's many modalities are also useful like dietary therapy (I found many seniors were not eating a balanced diet), emotional wellness (which I was attending to by speaking with them and allowing them to express what they were feeling), and the importance of exercise. Many did not get out or even do much moving around. As part of their treatment I always advised walking, even if it was around the halls, but going outside and getting some fresh air and being out in nature is always preferable. This is good for moving energy, getting the blood flowing and improving mood.

We had a physiotherapist in the clinic and we set up a program for her to go next door 3 times a week to do an exercise class with the seniors. It was so popular the class was always packed and the staff noticed a marked improvement in the overall health and mood of the residents.

Another common problem is depression. Often senior citizens are living in facilities like this because they are unwell, unable to take care of themselves, and have lost a spouse. These all take a toll on our psyche, so depression is common. Any of these on its own is a huge adjustment, but they often come together so it isn't hard to imagine that many people become depressed when these major life changes occur. Some withdraw and shut down, some become angry and frustrated at their situation, and some become sad and depressed. I found that the more connected to the world and other people, the better they did. If they had visitors, saw their friends and children, or went on outings, they were happier and more balanced and overall, healthier.

Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have many ways to deal with depression. Like everything in TCM there are many types of, and reasons for depression to take up residence, but a thorough intake and accurate diagnosis can help the patient on their way to recovery. I saw many patients improve dramatically, and seeing their healing was perhaps the most rewarding of my career. My senior patients were some of the most interesting (the stories! They have seen so much of history!), most kind hearted and appreciative patients I have treated.

We live in a society that does not value its older citizens the way most cultures do. In many cultures around the world the oldest members of the family, village, or town are the most revered as they have something the younger people do not... wisdom. And wisdom is something that can only be gained by living, so the oldest among us are the wise. In our culture in the West we do not have the same reverence for our elderly, and they are often put into homes, abandoned and forgotten when they have so much to offer and to teach us. I learn so much from all my patients, but I think I have learned the most from my senior patients who have lived longer, seen more and experienced life to an extent that I have not, at least not yet... ;)


Natural Remedies for Varicose Veins

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Varicose veins are unsightly, sometimes painful, swollen, knotted veins, usually in the legs. They are the result of poor circulation and weakened elasticity in the walls of the veins (that carry blood back to the heart). There are many factors that can contribute to varicose veins, like heredity, standing for long periods, lack of exercise, being overweight, pregnancy and poor nutrition can all contribute to varicose veins.

Dietary Factors

One of the most important things to eat to improve varicose veins is to eat more fiber. When we strain or hold our breath when we pass stool it puts added pressure on the veins in the rectum which can lead to hemorrhoids (just vericose veins in your anus). If you want to have stools that flow freely, then more fiber in your diet is the way to do it.

Adding vitamin C, vitamin E and garlic to your diet to help combat varicose veins.

Another consideration is to always try to avoid processed foods. The biggest baddies (the 4 evils) are processed oil, sugar, flour and rice. Always seek out the healthy, unprocessed alternative to each. Cold pressed oils, eating fruits like blueberries (which will also add fiber and antioxidants) instead of sugary snacks, whole wheat, spelt and other whole grain flours, and brown or wild rice will improve your nutrition and add fiber to your diet.

Add Foods Containing Rutin to Your Diet

The best foods to combat varicose veins are ones that contain rutin. Rutin is part of a large family of riboflavanoids which have multiple effects on the body, the most important of which is to reduce the fragility and permeability of capillaries which reduces your risk of developing new varicose veins.

Rutin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vaso protective (protects the blood vessels) and anti-thrombotic (protects from blood clots) properties. Pretty awesome!

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Natural Sources of Rutin

• Buckwheat

• Apple (especially the skin, so try to buy organic to avoid pesticides)

• Cherries

• Grapes

• Blackberries

• Apricot

To avoid or improve varicose veins, one should eat a diet high in fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C and rutin (a riboflavonoid found in buckwheat and the pith of citrus fruits). Also, use garlic as a supplement and/or use it in cooking.

Supplements

One of the best supplements you can take for varicose veins is horse chestnut. It has the specific action of strengthening the walls of blood vesels.

What Can I Do?

• Exercise gently

• Do not sit with legs crossed

• Avoid standing for long periods

• Rest with legs raised

• Sleep with legs slightly elevated

• Inverted yoga postures are beneficial

• Don't take hot baths

Beneficial Aromatherapy Oils

Cypress, geranium, rose, yarrow, Virginian cedarwood, clary sage, frankincense, myrrh

Notes

Cypress and rose are extremely helpful to tone blood vessels and reduce dilation

Massage Oil/Cream Recipe for Vericose Veins

Make up a massage oil or cream containing 7-10 drops each of geranium (or 5 drops of rose), yarrow and cypress oil in 2fl oz/50ml calendula oil or cream and rub gently into the area around or above the veins. DO NOT apply pressure directly to them or below them, and work up the legs towards the heart. Elevate your legs after the massage. Repeat this massage daily.

To Help Swelling

To help reduce swelling, apply local cold compresses soaked in witch hazel.

Improving the Circulatory System

Take warm (not hot) baths with 8-10 drops of a circulatory stimulant such as rosemary or juniper can help improve the condition of the circulatory system as a whole.

Leg Exercises for Varicose Veins

A list of beneficial leg exercises for varicose veins


Interview with Andrew Schlabach - Co-Founder & President of The Acupuncture Relief Project

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Andrew Schlabach, who is co-founder and president of the Acupuncture Relief Project, kindly agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about his organization and all the good things they are doing with their clinic in Nepal.

For those who don’t know about your organization, could you tell us a little bit about it?

Acupuncture Relief Project (ARP), along with our local partners, operates a small primary care clinic in a rural village of Nepal. Founded in 2008, Acupuncture Relief Project provides healthcare practitioners of various disciplines an opportunity to gain valuable field experience while making a positive impact on the local community. Our efforts include the treatment of patients living with HIV and AIDs as well as people suffering from extreme poverty and social disenfranchisement. We are a completely volunteer-based project and rely on a grassroots approach to sustainability and community support.

Why did you choose Nepal? Did you have a personal connection to it, or did you think it would be the place that would most benefit from this type of clinic?

I had the privilege of working as a mountaineering instructor at the notorious Himalayan Mountain Institute in Darjeeling India and participated in several expeditions in Nepal, Tibet and Northern India. Through this experience I fell in love with Nepal and its people. Later when I trained as an acupuncturist I envisioned a program which would not only provide service to a community that had very little access to medical care but would also provide an opportunity for healthcare practitioners to experience the complexities and hardships of the developing world. Hopefully providing an experience which challenges practitioners to connect to a deeper understanding of their medicine and foster the growth of compassionate wisdom.

Were the local Nepalese people open and receptive to coming to the clinic to get acupuncture, or did it take some time for them to warm up to it?

We don't characterize ourselves as an "Acupuncture" clinic even though we are primarily staffed by acupuncture physicians. Mostly we are just a primary care clinic... a place where anyone can come to get medical care and advice. Like anywhere in the world, some people are very open-minded about acupuncture and some are very skeptical. Once we establish trust, it doesn't really matter whether we are using acupuncture or allopathic medicine, people know they can come in and we will do our best to help them. It is very difficult to describe to people in developed countries what it means to live without access to care. Many times our job is more about patient education, assessment and referral than it is about any particular treatment modality. Just the fact that we can assess whether a child's fever is manageable or an emergency provides the community with a priceless resource.

Acupuncture Relief Project

Did the locals have any prior knowledge of what acupuncture was?

Not really. We get asked many times a day "what kind of medicine is on the needle". We explain that there isn't any and that we are simply assisting their body in healing itself. That is probably a bit mystifying but then, after couple treatments, they start getting better. Then they bring their whole family.

You have a group of wonderful local interpreters who work with the practitioners. Is the language barrier still difficult?

Our interpreters are world class professionals and they continue to improve. Several of them have worked with us since the beginning. The difficulty for both us and the interpreters is the limitation of the language itself. There are three common languages in the area in which we operate. Nepali, Newari, and Tamang. Each language has it's own unique limitation. For example in Newari there is only one word for the torso which translates in English to "heart". A patient may come in complaining of "Heart Disease" which for us only narrows it down to the torso. They could be suffering from anything from indigestion to angina to hepatitis. They don't have specific words or an understanding of internal organs so our interpreters do the best they can and we rely on many non-verbal cues and diagnositics to direct our assessments.

What are some of the conditions that you treat most?

People in the village are mostly subsistence farmers and they work very hard throughout their lives. About 65% of patients that we see are coming in for chronic pain. Low back, neck and knees particularly. This is something acupuncture is quite good at addressing and we see very good results in getting people back to work so they can take care of their families. We also see a multitude of other conditions including digestive disorders, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, febrile stroke, uterine prolapse, asthma, tuberculosis and typhoid. We also sometimes deal with social issues like domestic violence and substance abuse.

Do you only use acupuncturists?

No. We primarily use acupuncturists because this treatment modality allows us to treat a large number of people for very little money or overhead. The clinic also hosts herbalists, Tibetan traditional practitioners, homeopaths and massage therapists. We have also had several allopathic and naturopathic physicians work with us. We try to provide as much care as possible and we find that we do very well without the overhead of a pharmaceutical dispensary. We do utilize a small stock of antibiotics and other drugs when we need to but we will try to get a patient to an appropriate facility a patient has a serious or emergency condition.

Acupuncture Relief Project

What were some of the things that surprised you about running the clinic in Nepal?

I think what continues to amaze me is how much impact a small clinic can have on so many people. Not only our patients who of course benefit from our care but also our interpreters who have meaningful jobs supporting their own communities. Additionally our volunteer practitioners continuously report to us the effects of their experience in Nepal. Many have shared how they have gained a new appreciation for patient care and that has carried forward into their own practices and communities.

About how many people do you treat a day?

The clinic sees about 80-120 people per day. We also conduct several outreach clinics in outlaying villages each week.

Do you have any idea how many patients you have treated since the clinic began?

Well over 100,000 patient visits.

Is the clinic operational full time, or only at certain times of the year when you can bring volunteers?

Yes. There are practitioners at the clinic year round, however the clinic runs at varied capacity depending on the availability of volunteers and other resources. Organizationally, we focus particularly on our training program which operated from September to March every year. During this time the clinic opperates is at it's maximum capacity. The availability of healthcare in the winter months is particularly critical to the village so we prioritize our efforts for this time of the year.

Acupuncture is very cost effective compared to Western medicine. How much does it cost to run the clinic?

Again, we characterize ourselves as a primary care clinic and not an "acupuncture" clinic. We utilize a variety of modalities (including Western medicine) and attempt to determine the "best" care for a particular patient. In many cases, acupuncture is the "best" care.  The total cost of operation including all of our herbal and western dispensary, we provide primary care year round for about $4.80 USD per patient visit. I don't wish to take anything away from other types of service projects but for sake of comparison, you can compare us to a visiting medical/dental camp which operates in Nepal for a few weeks each year which costs $24-30 USD per visit. I will say that the dental services that they provide are worth every penny to the communities they serve.

Acupuncture Relief Project

What is the most difficult thing about running the clinic?

I think with any service project there are constant stresses around resources. There is never enough money, time or volunteers to accomplish everything you might envision. Also, as a US based non-profit there are many logistical complexities of operating a clinic half way around the world. All of these are relatively minor in the grand scheme but they must be constantly addressed in order to insure our long term sustainability.

What would you like to see the Acupuncture Relief Project do in the future?

Training local practitioners is our ultimate goal and one that we are actively trying to solve. In 2011, we fully funded a scholarship for one student only to be setback as the only Oriental Medicine school in Nepal became defunct. We have now adopted an apprenticeship program for two students and we are also exploring the possibility of sponsoring a student to study in the US, Canada, Australia or China. Our major obstacle is a lack of legitimate accreditation and licensure in Nepal so obviously this issue will be on our list for awhile.

Acupuncture Relief Project

Here is some more information about Andrew from the Acupuncture Relief Project website...

Andrew Schlabach MAcOM EAMP

Andrew Schlabach is the co-founder and President of the Acupuncture Relief Project having received his Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in 2008. His master’s research project founded a Practice Based Research Network for Oriental medicine practitioners and researchers in Oregon and Southwest Washington in collaboration with the Helfgott Research Institute. Now practicing at Healthwerks - Acupuncture Wellness Clinic, Vancouver Washington he is the author and publisher of the Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine - Clinic Survival Guide. Mr. Schlabach also served as President and Creative Director of Split Diamond Media, Inc. of Portland Oregon for 15 years. Specializing in business-to-business advertising, Split Diamond Media pioneered digital publishing technologies and internet services for a variety of regional and national companies. Mr. Schlabach is also an accomplished mountaineer with expedition experience in the Himalayas, distinguishing himself as an instructor at the prestigious Himalayan Mountain Institute in Darjeeling India. Having travel extensively in central Asia, Mr. Schlabach has become a student of world theology, Tai Ji and yoga. As a veteran of the U.S. Army, he received an Army Commendation Medal for distinguished service to his unit.

To learn more about The Acupuncture Relief Project and the wonderful work they are doing, please visit their website at www.acupuncturereliefproject.org

And be sure to watch the 30 minute documentary, Compassion Connects about their clinic in Nepal. It is incredibly inspiring!


Debunking Acupuncture Myths - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Myth: Anyone Can Practice Acupuncture and You Don’t Have to go to School to Study it

Truth: Not anyone can practice acupuncture, and you must go to school for many years to become a licensed practitioner.

I love this one. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I had to do any schooling to become an acupuncturist. The answer is yes, did I ever.

The amount of education required to become an acupuncturist varies by country, state and province. On average an acupuncturist spends between 3-6 years in school full time studying both Chinese and Western medicine and must have many clinical hours before they graduate. The number of clinical hours at my school was 780.

This question actually used to hurt my feelings. But now I realize that many people simply don’t know much about acupuncture and what is involved in its study. An important thing to note is that acupuncturists and practitioners of Chinese medicine study both Chinese and Western medicine. We must understand Chinese concepts like qi, jing and shen, but must also have a solid command of anatomy, physiology, pathology and diagnosis. Acupuncturists do a large component on nutrition, and have to learn many modalities used in TCM like cupping, guasha, moxibustion, electro acupuncture and tui na. There are also classes on how to speak to patients, being empathetic, listening and observation. The human component of the patient is an important part of both diagnosis and treatment. Meditation, qi gong and ba gua (a martial art) were large components of my TCM education. We meditated before each class to clear our minds and help us focus, and before exams. Discussions between students and clinic supervisors to go over case studies were common while doing our clinical hours and there were many papers written during our course of study.

Licensing, like education varies depending on where you are. In most places, you must finish your education with an accredited school of TCM where you have completed all your courses, passed your exams and completed all your clinical hours. You are then issued a license, must purchase insurance and you are ready to practice. If you would like to know what type of education your acupuncturist has completed and how licensing works where you live, ask them. I am sure they would be happy to explain it to you.

Myth: Acupuncture Hurts

Truth: Acupuncture does not hurt.

This is probably the one I hear the most. Many people have a fear of needles and are afraid that acupuncture will be painful. Your experience with acupuncture depends largely on your acupuncturist. My experience with my acupuncturist was painless. There was never pain with the needles. I have since had acupuncture with many practitioners and it really depends. Some were very gentle, and some were not. Acupuncture does not have to be painful. I am very gentle. I do not like pain if it is not necessary.

I think there is a lot of fear associated with acupuncture because people simply don’t understand it. I hope writing this will help. Acupuncture needles are tiny, not the hollow point needles used to take blood or give injections. Acupuncture is not painful, quite the contrary, most people find it relaxing and rejuvenating. Of course the treatment depends on your practitioner, but as a rule, I would say that acupuncture doesn’t hurt or at least, it doesn’t have to.

Myth: Acupuncture only works if you believe it will (Acupuncture has only a placebo effect)

Truth: If you don’t believe acupuncture will work, the effect will probably be lessened.

This is an interesting one. In my last year of school I wrote my thesis on the mind and its connection to healing. I read many books on the subject and I found them extremely enlightening. I think that the mind is a large component in most things we do. I think if you go into anything believing that it will help you, then chances are much better that it will. The mind is a powerful tool, and there are many studies illustrating its healing effect.

My basic answer to this one is that one of the most important things in life (and an acupuncture treatment) is being OPEN. If you come in for an acupuncture treatment being open to the possibility that it may work, the prognosis will be much better than if you are convinced that it won’t. This is just common sense. This has been illustrated time and again in trials using placebos.

If someone came to see me and said that they absolutely didn’t think acupuncture worked, I would wonder what they were doing in my office. I would suggest that they find something they thought would work and to try that. There is no point trying to convince a closed mind.

*Note - something interesting that I discovered during my research on my thesis about the mind and its effect on healing, was that attitude and openness had a huge impact on peoples ability to recover from serious diseases. They did many studies which illustrated that people who were rigid and closed in their thinking tended to suffer more and die more quickly than people who were positive and open to different types of treatment. The second group lived longer, had better quality of life and if there was recovery or remission, the people were usually in this group.

Myth: You can get diseases from Acupuncture because of dirty needles

Truth: Modern acupuncturists use disposable needles, so no worry about disease transmission

This is a common myth. Modern acupuncturists use sterile, disposable needles. In ancient China, there were problems with hygiene, and needles were reused and diseases spread. There may be places in the world where health regulations are not up to the standards we are used to in the West, so my advice to you would be to ask.

Every place I have ever had acupuncture, the needles were disposable - one time use. That is the only kind I use. One of the exams that acupuncturists take is dedicated to clean needle technique. This covers all aspects of needling, including hygiene, hand washing, germ theory, sterilization, etc. It also covers everything that could happen when needling a patient.

When you fill out the initial intake form when you first go to see an acupuncturist, they will ask you questions like if you have a bleeding disorder (which affects treatment), or if you have any blood borne diseases like HIV. This is for the safety of the acupuncturist, so they can be aware to be especially careful when dealing with blood.

Myth: Acupuncture is for people who believe in witchcraft, voodoo and astrology

Truth: Maybe. And so what? I hear voodoo is pretty dope.

I sometimes hear that acupuncture has been lumped in with things like witchcraft, voodoo and astrology. People sometimes think that if you believe in acupuncture that you must not have a rational mind and are incapable of logic and reason. If you are an intelligent person, you would never subscribe to something like acupuncture, you would stand firmly on the side of science and medicines that can be quantified and qualified.

I would say to anyone with this thinking that they are just misinformed. I do not profess to know much about witchcraft, voodoo or astrology, but I do know a little about acupuncture. I can tell you that there are no goat entrails, dead chickens or astral charts used in my practice. Acupuncture is based on a long history of medicine in China and is still employed by a large part of the population there. Acupuncturists have an honest desire to help people get better. The TCM practitioner teaches how to live, not dependence on their treatments. The goal is wellness.

The truth is, we need both - Eastern and Western medicine. Western medicine has much to offer. Advances in diagnostics, testing and imaging have helped save many lives. It is my opinion that if the two could work together, there is no limit to what we could achieve and the lives that could be saved. Every modality has its strengths and weaknesses. You can’t use a wrench to fix every problem with your car, you need a full set of tools at your disposal. And the most important thing is choice. We are blessed to live in a world where we have choice. We are all lucky to have the ability to seek out whatever type of treatment we want, depending on our ailment and our beliefs. Opinions are one thing, but trying to take choice away from people is something else altogether. I sincerely hope that through education, and an openness to information, more and more people will learn about the benefits of this wonderful medicine, so that for those of us who believe, will always have the choice to use it.

I will leave you with a quote...

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.  ~ Aristotle

Acupuncture Research Studies

Studies on Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, listed by category - Acupuncture.com

http://www.acupuncture.com/research/

Acupuncture studies - Science Daily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=acupuncture+research
List of acupuncture studies - National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
http://search2.google.cit.nih.gov/search?q=acupuncture+research&site=NCCAM&client=NCCAM_frontend&proxystylesheet=
NCCAM_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=0&getfields=*&proxyreload=1&x=0&y=0

Articles about Acupuncture in the military

http://www.ukiahclinic.com/blog/doctors-specialists-use-acupuncture-to-treat-vetrans/
http://www.statesman.com/news/local/military-tries-acupuncture-to-treat-troops-for-ptsd-757786.html
http://hprc-online.org/blog/acupuncture-in-military-medicine-is-a-growing-phenomenon#.UDU3-GhShXc
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120105/Special-issue-explores-military-applications-of-acupuncture.aspx