Cancer & Chinese Medicine - Part 3

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Treatment of Cancer with Chinese Medicine

Because of the way that Chinese medicine looks at health and the human body, the treatments for any disease in Chinese medicine are varied and complex. In Chinese medicine, a practitioner is not treating cancer, they are treating YOUR cancer. And they are not in effect treating the cancer, they are treating you. In essence, Chinese medicine works to treat the person, not the disease. And although this might sound like a nice tagline, it is the way Chinese medicine works, and why it is so effective.

When a patient comes in with a diagnosis from a Western doctor of cancer, the first thing we do, is to look at what is happening in the body and what is causing the cancer. We do not just treat the cancer, because if you treat the cancer without fully understanding why it has occurred in the first place, then even if you do manage to get rid of the cancer, the factors that created it are still present and the cancer will return. This is the reason why looking at absolutely everything about a persons health, be it physical, emotional and especially their lifestyle is integral to successfully treating any disease in Chinese medicine. The cancer is the symptom, so we must, as practitioners, find the root.

There are literally an infinite amount of factors that contribute to diseases, especially one as complex as cancer, so the search for the cause or, more likely, causes is not an easy task. Many factors are things I wrote about previously in this article - nutrition, toxins, unresolved or unexpressed emotions, the quality of our water, stress, the list goes on. This vast ocean of potential causes is the reason why the practitioner of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) does such a thorough intake and asks many questions at each session, trying to collect as much information as possible. Something I always tell my patients when we are talking is that they should tell me everything, no matter how silly or seemingly irrelevant it may seem, because in my experience, everything is significant and is another piece of the puzzle that I am trying to create for each patient to get to the bottom of their present condition.

As a side note, this is why many times patients will ask why, if they have come in for sleep problems, would I be asking about their digestion or emotional state? I tell them it is all connected and we do not draw distinctions in a holistic model of medicine. It is not the reductionist model of allopathic or Western medicine that likes to reduce the body into parts, focussing on each if it breaks down. In a holistic system, every part functions synergistically with all the others, they cannot function in isolation. Every part affects every other part. This is the reason that we need a picture of the whole to determine what is going on, and why it works so well, because treatments are tailored to the individual. Cancer can arise from a myriad of reasons, so we need to understand why the cancer has manifested, correct those imbalances and the body will readjust to a healthy balance and the cancer should disappear. Chinese medicine believes in the body's powerful and innate healing abilities, so when we are diagnosing we must ask ourselves: "what it is that is blocking the healing process? Why is the healing not being allowed to occur?" Chinese medicine also believes that if the body has everything it needs, then health and certainly healing will be the result. Disease is just the body's way of telling us that something is missing, and needs attention. This is why listening to your body is also so important for your health. Your body will always tell you when things are not right. At the beginning when the imbalance is only minor, it may only be a whisper, which gradually moves to a full blown yell by the time we get to a very severe imbalance which is what we see in cases like cancer. Learning to listen to the subtle communications of your body is such a good way to be able to correct things before they become more serious and practice what Chinese medicine is all about - preventative medicine.

Self Love and Loving Kindness

One of the biggest things that practicing Chinese medicine has taught me has not been about medicine at all. It has been about the pain and the immense struggles that human beings go through in life, and often, on a daily basis. The things that I have heard from my patients over the years about what they have been through have been humbling to say the least. As I am a highly sensitive person who can strongly feel what others are feeling simply by being in the room with them, this information, at least at first, was very difficult to process. Hearing stories of such pain and suffering took a toll emotionally and I quickly had to learn to manage those feelings so that I would not be consumed by them (because they could also make me sick!). This also taught me something very valuable. That I could never, ever judge someone from what they were projecting on the outside, because I realized that I had no idea what was going on in their life and what struggles they were facing. It gave me enormous empathy for people, especially ones who were rude or otherwise unpleasant to be around. It also made me realize why people get sick as I began to see a correlation with these struggles and pain, and the kinds of illnesses that people develop. Many people are suffering alone because they feel they have to. Many people have no outlet for such problems or simply do not want to burden others. I think this is what we desperately need from each other. We need each others kindness, love and understanding. We need to really listen to each other and not just wait for our turn to speak.

The other part of this is that I think we need to be kinder to ourselves. To look at any TV reality show or movie you would think this was insane. From what we see in the media, it seems that we are a hedonistic bunch, very capable of looking after ourselves, and only ourselves, and that is certainly the culture we are living in these days. It feeds this kind of narcissism. But, in my experience, overwhelmingly, people are working hard, sleeping less, and struggling more. It seems to be getting harder, certainly in the last generation or two, to get ahead and be able to live a simple life and provide for our families. Gone are the days when someone could have the same job working at the same company for their entire lives or that a married couple could survive, and even thrive on the salary of one working person. Children now leave school saddled with so much debt that they cannot afford to leave home, and things like social security are something my generation and the ones after will never see. It is these things, these stresses in our lives that contribute to disease. We must all have hope. We must all believe that we can achieve our dreams and make a life for ourselves if we are smart and work towards that goal.

Self love is a hard thing for a lot of people, and it is something I talk to a lot of my patients about. We are all energetic beings, and when we are so stressed and exhausted by modern life, it is difficult to find the time to take proper care of ourselves. And this is so important for our health. Having the intention of being kind to ourselves, eating well, spending time with our friends and people we love, doing things that feed us energetically and make us happy are just as important to health as herbs and acupuncture. And this goes back to listening. If you have had a particularly stressful day at work, or have had a particularly negative interaction with a stranger on the way home, recognize how it is making you feel and take the time to cleanse that energy and feed yourself to build yourself up again. Take a walk in the park and breathe deeply the cool, clean air. Have a hot bath and read that book that you have been meaning to start for weeks. Make yourself something delicious and eat it mindfully, really savouring it. These are the things that recharge batteries and let your body and psyche know that you love it and are taking care of it. In the cases of cancer that I have treated and indeed in so many of the illnesses that I treat, there is a definite connection to this loss of self love and care. Think of these personal acts of kindness as medicine of prevention. It is your health insurance policy, a way to make sure you never get sick.

In conclusion, when it comes to a disease as complex as cancer, there are many factors at play both in its development and treatment. In a holistic system like Chinese medicine, it is not the cancer that is important, it is determining why the cancer has manifested and making corrections necessary so that the cancer is both able to resolve itself, as well as not be recreated in the future. In contrast, in a Western model of medicine, giving chemotherapy or radiation without any investigation to the causes, the factors at play in the persons life, no nutritional counseling, no inquiry to the persons emotional life might lead to a temporary remission of the present cancer, but it will no doubt return as the circumstances that created it are still present. This is not to say that Western medicine does not have its benefits, not at all. I only say that the approach to healing is different, and in my opinion, by not looking at the system as a whole, there is so much that is missing. Treating cancer, like any other disease is a delicate balance of searching for the reasons that it has manifested, dealing with them thoroughly especially any emotional ones, rebalancing the system and giving the body, mind and spirit everything it needs to thrive allowing us to regain our health so we can be healthy, happy human beings.


Traditional Chinese Medicine - The Medicine of Prevention

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I like to use the metaphor borrowed from the wonderful book Between Heaven and Earth that compares the body to a garden. Chinese medicine sees the body as a garden; something that needs to be tended and nurtured. You must water a garden, pull weeds and be mindful of pests for your garden to thrive. You must look at your garden every day so that you can detect subtle changes and make adjustments so that your garden will flourish.

In the West, the body is seen more as a machine. Parts break and must be fixed or replaced. It is a reductionist model, reducing the body to parts, that instead of working together are seen in isolation. We tend to wait until something "breaks" before we seek out a mechanic to do the needed repairs. This is one of the fundamental differences between the Eastern and Western models. In the West, we tend to wait until we are diagnosed with a disease before we seek out treatment, and in the Eastern model, we are learning to take care of ourselves on every level so that we can stay healthy so sickness never develops. Chinese medicine is a medicine of prevention.

Chinese Medicine - The Medicine of Prevention

The thing that many people don't know about Chinese medicine is that it is not just going to have acupuncture for a headache, or when your allergies flare up - it teaches a way of life, or better yet - a way of LIVING. In acupuncture school, we are all taught the acupuncture points and their functions, but this is only a fraction of the overall picture. We are mostly looking at the entire body and its relationship to the environment. We are also looking at the body and its various parts in relation to each other. In the garden, if you tend it every day you see which plants are happy and which ones are struggling. You can see which ones need fertilizer and which ones are getting too much sun. It is the same with the body. If we are paying attention, we can feel the subtleties happening inside, if we have an excess liver, a deficient spleen or a disturbance in our shen. This kind of attunement is possible, and vital to being as healthy and balanced as we would all like to be. The thing is, that we have to learn how. And this is what Chinese medicine teaches.

This learning, or teaching - the sharing of information - is the job of the acupuncturist. That is the entire intention of Chinese Medicine Living and why I started it in the first place. It is not to hand over your health to someone else, it is to participate and empower everyone to achieve the healing, health, and happiness they want because they can have it.

How To Stay Healthy and Prevent Illness

The wonderful thing about the Chinese medicine approach to health is that it is all-encompassing. You are not just your body, you are so much more! You are spirit, emotions, energy, light - they are all part of you. You are also flesh, bones, muscles, and tendons, and all must be maintained so that you remain healthy. Every aspect is important, they all matter. The intake process of the acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese medicine is comprehensive and extremely thorough. The theory is that we are trying to paint a picture of the entire organism because every part is connected to every other part, nothing exists in isolation. If you have a headache, we do not just look at the head, we must look at the entire body in all its aspects. The headache is only the symptom, we must determine the main cause. The other reason is that we are treating the root problem and not the symptoms. This is at the core of Chinese medical theory. Any illness that manifests is seen as a symptom of a deeper problem, and that is what we are trying to correct. People sometimes wonder, what if they have many symptoms? Do you treat them all at the same time or can you treat them all at once? This situation depends on the severity of the symptom. If it is acute and causing distress to the patient, then we treat the symptom immediately and then treat the root afterwards. If the symptoms are causing discomfort, then both symptom and root would be treated at the same time, and if the symptoms are not causing distress, then the root would be treated, and once the root is discovered and corrected, the symptoms simply disappear. This is one of the reasons why Chinese medicine treatments are so effective. They are individualized treatments, seeking out the root of the problem and correcting it. It is not treating a headache, it is treating YOUR headache by figuring out why you are having them.

Why Emotions Matter


Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash

A thorough exploration of the emotions is of vital importance for every patient. Sometimes someone will come in with problems they see as reasonably superficial and when I get to the part about the emotions they ask "what difference does that make? What could that possibly have to do with having stomachaches?" And this is my answer. It could have everything to do with your stomachaches and everything else that is going on with you. Emotions are a huge factor in our health and Chinese medicine takes them very seriously. They are as important to the practitioner of Chinese medicine as the virus you caught in a third world country or the chronic asthma you have been suffering with since you were a child. In my opinion, the emotions are responsible for a huge percentage of all the imbalances I see in clinic, and that is why they really matter.

Living in Harmony with Nature


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People used to live in complete harmony with the world around them. After the development of agriculture, we began to break this connection, and instead of living in harmony with nature, we began to dominate and control it. People were aware of subtle changes in weather and were deeply connected to animals, the seasons and the planet. The natural world governed behaviour; what people ate and when as well as eating what was in season. This is the way our bodies were designed and evolved over thousands of years, and how we could best stay healthy and ward off disease. Things like the weather, the ebb and flow of the seasons and the migration of animals were all a vital part of life, health, and survival.

In the present day, this connection has largely been severed. We suffer and die from diseases at an unprecedented rate. Many of us sit in front of computers for many hours a day and eat foods that are highly processed and full of unnatural chemicals. Going outside is something to "do" and not our natural state as it once was. Our relationship with nature and the planet is no longer harmonious and mutually beneficial, human beings live unnatural lives and get sick and die from many diseases that did not affect our ancestors.

Chinese medicine teaches a way of living, and that is to live as close to nature as possible. Eating with the seasons, rising early in the summer months and spending time outside being active, eating more cooling foods, and sleeping more and turning energies more inwards in the colder months, eating warming foods and conserving energies. It is simple, and it works well to keep us healthy so that disease doesn't have a chance to develop.

Food as Medicine 

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Food is perhaps the most important aspect of good health. There is a lot of information and therefore confusion about how and what to eat. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there about foods, diets, what is harmful and what is beneficial, so it is understandable that nutrition is a huge and confusing subject for many. Chinese medicine uses food as medicine. Food is something you put into your body every day, so eating well is the best way to stay healthy and avoid disease.

There is a huge amount of evidence that diet alone can reverse many of the most devastating diseases in Western society - heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The trick is not to wait until you get a diagnosis of one of these diseases to take action. Eating well is something that you can do every day, at every meal. Chinese medicine sees foods as having a thermal nature, or temperature. Along with your constitution (you may be a hot or cold person), you can add or take away foods that will help keep you balanced. The key is to be constantly paying attention so that you can adjust accordingly. You must listen to your body.

Listen to Your Body

listen to your body : Chinese Medicine Living

This is perhaps the thing that, in my experience, we are missing the most. I fully believe that the body has an intelligence that far exceeds the one we attribute to our brains. Your body is a miracle. It is a miracle of healing. There are stories about this healing from all over the world. Your body wants to be healthy and heal from illness, you must only give it what it needs to do so. But you must listen. It is always trying to communicate with you. Take the example of pain. This is a communication tool used by the body to tell you that something is wrong. Instead of listening, doctors prescribe painkillers so that we don't feel it. We don't want to feel pain, but it is the body's way of trying to get your attention. There are many, many ways that the body communicates, but we have largely lost the ability to listen. So many times I have patients who have been diagnosed with illnesses like MS, cancer, heart disease and are completely shocked when their doctors tell them they are sick. Once we speak and I learn of their history, be it medical, emotional or psychological it is usually obvious that there were signs, many, many signs before there was a diagnosis of one of these serious diseases.

We live in a world where we are overworked, underslept, in debt and stressed out. Many of us feel we do not have the luxury of listening to our bodies because we have to go to work so that the mortgage can be paid, or the children can go to school. We push ourselves harder and harder and our health - both physical and spiritual, suffers. It's not easy. But it is WORTH it. Deep down we all have that sense, that gut feeling that we know when something is wrong. Something is out of balance. We need more sleep, we need to eat better. This is your body speaking to you. It wants you to be healthy and to live a long, happy life. It only wants you to listen.

 


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5 Acupressure Points to Boost Your Immune System

Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Acupuncture and everything that falls under the umbrella of Chinese medicine - including herbs, food therapy,  cupping and moxibustion - was designed as a medicine of prevention. Instead of waiting until they got sick, the ancient Chinese (and I suspect many modern Chinese) took steps to boost their immune systems so they were better equipped to fight off disease and stay healthy. There are many very powerful acupuncture points that serve to boost the immune system and help it to fight disease, and by using some gentle stimulation, you can build your body's immunity right in the comfort of your own home, at work, in the car or wherever - that is what makes acupressure so awesome, you can literally do it anywhere. :)

Acupressure is simply applying pressure to the acupuncture points instead of using needles. Acupressure is an excellent way to stimulate these points whenever you feel like your immune system could use a boost. Below are a list of 5 powerhouse points to boost your immune system and help you fight off any bacteria and viruses that might be floating around.

Most acupuncture points run bilaterally - meaning on both sides of the body, except for the meridians that run along the midline. So, each of these points have a right and a left. One side is often more tender than the other, but it is a good idea to stimulate both to get a balanced effect. Below are 5 acupressure points to boost your immune system.

STOMACH 36

Location - Stomach 36 is located about 3 cun, or 4 finger breadths below the bottom of your kneecap, and directly on the outside of your tibia, which is your shin bone. You can feel a depression and this point is often tender. Have a look at the image below to help you locate it.

Acupuncture Point Stomach 36

Stomach 36 is perhaps one of the most powerful points for boosting immunity in the entire body. It is said that after you have reached 30 years of age, it is a good idea to stimulate this point on a regular basis, as it will keep the body strong. Burning moxa (the burning of a Chinese herb) will increase its effect, and this is often something I use in clinic if I feel someone's immune system is deficient and needs a boost.

Stomach 36 is an important point to stimulate the immune system and build up the body's defences. It stimulates qi in the entire body as well as calms the spirit. It is one of the strongest points for tonifying qi and blood, thus is a strong point for building the body's energy reserves.

SPLEEN 6

Location - Spleen 6 is located about 3 cun, or 4 finger breadths above the middle of your ankle bone (called your medial malleolus) on the inside of your leg. Find the highest point of your ankle bone, then measure upwards. Spleen 6 is located just behind the tibia, or your shin bone that runs up the front of your leg. This point also tends to be quite tender, especially on women. See the image below to help you locate it.

Acupuncture Point Spleen 6

 

Spleen 6 is a powerful point for tonifying the spleen and stomach which are the body's main organs of digestion. As we tend to live in a spleen deficient culture - you can read why here - The Spleen in Chinese Medicine - so using Spleen 6 is a good way to strengthen the often deficient spleen, harmonize the digestion and boost the immune system. Spleen 6 is also an important point for invigorating the blood, alleviating pain, resolving dampness and regulating menstruation. It also calms the mind which is something many of us could use. Another added benefit of this powerful point is that it is the meeting point of the spleen, liver and kidney meridians, so has the effect of harmonizing those organs which benefits the entire body.

LUNG 7

Location - Lung 7 is located about 1.5 cun above your wrist crease. 1 cun is the width of your thumb. There is a bump that protrudes at this point, this is called the styloid process. The point is here located between two tendons. See the image below to help you locate it.

Acupuncture Point Lung 7

 

The lungs are the organ most closely related to the immune system in Chinese medicine. They are called the "tender organ" as they are directly connected to the outside of the body via the mouth. Lung 7 is traditionally used for the beginning symptoms of a cold or flu like chills and fever, congestion, sore throat and cough. It is also used for many kinds of headaches. Stimulating lung 7 is known to boost the immune system. It treats the symptoms of cold and flu, but it excellent for strengthening the body's resistance so that it never gets to that stage.

LARGE INTESTINE 11

Location - Large Intestine 11 is located at the end of the crease formed when you bend your arm. It is the outside end of the crease. This point is also usually tender on most people. Use the image below to help you locate it.

Acupuncture Point Large Intestine 11

 

Large intestine 11 is traditionally known as a point to treat heat in the body, and is a principle point to reduce fevers. It is known to remove heat causing sore throat, toothache, and bloodshot eyes. It treats all kinds of skin conditions (many are caused by heat) and lowers high blood pressure. It is also a powerful point to prevent colds and flu's by tonifying the immune system.

KIDNEY 27

Location - Kidney 27 is located just below the collarbone or clavicle 2 cun (or two thumb widths) from the midline. This point falls into a depression in the first intercostal space (between the clavicle and the first rib). This point is also generally sore, and more so if you have an upper respiratory infection. See the image below to help you locate it.

Acupuncture Point Kidney 27

 

Kidney 27 is known for its strong effects of treating disorders of the chest - especially phlegm, wheezing, cough and asthma. Kidney 27 is a strong immune booster and especially good for people prone to upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis. Anyone having many recurring upper respiratory infections would be seen in Chinese medicine to have a weakened immune system, so, if you are prone to those types of infections, kidney 27 is for you.

What to Do

You can do these points any time that you are feeling run down and feel like you need a bit of a boost. A good way to use them is together, stimulating all five points, especially in the fall during cold and flu season to build up your immunity.

  1. Make sure you have a few minutes and that you are in a comfortable position. 
  2. Start at the bottom, and work in order towards the points at the top of the body - that would be
  • Spleen 6
  • Stomach 36
  • Lung 7
  • Large Intestine 11
  • Kidney 27
  1. Since all these points are on both sides of the body, you want to do both sides. You will probably find that one side is more tender than the other. 
  2. Apply pressure with your finger or thumb to each point for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do both sides, then move on to the next point.
  3. To use this set for maximum immune boosting effectiveness, do it twice a day, once when you get up and once before you go to bed. If you feel that you are still tired and feeling susceptible to catching cold, then increase it to three times a day. 

During the rest of the year, you may use this set as often as you wish to keep your body strong and able to fight off disease - remember, prevention is the best medicine! 

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*Image credits - A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman


The Common Cold - Causes and Food Therapy in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

How many of us, with the coming of winter and colder weather, succumb to the common cold? Sore throat, stuffy nose, fever and chills are all symptoms that accompany a cold, and ones most of us have come to know so well.

In Chinese medicine, the common cold is seen to be caused by external pathogens invading the body. There are several kinds of external pathogenic factors leading to the common cold. The first is wind-cold, the second is wind-heat and the third is summer-heat and dampness. Remember, if your immune system is depressed or under stress then your defences are less able to fight off a cold or any pathogenic factors.

The common cold occurs at any time of year, but is most common in winter and spring. The incubation period for a cold is about one day. Symptoms usually begin around the nose and throat, with a stuffy nose, sore throat or sneezing, and sometimes there may be a slight fever. Here is how, in Chinese medicine, you can tell what kind of cold you have and below are some simple Chinese herbal recipes to help relieve symptoms and help you get over your cold more quickly.

 

Wind-Cold Common Cold

The symptoms of a wind-cold invasion are:

~ strong aversion to cold

~ slight fever without sweating

~ headache

~ stuffy nose

~ watery nasal discharge

~ cough

~ expectoration of thin, white sputum

~ thirst with a desire for hot drinks

~ pain in the limbs

 

Wind-Heat Common Cold

The symptoms of an invasion of wind-heat are:

~ high fever

~ slight aversion to wind

~ distending pain in the head

~ a little sweating

~ sore throat

~ stuffy nose

~ thick yellow nasal discharge

~ cough with sticky yellow phlegm

~ thirst with a strong desire to drink

 

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold

The symptoms of a summer-heat with dampness type cold are:

~ fever

~slight aversion to wind

~ heavy and distending pain in the head

~ aching pain in the limbs

~ thirst but little or no desire to drink

~ chest oppression

~ loss of appetite

~ nausea

~ yellow or cloudy urine

Food Therapy Recipes for the Common Cold

Wind-Heat Common Cold Recipe

Peppermint Porridge (Congee)

Step 1

1. Take 30g (1 oz) of fresh peppermint, or 15g (1/2 oz) of dried peppermint.

2. Add 2 cups of boiling water to fresh or dried peppermint

3. Cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes

4. Strain and save the liquid to add to step 2

Step 2

5. Take 90g (3oz) round grain rice, 3 cups of water and 1 tsp of honey

6. Bring rice and water to a boil, then allow to simmer for 30 minutes

7. When the rice is cooked, add the peppermint tea and teaspoon of honey

8. Stir and allow to boil for 5 minutes

9. Divide porridge into 2 servings and take on in the morning and the other in the evening.

 

Wind-Cold Common Cold Recipe

Ginger Rice Soup

1. Take 10g (5 slices) of fresh ginger, 100g (3 1/2 oz) polished round grain rice or glutinous rice and 30g (2 pieces) green onion

2. Cook the fresh ginger and rice in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes

3. Then add the green onion and simmer for 30 minutes

4. Eat the entire amount while it is still hot

5. After eating, lie in bed under a thick blanket to sweat out the cold that has entered the body. (This soup enduces sweating!)

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold Recipe

Porridge of Job's Tears Seed & Hyacinth Bean

1. Take 30g (1oz) Job's-tears seed, 30g (1oz) white hyacinth bean, 100g (3 1/2oz) round grain rice

2. Bring all ingredients to a boil in 4 cups of water

3. After bringing to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes

4. Separate porridge into 2 servings, and take one in the morning and the other in the evening.

There are several things we can do to prevent catching a cold. Things like dressing warmly (so wind doesn't get in), getting enough sleep to keep your immune system strong, staying hydrated, eating well and exercising are all important to staying healthy in the winter months and all year round. But, with our busy lifestyles, if you do happen to come down with a cold, resting, and using Chinese food therapy is a good way to get over your cold as quickly as possible.


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... ;)


Foods for Beautiful Skin

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

The skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects us from harsh weather, keeps bacteria and infections out, and all the vital bits in. Having healthy skin is a barometer for the health of the entire body, so it is important that we keep it healthy and looking beautiful.

There are many foods that benefit the skin. Foods that build and maintain the immune system are good for the whole body and reflect in healthy, radiant skin. Eating seasonally and locally has a multidimensional effect on the body, and the earth. They have the added benefit of not having to travel very far, thus being fresh and by eating locally, we are supporting local farmers and businesses, and using less fossil fuels which helps us and the planet. Win/win!

skin

Our bodies require a change in diet when the season changes. Eating fresh, local foods gets a little harder as the cold weather approaches, but thankfully, we still have a lot of choice, and thanks to the infinite wisdom of mother nature, the foods that grow in the present season are exactly the ones our bodies need.

Staying on top of your skin, digestive health and cancer prevention can be done by adding these colourful foods to your diet.

Asparagus

is loaded with vitamins B, C, Potassium and K, making it a great vegetable for balancing blood pressure, cholesterol and reducing the water retention that occurs premenstrually. Chinese herbalists have used asparagus to treat cancer and infertility.

Avocados

are high in monounsaturated fat, potassium, and vitamin C, B and E. This fruit is very high in fiber making it a great food to help lower cholesterol.

Bananas

are low in calories and a medium banana has only 105 calories. They have lots of potassium and magnesium, which can lower blood pressure. They can be used to stop diarrhea by adding fiber to your body. The can also stop constipation.

Blueberries

have a high percentage of antioxidants, making them the best anti-cancer fruit around. Loaded with phytonutrients, blueberries have shown positive results in studies conducted on colon cancer and ovarian cancer. So eat them up to reduce your risks!

Broccoli

can also reduce the risk of cancer. More importantly, the fiber content of broccoli along with it’s anti-cancer phytonutrients, makes it a great preventative food for all types of digestive cancers.

Carrots

are rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which happens to be an amazing vitamin for skin protection. Carrots are also sweet, so if you suffer from a sweet tooth, carrots can be the answer.

Watermelon

is not just your typical thirst quencher. Loaded with vitamin A, C, and lycopene, this fruit is a powerful antioxidant addition to your summer menu.

Tomatoes

pack a punch when it comes to their content of vitamin C and lycopene, and what is more interesting about these nutrients is that it appears that organic does matter. A USDA study shows that organic ketchup far surpasses the conventional varieties when it comes to the level of lycopene. Go organic!

Cucumbers

are primarily composed of water and contain high amounts of vitamin C and Caffeic acid, which are important for soothing skin irritations and preventing water retention, which may explain why cucumbers applied topically are often helpful for swollen eyes, burns and dermatitis.

The skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium. Want a radiant complexion? The silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone. Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus its high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin. Cucumbers are also used topically for various types of skin problems, including swelling under the eyes and sunburn. So, without question, cucumber gets the vote for one of the best beauty foods you can eat!

Eat a mix of colours and keep your diet local to get the most out of your food and to protect your local environment.


Healing the Gallbladder with Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, the Gallbladder has many important functions. Firstly, it has a very close relationship to the Liver. The Gallbladder is a Yang organ and the Liver is its Yin organ partner. The Gallbladder stores and excretes bile governs decision making and planning, controls the sinews and effects dreams. On a deeper emotional level, the Gallbladder is responsible for our passion for life, inspiration, action, and assertiveness. When we are having problems being assertive, making decisions or following through, are lacking passion, feeling timid or uninspired, we are experiencing an imbalance of the Gallbladder. When the Gallbladder is balanced and its energy is flowing freely, we are happy, healthy, assertive and passionate.

In TCM, organs are categorized as either Yin or Yang. Yin organs are defined as organs that produce, transform, regulate and store fundamental substances, such as Qi, Blood and body fluids, and in general, the Yin organs are not empty cavities. They are function versus form. The Yin organs in TCM are the Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys. The Yang organs are organs that are mainly responsible for digestion and for transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Usually, they are organs with empty cavities and have a connection to the outside of the body. The Yang organs in TCM are the Gallbladder, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Bladder and San Jiao (Triple Burner).

The Gallbladder is unusual in the sense that it is the only Yang organ that does not have direct contact with food and drink or a direct connection to the outside of the body. Because of this, it is also considered an extraordinary organ.

Just as in Western medicine, the Gallbladder receives bile from the Liver which it stores until it is needed in the digestive process. When the Gallbladder releases bile, it is considered to be regulated by the energy of the Liver, or Liver Qi. When digestion is smooth, so is the Liver Qi. The Gallbladder also needs the Liver Qi to be able to release its bile smoothly. If this relationship is impaired, it can adversely affect digestion and cause problems like vomiting, regurgitation, belching and hiccups, which are all symptoms of rebellious Stomach Qi.

It is common in the modern age to see many patients who have had their Gallbladders removed because of gallstones and other problems. In ancient China, the organs were never removed. That has remained the thinking in Traditional Chinese Medicine today, and if a patient is having problems with their Gallbladder, the practitioner of TCM would always explore dietary options, herbs and acupuncture, and possibly cleanses before considering surgery as a last resort.

Why Do So Many People Have Problems With Their Gallbladders?

So, why do so many people have problems with their Gallbladders? It is a good question. I believe that one reason is diet, and the other is stress. These are 2 of the things that affect the gallbladder the most. Another, in Chinese medicine, is the emotions. Each organ in TCM is associated with an emotion. And the Liver/Gallbladder’s emotion is anger. Now, experiencing emotions is a healthy part of life and one of the things that make us human. But in TCM, the philosophy is that having a healthy emotional life is just as important to our health as eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping your Qi strong (your immune system) so that you can fight off pathogens. The effect of anger on the Liver/Gallbladder works 2 ways.

1. If you repress anger, hold it in and never express it, it will eventually hurt the Liver/Gallbladder and cause imbalance, which will lead to disease.

2. If you are experiencing unusual levels of stress because of things going on in your life (a traumatic event, death, an illness, breakup of a relationship), or stress at work, and/or are eating badly (lots of greasy, fatty, rich or spicy foods), then eventually, the Liver/Gallbladder will become impaired and can cause an excess of anger which can manifest in symptoms like red face & eyes, irritability, angry outbursts, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and migraines. These are symptoms of Liver Fire (excess heat in the Liver).

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

So, How Can You Take Care of Your Gallbladder?

Here are some things that you can do to keep your Gallbladder healthy and happy.

1. Avoid Greasy, Fatty, Rich or Spicy Foods

Sharp abdominal pains after eating these types of foods point to Gallbladder stones and other problems. Because the Gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile which helps break down fats, you want to keep intake of these foods to a minimum and not overload your Gallbladder.


Photo by Robin Stickel on Unsplash

2. Express Emotions Freely

This may be easier said than done, but any stagnation or blockage in TCM is what causes disease and pain. This includes emotions, so it is important to have a healthy emotional life, and always try to express what you are feeling instead of allowing it to build up. Emotions specific to Gallbladder are anger (frustration, resentment, etc..) associated with its partner, the Liver. Emotional changes such as depression (which is considered anger turned inward) can also point to a Gallbladder imbalance.

3. Eat Foods Grown Locally and in Season

This is a big one in Chinese Medicine, and, if you look at history, it is the way we are designed to eat. Our digestive systems have evolved to digest the foods that people were able to grow once we were able to leave our nomadic roots and start farming. People only ate foods that were available to them and grew in the present season. With the recent proliferation of air travel, we have been spoiled by being able to have whatever foods we want, any time of the year (strawberries in winter, blueberries in the tropics, mangoes in the far North...). And although this is wonderful, it is not the way our digestive systems were designed, so we are overloading them with too many kinds of foods at all times of the year. To be kind to your gallbladder, try to eat foods that grow locally and are available in the season you are presently in.

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

In Chinese Medicine, nutritional therapy is a huge aspect of the medicine. What better way to heal the body than to use the food that we eat 3 times a day? In TCM, every food has a temperature, that interacts with your body, adding heat, cold, or keeping it neutral. Foods also all have healing properties, so the Chinese felt it very important to eat the proper foods when they became sick to help rebalance them so they could recover. I will include a list of some foods beneficial for the Gallbladder at the end of this article.

4. Exercise. Keep Moving!

The Gallbladder meridian runs bilaterally along the body starting at the outside corner of the eye (at the end of the eyebrow) and runs along the side of the body, ending at the corner of the nail bed of the 4th toe. Therefore, any exercise that stimulates the sides of the body are beneficial for the flow of Qi and to help remove any blockages in the Gallbladder organ and meridian. Side stretches are ideal. There are many Chinese internal as well as external martial arts that are excellent for mind, body, and spirit. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are 2 examples of internal martial arts that are beneficial for moving Qi in all of the meridians, as well as strengthening the body and the mind. Kung Fu is a bit more rigorous, but has an emphasis is circulating Qi throughout the body to maintain physical and mental health. Movement is the most important aspect for keeping your Qi from stagnating, so if Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Kung Fu are a bit more physical activity than you are used to, just simple things like walking are a wonderful way to keep Qi moving.

 

Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

5. Be Kind to Your Gallbladder in Spring

Spring is the season related to the Gallbladder, and its partner the Liver.
The Spring element is wood, the taste, sour and the colour is green. So you can imagine after a lengthy winter, the new bright green shoots of plants breaking through the ground representing new life after a long, cold slumber. This is the reason that it is especially important to give the Gallbladder and the Liver a rest from things like caffeine, alcohol and other intoxicants during this time. It is also beneficial to cleanse these organs by drinking lots of water and eating things like fresh greens to nourish the Gallbladder and Liver, especially in the spring.

6. Know What Time It Is

In Chinese medicine, every organ is seen to have 2 hours out of every 12 where its Qi is at its peak. The time when the Gallbladder’s energy is it's most abundant is between 11pm-1am. During these 2 hours, it is helpful if you can refrain from drinking alcohol or other intoxicants, as they place unnecessary stress on the Gallbladder. It also helps the Gallbladder if you can rest the body as much as possible in these 2 hours.

Foods that are beneficial to the Gallbladder

  • Broccoli
  • Rocket
  • Beetroot
  • Oranges
  • Jasmine tea
  • Green tea
  • Radishes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne (this may seem contradictory, but Cayenne is very moving for qi. Just remember moderation!)
  • Dill
  • Chive
  • Cardamom
  • Lemon
  • Dandelion root
  • Licorice root
  • Cumquat
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Peppermint tea
  • Chrysanthemum tea
  • Tea with orange peel

 

Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash

Foods that hurt the Gallbladder

  • Deep fried food - (Greasy)
  • Alcohol - (Damp)
  • Spicy foods - (remember moderation is important!)
  • Hot foods - Foods that are considered “Hot” in TCM are:
    • Lamb
    • Beef
    • Curry

If you are experiencing any Gallbladder symptoms, or have been told by your doctor that you should consider surgery, I encourage you to seek out a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and explore the non-surgical options to rebalance your body and heal your Gallbladder.

The wonderful thing about Chinese medicine is that it was developed to be a system that focuses on prevention. That is why, it is not only the oldest medical system on earth, but it teaches an entire way of life, teaching how to live in harmony with nature, eating with the seasons, moderation in work and play, exercise and emotional wellness. By practicing these basic principles, Chinese medicine teaches that you can maintain optimum health so that illness never has a chance to develop.

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If you suspect you are having problems with your gallbladder and would like an expert opinion, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers skype consultations. For more information and pricing, see our Skype Consult Page.