Prep Your Natural Medicine Chest for Cold and Flu Season

I have the type of job where I can’t be out sick. I don’t have paid sick days and, more importantly, my patients expect me to be there and healthy. In four years of treating everyone else’s coughs and sniffles I have only been sick once (knock on wood). This is what I keep on hand to stay healthy and, if something does get past my defenses, to get rid of it quickly. Bonus points: these are all items that are readily available to most anyone.

These remedies do require that you tune into your body so you catch those early signs of cold or flu. Don’t just push through it and hope it goes away…unless you want to be sick. Sometimes people, consciously or unconsciously, let themselves get sick because it is the only way they give themselves permission to slow down and take a rest. If that’s you, well then, slow down and take a rest.

PREVENTION IS KEY. There is a lot you can do to boost your immunity so you don’t get sick in the first place. I have written several blog posts about this. Follow these and you may not need the remedies below!

http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/boost-your-natural-immunity

http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/boostyourimmunesystem

http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/fallhealthtips

TAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP. This can be used as a preventative or taken at the first signs of a cold or flu. Elderberries have immune stimulating properties and are anti-viral so you can take elderberry syrup daily throughout the winter. If you are traveling I would starting taking this a week before and continue for a week after travel to prevent illness. Studies have found that taking elderberries significantly shortens and lessens the severity of cold or flu symptoms so start taking this at the first sign of cold or flu. You can get elderberry syrup at most natural foods markets (Sprouts, Whole Foods, independent stores) and from me!

MAKE SCALLION TEA. Scallion bulb (called Cong bai in Chinese Medicine) induces sweating to move out a virus. It is most effective when taken as a tea at the FIRST sign of chills and fever to induce sweating. Steep 1 or 2 ounces of the lower white portion of the scallions in 1 cup of boiling water for 20-30 minutes.  You can also add a few slices of ginger. Add honey if desired. Drink one or two cups and go get cozy under a bunch of blankets to induce sweating.

 MAKE GINGER ROOT TEA. Fresh ginger root (called Sheng jiang in Chinese Medicine) is naturally antibiotic and anti-viral. At the FIRST sign of cold, mucous accumulation or cough, slice up a handful of ginger root, fill a two quart pot with water, bring it to a boil, then shut off the heat, add the ginger root, cover and steep for 30-45 minutes.  Add honey or apple juice to sweeten. Sip all day long.  You’ll need to reheat unless you transfer it to a thermos. NOTE: if you have a sore throat or are pregnant this is not the remedy for you. 

OTC TEAS. Traditional Medicinals has a nice line of teas you can purchase at the same places you can get elderberry syrup. Try Throat Coat for a sore throat. If you have a cough Gypsy Cold Care has includes hyssop, an anti-viral herb that is good for coughs. Do not use either tea if you are pregnant.

While not a home remedy ACUPUNCTURE can improve your immune system. And, if you are starting to come down with something, we can likely shorten the severity and duration with acupuncture. I will also usually prescribe an herbal formula that is specific for what you are experiencing. in Chinese Medicine we distinguish between cold and heat illnesses and prescribe appropriately for best results.

Seasonal changes are the best time to come in for a tune-up! Book on-line at www.dogwoodhealingarts.com

Love and the Heart in Chinese Medicine

In this, the month of love, I want to take time to explore the meaning of the Heart in Chinese Medicine and how I treat the Heart in my Decatur acupuncture practice. According to Chinese Medicine all organs have a function or responsibility. These functions may be physical, emotional or spiritual. The Heart has a special place in Chinese Medicine as it is considered the Emperor (or Empress as the case may be) and rules all the other organs.

The Heart is also houses the Shen. The Shen is a complex concept in Chinese Medicine but generally encompasses the Spirit/Mind and covers all mental and spiritual functions. When the Shen is strong you have strong mental functions like the ability to think sharply, strong intellect, good long-term memory and quality sleep. Shen is also our vital life force and zest for life, the sparkle and shine in our eyes. When you look into the eyes of someone suffering from depression or great sadness their eyes often have a dullness or lack of focus. Shen is our ability to love ourselves and others, to trust, to have self-confidence and to have direction and purpose in life. Lastly Shen is our connection with Source/the Divine/God

There is a powerful connection between the Shen and Blood. According to Chinese Medicine, Blood grounds the Shen so that when Blood is sufficient mental faculties are strong and a person is happy and peaceful. When Blood is deficient we may see a mental restlessness, excessive dreaming, dream-disturbed sleep or insomnia, anxiety and depression.

According to Chinese Medicine each organ has an associated emotion and joy is the emotion of the Heart. Both lack of joy and excessive joy (i.e. over excitement) can injure the Heart and, in the other direction, a Heart disharmony can produce a lack of joy or elation. I see this strong mind-body connection daily in my practice.

Broken heart syndrome has been well documented by Western medicine. Broken heart syndrome symptoms mimic those of a heart attack however there is typically nothing structurally wrong with the heart; the apex of the heart balloons outward. Broken heart syndrome is called this because the incident often happens after a shock, a sudden death of a loved one or after ongoing intense emotional stress.

Clearly our Shen has a tremendous impact on our health and is one of the first things I take into account in my treatment approach.  Harmonizing the spirit is a goal in just about all treatments as stress impacts our Shen and most of us experience stress. This is why, at least in part, most people leave their acupuncture appointment with me blissed out and relaxed. Does your Heart need some love? Does your Spirit need lifting? Do you just need all those frayed edges smoothed out? Time to schedule an acupuncture treatment for your Heart!

 

4 Tips to Boost Your Natural Immunity for the Winter

Winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s not my favorite season for sure. We spend more time in doors and, if you are like me, in close contact with sick people. To stay healthy I use herbs, acupuncture and the following practices…all year long! What can you better incorporate into your life to improve your natural immunity?

1. Get enough sleep. As they days become shorter and colder our natural inclination is to go to bed earlier or sleep later. Go with that inclination! Our body goes into repair and replenish mode while we are sleeping. During sleep you make more white blood cells – those are the ones that attack viruses and bacteria. In one study, people who slept at least 8 hours a night were 3 times less likely to come down with a cold than those who got 7 hours or less.

2. Heal your gut. Your gut wall houses 70% of the cells that make up your immune system. To have a robust immune system you need healthy gut flora (a.k.a. good bugs). Fertilize your own inner garden by eating fresh cooked organic veggies, non-gluten grains and legumes (soaked before cooking!), fermented foods, bone broth and pastured animals. Things that feed the bad bugs, destroy the good bugs and thus much of our immune system: processed food; refined sugar; medications like antibiotics, acid-blocking medication and anti-inflammatories; chronic stress. Struggling with poor digestive health? Acupuncture and herbs can help!

3. Get regular exercise. Take a 30-minute brisk walk, go to a yoga class or dance around the living room with your kids. Moving your body increases circulation of white blood cells increasing the opportunity for them to come into contact with a virus and pick it off. Plus it reduces stress, which is also an immune system downer.

4. Laugh more and practice gratitude. Research has demonstrated that laugher decreases stress hormones and increases certain immune cells. Watch a funny movie or get together with the friends that make you laugh until your face hurts. Similar to laughing, an attitude of gratitude reduces stress hormones and increases immune cells. One study found that people who are optimistic have more disease fighting cells than those who are pessimistic. Try a new gratitude practice: say three things you are grateful for at dinner each night or write down five things you are grateful for each morning and see how great you feel!

 

7 Self-Care Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Regardless of what winter holidays you celebrate and whether you love them or hate them they can be stressful. It’s barely December and patients are already coming in feeling overextended, over sugared, and stressed out. If you want to move through this season with more grace, ease and actual joy you may need to reprioritize self-care toward the top of your holiday to-do list. You will actually get more done if you are not running around like a stressed out manic elf. Enlist a friend or family member as a collaborator in this novel self-care scheme. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable.  And heck, go get massages together while you are at it!

Self-care help for the holidays:

Add 30 minutes of sleep. Most of my patients don’t get enough sleep as it is and I get that big-eyed look of “you have got to be kidding me” when I suggest this. However sleep plays an important role in emotional processing and how we respond to everyday stressors. Simply starting your bedtime routine 30-60 minutes earlier can have a significant effect on your stress resiliency. Humor me and try it for 2 weeks.

Support your nervous system with herbs. There is a whole class of herbs called “nervines” that help smooth out the rough edges.  Consider trying skullcap, lemon balm, chamomile or tulsi. You can find these as teas, tinctures and capsules in many independent health food stores or places like Whole Foods and Sprouts.

Eat mindfully. I’m not saying you can’t eat Aunt Sally’s Christmas cookies but check-in with yourself before reaching for that third delicious cookie. Are you eating because Uncle Joe is talking politics? Are you really hungry? Will this make you feel good or crash out and hour later?  Is the short term pleasure worth it to feel crappy later? Mindfulness allows you to make conscious choices rather than engage in mindless consumption.

Go for a walk. Exercise, especially outdoors, will clear your mind and rev up your energy. From an acupuncture perspective, too much sitting injures the Earth phase, which affects our digestion, energy level, and even makes us more likely to gain weight. So get out and go for a hike!

Focus on gratitude. Researchers have discovered that gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine…the same neurotransmitter that the antidepressant Wellbutrin increases. Prozac works on the neurotransmitter serotonin…so does gratitude! According to neuroscience researcher Alex Korb (author of The Upward Spiral) you don’t even have to find something to be grateful for, the process of searching for it is sufficient! Take in a daily dose of gratitude and watch the inner shift take place.

Breathe. When we feel stressed out our breath automatically becomes more shallow and rapid. Shallow breathing tells the body to remain in a state of fight-or-flight. By breathing slow, deep, easy, and gentle, we rein in the stress response, protect the adrenals from exhaustion, and activate the self-healing (parasympathetic) mode. Try this breathing exercise: close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for a few moments and release your breath slowly through your mouth. Repeat a few times. Open your eyes and check in with how you are feeling. 

Get acupuncture. Of course I am going to include this! Acupuncture is a powerful reset for your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (that whole fight-or-flight response responsible for the release of cortisol and adrenaline).  Most patients leave my clinic feels deeply relaxed.  Over a course of treatments this deep relaxation extends into a shift in how the body actually responds to stress. Now that’s relief! Acupuncture also works to resolve stress related illnesses such as sleep disturbances, digestive upsets, anxiety, depression, weight gain, headaches and more. 

Need some holiday stress relief? Schedule an appointment today!

5 Simple Ways to Stay Healthy this Fall

The weather has been a bit up and down here in Decatur, Georgia but it is definitely trending cooler. Patients are already coming in with stuffy noses and scratchy throats. Here are a few tips for staying healthy as we transition into colder weather and if you need some support transitioning to the new season schedule a Fall tune-up!

1. Take care of your respiratory system.  Fall is the season of metal and the lungs. In Chinese Medicine the lungs are considered a “delicate organ” because they are the organ closest to the outside of the body and are especially vulnerable to wind and cold. Strengthen the lungs by going for a brisk walk in the cool air and doing some deep breathing exercises. When we breathe deeply we are flooding our brain and cells with vital oxygen. Try this breathing exercise: breathe in through your nose taking in as much air as possible, right down to your belly. Hold the air in for a count of five. Then slowly exhale through your mouth until even the very bottom of your lungs are empty. Repeat for a total of 3 times and see how amazing and relaxed you feel!

2. Wear a scarf.  Yup, Mom was right! From an acupuncture perspective it is all about wind.  According to Chinese medicine, wind is the cause of 10,000 diseases.  When our immune system is compromised due to stress, poor diet or lack of sleep we are more vulnerable and wind finds a way in through vulnerable spots like the back of the neck, which is known as the “Wind gate” in Chinese medicine.  While you are at it wear some warm socks too. 

3. Let that sh*t go. Excuse my sailor talk but sometimes we gotta get real. The lungs yang paired organ is the large intestine. While the lungs are responsible for taking in the new the large intestine is responsible for, you got it, letting that sh*t go. Fall is the perfect time for this. Maybe you need to clean out some closets or clear out the clutter in your office or reevaluate some negative relationships.  Maybe it’s time to let go of some negative believes that no longer serve you. Whatever it is, take the Fall challenge and let that sh*t go.

4. Eat with the season. Chinese medicine cautions against eating too much cold and raw food, especially as the weather chills. If you are one of my patients I have probably drummed this into you by now J The lungs love spicy or pungent flavors so try to include foods such as garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish, and mustard in your diet. Minimize dairy, which can cause mucus and congest the lungs. The lungs are easily affected by dryness, so use gentle moistening foods, like pears and black mushrooms.

5. Get more sleep. In the warm, yang, days of summer we can get away with staying up later and getting less sleep. Now that it is getting dark earlier and getting colder use that as an excuse to turn in earlier.  Ideally get 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night. More rest will keep your immunity up so you are less likely to get sick.

A bonus tip: If you spend a lot of time around germ factories, a.k.a children, I recommend you take a high quality Echinacea daily that combines the roots of Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea.  I carry one from Mediherb.  It is a great immune system booster. 

Acupuncture Offers Natural Relief for PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common endocrine disorder affecting as many as ten percent of women of childbearing age. I frequently treat PCOS in my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinic.

With PCOS the ovaries create many follicles each month without producing an egg. This lack of ovulation makes PCOS one of the most common causes of infertility among women. Other common symptoms of PCOS include missed periods (often for months at a time) or very heavy bleeding. PCOS can also lead to acne and high blood pressure. In some women PCOS can produce elevated androgen hormones levels--including testosterone, resulting in abnormal facial and body hair growth. Some women may develop ovarian cysts and may experience excessive weight gain--despite diet measures and exercise.

The severity of the condition can range from slightly irregular periods to having most or all of the symptoms listed above. Many women discover they have PCOS when trying to become pregnant and discovering they are not ovulating. Western treatment for PCOS can include birth control pills to regulate the cycle, Metformin for insulin resistance, statins for cholesterol and blood pressure medication.

The good news is that acupuncture is an effective treatment for PCOS. Recent research has found acupuncture effective for normalizing hormone levels leading to menstrual regularity, ovulation pattern regularity, and improved overall health. With regard to fertility, research as found that acupuncture with patients who have PCOS resulted in increased pregnancy rates, regulated hormonal secretions, normalized basal body temperature patterns, and increased embryo survival rates.

There are many things that you can do to manage symptoms of PCOS naturally:

  • If you are overweight a 5-10% reduction in weight can dramatically help regulate cycles.
  • My patients receive a unique acupuncture protocol designed specifically to address their specific symptoms and health history.
  • Many women with PCOS have some degree of insulin resistance so it is important to adopt a low glycemic index diet that is based on plenty of vegetables, protein and healthy fats. You must reduce, and ideally eliminate, your intake of refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta; juices and soda; and sugar. Yes sugar.

Do you have PCOS? Are you ready to restore your hormonal balance? Are you trying to get pregnant and want to ovulate naturally? Call today to schedule your first appointment!

3 Important Tips to Improve Your Digestion

Ditch the ice water! Ice water constricts the blood vessels in your stomach slowing down the digestive process and impact absorption of nutrients. This is one thing just about every patient hears from me…whether they have digestive issues or not. Your stomach likes to be warm. It’s like a nice little campfire to cook your meal. When you drink ice water you put out your campfire and it takes a lot of energy to get it going again to cook your meal. Solution: drink room temperature water or hot water with lemon and notice how much better your feel during and after your meal.

Sip, don’t chug, water when eating. Here I go with the water again. Americans tend to drink a lot of liquid with our meals but drowning your meal with multiple classes of water (or other liquids) will just lead to bloating or indigestion. When food enters your stomach hydrochloric acid (HCL) is secreted to help begin the process of digestion. HCL is very acidic in order to break big chunks of food into tiny, absorbable nutrients. So if you gulp a lot of water with your meal, you’re going to dilute the hydrochloric acid leaving your food partially digested. Solution: Take small sips of [room temperature] water to help food along the digestive track.

Drink your food and chew your water. What? Along with sipping small amounts of [room temperature] water take time to chew your food thoroughly. I am as guilty of this as anyone. Having a lively conversation at dinner or rushing to eat between patients I chew a few times and swallow…leading to bloating and indigestion. Digestion starts in the mouth and chewing breaks your food down from large particles into smaller particles that are more easily digested. This also makes it easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from the food particles as they pass through. When larger particles of incompletely chewed food enter your stomach it may remain undigested when it enters your intestines. There, bacteria will have to work to break it down potentially leading to gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems. Solution: chew until your mouthful of food is liquefied…hence drinking your food!

Lifestyle changes along with acupuncture and herbs can resolve many different digestive issues. Give us a call at 404-695-0905 to see if acupuncture is right for you!

What does acupuncture treat? Here is a snapshot of last week in my practice!

I frequently have people ask what sort of conditions acupuncture can treat.  I realize that many people may not know how effective acupuncture is for a wide range of conditions so I was inspired to share with you a short list of some of the conditions that I treated last week in my Decatur office. It’s not meant to be comprehensive and many people come in with more than one issue.  These are their chief complaints.  If you’re wondering if acupuncture can help you, give me a call at 404-695-0905 or book an appointment online to find out!

  1. Several IVF support patients
  2. Hip and low back pain
  3. Chronic diarrhea
  4. Several patients with chemotherapy induced neuropathy of the hands and feet
  5. Congestion in the ear
  6. Idiopathic neuropathy of the feet
  7. Several patients experiencing chronic anxiety
  8. Bronchitis
  9. Several patients experiencing depression
  10. Menopause symptoms and bloating
  11. Low back and groin pain
  12. Painful menstrual cycle
  13. Nerve damage sequela
  14. Seasonal allergies
  15. Insomnia
  16. Hand pain
  17. Colitis
  18. Sinus headache
  19. Fatigue and general well-being
  20. Psosas constriction with hip pain
  21. Fatigue and lowered immune system
  22. Fertility support
  23. Cancer treatment support

As you can see, acupuncture effectively treats a wide range of conditions and this was just a snapshot of one week!  I would love to help you bring your health back into balance and feel like your best self yet.

Acupuncture Increases the Success Rate of IVF

For some women and couples in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the answer to their dream of having a child.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that acupuncture improves IVF success rate.  One large study found a 50% increase in success rate when acupuncture is done alongside IVF.  IVF can take a significant emotional and financial toll so why not do everything possible to increase the chances of success? 

Ideally I like to start treating women at least three months prior to starting IVF in order to regulate their hormones and address any underlying issues that are contributing to the infertility.  It is not uncommon for women to become pregnant naturally during this time.  If IVF is being done solely due to male fertility factors then one month of acupuncture prior to IVF would be ideal. 

During the stimulation phase of IVF I like to see women twice a week.  Acupuncture works by increasing the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, reducing stress and anxiety (which can impact fertility) and addressing any side effects of the medications.  Following stimulation, one acupuncture treatment prior to egg retrieval and one between retrieval and transfer is the standard of care.

Acupuncture before and after transfer of the embryo is essential.  Acupuncture can take place 24-48 hours before and after transfer.  Pre and post transfer acupuncture works to relax the uterus and calm any uterine spasms from the transfer process as well as reduce anxiety and calm stress.  An acupuncture treatment one week following transfer supports implantation. In cases of sub-fertility it is ideal to continue with acupuncture once a week for the first trimester to protect the pregnancy.

Many women undergo IUI prior to IVF and acupuncture works in a similar fashion to improve the chances of success.  I generally see women once a week throughout the IUI process.

Planning an IVF cycle?  Give me a call today to get started with acupuncture in Decatur!  Know someone considering IVF?  Please share this information with them! 

Resolve Tendonitis with Acupuncture

Musicians, athletes and computer users often experience a repetitive strain injury known as tendonitis.  Commonly called tennis elbow or golfers elbow (depending on which side of the elbow is experiencing pain), the pain can become debilitating if left untreated.  Often people start to feel like there is no hope of ever being pain free again.  The good news is that acupuncture is extremely effective at resolving tendonitis!

When we repeatedly do the same motion, such as using a computer mouse/touchpad or swinging a golf club, muscles and tendons can fatigue and local inflammation and pain result.  Acupuncture works by reducing inflammation and swelling while calming irritated nerves.  I typically combine acupuncture with gua sha for maximum effectiveness. 

For at-home care I recommend that patients use gentle heat, NOT ICE, for pain relief.  New research has shown that ice slows down healing.  Massaging topical ointments like arnica cream or Tiger Balm (both available on-line or at your local health food store) into the painful area is also helpful.  To promote faster healing internally reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods such as alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.  You can increase tendon nourishing foods such as beef, beef broth, black beans and root vegetables. 

My last bit of advice: don’t wait.  The sooner you come in for treatment the fewer treatments you will need to fully resolve the pain.  If you or someone you know is suffering from tendonitis book your appointment today and be on your way to a pain-free life!

4 Natural Ways to Boost your Immune System This Winter

You hear the ads about the “flu season” and various over the counter remedies for runny noses, coughs and fevers.  But how can you boost your immunity so you don’t get sick in the first place?  I treat sick people all the time but it is very rare for me to come down with something (knock on wood).  These are the things I use to stay healthy in my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinic.  

1. Take Probiotics.  Eighty percent of our immune system is in our gut.  Healthy gut flora contributes to a healthy innate immune system.  This is especially important if you have taken antibiotics – it can take years to restore a high level of gut flora diversity after even one round of antibiotics.  You can take a good quality probiotic or get them from fermented or cultured foods like kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, sour pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt.

2. Wear a scarf.  Yup, Mom was right! From an acupuncture perspective it is all about wind.  In Chinese medicine, wind is the cause of 10,000 diseases.  When our immune system is compromised due to stress, poor diet or lack of sleep we are more vulnerable and wind finds a way in through vulnerable spots like the back of the neck, which is known as the “Wind gate” in Chinese medicine.  Think about how you feel when you first start to come down with a cold…stiff neck, watery eyes, headache…all symptoms treated by the Wind gate points.  While you are at it wear some warm socks too. 

3.  Eat seasonal whole food nutrition.  We live in a time and place where we can eat out of season produce all year long.  But nature is smart.  Foods that grow in the warm months, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are cooling to the body.  Foods that grow in the winter are warming and build our immune system.  So skip those anemic tomatoes and focus on eating root vegetables.  While you are at it include some bone broth.  Bone broth has major immune building properties and has been used for centuries to stay healthy and recover quickly.  I drink a cup a day and use it in soups and stews as well. Read more about the benefits of bone broth here.

4. Get regular acupuncture.  Acupuncture is best used preventatively. Research shows that acupuncture assists the body by stimulating the immune system. It increases white blood cells, which help fight bacteria, infections and viruses. If you are starting to feel a little “off” like you are coming down with something try to get in ASAP for a treatment.  It will likely knock it right out saving you from days curled up on the couch with a tissue box. 

A bonus tip: for my patients at Dogwood Healing Arts that spend a lot of time around germ factories, a.k.a children, I recommend they take a high quality Echinacea combines the roots of Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea.  I carry one from Mediherb.  It is a great immune system booster. 

Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture for Radiant, Youthful Skin

Has your skin lost its vitality and elasticity?  Do you want to reduce lines and wrinkles without the worry of dangerous side effects?  The Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture System is a safe, natural, anti-aging medicine based on Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Mei Zen addresses both the internal causes of aging and strengthens the collagen-elastin matrix resulting in firmer, more radiant and youthful skin.  I am thrilled to start offering Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture at my Decatur, GA clinic!

A basic tenet of Chinese Medicine is that your external appearance is a reflection of your internal state of health.  One aspect of internal health is your digestion.  Healthy digestion results in healthy skin.  People with constipation often have dull skin and people with acid reflux often have red skin. Mei Zen works by correcting these imbalances AND directly affecting the dermis of the face.   

How does Mei Zen work? 

Tiny needles created specifically for sensitive areas like the hands and face are placed in acupuncture points on the face.  These needles stimulate specific acupuncture points as well as create micro-traumas in the dermis.  The micro-traumas stimulates the body to strengthen the collagen-elastin matrix resulting in firmer, less saggy skin, filling in small lines and softening deeper wrinkles. 

Other needles are placed on the head and body to address imbalances in your energy systems.  For example, if you are experiencing perimenopause or menopause symptoms I would be addressing that imbalance so along with the cosmetic effect you would experience a reduction in things like hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping and mood swings.  What a fantastic two for one!

What cosmetic results are commonly seen with Mei Zen?

Along with improved overall health, I typically these types of cosmetic changes:

·      More radiant and youthful-looking skin

·      Reduction and/or elimination of fine lines

·      Softening of deeper lines

·      Firming of the jaw line

·      Lifting of droopy eyelids

·      Overall skin tone becomes more consistent

·      Improvement of acne and rosacea conditions

·      Faded age spots.

Not everyone is a good candidate for Mei Zen.  Schedule your FREE 30 minute Mei Zen consultation today to find out if Mei Zen is right for you!

Find out more about the treatment proceedure here

Acupuncture Brings Hope for Healing Depression

Depression is the thief of joy.  It can make formerly happy people feel like nothing is good in their world and they have no energy to do anything about that.  I have had patients tell me they are too depressed to cry, that they just feel empty.  If you feel this way you are far from alone. 

In 2014 15.7 million adults in the US had at least one major depressive episode (1). The good news is that acupuncture can relieve depression.  In fact several studies have showed that acupuncture was as effective as anti-depressant medication (2). 

Depression is something I commonly treat in my clinic.  With a background in clinical social work it is a ‘language’ that I speak and understand.  Some people want to get off of anti-depressants because of the side-effects, some don’t want to go on medication, and some just want to feel better while taking the medication.  The bottom line is they all want to feel better: more joyful, lighter and happier. 

Sometimes depression is not even the reason why people come in for acupuncture.  They may come in for physical pain not knowing that acupuncture can relieve their feelings of hopelessness and grief stemming from the chronic pain. 

In Chinese Medicine there is not one “kind” of depression.  One person may be experiencing a lack of drive and enthusiasm in life.  In essence they have lost their joie de vivre, or joy of life, and they just don’t have the momentum to make lasting changes.  Another person may present with a lack of ideas, life dreams, hopes, inspiration or direction.  And another person is filled with angst, despair and an overwhelming sadness.  And still another broods and get stuck in their thinking…of the same thing over and over.  Lastly, some people who have a lot of anger or frustration have an underlying depression.  In psychiatry these would all be treated as depression with one anti-depressant drug or another.  While there can certainly be overlap I find that many people fall into one pattern or another.  Chinese Medicine treats each person’s unique presentation to resolve the root cause of depression, not just put a band-aid on the symptoms.  

If someone you know is experiencing depression and longing to return to joy please share this post with them.  If YOU are experiencing depression book an appointment today and rediscover your lightness of being. 

 

 

1.     Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/

2.     Wei Bo, Xu Yi, Clinical observations on acupuncture treatment for depression, Journal of Jinan University (Natural Science & Medicine Edition), 2013, 34(6).

Pain Relief Without Pills

A new review of evidence from clinical trials published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, found acupuncture was helpful in managing chronic back and knee pain (1).  This is a very important finding in the midst of the current epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 40 Americans die each day of prescription opioid overdoses (2).  Many doctors are at a loss for how to help their patients experiencing chronic pain now that the full extent of the problem with opioids is known.  

Fortunately, acupuncture can reduce and in some cases even eliminate the need for opioid and non-opioid drugs in cases of acute and chronic pain.  Pain is the most common ailment I treatment in my Dunwoody, Georgia acupuncture clinic.  Each day I treat people with low back pain, neck pain, knee pain, hip pain and headaches.  Most patients leave in less pain then when they arrived and most complete their course of care and get back to living the life they love. 

You can read my blog post about back pain here.

This ancient medicine brings profound healing for the body and addresses the emotional weariness that comes with chronic pain.  So many of my patients arrived depressed and exhausted…emotionally worn out from months or years of pain.  Acupuncture lightens their mood, gives them hope and brings them relief from pain.  

If you or someone you know is dealing with chronic pain call 404-695-0905 today to schedule and appointment and get your life back. 

 

1.     Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. September 2016;91(9):1292-1306.

2.     The Daily Press, March 15, 2016.http://www.dailypress.com/news/hc-cdc-opiate-guidelines-0315-20160315-story.html

Cupping is Not Only for Olympians

While cupping has been practiced for centuries it certainly is getting a lot of play at the 2016 Olympics!  The first documented use of cupping dates back to 1550 BC but most Americans have learned about cupping after seeing the signature round cupping marks on athletes and celebrities in the last few years.  As cupping has increased in popularity I get more requests for it at my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinc. 

Cupping is one tool in my Chinese Medicine toolbox.  The idea behind cupping is quite simple: a specially made glass, bamboo or plastic cup is suctioned onto the skin.  The vacuum pulls the tissue up into the cup that increases the circulation of blood and lymph thus relieving muscle tension and soreness.  In traditional fire cupping, the kind I generally practice, a flame creates the vacuum in the cup before it is placed on the body.   Once the cups are applied they can be gently moved over the body or sit stationary depending on the goal of the treatment. 

I like to use cupping for back and shoulder pain and find that it works best in conjunction with acupuncture.  For example, I have a lot of people come in with tight upper back, shoulders and neck due to stress and too much time sitting at a computer.  Cupping works to relieve the muscle tension but acupuncture works on the nervous system to induce a state of deep relaxation.  Over time this relaxation extends into a shift in how your body actually responds to stress. 

Cupping is not only used for muscle tension.  I frequently use cupping for respiratory conditions as it works to clear congestion from the lungs.  And, because cupping works to increase circulation, it can also provide relief for people who suffer from chronic fatigue. 

So, what are those marks that cupping leaves?  First off, they are not bruises.   The marks are not tender and there is no trauma to the skin, which is the hallmark of a bruise.  The discoloration is simply old, deoxygenated blood that has been pulled out of the muscle to help the body recover faster.   The color of the marks and how long they last is actually diagnostic.  If practiced by a skilled acupuncturist cupping should not hurt and should not create any blisters.  You may feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup but that often feels good and relaxes sore muscles.  Most people say how relaxed and loose they feel after receiving cupping. 

Ready to try cupping?  Schedule your appointment today!

Are you addicted to stress?

In my acupuncture practice I treat a lot of people who are busy.  Acupuncture makes them feel better so they make time for treatments but they are busy busy busy.  Their jobs keep them very busy.  9 to 5?  Try 9 to midnight.  They are answering emails, texts and calls at all hours.  “Off work” never happens.  They are passionate about what they do, very driven and very accomplished.  I love working with these smart, purpose-driven folks. 

Work is just one component of their busy lives.  They may be raising kids, taking care of grandkids, taking care of aging parents…or all three!  They may work until 5, have family time until 10 and then work another few hours.  Weekends are a juggling act trying to meet multiple needs and commitments. 

Sound familiar?  It is normative in our society and I often hear people voice guilt if they don’t maintain this level of busyness.  It’s not ‘wrong’ to be fully committed to your career and to your family.  However I do think they we can become addicted to stress. 

I used to do this.  I thought that I could only be creative or productive under deadline so I would wait until the last minute to write a paper or report, review a proposal, etc.  Under the threat of deadline the stress kicked in and I got it done…along with missed sleep, irritability and digestive issues. 

When we are stressed cortisol and adrenaline flood our body giving our brains and muscles and added boost.  We feel focused and purposeful.  This is great when we are getting up to give a speech or are racing to catch a train to the airport.  Things to awry when this never gets turned off and chronic stress has cortisol and adrenaline dripping into our systems constantly.  Chronic stress causes an array of physical and emotional problems such as depression, weight gain, heart disease, muscle aches and insomnia.  We are exhausted and can become addicted to the rush of stress induced cortisol and adrenaline. 

You can ditch the cycle of stress response and you’ll be more productive, healthy and balanced.  Acupuncture can reset your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (e.g. the flight or fight response) giving you space to cultivate new, healthier, habits.  You’ll feel better, look better and perform better.  Ready for a new stress-free you? 

Amp Up Your Well-Being With Gratitude

This blog post has nothing to do with acupuncture...but it does cover something that I talk with my patients about and that I practice daily.  Gratitude.  It is part of a holistic approach to great well-being.  Many of my patients come in because they are stressed out, anxious, depressed, irritable or have just lost their zest for life.  Acupuncture gets them back on the road to more peace and joy.  Practicing gratitude amplifies and sustains the effects of the acupuncture treatments. 

Did you know there is a science behind gratitude as an essential part of happiness?  Researchers have discovered that gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine…the same neurotransmitter that the antidepressant Wellbutrin increases.  Prozac works on the neurotransmitter serotonin…so does gratitude!  According to neuroscience researcher Alex Korb (author of The Upward Spiral) you don’t even have to find something to be grateful for, the process of searching for it is sufficient!  Take in a daily dose of gratitude and watch the inner shift take place.    

So, how can you cultivate gratitude on a daily basis?  Here are a few ideas to try out.  Add your own ideas in the comment section!

Some ways to practice gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily or weekly lists.  Daily is better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

So don’t wait for Thanksgiving, start giving thanks today.  For gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time. That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a gift. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture...Part 1

In my Decatur acupuncture clinic I get asked these questions all of the time.  Since they crop up frequently I think it means that they are great questions!  So, if you are new to acupuncture and have wondered about these things then this post is for you!  Or perhaps you have been seeing me and just have not asked your burning question…then this post is for you too! 

1. Does it hurt?  This has to be the top question and for good reason!  Who wants to do something that hurts?   Acupuncture should not be painful (and this goes for cupping and gua sha as well).  You may feel a momentary sharpness, a zing or some achiness with some points but that should be gone before you can even tell me about it.  I have many patients that don’t feel any of the needles and a few that are more sensitive but still don’t find the process painful.  I have had people come see me after receiving “dry needling” from a physical therapist because it was so painful. I can make their pain go away without actually causing them pain in the process.  A win-win. 

2. Are the needles sterile?  Yes, acupuncture needles are sterile, single-use, medical devices.  After one use they are placed in a sharps container and disposed of as medical waste.  All acupuncturists are required to have certification in clean needle technique.   

3. What should I do or not do after an acupuncture treatment?  In general you want to take it easy for a few hours after a treatment.  You don’t have to go home and curl up on the couch (but by all means do so if you want!) but just go easy for a few hours.  Give your body what it wants.  Drink water, move gently, eat lightly.  Don’t do a big workout or hop in a sauna or hit the bar.  Just let your body integrate the treatment and go for a run or do that ashtanga yoga class tomorrow. 

4.  How many treatments will I need?  The number of acupuncture treatments depends upon you and how long your have been experiencing your problem.  If it is something that has been going on for years it will likely take more treatments than something that happened last weekend.  For example, if you wrenched your back last weekend we can probably get your back to pain-free and fully functioning in a couple of treatments.  If you have been experiencing back pain for the last year that will take more then a couple of treatments to resolve.  You will likely feel relief in the first one to two sessions but to fully resolve any long standing issue you will need to correct the underlying problem.  Think of it like taking antibiotics.  You start to feel better in the first couple of days but you need to complete the course of medication or your risk a relapse. 

5.  What conditions does acupuncture treat?  Just about anything!  In the era of super specialized medicine this sounds crazy to some people.  Because acupuncture focuses on re-establishing health rather than chasing symptoms it can resolve a wide range of issues.  Check out this page for a list of conditions I commonly treat: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/conditions/

6.  How can acupuncture treat issues like anxiety and depression?  Many people think acupuncture is just for physical pain.  While it is fantastic at resolving physical pain it is equally powerful for resolving emotional pain.  Chinese Medicine is holistic, meaning it treats the mind, body and spirit.  The mind, body and spirit are inseparable and emotions can impact the health of the physical body and visa versa.  Think about the last time you experienced a loss or heartbreak, it probably took a physical toll as well as an emotional toll.  With the heaviness in your chest you may have felt like your heart was physically breaking.  The emotions are just a more ethereal aspect of our body.  My background is in social work and I bring a particular expertise in treating psychological issues.  Here are some related blog posts you might enjoy: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/brokenopen and http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/relieveanxietytwithacupuncture .

Have a burning question I missed?  Please write it the comment section and I’ll do a part 2 blog post!

Acupuncture Helps Perimenopausal Hot Flashes and Other Symptoms

Everyone knows what menopause is but did you know that perimenopause can occur in your 40s, 30s or even earlier?  Indications of perimenopause include hot flashes, fatigue, increased premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular menstrual cycles, insomnia, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, mood swings, anxiety, and breast tenderness. Perimenopause typically lasts about four years.  That means that before you officially even enter menopause (as defined by the cessation of your menstrual cycle for one year) you can start having many of the hallmark symptoms of menopause.  Yikes! 

Women experience perimenopause differently.  Some women will have no to mild symptoms and some women will experience symptoms that negatively impact their quality of life.  If you fall into the latter category acupuncture can help!

What I find in my acupuncture clinic is that women experience dramatically fewer and less intense hot flashes, they sleep better, are less fatigued and more emotionally stable.  All with no negative side effects! Why not regulate your hormones now, get relief from any perimenopausal symptoms you are experiencing, and set yourself up for an easier transition into menopause? 

From a western medical perspective perimenopause is marked by changing levels of hormones produced by the ovaries, mainly estrogen but also progesterone.  Western medical treatments consist of hormone therapy, antidepressants and vaginal lubricants.  Long-term use of systemic hormone therapy, including “bioidentical hormones”, has many risks including breast cancer, stroke and blood clots. 

A recent meta-analysis reviewed a large body of research and found that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of perimenopause “by improving clinical symptoms such as menstrual disorders, hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, and mood disorders.” The authors add that acupuncture benefits perimenopausal women by increasing estrogen levels and decreasing levels of FSH and LH along with other hormone regulation.  Additionally, one study included in the meta-analysis compared acupuncture with Premarin oral intake. Premarin is a brand name for conjugated estrogens. The acupuncture group demonstrated superior patient outcomes over the group taking oral conjugated estrogens.

You might be interested in reading my blog post on menopause and embracing your second spring: http://www.dogwoodhealingarts.com/blog/2015/11/2/the-7-dwarfs-of-menopause-and-what-to-do-about-them

 

Acupuncture Helps Allergy Sufferers

Ah, spring has sprung.  It is beautiful here in Decatur!  Our daffodils are blooming and the tulip magnolia is a riot of pink petals.  I am just starting to see the yellow pine pollen dusting my car.  For many of us this is the harbinger of runny noses, scratchy throats, watery eyes and sinus headaches.  Acupuncture can help all of that.

My first experience of acupuncture felt like a miracle.  I had moved to Atlanta from Michigan and my allergies went crazy.  From March to November I had daily horrendous sinus headaches.  I wanted to rip out my teeth from the pressure.  I tried everything: medication, allergy shots, visualization.  I had my sinus cavities scoped.  Nothing helped. The side effects of the allergy medications were almost as bad as the sinus pressure; I walked around like a zombie or felt like a squirrel on speed depending on which one I was taking.  Finally a friend suggested that I try acupuncture.  It sounded weird but I was desperate (sound familiar?).  The relief was not immediate but once it arrived it was lasting and oh so sweet.  These days my symptoms are pretty mild and I manage them with some herbs and occasional treatments. 

If you suffer from spring (or anytime!) allergies acupuncture can make a big difference in your life.  This is my second spring in practice and my regular patients that I treat for other issues have been commenting that their usual spring allergy response is not happening.   In Chinese Medicine we address the root cause of the condition, not just the symptoms.   It is like a tree: the roots are the cause and the symptoms are the branches.  You can have many symptoms that have the same root cause.  By addressing the root cause in these patients I have automatically taken care of their symptoms so the spring allergies are either not cropping up or are very mild.  Score one for acupuncture! 

If you have the scratchy throat-runny nose-watery eyes-sinus congestion blues give yourself the gift of allergy relief and schedule an appointment today!