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

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!

 

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. 

Eat Right for Your Menopause Type

Chinese Medicine categorizes food by their energetics. At its most basic food energies can be divided into heating or cooling, dampening or drying, and building or eliminating. A fairly clear example is dairy; it has damp energetics. That is why people who have a lot of sinus issues or allergies tend to have more mucous when they eat dairy. Every time you eat you take in your food’s energies that then influences these energies in your body. In a previous post on improving digestion I talked about how ice water puts out your digestive fire. This is because of the cold properties of ice water. You can read about that here.

You can apply the information about food energetics to address various conditions. I treat a lot of perimenopause and menopause in my Decatur acupuncture clinic. While Chinese Medicine patterns in menopause are much more nuanced and complex than yin and yang but this is a nice basic place to get started. You may have symptoms of both yin and yang deficiency but focus on what seems more dominate to you.

Foods for Yin Deficiency Follow this if you have symptoms of: dry eyes, mouth, skin, vagina; ringing in the ears; vertigo; night sweating/hot at night

Foods to include

  • Grains: barley, millet
  • Vegetables: alfalfa sprout, artichoke, asparagus, kelp, mung bean sprout, pea, potato, seaweed, string bean, sweet potato, water chestnut, yam, zucchini
  • Fruit: apple, apricot, banana, lemon, lime, mango, mulberry, pear, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon
  • Beans: adzuki, black, kidney, lima
  • Bean products: tofu
  • Nuts & seeds: coconut milk, sesame seek, black sesame seed, walnut
  • Fish: fish in general but especially clam, crab, cuttlefish, oyster, octopus, sardine
  • Meat: beef, suck, goose, park, pork kidney, rabbit
  • Dairy: cheese, chick egg, cow milk, duck egg
  • Herbs & spices: marjoram, nettle

Foods to avoid: Caffeine, alcohol, sugar and strongly heating, pungent spices will all deplete yin

Foods for Yang Deficiency Follow this if you have symptoms of: cold feet, feeling cold in general, decreased libido, fatigue, abundant pale urine, loose stools

Foods to include

  • Grains: quinoa, sweet rice, wheat germ
  • Vegetables: leek, mustard greens, onion, radish, scallion, squash, sweet potato, turnip, watercress
  • Fruit: cherry, peach, raspberry, strawberry
  • Nuts & seeds: chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts
  • Fish: anchovy, lobster, mussel, prawn, shrimp, trout
  • Meat: chicken, lamb, venison, kidneys (beef & lamb)
  • Herbs & spices: basil, black pepper, caper, cayenne, chive seed, cinnamon, clove, dill, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, sage, savory, spearmint, star anise, turmeric, thyme, white pepper

Foods to avoid:Cold food and cold liquids. Cold food refers to food taken directly from the fridge but also raw foods. Using a warming method of cooking such as soups and stews will also enhance the body’s energy. Note: hot seasonings used to excess will induce sweating that ultimately depletes yang.

Want to know more about how you can move through perimenopause and menopause with more grace and ease? Call 404-695-0905 to schedule a free consultation today!

Information sources: Debra Betts (2006). The essential guide to acupuncture in pregnancy and childbirth. Maoshing Ni & Cathy McNease (2012). The Tao of Nutrition.

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!

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. 

Top 5 Reasons to Make Bone Broth!

Bone broth has been a staple in many cultures for eons.  In Chinese Medicine bone broth is used to improve energy, fertility, metabolism, the nervous system and support the adrenals.  Bone marrow specifically is considered a brain tonic, meaning that it improves the functioning of our brains. 

My top 5 reasons for making and drinking bone broth are….drum roll please!

1.  It’s great for your bones.  As the bones are cooked they release calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other trace minerals into the broth.   These minerals are what we need to build new bone cells.  If you have a broken bone or have osteoporosis bone broth should be part of your daily routine.

2.  It repairs joints.  Gelatin and chondroitin sulfate are the building blocks of joints, tendons and ligaments.  These are readily available in bone broth, especially when you use bones that have a good amount of joint tissue on them.  Sure you can buy expensive osteoarthritis supplements but why not save some cash and get the additional benefits from making your own bone broth!

3. It heals the digestive tract.  Bone broth is a great natural source of collagen.  Collagen protects and soothes the lining of the digestive tract making it an important component in healing conditions like leaky gut, IBS, colitis, etc.  Gelatin in bone broth also promotes probiotic growth. 

4. Maintains healthy skin.  Collagen helps to form elastin and other compounds that are essential for the tone and texture of our skin.  As we age our collagen-elastin matrix breaks down resulting in fine lines and wrinkles as well as a loss of tone and firmness.  Bone broth can strengthen are sin, hair and nails!

5.  Builds a stronger immune system.  The bone marrow in bone broth help our bodies build new white cells which are responsible for our immune system and handling infections.  Additionally, since much of our immune system comes from our gut having good gut health leads to a strong immune system. 

Bone broth seems to be having a modern day resurgence.  I hear that folks in New York City stand in line to purchase cups of bone broth just like they do for coffee.  The good news is that if you don’t live in New York City you can make it at home!  Sweet Beet and Green Bean is a blog by an acupuncturist in Los Angeles.  I just love her blog and she has a great write up on how to make your own bone broth.  Why recreate the wheel when she has done it so beautifully?  Check it out here.

One super important note for making your own bone broth: you MUST use bone from animals that had no antibiotics, growth hormones or GMO feed.  Animals should be pasture raised and not be grain fed, especially cows which should graze on grass. You can read more about this at the link above.

Once you get in the routine bone broth is super easy to make.  I freeze the extra in mason jars so I always have some on hand.  Warm up a cup in the morning and start your day off right!