Anxious and stressed-out? Stress Relief Tea is here!

Do you feel stressed-out or anxious?  Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?  Are you depressed or just not feeling quite like your usual self? Do you have PMS, cramping or irregular periods? If you answered “yes” to any of these then Stress Relief Tea would be a great herbal formula for you!

Stress Relief Tea is based on the herbal formula Xiao Yao San. Xiao Yao San has been used for over 900 years in China to address issues such as these. With our modern American lifestyle stress, anxiety, depression and sleep issues are at an all time high making Stress Relief Tea sweet relief indeed!

Stress Relief Tea works by acting on the stress pathways in the body. As Americans, we often sit all day at a desk but our bodies are meant to be active. Physical activity keeps the qi flowing which wicks away stress and dampness. Sitting all day and having generally high stress lifestyles we build up excess stress (i.e. cortisol) and that stress wreaks havoc on our bodies and disrupts normal happy hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin. Stress Relief Tea helps the liver to regulate cortisol levels in the body, which in turn helps to balance the other happy hormones while reducing the negative effects of cortisol on the body. Curious about how excess cortisol impacts the body? Here is a great (and very accessible) overview on how chronic stress affects your brain: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-stress-affects-your-brain-madhumita-murgia

So what else makes Stress Relief Tea so special (besides the fact that it tastes great AND it addresses the most common complaints I see in my Decatur GA acupuncture clinic)? For one the actual herbs used. This isn’t your leafy green tea here - IT’S FULL OF ROOTS. These herbs are so dense with healing plant compounds that you can brew the tea bags up to three times for maximum potency! This stuff is no joke - the earth these herbs grow in makes earthworms that are up to 12 inches long.  It is sulfur & sulfite free, sugar free, gluten free, caffeine free. The herbs are tested to make sure that you are only getting the purist stuff. Stress Relief Tea has no caffeine or added sugars. It's chock full of powerful phyto-compounds that heal from the inside out.

If you are ready for some stress relief give me a call at 404-695-0905 and we’ll get you started!  

Tibetan Medicinal Foot Soaks Relieve Neuropathy and Other Pain!

I am so thrilled to be one of a select group of acupuncture clinics from around the world to offer Tibetan Medicinal Foot Soak Therapy to people in Decatur and surrounding Atlanta communities. This herbal therapy is fantastic for issues like nerve pain, arthritis related pain, pain and inflammation caused by gut dysbiosis, plantar fasciitis, gout, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, some gynecological issues and endocrine disorders. They are also be great for endurance athletes recovering from big races or intense training. The herbs work by increasing microcirculation and reducing inflammation.

My personal experience with these herbs has been life changing. I was a runner. I loved to run in the woods. It was my “me time;” my time to reflect, to relax, to breathe. After an injury I developed this chronic hip pain that no modality, including years of physical therapy and a lot of acupuncture, could fully relieve. I finally gave up running as it was just too painful. Along came the Tibetan Medicinal Foot Soaks. I originally became interested in them because I treat a lot of neuropathy but decided I would do a few soaks myself so I could better guide patients in how to do them at home. A few soaks in I noticed I did not have any hip pain when walking. Interesting and novel. I am now slowly building up my running. No pain. I feel like a giddy kid in a candy store and I want to share that with any of you who have chronic pain.

The herbs are in a little bag that looks like a teabag. You put them in hot water above your ankles and soak for 30-45 minutes, keeping the water nice and hot. Easy peasy. The herbs are absorbed transdermally so they don’t interfere with any Western pharmaceuticals you might be taking. The herbs in this special formula are of the highest quality; they are typically reserved for the elite ruling class in China. You can get more information about the therapeutic properties of the herbs and their sourcing in this short podcast

When are the medicinal foot soaks contraindicated? With anything that is made worse by increasing blood circulation such as metastatic cancer or acute infections.

This therapy is an easy, convenient and cost effective way for patients to take charge of their own health and healing. I know that herbs are powerful but I am really blown away at the effects these have had with my patients who have chronic pain or diabetic and other neuropathies. Interested? Patients must come in for a consult prior to purchasing the foot soaks so I can ensure safety and that the foot soaks would be effective for your condition. Schedule a consult today by calling 404-695-0905.

Know anyone that has neuropathy or other chronic pain? Please share this information with them!

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.

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!

Acupuncture and fertility: When should I start receiving acupuncture?

I get this question a lot at my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinic. The answer depends on several factors. I will break it down for women going through natural cycles, for women going through IVF cycles and for male partners.

For women trying to get pregnant naturally the timeline is influenced by any underlying conditions that may be impacting fertility such as endometriosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, blockage of the fallopian tubes, PCOS and other ovulatory disorders, diminished ovarian reserves, etc. The amount of time it may take to resolve these conditions varies on the nature of the condition. The minimum amount of time will likely be 3 months of regular acupuncture and herbal therapy. For women with no known underlying conditions I still recommend at least 3 months of regular acupuncture to regulate the menstrual cycle (and therefore the hormones).

If you are considering IUI or IVF I recommend women start receiving acupuncture at least 6 weeks prior to starting the IUI/IVF process to regulate hormones and address any underlying issues. Sometimes women become pregnant naturally during this time! There are many research articles showing benefit to acupuncture with IVF. You can read more about acupuncture and IVF here.

Approximately 40% of infertility will have a male factor diagnosis. Low sperm counts can be due to environmental pollutants, certain pharmaceuticals, age, chronic disease, constriction and heat. Unlike women who are born with all of their eggs men are continually creating new sperm. It take about 3 months for sperm to fully mature so having acupuncture during this time can help improve sperm counts.

Wondering what to expect in your case? Call 404-695-0905 to schedule a free phone consultation!

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! 

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

 

Eliminating PMS Naturally With Acupuncture

I think we women have been sold a bill of goods.  We have been taught that PMS is inevitable and unavoidable.  Told that at least some degree of cramping or breast tenderness or mood swings (or all of the above and more!) just comes with the territory of having a menstrual cycle.  Not true. 

In Chinese Medicine PMS is a sign that something is out of balance in our bodies…which means that PMS is not a natural state of being.  It also means that we can find our own natural state of being that is pain-free. 

PMS symptoms range from mild to severe.  Cramping can feel like some downward pulling or pressure all the way to stabbing pain that has you doubled over.  PMS can also include breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, appetite changes, fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, mood swings (from crying to anger and back again), anxiety and depression.  For some women, the few days before, during and/or after their menstrual cycle border on disabling.

The good news is this is not inevitable and you can experience pain free menstrual cycles without resorting to painkillers or birth control pills.  Chinese Medicine views PMS, or dysmenorrhea, through two general lenses: excess or deficiency and I tailor acupuncture treatments and dietary recommendations accordingly.  In general, I find that I can greatly reduce or completely eliminate PMS within a few menstrual cycles with regular acupuncture and dietary changes. 

Some things you can try at home to relieve PMS:

·      Exercise.  Many women who experience PMS have some degree of Liver Qi Stagnation.  Going for a walk, doing yoga, lifting weights or some other exercise that you enjoy gets your Liver Qi moving and reduces PMS. 

·      Eliminate or greatly reduce caffeine, alcohol and sugar.  Sorry.  I know.  But these things exacerbate PMS (among other things).   You’ll feel better all month long by reducing or eliminating your intake of these.  

·      Castor Oil packs.  Castor Oil is a wonderful pain reliever!  It is excellent for many gynecological issues, including fibroids and menstrual cramps.  Take a piece of flannel cloth folded three times, saturate one layer of the flannel with the castor oil and put that layer against your skin on your lower abdomen, cover with plastic wrap, place a heating pad on top and relax for 30-60 minutes.  Just be aware that Castor Oil can be messy and stain.  Use it when you have cramps or try doing this a one or two days before your period begins, it may relieve the intensity or duration at the outset. 

Tired of dreading the “time of the month”?  Give me a call to get started on making your entire month feel great.  

The 7 Dwarfs of Menopause... And What to Do About Them

If you are reading this I am guessing you already know the 7 dwarfs of menopause:

So-Hot-I-Want-To-Rip-My-Cloths-Off Dwarf

Cranky Dwarf

Lethargic Dwarf

Unable-to-Stay-Asleep Dwarf

Forgetfulness Dwarf

Weight Gain Dwarf

Low Libido Dwarf

Sound familiar?  Worried this might be your experience in the future?  You are not alone.  About 75-85% of women experience hot flashes in menopause or even before they are officially in menopause (as defined by the cessation of menstrual cycles for one year).  Other common symptoms of menopause are lethargy, weight gain, poor memory, vaginal dryness and low libido.  Sleep is commonly impacted with difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking early and not being able to go back to sleep.  And mood swings…let’s talk about the mood swings.  Crying one minute, wanting to scream at everyone in your household the next minute and then crying again.  Women in menopause often feel like they no longer have control over their emotional life. 

Despite all these uncomfortable symptoms menopause can also be a time of great change for women.  It is a time in many women’s lives when they move away from a focus on caring for others to caring for themselves.  It can be a time of immense personal power, creativity, and expansiveness.  Many women find a new voice or direction during this time in their life. 

In Chinese Medicine menopause is related to the natural decline of prenatal essence that comes with aging.  When a baby is conceived it receives a certain type of essence from its parents called prenatal essence.  It is our constitutional inheritance and its quantity is finite.  When our supply of prenatal essence is used up in the process of living we transition out of this life.  We can slow down the use of our prenatal essence by supplying our body with good postnatal essence through healthy eating and living (more on that in another blog post).  A woman loses some of this vital essence each month when she menstruates.  Menopause is the body’s wise homeostatic mechanism to slow the loss of essence.  While it may not feel like it, menopause actually slows the aging process.      

Unfortunately many of us enter into menopause with prenatal essence already depleted due to lifestyle and dietary habits.  Anxiety, depression, stress, poor diet, overwork, smoking and alcohol all impact our store of prenatal essence and thus influence the severity of menopause symptoms. 

But all is not doom and gloom.  There are many things women can do to set themselves up for a smooth transition into menopause or bring relief to a menopause experience that is less than smooth.  See below for a few suggestions!

3 Ways to Get the Menopause Dwarfs Under Control:

1.     Dietary changes.  Avoid spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee and alcohol as these can all aggravate menopausal symptoms.  Instead go for dark leafy greens, seaweed, whole grains (such as rice, spelt, oats) and deep colored fruit.  It is best to eat cooked rather than raw foods (more on the why behind this in another blog post!).   

2.     Reduce emotional stress.  Easier said than done, I know!  We live in a hectic society where we eat irregularly, work long hours and take care of everyone and everything but ourselves.  Commit to a daily or weekly practice of yoga, taiqi, qi gong and/or meditation.  These practices all help to reduce stress and preserve vital essence.  Also do whatever cardiovascular and strength training exercise that you enjoy.  Exercise is a great stress reliever (and helps if you are struggling with weight gain in menopause). 

3.     Get regular acupuncture.  Acupuncture works to relieve menopause symptoms by restoring homeostasis and addressing the root cause of a woman’s unique constellation of symptoms.  Each woman going through menopause will have a different experience.  Chinese Medicine is a holistic approach that looks at the whole person and crafts a treatment plan that is individualized to the patterns and symptoms of that particular person.  Regardless of what set of symptoms you are currently experiencing acupuncture can provide lasting relief! 

Do you know someone struggling with menopause?  Please share this post with them today!