Category Archives: Diet therapy

Solving the Mystery of Your Health Concerns with Chinese Medicine


 

Are you sick, yet don't know why? Find out how Chinese medicine can help

Solving the Mystery of Your Health Concerns with Chinese Medicine

Are you SICK, yet don’t know WHY? Are you currently suffering from a physical or mental ailment that you are having difficulty resolving? Is the cause unexplainable according to western medicine? Are you interested in understanding how Chinese medicine can help you?

As a Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP) and acupuncturist (R.Ac), my goal is to address people’s health concerns, source the root cause of ‘dis-ease’, and help you discover your own healing potential. Common ailments that respond well to acupuncture and Chinese medicine include physical pain and acute injury, mental and emotional stress, repetitive strain injuries, digestive/bowel upset, common cold, seasonal allergies, mild to moderate nausea, migraines, neck tension/pain, backaches, and joint pain. Sometimes, a condition that is acute (less than 3 months), can usually be resolved quite quickly (within 1-3 treatments) with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. If related to physical pain, certain acupuncture points that help to relax tight, sore muscles and reduce inflammation in the local and adjacent areas are primarily used.

Some people present with more chronic conditions that may include multiple symptoms. In these cases, it is important to address each of your health concerns but to start with the most acute concerns first – one must address the flames before rebuilding and renewal can begin. Conditions such as irregular menstruation, hormonal imbalance, acne, infertility, pregnancy and postpartum complications, chronic pain, anemia, fatigue, depression, diabetes, weight management, digestive concerns, heart and lung diseases, neurological and movement disorders, as well as many types of cancer may fall into this category.

For these more chronic health concerns, treatment strategy can require a more complex analysis to truly understand the nature of the ailment. Here is where Chinese medicine and its elaborate system of physical pattern identification truly excels in discovering the root of the matter. While Traditional Chinese Medicine does not depend on western medical diagnoses, it can be used to provide further information to the practitioner to understand how a particular condition is manifesting within the body.  After a detailed analysis of the presenting symptoms, a Chinese medical practitioner looks for and analyses the current status of the body structures and systems. This is done through a detailed health intake that the TCM practitioner uses to analyse many factors including energy level, digestion, urination, bowel movement, skin and hair changes, sleep patterns, food intake, female and male hormonal cycles, respiratory, circulatory, immunological function as well as emotional and and neurological factors, lifestyle factors, and any other significant life events.

Finally the rate and quality of the wrist pulses on both sides are taken to confirm the pattern identification and see how deep the condition has manifested (e.g. skin level, muscular level, bone and/or blood level).  Patterns that are closer to the exterior are generally faster to resolve, while patterns manifesting at a deeper level will require more effort from both patient and practitioner to successfully resolve.

A tongue picture is also taken via photo and/ or visual observation to better understand the current and changing nature the disease. Looking at the quality, shape, colour of the tongue root and tongue coating can provide a better understanding of how the inner organs also present. The tongue is an outer organ that can reflect what the inner organs are also dealing with.

While this system of pattern identification is very detailed and elaborate, it provides an amazingly common-sense analysis of the body and how it is currently functioning.  With proper diagnosis according to Chinese medicine, you are offered the opportunity to really understand the nature of your ailment and learn how to effectively address your health concerns. A combination of acupuncture, moxabustion and heat therapy, Chinese medicinal herbs, diet, and lifestyle modification as well as an introduction to practises such as Qigong may well set you on your path to healing.

So how do you get started on this incredible healing process with Chinese medicine?

A seasoned practitioner can help you identify the WHY or the cause of your main health concern from the vantage of what is going on in your body and how it has responded to your surroundings and life events. It is not uncommon for physical concerns to be rooted in a physical or emotional event that was traumatic and internalized in some way. Some concerns can be explained by genetics. Even gestation and birth can have an influence on an individual’s current health, as the lifestyle and environmental factors of our parents directly impact us during this period of physical connection from within the mother’s womb. Other conditions may be directly impacted by constant stress in the home or at work, as well as environmental and dietary exposure. In these cases lifestyle modification may need to be carefully considered and addressed.

When you are unclear of what is going on, there is often much insight to be gained by spending even just a few minutes to reflect on your past and current situation and or habits, and to ask yourself the following questions:

1. What bothers me physically, mentally, emotionally? What triggers have led me to this state? What other factors have contributed to my current ability to cope with this condition? What can I do now/future to feel better/improve my chances of recovery?

2. Where do I hold normally hold my stress/ feel the most discomfort?

3. How do I think this condition arose? How does it affect my daily life and future goals? How can I make positive changes to improve my health/situation?

4. When did I first experience these symptoms? When (e.g. time of day/month/season, before or after sleep/an activity) are the symptoms most aggravated? Alleviated?

5. Who is contributing positively/negatively to my current state of health? Who do I think would be best suited to help me in the healing process? Who can I go to ask for more help?

6. Why – this is what we hope to help you discover with time and the right information!

7. Other contributing factors? Investigate any previous health history and other medical conditions (e.g. previous head concussions, muscle/ligament injuries, bone fractures, nerve entrapment, viruses, STDs, fungi/parasites, chronic physical or physiological ailments, irregular production of hormone and/or irregular hormonal cycles, digestive concerns, insomnia/depression/anxiety, general mood/state, low/high blood pressure, circulatory and/or breathing issues, anemia, drug dependencies, food and drink sensitivities, weight management, poor posture, hereditary factors, diet, exercise, exposure to environmental toxins, amount of daily outdoor activity and exposure to clean air, amount of quality sleep, proper breathing technique, any temperature intolerances or exposure to extreme temperatures including those arising from A/C units and fans, work schedule and potential occupational dangers/ daily stress factors at work or at home).

A great article which also touches on some common conditions that are typical to North Americans (and why) can be found here:

http://www.acupuncture.com/newsletters/m_jun12/americansyndrome.htm

[Note: For more information on TCM pattern identification for sourcing the cause of a health concern please visit these sites:

http://www.acupao.com/about-1/philosophy-of-chinese-medicine/,

http://www.acupuncture.com/education/tcmbasics/whatisacu.htm,

http://www.yinyanghouse.com/practitioner_members/theory-chinese/what-does-acupuncture-treat-or-treating-cause-and-not-symptoms. ]

Here’s to your health!

Warmly,

Fay Meling

The Legend of the Sesame Seed and Immortality


 

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Black Sesame Seed / Hei Zhi Ma,  Image credit

The Legend of the Sesame Seed and Immortality

There is an ancient Chinese legend from the Qing dynasty that pays tribute to the importance of sesame seeds in one’s diet. It is said that during this time, a governor was sent to Yin Tai, a region in the North China Sea, now known as Japan. The Emperor had requested he find a “holy medication” that could give the Emperor immortality. It was thought that the combined energy of 3,000 young men and women who were “pure in spirit” was one source of producing everlasting life. The governor searched high and low through treacherous terrain in mountains and forests for this miraculous remedy that would ensure longevity. Finally after many years of searching, he returned with sesame seeds. His instruction to the Emperor was to take the sesame seeds and its oil everyday in order to be granted a longer life.

Sounds like a good idea to me!  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, black sesame seeds and their oils can be used medicinally to treat a wide variety of symptoms often associated with Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency including constipation, alopecia (hair loss), premature graying of hair, tinnitus (ear ringing), dry skin, chronic low back and knee pain, as well as menstrual health and infertility. It can also be used to help women with insufficient lactation produce more breastmilk. Here’s one way you can gain the health benefits of sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Black Sesame Pudding Recipe

160 grams – toasted black sesame seeds

4 tbsps – white glutinous rice

8 cups – distilled water

400 g – raw honey, or other natural sweetener of your choice

Directions:

Wash glutinous rice and allow to soak for two hours. Combine toasted sesame seeds and glutinous rice with 2 cups of water, and blend in food processor until the texture is creamy and smooth. Transfer mixture to a sauce pan and add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil at medium heat. Stir regularly to keep consistency smooth. (Story and recipe adapted from Dan-On Foods and Dan-D Foods )

Want to know more about the many benefits of Black Sesame Seeds?

“Taking black sesame seeds can heal all the chronic illness after 100 days, improve skin tone on body and face after 1 year, reverse gray hair after 2 years, and regrow teeth after 3 years.” says the Compendium of Materia Medica, the largest and most comprehensive medical writings in the history of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This herb is also known as Semen Sesami Nigrum and Hei Zhi Ma and related experiments show that the content of vitamin E contained in this herb is the highest in all foods of plant origin. It is well known that vitamin E can promote cell division and delay cell senescence. Long-term use can counteract or neutralize the accumulation of cell senescence substance of “radicals” and then delay aging and extend life expectancy.” -from Chinese Herbs Healing

 

Natural PMS Cures: Part II


In my last post, I addressed the Top Ten Ways To Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally

Dr. Mark Hyman, also addresses some of the points I listed and why they affect our monthly cycles in his article in the Huffington Post titled, Eliminate Suffering From PMS in Five Simple Steps

Dr. Christiane Northrup also has some excellent tips accompanied by footnoted research articles to back up her claims on natural relief strategies for Premenstrual Syndrome

She also is a proponent of acupuncture for PMS relief and offers dietary recommendations for PMS which also relate to menstrual cramps and pelvic pain here

-m.

Top Ten Ways to Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally


Many women are confronted with several days leading up to the start of menses when they experience symptoms often grouped under the term: PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Common experiences include: lower abdominal bloating and cramping, low back pain, anxiety, irritability, depression, poor memory, mental fog, joint and/or muscle pain, difficulty sleeping, sweet or salty cravings, fatigue, and acne.

While these experiences often subside at the onset of menses, or another physiological change in a woman’s body, such as pregnancy or menopause, its monthly recurring nature can create much havoc if left unchecked long-term. A more serious form of PMS is known as PMDD (Premsenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), which is a mood disorder that typically occurs in women 20-40 years old, who have at least one child, a history of post-partum depression or other mood disorder, and/or a family history of depression. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/premenstrual-syndrome.cfm

So what can you do to kick this PMS monster out of your life for good? Adopting a lifestyle that gives you the optimal chance for overall health will reap rewards on your menstrual cycle and reproductive health as well.

Here is a list of top ten things you can do for yourself now to experience more healthy menstrual cycles. Please note that for the most noticeable effect, changes should be adopted at least a full 1-3 months ahead of your expected period. *As always, the recommendations given here is given as a general guideline only and not meant to replace the advice of your primary attending health care provider or physician.

Top Ten Ways to Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally:

1. Exercise those muscles! Strength train, cross-train and just stay active! Join a sports team or gym, run, stroller jog, swim, bike, rock climb, walk, surf, paddle, dance, or jump. Do yoga, tai chi, or qi gong. Aim to get at least 30 minutes in a day. Ready, set, go!!

2. Eliminate the bad foods: got grease, salt, sugar, alcohol, or caffeine? An overconsumption of food in general and especially meats and dairy may contribute to poor health overall and disturb natural hormone function. In Chinese medicine we refer to these foods as ones which are heavy and damp in nature and therefore contribute to accumulation of ‘damp and phlegm’ in the body. This accumulation can lead to a whole range of problems such as PMS, poor reproductive health, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint pain and more. These are therefore foods that are not wanted on the voyage!

3. Stick to the good foods: a more vegetable-rich diet with fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and pulses provides you with the necessary fuel you need to get through your day. Healthy fats such as organic avocadoes and fish oils are also good to incorporate into your diet. When choosing your food sources, make sure to select those from local, organic, wild sources and free of GMOs, pesticides, and additives when possible.

4. Drink more water: 6-8 glasses of water a day is essential for proper hydration. The next time you feel like reaching for a snack, consider drinking a glass of water first. Make sure to wait at least 15 minutes before consuming food so that your liquids and solids get digested more readily. Consider the type of water you drink on a regular basis as well. Is it filtered, fresh, and at room temperature?

5. Reduce Stress: regular physical activity, massage, acupuncture, a work load that is contained (doesn’t creep into what should be your off work hours) and manageable are key to reducing your stress levels. Try to get out for at least one night of fun. Do something that makes you happy everyday. If there are additional burdens placed on you through family and friends, consider delegating tasks and just saying “no” to things that are not high priority. Consider counselling or other professional medical and social support if necessary.

6. Get better quality sleep: 6-8 hours of sleep that is uninterrupted and makes you feel refreshed upon waking is best. For those whose sleep is compromised because of work or family, try to get in a power nap of 20-30 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon. Avoid exposure to overactivity or overstimulation before bed to help promote better quality sleep.

7. Socialize with your close friends and family members: those that know you best can also help you through the more trying periods. As well, surrounding yourself with those you love makes you feel supported and happy.

8. Avoid activities that elevate your anxiety or stress levels: is there someone or something that you’d rather not associate with on a regular basis? Cut them out!

9. Meditate: whether through long walks in nature, connecting to your spiritual side, doing regular yoga or qigong exercises, or focusing on your abdominal breathing, meditation can provide you with the necessary tools to see your surroundings from a fresh new perspective and ultimately one that attracts the type of life you want.

10. Live in the moment: each day presents its own unique set of experiences. Try to engage your mind only in what comes most naturally to you at each moment. You can remind your self to do this by focusing on your breath using abdominal breathing (the way you we are meant to breathe!) Breathe in through your abdomen (when lying down you will notice this by pushing your abdomen up towards the sky), open your nostrils and allow your chest walls to expand more fully when taking in the air you breathe. Then slowly release this breath out though your mouth while your abdomen retracts and sinks towards the ground. Focusing on past or future circumstances is nonproductive, creates unnecessary stress and anxiety and can block your natural reasoning abilities.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, all dis-ease can be attributed to the blockage of qi in the body. To return the body to its natural state requires that we support and nourish the body where necessary, but also unblock areas to provide for the free flow of qi. In general terms, this means that your body has the ability to function well if all physiological processes (passages of qi”) are not blocked. Proper diet, exercise and mental activity play a huge role in regulating these processes.

-m.

Rice Congee for Healthy Labour And Delivery


Here is a common recipe used to prepare rice congee with other healthy ingredients to promote a normal and efficient delivery. It can also help to encourage labor that is prolonged or delayed.

Sweet Potato Congee (Yu Tou Zhou)

Ingredients:
Sweet Potato (You Tou) – 250g
Polished Rice* (Da Mi) – 50g (Please note: polished rice is gluten-free!)
Salt (Yan) – small amount, according to preference

Directions:
Remove skin of sweet potato, wash rice, and combine these two ingredients using a ratio of 6 parts of water with 1 part rice (e.g. 600g water: 100g rice, change amounts but keep ratio if you desire more or less). Once rice has been cooked into porridge, add a touch of salt or tamari/soy sauce for flavor.

Note: Congee can also be prepared in a crock pot or slow cooker. Simply add all prepared ingredients into the pot, put on low setting, and allow it to simmer overnight for approximately 6-8 hours. In the morning, presto! Your breakfast is ready and waiting to be served with any additional seasoning (e.g. a pinch of soy sauce/salt).

(Flaws, Bob. The Book of Jook. Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO, 1995)

For more information on acupuncture for delivery and postpartum please visit my practice site at: http://www.acupao.com

Rice Congee for Colds and Flu (Gan Mao)


Here is a common recipe used to prepare rice congee with other healthy ingredients to treat symptoms relating to the common cold and flu, by helping to release heat through the discharge of sweat.

Ingredients:

Scallions – 5 whole ones

Fresh Ginger – approx. 15g,

Glutinous/Sticky White Rice* -100g ( Please note: glutinous rice is gluten-free!)

Directions:

Boil 6 parts of water with 1 part rice (e.g. 600g water: 100g rice, change amounts but keep ratio if you desire more or less). Once rice has been cooked into porridge, mash scallions and ginger into a pulp, add to congee and simmer.

Note: Congee can also be prepared in a crock pot or clow cooker. Simply add all prepared ingredients into the pot, put on low setting, and allow it to simmer overnight for approximately 6-8 hours. In the morning, presto! Your breakfast is ready and waiting to be served with any additional seasoning (e.g. a pinch of soy sauce/salt).

(Flaws, Bob. The Book of Jook. Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO, 1995).

Rice Congee to the Rescue


What is rice congee, you ask? Also known as Shi Fan (water rice), in mandarin, rice congee is a porridge that is typically eaten in the morning but can be taken throughout the day in replacement to other meals. It is especially useful to prepare for babies starting solids, the elderly, those recovering from a brief illness, delivery or surgery, and/or those with a long-term illness or weak constitution.

Rice congee also has a practical relevance for all of us. It is of particular importance for those that wish to focus on proper eating for overall health and longevity, using a Qing Dan diet. Qing refers to clear, pure, light. Dan refers to those foods which are considered more bland and have less flavor.

Examples of a Qing Dan diet include, grains, legumes (beans and bean products), vegetables and fruits. Animal protein, fats, and oil such as meat, eggs, milk and fish are kept to a minimum (e.g. if eaten, they are taken in small quantities and not eaten every day as they tend to produce “heaviness and dampness” in the body long-term, which in turn can lead to unhealthy accumulations and growths in the body if not properly cleared).  A Dan diet also uses much less spicy, flavorful and fermented foods, such as soy sauce, vinegar, salt and alcohol as these also produce heavier ‘turbid’ fluids and substance in the body which can cause or aggravate ‘dampness and heat’ conditions (e.g. skin rashes/mouth or throat irritations, nasal congestion, heat in any of the orifices, including urinary tract infections or IBS, and/or diarrhea symptoms, and more).

Interestingly, the Qing Dan diet corresponds quite well with the “Eating Right Pyramid” in the United States (e.g. a healthy diet consisting of whole grains and complex carbohydrates at the bottom of the pyramid, followed by a smaller portion of vegetables and fruits above this, then an even smaller amount of animal protein and dairy products, and finally reserving the top part of the pyramid for very small amounts of sweeets, salts, fats, and oils). The Qing Dan diet is essentially the same as the Pritikin Diet  http://www.webmd.com/diet/pritikin-principle-what-it-is  and the Macrobiotic Diet http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/macrobiotic-diet.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice congee is used in dietary therapy since it not only boosts energy, but is easily digested (as it is prepared in the form of soup and therefore warmed to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit). Since the water to rice ratio is typically at least 6:1 in preparing congee, the rice porridge helps to moisten fluids in the digestive system’s stomach and intestines which can deplete due to old age or chronic illness. Since it is water-based, it can replenish these fluids without producing further “dampness or phlegm” accumulations in the digestive tract.

Many quotes by famous doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine and even the Buddha, have been documented attributing excellent health to the consumption of rice congee. I leave you with one as food for thought:

“[Shi Fan] confers 10 things on those who eat it: life and beauty, ease and strength. It dispels hunger, thirst, and wind. It cleanses the bladder. It digests food. This food is praised by the Well-farer.” – Shakyamuni Buddha, Makavagga. Winanaya Pitaka (Book o the Discipline) trans. by I.B. Harner, London, 1951, Vol. IV, p. 302

(Flaws, Bob. The Book of Jook: A Healthy Alternative to a Typical Western Breakfast, Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO, 1995)