As I go further with Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture practice, I learn more and more about the benefits. Once a person starts to feel a difference, the most common question is- How does this work? This is a question that is both easy and difficult to answer at the same time. Acupuncture affects the nervous system. The needles stimulate the nervous system and from there a variety of responses can occur- the release of neurotransmitters with cascading effects on the digestive system and hormones, changes in the level of stimulus in muscle (activation or inhibition), and improving nerve signals (activation or inhibition), as a few examples. Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture serves to support the body and maintain optimal health through acupuncture points that bring balance to the function of the organs and the body as a whole.
Whenever you have a health condition, it is best to address it sooner than later. In the case of neurological symptoms like numbness, pain, paralysis or tingling, acupuncture as soon as possible is especially helpful. In the event of any of these symptoms, there is some level of impediment to the nerve signals- acupuncture can help resolve the issue of impediment by providing stimulus for the nerve to improve function. Neurons may degenerate and creating new signals with existing nerve tissue is always possible.
What can cause neurological symptoms like numbness, pain, paralysis or tingling? Injury- acute or chronic, infection can cause Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis), transient ischemic attack or stroke, diseases that cause nerve degeneration such as multiple sclerosis, and neuropathy as a result of other conditions. No matter the cause of the neurological symptoms, Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture is a complementary therapy that is ideally applied as soon as possible.
I was offered an appointment for the SARS COV2 vaccine when I joined the team in March at the Adelaide Health Clinic. I have wanted to write this for some time and meditated on it until now. I know there was a level of frustration at the availability of the vaccines and I didn’t want to flaunt my privilege of receiving one earlier as a health professional. I also feel nervous about needles. I’ve become accustomed to acupuncture needles, but injections or drawing blood still has me squeamish. Without some help at the workplace, it is unlikely I would have been quick to get myself an appointment with a needle!
Like many people I was a bit cautious about the vaccines being developed and available in record time. We do not develop lasting immunity to coronaviruses, which is seen by repeat infections throughout the lifespan of the common cold. Covid 19 is as easily transmissible as a common cold with potential long term or lethal consequences where we don’t know who gets very sick, which makes a vaccine highly useful. Fortunately, I learned that these vaccines are do not offer sterilizing immunity the way the measles vaccine does, which allows us to not get measles. It seems a reasonably miraculous achievement to me, a vaccine that prevents severe illness. Here’s some further info on the immunity these vaccines offer: https://dalewharrison.substack.com/p/covid-vaccines-confer-no-sterilzing
We had a major family disagreement over the Christmas holidays when I did not press my mom to get the vaccine when she was hesitant and refusing. At the time, the vaccine was not yet available and if we weren’t going to be the first in line, I figured we could easily observe the many who wished to be first in line to get more comfortable. I didn’t know when I would get a vaccine, but had been weighing the pros and cons, coming to the decision that is was best to get the shot for the benefit of others and myself. I also felt it is my duty to do so as a health professional. I work with people and I need to take every step possible to prevent passing illness to people I interact with. Plus, I miss teaching cycle classes the most, which is a higher risk activity. See this study from Hawaii where we learn of how the illness is transmitted. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7009e1.htm Getting the vaccine is a personal choice and civic duty at the same time. It is ‘experimental’ and we live in a part of the world that has this privilege.
So what happened with the shots? I had the Pfizer vaccine first and I felt slightly woozy with slight fatigue for a day. My second shot was Moderna due to the supply being allocated for younger people and I chose to go ahead with it to comply with public health efforts. I was ill for a day with a mild fever, lightheadedness, no appetite, fatigue and transient aches- like an illness I have not experienced before, seemed like getting a controlled case of covid. At the time, I was sent some info that the mRna vaccines cause spike proteins to be stored in the uterus and ovaries, which I believe is misinformation after looking at the scientific source material. Here’s some explanation of the pathways: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2021/01/21/mrna-vaccines-what-happens In short, the vaccine goes into your arm and circulation- through the lymph system into your armpit, then mainly liver and spleen and circulating throughout the body.
When you are ready to get the vaccine, I advise being as well rested, well slept and well rested as possible to give yourself a better response, as you are asking your immune system to do some work.
We all know that 7-8 hours of quality sleep is ideal for our physical, mental and emotional health. How many of us have struggled with sleep? This is a struggle that most of us will encounter with varying degrees of frequency. Habits are a major component to our sleep along with awareness of stressors, and what we need to do to unwind at the end of the day for restful sleep. I have a flexible work schedule, so I’m not too attached to specific routines, although habits are always a priority. For sleep, I find it is very important to have routines that let your body and mind know you are preparing for rest and sleep. It could be as simple as having some herbal tea, brushing your teeth, washing your face and a little reading. Anything that helps you relax at the end of the day is helpful, since sleep is a letting go process.
Here is a sleep meditation that I have enjoyed and shared (it’s ok if you fall asleep within minutes!):
Modern life comes with electricity, plenty of ‘artificial light’ and screen time. Prior to our ability to have light on demand beyond sunset, humans needed to keep to what sunrise and sunset provided. There seems to be some variance in what times we feel best and this can be looked at with this questionnaire:
Keeping to a schedule where you feel best and rely on an alarm clock minimally will improve your sleep quality, energy level and general well being.
The general advice for good sleep is to stop screen time an hour before bedtime, sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room, have your dinner well digested and stop caffeine intake before 3pm. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, insomnia, is differentiated between inability to fall asleep, waking in the night and being unable to fall back asleep, and general unrestful sleep. Some people tend to feel hot at night, others cold. Some enjoy their dreams and others are disturbed by the types and amount of dreams they have. Some need to urinate more than once in the night. Some wake far too easily and find their sleep restless. Some sleep for 8 hours and wake up foggy and lethargic. Ideal sleep is being able to fall asleep easily and wake 7-8 hours later refreshed and full of energy. This may not happen too often for some, but there is always hope that sleep can be improved. TCM acupuncture is very helpful for improving sleep, as it helps to calm the nervous system and treat the underlying conditions that cause poor sleep quality.
All of us have different perceptions of sleep. Our society values productive work, so sleeping minimally can be a badge of honour. Some people insist they need only a minimal amount of sleep. Others like taking sleep aids sometimes to a fault, since the body becomes less sensitive to any sleep aid over time. Mother’s Little Helper, anyone? Some of us can sleep on planes and through various noises, but no snoring, please! I have observed in myself and have had many clients report their sleep is less sound around the full moon, so there is natural variance in sleep quality. Longer daylight hours in the summer months brings longer waking hours and less sleep for the season. Winter is conducive to hibernation. Anyone raised kids? That’s a phase where sleep is likely deprived!
Sleep quality is also something we perceive differently. I generally sleep well, although I work at this and have tried all sorts of sleep aids to improve sleep. This is not medical advice or endorsement of any product, just sharing of knowledge of remedies tried.
Mother’s Little Helper is a tea available at Davids Tea. It is a blend and contains valerian, which has not worked for me in other formulations, but Mother’s Little Helper works well for me.
SleepyTime Tea by Celestial Seasonings- this is a classic formulation that has a relaxing effect perhaps tied in with the ritual of having a cup of tea, and I prefer this tea over others.
Vitamin D- I started taking vitamin D at night after dinner in March and have found it to be helpful for higher quality sleep
5 HTP- a serotonin and melatonin precursor, it helps with restful sleep
Chinese herbs- I have found various patent herbal formulations to be tremendously helpful in being able to stay asleep more soundly. The herbs work best with some professional guidance, where a TCM practitioner is able to assess your condition and constitution.
Wherever you are in relation with sleep, it is a most important health habit to prioritize, as it is the time your body regenerates itself. Quality, restful sleep makes life good!
This is a question that does not have an easy one size fits all answer. Regular exercise is necessary for health, as it maintains and improves our circulation and breathing while working our musculoskeletal system. All of our joints have an optimal range of motion and the body is very much use it or lose it in function.
Specific exercise was not necessary when we had to hunt and gather our own food. The work in chasing down an animal and gathering plants for food provided plenty of natural physical activity. We still have activities of daily living today, but that is dwindling with time spent sitting in front of a computer screen, the vast variety of prepared food and modern gadgets, as vacuuming can be done with an automated device!
I’ve been asked many times in my career how much do you exercise or you must work out every day? The answer is I make an effort to be active daily. Anywhere between 20-60 minutes of some form of physical activity daily, is my commitment. It could be a walk, weight training, yoga, running, tai chi/qi gong or a spin class. Personally, I like walking to a specific destination or walking to get food, so it is like working for the food at least a little. Find out what motivates you to take that walk, hit the weights or do a few yoga poses- making it easy for yourself to complete the task regularly will build the habit. The key is to complete any amount of activity regularly- 5-10 minutes is better than nothing. It’s important to see yourself as someone who exercises regularly to take care of themselves. For the purposes of health and longevity, light to moderate intensity exercise is enough, which is also the healthy living guidelines of traditional chinese medicine.
Of course, once we get into a regular habit of exercise and have some specific goals, it becomes possible to overdo things. Injuries or lingering pain are usually a sign of overdoing exercise in terms of your current capabilities. Pushing through is generally not a good plan, since it typically makes the injury worse. Speaking from experience, it is best to seek care sooner than later, before the injury worsens. Any activity that you are not accustomed to doing will require a bit of training. It may seem strange, but after a long period of inactivity, you will need a bit of time to adjust to even walking longer distances. The pandemic has likely left many of us myself included a bit less active and it will take some training to get back to our previous fitness levels.
In answer to the question of what is a healthy amount of exercise, I think it is safe to say some physical activity daily is ideal. The type and intensity of the activity is a different story. For health and longevity purposes, a mix of aerobic exercise, strength training and energy cultivating exercise like yoga or tai chi is ideal for optimal health and wellness.
I love tropical fruit and strawberries. My good friend Emily suggested I eat fruits more in season back when we were in school for Phys Ed. I took her advice to heart and have made an effort since then to choose fruits and vegetables in season, although I do admit to buying berries year round if available.
Practicing and studying Traditional Chinese Medicine, I have learned that it is ideal to eat more cooked, warm foods in the winter and cool, raw foods are best in the summer. This makes it easier for the body to digest the food we eat, as we work harder to stay warm in the winter and could use a little help to stay cool in the summer.
The amount of sunlight changes with the seasons and our sleep patterns can go along with that. Sleep a bit more in the winter and a bit less in the summer.
When I first studied psychology, we did a short questionnaire to determine how much of a morning or evening person we were and I was surprised to learn I was in the middle. This appears to be genetic to an extent. Here is a questionnaire to take and find out your type:
Be sure to scroll down after you get your results, as the questionnaire will list your estimated peak time of melatonin production and your ideal bedtime. Provided that you are able to answer the questions based on your true ideals(you must know them somehow), it is ideal for you to keep a sleep schedule based on the bedtime listed. I have known since the start of university that I am not a morning person, and this has not changed at all!
Exercise in the winter is different, as the weather makes it difficult to go for a bike ride or run, walks are possible, although not the same. Winter activities like skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowboarding are great when available. Ordinarily, one could exercise at the gym, which are unfortunately closed at this time. That leaves us with home workouts for now. No better time then winter to get into more mindful movement like yoga and tai chi, which fulfills the need for movement in a mindful way.
Sometimes things work backwards. I would never have agreed to become a yoga teacher 10 years ago, so yin yoga was even more of a stretch. It is not my thing to sit still, and it remains more natural for me to not sit for more than 20 minutes, since it is my tendency to move. I believe it is a natural inclination to fidget or not and apparently it burns more calories.
I started to study Traditional Chinese medicine over 4 years ago with interest in herbs first, then it became a goal to become a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner of herbs and acupuncture. I had no plan to be a registered acupuncturist, and here I am practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture. Needles still scare me and I have learned to peacefully coexist with them. I take great care to be gentle inserting needles during an acupuncture treatment, treating patients as I would like to be treated. Having practiced on quite a few willing subjects in the past 4 years, I can say I am becoming more and more of a believer in acupuncture, seeing the benefit and difference people feel after receiving a few needles.
You may wonder- how does acupuncture work? On the simplest level, acupuncture works by providing the body with a stimulus (fine needle) to elicit change. How does that change happen in 10-20min with needles retained or within seconds with Japanese style contact needling? The change happens within the body- insertion of the needle affects the nervous system, which transmits (energy)signals within the body. Ideally the treatment calms the nervous system and the specific selection of points provides stimulus for healing or bringing balance to the body. Key concept is all change starts on an energetic level first, then it becomes physical.
Various health professionals can perform acupuncture and it really matters WHO gives you the needles. The more the practitioner knows about the human body/mind and the potential impact of the needles the better. My dad persistently calls needles ‘noodles’ and I do not correct him, since it makes a scary word seem harmless, plus it is funny! Allow me to make an analogy with ‘noodles’ here, imagine an acupuncture treatment as a session where you and the professional are working together to cook ‘noodles’ to the perfect consistency (al dente). You and the acupuncturist are working together to help you feel ‘just right’ (more like yourself- refreshed), so ideally the needles are inserted in the right places for you.
How do we find the right points for insertion of needles? This is a skill with a major variance between practitioners. There is approximately 20 square feet of skin on a human body, 600 muscles and over 360 acupuncture points. We are looking for impact with an acupuncture treatment, a little can go a long way, especially as a form of preventative medicine. In my experience so far, acupuncture is highly effective for regulating energy in the body. For example, heartburn and nausea can be relieved with acupuncture and this is accomplished by encouraging the body movement of the contents of the stomach downwards, which is ‘normal’. All processes in the body have an orderly movement and is more likely to stay that way when a person lives a healthy lifestyle, keeping everything moving as best we can. Acupuncture encourages this ideal circulation.
It is a process to understand traditional chinese medicine and acupuncture, simultaenously simple and complex, so I will keep writing on this topic to offer explanation.
At this uncertain time in the world maintaining our health is more important than ever and in some ways it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the limitless amount of information coming through at our fingertips. One can use the internet to learn about almost any topic. When it comes to health, is internet research the best course of action? The short answer is no, it is not a good idea play Dr Google and become an overnight expert on your own condition. There is a lot of individuality in health and we all need guidance.
We all need good health and wellness professionals to help us take care of ourselves. Some of us are more privileged and can invest more in these services. In Canada, we have universal health care and it remains important to advocate for ourselves. We can better advocate for our own health and empower ourselves with knowledge by developing good relationships with health professionals.
Having been in the field of health and wellness for over 20 years, here are my recommendations on what to look for when you are seeking professional health related services:
Client/patient centred care: The professional prioritizes your needs and is dedicated to serving to your best interests. If a professional comes recommended by a friend, ask them about their experience with that professional. There are new professionals that are amazing right off the bat, so a long history in practice is not necessary. It is always about your comfort level with the professional.
Education: There are many forms of ‘alternative/natural’ health service offerings where the professional is trained with courses, certifications, degrees, diplomas and seminars of varying standards. More formal education for a professional in the field of health, shows a commitment to learning, which promotes improvement in practice. In an ideal world, we would have more integrated health care- a professional with education in science can help you receive the best of care in alternative health and conventional medicine. Most health services have a price range for that field, and generally speaking, the slightly higher investment in the more educated professional is an excellent value for the level of expertise they bring.
Communication and relational skills: The professional is an excellent listener, is able to understand your needs and concerns AND educate you on best practices to improve your condition. You need to feel comfortable with the professional and how they relate with you. A sense of humour always helps!
Integrity: Does this professional practice what they preach and lead by example? Adhering to ethical standards shows integrity- how does the professional handle various situations and potential conflicts of interest?
Empowerment and motivation: A great health and wellness professional is able to educate and advise you so that you gain an understanding on how to improve your health and feel motivated to do so for your own well being. Having been in the field of fitness for so long, I have heard many times, a trainer needs to look the part. I have never fully embraced this concept, as health cannot be judged by appearances alone. While there may be some short term motivation in seeing an ideal you wish to become, remember that our bodies are always changing. Learning ways to manage your own well being at any stage in life are lasting life skills, while looking great for a few months (especially if it involves a diet) is quite transient.
These are guidelines I have used myself in choosing various health professionals to work with to my great satisfaction, as I have worked with some wonderful people. As you may know, I have been studying Traditional Chinese Medicine the past 4 years and have recently started practicing acupuncture. Choosing a professional to give you acupuncture needs further guidance-although it may be a bit biased coming from me, since I am very sensitive to and afraid of needles! Acupuncture is a form of therapy where needles are inserted into specific sites to elicit some form of change in the body. Yes, a needle (hopefully fine and gently inserted) goes into your body(!) To me, this is a big deal, so I have been very picky about allowing needles to be inserted into my body. I have experienced a few mishaps with being needled and it took some time along with great beneficial effects before I became a believer in acupuncture. I actually went from being quite skeptical of acupuncture to being a believer, which amazes me. Many classmates learning of my aversion to needles asked why are you even studying acupuncture? I was interested in traditional chinese medicine first and foremost, herbs were the priority and acupuncture was part of the program. A young lady who is also afraid of needles mentioned acupuncture was recommended for her and she decided she needed to seek out a practitioner that specialized in giving acupuncture, which is an excellent plan in general and especially if you are nervous. Quite a few licensed health professionals are free to give acupuncture after weekend courses for training. This goes back to my recommendation above for education. Someone who has studied acupuncture for 4 years is different than someone who studied for 3 weeks. Feel free to ask questions. Your body is being ‘punctured’, so feeling comfortable with a practitioner takes on even more importance. If you are at all nervous or afraid of needles, it is imperative that the practitioner is empathetic and helps you feel comfortable. If you get the feeling they don’t really care about your concerns- run fast!
At this time of high stress, we really need to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. There is a health and wellness professional around you that can help you feel better.
Cheers to your journey towards making life good with maintaining your optimal health
2016 was a great full year for me. Much inspiration, vast learning and growth. Here are 3 life changing experiences I had in making life good to improve health and wellness this year:
Teaching yoga-I am so grateful my intent to reach more people with my health and wellness expertise came to fruition this year in teaching numerous yoga classes at Equinox. Every class was a learning and practice for me to deepen my yoga practice and be a positive influence on people on the mat and in life.
Traditional Chinese Medicine-I am afraid of needles and started studies in traditional chinese medicine this year for herbs at first. I had my first acupuncture treatment in February and it was amazing in its effects on giving me a gentle re-balancing to improve my health. I also tried cosmetic acupuncture, which is amazing as well, because it improves health at the same time as improving the facial skin. Chinese herbal formulas are also incredibly effective in my limited experience so far.
Crystals-I noticed the tool used to rub my face in preparation for cosmetic acupuncture was a specific stone and its effects were incredible. I am growing older and wiser, so maintaining my skin or improving it feels like a miracle! This fall a 7 year friend of mine was digging for crystals on his driveway and I was proven wrong that he would not find any. My little friend said crystals are all good and that inspired me to discover them for myself. Crystals are a great way to get in touch with one’s own intuition in looking at them, feeling them and experiencing them in any way you feel inspired.
There were many other incredible experiences of 2016. These are 3 wider categorical first hand transformational experiences to bring greater health and well being I am sharing in making life good. Wishing everyone a healthy and fulfilling 2017-Happy New Year!
I recently started studying traditional chinese medicine. Part of the learning for me is being treated as a patient at the student clinic. I have been prescribed some food therapy while studying herbal medicine as well. One thing I can conclude with my all my studies in nutrition and health is a lot of conflicting information on what we ‘should’ eat exists. In our world of privilege, we have unprecedented access to food of any sort combined with a vast array of information on what is best for health. It is easy for meal time to be conflicted with what we ‘should’ eat and what we actually want to eat.
This is a lengthy philosophical debate that I will explore further another time. I do have a couple suggestions to consider and apply any time. First, it is a good goal to be at peace every time you eat. This peace is being mindful and free to enjoy your food as nourishment wholeheartedly. This can be accomplished by a practice of grace or gratitude before a meal in addition to taking the time to eat mindfully. Secondly, pay close attention to how you feel after you eat, as you are the best judge of what foods are best for your body. This awareness takes practice, so work on it whenever you can. These two practices are part of a healthy food relationship, which is making life good.