- Energy Flow HealthEstuary Center for Living & Healing Arts
24W788 75th Street
Naperville, IL 60565
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Understanding the Benefits of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine [your practical simple guide]
I hear it all the time: What does acupuncture do? How does it work? What are the benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Keep reading and I will explain.
Really, it’s simple: acupuncture removes energetic blockages that prevent the free flow of our blood and nervous system signals.
When we have energetic blockages, signals can’t get through, oxygen and other nutrients can’t reach every cell, waste products can’t be properly eliminated, complex hormonal messages get bungled, and then eventually we get symptoms of pain, brain fog, fatigue, etc.
Acupuncture works to free up the flow of energy in the channels of the body, which are like blood vessels and nerves, a complex system of highways, roads, streams, creeks, rivers, bridges, that connect every part of us with every other part.
Herbal medicine works on the deeper organ level. It corrects the functioning of our liver system, our cardiovascular system, our lymph system, our genitourinary system, our cognition, and emotions, etc.
Together, it’s a complete system of healthcare and does not compartmentalize each body part or each organ. A lot of my patients like this because in conventional medicine there is a different doctor for every body part, but no one is looking at the whole. Chinese Medicine has principles based on natural law, so the whole is accounted for.
Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to ask me anything you want to know about the benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicine! I am happy to help.
Our world is in a state of heightened fear, anger, hurt, and uncertainty. Our values are being challenged and brought front and center. Rightfully so. What the world needs now is leaders, and we all have it in us to lead in our own lives by example for others.
But that’s harder when your body is struggling to maintain proper functioning. Stress is the looter inside us. Be diligent to counteract it where you can.
Where do we start? We can actually take a look at our stress level – perceived, and also actual demands on you that are “normal”. Here is more about stress and the way it impacts your hormones and thus your total health and resilience!
What are hormones?
Hormone functions can be broadly grouped into several categories: reproduction and sexual differentiation; development and growth; maintenance of the internal environment; and regulation of metabolism and nutrient supply. A single hormone may affect more than one of these functions and each function may be controlled by several hormones.
In short, hormones are chemical messengers telling the body how to react to stimuli.
You may have heard of the adrenal glands and how they produce cortisol which is a “fight or flight” hormone. The HPA axis – hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis – is the relay system that activates our “fight or flight” response. This process occurs whether we acknowledge that we’re stressed or not. Much happens without our cognitive awareness – after all it was designed so that we can react instantly to danger, no thinking needed. Unfortunately, most of us are in a state of chronic low grade stress. And this leads to many chronic ailments. Overproduction of stress hormones creates chaos for blood sugar which contributes to inflammation. It’s a cascade effect.
Stress–>Fight or Flight Response via the HPA Axis –>Insulin resistance, insomnia, fatigue –>Dysregulation of metabolic hormones and mood neurotransmitters
Chronic stress means excess stress hormones like cortisol, which works to shut down digestion, increase heart rate, and keep us alert (aka anti-sleep). Chronic stress also causes or contributes to:
- weight gain/obesity
- thyroid dysfunction
And the list goes on.
To reduce stress, lifestyle changes are really important. Here’s my blog about how to organize your lifestyle around reducing stress.
But there’s other ways you can really promote wellness, be proactive against the hidden damage caused by stress, and prevent chronic illness.
One of the best ways is regular acupuncture treatments.
How Acupuncture Reduces Stress
Acupuncture works very similarly to meditation in that it reduces the active beta brain waves, increases the relaxed alpha brain waves, and also produces your happy hormones including endorphins which are natural pain killers, and neurotransmitters seratonin and dopamine known to affect mood. While stress creates the fight or flight response, acupuncture induces the rest and digest response, which allows the body to heal itself. In addition, acupuncture can really help you achieve better sleep as well. Insomnia is a major barrier for hormonal health, and acupuncture through the mechanisms mentioned, helps you restore your natural circadian rhythms.
Stress creates inflammation, and acupuncture reduces the inflammatory response and promotes circulation of blood, lymph, and nerve signals.
When working on resolving a health issue, acupuncture is prescribed in a series of treatments, at first close together, then spreading further apart, until you are feeling good, the problem is resolved, and then you continue with a maintenance plan to keep the body functioning properly.
Now is the time. It’s always now, but now is a time of power and movement more than ever.
In mind-body medicine, particularly the East Asian traditional variety, we are often very concerned with detecting stagnation and blockage. Like a dam in a river – it will create build up on one side, and lack on the other.
This is what our society reflects, and no wonder we see it in our health.
The body keeps the score.
All the pain and trauma of the past, it can be released, but we have to identify the dams, and we have to find another way to allow flow and therefore healing after we move and remove the dams that are obstructing our health, our society.
That is a broad metaphor that does not show the absolute atrocities that continually repeat, but what we’re seeing now with national dialogues is that the silenced voices are finally being listened to. Solutions and ideas for healing the wrongs that have been said for so long are finally being allowed to broadcast. I can see the old “Berlin walls” being hacked away.
This is what our country needs. Breaking down of old ways, hurtful and wrong ways.
The stress of all these wrongs explain so much of the dis-ease we experience. Much being subconscious, even the imprints of these past centuries and past decades of brutality and pain are carried by many of us through our connection to the collective unconscious. And now the pain felt daily by black, indigenous, and brown people is being acknowledged globally.
Just think of all the healing that can come from this moment we’re in – if we can all keep moving with it, and arrange our inner selves, our minds and hearts, to open to change and embrace it. To see the beautiful possibilities of what a healed world, and what we ourselves as healed bodies, will be like. What would it feel like to not be controlled by the stress, anger, worry, fear, that these dams inside us create?
If you are in a place of wanting to heal, wanting to move forward, wanting to be of service to this movement of change, I say thank you. Thank you for choosing love and vulnerability.
You don’t have to know all the hows right now. Just be open, be open.
Know that I am here to facilitate your growth and healing. I’m there with you. I am learning, listening, changing, desiring good for our community.
The important thing is to not give up, not get exhausted and burned out, but to balance the pushing forward with the breaks to rest, heal, and replenish. If you need help with working on your inner health so that you can bring yourself out there to help others, I get it and that’s what I do.
What a time to be alive. It’s not easy what’s been set before us, but it’s absolutely what we’re here for, and what we’re here to learn. It’s taken so many lifetimes of suffering, but let’s turn up the light brighter than ever to amplify and speed the healing.
With so much love and gratitude,
Have you ever imagined what the grocery store would look like if only foods grown within a 500 mile radius, made with normal kitchen equipment, were sold there? What if refined sugar, artificial flavors, and refined vegetable oils were illegal?
As a health care provider for over 15 years, when I shop for food I’m always conscious of two main perameters: 1. is it natural or processed, or in other words, could this item be made in a kitchen or grown in the ground without a ton of technology, and 2. is it in season now in my region? Of course, exceptions are going to happen, but when I keep these criteria in mind, I am already bound to make healthier choices.
Why does eating low-tech and in season mean healthy? Let’s take a look!!
Eating with the Seasons, and with your internal environment
In Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM), people are always considered to be a part of nature, not separate from it. This includes diet and nutrition. Food is considered the first medicine, and only after diet has been corrected should other medicines be considered. Choosing foods based on their special qualities and properties, the TEAM practitioner can prescribe certain foods to complement the patient, while advising against foods that are contraindicated for their condition.
In cold weather, foods should be warming, like soup and stews, and salads and fruit should be infrequent. In summer, eating light, fresh and seasonal produce will encourage a deeper connection with food, and greater nutrition.
Going Local – The biggest bang for your buck
Thanks to world wide distribution channels and global food companies, we can have almost any fruit or vegetable, from all over the world, year round. This is a wonderful asset, yet, if we compare the nutritional content of what we can grow here to foods that were harvested months ago and trucked or shipped thousands of miles? The quality of the food, and it’s vitamin and mineral content, are greatly diminished. Pesticides and other chemicals may need to be used in larger quantities to yield the types of harvests to feed the huge demands. Strawberries are a great example – I recently read an article about all the special conditions that year round red berries in every store across the nation require. It’s quite eye opening and provides incentive to change buying habits.
Big Food vs You
People are busy. We work too much, our activities take up the rest of our time. So where’s the time to cook from scratch? And why should we? Especially where I live in the suburbs, and in many communities, grocery stores and restaurants abound to satisy any craving, meet any budget, and to fit into any busy lifestyle. But when you step back and take a look from afar, we see how health benefits are sacrificed for profits. Insidious practices, like increasing fat, salt, sugar, and flavorings to make foods “hyperpalatable” and arguably addictive, are commonplace. About 10 companies control the world’s food supply. They dictate what is available and thus our choices.
When we can see the marketing and corporate decisions aimed at profits behind the products, it can open our eyes. We don’t have to sacrifice quality for convenience. Read labels to make informed choices. Keep it simple. Protein, veggies, and a carbohydrate are the main components to a nourishing meal.
Avoid these three things for better health
The name of the health game is anti-inflammatory, since all chronic disease is a form of inflammation. Keep these off your plate to make the biggest impact.
Bad Oils – certain oils produce free radicals that damage our tissues. This article has a good summary of oils that are safe to cook with and oils that are damaging.
Processed Meats – I’m talking about deli meats and “meat products” like boloney, and sliced meats full of preservatives. See the link below for information about how it’s linked to cancer and heart disease.
SUGAR! – of course, the most fun thing, but also the most inflammatory. This should really be limited in its refined forms. Go for unrefined alternatives like evaporated cane juice (also called sucanat), raw local honey, and natural maple syrup. Or skip the sweeteners and retrain your tastebuds to enjoy whole fruits! Stevia and Monfruit extract are natural sweeteners only required by the drop! The internet abounds with naturally sweetened treats recipes, and if you are savvy you can make better choices at the store for that occasional treat!
So next time you are tempted to buy tomatoes in winter, or donuts in the drive thru, think about your body and ask if it’s worth it. And as a gardener, think – can I grow that? If not, maybe put it back on the shelf!
Some people are ready and some are hesitant. We all have our own comfort levels with the pandemic situation, and no one is right or wrong. Wearing a mask in public is the law – but what else can you do to ensure your system is as strong as possible? What can you do to protect your family? How about a game plan for “re-entry”! Some points may sound redundant or obvious, but it’s good to really understand the power of the basics, plus real talk about preventative care.
Medicine is Anything that promotes healing and Optimizes Health
We use Medicine all the time without thinking about it. Water, Sleep, Food, Rest, Recreation, Exercise – it’s all Medicine in my book. Then there’s therapies that are medicine also. Talk therapy, massage, acupuncture, herbs, nutritional supplementation, chiropractic, drugs. Working with health care providers doesn’t always have to be reserved for illness. We can use many therapies to prevent illness, including acupuncture and herbs!
Let’s look at some basics to cover for at home self-care, and then let’s talk about how acupuncture and herbal therapy fits in to a wellness plan during the pandemic and beyond!
Hydrate, Sleep, Sweat, and Giggle!
Water – Nectar of the Gods
- Ideally, 1 liter per 50 lbs of body weight is what most of us should have in mind as we hydrate. Don’t force water, but if you have a hard time drinking more than 2-4 glasses a day, you may need some assistance rebalancing fluids in your body. We can do that with acupuncture, diet modifications, and herbs. Remember coffee and strong tea will dehydrate, so add a bit extra water to compensate. And adding minerals to purified water is important.
Sleep – Regular, Sufficient, Quality
- Sleep can sometimes slip down on the priority list. There’s lots of workaholics and overscheduled people in our community! But I’ve learned over the years, that sleep is a MAJOR MEDICINE – and it is FREE! You can make it a higher priority. Protect it. Schedule it. In short, make time to get quality sleep. If sleep eludes you, let me help! Acupuncture and/or herbal medicine has been helping people get restful sleep for eons. Staying up too late can also rob you of important restful non-REM sleep, so keep to a decent bedtime too. Keep in mind life before the light bulb!
Exercise – Get sweaty for fun
- Using a guideline of getting your heart rate up so your breathing is more labored for at least 30 minutes 4 times a week, choose something you like to do! Or at least distract yourself from it with something to watch or listen to.
Laughter – really is the best Medicine!
- It’s a cliche for a reason. There’s a bunch of scientific reasons – it decreases stress hormones, increases endorphins, and increases natural killer cell activity hence boosting immunity. So if you are feeling somber, Saturday Night Live, the Carol Burnett Show, and the Simpsons may be just what the doctor ordered! Make a list of what brings you joy, and make a point to fit joy in as much as you can!
- Go Higher – while we’ve always cautioned against doses too high especially of fat soluble vitamins, more research has been coming out. During a pandemic, I recommend going higher on preventative vitamins and minerals. Kids can take half or 1/4 the adult dose of most supplements but always check with your pediatrician.
- Vitamin D – it’s actually very concerning to see WebMD list levels of 20-50 ng/ml as the optimal range, and deficiency being defined as 12 – this is too low! I am concerned when I see my patients’ level below 40-50. To me, 40 is borderline low, yet it’s not uncommon to have patients come in with levels well below 30. I want to see levels between 50-80 ng/ml. The test to ask your doctor for, or that I can help direct you to order, is 25 Hydroxy D, and is a blood test that should be checked annually. Low levels of D have been linked to many chronic illnesses, and several small studies of covid-19 patients indicate a strong correlation between low levels of D with greater severity of symptoms and complications, ironically also sighted on WebMD.
- Vitamin C – controversy and disagreement has surrounded the use of this powerful antioxidant. Yet when taken as a mineral ascorbate in higher doses throughout the day, it is really a useful medicine to prevent illness and to support nearly every metabolic process in the body, from healthy skin, lowering inflammation, supporting gut health, bone health, etc.
- Additional supportive nutrients – zinc, selenium, vitamin A, and licorice root. Even melatonin doubles not only as a sleep aid but a gut support and immune/antiviral support.
- Always – Work with a provider to determine appropriate doses for these and all supplements. I love incorporating nutritional supplementation as needed to enhance healing for my patients!
Overall health translates to robust immunity
Ultimately, we want to prevent disease. Remember – symptoms are how your body communicates needs to your thinking mind. Pay attention to what just doesn’t seem right, whether it’s an old problem or new, and seek support. Prevention includes preventing minor problems from worsening. This is why I love acupuncture and herbal medicine so much – everyone can benefit. It’s not just for illnesses – it’s a great preventative!
Stress is a response in the body that manifests in imbalances of cortisol, neurotransmitters, thyroid hormones, and more. A robust self care routine is critical to reducing effects o f s tress in the body, and ultimately preventing many chronic diseases.
My Top 3 Stress Busters are:
- Meditation – at least 20 minutes a day,
- Sleep – what feels right for you amount-wise, and
- Acupuncture – the healing state brain wave inducer!
What to do if you begin experiencing the symptoms of the virus?
Firstly – don’t panic. Breathe. Rest. Help is available!
With people being told to tough it out at home, and the concern of going to the hospital, my colleagues, across the US and internationally, and I have been preparing to help. I am careful here to not say I treat THE virus. And, I don’t. I treat people experiencing symptoms.
Chinese Medicine is really suited for treating symptoms associated with bacterial and viral infections, as China has endured hundreds of pandemics that have helped shaped the medicine over the centuries. Herbs routinely provide targeted support based on symptoms, and formulas prescribed change rapidly as the symptoms progress rapidly. Examples of how herbal medicine can help include helping the body reduce fever, aid breathing, break up phlegm, and resolve severe body aches.
If you feel like you are coming down with something, I recommend you call or text and we’ll set up a consultation so I can get the information I need to support you! Or if you are ready to up your prevention plan, we can do that on Zoom or in the clinic!