Sunday, July 27, 2014

Acupuncture Helped Vincenzo Nibali Win The Tour de France

Today Vincenzo Nibali of team Astana will be making history winning this year's Tour de France, Congratulations Vincenzo! 

Did Acupuncture Help Him Get To The Paris Podium?

Winning team, Astana, is the only team on the Tour to have a full time acupuncturist on staff! How Marvelously Brilliant!!

Eddy De Smedt L.Ac., a Belgian acupuncturist, has been treating all the cyclists on Astana throughout the grueling three week bike race. His treatments have been used to help the racers with pain relief, recovery and rest.

Below is a short excerpt from an article by the associated press.
The Kazakh team’s acupuncturist says he believes he’s the only one on a team staff at this Tour. Eddy De Smedt said he treats all riders on the team. He arrived after the early, mostly flat stages and ahead of the mountains — when recovery matters more. The usual treatment is about half an hour after dinner, De Smedt said. Before a stage, he’ll do about five or 10 minutes, aimed to reduce stress. In the evenings, after sticking the needles into Tour leader Nibali, “I’ll leave them in for 25-30 minutes, but he falls asleep,” De Smedt said. “He’s convinced that it’s something that can help him."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Parenting and The Vulcan Mind Meld

Are there any Star Trek fans out there? Well, I am one, of both the original and The Next Generation. Going back decades (but that’s why reruns are a wonderful invention),  there was an episode of Star Trek called “Devil in the dark”  (1967).  The story was about the Horta, one of the few life forms made from silicon. The Horta had been killing people on a mining colony and the crew of the Enterprise was called in to find the creature and kill it. Well, Dr. Spock discovers, through a mind meld with the Horta, that her murderous behavior was intended to defend her 1000s of silcon babies who the miners had been killing. The Horta, as any empathic mother would be, was in a great deal of pain and desperately attempting to defend her young.  The Horta, under her stone-like appearance was very sensitive and very misunderstood. In the final analysis, she was just another mother trying to save her babies.

I thought many parents might be able to relate to this particular Star Trek episode. It can be difficult dealing with a world that will sometimes misunderstand your child and create more harm than help. And, in response, I’m sure that you know parents who have had to develop a hard shell to guide their children through the school system, medical establishment and social mine fields. The shell, just like the Horta’s exterior, becomes a way to protect deeply vulnerable emotions that are exposed when we have to protect the people most near and dear to our hearts.

Too bad we all don’t have a Dr. Spock and the crew of the Enterprise to help us understand and negotiate peaceful solutions. I wonder how difficult it is to learn the mind meld technique and is it only offered on the planet Vulcan?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why You Should Be Eating Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are one of my new favorite superfoods. These ancient seeds were commonly consumed by people in the Mayan and Aztec cultures, Chia even got its name from the Mayan word for “strength.” They are considered a “superfood” because they pack in so many nutrients with a minimum of calories.

3 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

1) Chia seeds are a concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids and unlike flaxseeds, you don’t need to grind them up to receive the benefits. When compared to salmon, ounce for ounce, Chia seeds have more omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (EFAs), like omega-3, are anti-inflammatory, help keep joints healthy, ease pain and reduce swelling. EFAs also support heart health, help with depression, stress, arthritis and menopause.

2) Chia seeds have a high fiber content about 11 grams of fiber in 2 tablespoons (1 ounce). Fiber is important for all aspects of health, especially digestion, it can also aid in weight loss because it makes you feel fuller by soaking up fluid and expanding in your digestive tract.

3) 1 ounce of Chia seeds contains antioxidants, 4 grams of protein and more calcium than a serving of skim milk!

3 Easy Food Ideas

My version of Rasberry Chia seed pudding
1) I’ve made Chia seed pudding. The seeds become gel-like when mixed with liquid. On my pintrest recipe board, I have several Chia pudding recipes you can check out.

2) Chia seeds have a very mild, nutty flavor that makes them easy to add to foods and drinks. I often include a tablespoonful of seeds in my smoothies.

3) You can also sprinkle Chia seeds on your cereal, yogurt or salads and mix it into drinks.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cyclists in The Tour de France Use Acupuncture To Stay in Top Form

The 2014 Tour De France is underway. Hundreds of elite cyclists are racing through the picturesque mountains of France in an amazing feat of endurance. Although I am not a big cycling fan, I am a huge fan of acupuncture! So, I was thrilled to learn that super star cyclist Alberto Contador is using acupuncture to help him with his knee pain during the race. He injured his knee early in the race and uses acupuncture to combat the pain and inflammation. I also learned that Tyler Hamilton, who is now retired, also used acupuncture during the 2004 Tour.

From Cycling Weekly: Contador Receives Acupuncture for Knee
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) is using acupuncture to treat his injured [right] knee. He hurt it twice in the opening stages of the Tour de France, first as part of his two crashes in stage five to Cap Fréhel and again on Sunday’s stage to Saint Flour.
“The inflammation is bad,” he said yesterday. “To help take care of it I am using acupuncture.”
Back in 2004 Tyler Hamilton received acupuncture after a bike accident during the race injured his back and shoulder.

From the associated press during the 2004 Tour De France: Acupuncture Helped Rider with Back Pain in the Tour de France Race
 “Just a week into this year's race, Hamilton flew off his bike again, hurting his back and shoulder in another big spill.”
"I was involved in the crash three days ago and hurt my back pretty badly," Hamilton said. He has been receiving treatment since. "I just finished doing some acupuncture on my back."

Side note: I read Tyler Hamilton’s book ‘The Secret Race’ (written with Daniel Coyle) while on vacation and really enjoyed it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm On Vacation!

I'm very excited to report...I'm on Vacation!!! I will be back in my Chicago office on July 7th. If you'd like to follow me on facebook or twitter I hope to post a few photos of my adventures.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Secret About the “Secrets” in Acupuncture

I am honored to share this guest article by author Ioannis Solos, whose newest book 'Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice' comes out this week. 

Take it away Ioannis....

According to Hippocrates, the practice of Medicine was already flourishing even before the invention of writing. I believe that although the ancients could not read and intellectually reflect on the plethora of medical manuscripts that we have today, they could still “learn by example”, “stick to the basics”, “live the Medicine”, “experience”, “breathe”, “keep it simple” and apply by feeling and intention. Even though the levels of sophistication and effectiveness of such ancient -and largely shamanic- practices are not comparable to our modern advances, some of these ideas still hold truth and essence, especially when it comes to “experiencing”, “keeping it simple” and also “sticking to the basics”.

Additionally, in the words of St. Maximus the Confessor: “Action is the application of theory, and theory derives from spiritual guidance [and reflection] on practice”. 

In my opinion the practice of Chinese acupuncture in the west, largely lacks this “spiritual reflection and guidance”. Instead, many of us often believe that by learning as many acupuncture micro-systems/modalities as possible, we can enrich our practice and stay in competition with others. 

Twelve years ago, in search of “the secrets” I moved to Beijing. I soon found out that there are many smaller medical traditions, family systems, lineages, minority approaches and personalized expressions of the medical art. However, all of these had one common denominator: mastery of the basics and ingenious combination of ideas alongside creative interpretation of the classical theories.

Since Chinese culture is all inter-connected under an umbrella of common theoretical basics such as the Yin Yang, Five Phases, Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches, the Eight Trigrams etc., philosophical correspondences and similarities also exist across different fields.

Drawing from my experiences in the Chinese Internal Martial Arts world, many of us usually perceive someone as a master, only after one has perfected their “fundamental skills” or “jiben gong”.  Someone who has learned many arts but is unable to use any of them effectively is still regarded as a Jack-of-all-trades.

In my opinion, your basic skills can be likened to the trunk of a tree. If the trunk is strong (i.e. your martial, medical, and intellectual skills are flourishing), only then you can help it grow branches by learning additional modalities and perfecting your skills. Ultimately, all of these will have a common core; make sense as part of a whole, and they can complement each other in harmony. The fruit will be your own contributions to your practice of medicine, and the seeds your legacy.

After more than a decade in the Far East, I came to realize that the only secret in acupuncture, is not pursuing all those “exotic” skills that others possess (or every trendy micro-system that gets popularized every few years), but how creative you can be with the materials that you already know, and how well everything relates to everything else you know. Of course equally important is keeping faithful to the core tradition and continuous study, practice, research and refinement.

My new book “Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice”, which will hit the shops in Europe this week (and the rest of the world over the next few days), is a book of acupuncture essence. Although it does not include any point combinations, or extravagant techniques, it speaks about how to effectively cultivate your internal skills towards enhancing your needling and the efficacy of your healing approaches. I hope that after reading it, people will apply their own creative thinking and ultimately expand their understanding and their own level of cultivation towards the path.

Ioannis Solos studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. He enjoys researching, teaching, practicing and critically interpreting the ancient philosophy and culture of China, internal martial arts, health preservation practices, classic medical texts and lesser-known Chinese esoteric traditions. He is also the author of “Gold Mirrors and Tongue Reflections: The Cornerstone Classics of Chinese Medicine Tongue Diagnosis” published by Singing Dragon.

Congratulations on your new book, Ioannis, quite an accomplishment!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

“I Am a Young Tree Bending in the Wind”

This weekend I had a conversation with a good friend who used this metaphor to describe how she was approaching a tense situation. She was heading into a difficult conversation and wanted to remain strong and open. I liked the image of a young tree able to bend in the face of natural (and man-made) forces. I thought it was a wise and Taoist attitude. The Tao teaches us to be flexible in the face of change as well as challenge. If a tree never wavers it will snap, whereas a tree with strong roots and flexibility is more likely to survive the storm.

The logo on my business card and website is the Chinese symbol that signifies the Tao. The Tao Te Ching, better known as The Tao, is a book written by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Literally translated, The Tao means "the way". It is the source of great wisdom and you may already know some of the quotes, for example,  "Even a 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step".

Another metaphor in nature for the Tao is water. Water represents the epitome of adaptability and strength. Water can attack with the devastating waves of a tsunami, freeze into menacing blocks of ice (remember the Titanic?) and trickle its way through the smallest crevice. All life depends on water for its existence, and even the hardest stone will eventually be worn down by water’s constant perseverance. 

Both of these metaphors - water and the young tree - describe a guiding principle in Taoist philosophy, that of adapting to your environment or, as people say, “going with the flow”. Bending, adapting, being flexible, or changing shape doesn't usually change the essence of who we are, but it does enable us to live more harmoniously with the world around us.

I’m practicing my back bends.....

Monday, June 16, 2014

The "Pollen Vortex" Is Here - Chinese Medicine Can Help

Recently my Chicago acupuncture office has been receiving calls from people who are looking for allergy relief. Apparently we can blame the Polar Vortex for this, too. Our recent brutal winter has led us to a “pollen vortex”, not good news for people who suffer with allergies. Because it was sooo cold for sooo long, trees and other plants were dormant longer than usual, so tree pollen season is overlapping with grass pollen and mold season. Ugh. Allergists in the Chicago area believe this “pollen vortex” has caused more allergens than usual for this time of year to be released into the air. Dr. Joseph Leija, an allergist with Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, in Chicago, measures the levels of pollen in the Midwest for the National Allergy Bureau. In March of this year, Dr. Leija predicted this “pollen vortex”, and said it would be created by “the pollens all coming in at the same time. The season will probably be shorter, but people with allergies will be more miserable.”

At the end of May, Dr. Leija said, “The pollen vortex and that noxious cyclone of allergens is here. All pollens except ragweed are now simultaneously at recordable levels triggering unhealthy reactions in those with sensitive breathing systems.”

Those with allergies suffer many unpleasant symptoms, including: itchy, red, watery eyes, inflammation, itchy throat or skin, congestion, postnasal drip and sneezing. The increased pollen count increases these symptoms. Allergy sufferers release histamines (which cause the symptoms) in response to the allergens, hence more allergens = more symptoms.

Luckily, Chinese Medicine offers great relief for allergic symptoms. Specific acupuncture points for the sinuses often bring quick relief, open the sinuses, relieve congestion and reduce inflammation. Regular treatment can calm the histamine reaction, strengthen the immune system, balance the body and often dramatically decrease the unpleasant symptoms. Chinese herbal medicine and cupping are also wonderful for allergies. Chinese herbs can help decrease or eliminate allergies without the side effects some people experience when they take allergy medications. Cupping helps clear excess phlegm and heat in the body.

If this “pollen vortex” has been taking a toll on your health, you might want to give Chinese Medicine a try.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Chinese Medicine and Mental Health

Mental health disorders are more common than you think. According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), about one in four adults suffer from a mental disorder every year.

Mental health disorders are medical conditions that take many forms and affect people to varying degrees. Mental disorders can cause disturbed thinking, an inability to cope with daily tasks, impaired work performance, feelings of worthlessness, delusions, mood swings, a compromised immune system, insomnia, fatigue and difficulty relating to others. Whether it is a serious mental illness or a mild, temporary state, acupuncture is an excellent, safe addition to almost any treatment plan. This is an area where Chinese Medicine shines because it treats the whole person - mental and physical - at the same time. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the two are not seen as separate entities as they are in Western medicine.

In my book, Adventures in Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture, Herbs and Ancient Ideas For Today, I write about the philosophical differences between Eastern and Western Medicine. Here is a short excerpt:

‘Western medicine depends heavily on science, with its ideological roots in Greece and Egypt. Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the famous French philosopher and one of the fathers of modern science and mathematics, greatly influenced the formation of the scientific method. As a scientist, in order to get bodies to dissect, he made a deal with the Pope that medicine would confine itself to the body. People’s emotions and souls would be the province of the Church.

This overly simplistic explanation points out the evolution of Western medicine’s creation of a separation of mind and body, viewing the body as a complex system of biological parts, rather than a holistic unit. Certainly Western medicine has accomplished amazing things, but it is not the only path to wellness.’
Chinese Medicine, including treatments of acupuncture and herbal medicine, can alleviate many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with mental health issues and the side effects related to prescription medications. In TCM, mental health disorders are seen as a disturbance in the flow of Qi. Think of it like an energetic imbalance. This imbalance can lead to many problems, both physical and emotional. The aim in Chinese Medicine is to treat the unique individuals and their specific symptoms in order to improve their overall well-being. This is why patients with the same Western diagnosis will be treated with different acupuncture points as well as different lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

From a Western perspective, this is how acupuncture helps:

1. Acupuncture raises the level of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are chemicals
naturally produced in the brain to fight pain. They can also positively affect your mood.

2. Acupuncture can lower blood pressure, induce relaxation, increase circulation, decrease anxiety and treat sleeplessness to help patients better regulate their emotions and responses to stress.

3. Acupuncture can help regulate serotonin, a chemical in the brain that affects a person's emotional state.

In short, Chinese Medicine is just what the doctor ordered (even if they didn't). TCM has mental health benefits. Give your acupuncturist a call today!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Herbal Coolers To Quench Your Thirst This Summer

Here in Chicago it is thrilling to finally have some warmer weather! In this post Cathy offers up two great cooling drinks which are healthier than your average sports drink or lemonade.

From Pacific Herbs
Cathy Margolin

Summertime is upon us and it’s heating up out there. Forget the lemonade and the passion fruit ice tea, here's two recipes with natural herbs for real thirst quenching. These are great for anyone who wants a cool, refreshing drink that’s packed with vitamins and heat relieving properties. These thirst quencher ice teas are healthier than sports drinks and vitamin waters and yet still taste good.

This tea is also greener!! Instead of buying and tossing those plastic (BPA ridden) bottles into landfills, you’re making a healthy fitness beverage. You may not know these Chinese herbs but you can easily find them in Asian markets or on the Internet. These teas have cooling properties to help keep you comfortable on those hot and humid summer days. If you’re exercising in the heat these teas are perfect to rehydrate the minerals you’re losing. It’s what you need in your water bottle for a bike ride, after a workout and in the refrigerator all summer long.

Regarding sweeteners, we know high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar is not so good for us. High fructose corn syrup is prevalent in juice drinks, sports drinks and processed foods so here’s some natural herbal options to sweeten these teas. These sweeteners will help diabetics control their blood sugar and won’t contribute to your kid’s cavities.

Naturals Sweeteners:
I love how easy it is to use Lo Han Sweet. Add a few teaspoons to a pitcher of tea for a healthy, low calorie sweetener. It’s made from ½ Xilitol and ½ Chinese herb extract called Longevity fruit. It looks a little like Splenda's consistency but much safer. You can read more about Lo Han Sweet here. My other sweetener choices would be Stevia or pure Xylitol. Be sure to buy Xylitol, a sugar extract, that is made from non-gmo corn. It resembles sugar but has a third less calories and is great for diabetics. Another option is boiling 1 Longevity fruit, (lou han guo) in a quart of water. The water will be super sweet and you can add this to your tea to taste.

Mint Chrysanthemum Tea - Makes 10-15 cups 
1 cup – Mint leaves – Dried or fresh. In Traditional Chinese Medicine mint is used to clear heat from the head and eyes. It’s cool nature helps relieve heat rashes and headaches. This Chinese herb you are sure to know and recognize but you probably didn’t know it also relieves irritability and but not recommended for nursing mothers. 

1 cup – Dried Chrysanthemum flowers (Chinese grocery stores sell this or buy on line.) Chrysanthemum, another popular Chinese herb, has been used throughout Asia for centuries to reduce fevers, headaches and red swollen dry eyes.

Boil 4 cups of water. Remove from heat and place herbs in water to steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain out herbs and add a few extra mint leaves for taste. Add additional 6 cups of water or ice. Use above sweetener to your desired taste. You may want to use 1 cup of the Longevity fruit sweetener water to taste. 

Pink Berry Cooler Tea - Makes 10-15 cups
1 cup – GoJi Berries and/or Red dates - Both of these can be found at most Chinese markets and now some health food stores. Use about 1 cup of either or ½ cup of both. Both are great blood tonics , packed with vitamins and minerals and add a nice natural sweet flavor to any tea. 

1-2 cups Watermelon – You can use both the melon and the white rind. But what you really need here is only the white rind. But, don’t cut too close to the green skin because the taste will get more bitter the closer you get. You’ll want to puree the watermelon with a little of the warm from cooked berries above, before adding it to the other ingredients. Watermelon rind has the best cooling properties of just about any melon and has been used in Chinese medicine for generations.

2 cups – Aloe Vera Juice – Buy it by the gallon. It’s cheaper and goes a long way. This is an herb used for centuries and is well known for it’s cooling properties. It’s great for constipation, irritability and red eyes. Add the Aloe to the mixture at the end. I find aloe to be fairly bland tasting so it can be hidden with other flavors easily. 

Boil 3 cups of water. Turn to a simmer and add Gou Ji berries and red dates. Simmer for 15 -20 minutes. Allow to cool. Strain out herbs. Add Aloe juice and watermelon juice. Add additional 5 cups of water or ice. Use above sweetener to your desired taste.
For a little zing add some sparking water before drinking to either tea or a splash of rose water. (You can usually find rose water in glass bottles in most ethnic markets as well as the Chinese herbs listed above.)

You can see Chinese herbs are not really all that exotic and foreign. 5 out of 6 Chinese herbs mentioned here you have probably heard of before. A little understanding about what to eat and drink when the weather is too cold or too hot can make a big difference in your health. For more info on Chinese herbs "as food" check out this post.