Archive for March 2016

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Chilli with Mushrooms

This month I’ve been slow cooker crazy. Yes, spring is right around the corner (starts tomorrow!), but it’s still cool enough out now in Vancouver to make me crave some warming, comfort food. Plus, slow cooker meals are pretty easy to make and last for several meals because I can easily make a lot.

Of all the ones I’ve made this month, this is my fave slow cooker recipes of the month.

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Chilli with Mushrooms
High protein, easy to make, and delicious!
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  1. 2-3 cans of your choice of beans, drained and rinsed (I used black beans and barlotti beans)
  2. 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons chili powder
  4. 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  5. 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  6. 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  7. 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  8. 1/4 cup water
  9. 3 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  10. 3 cups vegetable broth
  11. 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  12. 2 limes, cut into wedges
  1. Combine oil, chili powder, cumin and cardamom in a large pan (I used my stirfry pan).
  2. Place over high heat and stir until the spices sizzle, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and water.
  4. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are juicy, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Uncover and stir often until the juices evaporate and the vegetables are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add broth and tomato paste
  6. Mix well.
  7. Place the beans in a large slow cooker.
  8. Pour the hot vegetable mixture over the beans.
  9. Turn heat to high.
  10. Put the lid on and cook until the beans are creamy, 4 hours.
  11. Serve with lime wedges. I also added avocado on top, though you could choose sour cream or cheese.
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC

March is National Kidney Month

kidneys National Kidney MonthWhen patients come in to address particular organ health, they most often mention their heart, their liver, their lungs, or the various organs of their digestive system and reproductive system, but rarely does someone ask me about their kidneys. Your kidneys do a lot of work for you, but I doubt you think much about them, unless you have kidney health issues. This month is National Kidney Month, so I ask you to think about this hard working duo, and consider how you can keep them healthy.

What do your kidneys do?

Your kidneys filter about 200 litres of blood daily. You know that the kidneys help eliminate waste products and excess fluid from your body, but did you also know that your kidneys are needed to:

  • Regulate your blood pressure
  • Produce an active form of vitamin D 
  • Control the production of red blood cells

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we look to the TCM Kidney system when issues arise for bone and joint health, low back pain, issues with fear and anxiety, fatigue, edema, reproductive health, menopausal symptoms, and more. If you’ve experienced trauma, ongoing chronic stress, or have been told you have adrenal issues, we consider the Kidneys for that too, as the adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys.

How do kidneys malfunction?

There are many reasons why your kidneys could find themselves in trouble. Things that can increase your risk include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections that travel to the kidneys, a family history of kidney disease, and aging. Some are just born with congenital issues affecting the kidneys, and those of Aboriginal, Asian, South Asian, Pacific Island, African/Caribbean, and Hispanic descent are at higher risk.

Though most aren’t aware of it, estimates are that up to two million Canadians have chronic kidney disease (CKD) or are at risk for it.

How do you know if your kidneys are struggling? One simple blood test you can get is called estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Check out this risk assessment online tool for National Kidney Month to see if you should ask your doctor for this blood test.

How do I keep my kidneys healthy?

  1. Hydrate. You don’t have to go overboard, but I find many of my patients are chronically dehydrated. Unless you are taking B vitamins (including in a multi)–in which case your urine is likely to be bright yellow–your urine can help you determine if you are sufficiently hydrated. It should be a very pale yellow. If it’s a dark yellow, you may be dehydrated. Keep in mind that diuretics, like some blood pressure medications and caffeinated beverages, can make you have to pee much more often, as can overactive bladder and prostate problems.
  2. Keep healthy eating and exercise habits. Both will help manage your blood pressure, diabetes, stress, and weight. Watch your salt intake. Yes, salt is important for our health, but many take in too much salt, as it’s found in so many processed foods. You can also overdo the “good salt” like sea salt and Himalayan salt, especially if you have high blood pressure. 
  3. Stop smoking. So many reasons to quit. Smoking damages your blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and increases your risk for kidney cancer. Acupuncture can help you quit smoking.
  4. Don’t overdo pain medications like Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen). These non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause kidney damage if taken too often. Acupuncture is best known for its ability to help treat and manage pain. Check out TCM for pain management options.
  5. Treat your diabetes, high blood pressure (click me), and urinary tract infections. Because these all increase your risk of kidney disease, it’s vital that you treat these health issues appropriately. Did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you not just treat the symptoms of these problems, but also work on getting to the source?
  6. Manage your stress. Stress can be a catalyst for disease. When the body is in chronic stress, it has a hard time healing. It doesn’t do a good job of simultaneously defending and repairing the body–often picking defending as its preferential course of action. There are many ways to cope with stress and support your adrenal glands. For more on adrenal fatigue click here.
  7. Come in for a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) consultation. While I won’t be able to detect your GFR levels without lab results, your body may be giving clues that your kidneys need to be addressed. Plus, it’s better to work preventively than in response to organ failure. 

National Kidney Month

I have a friend who has a kidney transplant. He knows the challenges that come with dialysis, organ transplant, and ongoing health issues. I urge you to remember to pay attention to the health of your kidneys this National Kidney Month and beyond, and to register for organ donation. It’s easy to do. Simply start with clicking here.

Facing the Facts about Kidney Disease National Kidney Month


Allergy season in Vancouver already?

allergy season in Vancouver acupuncture biopunctureSpring allergies. That’s what they are commonly called, but it’s not even spring yet and allergy season in Vancouver has already started! Warmer winters mean earlier starts to the allergy season, and higher pollen counts too. According to a Vancouver allergist quoted on CBC News, this year’s allergies actually started in January, though my patients started to notice their allergies early to mid-February.

Allergy Season in Vancouver

So, what exactly are you allergic to? It is hard to say without proper testing, but you may be able to narrow it down a bit by what is in season at a specific time of year. As mentioned, however, keep in mind that some dates are earlier this year (and recent years), than may be listed at this link because of warmer weather. Also, it may not be a complete listing, but it’s a start. PollenPlus Vancouver

Also, did you know that some foods can cause cross-reactions of allergies? If, for example, you’re allergic to birch trees, you may also have reaction to apples, pears, tomatoes, cherries, carrots, celery, and tree nuts, so you’re best to eliminate those foods from your diet, at least while you’re suffering from your seasonal allergies. 


Also, because cold and flu season is not over yet, it is worth considering if your symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and maybe even sore throat or headache might be a cold. To figure out if you’re suffering from a late winter cold or allergy season in Vancouver, you can check out my past article in 24 Hours newspaper through this link: Is it allergies or a cold?

Treating Allergies Naturally

For some, symptoms are fairly mild. But for others, allergy symptoms can be nearly debilitating. The first year I worked in Japan, I was excited to experience springtime, with all of its beautiful flower trees. That excitement soon disappeared though, as I suffered my first year of seasonal allergies. Every day I walked to work, and every day, by the time I reached the hospital, my eyes were swollen, red, and itchy. I could barely see. I wish I knew then what I know now.

Now I recommend Pascallerg biopuncture injections. Pascallerg is an ultra-low dose of natural ingredients in a sterile ampoule, designed to help modulate an over-active immune system. While also drinkable, I find it more effective when it is injected either just below the skin (subcutaneous) or into muscle (intramuscular), often in acupuncture points. 

For extra support, I often recommend vitamin C and quercetin. Some find local bee pollen helpful. While others use plant sterols. Still others find supplemental magnesium does the trick. 

One of the most practical things you can do is saline solution nasal rinsing. While it may not sound particularly fun, it is a safe, easy, inexpensive, and effective therapy, as it rinses out allergens that can collect in the nasal passages and sinuses. My preferred rinsing tool is called the Nasaline Irrigator. Horrible name, but what I like about it is that it doesn’t require you to tip your head to get water to enter the nostril via gravity. Designed like a big syringe (I know, I’m making it sound less and less attractive, but it really isn’t scary), you can control the flow, and the pressure allows you to move the water through, even when you are particularly congested. Other useful ways to do nasal rinsing include the traditional neti pot and sinus rinse bottles.


Traditional Chinese Medicine Treats Allergies Too

While all those suggestions I’ve given above are general, when I see someone in clinic, I ask lots of questions, take a look at your tongue, and feel your pulse. All of this gives me clues to your particular areas of health challenge so I can create a treatment plan–potentially including acupuncture, herbs, and dietary suggestions, in addition to the above suggestions.

Have you noticed the early allergy season in Vancouver? What are you doing about it?


Creamy “Cheesy” Vegan Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Vegan Spaghetti sauce recipeMy husband and I have decided to include beef into our no-eat food list. We’ve already removed all pig products and I don’t have dairy (I’m not militant about it, but I generally avoid it and I don’t buy it for myself). I think the decision to avoid beef is a bit troubling to my parents, as we go there weekly for dinner. No problem, I said, as I’ll just bring food. So, when I was told spaghetti is on the menu, I decided to make a vegan spaghetti sauce recipe to bring along.

Luckily one of my patients told me that she had made one with squash, garlic, and coconut milk. I had a couple of sweet potatoes at home, so I decided to start with that.

My Creamy “Cheesy” Vegan Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

My Creamy "Cheesy" Vegan Spaghetti Sauce
I'm sure you can modify this to your own taste, as that's all I did
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  1. 2 medium yams, cubed
  2. 3-5 cloves garlic minced
  3. Coconut oil
  4. 1-1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  5. 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  6. 1 tsp (approx) dried thyme
  7. salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil water and add yams. Cook until tender.
  2. Drain yams and blend in blender or with a hand blender, until smooth.
  3. Put generous amount of coconut oil in pot and add garlic, stirring until it is slightly browned.
  4. Add yams, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, thyme, and salt and pepper.
  5. Stir everything together.
  6. You can add small amounts of each ingredient at a time to get the right thickness of the sauce and the right flavour you want. I also tried a pinch of coriander and thought that was a nice added flavour. I kept wanting it to taste cheesier, so I got up to a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, but you might stop sooner.
Adapted from from various ideas I found online
Adapted from from various ideas I found online
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC
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