I know, that’s a very long title for a recipe: Carrot Ginger Immune and Digestive Support Vegan Soup Recipe. But I wanted to say a bit about why I chose to make and share this one. My poor husband has had a fair amount of dental work done recently. Most people don’t particularly enjoy having someone drill in their head, but for him, it’s particularly anxiety-provoking, as I’m sure many of you can relate. All that stress was taking a toll on both his immune and his digestive systems–as stress does. Plus, he wasn’t able to chew very well.
Now, I’m not much of a cook, I’ll easily admit. So, anything I do make needs to be pretty easy and quick. I’m mostly not much of a cook not because I can’t cook well, but because I’m impatient when it comes to getting food ready. When I want food…cue Queen’s song…I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.
As you probably know, carrots are good for you. Rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C, they are immune system supportive. They support the digestive system with a rich source of fibre. Combine that with anti-inflammatory, digestive supporting ginger, and you’ve got a powerhouse of health.
So, here it is, the no-chewing-required, immune-boosting, digestion-supporting, vegan-friendly, make-it-easy recipe.
Vegan Soup Recipe
Carrot Ginger Immune Boosting Digestive Supporting Healthy Vegan Soup Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons minced ginger (I did closer to 4-5 Tbsp and it was super gingery, but delish!)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander (I used cumin because I thought I was out of coriander)
- 4-5 cups diced carrots
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup coconut milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat
- Add onions
- Saute until onions are translucent (about 4 minutes)
- Add ginger
- Saute for another 4 minutes (until softened and fragrant)
- Add coriander (or cumin)
- Add carrots
- Add vegetable broth
- Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are completely softened (about 30 minutes)
- Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes
- Blend soup until smooth, using either an emulsion blender in the pot or put into a blender in batches (my Vitamix did it all in one go)
- Return soup to pot
- Stir in coconut milk
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Even better the 2nd day, if you have leftovers!
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
I don’t get the Starbucks Unicorn drink craze. It doesn’t look edible, it’s full of junk, and it contains a whopping 59g of sugar! It’s not just the calories. That’s almost 15 tsp of sugar. Inflammatory sugar.
I get that it’s only available for a short time and people just want to try it because others are trying it. I’m curious too. But I know that that drink, for me, is a recipe for a headache–even if I only have a portion of it. So, instead I propose a new unicorn craze. I’d love to start an #acupunctureunicorn trend!
Ok, so the acupuncture point is not called The Unicorn. But I do nickname it the “#1 requested acupuncture point” and the “aren’t you going to do that point” point. The acupuncture point name is actually Yintang, and the benefits are many!
The main reason people request that point from me? Because it helps calm our overactive minds. We want to be mindful, but instead we find we’re “mind full.” Who amongst us couldn’t use a bit more calm? Unicorn acupuncture to the rescue.
What about sleep? Are you able to relax well and enjoy a deep, restful sleep? No? Then perhaps you could use some “acupuncture unicorn.”
Stuffy or runny nose? Allergic rhinitis? Congested sinuses? Become an acupuncture unicorn.
Headache? Perhaps it’s because you had a Starbucks unicorn drink? Or maybe it could be from eye strain, sinus congestion, stress, or other. Some unicorn acupuncture can help with that too.
Are you in? Are you ready to make a new unicorn craze–a healthy one? Take a picture of you getting acupuncture at Yintang and share it with the hashtag #acupunctureunicorn ! That would be a trend worth sharing.
Every year I attend the CHFA (Canadian Health Food Association) trade show that’s open only to retailers and health professionals. This past Sunday I spent the day wandering through the aisles with my mom (she’s a nurse practitioner), checking out what’s available in health supplements and healthy food options.
This is what I picked up.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the tried and true stuff. After all, I am practicing a medicine that has a history of thousands of years–Traditional Chinese Medicine’s foundations began 4000+ years ago. But, I also like to find out what’s new. Even TCM continues to evolve, with elements of our practice being fully modern. After all, don’t you prefer your acupuncture with sterile, fine, filiform needles that are thin as hair and glide with ease rather than a sharpened stone? Uh huh, I thought so. Plus, I love being able to offer biopuncture, press needles, silicone cups for cupping, microcurrent stimulation, Swarovski crystal ear seeds (a different post I’ll need to write about soon), and other newer aspects of TCM practice.
So, without further ado, here are some of the things I was most excited to see at this year’s CHFA trade show: foods with more medicinal benefits, companies giving back, healthy things that are also convenient, people passionate and knowledgeable about health!
Okay, so I’ve often been a bit perplexed about the idea of “functional foods.” After all, aren’t all whole foods functional, i.e. have health benefits? But the term functional foods refers to foods that “have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition.” Still, the category is pretty broad. We’re finding out more and more that many foods contain phytonutrients, i.e. chemicals that the plants produce for their own benefit that also provide health perks for us.
Another definition of functional foods is “processed foods containing ingredients that aid specific bodily functions in addition to being nutritious.” What I saw at the show were foods that have been added to. You get the food…plus you get a supplement of some sort. It’s not a new idea. Vitamin D has long been added to dairy products, you can buy omega-3 eggs, and iodine is added to table salt. What I saw though, were the addition of herbs and other nutrients, like this probiotic granola bar. This one is delicious (if you have a sweet tooth), soft, and chewy. It contains 4 billion active probiotic cultures. That’s a good amount! They also make drinks with their probiotics too, though I haven’t tried it yet. Plus, I see that they’ve partnered with the Creation of Hope initiative to help build water wells in Africa, with 5 cents donated for every bottle they sell.
You may know, I’m a big fan of reishi mushrooms. It’s one of TCM’s top herbs! How can it not be, when its Chinese name “ling zhi” translates to “holy mushroom,” and when it’s also known as the “mushroom of immortality!” I write articles regularly for Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom, so I’ve done lots of research beyond the usual for this particular power herb. So, I was excited to see a snack bar with reishi in it (and one with cordyceps too–another powerful Chinese herb!). Though this brand’s reishi uses only the mycelia (root-like structure of a fungus), rather than the fruiting body (the stem and cap–the part you usually think about when you think “mushroom”)–unlike the Mikei brand–meaning it doesn’t contain all the beneficial compounds, it does still contain many polysaccharides that help with immune health. The powerful medicinal compounds in reishi and cordyceps taste awful. They are bitter. So, I was surprised to see them in a granola bar. But, here they were, and the bars taste good. They are crunchier, much firmer than the probiotic bars, and much less sweet. I’m not giving up my daily reishi supplement, but I’d have these snack bars as a topper up on occasion.
Ok, this food isn’t about adding something medicinal to a food, but instead, it’s a functional food that is now being used when it was previously tossed away. Do you love coffee? Did you know that the coffee plant leaf has health benefits? Like many teas, it is rich in antioxidants. The cool thing about attending a trade health show is learning the stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know. Like, the coffee plant leaf contains mangiferin (found in mangoes, but not only mangoes), a compound that is anti a lot of things–antioxidant, antimicrobial (kills bad things you don’t want in your body), anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic–and analgesic (should I have called it “anti-pain”?). It also contains about as much caffeine as green tea and chlorogenic acids–the same compound that has made green coffee beans popular for weight loss. Bonus is jobs. The coffee industry is huge and many people are employed by it, but only for the 3-4 months per year when coffee beans can be harvested. What can they do during the remainder of the year? By harvesting the coffee leaf instead of tossing it, those people can still be employed. Plus, waste not, want not. This really a wise product: Wize Monkey Coffee Tea Leaf.
I’ve recently become minorly (my husband might say it’s not that minor) obsessed with essential oils. I blame two of my friends/colleagues (you know who you are!) who are even nuttier than I am about E.O. I’ve spent way too much money stocking up on oils, but the good thing is that I use them regularly, and I find them helpful! It’s a whole huge topic to go into all the health benefits of E.O., but it’s way beyond smelling nice. For one, did you know that your sense of smell is one of your most primitive and powerful senses? Your olfactory (smell) receptors are directly linked to your limbic system, the part of your brain that helps control your drive for survival, emotional stimuli, motivation, and some types of memory. You’ve likely experienced a powerful memory prompted by a smell–I love the smell of ice rinks because I spent a lot of time there as a figure skater, and Chinese herbal stores always make me feel instantly better.
So, when I came across this company, Divine Essence, I was riveted with amount of information I learned about oils. Many of their oils are organic and they can offer the chemical breakdown analysis for proof of purity, if you ask. The thing about essential oils is that quality can vary. I bought one set of E.O. on a Groupon from a different company. Serves me right. It was cheap. Too cheap, and what I found was that the oils they sent are more like water. Good quality essential oils will have the Latin species name (there are many types of lavender, for instance, each with a different profile), where it was sourced, and that it’s 100% pure and natural. You know when you meet someone who is clearly passionate about what they do? These guys are that. Plus knowledgeable. This may be my favourite product I picked up at the CHFA show: organic helichrysum (also called everlasting or immortelle). It’s beautiful for skin health, an antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, etc. (note that most E.O. should be diluted in oil to use topically and should only be used internally with guided support from someone who’s qualified, despite what some marketing companies say).
If you’re not planning on going E.O. nuts, but you’d like your car or closet or gym bag to smell nice, here’s an option. I’m trying the peppermint one in my car. It’s strongly scented right now, so it’s a good thing I love peppermint. They apparently last for 3 weeks. Please, please, please don’t use the fake scents–those cardboard pine tree-shaped smelly things for your car, Febreeze, fake scented air fresheners, cologne, perfume. The chemicals in those products are harmful to us and to our environment. Raise your hand if you, like me, hold your breath when you walk through the perfume section of a department store or past the store Abercrombie & Fitch (stinks like a cologne war). I love these Purple Frog air fresheners because they combine one of my favourite animals (I collect frog knick knacks) with essential oils. 🙂
Toiletries and Topicals
Toiletries. What an awful name for things that you use to make yourself look better. But, I didn’t create the word and it makes for nice alliteration in my subheading. 😉
Brushing your teeth may not be exciting or ground breaking. But this oil (Body Food Dental) used as an alternative to toothpaste is quite different. It doesn’t foam. It doesn’t have chemicals. No SLS (sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate) or fluoride. You don’t need much. Just add 1-2 drops on your wet toothbrush and brush as you normally would. It’s a specially chosen blend of essential oils (you’ve already seen my love for E.O., as mentioned above) in coconut oil. It also tastes great. Not sure yet if I’ll convert over entirely, but I am alternating it with my natural toothpaste.
I often recommend dry brushing. Why? Because your lymphatic system will benefit, as will your skin. Why do I want to support my lymphatic system? Because the lymphatic system is part of your circulatory and immune systems, clearing away the garbage–dead cells, bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, toxins, excess fluid, and other waste products. I’ve written about lymphatic support here and here. This isn’t a new product at all, but it’s one I was happy to pick up–a dry brush. Practice dry brushing before you hop in the shower and you may find you catch fewer colds, have less puffiness, feel more energy, and have healthier skin. This brush by Urban Spa has a nice long handle, but I did notice that some of the bristles came off when brushing, so I might better recommend the Merben brand, as it comes with options for sensitive skin and is ethically sourced and made.
This product counts as the one I’ve used the most since I picked up a sample. Some of you, as my patients, have already had this EpsomGel applied to your area of pain. I’ve tried topical magnesium products before. But they made me itchy, so I stopped using them. This one didn’t itch. Plus, it also contains arnica, which is good for treating injuries. It does have a light scent, but it’s not overwhelming. If you find that epsom salt baths help you relieve muscle tightness and cramping, then here’s your quick version that doesn’t require you to draw a bath (though you still might like to do that). I find it helpful for menstrual cramps or other muscle cramps, as well as tight muscles in general. If you want something topical for joint pain, and something that you can really feel as cooling and instantly pain relieving, then you might want to try SierraSil’s topical spray (I use that at the clinic). Either way, it’s great to have options for pain relief that won’t damage your liver, stomach, heart, or kidneys.
I didn’t take a picture, but if there was one line of product I wish would disappear, it’s the bottled water category. I get it, sometimes you’re out and you want water. For sure, buy bottled if you’re in a country where the water will make you sick. Otherwise, drink tap or filtered tap water. I have a filter at home and plenty of re-usable, very nice looking and practical containers (some are collapsible and thus more portable for travel). At the trade show, I saw Mood Water. It was plastic bottles of a clear liquid and labels with pictures of emoticons. Cute, but “what’s in it?” I asked. “Water,” she said. Simply that. It was a marketing gimmick: Water is healthy; people like emoticons. But what an environmental waste. As much as I loved the show and am excited to see the innovations put forth next year, I’d like to no longer see stuff like that.
I’ve now recovered from my sampling of too many gluten-free, dairy-free, free trade, organic, vegan snacks, chocolate bars, cookies, ice cream, pastas, breads, spreads, etc. from last Sunday. But I’m still absorbing all the information that I gleaned from that day!
While I prepared to share this paella recipe, I thought, “How do you pronounce paella?” Yes, it has “l”s in it, but no, you don’t pronounce them. In Spain, it would be pronounced pa-ey-ya. But last week my good friend, Chef Luisa Rios, came over to my place to teach my husband and me how to make it (and learn some knife skills). Chef Luisa is from Columbia, and in some areas of South America, the “l” is said like a “j,” making it pa-ey-ja.
As we sat down to eat the dish, however, my thoughts were that it should be called paeyum!
The wonderful thing about making this dish is that you can modify it to suit your tastes, like a pizza! In fact, the way that it’s served it often looks somewhat like a pizza, in a round shallow pan with colourful pieces of food nicely placed in/on it.
The original paella recipe was from Jamie Oliver and included fennel, green pepper, chorizo, pancetta, and bacon, but to fit everyone’s preferences, this is what we made.
I'm not kidding, it really is "paeyum"!
- • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
- • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- • 1 bunch asparagus, quartered
- • 1 jar artichokes, sliced
- • 2 chicken thighs (or 1 chicken breast) boneless, skinless
- • 1 onion, finely chopped
- • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- • 2 cups chicken stock, more if needed (we ended up adding in about another 2/3 cups)
- • 1 pinch saffron, about 1/4 teaspoon
- • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is best for this)
- • 1 cup paella rice, arborio rice, or carnaroli rice
- • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- • 1 cup frozen peas
- • 12 prawns
- • salt and pepper, to taste
- • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
- Bring stock to a boil. Turn off heat and add saffron to infuse. Keep warm.
- Pull peas from the freezer and let thaw.
- Dice chicken into 3/4" cubes.
- Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add oil.
- Add chicken to the pan and sauté until cooked through and golden brown on all sides. Remove from skillet and set aside. (It will still be raw on the inside, but will be cooked later with the rice and veggies.)
- Add onions and sauté until translucent (at least 5 minutes).
- Add peppers and asparagus to skillet and start to sauté about 3 minutes.
- Add garlic and saute for 20 seconds.
- Return seared chicken to the skillet.
- Add paprika, a pinch of salt, and rice, stirring to coat.
- Add 1.5 cups of stock to the skillet and stir.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until rice is almost cooked through. Stir periodically.
- Taste rice to see if it's sufficiently cooked. Add more stock to cook longer, if needed. Rice should be moist, but not too wet.
- Add raw prawns and allow to cook another few minutes (only takes 2-3 minutes, otherwise the prawns will get rubbery).
- Add thawed peas.
- Add parsley and artichokes.
- Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
Adapted from from Jamie Oliver
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
You wouldn’t know it to look outside (the picture to the right is from last year), but spring is finally here—well, technically at least. And after Vancouver’s unusually long cold snap, many are anxious to shake off the dark dreariness of winter. If you’re feeling a little funky trying to gear up for the warmer months ahead, now is the perfect time to consider getting some springtime acupuncture.
Here are some reasons why you need acupuncture this spring.
With the start of a new season, we also run the risk of getting sick. As the weather changes, it can take a while for our bodies to adjust. But for so many Vancouverites, the first sign of the springtime sun is like a long lost friend, tempting us to prematurely shed our scarves and gloves. If your body hasn’t had the chance to properly acclimatize, you could wind up getting sick. Getting some preemptive acupuncture will help boost your immunity and prepare you for the seasonal change.
Ahhhh…spring! Blossoming flowers, budding trees, sprouting grass—what a wonderful time of year. That is, of course, if you aren’t one of the many that suffer from seasonal allergies. For allergy sufferers, springtime means itchy watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and headaches. Don’t let allergies keep you indoors this year. Acupuncture has been shown to treat allergic reactions. Just make sure to get treatment early, before springtime pollen has a chance to send your immune system into overdrive. You might also ask me about biopuncture allergy treatment.
Spring is all about change. And while many of us welcome it, the change in season does come with its own set of stress-inducing challenges. Final exams, adjusting to the time change, and taking on more work to prepare for summer vacation are all things that can send our stress levels through the roof, thus opening the door to a wide range of symptoms, including muscle pain, digestive issues, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and hormonal swings. Treating yourself to some calming acupuncture will help you control your stress before it controls you.
Deal with Sports Injuries
Cycling, running, softball, and hiking— spring is a great time to get active again and enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately, after a long winter of inactivity, it’s also the time of year when sports-related injuries start popping up. If you are looking to prevent injuries (or treat them when they do), acupuncture will help keep you active all season long.
Yes, you need acupuncture this spring
Now that spring has finally sprung, there’s no time like the present to get some acupuncture. You’ll be better equipped to meet the challenges of seasonal change head on and enjoy everything this marvellous time of year has to offer.
Have back pain? You are not alone. Most of us have experienced back pain at one time or another. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the most common issues that send scores of people to see the doctor every year. But if you’re primed for walking out of the clinic with a prescription, you might be in for a little surprise.
The Dope on Drugs
Think you need over-the-counter or prescription drugs to treat low back pain? Not so, says the American College of Physicians (ACP). On February 14, the largest physician group in the U.S. released updated guidelines recommending people should treat low back pain with non-drug therapies instead.
Why, you asked? Well, as it turns out, that “trusty” bottle of acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol®) you’ve been reaching for all these years simply doesn’t work for low back pain. The ACP also takes a stance against doctors prescribing opioid painkillers due to the serious addiction and overdose risks associated with them. Steroid injections, corticosteroid pills, and antidepressants also get a thumb down when it comes to treating low back pain.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including non-prescription meds like ibuprofen (e.g. Advil®, Motrin®), may be helpful as a secondary approach (after non-drug methods) for acute and subacute back pain (up to 12 weeks), but they are not recommended as the starting point. For chronic back pain, the guidelines also advocate only selecting NSAIDs if the non-drug approaches are insufficient, “and only if the potential benefits outweigh the risks for individual patients and after a discussion of known risks and realistic benefits with patients.”
Reframing Low Back Pain Treatment
There is definite shift in how doctors and patients view treating low back pain. Steven Atlas, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who practices at Massachusetts General Hospital, applauds the new guidelines, and states, “We are moving away from simple fixes like a pill to a more complex view that involves a lot of lifestyle changes.”
Fortunately, there is a gambit of healthy ways to treat your low back pain. The ACP lists several non-drug options, including heat wraps, massage, yoga, exercise, multi-disciplinary rehabilitation, guided relaxation techniques, and yes, you guessed it, acupuncture. These great alternative therapies will not only provide pain relief, but also help you live a more active lifestyle.
But We Knew This, Right? Acupuncture to Treat Low Back Pain
I know it’s easy to reach for a pill. But all pills have some risks associated with use, especially when used in higher dosages or when used regularly. Acetaminophen puts your liver at risk. And NSAIDs can cause stomach or intestinal bleeding or heart attack or stroke. Plus, you are only masking the symptom, not fixing the problem. Why turn off the fire alarm if you aren’t going to also try to put out the fire?
It’s great to see that changes in policy guidelines are being offered to conventional medicine practitioners, based on evidence. Though this is the U.S. guidelines, it’s this kind of shift in understanding that can lead to changes in how we deliver healthcare, financially support treatment options, and eventually also improve the health of more and more people. We still have a way to go, but for this one update, I say “Hooray!”
There’s so much going on in this book, The Spark in the Machine, that I feel I need to bite-size it. And it starts with one of the best chapters I’ve ever read in non-fiction. That’s because it is non-fiction, but reads like fiction. The author caught his thumb in a folding chair when he was three years old. Though it was reattached at the hospital, what I didn’t know (and many other medical people also don’t know) is that he would have been able to regenerate that tissue without surgical intervention!
Say whaaaaa? Yup. Though it seems like a super power,
amputations above the last joint in children under six left to heal naturally would regrow, the entire finger, without a scar or deformity.”
*Note, please don’t try this out on your neighbour’s kid, no matter how noisy they are!
My own notes on tissue regeneration
I knew that some animals have this ability. Lizards can regrow their tails, spiders can grow a new leg (glad to know that one, as I’ve accidentally amputated a few spiders in my attempts to catch and release them!), sharks replace lost teeth, starfish rebuild new arms, and animals with antlers shed and regrow them annually. Some animals are so good at regenerating that they can replace any part. Flatworms, sea cucumbers, and sponges can be cut into pieces, and each piece can become a new creature. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to duplicate yourself just once so you can be twice as productive?!
Even you can regenerate parts of yourself. We’ve known this for a long time. There’s even an ancient Greek myth about it. Prometheus was a Titan (a race of gods) that got himself into a bit of trouble with Zeus. Zeus was said to have a quick temper, so when Prometheus peeved him badly, Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock to have his liver devoured every night by an eagle. Every day Prometheus’ liver would regenerate, only to be gnawed on each night. While we don’t have the ability to regrow our liver from nothing, it can regenerate its own tissue and function normally provided as little as a third of the tissue is present. This isn’t an excuse to abuse your poor liver, however!
Scientists have studied how animals are able to undertake this amazing task of regeneration and they’ve discovered that changes in electrical current and reversal of polarity actually causes the blood cells to become primitive stem cells again! Stem cells are unprogrammed cells that can repair and replace any tissue in the body. They can become a liver cell, a muscle cell, a skin cell, whatever the cell is needed. In other words, the valuable kind of cell that we’re researching for its potential to heal all!
One scientist, an orthopedic surgeon R.O. Becker, showed that
higher animals, such as rats, can sometimes regenerate limbs, especially if he provided the injury site with an extra boost of electricity.”
The problem for mammals, however, is that as we get older and as the injury becomes more severe, the weaker our “regenerative powers” become. Becker came to the conclusion that the more complex and bigger the brain of an animal, the more energy it spends on that brain, and the frailer its regenerative abilities.
But since we can repair and replace many of our damaged and old cells, we must have some sort of electrical energy driving that. And Becker found that it’s not the same as nerve impulses. So, what is it? Some call it Qi. In my next section, I’ll cover The Spark in the Machine‘s next chapters that dive into the meaning of Qi.
The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine
By Dr. Daniel Keown
Dr. Keown is both a medical doctor in the UK and a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. “The book shows how the theories of western and Chinese medicine support each other, and how the integrated theory enlarges our understanding of how bodies work on every level. Full of good stories and surprising details, Dan Keown’s book is essential reading for anyone who has ever wanted to know how the body really works.”
How many times have I heard from people that 2016 sucked? Blogs like “Why 2016 Sucked” don’t help that perception. I agree that for some, it did. That is the same for every year. For some, a year is awful. For others, a year is fantastic. For most of us, it’s a mix of both and in between. But I hear lamenting about 2016 from people who married their true love this year, from those who got their dream job, and from those who did not suffer any personal major losses. Even worse is that I most often hear the “2016 sucked” statement, not so much in reference to our world’s ongoing climate change, the various terrorist acts or wars, or the tumultuous (to put it mildly) political decisions that happened this year, but instead after each announcement about the death of a celebrity.
I agree, there were a lot of icon losses this year—Carrie Fisher, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen, and Alan Thicke, to name a few. But does that really make you want to toss this whole year in the garbage bin?
I think that we can mourn the loss of these famous people who we’ve come to feel we know personally (though most of us didn’t know them). But, I also am tired of hearing what an awful year 2016 was because of their deaths. I get that they are icons. But of course it wasn’t 2016 that was to blame. For many of them it was drug and/or alcohol abuse that shortened their lives. They lived big lives. They did great things and made some bad choices that ultimately shortened their lives. Some of them suffered from mental illness and self-medicated. They at least had access to any form of wellness care they could imagine to manage their conditions. So many don’t have that option.
Can you feel sad that they won’t be able to entertain us with new material? Yes. But did your 2016 really suck? If it did, I’m sorry, and I hope that this new year brings you better times, better health, more joy.
Is it true that 2016 sucked?
I also hope that this list of good things—all of which happened in 2016—helps everyone see that 2016 wasn’t all bad.
- Giant pandas are no longer endangered!
- That ALS ice bucket challenge you took in 2015 actually helped fund research that has discovered a new gene related to the disease, potentially offering a new treatment direction.
- In BC, 85% of the Great Bear Rainforest will be protected, with the other 15% being regulated under the “most stringent standards in North America” for logging.
- More than 20 countries have pledged over $5.3 billion for ocean conservation, creating 40 new marine sanctuaries, including the world’s biggest marine reserve, off the coast of Antarctica.
- On my list of places to visit, Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest freshwater lake, is now being preserved as a result of a deal between Peru and Bolivia.
- Acid pollution is down!
- Major illnesses like heart disease, colon cancer, and dementia are actually down in numbers this year in wealthy countries (though the reason why is unclear).
- Public smoking bans have improved health in countries around the world.
- The number of smokers in the U.S. has dropped by 8.6 million people since 2005 and health communities and individuals around the world rallied behind Uruguay in a court case against big tobacco Philip Morris.
- Child mortality rates in Russia reduced by 12%.
- Malawi showed a 67% decrease in the number of children acquiring HIV.
- Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since the year 2000.
- There are no known remaining cases of Ebola in West Africa.
- The WHO announced that the Americas (from Canada to Chile) have eradicated measles.
- World hunger dropped by 25%!
- The number of people living in extreme poverty in East Asia dropped from 60% in 1990 to 3.5% in 2016.
- Same sex marriage (1,2) and transgender rights (1,2,3) have advanced in places around the world, and continue to improve.
- There has been progress in bans on child marriage and female genital mutilation.
- Each one of these links really deserves its own line because of the significance of positive shifts in attitude and action, but here it is in short anyway (but, really, do check out the links!). Coal use is declining (1,2,3), renewable energy increased (1,2,3,4,5,6,7—and so many more!), and global carbon emissions didn’t increase this year, for the third year in a row.
- Fish are starting to return to waters where they were overfished.
- Norway is the first country to commit to zero deforestation, while in India, more than 800,000 volunteers planted 50 million trees in a day.
- Israel, one of the driest countries, now makes 55% of its freshwater and has even more water than it needs.
- A half-century long conflict was ended in Columbia.
- The first-ever Olympic refugee team competed in Rio’s summer Olympics.
- Gestures of reconciliation between the U.S. and Japan over Hiroshima and Pearl Harbour were made with visits by President Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
- A former slave and African-American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, will replace the image of slave-holding Andrew Jackson on the front of U.S. $20 bills.
- Every major grocery store and fast-food joint in the U.S. has vowed to use only cage-free eggs by 2025.
- Elephants, porpoises, rays, and parrots are amongst some of the animals that will receive the strongest protection thanks to an agreement between 183 countries.
- Manatees, Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears, the Columbian white-tailed deer, green sea turtles (in Florida and Mexico), and humpback whales have all made an improvement in numbers, moving up a rank from endangered to threatened (we still need to take care of them!).
- Tigers in the wild have increased in number for the first time in 100 years.
There are 52 stories linked here (1 a week for 2017, if you want) showing the good side of this past year. What other good stories from 2016 (in the news or personal) would you like to share?
My aunt made these. Aren’t they beautiful?!
Sometimes people think that I eat healthy 24-7-365. I do eat healthy. But I do also indulge. Especially this time of year. It’s hard not to when sweets and treats are all around. And, why would I want to miss out? I don’t!
But sometimes even the delicious goodies get tiresome. I start to dislike feeling the sugar highs and lows. I remember why I like to eat healthy–I feel better! So, I back away from the boxes of chocolate, the decorated cookies, and the egg nog (I like the almond milk or coconut milk versions). And I look for my usual healthy food.
Healthy Christmas Breakfast
Oatmeal is my usual breakfast. I’ve mentioned that a few times in my blogs, and I use my rice cooker to make my oatmeal overnight.
But sometimes I want to fancy it up a bit. This recipe offers a balance of healthy, while feeling like it’s a treat. I think I’m going to make this easy and healthy Christmas breakfast.
Apple Pie Oatmeal in a Slow Cooker
Healthy and easy enough to have every day. But yummy enough to feel like a treat.
- 1 cup steel-cut oats (choose gluten-free if you want or need to)
- 4 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 medium apples, chopped
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 T maple syrup (or honey) * you can modify the amount based on your own sweet tooth
- Add everything to your slow cooker
- Cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4 hours)
- Stir it again before serving in bowls and adding your fave topping (raisins, slices of apple, pear, cacao nibs, your choice)
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
“I don’t think I was asleep, but I don’t feel like I was ‘here’,” he said when I came back into the treatment room. This is a common theme for people getting acupuncture—though they do often sleep too. So, “where” was he? In a meditative zone.
That’s right. You can cheat your way into meditation with acupuncture! In fact, studies using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine to measure the activity level of different areas of the brain during acupuncture have found that “acupuncture needle manipulation modulates the activity of the limbic system and subcortical structures.” What does that mean, you ask?
These areas contain structures that help you experience and respond to emotions and potential threats, attention, memory, and more. One of these areas—the amygdala—triggers feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress. Studies on meditation show a decrease in brain cell volume in this structure after just a couple of months of regular meditation. A common description by people after both acupuncture and meditation is that they feel calmer and more relaxed.
I know many of you say that you can’t meditate. I get it. It can be difficult. But meditation, like everything, takes practice. Here are some tips on meditation.
I made a commitment to just one minute daily. That’s a stupid small number, but I chose it because it would be ridiculous for me to say I don’t have time. Sixty seconds is simple. I always choose more than one minute, but I know that I can still be successful with just that tiny bit of time.
Find Mindfulness in the Mundane
One of my patients gave me a copy of an article about practicing mindfulness while peeling a mandarin orange. This small task takes two hands and involves the sensations of sight, touch, smell, and eventually—once you’ve unpeeled it—taste. Even the citrus smell itself is mood lifting aromatherapy.
You can practice mindfulness while brushing your teeth, walking your dog, or even just waiting for the bus. It’s true–you can put down your phone and just be.
Tune Out to Tune In
Have you ever tried a float? No, not a root beer float. What I mean is the now popular sensory deprivation float tanks. Because it’s completely dark, you wear earplugs, and you are floating in body temperature water, you get to experience nothing. When I’ve done it, I’ve sometimes felt my mind firing up, trying to make up for the lack of other sensory stimulus. But eventually, my mind got bored and I “disappeared.” One time I even felt very clearly like I was floating in space, tiny in a vast void. It was liberating.
The key to the benefits of meditation is regular practice. Once a week for 20 minutes is not as good as 5 minutes every day. Consistency, habits, routines–that’s what prevails.
Find Meditation with Acupuncture
Another of my patients pays specific attention to how she feels when she gets acupuncture. She focuses on the sensations, pays mind to where and how she feels relaxed, and then makes sure to store that in her body memory so she can recall it later. She told me that she can even “experience acupuncture” when she’s sitting on a busy bus.
Our minds are designed to more easily recall the things we pay attention to. Perhaps you are like me, thinking you don’t have a good memory for names. But what happens when you are introduced? When your new friend told you their name, were you really listening or were you thinking about what you were going to respond? Problems with memory are often actually problems of attention.
So, the next time you get acupuncture, pay attention to how it feels to relax when I leave the room. Pay attention to that feeling of calm as you get off the table. Then practice recalling those sensations later on. ‘Cause, guess what?
Acupuncture can help you cheat your way into meditation.