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.
I’m a silver-lining-seeker, an other-side-of-the-coin-thinker, an uplifting-quotes-subscriber. But these last few days have been tough. I know I probably shouldn’t post something political, but it’s both political and non-political, as what is happening now is affecting how many are feeling. I’ve read postings on Facebook by friends who state that something good will come of this, though there are a surge of postings by people who’ve experienced hatred, verbal abuse, physical assault, and other crimes at the hands of people in support of Trump (I recognize this is not the majority). And this is just a few days in. I find that hard to stomach. I find it hard to tell myself to breathe deep and let go. I find myself riled up!
So much so that I jumped out of bed to write this.
The fact is that I do still believe in our better selves (no, not bitter selves). That includes everyone. I think that people are acting out of hatred in response to their own fears and insecurities. But it doesn’t make it any easier if you are the victim (or potential victim) of any of that hatred. And I find it hard to reconcile, as I personally can’t imagine taking those steps of aggression toward people of a different race, gender, sexual identity or preference, or religion. But I am not in the shoes of those people. I was not taught the same things. I’ve been fortunate.
I will not, nevertheless, allow that hatred to rear its ugly head in my presence. My Japanese-Canadian grandparents know/knew racism. They were moved from their homes in Port Moody, BC to internment camps in ghost towns. They had their property taken from them by our government. Some of their neighbours and friends tried to help. Some did nothing. Some stood aside, allowing it to happen. Some cheered as it happened. My grandparents and their families did as they were told. They said, “Shikata ga nai.” That literally means, “There is no way.” In other words, there’s nothing we can do, so let it be done. They quietly accepted.
After the war, they were not allowed to return to their homes. Their property had been sold, so they had next to nothing. They were told to either return to Japan (some had never been there, having been born in Canada!) or move east of the Rockies. It’s my mother’s generation (the Sansei—3rd generation) who spoke up in the 1980s, asking for apologies and financial concessions. They also fought and won an end to the “War Measures Act” that allowed the government to suspend civil liberties and personal freedoms.
I often use the mantra, “shikata ga nai, shikata ga nai, shikata ga nai,” when I’m faced with something that seems out of my control. It can be a good mantra to help relieve stress and tension.
But, today I realized something. In this case, that’s the wrong thing for me to say. We all have something we can do. I had a conversation with a patient who is a financial planner. We got talking about how many people in the U.S. are angry and feel their poverty is outside of their control and caused by others. There may be some merit to that. But it’s also possible that they didn’t understand how to best take care of their limited finances. It’s not taught in schools. In fact, many otherwise well-educated people don’t understand much about managing their finances, investing wisely, or saving effectively. He tries to change that by reaching out to those he knows to help them understand the basics. Maybe those of you with that knowledge could shout a bit louder that you can help.
What if you’re a history teacher? Rather than just have your students memorize dates and events (that was my history class in high school), you could discuss key historical events and their impact, both good and bad. Help us learn from our past mistakes. Remind us where we’ve erred before so we can correct our actions now and in the future.
Each of us can rest a bit easier knowing that if we have something we do well, we could do that with a little more oomph. Something that provides more good in this world. And that can be with anything that we do.
When I purchased something at a store today, the salesperson asked me, “Would you like to donate a dollar to…Donald Trump?” He smiled mischievously and I laughed. This morning as I headed into the Skytrain station, the guy handing out free newspapers was shouting, “Have a wonderful day!” and “Happy Thursday!” He didn’t need to do that, but he clearly wanted to uplift those around him. When my cell phone’s screen went dark and wouldn’t display anymore, I had to take it in to get it fixed. At the phone kiosk, the young guy behind the counter was extremely friendly and helpful. At first, I didn’t want him to be. I was mad that I had to spend my time getting this item fixed when I bought it less than a year ago. But, he didn’t let my grumpy mood alter his attitude. Soon enough, my mood was softened.
Since I’m in healthcare, my offering is going to be health-related. I try to teach people how to take care of their health. When you are sick, tired, in pain, or just not feeling well, you aren’t your best self. You may be more likely to snap at people. You might have less energy to do your best job. You could find yourself unwilling to push yourself to go that extra step to provide more good in this world.
So, I pledge to keep trying my very best to make each of you healthier so you can spread more of your own positivity.
Now I think I’ll use the mantra, “Hoho wa arimasu”—“There is a way.” Or perhaps “noli illegitimi carborundum” (look up this phrase online).
Ok, so we’re on a slow cooker kick and this month’s easy vegan slow cooker recipe is a reflection of that. The squash curry I posted last month was delicious, but I find cutting up squash to be a lot of work (and I’m scared to lose a finger!). This month I’m sharing another curry in the slow cooker recipe, but it uses one of my favourite vegetables, sweet potato.
Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and vitamin C, both excellent immune system support nutrients. They are also a good source of B vitamins, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and dietary fibre. My friend who we shared this curry with was really happy that I added sweet potato, as people often mix up yams with sweet potato. They’re both delicious, but I think this easy vegan slow cooker recipe is better with sweet potatoes.
I also substituted the basmati rice that was called for with Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice, a black rice that’s rich in antioxidants and is considered a blood tonic in TCM.
Sadly, I forgot to add the spinach, though I did have it ready in my fridge. And we were so psyched to eat that I forgot to take a picture of the food for this blog until after we had already packaged it up for leftovers (that are now also eaten). So, here’s my not so stylized picture of what was a delicious meal!
Easy Vegan Slow Cooker Recipe
Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry & Coconut Rice
Warms you up from the inside!
- 1 teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 15-ounce can chickpeas (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 cups canned or boxed chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups small cauliflower florets
- 3-5 carrots, sliced
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked brown basmati rice (I used Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice, a black rice)
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Heat the oil in a pan
- Sauté onions, garlic, and fresh ginger for 7 minutes or until lightly browned
- Transfer onion/garlic/ginger mix to your slow cooker
- Add remaining ingredients, except for the spinach
- Heat on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours
- Before serving, stir in the spinach, and heat for 5 more minutes.
- Add the rice, coconut milk, water, and salt to a saucepan
- Bring to a boil and then cover
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes
- Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for 10 minutes
- Put rice ingredients in a rice cooker and let that do the job (that's what I did)
Adapted from Pop Sugar Fitness
Adapted from Pop Sugar Fitness
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
Did you know that the average person sighs about 12 times an hour, or about every 5 minutes? You likely don’t even notice that you’re doing it, unless someone points it out, perhaps asking if you’re okay. So, why do we sigh?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), frequent sighing is a sign of what we call “Liver Qi stagnation.” We sigh because we are trying to release bound up energy in the chest that might be caused by frustration, irritation, depression, resentment, anxiety, or other emotional tension.
Why do we sigh?
If you hear someone sigh, what do you think is going on for them?
It’s interesting that in a study done on the perception of sighing, experimenters found that participants given different scenarios of people sighing guessed that it was out of sadness. But, the participants themselves felt they sighed mostly out of frustration. 1
It seems there is a mental/emotional purpose for sighing. It can be a bit of a reset. 2 People given puzzles to solve sighed when they took a short break from a challenging problem, though they often hadn’t even noticed the sigh.
Sighing is also essential to proper lung function. It’s amazing that for every type of breath you take—regular breathing, deep conscious breath, sigh, yawn, cough, etc.—a different neuron is activated in your brain’s breathing centre.
In our lungs are tiny balloon-like sacs where oxygen enters and carbon dioxides leaves. These are called alveoli. These delicate little balloons sometimes collapse, rendering it hard for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide gases. When we sigh, we take in twice the amount of air as a normal breath, thus opening these collapsed alveoli. If we don’t sigh, our lungs will eventually fail. 3
So sigh away, it’s vital to your health!
However, if you notice the need to sigh more often and notice yourself feeling moodier (or maybe people are avoiding you!) and/or you are experiencing digestive issues or hormonal imbalance, then come in for acupuncture or herbs. While the sighing can help temporarily release some stress, unless it’s taken care of, it will continue to disrupt other aspects of your health.
Ate too much at Thanksgiving? Already digging into the Halloween candy? Not to suggest that you continue to overeat or eat junk, but don’t you wish there was something you could do to help improve your digestion? There is. Acupressure for better digestion is easy to learn and simple to do.
This is the first of a series of blogs I’m going to do on acupressure for simple health issues.
What is Acupressure?
First of all, let’s cover the basics about acupressure. It’s pressing on specific points on the body, stimulating the tissue underneath to treat health conditions or symptoms. You can use your fingertips, thumbs, or even something like a capped pen or Qtip. Choose something that is not going to pierce your skin. If you want that, then you’re looking for acupuncture and you’ll need to see a qualified professional like me!
Pressing on the points will elicit a sensation of a bit of tenderness or maybe even mild tingling or aching. If it’s painful or sharp, you’re pressing too hard–go easy on yourself! If you feel nothing, either you don’t quite have the correct point, you’re not pressing hard enough, or that point is not currently useful for you.
Press each point for 10-30 seconds, usually on both sides of the body, but one at a time.
Acupressure for Better Digestion
Stomach 36 (ST36)
If you’ve seen me in clinic, you’ve probably experienced this point, as it’s good for a wide range of health conditions. As you can see from the English name above, it’s the 36th point along the acupuncture Stomach channel. That’s a decent indicator that it’s a great acupressure point for improving digestion. Research has also found a connection between this point and digestive health. 1,2,3,4
ST36 is 4 fingerwidths below the bottom of your kneecap (patella), just to the outside (lateral side) of your shin bone (tibia).
Spleen 6 (SP6)
Another multi-use point, this one is also relatively easy to find, as it’s likely to feel tender when you press it. Actually, all the points should feel tender when you press them.
This point is 4 finger widths up from the tip of your medial ankle bone (malleolus), behind your shin bone (tibia).
Large Intestine 4 (LI4)
Often known for its ability to help relieve headaches, tooth pain, or other pain conditions of the head and face, it’s also helpful to treat pain in many places of the body. Additionally, as a point along the large intestine channel, you can use it for acupressure for better digestion, treating digestive pain and cramping, diarrhea, and constipation.
There are several ways to locate this point. One way is to squeeze your thumb close to the rest of your hand, and then locate the highest point in the muscle between the thumb and index finger. Press firmly and feel around until you find the spot that is tender.
Pericardium 6 (PC6)
This is one of the most widely researched and accepted points for use with both acupuncture and acupressure for better digestion, particularly for treating and preventing nausea, whether from pregnancy morning sickness, chemotherapy or other medication side effects, motion sickness, or illness. 1,2,3,4
You can either buy motion sickness bands, like those pictured below, or use your thumb or finger to apply pressure on this point.
Find this point on the inside of your forearm, 3 finger widths up from the crease of your wrist, between the two tendons that pop up when you flex your wrist or make a fist.
Beyond Acupressure for Better Digestion
This is simple advice for simple, acute (short-term) digestive issues. If you have chronic or serious digestive health problems, you don’t need to keep suffering! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, Chinese herbs, supplements, and food cures can be your solution. Ask me your digestive health questions.