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Top 5 Health Tips for Fall Season

I asked, “What do you want me to write about?” And I received a request for acupressure points to massage for general body tune up/massage for the fall season. Great question! I thought I’d expand on that and offer my top health tips for fall this season. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we consider 5, not 4, seasons through the year–spring, summer, late summer, fall, and winter. Each season relates to a different set of organ systems and their associated health issues. Autumn relates to the TCM Lungs* and Large Intestines*. (*I capitalize these because TCM considers more than just the physical organs themselves.)

Problems with these systems can result in:

  • Frequent colds and flu
  • Infections and weakened immune system
  • Allergies and other auto-immune disorders
  • Skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, rashes, sensitivity
  • Asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other lung health issues
  • Constipation, diarrhea, irregularities with bowel movements
  • Depression, sadness, and lingering grief
  • Challenges with letting go or problems with commitment

Even if you don’t suffer from any of these particular wellness challenges, it’s a good idea to keep your body strong and optimally healthy by supporting the systems most active for each season. Start with these health tips for fall, and remember to let me know your favourite wellness habits as well.

Top 5 Health Tips for Fall Season 

  1. Breathe. Yes, of course you’re already breathing. But take the time to stop, notice your breath, then take a few minutes to deepen and slow that breath down. Breathe in to the bottom of your lungs, expanding your whole ribcage–front, back, and sides. Pause for just a moment. Then release your whole breath out, emptying your lungs. Pause again and start over with another deep inhale. Make sure you don’t make yourself dizzy, but try this for 5-10 breaths. Each time you breathe in, visualize the oxygen nourishing your whole body, supplying your cells with vital energy. Each time you breathe out, feel the release of letting go of what you do not need or want.
  2. Wear a scarf. Or turn up your collar or wear a turtleneck shirt. I consider scarves as health accessories, not just fashion accessories. Keeping your neck and shoulders warm and covered helps avoid a lowering of your immune system’s ability to ward off attack. It also helps prevent your muscles from tightening up as you start to pull your shoulders up toward your ears to guard against the cold air. 
  3. Get outside to connect with nature, even though the weather turns colder in the fall. Get close to some trees and practice the first health tip for fall. If you can’t get outside, use indoor plants to help. Peace lilies, rubber plants, spider plants, and snake plants, in particular, help clean and filtre your air by absorbing airborne bacteria, mould spores, and cancer-causing contaminants like formaldehyde.
  4. Consider your food choices. As the weather cools, soups, stews, slow cooked meals, roasted and steamed vegetables, and hot oatmeal are better options than salads, raw foods, and cold smoothies. Those latter foods are still healthy, but check in with your body and chances are you’ll find a balance tipping toward warmer foods may feel more suitable. Include fall harvest root veggies like sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, and beets. Support your immune system with garlic, onions, thyme, oregano, mushrooms, and hot tea. And boost up your network of good bacteria in your gut by eating fermented foods like yogurt, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut, and choose a high quality probiotic supplement.
  5. Try acupressure. Back to how this all started. Massaging or pressing on the following points can help support the immune system, one of the key aspects of the Lung system, and timely for the start of the cold and flu season. Press each point for 30 seconds. Some points can be done both sides at the same time. 
    1. acupressure immune system, health tips for fall, traditional Chinese medicine

      Lung 7

      Lung 7: Find this point by starting with giving a “thumbs up” sign with one hand. You’ll see a pocket form (called the “anatomical snuff box” because people used to put powdered tobacco–or snuff–in here to sniff it out) at the base of your thumb. Use your other hand to measure 2 finger-widths up your arm from the pocket. 

    2. acupressure immune system, health tips for fall, traditional Chinese medicine

      LI 11

      Large Intestine 11: With your elbow bent at 90 degrees, find a tender point just lateral (thumb side) to the end of your elbow crease.

    3. acupressure immune system, health tips for fall, traditional Chinese medicine

      ST 36

      Stomach 36: This point has been called the vitamin C point of the body because of its many health benefits. In addition to supporting digestive health and improving energy, it can also support immune health. With your knee bent at 90 degrees, find a depression below and lateral (pinky toe side) to your kneecap. The point is found one hand-width below that, just lateral to the shin bone (tibia). It will likely be tender.

    4. acupressure immune system, health tips for fall, traditional Chinese medicine

      Lung 1

      Lung 1: This point is found about 3 finger-widths below the collarbone, just in front of the arm bone and shoulder, where there is a depression.

    5. You might also find tapping on your breastbone (sternum) and over your upper chest helps improve your ability to breath deeply, while it also stimulates your thymus–part of your immune system.

Let me know if you have your own favourite health tips for fall, whether it’s acupressure points to support your immune system, your choice of healthy foods for fall, or other. You can also check out my 3 previous articles on health tips for fall via these links:

Health through Vancouver’s cold, damp

Fall: Letting Go with Breath

Chinese Medicine Health Tips for Fall Season

Of course I also think you should get regular tune-up treatments of acupuncture for optimal wellness, especially with seasonal transitions.


Saffron Stewed Chickpeas: Healthy Dinner Recipes

saffron chickpea stew, healthy dinner recipesLooking for Healthy Dinner Recipes?

When travelling in Turkey, I picked up some saffron. I didn’t know what I’d do with it, as I’m really not much of a cook, but it seemed a good gift for a chef friend–I’d split the small container with her, as it’s notoriously expensive. I know I could add it to my rice, but I keep forgetting. So, as a result, my share is still waiting to be used.

And now I’ve found a recipe I had saved and forgotten. Yum! Time to get cooking! This is one of the healthy dinner recipes I love. Easy.

Yes, saffron is expensive, but a little goes a long way. And it’s good for you! Saffron has powerful antioxidants and it can be used as a digestive, an antidepressant, cancer fighter, and immune system support.

This may become one of my special go-to easy-to-make healthy dinner recipes. 

Saffron Stewed Chickpeas Recipe
I skipped the olives that are in the original recipe, as I don't like olives, but you can add them in, if you like.
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  1. 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2" cubes
  3. 1 onion, thinly sliced
  4. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  6. 2 cups dried chickpeas, boiled and drained
  7. 1/3 cup orange juice
  8. 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot.
  2. Add bell pepper, onion, and garlic.
  3. Sauté for 10 minutes, until veggies are soft.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas, orange juice, and saffron.
  5. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve hot.
Adapted from Alive Magazine
Adapted from Alive Magazine
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC

What is adrenal fatigue?

adrenal fatigue stress acupunctureWhat are Adrenals?

Adrenals are small grape-sized glands that sit atop your kidneys. They are responsible for producing adrenaline, cortisol, and DHEA, and they help your body manage stressors. They have a huge role!

Defining Adrenal Fatigue

Fatigue. Defined as “extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness” and “a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.”(1) Adrenal fatigue is caused by over-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Too much stress, too much activity, too much push. Not enough down time, not enough rest, not enough recovery. Adrenal burnout and fatigue is commonly associated with a feeling of tiredness, but this is not its only symptom. 

Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

    • high blood pressure
    • irritable bowel syndrome
    • depression
    • anxiety
    • infections, frequent illness
    • migraines
    • headaches
    • hormonal imbalance, including PMS
    • infertility
    • diabetes
    • thyroid issues

Stress: Good or Evil?

Stress is important. A stress response by our bodies allows us to quickly move into fight or flight–face the problem to defeat it or get the heck outta there. We need a stress response for survival. The problem arises when we continue past acute phase into chronic ongoing stress–paying bills, heavy workload, not enough sleep, relationship challenges, and so forth. 

So stress is neither good or evil. It’s mostly about how we perceive and handle stress. What does this read here? 

Stress management, adrenal fatigue

Depends on how you look at it, right? 

How is Stress Affecting You?

Sometimes when I ask patients if they are feeling stressed, they will answer “no.” But then they describe how they are trying to juggle everything and getting little sleep, and how they don’t feel energized when they wake up in the morning, how they often catch colds, how they are experiencing digestive distress, or some other symptom or symptoms.

There are many levels of stress intensity and effect.

Alarm Phase of Stress 

The body is starting to give you hints that you need to pay attention. You’re in the fight or flight phase and may be struggling with focus and memory, having some struggle with restful sleep, notice it’s hard to slow down your mind, and be experiencing digestive, immune, or hormonal challenges and more.

Resistance Phase of Stress

As stress continues its pressure, the adrenal glands start shunting hormone production away from DHEA and its subsequent sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone. Symptoms are worse in this phase and also include lowered libido, infertility, and abdominal weight gain.

Burn-Out Phase

With ongoing adrenal fatigue, the body can no longer produce enough cortisol. Extreme fatigue, depression, irritability, and all the other symptoms even worse are the result.

Whether you are at the beginning alarm phase, the middle resistance phase, or the later burn-out phase, there are things you can do.

Traditional Chinese Medicine to Help Manage Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) provides a complex system of assessment. Bloated, craving sugar, foggy headed, tired? Spleen Qi deficiency might be part of your TCM diagnosis. Migraines, irritability, PMS, tension? Liver Qi stagnation is a common diagnosis. Fatigue, infertility, low back pain, salt cravings, issues with blood pressure? Kidney Qi deficiency is usually a part of the burn-out phase of adrenal fatigue. 

If stress is negatively affecting your health, the first step is a TCM assessment. Then, choices of treatment include acupuncture (yes, this is an endorphin-releasing chance to relax), Chinese herbs, supplements, nutritional support, and more.

Stressed Out song by Twenty One Pilots

And because I was curious and you might be too, the dark on his hands and throat represent his insecurities about his writing and his voice. Don’t we all stress about even those things that we do daily and do well.

I don’t want to go backward (though I think I’d like my Big Wheels back), but it’s a good idea to find ways to think like a kid, simplify life, and care a little less about what people think.



What is the best diet plan according to Traditional Chinese Medicine?

best diet plan, food choices, nutrition, healthy food, Traditional Chinese MedicineThe question on Quora was “From an Evolutionary Perspective, the digestive system of humans is better designed to be on what sort of a diet? Omnivore, herbivore, or carnivore?” Many want to know what is the best diet plan for all? Traditional Chinese Medicine of course recommends that food choices should be personalized to what works best for the individual.

I’m currently listening to the Audiobook for “Food, Genes, and Culture: Eating Right for your Origins” by Gary Paul Nabhan. So far a very interesting read/listen!

This is a link to my answer on Quora:

Read Melissa Carr's answer to From an evolutionary perspective, the digestive system of humans is better designed to be on what sort of a diet? on Quora


Food Cravings, their Health Meanings, and Healthy Food Options

food cravings, nutrition, Traditional Chinese MedicineI’ve started writing a book on my favourite topics: natural health, Traditional Chinese Medicine, healthy food, and nutrition. This topic of food cravings was initially going to be a small sidebar tidbit of bonus info, but has turned into a lot more, so I thought I’d share it here. An amuse bouche for my future book, shared now.

Food Cravings May Be Telling You Something

Or, it could be just a craving with no meaning. But either way, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the signals your body is giving you to see if there is action you can take.

Food cravings are tricky. Do you want that cookie because you need an energy kick, you’re bored, you’re lonely, you want comfort, you are inspired by a pleasant memory, or something else? Is it the flavour, texture, smell, or something else that you are wanting? Could it be a nutrient deficiency or physical imbalance that you need to address? Or maybe you just saw a commercial that prompted you.

Some common  food cravings and their possible physical need are listed here, but know that just because you are craving chocolate (or something else), don’t think of it as free rein to binge. Sometimes a small amount is enough. And sometimes there are healthier alternatives with more nutritional value.

food cravings, nutritionChocolate: Chocolate is comfort food for many. It causes a release of endorphins (feel-good hormones) and is also associated with serotonin (another feel-good hormone). Depending on the amount of sugar added, it can also be quite sweet. But even the bitter 70% plus chocolate, which gets more bitter with higher percentages (the kind I love—yum!), still makes us feel good. It has been called “food of the gods” and is considered an aphrodisiac by some. If you are craving chocolate, you may also be deficient in the mineral magnesium. Beware that chocolate is a possible migraine trigger, that white chocolate is a misnomer (it doesn’t contain chocolate liquor or cocoa solids that contribute to chocolate’s health benefits), and that chocolate is a stimulant that can trigger nervous-type symptoms. A little goes a long way, and it’s best to choose high quality chocolate products, low in added sugars and high in cocoa percentage (70% or more). Chocolate has been associated with many natural health benefits. Other magnesium rich foods include legumes, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. If it’s the good feeling you’re craving, other things that can elicit this are caring or affectionate touch, exercise, and acupuncture!

Sugar and sweet foods: You could be experiencing blood sugar fluctuations or you may have candida yeast issues. Traditional Chinese Medicine would direct toward a possible “Spleen Qi” deficiency, common with symptoms of bloating, loose stools, fatigue, and a feeling of being foggy headed. Are you eating a lot of sugar already? If so, you are best to watch your sugar intake, up your fibre, and include protein and healthy fats to help regulate your blood sugar levels. Healthy foods that are sweet include fruit (see the Sweet section in this chapter for more information).

food cravings, nutrition, healthy foodSalty foods: This could signify adrenal depletion from chronic stress or some medications; adrenal insufficiency, as in Addison’s disease; or kidney disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine would point to the possibility of a “Kidney deficiency” with symptoms such as low back pain, joint weakness, bone weakness, fatigue, poor long term memory, frequent urination, and ringing in the ears. You may also have a mineral deficiency, particularly calcium. In our modern world, many are eating way too much salt (and sodium) because of processed foods—even ones that you wouldn’t think of as salty, like some cookies, frozen waffles, and cereals. Just as with sugar cravings, you may be craving salt because you are used to eating a lot of salt, if this is the case, start working on rebalancing your system by tuning into other flavours and eating healthier unprocessed salty foods (see Salt section in this chapter for more information).

Meat: I’ve met many vegetarians and vegan who have sometimes craved meat. What their bodies were often telling them was that they needed more iron and/or protein. There are many non-meat sources for this, including beans and legumes. Unsulfured prunes, figs, other dried fruits, spinach, and pumpkin seeds are also high in iron. Combine those with healthy foods rich in vitamin C—like citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, bell peppers, kiwi, and dark leafy greens.

food craving, nutrition, spicy foodSpicy Foods: You may have trouble cooling down, and you’re craving hot spicy foods that will make you sweat so that you can cool off. You may also be addicted to the rush you get when you eat these foods. Traditional Chinese Medicine would question the health of your lungs or large intestines.

Sour foods: Traditional Chinese Medicine would assert that craving sour foods means that your liver is needing support. Some pregnant women also crave sour foods like lemons, as their taste buds are just one more of the things that change with everything else.

Fatty foods: Feel like you really need something deep fried, cheesy, or other rich fatty food? You may be craving fat, but it’s really the essential fatty acids (EFAs) that your body needs. Choose raw nuts, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and fatty fish like sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon, cod, or halibut for those brain-boosting, heart-healthy EFAs. Other filling good fat choices include olives and olive oil, avocados (one of my faves!), and coconut oil.

Carfood craving, nutrition, carbsbs: Carbs (AKA carbohydrates) are not the evil they are sometimes portrayed to be. They are a major macronutrient, needed to supply easy energy to the body. The brain needs glucose, a basic sugar. It’s just that we have overdone it because of easy access to too many carbs, especially the simple carbs. As with the sugar and sweets cravings, you may have issues with your blood sugar and may need to watch your carbs and balance them with protein and good fats. Or maybe you really do need more carbs because of a high level of physical activity.

Crunchy foods: Is it the texture you crave instead? Crunchy foods can relieve tension, anger, and frustration, but can lead to overeating. If this makes sense to you, try some other physical activity, or go the opposite direction and try meditation, breathing exercises, or relaxing music. Carrots and celery sticks are some examples of healthy food options that go crunch.

Creamy foods: Cravings for mashed potatoes, ice cream, or macaroni and cheese are common comfort foods, and perhaps you need to be soothed. It’s no surprise that these foods are rich in carbohydrates and fat. Check out those categories above.

Caffeine: Ask yourself why you need it. Are you tired? Bored? Dissatisfied? Addicted? There is no nutritional caffeine deficiency.

Pickles and ice cream: These are the food cravings most commonly associated with pregnancy cravings. Ice cream, ok, easy to understand why someone would crave that—sugar and fat, it’s evolution talking there. Plus, ice cream is cold, and many women find they feel like furnaces. Is that part of the reason for the term “bun in the oven”? I looked it up, and apparently it’s not, but it fits anyway. How about pickles? Could be the salt that’s needed, though there isn’t evidence to support this. Having said this, my mom craved seaweed when she was pregnant with my sister and me. Back to the pickles, some women just like the crunchy texture, and again, the taste buds change during pregnancy.

How about some of the weird cravings?

Pica is the craving for dirt, paint, cigarette butts, laundry soap, matches, or other things that have no nutritional value. If someone is experiencing these cravings, they should be assessed for mental disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder or intellectual or developmental disabilities. However, children and pregnant women have also been noted to experience pica cravings. Sometimes the craving may indicate nutritional deficiencies.

food craving, nutrition, dirt cravingDirt, clay: Eating dirt may be something that we think of just for kids. Remember mud pies? Though I don’t recall ever eating any of that, at least not in volume. In some areas, however, eating dirt is not uncommon. It’s called geophagy. Some have thought that eating dirt helps supplement minerals. However, more recent research shows that it may be helpful in staving off pathogens in the gut. Kaolin clay is found in some nutrition stores, and it is recommended for cleansing. The problem is that while it can draw out impurities from the gut, it can also absorb important nutrients.

Chalk: Though you may never have actually tasted a stick of chalk, you may have tried a calcium pill and tasted it as chalky. Turns out we can taste calcium, it does taste chalky, and it’s generally a taste we’d rather avoid. We perceive its flavour in the same realm as bitter. A study on mice showed that though most mice agreed that calcium-enriched liquid was ick, preferring water instead, one mouse strain called PWK actually chose the calcium drink over water. Those mice were found to have a different set of genes responsible for the taste receptors on their tongues, and one of those genes was the same as part of the receptor that picks up on sweet and savoury flavours. We don’t yet know if we have that same version of genes, but it’s possible. If you crave chalk, you probably could use more calcium in your diet.

Ice: Craving ice (called pagophagia—there really is a specific term for nearly everything) is often associated with iron deficiency anemia, but it’s not really clear. Since you’re not going to get iron from ice, if you have low levels of iron, choose iron-rich foods like meat, legumes, spinach, dried fruit, and pumpkin seeds instead. If you chew ice as a way to de-stress, find alternative ways to manage that, especially as chewing ice can damage your teeth. Additionally, Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends that you don’t eat too much icy, cold food, as it can impair your digestion.

Healthy nutrition doesn’t need to be complicated though, so don’t over-analyze, but feel free to ask me if you have healthy food questions.

What cravings do you experience?


Seriously, Laughter is Medicine

Still on my monthly habit building, last month I completed #jokeadayJuly. I committed to share a joke (at least one, sometimes more) every day for 31 days. I shared it on my Facebook page (Dr.Melissa Carr) and told it to various people around me throughout the day. 

It’s harder than you might think to find 31 decent (with both meanings of “not dirty” and also “okay”) jokes. But it was fun to search for jokes, and even to laugh at the ones that were truly bad (again, in both senses of the word). And, my favourite part was that friends also shared their jokes with me. 

paddleboardPurposefully seeking humour every day is a powerful medicine, even if it only produces a small smile or groaning giggle. Trying to tickle your funny bone means you are intentionally bringing positive into your life, and that bounces into the lives of others around you, and continuously comes back to you. It’s kind of like that paddle ball on an elastic band that you might have played with when you were a kid–but with the plus of not actually whacking you in the face when you miss. 

Laughter has been shown to:

  • Reduce feelings of stress
  • Stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles
  • Burn calories
  • Stimulate blood circulation
  • Relax tight muscles
  • Ease pain
  • Improve immune function
  • Boost mood (duh)
  • Release endorphins

* Acupuncture does a lot of these too, by the way.

No joke, look up laughter on PubMed (a reputable source of research), and you’ll find a number of articles citing the value of laughter as medicine. 

These are some of what I thought were my best jokes of the month. Send me your best jokes!

Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail, and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him…(oh, man, this is so bad, it’s good)…a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

What’s Orange and sounds like a Parrot? ……………..A Carrot.

Why did the hipster burn his mouth on a slice of pizza? He ate it before it was cool.

and lastly…

Two bass drums and a cymbal roll down a hill. Ba dum tssh.



Food Waste as Explained by John Oliver

John Oliver Food WasteDid you know that the US throws out as much of 40% of all the food product they make? 

Did you know that Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food every year? That’s about 20 pounds of food per person EVERY month!

And did you know that that translates to 730 stadiums full of wasted food per year?!

Wow! I don’t know the Canadian stats, but per capita, we aren’t much different.

And we are getting worse. The “US per capita food waste has progressivly increased by about 50% since 1974.” 

What’s wrong with this?

Obviously, waste like this is horrendous. As kids, my sister and I learned only a few Japanese words from our Canadian born, but Japanese heritage (3rd generation Canadian), mother. The only words that weren’t related to food were: “yakamashi” and “motainai.” Yakamashi means noisy. Not being noisy was a very important trait for us to learn. Motainai was equally important for us to avoid. It means wasteful. 

First of all, many people don’t have enough food!

Second, we’re using up resources to make the food that is just tossed out.

Third, by throwing food into landfills, we’re creating methane–a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat.

Fourth, we’re wasting money. You’re wasting your money if you’re throwing out food. 

So, What Can We Do?

Steps you can take to change your relationship with food waste:

  1. Don’t discriminate against “ugly” fruits and veggies. Just because they may be shaped differently or have marks on them, doesn’t mean they are not good to eat.
  2. Consider “best before” or “sell by” dates as guidelines. The food may still be fine to eat. 
  3. Don’t buy more than you can eat.

Oh, and watch John Oliver’s video here and share it. He’s way more entertaining than me!



Tips for Quitting Smoking

cigarette trapCreate a specific action plan to improve your chances of quitting smoking forever. Write down your plan because that will make you think more carefully about what you need to do and how you can do it.

  1. Decide how you are going to quit. Gradual decline or cold turkey. Set a plan. Cold turkey is recommended.
  2. Determine and write down your reasons for wanting to stop smoking, e.g. health, money, social interactions, etc. The reasons should be for you, not anyone else, i.e. not because your husband/wife, girl/boyfriend, parent, boss, etc. want you to quit, but because you want to quit.  This/these reason(s) will be your best motivator(s) if and when you feel your determination to quit lag.  Keep this reminder with you.  You can also carry pictures or medical test results or other such cues to remind you of your reasons.
  3. Figure out your smoking patterns. Do you like a cigarette after eating, first thing in the a.m., while talking on the phone, while driving, when you have an alcoholic drink or a coffee, etc?  Plan ahead for how you are going to deal with those situations.  These are also ideal times to press your ear seeds.
  4. Ask for support from people that you know. Both professional and non-professional people can be great teammates to getting you to stop smoking.
  5. Recognize that even if you do have cigarette one day, don’t beat yourself up. Just move forward and stop smoking again from that moment on.
  6. Write down ways that you have succeeded at something difficult in the past and recognize that you do have the ability to be successful at this as well.
  7. Reward yourself for your successes, big and small. Think of the things that you would like to do or buy for yourself as a reward for quitting.  Start a stop smoking jar and every day or week deposit the money you would normally spend on cigarettes in the jar (or in a separate bank account if that amount is too much for what purchase you would like to make).  Reward yourself when you reach the amounts that you need to do/get the things you want.
  8. Practice some of the following techniques when you feel a craving:
    • Pull out your reminder of your reasons for quitting smoking
    • Deep breathe: Inhale the deepest lung-full of air you can, and then, very slowly, exhale. Purse your lips so that the air must come out slowly. As you exhale, close your eyes, and let your chin gradually sink over onto your chest. Visualize all the tension leaving your body, slowly draining out of your fingers and toes, just flowing on out.
    • Have a drink of water
    • Go for a walk
    • Call a friend/support person
    • Keep healthy snacks available so that you don’t reach for the junk food quick fix
  9. Check out this free government resource:
  10. Get help. Acupuncture/Traditional Chinese Medicine can support your healthy body, relax your mind, and help manage cravings. For more on this, check out my blog about how acupuncture can help you quit smoking.



Quit Smoking With Acupuncture

quit smokingEvery day, people around the world vow to finally quit smoking for good only to watch their resolution go up in smoke. If you have tried to quit smoking, you know how difficult it can be. Nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug. For some people, it can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine.

The reasons to quit smoking are endless. Cigarettes have 4000 known poisons. One drop of pure nicotinic acid can kill a man. According to the CDC, tobacco kills more than 440,000 people each year in the US alone. Smoking is also associated with an enormous list of the chronic illnesses and diseases including emphysema, lung cancer, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, chronic cough, an increased frequency of colds and flu.

Many people decide to quit because of the enormous expense of a cigarette habit or are just plain tired of being dependant on a substance. There is also considerable social pressure not to smoke and more and more places do not allow smoking.

Acupuncture is an alternative approach to smoking cessation. In fact, acupuncture is often a court-mandated treatment for drug addicts because of its ability to curb withdrawal symptoms and manage cravings.

It’s estimated that most smokers will attempt to quit several times before finally kicking the habit. Acupuncture is not a magic cure in the treatment of any addiction, including smoking, however, is effective in making it easier to quit and remain smoke-free. If you are highly motivated and ready to quit, acupuncture can empower you to take control and begin a healthy and smoke-free life!

How Does Acupuncture Help Break the Cigarette Habit?

Acupuncture intercepts messages sent by the brain to the body that demand more nicotine, thereby disrupting the addictive process. It can eliminate most cravings, but not the habit. A successful acupuncture program will include patient preparation, patient commitment, and education about how to replace the unhealthy habit of smoking with healthy habits.

Traditional Chinese Medicine aims to treat the specific symptoms and patterns of imbalance that are unique to each individual. Treatments will focus on the jitters, the cravings, the irritability, and the restlessness that people commonly complain about when they quit. It will also aid in relaxation and detoxification.

What Points Are Used?

Each patient is custom-treated according to his or her specific and unique diagnosis. Usually a combination of body acupuncture points and points on the ear are used that are believed to influence the organs and energetic pathways associated with smoking.

Commonly Used Points for Smoking Cessation include:

Ear points:-alleviates tension; increases will power; returns the body to homeostatic balance; relieves withdrawal symptoms; Diminishes appetite and cravings.

Body points: (on the wrist) a specific point to quit smoking; a combination of two points (one on the hand & one on the foot) used to circulate energy throughout the body and calm the nervous system.

After removing the needles, ‘ear seeds’ (affixed to a small beige tape) are often applied to the ear to stimulate the points between treatments and reduce cravings.

How Many Treatments Will I Need and How Long Do they Take?

The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last approximately sixty minutes, with the patient being treated two to three times on the first week and two more treatments the second week (5 initial treatments). I recommend a booster treatment once a month for the next four to six months. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.

A stop smoking program will often consist of 4-6 initial treatments scheduled in the first few weeks followed by monthly treatments for four to six months.

Note that herbs and/or supplements may also be recommended to help the lungs recover and support the whole body.

Also, check out my tips for creating a quit smoking plan.


BC wildfires and your lung health

BC wildfires July 8,15As of today in BC, there are 68 active fires of note and/or fires larger than 10 hectares (there are many more fires in total than that!). But there are actually 197 fires total active around BC! That’s huge! And unusual for us this time of year. What’s even more unusual was waking up this past Sunday morning to an eerily coloured sky caused by the haze of smoke from those fires. By Sunday afternoon in Vancouver and many surrounding areas, the smell of smoke was in the air. My husband and I had taken our bikes downtown to check out the fan activity for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and by 3 p.m. we decided that the smoke was too much, so we headed home to watch the game there. 

SUP Yoga beach

I did SUP yoga that morning, and this was the view of Kits beach as I headed out. (photo not modified)

Within a few hours the air quality advisory for Vancouver was at 7/10–in the high risk category–and we could feel it. For some it caused shortness of breath, wheezing, asthma attacks, coughing, scratchy throat, and irritated sinues. My husband experienced burning eyes. I got a headache (headaches are my barometer for pretty much anything that is not right for my body). Those with lung health issues, the elderly, and the very young are those most at risk with poor air quality advisories.

Thankfully air quality has improved in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, though the values are still wavering between a low to moderate level (2-5). In Squamish and Whistler right now, the numbers are much worse, with Whistler at 8 right now.

You’ve likely heard the recommendations to close your windows and get inside an air conditioned building. That may be doable during the daytime, but it’s hard to do that at night if you don’t have air conditioning in your home. I know that on Sunday we debated between keeping the windows open so we could cool our place down and closing the windows so no more smoke would enter. We chose the latter. Better to be warm than risk damaging our health.

Protect Your Lungs

  1. Check out the air quality ratings in your area. In BC, this is the link:
  2. If you hear advisories about air quality in the news, listen to them. 
  3. Minimize your exposure. Close windows and minimize outdoor activities. If you have heart or lung disease or are frail, consider leaving the area to stay somewhere with better air quality.
  4. Avoid burning things like wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves, and even candles when smoke levels are high. Unlikely you’ll want to be lighting up your wood fireplace in this heat, but gas stoves might be more of a challenge for some.
  5. Don’t vacuum, as that stirs up particles already in your home. I like the excuse not to vacuum! However, some people noticed an accumulation of ash in their place. When you clean, consider using a proper particulate mask. Dust masks are not enough. An effective mask must be able to filter very small particles. Smoke particulate averages about 0.3 microns. It must also provide an airtight seal around your face. Masks marked with “R95,” “N95,” or “P95” can help (I found these online at Home Depot), but R,N, or P99 or 100 masks filter even more (Amazon has some 99 ones). Note that they won’t work if you don’t get a proper seal, and that those of you with beards will have a near impossible time to get a good seal. You might also find it’s hard to breathe through the masks, as they increase resistance to airflow.
  6. Use an air purifier to help filter some of the particulate out of your indoor environment.
  7. And, clearly, it’s better if you don’t smoke. That pollutes you and the lungs of people around you even more. Maybe it’s good timing to quit (see my blog on quitting smoking).

Support Your Lungs

  1. Find a clear air place to practice some deep cleansing breath work. Breathe in through your nose, fully and deeply. Hold your breath for a count of five. Then open your mouth and fully and slowly exhale all the air out of your lungs. When you think you’ve breathed it all out, use your abdominal muscles to help your diaphragm lift up further by exhaling “ha…ha…ha” to push out more air. Breathe in again, and repeat this sequence a few times. If you have chronic lung health issues, consult with a health professional before trying this. Also be careful if this makes you dizzy. Practicing this or other deep breathing exercises can help strengthen the lungs.
  2. Hydrate well. Your whole body needs water to function properly. Water also helps with mucus production and movement, key to collecting and getting rid of viruses, bacteria, other pathogens, toxins, and cellular waste products.
  3. Include garlic and onions in your diet. They help fight infections and decrease inflammation.
  4. Eat kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. They are part of the cruciferous veggie category, and they are rich in antioxidants that help to manage cellular damage. They have also been shown to help prevent and fight lung cancer.
  5. Chomp on apples. Several studies have shown that eating two to five apples a week can reduce the risk and severity of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is believed that the flavonoids in apples, especially khellin, can help open up airways.
  6. Get treated. If you have lung health issues–asthma, allergies, COPD, emphysema, etc.–Traditional Chinese Medicine has a variety of powerful ways to support your lung health, from acupuncture and herbs to foods and lifestyle changes. 

Remember, even if you don’t have any lung health issues, your lungs are vital to your good health, so take good care of them!

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