All posts in immune system

Goji berries are a local Vancouver food

goji berries local Vancouver food healthy nutritionGoji berries are not a food I would normally consider local. Grown mostly in China, goji berries are a challenge to grow in Canada. That’s why so few places do. But, fortunate for us, there is one farm in the Lower Mainland amongst that short list, and this week I visited them.

Why should I care about goji berries?

Well, you don’t have to. But if you’re interested in healthy food options and like to try different foods, why not? After all, goji berries have many health benefits.

  1. goji berries local vancouver food healthy nutritionThey are rich in antioxidants–i.e. cell protectants that help prevent cancer, fight disease, and manage inflammation. 
  2. They are a good source of fibre. Fibre helps stabilize your blood sugar (Traditional Chinese Medicine has long used goji to help manage diabetes), helps you feel full, and supports healthy bowel movements, all of which can help with healthy weight management.
  3. They contain more protein than most berries.
  4. Ounce for ounce, goji berries have more iron than spinach! In TCM they are classified as a Blood Tonic.
  5. TCM has long used goji–except that we call them gou qi zi–for supporting healthy vision, and research supports this.
  6. Gojis may increase men’s testosterone levels and improve sperm count and motility, so it’s no surprise that in TCM, goji are sometimes used to address men’s sexual health. 
  7. For women, goji berries may also boost fertility by helping with ovulation.
  8. Goji are also popular for promoting healthy skin and boosting energy.

When I was doing my internship in China, I noticed that all the TCM doctors I trained with drank hot water with goji berries. As the weather got hot, they added in chrysanthemum flowers, but the goji berries seemed a staple. 

Visiting a Local Goji Farm

goji berries local vancouver food healthy nutritionOn the first day of August, my husband and I made a drive all the way out to Aldergrove because ever since I met the owner (Peter Breederland) of a BC goji farm at a health show, I wanted to visit his goji farm. 

When we arrived, though I had intended to simply buy freshly picked berries, there was only one clamshell of goji available, so I asked about the U-pick. It was hot, hot, hot out, but I was told the goji are super easy to pick. It’s true. They are. And we picked about 3/4 kg of berries in no time.

Fresh goji are super fragile. Their flesh is very soft and there are small seeds inside. The taste of the larger, ripe goji are mildly sweet, slightly tart. I find some of the berries have a bit of a red pepper taste, but others have told me they are reminiscent of huckleberries (I don’t think I’ve ever had them, so I can’t compare). The LA Times described the taste: “The berries had a mild, sweet, tomato-like flavor, with vegetal, rose and red pepper notes.” I think they taste quite different from the dried goji I’m super familiar with, but I’ve been enjoying fresh goji on my oatmeal, just as I typically have the dried ones.

If you come in for an appointment with me this week, ask me for a goji berry (I’ve got them at the clinic!).

In case you’re interested, you can even buy your own goji plant! Check them out at Gojoy, and let them know I sent you! 😉

goji berries local vancouver food healthy nutrition

goji berries local vancouver food healthy nutritiongoji berries local vancouver food healthy nutrition

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Sauteed mushrooms and mashed sweet potatoes recipes

mashed sweet potato and sauteed mushroom healthy easy recipe nutrition vancouverWant a delicious side dish that will support your immune system? And, want that dish to be easy to make? This is it! I usually eat fewer root veggies as the weather warms, but today I was craving sweet potatoes, and though I would normally roast them, seasonal changes mean I’d try something different. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine rates different cooking methods as adding different levels of heat to the food. If you experience a lot of cold signs, like poor blood circulation, feeling cold, slow digestion, and pale complexion, then you should add more warming foods. If you tend toward more heat symptoms like feeling hot, sweating easily, fast metabolism, and flushed complexion, then cooling foods are a better call for you. Roasting adds a lot more warmth than boiling, so as the weather is starting to warm, I’m pulling back on how much roasted food I consume, adding in more steamed, boiled, and juiced. Because I still tend toward cold, I still limit how much raw food I eat.

Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamins A, C, Bs, potassium, copper, and fibre–great for strengthening the immune and digestive systems. Mushrooms are often used to support the immune system too. While spring is here, cold and flus are still circulating, so it helps to have immune supportive foods to keep a spring cold at bay.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Better than mashed potatoes, I think.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 sweet potatoes (you could use yams instead if you like, but though people often use the names interchangeably, they are different vegetables)
  2. 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  3. 1/4 cup of almond milk
  4. 2-6 Tbsp of maple syrup (depends on your sweet tooth)
  5. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes
  2. Boil in water until soft, 20-30 minutes
  3. Drain out water
  4. Mash sweet potatoes with a potato masher, fork, or hand blender
  5. Stir in coconut oil
  6. Add in almond milk so it's the consistency you like
  7. Add in maple syrup to taste
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
Mushroom Saute
Mushrooms should always be cooked. But the cooking of them can be super simple. Like this.
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Ingredients
  1. Mushrooms, 1/2 cup sliced (instead, I rehydrated a bag of West Coast Wild Foods mixed mushrooms)
  2. 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I used Copper Kettle Fine Foods small batch handmade sauce)
  3. 1 Tbsp coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Heat oil at medium heat
  2. Add mushrooms and saute a few minutes
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce (took me a long time to learn how to spell that; still can't pronounce it!)
  4. Saute another few minutes
  5. Optional to serve on top of mashed sweet potatoes
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/

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Carrot Ginger Immune and Digestive Support Vegan Soup Recipe

carrot ginger immune boosting digestive health easy vegan soup recipeI 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
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
  2. 1 medium onion, diced
  3. 3 tablespoons minced ginger (I did closer to 4-5 Tbsp and it was super gingery, but delish!)
  4. 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander (I used cumin because I thought I was out of coriander)
  5. 4-5 cups diced carrots
  6. 3 cups vegetable broth
  7. 1 cup coconut milk
  8. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat
  2. Add onions
  3. Saute until onions are translucent (about 4 minutes)
  4. Add ginger
  5. Saute for another 4 minutes (until softened and fragrant)
  6. Add coriander (or cumin)
  7. Add carrots
  8. Stir
  9. Add vegetable broth
  10. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are completely softened (about 30 minutes)
  11. Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes
  12. 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)
  13. Return soup to pot
  14. Stir in coconut milk
  15. Add salt and pepper to taste
Notes
  1. Even better the 2nd day, if you have leftovers!
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
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Top Reasons You Need Acupuncture This Spring

need acupuncture vancouver springtimeYou 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.

Boost Immunity

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. 

Treat Allergies

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.

Manage Stress

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.   

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Recipe for dry cough

Steamed Pears for Dry Cough

Though it’s no longer cold and flu season, some people I’ve seen are suffering from a lingering dry cough. The cough could also be from allergies. So, in addition to treating the immune system, what can you do? How about a Traditional Chinese Medicine food cure?

TCM food cures are remedies that have been passed from practitioner to practitioner, family to family for centuries. Just like we’ve now discovered that chicken soup really can help address the symptoms of the common cold, so too can some of the TCM food cures help modern health issues.

Steamed Pears
This is a traditional remedy from TCM.
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Ingredients
  1. Chinese pears
  2. or other pears
Instructions
  1. Cut the top off one pear (don't toss it out)
  2. Core the pear
  3. Fill the centre of the pear with honey
  4. Put the top back on the pear
  5. Steam the pear for 45 to 60 minutes
  6. Pear should be very soft
  7. Let pear cool for 10 to 15 minutes
  8. Eat the whole pear and juices
  9. Do this for 3 nights in a row
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
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Allergy season in Vancouver already?

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

Allergy Season in Vancouver

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

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

 

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

Treating Allergies Naturally

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

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

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

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

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treats Allergies Too

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

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

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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.

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Is it allergies or a cold?

24 Hours Traditional Chinese Medicine and AcupunctureYou’re sneezing and sniffling. Perhaps you have a headache or cough. Is it a cold or allergies? With the flu and cold season still going on, while spring allergy season has also arrived, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. There are, however, some key symptoms that can point you in one direction or the other. There are also natural remedies that can treat both health issues, making sure you get some relief, no matter whether your immune system is under-active or overactive. Read my most recent article in 24 Hours for more: Allergy Season Arrives Early in Vancouver.

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Throwback Thursday for Health Tips

24 Hours logoOf course I know that Throwback Thursday is supposed to happen on a Thursday, not a Friday, but I’m not throwing back that far…just to last month. I was away in September, so didn’t post my September 24 Hours articles that I had written in advance of my holidays. Here they are now.

Need help with your memory, concentration, and focus? Here are some tips. Boost memory with acupuncture, ginseng.

Support your immune system with sleep, exercise, food, and TCM. Learn more here: Sleep to fight off colds.

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Which is a “food of the gods”?

So easy that I’ve made it several times. So yummy that I’m bringing it to share with my family this weekend. Mushrooms were called “food of the gods” by the Romans. Though most of the research on the health benefits of mushrooms have focused on shiitake, reishi, and maitake mushrooms, all mushrooms, including the common ones, like white button, crimini, and oyster mushrooms have immune system benefits. They contain polysaccharides and beta-glucan components that have been touted for their anti-cancer benefits, amongst other things. They are also rich in B vitamins, zinc, and potassium.

When buying mushrooms, look for ones that are not broken or bruised. The end of the stem should be fresh and moist, not dried out. Also avoid mushrooms that are wrinkled, wet, or slimy. Store mushrooms in a loosely closed paper bag.

But enough with that. What you really want to know is how to make this soup.

This is my slightly modified version from The Tasty Alternative.

First of all, she says it takes just 10 minutes, but it took me more like 20, probably because I’m slower to wash and slice.

Ingredients
1/2 yellow onion, small chop
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups chopped crimini mushrooms (or preferred mushrooms)
2 cups cashew milk* (see below notes for how to make this; I often make more than I need so I can use the extra for other things)
1 cup homemade stock (of choice: chicken, mushroom, veggie, etc.)
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic granules (I often use fresh minced garlic instead)
Pepper for garnish or to taste
Preferred oil for sautéing — grapeseed oil is what I used here

Instructions

Note: You need to start plan ahead to make this soup because of the cashew milk. You might be able to just use a bought version, but I think that would be too thin.
For cashew milk: soak 1 cup of cashews in filtered water 4 to 8 hours (I just soak them overnight). Drain, rinse, and blend with 3 cups filtered water (she uses a Vitamix, I’m still dreaming about getting one). Poor into glass jar and store in fridge up to 4 days.

1. Add some oil to pot
2. Add onions, garlic, and salt and saute until translucent
3.. Add mushrooms and saute until soft
4. Add cashew milk and broth
5. Bring to a simmer until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes
6. Remove from heat and blend with immersion blender (or any blending method of your choice)
7. Soup will thicken up even more as it cools

I would freeze the extra, but it doesn’t last more than a couple of days in my fridge anyway as my husband loves this one.

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