When I was offered a chance to write about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for Alive Magazine, my answer was a resounding, “YES!” If we haven’t met, I’m a huge fan and supporter of TCM, its principles, and its treatments. After all, I’ve been practicing it for over 16 years. The more people who know about TCM and get a chance to try it in some format–TCM consultation, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, TCM food cures, cupping, or simple lifestyle changes based on TCM foundations–the happier I am!
One challenge about sharing information about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it uses a different language than most of us from the West can comprehend. Yin, Yang, Qi, meridians, Damp-Cold, Liver attacking Spleen–say what?! The thing is, many systems and professionals use their own language, from “lawyerspeak” to medical jargon to tech terms. Understand that this is our way of explaining complex principles and diagnostics, and some of our words are not to be taken literally (for example, your liver is not actually attacking your spleen!).
It’s not easy to encapsulate all I want to say about TCM in just one article, but check out my link to Traditional Chinese Medicine: Deep, Historical Roots Offer New Medical Insights in June 2017’s issue of Alive. You’ll find a basic intro, my description of how TCM has been changing and evolving, and some info about how to find a qualified TCM in Canada.
I don’t get the Starbucks Unicorn drink craze. It doesn’t look edible, it’s full of junk, and it contains a whopping 59g of sugar! It’s not just the calories. That’s almost 15 tsp of sugar. Inflammatory sugar.
I get that it’s only available for a short time and people just want to try it because others are trying it. I’m curious too. But I know that that drink, for me, is a recipe for a headache–even if I only have a portion of it. So, instead I propose a new unicorn craze. I’d love to start an #acupunctureunicorn trend!
Ok, so the acupuncture point is not called The Unicorn. But I do nickname it the “#1 requested acupuncture point” and the “aren’t you going to do that point” point. The acupuncture point name is actually Yintang, and the benefits are many!
The main reason people request that point from me? Because it helps calm our overactive minds. We want to be mindful, but instead we find we’re “mind full.” Who amongst us couldn’t use a bit more calm? Unicorn acupuncture to the rescue.
What about sleep? Are you able to relax well and enjoy a deep, restful sleep? No? Then perhaps you could use some “acupuncture unicorn.”
Stuffy or runny nose? Allergic rhinitis? Congested sinuses? Become an acupuncture unicorn.
Headache? Perhaps it’s because you had a Starbucks unicorn drink? Or maybe it could be from eye strain, sinus congestion, stress, or other. Some unicorn acupuncture can help with that too.
Are you in? Are you ready to make a new unicorn craze–a healthy one? Take a picture of you getting acupuncture at Yintang and share it with the hashtag #acupunctureunicorn ! That would be a trend worth sharing.
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) 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?
Pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, disabilities, injuries, and chronic illness. Every day I work with people who are suffering. And the question that sometimes comes up is, “Will I get better?”
I believe that our bodies are designed to heal, so yes, I do reply that things will get better. Does that mean 100%? Sometimes, against all odds, yes. Sometimes not 100%, but better.
Courage to Come Back
I was recently honoured to get to watch someone I know well received a prestigious award, the Courage to Come Back Award. Tom is a man who doesn’t do things for awards or accolades. In fact, in this video, you can see that he says he doesn’t know if he was a good social worker (I’m sure he was!), but that he felt he could do his best to do little things to help others.
He has many major health challenges—legally blind, kidney transplant (twice), chronic pain, and more—but despite them, is one of the more active people I know. He curls, does yoga, and walks everywhere. He travels, he volunteers, he writes articles, he advocates for people in need, and his home is a regular gathering place for parties.
So, what does Tom have to say about overcoming and dealing with challenges? I interviewed him for his perspective a week after receiving the Courage to Come Back Award.
Support of others
Tom was born with severe vision problems. Nearly blind, he could see the blackboard at school, but couldn’t see the words on it. He asked his teachers to read aloud what they wrote on the board. In university, his friends read his textbooks to him.
So, it’s no surprise that when I asked Tom to name some of the things that have helped him through his life, despite his health challenges, he said that support is the most important. Find people you trust, respect, and can rely upon. And know that it’s a two-way street, so be trustworthy, respectful, and reliable to them.
But then I asked him how to ask for help. Because sometimes it’s hard to ask. He said that his experience is that most people want to help. And that when people care for you, they don’t want to worry about you. It’s more of an impediment to worry than to be able to help. And sometimes people don’t simply offer to help without you asking because they don’t want to intrude.
Sometimes pain continues. Sometimes things don’t get better or more challenges arise. So, how do you manage? What do you do?
Tom’s suggestions? “Pain is something you may not always be able to get rid of, but you can work on reducing it. Your body and mind can adjust to pain. If you can just get better bit by bit, even chronic pain can feel less painful. And remember, it usually took a long time to get to where you are now, so it takes effort, commitment, conviction, and hope to make changes for the better.”
Though this phrase may not work for all, Tom remembers with a chuckle, a time that he was really struggling and a friend said to him, “It’s better to be above ground than below.” For him, that was motivation to push forward.
If you get to meet Tom, you’ll find out he has a great sense of humour. He says he’s always perceived things in a “zany way,” and that has helped.
One of the main messages he’d like to share is that it takes courage. It’s no surprise that the award is called Courage to Come Back. “Everyone suffers some type of adversity, struggles in their life. And the most important thing is to take steps forward, one at a time, and keep trying. Don’t give up. Stay positive, even when it’s hard.”
What you can do to help someone in need
What if you’re on the other side of the equation? You may know someone with chronic health issues, and perhaps you want to help, but you don’t want to mistakenly offend. Tom told me that a simple question to ask is, “Can I help?” That way a person can say yes or no to assistance.
Also, try to avoid saying, “you should…” as that can come across as overbearing. But, Tom says that it’s important for all of us to remember not to take things too personally. Most of us are well-meaning and are just trying to help.
Additionally, sometimes it’s better to just listen instead of offering soothing words, suggestions, or a pep talk. “Silence is very important. It shows you are listening and thinking,” Tom says.
And, when you do talk, Tom told me of advice he received from one of his mentors, “It’s not always what you say, but how you say it.”
One more quote
One more bit from Tom, “Healing is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” And he would know. Tom has been beating the odds for more than 70 years.
For more about the winners of the Courage to Come Back Award, check out their site here.
I get that my title is somewhat ironic. After all, this too is an online posting. But, I do advise that that you use your own critical thinking and ask other experts if anything I say below seems off to you.
This blog all started because of Facebook. Three postings on Facebook over the last 6 or so months. Thank you to my friend who always tags me when her friends ask for health advice, and for sharing topics that open up discussion in the field of health and wellness.
One posting on Facebook asks for advice from friends. For a week and a half he has had shoulder pain and is unable to move his arm above shoulder height without causing sharp pain. Friends suggest he get a ball and dig in deep or use a foam roller to release the muscles. Ack! No, I would not suggest that. He may cause more damage and slow his recovery.
Another posting on Facebook had a woman asking friends if her symptoms of fever, simultaneous sensations of hot and cold, very sore throat, and aching all over was the result of the detox herbs she had started that day. Her friends agreed it was a “healing crisis,” part of the cleansing process that she should proceed with. Nope. I knew it was the flu, and sure enough that’s what it was. Continuing the cleanse would have been harder on her body for her immune system to mount a response.
I agree that it’s great to be able to take care of yourself, with a little help from your friends. But if your friends are not health care providers, you should take their advice with a grain of salt. They want to help, but sometimes they will accidentally cause you more harm.
Sometimes even those who are in the wellness industry hold onto old ideas.
Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef, says that the wellness industry has it wrong–coconut oil is unhealthy because it is full of saturated fat. The article link here. What he neglects to note is what I posted on my friend’s FB page when she opened up the dialogue:
It’s not as simple as Jamie Oliver and that dietician state. For a long time all fat was villainized. Now the mainstream gives monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats hero status and calls saturated fats the villains. The studies are contradictory. Here’s one that’s a meta-analysis (grouping of studies) showing high saturated fat intake did not increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or coronary heart disease (CHD): American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
A large Japanese study even found that eating more saturated fats was associated with lower rates of death from stroke: Japanese study.
There are studies showing that it might be high sugar intake that increases “bad” cholesterol (e.g. JAMA Internal Medicine). And, even almost 20 years ago, large studies were showing that there didn’t appear to be much link between blood cholesterol and risk of stroke (blood pressure, on the other hand, is a different matter). In fact, this one showed that lower blood cholesterol levels, though associated with lower levels of non-hemorrhagic stroke (the kind where the blood vessels in the brain don’t break), resulted in higher numbers of hemorrhagic stroke (the kind where at least one blood vessel breaks): The Lancet.
For anyone to claim that a real food (I’m not talking about the chemical garbage we’ve made up and called “food”) that has been consumed by populations for centuries is “good” (superfood hero) or “bad” (dangerous—that word is so overused), is presumptuous. It depends on how you eat it, the quality of the food itself (there is crappy coconut oil out there), how much you eat, and most importantly, your own body constitution.
My very long answer, but nutrition and nutrition myths are so important to me. 🙂
What questionable health advice do you most read about online?
Health in 2015 Review
I like to look back to review the most stand-out news in health in 2015. Of course, for me, a lot of my remembrance about health news is particular to either Traditional Chinese Medicine or nutrition.
- Remember the day that you were told bacon and sausages are in the same category for cancer-causing as smoking and asbestos? If you missed my article reviewing the WHO’s report, here it is: WHO declares processed meat cancer risk.
- The Vancouver Sun wrote an article titled “Chinese herbs mixed with medications can be hazardous.” I wrote an article titled: The media loves to write about “dangerous Chinese herbs”
- Remember that yellow skied morning last summer? It looked cool, but its cause was not! Even though those fires are not affecting our air today, the tips for lung health are always good to heed: BC wildfires and your lung health
- Finding higher levels of toxins in the blood and urine samples of women from South and East Asia, researchers questioned the source, including Chinese and Aryuvedic herbs. It’s so important to know the source of the things you are taking. Are your foods, herbs, makeup, and more full of toxins
- No duh. Researchers found that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments that were customized to individuals were more effective than “cookbook-style” one-treatment-fits-all acupuncture treatments to boost fertility. Boosting fertility with “whole systems” TCM
This isn’t exactly news about health in 2015, but my favourite article of the year was in the Journal of Chinese Medicine–a funny bit reviewing a negative opinion piece published about acupuncture research in Headache journal: Getting High on Acupuncture Research
If you only read one link, read that one. Sad that the original article maligning acupuncture as an effective therapy for migraines was so misinformed, poorly researched, and published in a supposedly respected “scientific” journal.
Looking forward to seeing what 2016 will bring in the news on health.
What are the health and wellness things you remember most for 2015, either in the media or in your personal life?