Baby Fever – Fertility and Emotions

Acupuncture Today published my latest article on Fertility and Emotions, ie. Baby Fever.

A woman wakes up and walks to the bathroom, her pregnancy test kit waiting by the bathroom sink. She waits impatiently for the magical indicator showing that she is pregnant, and feels her throat swell when it shows she is not.

Many women seeking fertility assistance are, with respect to this one issue, emotionally unbalanced. Their desire for offspring reaches so deep, it affects everything in their lives: their romantic relationships, their work, and their friendships. They fear never being able to have a baby, and feel time is running out. Will their partner think less of them? By the time these women reach out to an acupuncturist, they are consumed with wanting a child. They would do almost anything. The ticking of her biological clock is so loud that they can barely hear anything else.

There are so many variables in treatment options when a woman seeks treatment for this issue, that it is not always my first priority to treat her body for conception. For one thing, the woman might be extremely emotionally charged, even slightly unstable. There is fear being bred internally because she thinks she might not be able to bear children. A practitioner’s role is not as psychotherapist, but as an advocate for a patient’s deepest health that includes mind, body and spirit. The emotions that pulse through a woman who is trying to get pregnant but cannot, run the gamut and often provide the evolution of deeply buried shadows to arise to the surface. This is a time to engage in deep healing, to prepare and orient the deepest creative forces in the body to be in alignment.

Pregnancy is the beautiful orchestration of a healthy body, yet many seemingly healthy bodies have idiopathic infertility with no functional blockages to pregnancy. Instead of focusing on what a woman needs physically to conceive, I might focus instead on balancing her emotions and calming her nervous system. I ground her energy by strengthening her lowest organs, the adrenals and Kidneys, or Kidney Yang, and calm her nervous system, or Shen, by nourishing Heart Yin or Blood. I have found the greatest benefit by working with the Extraordinary meridians; the Chong and Ren. An herbalist can accomplish all of these with herbs, but in an ideal situation, a practitioner would use both herbs and acupuncture.

Times Have Changed

Traditionally, men are the hunters and women are the gatherers. It was the woman’s job to garden, gather food, make babies, have dinner ready when the man gets home, and generally, be the feminine, receptive energy. As the hunter, the man’s job was to provide for the home, and protect it. He must be the man that makes the woman feel safe and free her to be the feminine energy. In today’s world, roles are not so clearly defined. In our modern day society, women are becoming the hunters as well as gatherers. Our feminine receptive energy is being filled with jobs and careers. When it is time to make a baby, it can start to feel like another project; going to the acupuncturist or fertility doctor is like meeting with your consultant; and taking the morning temperature is project management. Something that started out as fun – making love with your partner – becomes routine and unsexy. The whole process of making a baby becomes traumatic for themselves and their partners.

Thus begins the vicious circle that keeps her infertile.

To Read more, head over to Acupuncture Today’s  website: http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=32614

Giving Back

Acupuncture Relief Project is a free community acupuncture clinic that travels to countries that have been impacted by poverty, conflict or disaster. Currently our primary clinic project is located in Chapagaon, Nepal and villages in the surrounding area. I am willing to give my time please consider donating as well.

This has been a lifelong dream of mine – ever since a medical doctor shared his desire to do “Doctors without Borders” I have been entranced. If you share my desire to make a difference abroad, please consider donating to the cause!

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From the kitchen

Detoxing and fasting are neither recognized nor accepted in Chinese medicine, which stipulates that when yin and yang are in balance, the body naturally detoxifies and cleanses itself.  Of course, when Chinese medicine was developed many thousands of years ago, I doubt that processed foods, metal toxicities, and other pollutants were fathomed to ever exist.  As extremists, Americans find solutions in fasting and harsh detoxes.  The “Master Cleanse” [fasting, but drinking lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper] is hard on the body, causing the adrenals and pancreas that have to endlessly work to balance the insulin in the body.  With the Master Cleanse or fasting, the metabolism slows down, taking up to several months to regulate.  If the adrenals are overworked, and cannot produce more adrenaline, they excrete cortisol instead, resulting in the breaking down of body tissues and faster aging, poor healing, and more.

Alternatively, if you are in other parts of the world, it might be typical to do a simple cleanse by just eating healthy soups.  At this time of year, many people are thinking of Spring cleaning of their homes or body. I like to throw a clothing swap party where I give away clothes, costumes and other items that have not been in use for a while. I might take some homeopathic supplements or do the ionic foot cleanse once a week to properly cleanse my body.  When it comes to food, I do not compromise.  I love it and will not be fasting.  Below is a recipe called, “Kitchari.” Which is a soup for those who would like to try this way of giving your body a Spring cleanse, while opting out of harsh treatments. InIndia, this is considered a “fasting food,” used to purify digestion and cleanse systemic toxins.

By way of this Indian recipe, we are heading into Ayurvedic medicine, a cousin to Chinese medicine.   Both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda believe that all healing (or illness) begins with the digestive tract, and that Kitchari will give it a much needed rest from constantly extracting nutrients from processing foods.  The blend of rice and split mung beans offers an array of amino acids, the building blocks of protein.  Its mixture of spices will kindle the digestive fire, the Ayurvedic description of your innate digestive power, which is weakened by poor food combinations.

I grabbed this recipe from the Yoga Journal.  Enjoy!!

First, rinse one cup of split mung beans and soak for several hours.  Set aside.  In a blender, liquefy one tablespoon of peeled, chopped ginger; two tablespoons of shredded coconut; and a handful of chopped cilantro with one-half cup of water.  in a large saucepan, lightly brown one-half teaspoon cinnamon; one-quarter teaspoon each of cardamon, pepper, clove powder, turmeric, salt; and three bay leaves (remove before serving) in three tablespoons of ghee.

Drain the mung dal and then stir it into the spice mixture in saucepan.  Next, add one cup of raw basmati rice.  Stir in the blended spice and coconut mixture, followed by six cups of water.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook on low heat for approximately 25-30 minutes until soft.

 

Weight Loss – where did this tire come from??

 

Often, patients come to me wondering why they are gaining weight (especially around the mid-section).  The red flag is raised whenever I hear, “I don’t know why I am gaining weight – I don’t even eat that much!”  It is instantly clear to me why they are gaining weight.  There is an intuitive knowledge within us; we might be living in the 21st century with cars, modern cosmetic treatments, and whatnot but we still have the body of our ancestors, the “Caveman”.  Just like our ancestors, our body accumulates fat when we are not eating enough calories.  When I tell my patients that they need to be eating MORE if they want to lose weight, especially by eating protein rich breakfasts, they almost always respond intuitively that this is true. “You’re not telling me anything new.” is their typical response.

In this article, I review several causal factors for weight gain and what to do about them.  Due to the enormous depth of each subject below, and due to limiting factors, I will only touch on a few subjects briefly and expand on each individually in future articles. I will only go over a few factors for weight gain in this article.  For more information about a specific topic, please contact me to set up an appointment.

 

Adrenal Fatigue

In our stressful modern lifestyle, it is common for adrenal fatigue to occur. It is a wearing down of our energy due to stress.  Our adrenals act as does our car battery. We should only use them as last minute energy sources (in fight or flight mode), however, we are over-utilizing them on a daily basis.  In Chinese medicine, we call this “Kidney Yang deficiency”. In reality, our adrenals sit on top of our kidneys. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are: difficulty waking up, unsustainable energy throughout the day (chronic fatigue), caffeine addictions, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). When hypoglycemia occurs, it is common to not feel hungry for breakfast and one might even get nauseous at the thought of eating early in the morning.  People with adrenal fatigue tend to only think of food around mid-day, and even then eating only a small amount.  Skipping breakfast causes your metabolism to slow down and causes greater weakening of the adrenal glands, thus starting a vicious circle: you are not hungry because your adrenal glands are weak, and not eating weakens the adrenal glands.

 

Low Fat Diets

This trend upsets me more than almost anything in weight loss strategies.  I cannot stress enough how much your body needs fats.  By keeping your body in starvation mode, you cause your body to hoard the fat you already have on your body.  When most people try low fat diets, they tend to make up the fats they are not eating with carbohydrates, which turn into sugar in the body.  The pancreas is at the center of handling our sugar handling as it reacts to help digest and absorb our food for energy and provides insulin to take the sugar into the cells.  In this case, it must release more than normal insulin, which might lead to hyperglycemia that may eventually lead to diabetes!  Your body can only digest sugars if fiber or fat are ingested at the same time.  For example, if you eat an apple, you are receiving the fiber from it and can digest it.  But if you just drink apple juice, the sugar will overwhelm your body and your pancreas will feel under attack.  This is an over-simplified version of the duties of the pancreas and insulin in the body, but my point is that I would rather see my patients eat full fat ice cream (and be satisfied) than eat a low fat cake high in carbohydrates (which turn into more sugar) and still be unsatisfied by the sugar overload.

 

Eat more, and be conscious of what goes into your mouth!

Being physically active is not the only factor that promotes healthiness and maintains normal weight.  Food is your medicine.  Food nurtures and nourishes our bodies.  Many people have a love/hate relationship with food.  If someone is over their ideal weight, they might develop an animosity towards foods they normally love. Many people become unconscious about food because they eat while watching television.  Rather than sitting down and enjoying a meal, many people stand and rush through their meals, in front of the morning or evening news.  This is not only an effective way to develop food allergies, but it also contributes to a disconnection with your senses.  If you tune into the television and tune out of your food while eating, how will you know if you are enjoying it and how will you know when you are full?  Over time, this dulling to foods leads us to be unsatisfied, and soon enough we are over-eating, which causes… weight gain!

 

Quantity and Ingredients

After five years of living in Colorado, I have yet to meet someone who worries about eating too much.  Mostly, people worry about not eating enough. Invitations to potluck parties will commonly request: “Please bring gluten free items only.” or “Gluten and dairy free preferred”. At the table of food of these parties, one often sees little tags labeled in front of foods, “GF” for gluten free and “DF” for dairy free, or even, “GF/DF” (my personal favorite).

 

Being aware of what foods we thrive on and what weakens our system is essential.  People with thyroid issues or depression would be wise to avoid gluten and dairy products.  People with chemical and mold allergies would be wise to stay away from foods high in pesticides such as peanuts, coffee, and non-organic fruits and vegetables.  If you have adrenal or kidney issues or even lung issues, it is ideal to stay away from processed foods that are high in sodium.  These are only guidelines and it’s a good idea to maintain an awareness of what foods empower or weaken our bodies.

 

Fish Oil

I recommend that everyone take fish oil.  Consuming healthy fats is the best way to keep bad fats at bay.  To whoever said “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” I tend to disagree when it comes to weight loss.  I would not focus on the fruits and sugars you put into your body, since one of the main issues is “good” fat consumption.  To those who think a can of tuna fish a week or eating an avocado every few days gives you enough of the good fat you need, I would counter: “An avocado a day is not enough, I say.”  A good rule of thumb is: if you need chapstick or hand cream more than twice a day, you are not getting enough fish oils in your system.  Fats feed the brain, surround all the organs, and keep our hormone levels regular. But the most important point for my argument here is that if you consume enough healthy fats, your body will feel free to release the body fat it is instinctively holding on to for our “caveman” survival.

 

Can one lone acupuncturist empowered with the knowledge of the benefits of healthy fat consumption, cause … a Fat Revolution?  Well, one can only hope.

Bedside Manner in a Healing Clinic

[Originally published in Acupuncture Today, 2011]

Under the tutelage of a mentor, and eight months studying abroad. An eclectic educational background allowed me to see a lot of variations of bedside manners. I have received acupuncture in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and America, and can easily say that bedside manner means something different in every culture.

While in China, I did a walk though a large clinic where there was a mass of people waiting to be treated. A doctor, holding a hundred needles in her left hand, walked up to a man and asked why he came to the hospital. “Back pain,” he said. The doctor gave a curt nod, and with her right hand, started putting needles all over his body. Using the freehand technique, she ignored his winces of pain, and asked no more questions before moving to the next patient. After about 10 patients, the doctor turned to me and asked if I’ve practiced for more than a year. I hesitated, and then said yes. The doctor handed me a few dozen needles of all lengths and widths and walked me over to the next patient. Without even asking the patient what was wrong, she instructed me to insert needles in some of the most common acupuncture points, then observed me long enough to approve my needle technique, and moved on to the next patient. I didn’t worry about taking the needles out. There were a couple of assistants wearing gloves and masks that would come back in approximately 20 minutes to remove the needles and autoclave them.

This article was originally published in Acupuncture Today.

Please visit the site to see the entire article: http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=32448

Interview with my mentor, Marco Chung-Shu Lam, L.Ac.

[Originally published in Herbal Explorations]

I had the very great fortune of having Marco as my mentor as I did the apprenticeship program. While a quiet and gentle man, when I met him, he spoke passionately about his commitment to the human spirit, and our evolution both personally and as communities. Marco spoke of what he loves the most: finding seeds and turning them into flowers, allowing our highest expression as human spirits to blossom. I am grateful to Marco´s commitment and his love of healing. I am honored to bring forth some of his wisdom in this interview.

http://nuherbs.com/resources/studying_abroad

Studying Abroad

 

As I was approaching my second (and last) year of apprenticing with my mentor, I asked him what he thought about me picking up and heading to Asia to study Chinese medicine at the source. He loved this idea, especially when I picked Chengdu University in China, where his mentor trained. In the end, I studied at two Chinese medicine hospitals, and one Western Medical hospital. I studied at Chengdu University in China, then at Tzu Chi hospital in Taiwan, and lastly at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), which is the largest Western medical hospital in Taiwan, and has the same high standards as NYU or Cornell. I am very lucky to have had the support of my community to study abroad and have it count towards receiving my license in Acupuncture. This article is about my training abroad, and how it has affected my outlook on our medicine, as well as to encourage everyone to go themselves.

Click here for the link to the full article: http://nuherbs.com/resources/studying_abroad