How to beat the bloat this holiday season

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Ah, Thanksgiving, the start of the winter eating, I mean, holiday season.  Rich, heavy foods to keep our minds off of the coming winter (and the fact that Uncle Harry has had one too many again).  After the lighter eating we've been doing over the summer, it can all be a bit of a shock to our digestive system.   Sometimes a surreptitious loosening of our belt can often do the trick to relieve the pressure after a large multi-course meal.  For many of us, however, a heavy meal can often be followed by bloating and digestive discomfort which even the cutest pair of stretchy pants can't help. Here a few pointers to help you to beat the bloat and have a delicious and more comfortable holiday:

  • Peppermint tea:  Peppermint has long been used to ease a variety of digestive discomforts including gas, bloating, indigestion, cramping of the gastrointestinal tract and nausea.  A cup of hot peppermint tea with a touch of honey can help calm digestion down after a heavy meal.  For more information on peppermint at MedlinePlus, click here.
  • Belly rub:  A nice belly rub isn't just something enjoyed by the family pets.  Rubbing your belly in a clockwise direction can help to move the digestive qi along, especially when it's gotten a little stagnant after a heavy meal.
  • Step away from the couch: While it is very tempting to give in to the food coma from all that turkey and stuffing, a wonderful way to help your body to digest a big meal is to move. So, take a break before dessert and go for a walk around the neighborhood.  Not only can it feel great to get a breath of fresh air, but walking will help to stimulate your digestion.
  • Hold the ice:  Still drinking those iced coffees from your local coffee joint?  Well, time to shift to warmer drinks.  As the weather cools, our bodies need a bit of help to make sure our digestion continues to be efficient and trouble-free.  Drinking cold liquids and eating raw, uncooked foods is similar to throwing cold water into your furnace while it is trying to heat your house.  Like the furnace, your digestion will have more trouble working smoothly if it has to work even harder to warm up the food that is coming into it.  Bloating, gas and discomfort are all signs that the digestive system is over-worked.  So make sure to help with warm, cooked foods and drinks especially in colder weather.
  • Acupressure: The acupuncture point Triple Warmer 6 is a great point for treating pain and distention of the upper and lower abdomen.  Press on the point pictured below for several minutes.  You don't have to be exact, but if you are in the area and find a sore spot, spend some extra time there.
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TW6

Now that you are armed with some tools to help beat the bloat this holiday season, go forth and feast!

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all!

5 Tips for keeping healthy during holiday travel

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With Thanksgiving nearly upon us and the busy holiday season in full swing, many of us will soon be getting on jam packed airplanes or hopping in cars to join family gatherings.  All of this togetherness can bring with it the risk of being exposed to colds and flu which are starting their own holiday season.  With a few simple tips you can improve your chances of staying healthy during your holiday travel.  One of the first steps is to follow the adage "A good offense is a good defense."  It is very important to keep your immune system functioning at its best so that it can help to keep you healthy.   Some ways to do that are:

  • Sleep:  Getting a good night's sleep is an important way to keep your immune system healthy.  So, as much as possible, try to maintain a healthy 7-8 hours of sleep to keep your immune system in tip top shape.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C  helps our bodies to keep a strong immune system, so don't forget your OJ!
  • Neti pot:  Our noses are the entry point for many of the germs we are exposed to when we are in groups of people.  One way to help flush out the bad bugs is to do a saline rinse using a neti pot.  The saline manually rinses the sinus membranes to wash away germs and other particulates that we inhale.  It also helps to hydrate the sinus membranes helping them to avoid drying out, especially for those who are flying or in arid climates.  Saline can either be purchased or made easily at home using water and salt.  Iodized salt has additional antibacterial properties over ordinary table salt or sea salt due to the added iodine.  It can take a little getting used to, but once you have the hang of it, it can feel quite nice.
  • Stress?  What stress?:   Stress is something that seems to be synonymous with the holidays for most of us.  It also can depress our immune system.  So, when your relatives are really starting to get on your nerves, try to take a moment for yourself to regain some calm.   Going for a walk, taking a few deep breaths, whatever you have time for will help you both enjoy the holiday more and stay healthy.
  • Press here:  There are several acupuncture points which you can press on which help to stimulate the immune system.  You can apply moderate pressureto the points below for a few minutes every day.  If you find a sore spot in that area, give it some special attention as that is the body's way of showing you what spots need some extra care.

Kiiko Matsumoto's Immune point:   

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LI10-11crop
  • This point is located in the area and inch or two on either side of LI 10 (pictured here).  It is great for boosting overall immunity.  Massage this area, paying special attention to any sore point.

GV14:

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GV14b

 This point is located on the center line of the spine just below the 7th cervical vertebra.  It boosts the Wei qi (what the ancient Chinese used to describe concept for what we now understand to be immunity).

For some additional information useful to those getting on airplanes, read more here.

Don't forget that seasonal tune-ups with your acupuncturist can also help to boost your immunity by keeping the whole system balanced and functioning optimally.    A happy and healthy holiday season to all!

Float through Fall - 2015 Fall Newsletter

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Float through Fall

Despite Summer's best efforts to hang on, Fall is definitely in the air this week.  Fall is one of my favorite times of year when those sunny, clear, warm days with cooler nights perfect for sleeping begin to ease us gently out of the heat of summer.   Something about Fall always seems to make it easier to get organized and to stop putting off all those things that just seemed like too much effort during Summer's heat.

Our newsletter this season is aimed towards helping you to Float through Fall with articles on what to do about those pesky Fall allergies and a seasonal recipe to enjoy. 

Keep an eye out for some specials we will be offering to celebrate Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine day coming up in October.  We will also be posting a blog post soon on meditation for beginners so we can all find more calm this season. 

Here's to a happy and healthy Fall for you and your family!

Fall Allergies

While the Fire element makes Summer a time of activity, of loosening the rules and taking it easier, the Metal element of Fall calls for us to return to a life of more structure and routine.  Fall is also associated with yin yang channel pair of Lung and Large Intestine.  The Lung channel relates strongly to our immunity so this is a time of year when allergies can act up or those first colds start to appear.  The Large Intestine channel itself travels up the throat, onto the face to the nose, so those allergies often manifest more in the nose and sinuses along with scratchy throats.

Here a some things you can do at home to help relieve some of the pesky symptoms of fall allergies.

Sinus massage - Sinus pain & congestion are often present for many of us suffering from allergies.  A simple sinus massage can help to relieve pain and ease congestion.  This can be done as needed and can provide some temporary relief.

  1. Place the middle bone of your thumbs on either side of your nose and rub them down and outward along your nose and the upper border of the cheekbones to your temples.  Repeat 30 or more times.
  2. Place both thumbs in the same manner but on your brow bone between your eyes and rub them outward along your brow bone to your temples.  Repeat 30 or more times.

The Immune Point - A local Master, Kiiko Matsumoto, treats an area on the forearm for helping to boost the immune system.  To find the area, place your forearm on a table in a "karate chop" position resting the pinky side of your hand with the thumb side pointing up.  Starting an inch or so from the elbow crease, massage the muscle that lies on the top edge of your forearm towards the thumb for about a few inches.  If you press on an area that feels sore, pause there to give it a rub for a few minutes.

Use a Neti pot - Once you get the hang of them and no longer feel like you are waterboarding yourself, neti pots can be great for helping to clear the sinuses of congestion and rinsing out allergens that aggravate symptoms.  The best thing to do is to do it while you are in the shower to avoid soaking your clothes if anything goes awry.

Warm things up -While we have all enjoyed having ice cream, fresh salads and iced tea or coffee, as the weather cools our food needs to warm in balance to keep our bodies healthy.   Soups, stews and warm drinks can all be comforting this time of year.  Warming spices such as cinnamon, garlic and ginger can be very helpful to the energy of the Lungs and to our immunity so take full advantage of these in your fall cooking.

Enjoy the harvest:  Warm Apple Crisp

Now that the heat of summer is past, the bounty of fall is bring us an endless supply of delicious local fruit and vegetables.  So many to choose from it's hard to decide was to eat first!   Growing up, this time of year the house was filled with two scents:  the ever simmering pot of sauce made from our own tomatoes and baked apple crisp.

The recipe below is a very basic one which my family has been using as long as I can remember.  I like to use a mix of apples, always including a tart Granny Smith or two, sometimes adding raspberries or cranberries when they're in season and some pecans or sliced almonds in the crumble add a nice nutty flavor or a bit of orange or lemon zest for some citrusy brightness.   There are an endless number of ways to make this recipe your own, so feel free to experiment and create your own classic.

Apple Crisp

4 cups apples sliced ¾ c brown sugar 1/2c flour ½ rolled oats ¾ t cinnamon ¾ t nutmeg ⅓ c soft butter

Place apples in a 8" x 8" pan.  Blend remaining ingredients until crumbly.  Spread topping over apples.  Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes until apples are tender.  Serve warm.

Summer sun series: Putting out the fire of sunburn

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As discussed in the first part of our Summer Sun Series, the best defense is a good offense.  It is always better to avoid a sunburn in the first place, but even the most careful precautions sometimes aren't quite enough and we end up a bit on the crispy side.  Here are some home remedies for putting out the fire of sunburn.

  • Hydration:  Hydration is key after a burn.  Your body needs additional moisture to combat the drying effects of a sunburn.  Drink plenty of water in the day or two after a burn to rehydrate.
  • Cool water:  A cool shower, bath or a cloth dipped in cool water can help to calm the heat of a burn.  Just be careful not to soak or shower too long, or the skin can end up drying out too much.  Keep your bath or shower to 15-20 minutes, avoid using soaps or bath products which can dry out the skin.  Once you are done, don't towel off, but allow yourself to air dry.
  • Aloe vera:  Aloe has long been known to be one of Mother Nature's remedies for a burn.  A fresh plant is always best, but there are many aloe creams and gels which can be found at your local store.  To further boost the relief from aloe, refrigerate the plant's leaves or cream before applying.
  • Oatmeal:    Anyone who has had chicken pox as a child probably remembers being dumped into an oatmeal bath by their parents to help with the itching and discomfort.  Oatmeal can also help with the pain and discomfort of a sunburn.   You can either buy prepared colloidal oatmeal at your local pharmacy, or you can prepare it yourself.  If making your own, take 1 cup of rolled oats (not the quick cook variety) and grind them into a powder with a food processor or blender.  Prepare a cool bath and add the oatmeal to the bath while it is filling to evenly distribute it in the water.   Soak for up to 15 minutes in the bath and try to air dry or gently pat yourself dry to preserve as much of the beneficial oils on your skin as possible.   Repeat as necessary up to 3 times a day.
  • Moisturize:  Since the skin needs moisture to heal after a burn, making sure it is well moisturized will help it to heal more quickly and can help minimize peeling.

Summer sun safety series: Sunscreens

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With summer in full swing, it seemed a good time to do a short series of posts regarding sun safety. As the sun continues to get stronger we are all reminded about protecting our skin....usually just after the first time we are out a little longer than we planned and come home pink and a bit over toasted.  With all of the options out on the market it can be hard to figure out what the safest but most protective products are.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an excellent guide posted on their website which goes through the basics of sunscreens (what ingredients are important, which to avoid, etc) as well as providing lists of the good and bad options out on the market.  You can even search for your favorite brand to find out if it falls in the good, bad or ugly categories.

Click here for the EWG sunscreen Guide

Here are some key points to consider when choosing a sunscreen:

  • Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone (thought to be a hormone disruptor & damaging to cells) and retinyl palmitate (doesn't increase effectiveness of UV protection and may increase skin cancer risk in sun exposed skin)
  • Choose "broad spectrum" sunscreens which protect from both UVA and UVB rays
  • SPF only refers to protection from UVB rays and SPF of more than 50 has not been shown to provide significantly more protection
  • Apply at least 30 minutes before heading into the sun and be sure to reapply after swimming, sweating or every two hours.

Of course, staying covered up and in the shade is the best protection but for most of us, that isn't always practical or possible.   So, be sun smart and enjoy the summer!

A cardiologists perspective on acupuncture

Acupuncture is slowly and steadily gaining ground when it comes to acceptance by western medicine.  I recently came across an interesting article by a cardiologist discussing his experience of acupuncture through one of his patients and what areas he now finds it useful for his patients use acupuncture as part of their health team.  It is quick read, but well written and interesting. The article can be found here:  Why I prescribe Acupuncture: A Cardiologist Explains.