July 2023- Salads, get ready for your moment....
If you have been in the clinic, you may have (at some point or another) had a conversation with me about how iced drinks and cold foods, like salads, are not great for your body. Chinese Medical Theory favors warm and nourishing foods to optimize digestion. Raw and cold foods have a tendency to create bloating, gas, fatigue and a general feeling of malaise following ingestion.Your body requires heat and energy to break down food and the less energy that requires, the more reserves it has. But, if you are a salad lover, your time is on the horizon.
When the weather gets hot, the body has a tendency to follow. That makes perfect sense, right? It's rare that a person can go outside in 90 degree heat and feel cold. So when the body is hot, adding cool to it helps. Cue salad season! You know I love eating for the season. This time of year brings with it lots of in-season, ripe and delicious greens, fruits and veggies. Now is the time to enjoy those salads! You may still experience some negative side effects from the cold foods so if you do, here are some tips I can offer:
1. Let salad come to room temp before eating
2. Add a few warm/cooked items on top- like chicken or steak
3. Follow your salad with a warm or room temperature beverage.
Salad season is short, try to enjoy it!
“Father’s Day is Coming”
If you are like me, you find your Dad ridiculously hard to buy for. My Dad has always just bought whatever he wanted or needed for himself. Leaving little for us to choose from. But that’s sorta how Dads are, right? Pragmatic, no-nonsense, reliable, predictable. At least that’s how mine is.
This year, I am at a total loss. As my Father ages, he requires less and less “stuff”. He enjoys a good meal and an afternoon activity. But, gone are the days where a tie and some golf balls will do the trick. He rarely indulges in a beer these days and there is no lawn to mow, no job to unwind from. He’s truly happy being retired. And with happiness comes contentment with what you already have. This is what we all strive for. BUT… it makes him super hard to buy for.
I’ve considered Storyworth and 23andme. And both would be amazing gifts for A Dad but not MY Dad. He has a healthy distrust of companies that use your DNA and I just don’t think he would keep up with the Storyworth writing prompts. Not to mention, its like giving your Dad actual homework. Its great in theory but not in practice.
Acupuncture makes a great gift for a Dad that has everything. But guess what…. My Dad already gets acupuncture.
Spending more time with my Dad is the gift we both really want. And I’m glad I have the opportunity to do that. I’m lucky that he is still alive and that despite living in Florida, he spends his summers in NH to be closer to us.
I’m unclear what I will end up getting him but I am happy that I have a day to celebrate him.
Every year as Mother’s Day approaches I am particularly aware that both Mother’s and Father’s Day are precarious holidays to navigate. While they should be wonderful celebrations of the people who gave us life, they often carry with them some heaviness, sadness, jealousy, longing and loneliness.
Perhaps my own situation has made me more aware. I lost my Mother many years ago and I never had my own children. Mother’s Day can make me feel left out. It can make me feel like everyone is looking at me, wondering why I don’t have children.
Over the years my feelings on Mother’s Day have changed a lot. Now, I try to acknowledge and recognize all the amazing Mother’s around me. Let’s face it, Moms have a big job. They tend to carry most of the domestic weight in a household. Many also work outside of the home. They are expected to keep everyone fed, clean, healthy and on-time, all while acting like its no big deal. Moms are incredible. My own Mother was a shining example of a dedicated Mother. And her influence spread far and wide. She was a labor and delivery nurse- literally dedicating her 40+ year career to helping other people become parents. Being present during their most vulnerable and special moments in their lives. I have 2 sisters that learned from her example. They are both great Mothers and humans.
I am blessed to have close friends that are now Mother’s. And let me tell you, it does not matter how old someone is, once they are a Mom- Momming is their job. Some of my friends are younger than me, but regularly give me motherly guidance and love.
I have co-workers that care for me like their their own children- never forgetting my birthday or any important day in my life.
I am also so blessed that after my Mother passed away, my Father found a wonderful partner who offers her love so freely you would never know that she never had her own children. She is a Mom to me. She was born to be.
So while I recognize that this day can be so hard. I urge you to be thankful that Moms exist. Without Moms, we’d all be hungry, dirty and probably naked.
If you need support on Mother’s or Father’s Day, that is okay. Here are A few tips to minimize complicated feelings on these days:
1. Stay off social media. My feeds tend to be a litany of dedications to “The Best Mom” or declarations like “I’m the luckiest Mom in the World”.
2. Do something you enjoy. Get outside. Do not spend the day at home alone. Take a hike, go to the beach, go outlet shopping.
3. Do something your parent enjoyed/enjoys. This is usually what I do. I miss my Mother everyday. On her Birthday and Mother’s Day, I try to do something she enjoyed so that I can feel connected to her.
4. Call a friend.
5. Make a therapy appointment (if you need it).
6. Get artsy. Sketch, paint, write. Do something creative.
7. Cook something new. This can engage so many of your senses. And you (hopefully) get something delicious at the end.
8. Do some Spring cleaning. Lame, I know. But, I’m sure you’ve been putting some things off that you could do today. Distraction is not always a bad thing.
Regardless of what you are going through, I hope both Mother’s and Father’s Day can be a healing time for you. I’m sending love your way. And if you are a Mom- Thanks for being you.
“We Are Moving”
This months blog is going to be a little different. Since we are moving the office, and it has given me an opportunity to walk down memory lane a bit. A mere 2 years ago, I decided to open the clinic in Salem. I had been in practice for 10 years already but this was my FIRST time branching out completely alone. I actually first opened Bella Acupuncture in 2011, when I was fresh out of Acupuncture School. I was “running” the business then but… I was subletting space in a Wellness Center with many other practitioners. We shared the treatment rooms (and sometimes the patients) but it was never actually my space to develop and grow as I saw fit.
Since then I had worked in a few other clinics as someone else’s employee. I gained so much experience and wisdom doing that but it was still NOT MINE.
Fast forward to 2021 when I finally did it. I made something mine. And like many first time (true) business owners, I have made mistakes. I have changed my mind. I have done things I was SURE would work but didn’t. There have been many bumps in the road and I am sure there will be many more. It has been challenging but these last 2 years have been the most fulfilling of my life. It gave me to opportunity to connect with and impact so many new people. I am so happy to be doing what I love in a community that I love. I am truly thankful for YOU!
The new clinic location is going to give me, and us, another fresh start. There will likely be more changes coming. I hope to hire some staff members soon. Learning to navigate a bigger space will have its challenges. We will have growing pains. But, we will also have breakthroughs. Throughout all that is to come, I promise I will always do my best to help you. That will never change.
“When busy becomes a 4 letter word"
It may seem like I’m beating a dead horse here but, being busy is NOT a badge of honor. I’m not sure when or why it became a thing for people to never have down time. I know life gets chaotic- especially if you have kids (or fur-kids) and you have to manage more than your own schedule. Shopping and cooking meals, laundry, keeping up with the housework, making appointments, exercise, having time for friends and family- its A LOT! I get it. I get overwhelmed, too and I only have to take care of myself.
But, I’m here to tell you that the World will go on if you miss a few things. It is okay to say “No”. (That is a full sentence, by the way. NO excuses needed.) It is okay to reschedule. It is okay to rest. It is okay if you get the store bought cupcakes instead of making them from scratch. It is okay if you take a nap instead of mopping the floor. It is SO important for your mental and physical well being to carve out time to rest. And since Americans notoriously get too little sleep, sometimes that rest has to come at the expense of something else. AND THAT IS OKAY!
I’d love for you all to put yourselves on your “To-Do List” this month. Make yourself a Priority. I’m not suggesting you shirk all of your adult responsibilities but surely you can find a few minutes in your day to relax. Grab a cup of tea. Do a quick meditation. Go for a short walk. Go to bed a little earlier. Take a bath (if that’s your thing). Schedule a call with an old friend. Not only will these things break up the monotony, they will improve your mood and your brains happy hormones. And those are the BEST ones!
If this time of the year has got you down in the dumps, you are not alone. Whether it is the lack of sunlight and warmth, or if you are single on Valentine’s Day, or maybe you are in an unhappy relationship or you are just plain overworked and need a vacation; there are many factors that contribute to low mood and mental health disturbances.
Obviously acupuncture can help with this but here is a list of other things that may help as well.
Get some rest. Burnout is real and it contributes to negative mood.
Take a bath- Epsom salt if you have them. Submerging yourself in warm water just seems to take the edge off the day. And the magnesium in epsom salts can improve your sleep, your digestion and your mood and helps with muscle cramps.
Have a cup of tea (decaf!). Caffeine can increase jitters so be sure to select a decaffeinated flavor. Be careful with green tea- unless it says decaf, it contains some caffeine.
Turn off the t.v. Many of us like to unwind in front of the television but the blue light in your eyes can over-stimulate your brain. And depending on what you are watching (Hello serial killer series), your adrenaline may also get a bump from watching “the tube”.
Ask for help! This is a toughie for everyone. But guess what, humans are social being and our ancestors lived in villages where everyone had a role in supporting each other. We are SUPPOSED to need other people. There is no award for doing it all alone.
Ask your doctor to check your Vitamin levels. Vitamin panels are not generally part of “regular bloodwork” unless you have had an issue in the past. Feelings of depression have been linked to several nutritional deficiencies such as low Vitamin D, low Magnesium, low B6 and B12, low Iron, low Selenium and a few others.
Sing out loud in the car or shower.
Dance in the kitchen!
Try screaming. No, really! Scream Therapy is totally a thing. I tried it once when I was driving home one night. The car was a safe place to try this. Being able to just release any pent up anger/irritation was very freeing. I did string my vocal cords though so exercise caution.
10.Go for a walk! Preferably outside. Fresh air accompanied with body movement can act as a release.
11.Pet a dog! Or a cat! Having a pet reduces the incidence of anxiety and depression. If you (like me) can’t have a pet, go visit someone with a pet.
12.Make a date with a friend and keep it! Don’t let your schedule get in the way of a little fun.
13.Eat! Sometimes we are cranky because we need food. And that’s okay. Just try to make sure your food contains some nutrition.
14.Get professional help if you need it. With the amount of stimuli we are all expected to process everyday, it is only natural for the body and mind to get overwhelmed. Therapists, social workers and psychiatrists can help you work through things either with one on one therapy, support groups and/or medication.
I cannot promise much but I can promise that you are not alone. If you need help finding resources to support your mental health, please reach out.
“Everyone has the blues”
Oh my goodness, is it me or does everyone seem to be stressed out these days?! I was humbled last week when I realized that nearly everyone I talked to was stressed to the hilt about the upcoming Holiday. When it hit me, I got really sad. The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, togetherness and merriment. And while I know for some it can be a triggering time of year, it should not be that way for everyone. We get so stressed about finding the perfect gift or making sure the ham is done at the exact same time as the potatoes that we forget to just BE IN THE MOMENT. We forget to enjoy each others company. We forget to take some time to rest. And when we forget all those things, our bodies respond poorly. It does not have to be this way!
So what do we do about it? Each year we vow to do it differently and then when ultimately the season sneaks up on us, our old patterns emerge and it's the same thing over and over again.
Like with any other stressful time, prioritizing the things that make us feel well is the best way to combat the Holiday Blues. While nothing I can do or say will take away all your stress, taking care of yourself will allow your body to handle the pressure better. Adequate rest, hydration, exercise and diet will always be the first line of defense for keeping your immune system primed and your emotions even. If you utilize mental health tools, this is a great time of year to check in with your therapist/health team.
Some other tips I can offer are: budget and start shopping early. Delegate things out that can be done by someone else or (if you can afford to) pay someone to take some of the burden off you. If you do not already have a mindfulness practice in place, I urge you to start one. And obviously, I support adding or keeping your acupuncture appointments as a way to ensure you have at lease one quiet hour to yourself that can help with your overall wellbeing.
“DO I HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING WRONG?”
Did you know that you do not have to have anything “wrong” to get acupuncture? While it is true that most people come to acupuncture because of a specific condition, you can also use acupuncture to KEEP you healthy. Prevention is the most underutilized reason to seek acupuncture.
Almost everyone is susceptible to stress in some way, shape or form. Acupuncture can hep you manage stress so that your body does not respond negatively to it. It can also be used to boost your immune system. So, as he head into cold and flu season, it’s a good time to come on in for a “tune up” appointment if you haven’t been in for awhile.
The good news is, those feeling well, need less frequent acupuncture to stay well than those who have waited until they develop symptoms before they seek care.
We are putting together some pre-paid wellness plans for those of you who need some motivation to keep up with your treatments. The idea is that if you have already spent the money and you have already booked the appointments ahead of time, you are less likely to cancel and fall out of the rhythm of getting regular treatment. It seems like acupuncture is the first to go when they schedule gets tight. Trust me, I get it. Spending an hour lying down, alone, in the middle of the day when you have a million things going on seems indulgent. But, if you do not make the time to rest, your body will pick a time for you. And I can almost guarantee it will not pick a convenient time. So do yourself a favor and commit to your next several treatments up front. You will be happy you did.
“CHINESE MEDICINE IS COMPLICATED”
I’ve said it before but its worth repeating- Chinese Medicine is beautifully complicated. There is a reason it takes years of study to be licensed as an Acupuncturist and/or Herbalist. As we head into Fall, I wanted to speak a bit about how our Modern Day Family Fun/ Fall Activities are in line with Chinese Medicine’s ancient understanding of the Season.
The Fall Season is a time of transition and it is considered to be a “Yin” time of year. Yin is generally associated with cold, darkness and dryness. But it is ALSO about conservation, storage and sustainment. During the Fall, we prepare for the coldness and sparseness of the upcoming Winter. Our ancestors would be clearing the fields of the previous seasons harvest, replanting appropriate seasonal crops and curing foods to be stored for the winter. The Fall is when our ancestors would start to eat more substantial foods as to "thicken their blood" to bulk up for the long winter.
Since most of us are not harvesting our own crops, the Modern equivalent looks something like apple picking, pumpkin picking, canning veggies and and making (and freezing) soups. I can even make a case for Football and Netflix being in our genes as this time of year is also associated with curling up and resting. Yin energy prefers hot drinks (Hello, PSL and apple cider!)
So, when your Fall calendar starts to feel super busy and a tad indulgent on the “fun” just remember, your ancestors had their own equivalent and everything turned out just fine. Try to have fun and enjoy the beautiful days before the cold takes over.
Progress doesn’t look the same for everyone. For some of you, this may seem obvious but for others it isn’t. I often hear people say thing like: “My sister had acupuncture and she was cured after 1 visit.” Or “my friend said acupuncture didn’t do anything for her.” The truth is, both of those experience are outliers. Sometimes people DO get better after 1 visit. But, that is rare. And sometimes people feel no different after getting acupuncture. In these cases, it is likely that they have not received enough cumulative treatment in order to make a noticeable change.
The truth is, we are all individuals with unique characteristics, make up, symptoms, lifestyle habits and diets. Because of this, your healing process may look different than that of your friends and family. The important thing to keep in mind is that your treatments are personalized for YOU and all your unique characteristics.
Each week when you come in for treatment and we catch up, I am getting to know you better- what things help, which do not, which patterns in your life are helping to alleviate your symptoms and which may exacerbate them. We are a team- putting together a plan that will work best for you.
The healing curve goes up and down (like the above image). So, you may feel better, then worse, then plateau. Rest assured, if change is happening then we are on the right track. We will figure it out together.
** NOTE- I did not create the image posted above. I do not know who did. If it is yours, please reach out so I can give you credit.
“Strive for WELLNESS”
While Acupuncture is the Primary Service Offered at Bella Acupuncture & Wellness, we offer many other things to foster WELLNESS in your everyday life. Lifestyle modifications are often needed to augment your treatments. Because, hey, if the way you were living was working already you probably wouldn’t need acupuncture.
Things we may suggests are: dietary changes, movement and exercise, meditation or mindfulness practices as well as referrals to other qualified providers. Because WELLNESS encompasses all aspects of your life- mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
Acupuncture can accomplish a lot of heavy lifting but it cannot do the work on its own. You need to hydrate your tissue, rest and move appropriately, as well as feed your brain and body the right things in order to thrive.
If you don’t already follow our Instagram page, give it a follow. We do videos every week and we focus on Wellness topics. We regularly issue weekly or monthly challenges that you are free to follow along with.
I am my own guinea pig with these topics and often choose the challenge based on what I am experiencing at the time: spring allergies, winter fatigue and laziness, poor diet, being indoors too much, staying up to late, eating too fast, avoiding certain exercises, etc.
For the month of August, my personal wellness challenge is to incorporate at least 2 days of weight training into my exercise routine. If you would like to join me, please do. Committing to something like this as a group increases personal accountability and makes you feel less alone on your Wellness voyage. You are not alone, you have me! And all of my resources are at your disposal.
“Hot in… so hot in here”
Is it me or did Summer come on fast?! With the Summer season comes heat- sometimes EXTREME heat, and while this is considered “normal” for this time of year, there are many Chinese Medicine tips that can help you enjoy the season.
Many of you are familiar with the words Yin and Yang. But, you may not recognize their complexity or their role in pretty much everything around us. Yin is associate with darkness/evening and Yang is associated with light/day time. Because the days are longer in Summer, Summer is more Yang.
Having more heat in the environment can make you restless and agitated. To find balance, it is important to move your body and fuel it properly. If you are a lover of outdoor exercise and activity, the best time to do it is early in the morning or later in the day. Try to avoid mid-day exertion when the sun is at its peak.
Even though cookouts are the thing to do when the weather gets hot, reducing meat intake during the Summer is beneficial. Meat has a tendency to weight you down. The ideal time to make it a staple in your diet is during the Fall- when we are storing up for the Winter season; a time when access to fresh meat MAY become more scarce.
As I have mentioned before, we are designed to live in harmony with our environment. It is recommended to eat foods that are in-season and native to your area. Foods that grow in Summer are naturally designed to provide you with the nourishment and nutrients that you may lose during this time of year. Think COOLING and MOISTURE. Since we are generally exposed to higher temperatures and more sunlight in the Summer, we are more likely to sweat and dehydrate. So our foods should be cooling and hydrating. Some great examples are cucumbers, berries and watermelon.
All this is not to say that you can’t enjoy a nice Summertime BBQ. Moderation is key. If you have a piece of steak on a hot day, make sure you are also having some seasonal veggies and drinking enough water. And don’t forget to enjoy the long days while they are here.
The weather is heating up which means a few things…. Dads will emerge from their winter hibernation and take their proverbial places at the grill and on the links. (Okay, I know this isn’t true for all Dads but its definitely true for mine!) My Dad is a bonafide GRILL MASTER and his favorite pastime is golf. He belonged to THREE golf clubs when I was growing up. One for each of his daughters.
What does all this have to do with acupuncture? I’m glad you asked. Because acupuncture can help Dad (and anyone else) improve his golf game. Acupuncture can help increase flexibility as well as boost immunity. Meaning Dad will crush it on the course this year. It also treats all the ailments that you would attribute to a few hours on the course:
* Golfers elbow, check.
* Feet pain, check.
* Low back pain, check.
* Rotator cuff injury, check, check.
* Knee pain, check again.
* And even this surprising one: SUNBURN. That’s right, acupuncture can help a sunburn.
One thing that seems to be a common theme with parental figures is that they rarely take care of themselves at the onset of a symptom. Waiting until something is too difficult to ignore is a great way to cut your enjoyment in half. So, if you are looking for a gift that Dad can actually USE this year, consider acupuncture. Giving the gift of time and health is invaluable. And let’s be honest, does Dad really need another beer mug or tie?
With Mother’s Day fast approaching I thought it would be a good time to tell you a little about how Mothers play a role in acupuncture.
Mother-Child relationships are found nearly everywhere you look- humans, animals, plants (sorta) and Chinese Medical Acupuncture Theory!!
You may have heard of the term “Five Elements” or “Five Element Theory” but I’m sure most of you haven’t delved into the nitty gritty of those elements. The Five Elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water play a key role in a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis. This can get confusing so stay with me. Each element has a variety of associations to them- such as a taste, smell, sound, season, climate, direction.... and in TCM the most important: an organ system. The Wood element is associated with the Liver organ system. Fire is associated with the Heart organ system. Earth is associated with the Spleen organ system. Metal is associated with the Lung organ system. Water is associated with the Bladder organ system. Each element is like a person- that exhibits many qualities. And like people, the five elements actually have a particular order in which they exist: each element having both a Mother and a Child. This is called the GENERATING CYCLE.
Wood is the Mother of Fire. Therefore, Fire is the Child of Wood.
Fire is the Mother of Earth. Therefore, Earth is the Child of Fire.
Earth is the Mother of Metal. Therefore, Metal is the Child of Earth.
Metal is the Mother of Water. Therefore, Water is the Child of Metal.
Water is the Mother of Wood. Therefore, Wood is the Child of Water.
And it goes around and around.
For the elements to be in balance, they have to essentially give and take in equal amounts. And like human relationships, there is a system of support that acts as a checks and balances. This is called the CONTROLLING CYCLE. For instance Wood “controls” Earth. And Earth “controls” water. Think of this as a grandparent forming a support relationship with their grandchild that is independent of the child’s parent. A little tag team. Mothers, you know what I’m talking about ;)
These relationships are more easily understood when looking at a diagram.
Keeping these relationships in mind is helpful when thinking about people AND your TCM diagnosis. There is a little bit of every element in every person. You are part your parents, grandparents, great- grandparents and so on just as you are part Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. When there is imbalance in the system, symptoms occur and your diagnosis is formed. So in TCM and in life, we can thank our Mothers for creating us and keeping us healthy! Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mother Figures reading this.
*(The naming of these cycles sound a bit harsh and don’t truly reflect what’s happening. I suspect this is due to a poor translation as the ancient theoretical texts were written in a variety of Chinese dialects and translated many times over before they were printed in English).
“Seasons Change… People Change”
If you have been here for awhile you know I am a big fan of how smart the human body is. In its purest form, the body is highly adaptable. We are literally designed to live in our native environments with little help from outside factors. Our ancestors lived off the land, built shelter out of native materials and our bodies, in essence, do the same.
As the seasons transition and new plant growth begins to emerge, the native and seasonal foods begin to blossom. But for some, that growth can cause some systemic upheaval. It isn’t fully known why some people develop seasonal allergies or food sensitivities but it has been documented, at least anecdotally, that people who relocate far from their native lands, often have a hard time adapting to the new local diet and new local flora. And there does seem to be some genetic predisposition to allergies. Making you wonder if there is a link between where your ancestors are from and what your body is optimized to eat (and breathe). Of course there is a lot to consider here- from pesticides, to pollution, to major lifestyle shifts over the centuries. We are no longer living off the land. We are importing foods from different climates, or modifying crops to grow (what should be) seasonal foods, year round. We have indoor plumbing and heating systems so that we no longer have to adapt to the weather the way our ancestors did. In many ways that is seen as progress. But in other ways, it has introduced some new challenges to the adaptable human body.
Couple that with the time of year when one day its cold, and warm the next, it is only natural that the body isn’t quite sure what to do to keep you healthy. In the Spring and Fall when there are many common allergens afloat in the air, a body will begin to develop antibodies to help fight off the allergens. And in Winter when there is a flu virus circulating, your body will work to fight off that particular virus. But when the weather can’t seem to make up its mind, the body is left doing A LOT of work. If you think you are over-worked, you should check in with your immune system. That thing is on 24/7!
So how do we make this work in our favor? You guessed it self care. Keeping a regular sleep schedule as the seasons transition is vital to maintaining a healthy immune system. Drink plenty of water. Eat your seasonal fruits and vegetables. Move your body. And of course, get acupuncture!
I get this question all the time and I totally understand it. Most people come to acupuncture as a “last resort”. They have already exhausted other measures such as medications, injections, surgeries, PT, massage, chiropractic care and so on. Doctor after Doctor, appointment after appointment and they are tired. I understand. I’ve been there. That is how I found acupuncture, too.
But here is the thing: There is no magic bullet to true healing. Acupuncture is not a band-aid the way some “treatments” are. It seeks to address the cause of your symptoms and that, unfortunately, takes time. You would not expect to do ONE sit up and get a 6-pack would you? Or to take ONE blood pressure pill and never need another, would you? Change is possible, but it takes time and repetition. Your body has all the necessary ingredients to reverse most symptoms but it has to have the right circumstances to do so. And the primary circumstance is a commitment to repetition.
Will you need acupuncture forever? Not likely. Might you need it long term? Possibly. Are there any guarantees- NOPE. But don’t let that frighten you. Nearly everyone gets some kind of relief with the right time commitment. I have many patients that achieve a symptom- free state who choose to keep getting regular acupuncture because they like it. Or they are afraid to cut back because they do not want their symptoms to return.
“Regular” treatment or maintenance means different things for different people. Some people have symptoms that arise from a lifestyle issue. For example- if you have a job that requires you to stand all day but standing for too long hurts your back. If you are not close to retirement and are facing many more years on your feet, it is vital to find a balance that both reduces pain but also keeps you healthy enough to continue working. As you become symptom free, that is when we play around with what treatment frequency will work to keep you in optimal health. Some people come every other week, some come once a month, some come 4 times a year. Some disappear entirely until a symptom acts up again. It all depends on your particular circumstances. But we will work as a team to find out what works for you.
“The Heart in TCM”
A little Background:
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the fundamental theories guiding acupuncture practice. There are parallels between Western and Eastern Medicine but the philosophies are not the same. It is important to note that TCM pre-dates our Western understanding and labeling of Anatomy and Physiology. Therefore there are not direct correlations between Western and Eastern terms. These are not simply translations as the TCM existed first.
Now let’s talk about The Heart:
In TCM there are yin organs and yang organs that play a role in the development and function of the human body. The Heart is one of those organs, in fact, like with Western Medicine, it is considered by many to be the MOST important one.
In TCM, the Heart, is a yin organ. Yin organs have colors, smells, tastes, climates, and sounds associated with them. The Hearts color is red- no surprise there as the Heart is responsible for circulating the blood and controlling the blood vessels- just like in Western Medicine. But, it does so much more than that. Because TCM is a holistic practice, we must think outside the chest to really appreciate all the the Heart has to offer.
The Heart controls sweat, opens to the tongue, houses the Mind, manifests in the complexion and is related to joy.
Now some of these make rational sense- like the complexion. If you have high blood pressure, you may have a red-rosy face and low blood pressure may make you look drawn out.
But, I bet you are wondering how your Mind could be in your Heart. The TCM Mind, also called Shen, has at least two different meanings. The first is in relation to complex mental faculties and the other is related to spiritual aspects. This basically means that the state of the Heart will influence your emotional state. Now THAT makes sense. When you feel joy, you are happy. When you feel sad, you are unhappy. And someone who may experience too much joy, or mania, is likely to have some mental-emotional struggles that can be due to the overstimulation of the Mind. Or if you have a “Broken Heart”, you experience a lack of joy and may even have discomfort in your chest.
Seeing some of the parallels between TCM and Western Medicine is really neat. While many aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine can be very complicated it is also very beautiful in its simplicity. We are always trying to find a balance in your body. The Heart is just one small, but vital, piece of the balancing act.
"New Year, New..."
With January comes Resolutions. And for many, that means resolving to commit to better health. Maybe you want to drink more water, eat healthier, go to the gym more regularly, get 8 hours of sleep or FINALLY commit to regular self- care. My personal opinion is... Resolution or no Resolution, it is ALWAYS a good time to reset. It doesn’t have to be January 1st for you to decide to make a change for the better.
If you follow my Instagram Page then you probably know that I host Wellness Wednesdays and I give a weekly challenge to my followers. I love that challenge to be mid-week because it allows for a mid-week reset and refocus. No need to wait for Sunday or Monday, you can do it any day, any time.
If your goal is to get more acupuncture, then I recommend trying to book your desired days/times a few weeks in advance. January resolutions ALWAYS bring an influx of patients to acupuncture. Which means, you may have to wait longer for your desired appointment times. If I notice this is becoming a problem, I may (slightly) adjust the clinic hours to accommodate.
With that being said, please try to only commit to appointments you are sure you can make. Emergencies happen- getting stuck at work, children getting sick, bad weather, car trouble.... You will NEVER be penalized for actual emergencies. But evening appointments will be in high demand this winter and a "no-show" may result in a missed appointment fee. The beauty of the clinic is that it allows for MANY appointment options. If you foresee a problem with your upcoming schedule, please reach out as soon as possible and I will do what I can to accommodate your needs.
"Winter is on its way..."
With winter fast approaching I thought it would be a good time to talk about some fun tips and tricks to stay healthy this season. You know the usual; get enough rest, hydrate, eat right, exercise... So, let’s talk about the UNUSUAL stuff that you may not know.
In Chinese Medicine the goal is to remain in perfect, constant balance with yourself and the World around you. If there is balance, there are NO symptoms.
Because Winter brings cold, the way to counter act that influence is to stay warm. This includes things like eating warm foods (both in temperature and nature) as well as protecting yourself from the elements. This means more than just wearing a coat. In fact the MOST vital place to keep warm is actually the back of your neck, so wearing a scarf, even when it is only a little chilly goes a long way to prevent illness. Other places that are vital to keep warm are your head, your low back, abdomen (no more crop tops, ladies) and your hands and feet.
Avoiding salads and sweets during this time of year will keep your digestive and immune systems optimized. If you have a craving for sweet, opt for things like sweet potatoes that have a sweet flavor but also provide warmth and nourishment. Pears are also a great choice because they help keep the lungs moist and healthy during the cold/dry months. Pears can be boiled, baked or even added to your (room temperature or hot) water. Please avoid drinking cold drinks during cold months. Your digestive system needs warmth to work and since the outside forces are cold, your GI tract may take longer to heat up. If you are putting cold into it, that is like asking your campfire to start up while you are hosing it down.
Now more than ever, it is important to protect yourself from illness. Since the onset of COVID people are afraid to admit if they aren’t feeling well. Follow these tips and you are on your way to staying healthy this season. And of course, there is always acupuncture to help you along.
“Do you have a LOVE/HATE Relationship with Fall? You are not alone…”
If you are like many people in New England you love when the weather gets cooler; the leaves start to turn, you can get pumpkin flavored ANYTHING and its official sweater weather. Apple picking and soup making are at the top of many “To-Do” list. But for a lot of people, myself included, with the Fall comes Fall allergies. For some it's just a mild headache, or congestion. But for others its an all out attack- coughing, sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, post nasal drip, itchy/watery eyes, exhaustion, skin rash.... The Fall can make you wanna fall- right back into bed. The good news is, acupuncture is super beneficial for treating Fall allergies and with a slight head start, you can even avoid symptoms all together. But have no fear, if you allergies are here now. I can help.
The goal of acupuncture is to create balance in the body. Perfect Homeostasis. If you are symptomatic in any way, you are out of balance. Acupuncture boosts the immune system, improves circulation, decreases inflammation, stops coughing, transforms phlegm and can stop itching. It's LITERALLY the antidote to allergic reaction. Acupuncture coupled with a few tips and tricks to get ahead of things (hello proper hydration, changing your clothes when you come in from outdoors and getting adequate rest) you can enjoy all that Fall has to offer.
“Is Acupuncture Right for Me?”
YES!!! And I’m not just saying that because I am an acupuncturist. There are limitless benefits to acupuncture and everyone can partake- even if you think there is nothing “wrong” with you.
It may be obvious but acupuncture can be used as TREATMENT for health related conditions. If you have pain, illness, stress or mental-emotional difficulties, acupuncture can be used to treat your ailments. It is not a substitute for other forms of medicine but a supplement to conventional care.
Acupuncture can be used to PREVENT illness or symptoms from occurring. Acupuncture increases circulation and boosts immunity, therefore serving to prevent symptoms from popping up. For example, people who experience seasonal allergies every Spring, may begin treatment prior to Spring and can often avoid allergy symptoms altogether.
And lastly, acupuncture can be used as a form of MAINTENANCE. Once you recover from pain or illness, it is often prudent to continue care in some form to continue feeling well. This means different things for different people. I have some patients that come in 4 times a year for general wellness and that is enough. And I have some patients with who recover from major illness and still come every other week because they like how it feels to be well.
If you have questions about how acupuncture can help you, please reach out. I am happy to offer my knowledge.
“How Did I get into Acupuncture?”
I get asked this question all the time. Over the years the way I answer has changed a lot. You see, in school we are taught to keep our personal lives private- to maintain professional boundaries with our patients. And this is a very personal question. But after some time in clinical practice I realize that patients connect best when they can relate to you. So while I will not disclose ALL of the details of my personal life, I feel comfortable talking about this. Acupuncture changed my life for the better at a time when I desperately needed a change. It was a miracle to me. And I wanted to be able to create that miracle for others.
I have Crohn’s Disease. I started to get sick when I was in college. And like many people, my symptoms got worse under stress. So for the next 7 years I struggled with illness as I tried to navigate college, graduation and my first (and second) careers out of school. For a stretch of time I was so sick that I spent every single vacation and personal day in the hospital. I vomited my dinner every night for years. In those 7 years, I had been on 17 different medications, had countless endoscopies, colonoscopies, small bowel series exams, biopsies, test after test after test. I was referred out for second and third opinions all because no matter what I tried, I could not get my symptoms under control. My job was stressful on its own but also required travel; which meant irregular sleep and meal patterns, too much caffeine and frequent alcohol use (Hello, “business dinners”). I tried to maintain the appearance that I was fine but literally felt like I was dying on the inside. One fateful day, in between back to back meetings, I went to the restroom and had an intestinal prolapse. If you don’t know what that is, you may NOT want to google it. But that was the moment I knew something had to give. I had been considering going to Medical School anyway and this was just the push I needed to make the change. I wanted to learn more about health and wellness and desperately wanted to be able to understand why I felt the way I did.
When I was released from the hospital, I scheduled my first actual vacation. I wasn’t going to travel. I was just going to spend the week taking care of myself. And thinking about my future. I scheduled my Medical College Admission Test, booked a facial, made an acupuncture appointment, met with a new dietician, ate home cooked food and just tried to catch up on rest.
My first acupuncture treatment was interesting and I spent most of it overthinking…
What the heck IS this doing? How did I get here? Is there something in these needles? How long has it been? What if I have to pee? Or poop? Can I afford this?
But after my second treatment, something happened. I didn’t feel drastically better. When you are in chronic pain it can be hard to pinpoint when things STOP hurting. You are so used to pushing through and trying not to focus on the discomfort. But, my symptoms subsided A LOT. Enough that I was able to stop taking medication. It only took 2 acupuncture treatments to do what 7 years of specialists and 17 medications could not. I felt better. That created a mental shift for me. I wondered why I wanted to practice conventional medicine when it hadn’t been that helpful to me. I immediately started to explore acupuncture, and naturopathic medicine programs. I still fully believe in Western Medicine and have great relationships with my physicians. But, I also believe in treating the body as a whole and not just treating a symptom or a disease. I felt called to help others in the way that acupuncture had helped me. And while I still have Crohn’s disease, it has been 13 years since I started acupuncture. I am mainly symptom free and still have never needed medication again.
My story is not typical. Most people need much more acupuncture to overcome a chronic illness. But it is a testament to how powerful acupuncture can be. And hopefully it can serve as an example that trying something new may just be the light at the end of the tunnel for you.
“What Do I Wear to my Appointment?”
I cannot believe I have been in this business 10 years and have never thought to address this question. I guess its one of those blind spots you have when you do something day in and day out; you don’t consider that others are new to it.
So here is the answer- you can wear almost anything that is LOOSE FITTING and comfortable. Wide leg jeans, wide leg yoga pants, shorts, skirts, dresses and any kind of short sleeve shirt are generally good choices. Skinny jeans, leggings and turtlenecks are not. In order to receive treatment, your acupuncturist will need unrestricted access to your lower legs, lower arms and sometimes your neck and upper back. If pulling up the legs of your pants restricts your tissue, then your blood flow will also be restricted. Since one of the main goals of acupuncture is to improve your circulation, we do not want to start off on the wrong foot (or leg!) by having to fight with your clothing for optimal circulation. I even heard an acupuncturist say that pajamas are the perfect thing to wear for treatment! This can serve double duty since the majority of acupuncture patients take a nap during treatment anyway.
If you don’t typically dress in a way that is conducive to receiving acupuncture, then I recommend leaving a short sleeve t-shirt and a pair of shorts in your car so that you may change when you arrive for your appointment. That way, you are always prepared.
“I HATE NEEDLES”
This is one of the most common things I hear patients (or potential patients) say. I’m sure I’m not the first licensed acupuncturist, or the last, to hear those words. The truth is NO ONE likes needles. But there are many solutions to this; the first, of course, being that you have to change your perspective about what needles are. For most people the only experience they have with needles are with hypodermic needles used by doctors or nurses to give immunizations or take blood. Those needles are hollow, have large diameters, ridged structure and have jagged tips and edges. They are also designed to puncture veins and access deep layers of muscle tissue for proper absorption and circulation of medications. That basically means they are the complete OPPOSITE of acupuncture needles. Acupuncture needles are called filiform needles, meaning “thread-like.” They are solid, hair thin, have a flexible structure with smooth edges and tips and they are designed to puncture the epidermal layer of the skin painlessly. Acupuncture points are NOT generally located over veins and it is NOT the goal of an acupuncture treatment to penetrate a vein- or any vessel for that matter. For this reason, acupuncture needles RARELY draw even a single drop of blood when they are inserted or removed.
The second solution is that acupuncture can be performed without traditional needles. (“Traditional” meaning needles that are inserted into the skin.) I bet you weren’t expecting to read that?!?!?! Treatments can be performed using single use, non-insertive needles. These needles have rounded edges, do not penetrate the skin and are held at acupuncture points. One single needle can be used on a patient to treat the entire body. AND they can still stimulate the system without causing unwanted pain.
A third option is to use a teishin. A teishin is an instrument used for acupuncture treatment that can be made of a variety of metals, stone or other minerals. These are re-usable, blunt-tipped and for lack of a better word- “probes.” They are used, similarly to non-insertive needles, to gently stimulate acupuncture points and meridians along the body. They have a rounded end and a pointed end which can be alternated depending on which type of treatment each specific point or area requires,
The forth option, one that is commonly used for infants and children, is to utilize acupressure or tui na techniques at acupuncture points or along meridians. This is also a viable option for people with serious metal allergies and certain bleeding disorders. If you are skeptical of its efficacy, don’t be! As an acupuncture intern in a hospital setting, I often treated infant children in this manner. They were always hooked up to breathing and heart monitors throughout their treatments. I was able to see week after week the positive effects the treatments had on their vital sign readings.
So, what are you waiting for?! Book an appointment. You have many, many options and your comfort is ALWAYS taken into consideration at Bella Acupuncture.
Best of Health!!
I logged into Facebook this morning, like I do every morning, and I was struck by the number of my friends who commented on the fact that "Christmas is only 2 months away!" Seriously, there were at least 7 people who posted that very comment. If you are lucky enough to have friends who DON'T point this stuff out to you, then I apologize for bringing attention to it. But sadly, these 7 were right! I realize that not everyone celebrates Christmas but most everyone has Holiday hoopla that they must shop for, save money for, plan for, travel for, cook for... all while maintaining their everyday schedules. And just THINKING about it makes me stressed!! But, did you know that acupuncture can serve as an amazing stress reliever? Think about it, have you EVER given yourself 60-90 minutes per week to just relax? The holidays are the perfect time to start. Acupuncture can rejuvenate you so that you can actually enjoy the time you have with your friends and family-instead of worrying whether or not you remembered a gift for "so and so" or when you will find time to run to the grocery store to get the ingredients for cookies. People who have outlets for their stress generally sleep better and maintain a healthier weight. And doesn't everyone worry about adding a few pounds over the holidays? If you gave yourself the time to relax and unwind with acupuncture, you can make it through the next few months relatively stress free and you may even enjoy the holidays again- just like when you were a kid! Heck, maybe you can even get out there and go sledding. (Acupuncture helps with back pain, too!)
“Fall In New England”
If you are like a lot of people I know, being faced with the crisp air this morning got you a little excited for all that Fall in New England has to offer. Apple picking, football games, sweaters with gloves, foliage and state Fairs are all part of the fond experience of living here. While you are enjoying all that the season has to offer, please make sure you are protecting yourself against illness. According to Chinese Medical Theory (TCM), the change in season can often leave us very vulnerable to illness. The temperature variations can really confuse the wei qi (think, immune system). Here are a few simple things you can do to keep yourself safe:
1. Wear a scarf, even if it's not too cold. In Chinese medicine, "evil influences" can enter through the back of the neck. Have you ever noticed that when you start to feel a cold or flu coming on, you get a dull neck ache? The same can be said for your low back. This is another area that is very vulnerable. Keep these areas covered and it will be more difficult for these influences to get in.
2. Get enough sleep. I know, easier said than done. But, go to bed just 10 minutes earlier. You'll notice a difference.
3. Eat fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and in-season. At this time of year, it is best to snack on veggies that have been cooked- not raw! Raw foods are cold and the Fall is the time of year when you want to warm your insides in preparation for winter. Asparagus, broccoli, onions, radish, mustard greens, apricots and pears are all great choices! Grains are also important- "pungent" flavors are recommended for this time of year. Try to incorporate rice, navy beans and almonds into your diet. Avoid too much heavy, fatty or fried foods. (I know, tough if you are like me and plan to head to the Topsfield Fair this weekend!)
4. Exercise. But, not too vigorously. I love to run outdoors in the Fall. But producing lots of sweat when it's cold outside can also confuse the body. If possible, walk outside and try to run indoors or when it is not too briskly cold out.
5. Give yourself an outlet- whether it's singing out loud in the car, writing in a journal or a weekly phone call to an old friend. You need to decompress your mind, too.
6. Take the time to enjoy the season. Like always, it's New England- so you never know how long this beautiful weather will last!
“New To Acupuncture?”
Are you considering acupuncture but not sure how to select a practitioner? Any acupuncturist who is licensed in Massachusetts is qualified to perform treatment on you. That leaves a lot of options! The most important thing about selecting the right practitioner is your comfort level. Knowing what makes you comfortable and what makes you uncomfortable will make the selection process easier. During your initial acupuncture appointment the practitioner will likely ask you some very intimate questions- from your bowel habits to the quality of your libido. Being prepared for such questions may help you be more comfortable with your practitioner. Some people are more comfortable seeing a practitioner of a certain age, or gender, or experience level. That is okay! You are paying for the treatment so you have a right to choose who performs it. Being open and comfortable during your treatment is vital to the success of your outcome. It's natural to be a little frightened or nervous when you try something new. But if what you are feeling is more than what you would consider normal nerves, speak up! There are accommodations that can be made to enhance your comfort.