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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
_ 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!)
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!
dietary information extracted from Paul Pitchford's, Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition
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 accomodations that can be made to enhance your comfort.