Acupuncture Blog

Real Nutrition: Simple Soup in 7 Minutes

by July 8, 2016

This extremely basic soup contains some of the healthiest ingredients you can find for digestive health, including probiotic cultures (miso base), anti-inflammatory herbs (tumeric) and whole system nourishment (spinach, chickpeas).  The chickpeas thicken the soup to make a creamy texture, and the greens keep in light and refreshing.  The marinated chickpeas (from MOMs Organic Market) and the miso season it with both sour and salty flavors.  No added salt or herbs are necessary, although adding a handful of garden fresh herbs is always optional.

I drew the ingredients for this recipe based on what was in my fridge the other day, and after tasting it I really wanted to share it.  It was surprisingly good for a thrown together meal, and I could also feel the impact of all those ingredients on a physical level.  I’ve made the soup a few times since then and it’s worked out with different variations on the basic components (switching out parsley for dill, for example.)  A potato or yam could also be added to make it even creamier and heartier in cooler weather.

If you’re familiar with Chinese Medicine, you’ll know we love our soups.  They support the stomach and spleen which means they engender overall vitality and clarity of thought.

Miso chickpea base
Filtered water
Divina marinated chickpeas (MOMs Organic Market) 
Organic spinach
Organic dill
Tumeric root

1. Simmer 2-3 cups filtered water
2.  Grate tumeric root to yield 2 teaspoons
3.  Add several handfuls of spinach (2 cups), chickpeas (1/2 cup), and grated tumeric to simmering pot to lightly cook (2 minutes)
4. Turn heat on low and add fresh dill, simmer for a minute and remove from heat.
5.  Add 1-2 TBSP of chickpea miso to taste.
6. With an immersion blender, blend all ingredients until creamy.

Serve hot with white rice.
Chickpea miso can serve as a base for endless veggie soups.

On the Main Line, all ingredients can be found at MOMs Organic Market in Bryn Mawr.
There is also a new MOMs opening up in Center City Philadelphia.  We are excited.

#realnutrition
#foodismedicine
#digestivehealth
#souphack
#greens
​#herbs
#miso
#legumes
#roots
#Acupuncture
#ThePresentSage

Hello, Summer!

by June 29, 2016

Because few things are more joyful than puppies!

Summer is the time of year when the most yang qi is available, both in nature and in our bodies.  This means there is a great amount of energy available for healing and transformation.  Many people observe that they feel at their best in the summer.
 
For this reason it is important to continue with self care and wellness in the coming months – not only with acupuncture, buy with vacation, rest, and activities that bring you relaxation and joy.

The summer season in Chinese Medicine relates to the Fire Element and therefore, the expression of joy and love in connection with ourselves and others.  The organ systems under the auspices of the Fire Element include the Heart, Pericardium, Triple Heater, and Small Intestine.   

The Fire element is vital to our sense of feeling at home in ourselves. This season directly relates to the Heart, which ensures steady peace.
 


Signs that fire may be out of balance and treatment/care is needed include:

  • Depression and fatigue/lack of vitality
  • Increased feelings of insecurity and vulnerability
  • Palpitations, Anxiety, Insomnia
  • Scattered thinking, short-term memory issues
  • Feeling of chaos that are long-standing

When imbalances are not resolved during the summer, it often leads to an imbalance in the next – late summer or fall – which is why treatments for seasonal balance are always encouraged in traditional healing.  It is always easier to stay healthy than to treat an entrenched illness.  Self-care is often learned after one becomes totally exhausted, but it doesn’t have to be the case.

Schedule an acupuncture appointment here or call (215) 680-2362

Just as joy is the natural emotion of the summer, sadness may also arise. It is important to acknowledge it, allowing it to pass away naturally. Acupuncture can also help with the processing of emotions so that they do not become stagnant or pathological.

Making the most of summer: the season of the heart’s joy

According to Chinese Medicine, the heart is the metaphorical emperor of the the body, mind and spirit.  When the heart is happy, the rest of the kingdom is ruled effortlessly efficient and peaceful. This state of being is known as wu wei.

Wu wei translates as effortless being through active surrender.  The heart thrives on unconstrained being (in contrast to doing or straining) and spontaneity.

Allow some time to be unstructured this summer.   This doesn’t have to mean a big endeavor, it’s just creating a little space for nourishment, play, and creative exploration.  This could be exploring a new place, or returning to an activity that brings you joy, or, in the bigger sense, discarding old assumptions/beliefs you hold about yourself and others to allow for a new experience of presence and possibility.

Looking forward to connecting with you this summer, and wishing you joy and good health!

Foods to Build Energy and Strength (Foods that Nourish the Blood)

by April 9, 2016

Signs and symptoms of blood deficiency in Chinese Medicine can include fatigue, a pale complexion, poor memory, dizziness or vertigo, blurred vision, insomnia, tremors or numbness, and even hair loss and early graying of hair.

One sign that your acupuncturist will check when blood deficiency (the body is either not making enough, or losing too much) is indicated is the color or your tongue, which will be pale rather than pink or light red.

Nourishing blood deficiency can be integral to alleviating depression in many cases, as the heart and liver are nourished by the blood, two organ systems central in the smooth flow of emotional processing.

The blood, in Chinese Medicine, also houses the Shen, or spirit – an intangible and ineffable part of ourselves that makes us who we are.  When there is not enough blood, that dryness doesn’t only manifest physically, but also on emotional and spiritual levels, as indicated in the symptoms above.

Fortunately, there are many good foods you can include in your diet to help nourish blood, including:

  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Black beans (particularly when cooked with kombu or any type of seaweed)
  • Black strap molasses
  • Cherries
  • Chinese red dates
  • Dark leafy greens (cooked or steamed)
  • Goji berries
  • Grapes (dark purple are best)
  • Litchi
  • Mulberry
  • Red beans
  • Spinach

Limited amounts of meat, eggs and liver, particularly bone broth soup also help to nourish blood when there is chronic or prolonged blood deficiency.   See my recent post on heart health and meat consumption for information.
However, a diet rich in the above foods will go a long way towards better health and longevity!

The Holistic Way: Demanding Your Presence and Kindness in Sickness & Health

by April 7, 2016

I am always so grateful to work in a medicine that effects positive change in people’s lives. Symptoms – physical signs of distress, often dissipate with treatment as underlying imbalances are addressed.

Working as an acupuncturist in Narberth, and on the Main Line of Philadelphia, I realize that this type of care is not the standard for most. The system of Chinese Medicine and a holistic approach is truly foreign to our culture and time, It certainly was to me when I first started receiving treatments while living in Oregon, and struggling with Lyme Disease, over 10 years ago!
There is a huge difference, however, in allopathic care and holistic care and their approaches.

Patients will often come in for treatments and stop when a pressing symptom is resolved. However, the goal of treatment isn’t only to deal with the expression of an illness, but also to keep the body healthy and well and maintain that balance once its established. With any holistic approach, the goal is to allow the body to restore itself – and to maintain that ability.

It’s important to realize that by the time a symptom is expressed, the imbalance or underlying cause is most likely a pattern in your life. For example, neck pain chronic stress, overwork and perhaps an inflammatory diet. Once the pain is gone, the body is no longer screaming out for attention, but that doesn’t mean that attention and care is no longer needed.
​Re-establishing balance can take several seasons of care, which doesn’t mean intensive, weekly treatments, but perhaps every third week or monthly once balance is established. Self-care isn’t only a luxury, it’s a part of being present to your needs.

I know that when I go in for treatment, I’m always reminded in some way how to better care for myself. To sleep more, or earlier, to allow room for emotions to surface and be processed, to schedule time for creative work, the list goes on. We all need reminders throughout the day to stay present, conscious, and to kindly attend to ourselves. My relationship with my practitioner, whether it’s acupuncture, massage therapy, cranio-sacral, or cupping therapy, is like a benevolent mirror.

I named my practice The Present Sage Acupuncture because my goal has always been to remind each person of their own inner wisdom, and to be present to their own healing capacities. Words can serve as reminders, and acupuncture points have the capacity to anchor and support healthy changes. To our shared presence and kindness towards our selves both in sickness and health!

Valentine’s Day Blog Post! How to Eat for a Healthy Heart

by February 12, 2016

You may already know that our intestinal flora play a huge role in our immune health, but our gut bacteria also plays a role in many other functions, including our cardiovascular health.  It is true that what we eat defines much of us!

“Bacteria make a whole slew of molecules from food, and those molecules can have a huge effect on our metabolic processes” (Woolston, 2013).  We have 300 to 1,000 different species of flora in our guts, and they build our immunity, produce vitamins, and even produce hormones (Most, 2016).

Beyond all of those incredible functions, microbes in the gut can play a role in plaque formation and heart disease.   L-Carnitine is a nutrient found in red meat and dairy products.  “Gut microbes digest L-carnitine and help turn it into (the) artery-hardening chemical TMAO” and “high blood levels of TMAO are accurate predictors of impending hearts attacks, stroke, and death” (Most, 2016).  Evidence from research suggests that TMAO is a compound that can “alter the metabolism and slow the removal of cholesterol that accumulates on arteries’ walls (Woolston, 2013).

Recent studies showed that vegetarians and meat eaters had very different bacterial profiles in their gut, with vegetarians having much lower blood levels of TMAO.  This study suggests that beyond immunity and digestive health, our gut flora also protects the health of our blood vessels, and that red meat and egg intake should be limited if not avoided.

The best ways to keep your body’s microbiome (healthy bacterial profile) in good shape is to:

  • Eat fermented foods daily
  • Eat a diet rich in plant sources
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

(Most, 2016)

Fermented foods include:

  • miso
  • sauerkraut
  • kim chi and other picked veggies
  • kefir (water kefir is available, and it dairy free)
  • kombucha.

My new favorite recipe source for plant-based nutrition comes from Angela at Oh She Glows.
Her warm winter salad is delicious, and is aligned with the dietary principles of Chinese Medicine (to avoid cold, raw foods in the winter and use primarily cooked, steamed, roasted veggies.) 

According to Chinese Medicine, red foods such as cherries and beets nourish the blood.  Hemp seeds nourish heart qi (energy), cinnamon, and saffron help with circulation of heart qi.  To nourish the heart, as well as the whole body, keep a diet rich in plant sources, high in fiber, and low in refined sugars.

To your heart and good health,
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Present Sage Acupuncture!

References

Most, H. (2016). Mind-Body Science History [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://coursecontent.muih.edu/ISCI%20615/ISCI615%20M1%20History/

Woolston, Chris. “Red Meat + Wrong Bacteria = Bad News for Hearts.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

We are One: Mind-Body-Spirit

by January 18, 2016

Recently I was asked to give some examples of how mind and body influence each other in health and illness.

The understanding of the interconnectedness of the mind and body in health and illness has been such a huge part of my own journey as a healer. I have found in my personal experience of health (as well as in my clinical experience as an acupuncturist) that receiving and providing compassion and nurturance changes and positively affects the healing process.

This connection was understood for most of human history and a shift away from the integration of mind, body and spirit only started in the 17th century when more mechanistic view of the universe and our place in it became the predominant belief (Most, 2015).

The effect of the mind over the body and vice versa is something that I’ve always known intuitively but has become more and more apparent over time. A primary example is one of my first patients who was diagnosed with liver failure. His doctor informed him that he had no other option but to have a liver transplant. This patient had suffered from drug and alcohol addiction throughout his life. When I met him, he was at a turning point and sincerely wanted to change, not only his physical state but also his entire lifestyle. We talked about the nature of healing, and how the body and mind could heal from any imbalance given the proper nourishment and care.

Within a month and a half of treatment, his lab results had changed dramatically to the point where they no longer necessitated a transplant. His doctor was confounded but the patient was taken off the transplant list. This sort of outcome has happened repeatedly over my six years and counting of practice as an acupuncturist, and I know it happens regularly in the practices of my colleague’s as well. With this particular patient, I had no extraordinary clinical approach or skills other than classical Five Element care. Meaning, I helped to remove some of the blocks his own body, mind and spirit carried that would prevent him from being well. The Acupuncture treatments did their job of clearing emotional imbalances and pathological patterns, which fostering the true qi (healthy, natural energy) of the organ systems. The patient was not receiving any other care, allopathic or holistic.

Because he responded so quickly in what was perceived by his MD to be a dire situation, it was clear that something more was happening and creating an outcome beyond the grasp of Cartesian-based scientific expectation. It was also the relationship between the practitioner and patient that provided hope and compassion-and changed his thinking about what was possible-assisted his body to heal.

There are now many studies showing the propensity of mental perception to help patients heal. Speaking to the mind body relationship Pim Cuijpers asserts that “Many randomized trials have shown that when depressed patients receive no active treatment, e.g. they are administered pill placebo, a large part of them improve anyway. This improvement can be partly explained by natural remission or by the patients’ expectations that a treatment will have an effect on their problems (even when they receive pill placebo).” It’s clear that patient’s seeking care for depression do not always need a physical medicine or “active treatment” as it is called here – they are able to heal when being offered the space and possibility to do so.

The power of the mind to create health or illness is also demonstrated in research by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Her research on stress and our perception of stress really changed my own thinking. What she discovered in her clinical studies was that stress itself, often thought of as the culprit and pre-cursor to illness, is not necessarily harmful. What is harmful is our mental perception of the ill effects of stress.

Her study showed that “people who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health.” However, “people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress” (McDonigal, 2013).

I found her research and her TED talk to be truly amazing. For years I had warned patients about the detrimental effects of stress, only to realize that I was possibly creating an unhealthy route of thinking for them. If we frame stress as a natural and potentially positive motivator, any potential harmful effects on the body can be avoided. She also found that compassion and creating community reduced overall stress. Her full TED talk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” can be found here.

I’ve also been recording a before and after of my mind and body with each meditation session this year. The simple awareness that meditation is a tool that is always available to brings me a sense of peace, which I experience as less tension held in my body. This supports research showing that meditation may also lower blood pressure (Berkley Wellness, 2014.) I also notice that meditation improves my circulation, bringing warmth to my hands and feet.

See how sitting quietly, with the intention of “dropping into stillness” changes your daily experience. There are many options are far as ways to meditate, but the basic premise is to sit still, without any outside distraction. First thing in the morning or before bed is usually easiest. To start, you can silence your phone, and set a timer for 11 minutes. You can focus on your breath. As thoughts come up, allow that to happen, but return to a place of stillness and non-reaction to those thoughts. They’re like bubbles and twigs flowing down a river. Your focus is the river’s depth and peace. Keep breathing deeply. Try writing down how you felt before and after meditation, without expectation.

Cuijpers, P., & Cristea, Ioana. (2015). “What if a placebo effect explained all the activity of depression treatments.” World Psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) 10/2015;14(3):310-311. DOI:10.1002/wps.20249

Most, H. (2015). “History of Mind Body Medicine.” Module 1 Class Power Point. Online Course. Mind Body Science 2016 1/3/2016-4/16/2016. Maryland University of Integrative Health.

McDonigal, K. (2013, June). Kelly McDonigal: How to make stress your friend. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend.

“The Body-Mind Connection.” Berkeley Wellness. Berkeley University of California, 24 June 2014.Web. 09 Jan. 2016.

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