alpenglow acupuncture

Delivering high-quality, personalized acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine services to the awesome people of Wheat Ridge, Golden, Arvada and Lakewood, Colorado with flexible appointment options to fit your lifestyle and budget.

Just Say YES

The word YES has had some serious significance in my life as of late! The last month and a half of being engaged has been completely surreal. I’ve been saying yes to everything!! The proposal (obviously), the champagne, the dinners, the parties, the champagne (Oh, already said that, oops). Usually I’m in the same boat as Karen, really learning to say no to going out too much or over-dedicating myself. I’m very attached to my sleep and baths and yoga classes, which are typically part of my self-care routine; however, because of the surprises and excitement, I’ve really been leaning into accepting any reason to celebrate over the last few weeks.

That being said, I think there should be a balance of how much you say “yes” and how much you say “no.” Actually, I JUST hit my limit of how much rich food from dinners out and how many celebratory cocktails I could say yes to before really needing to buckle down and get back to my norm, ESPECIALLY before the holidays. Enter: November challenge - clean eating, no alcohol, and Liver DTX(a great herbal detox we carry here). Aka. wedding diet is on.

Moral of the story is, you can waiver from your comfort zone occasionally without getting totally derailed. Sometimes you NEED a break from being good, you need to say yes to some sweets, naughty food, and treats, to feel human and for your sanity. I know that all of my “YESes” over the last 2 months have felt totally rejuvenating for so many reasons. I’m happy to break my own rules from time to time when it’s worth it, and you should too! Enjoy the balance of “yes” and “no” and be sure to tell us how you’re incorporating some self care into your weekly routine next time you’re in for a tune-up!

Just Say NO

One of my favorite (and most personally challenging) self-care tips is saying “no.” As most of us are stretched thinner and thinner, the holidays can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. So as we go into this holiday season, watch out for those times that you know you shouldn’t do something, and….don’t do it!

I know, easier said than done. I’ve been there - when someone asks you to do something and in the moment it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but as whatever it is creeps closer you start to dread it, or feel resentment, or want to crawl under your big down comforter and hide.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few ways around this. One is to say no right away - that’s the hard one, especially for the people pleasers. But it can feel really good once you’ve given it a try a few times.

Of course, the invitation might be something you really feel you want to do. Even in those times, I like to say, “let me think about it” or “let me check my schedule.” This way I can check in with myself, and my family, and think about whether I’m already overbooked for that time frame. Already have 2 parties that weekend? Will we have family in town? Do I just need to rest for no reason other than I need to rest?

Another option is the “fly-by.” Especially useful for parties, this lets you attend but bail if you aren’t having a great time. Early in the event, I like to do a check in - am I having fun? Is this nourishing my soul or is it wearing me out? I think it’s no big secret that I’m more of an introvert, so these are important questions for me to ask at social events. Sometimes I can just hide out in a corner and recharge, and sometimes I travel separately from my social-butterfly husband so I can go home if needed.

Lastly, I’ve given up on worrying about whether people think I’m weird for these behaviors. That’s just one more energy drain that I don’t need.

So, this holiday season, be sure to put yourself first, check in, and when it feels right, just say NO!

"Balancing" Hormones


If you have ever come in to see me and asked me to balance your hormones, you know what I’m going to say - what does that even mean?! Do you want a special acupuncture point that will supercharge certain hormones, cut off others, and magically makes all your symptoms go away? Do you think “hormone imbalance” looks the same for everyone? And if we could just “balance” these poorly behaved home wreckers, life would be rainbows and puppies?

I feel like we have been led to believe that there is a way for our hormones to stay constant and even and we will just sail through life. But that’s not how hormones work! They aren’t static - they ebb and flow, just like anything else in nature. Look at the ocean, look at the seasons, look at pretty much anything in the environment and you’ll see; nature (and humans) are always changing.

Let’s think of it more as getting our hormones coordinated in a delicate dance. In general, they respond to what is going on in our body and act accordingly. Do they go all wacko on their own? Rarely. Instead, we have to look at possible triggers. Here are a few, along with their fixes:

  1. Dietary triggers and gut imbalance.
    Hidden food sensitivities and a lack of good bacteria in our intestinal lining have been linked to hormonal issues like diabetes. Avoiding common allergens for a period of time, as well as cutting out sugar and refined foods, can go a long way to rebuilding your gut health. Adding in a probiotic and good spices such as garlic and turmeric can help in the repair. Also, make sure you aren’t skimping on healthy fat - it is an important building block for many hormones.

  2. Environmental triggers.
    There are over 80,000 chemicals in our environment, and some of them are well-known contributors to disease. The scary thing is that tens of thousands of them have not been competently studied. The best you can do is do your best (hey, that sounds like Yoda, or Yogi Bear): go organic as much as possible, switch out your cosmetics and cleaning supplies for greener versions, drink filtered water out of glass or stainless steel, eat a lot of cruciferous veggies and add organic lemon to your water to help your liver detox.

  3. Stress and lack of sleep.
    Time and time again, I see this play out in clinic. When we are able to get stress levels down and sleep quantity and quality up, symptoms such as hot flashes, moodiness, skin issues and more are resolved. Just do it!

  4. High levels of inflammation.
    Most often caused by a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, inflammation wreaks havoc on all body systems. Eating a whole foods diet with a concentration on vegetables and fruit can help bring that inflammation down and put out the hormonal fires (literally - we often see hot flashes as part of this pattern). Getting moving can help muscles take up extra blood sugar and over time can help to lower insulin resistance as well as inflammation.

Sometimes these lifestyle interventions don’t work quickly enough or well enough on their own. That’s where acupuncture and herbal medicine can help to get things moving in the right direction again. Most often, these modalities are only needed for a period of time to help the body heal more quickly while we work on modifying the lifestyle behaviors to stop contributing to the symptoms.

Now, don’t worry. It’s okay if you come in and ask me to balance your hormones. Just don’t be surprised when I ask for more detail in terms of symptoms so that we can get to the bottom of what’s going on and treat your pattern accordingly. And you can bet I’m going to make you get more sleep and eat more veggies!

The Yin and Yang of Hormones

As we all know, hormones are an extremely complicated system in the human body. They relate to weight fluctuations, sleep patterns, growth and development, all of our metabolic processes, digestive patterns, and our moods! Like Karen was saying, hormones should ebb and flow like the ocean; or have a fluid movement throughout a person’s everyday life. It’s a very delicate balance of what should be high and what should be low at any given time- hour to hour, or day to day (like insulin and cortisol), or month to month (like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc). You want the body to cycle through all of its functions with as much ease as possible. From eating to sleeping to digestion-- hormones are the key that make everything work properly!

This patterning of hormones relates to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) very well. At the most basic level, TCM is based on the theory of yin and yang. Both of these entities are completely separate, but they also rely on each other to function. Yin being the nourishing aspects of the body: blood/ body fluids and the yang being the movement or how well things move in the system, like circulation. If there’s too little or too much of either, symptoms might pop up.

For females, the month to month flow of hormones can be a tricky balance. Certain hormones spike to trigger ovulation, some drop in levels to trigger the start of a menstrual cycle and some maintain throughout the month to ensure neither of those are happening! One example of a hormone imbalance (known as a yin deficiency in TCM terms) is low progesterone or estrogen that can manifest as hot flashes and/or night sweats. Women typically experience this specific issue around menopause; however, it could happen at any time. Those hormones can also be out of whack in males as well, but because they don’t have a menstrual cycle, symptoms show up a little differently. It can be linked to low sex drive, increased body fat, fatigue, hair loss, etc. Another hormone-related issue we see is when people have adrenal fatigue. They burn themselves out early in life and later down the line they have no energy. This is referred to as a yang deficiency in TCM. In practice, we use a lot of moxabustion (that herb we burn occasionally) to help boost the yang of the body and give people more energy. Click here to read more about the yin and yang connection to hormones.

Luckily LOTS of hormone-related symptoms are treatable with acupuncture and Chinese herbs! The first thing I do when people feel like they’re hormones are out of balance is put them on a formula we love called “Liver DTX.” Along with cleaning up the diet, this formula helps detox the liver, an organ responsible for processing all hormones of the body. From there, we work subsequently to make sure the flow of yin and yang are behaving properly! Other dietary and lifestyle changes are applicable too. If you’re curious what might benefit you specifically, ask Karen or me next time you’re in for a tune up!

Your Immune System And Sleep

When it comes to keeping our immune systems healthy, one of the most important factors is also one of the most overlooked: sleep. This has been a big factor in my health since we started sending the kiddo to daycare. Sure, he’s bringing home bugs left and right, but admittedly, my biggest failure is not getting enough sleep to combat those meanies.

Quantity and quality of sleep are both important when it comes to keeping those bugs at bay. Why? There are a number of factors. First of all, your body produces certain sleep-enhancing cytokines as part of a whole concert of physiological actions that help you fall asleep. Some of these cytokines are also beneficial in fighting infections. So when you sleep less, you produce less of these helpers and are at higher risk of getting sick.

In addition to a decrease in beneficial cytokine production, sleep deprivation also reduces the total number of antibodies produced. This creates the perfect storm - just introduce a virus and you’re toast.

Experts recommend at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night for adults, and more if you feel like you might be coming down with something.

Luckily, research has shown that acupuncture is beneficial for both the immune system (read the research here) and sleep (read the research here).

We also have herbal formulas that we can individualize for you - whether you need help with sleep, your immune system, or both!

As we talked about back in February, there are other things you can do to improve your sleep:

  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. If you can't escape a noisy environment, invest in a white noise machine, humidifier or fan to mask the offending sounds.

  • Stick to the same bedtime and wake time. Yes, even on the weekends! When your body has a consistent rhythm it is easier to wind down.

  • As part of your bedtime routine, shut off your electronics and dim the lights at least one hour before bed. Do some light stretching, read an old-fashioned book with real pages to turn, or listen to some relaxing music.

  • Try a hot bath with epsom salts and essential oils. The cooling of the body after a bath can help to induce sleep. Some experts suggest doing this about 2 hours before bed.

  • Exercise can help, but try not to do it in the evening, as it can have a rousing effect on your mind and body.

  • Avoid napping, if possible, especially in the afternoon, as this has been shown to disrupt nighttime sleep in some individuals.

  • Download the Relax into Sleep Meditation (#50 on the page) from the Meditation Oasis podcast page and listen in bed.
    ***This is the one exception to the no electronics rule. Get it cued up before you start your bedtime routine, and then just hit play and look away quickly!

    A good night's rest is an important piece of your immune system health, as well as your overall health. Don't skimp - make it a priority!
    Please feel free to talk with us about any sleep or immune system trouble you may be experiencing, we’re here to help!

Boosting Immunity With Acupuncture and TCM

What is the immune system exactly? It’s not an organ or a meridian like we use in Chinese Medicine. So what is it? In Western medicine, it’s described as a group of specific cells that act together in order to protect the body from foreign viral or bacterial invaders. These immune cells live all over the body. That’s why you feel it EVERYWHERE when you start to get sick. Typical symptoms are the headache, body aches, chills and fever, sinus issues, digestive problems, etc etc. Those are your troops rallying together to wage in the war against foreign attack! This immune response is actually a really good thing. Without this response, we would be susceptible to ALL of the foreign invaders ALL the time (that sounds horrible), as opposed to just the biggies.

When talking about boosting the immune system, we really want to make sure your first and second lines of defense are working optimally. If your first defense mechanism isn’t strong enough to kill or remove the virus/bacteria from the equation, your body will bring in the big guns-- the adaptive immune system to finish up the job. This part of your immune system is what vaccines are based off of. The body forms a “memory” of what antibodies it needs when a particular strain of disease attacks again. This is how it has the ability to fight it off faster in the future.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we focus on all systems working together to form the strongest immunity for your body, with an emphasis on a few meridians in particular. We look at sleep, gut health, mental and emotional stressors, and other illnesses affecting the system.

Coined the “wei qi” of the body in TCM terms, the immune system is boosted by ensuring that protective layer is stabilized in each individual. This begins with with lung meridian. Known as the meridian that’s the most affected by external factors, the lung meridian controls both the breath (obviously), but also the skin. If you’ve been around someone that has sneezed in your face, touched you after wiping their nose, been around you while they had the flu or a cold, etc, that might make you more susceptible to whatever they’ve got! Make sure you keep your hands clean and ask someone who is coughing or sneezing to potentially wear a mask if they’re in your environment. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

The second most prominent organ system we look at with immunity is the gut! Would you believe that our immune system STARTS here? More and more research is coming out saying that our digestive health is one of the most influential systems in how we fight off inflammatory agents-- whether that’s allergies, the flu, autoimmune disease, or general colds. The more inflammation your body is trying to reduce in your gut, based on what you feed yourself, the harder it’s going to have to work to reduce inflammation elsewhere.

For example, I had pizza the other night (Yes, I eat pizza sometimes!) and the next 2 days my allergies were terrible. My body was working overtime to digest the inflammatory gut-bomb that I dropped on it and in the meantime, my first lines of defense weren’t able to do its job keeping my allergies at bay. If you eat correctly, and feed yourself well, you’re giving your body the best chance to maintain health on all fronts.

Remember, our immune systems are as unique to each individual as a fingerprint! Not one system is the same, so that’s why things like acupuncture and Chinese herbs are especially helpful when treating the immunity. We can customize every treatment and formula to fit your specific set of issues - whatever they might be. Ask us about how to boost your immunity next time you’re in for a tune-up!

Finding Focus with Chinese Medicine

Most of the time in practice we focus on how to treat the heavy hitters like digestion, immunity, pain, stress, etc. because they’re incredibly common. Flying under the radar are all of the cognitive (or mental) functions that can be improved by Chinese medicine too. Things like focus, mental clarity, absent mindedness, being scatter brained, mental fatigue, poor memory or brain fog. These issues are also common (we’ve all experienced them from time to time), but are rarely the chief complaint of people that come through the door. Usually it’s a secondary side effect of other more prominent problems like stress. So how do we explain what brain function translates to in Chinese medicine? This is where it gets a little tricky.

In Western terms, the brain is responsible for all emotional and mental capabilities. In Chinese medicine, it is a little more complicated than just one organ. First off, the brain houses the “shen” or mind, which is obviously important in one’s presence in the world; meaning our vitality, mental health, and consciousness as we walk through life. A function all on it’s own! However, there are other organs that contribute to how well the brain works. Those organs are the spleen, kidneys, and heart according to Chinese theory. The spleen is in charge of the intellect of the brain or a person’s ability to concentrate, study and learn, and have deliberate focus. The kidneys are responsible for will power and memory; like remembering people’s names, faces, places, etc. And the heart contributes to the mix by shunting the qi (energy) and blood to the brain for optimal function. This piece isn’t that far fetched from western medicine. If the qi and blood are flush, a person’s ability to think clearer, sleep better, focus more, and maintain a healthy emotional state go way up!

Our job as practitioners is to identify which organ system might be out of whack when it comes to how the brain operates. If someone is having brain fog, that might be related to the spleen energy. If they can’t focus, that could be related to the heart energy. Or if someone’s memory is poor, the kidney energy might be at play. Along with taking the tongue and pulse, we would be able to identify what is happening in the system and choose how to optimize mental health with certain acupuncture points, the use of moxibustion and Chinese herbs.

Other ways to power up in the brain department are to make sure you stay hydrated, get your omega 3’s and drop some bad habits like smoking and drinking alcohol. For any other ideas, be sure to ask Karen or me in your next appointment!

Hacking Your Ultradian Rhythm - Taking Breaks For Greater Productivity

Here is one of those truths that always seems like a contradiction - in order to boost productivity we need to take breaks. I think that many of us have realized that vacations benefit us in this way - when you get back from a nice, restful holiday you have more energy and focus and feel interested in your work again.

However, more and more research is showing that we need shorter breaks during the day as well.

You have probably heard of your circadian rhythm - a daily rhythm that our body follows over a 24 hour period, most notably our sleep/wake patterns. This is the one that gets out of whack when we have jetlag.

We also have a shorter rhythm that occurs every 90-120 minutes, where our bodies and minds move from intense focus to needing to recharge. You might have noticed the shift at work - this is the time that you want to reach for that caffeine, sugar or refined carbs just to push through whatever it is that you are working on. You get fidgety, hungry, possibly uneasy and often “tired but wired” - a sign that your body is pumping out adrenaline and cortisol to keep your nervous system in sympathetic arousal, also know as “fight or flight,” just to keep going. Your focus starts to lag and facebook looks more and more appealing. This is your body telling you it needs a break, and if you pay attention to it you will notice that it happens on a regular basis - usually in the 90-120 minute time frame.

What will happen if you just keep pushing through? In the short term, relying on those stress hormones probably isn’t too big of a problem. Your body will adjust once you dial it back and find some rest. But for long term use, it’s not a good idea. Overstimulation of these hormones can lead to a decline in prefrontal cortex activity in the brain. This is the area that is responsible for clear thinking, reflection, creativity, and imagination. These stress hormones also have negative effects in the rest of your body when they are continuously overstimulated. Weight gain, digestive issues, insomnia and anxiety are just a few.

So, instead of pushing through, try taking a 15-20 minute break instead. Your body will be able to better regulate the balance of your hormones. You will be much more focused and productive, and your boss will love you! You might also notice an improvement in your overall health and wellbeing.

Here are a few ideas of what to do during the breaks:

  • Go to the bathroom. It seems silly, but many people don’t even listen to their bladder, and this can cause all kinds of problems in the long run.

  • Drink some water or herbal tea. Keeping hydrated is important and can also help with focus.

  • Take a walk. Bonus points if you can get out in nature. Some of my best brainstorming occurs during my morning walks. If it’s something really good, I’ll stop and take notes on my phone, then put it away and keep going.

  • Stretch. Especially if you work at a computer, getting up and stretching all those sitting muscles can also go a long way to preventing injuries.

  • Meditate. Check out some meditation apps to find a quickie that’s right for you.

  • Take a nap. Close your door, crawl under your desk and turn off for 20 minutes. Don’t go any longer, or it might make you more tired.

Now, if you are that person who just can’t seem to remember to take a break, try using technology to help you. Set an alarm on your phone or computer for 90 minutes from when you start your work. Check in with yourself when it goes off. How are you feeling? Are you truly still focused? If so, keep working for another 30 minutes, but get up for sure after that. After a couple of weeks of using technology to help you, you will probably be set in the new habit of listening to your own body.

Try it out and see just how much better and more effective you are!

 

Summer Heat

Boy oh boy, summer is here and it is hot! I always enjoy looking at correlations between what's going on in our environment and what conditions I'm seeing in clinic. There has certainly been an uptick in what we would consider "hot" conditions in TCM. Here are just a few: 

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn/Reflux
  • Constipation
  • Anger/Irritability 
  • Hot Flashes/Night Sweats

So if you're experiencing some of these symptoms, what can you do? Take a long walk off a short pier! Just kidding.

Well, not exactly. 

  • Anything that physically cools you off can be helpful, like taking a dip in the pool or saving your workout for the early morning or evening hours (or going inside to an air conditioned gym).
  • Drinking good, clean water that is cool in temperature. As an acupuncturist I still don't recommend using ice often as over time it can deplete you and your ability to digest well, but in moderation I'll overlook this one.  
  • Eating good, nutritious foods that aren't hot in nature can help as well. What foods are considered hot? Well, think of the summer classics. Fried, greasy foods, alcohol and sugar. Instead, go for cooling foods like vegetables and fruits. This is a good time to eat some salads.
  • eeping your cool. Try not to get too worked up by the craziness around you. Take a break from the news, meditate, do yoga or go for an evening stroll.

Summer may be heating up, but try these tools and see if you can stay cool as a cucumber. 
Oh, and as always, of course we can also help out with these symptoms with acupuncture and herbs. So feel free to reach out and let us help you too!

Anxiety

Raise your hand if you've ever experienced anxiety. *Insert every person's hand raised here!* Anxiety is a funny thing, mainly because it shows up differently for so many people. I'm sure lots of you have heard us ask you HOW or WHERE you feel it in your body when you get stressed or feel anxious. Typically, it's because we use the body as a road map to tell us what systems are out of whack! 

Some experience anxiety as a nagging pit in the stomach, while others feel like an elephant is sitting on their chest. Anxiety can also show up in the form of panic where the fight or flight mechanism is triggered, IE: racing heartbeat, increased breath rate, and all the blood draining from the head to the arms and legs, so you can run from the BEAR THAT'S CHASING YOU!! Not realistic in this day in age, but that's the physiological response that is triggered when your anxiety goes up. High anxiety can also trigger the release of cortisol - the stress hormone. High cortisol levels over time can lead to poor sleep patterns, weight gain, even more anxiety, major fatigue and eventually adrenal burn out. No bueno. 

According to Chinese medicine, there are a couple of systems that are notorious for being out of whack when a person has anxiety. First is the heart meridian. (Remember we're not talking about your actual heart, just the energy it's responsible for according to our Chinese medicine theories). When a person struggles with nervousness, irritability, heaviness felt in the chest, hot flashes, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, racing heart rate, etc. this is a tell-tale sign the heart meridian is involved. 

On the other side of the spectrum, a person can present completely different and still suffer from anxiety. The kidney energy is supposed to be the most grounding of the energy of the whole body. Think: our deepest rooted Qi that connects us to earth. Quite often when that energy isn't functioning properly, a person can have an irrational amount of fear, usually felt in the pit of the stomach, digestive issues worsen with anxiety, unresolved grief, nervousness/obsessive thoughts/worry, depression, etc.

As practitioners, it's our job to identify where the disruption is in the system and treat it! Acupuncture is a great way to control anxiety levels over time. Auricular acupuncture (acupuncture in the ear) specifically taps into the brain chemistry to help change a person's experience with stress. And if that's not enough, we have great Chinese herbal formulas to help take the edge off even more. We're also huge fans of yoga or yoga-like breathing to help control anxiety levels. If you or a loved one struggles with stress and anxiety, don't wait- come in soon and get it managed. We'll work with you to find the best combination of tricks and tools to help you feel your best! 

What's up with detoxing, anyway?

There was a time that I thought the idea of a detox was bunk. Your body is designed to do that on its own, after all. That's what peeing, pooping and exhalation is all about. Even your skin is designed to let you detox.
But as I look more at the information out there, I am starting to change my mind. With all the pollution and chemicals we are exposed to these days, can our bodies really keep up?
One example of some scary stuff is this 2011 article (yes this info has been out there this long!) from Harvard Medical School that talks about pharmaceutical pollution in lakes and streams. Fish downstream from sewage treatment plants are found to have more female and "intersex" characteristics than their upstream counterparts. Yes, our waste water is turning male fish into lady fish!
Why is this? Sewage treatment plants are not currently designed to remove pharmaceuticals from water. Nor are the facilities that treat water to make it drinkable. So, you do the math. All those women on birth control pills and HRT are passing that into the system. It's not getting cleared out, and eventually it can make it back into your drinking water. While there haven't been widespread studies on the effects of these contaminates in our drinking water (how could you even set this study up?), one could extrapolate from the current evidence and say "hey!! let's get this unwanted stuff out of me! I don't wanna be a lady fish!"
What is a detox? 
There are many different ways to help your system clear out the bad stuff. It can be as simple as dry brushing  before your shower, and as complex as doing a fast or using a nutritional product to help support natural detox pathways in your body. It all depends on where you're coming from and what your goals are. If you are interested, we would be happy to help guide your through your options as your next appointment.
 

More About Detox

Detox. My favorite health-related buzz word! Even though this word is thrown around nonchalantly most of the time, its a serious subject that requires a lot of intention to carry out correctly. A detox's purpose is to rid the body of unwanted toxins or "poisons" that build up in our systems and accumulate over time. There are lots of different toxicities that can show up: chemical toxins, hormonal toxins, food related toxins, and even emotional toxins. How do you know if you're toxic? Here are some common signs and symptoms that can indicate a detox is a good idea: anxiety, hormonal imbalance, poor memory, insomnia and sleep issues, weight gain/ obesity, headaches, chronic pain or inflammation (like arthritis), physical weakness, irritability, depression, hives, allergies, infertility, and chronic fatigue. 

Yikes. That's a lot of stuff that many of us experience. The best way to go about a healthy detox is from the inside out. It all boils down to how everything is processed through the liver and gut, so by eliminating some of the things that heavily tax those body systems, you give yourself a better chance of feeling much better! 

Start with your diet. How clean are you eating? If that answer is "not very clean," its important to make some changes in that area. Cruciferous veggies are the best way to cleanse the system. That includes things like broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc. Take out all processed and GMO foods as well. And definitely no processed sugar (I know I know, it's torture).  

Next, look at your household and daily routine. Did you know we're exposed to over 80,000 chemicals on a DAILY basis? Thats CRAZY. So in order to cut down on the chemical toxicity, change out all of your cleaning products to natural ones. Make your own with essential oils or buy "green" cleaning product that don't have any harsh chemical agents. Also, for the ladies (or gents) out there- what cosmetics and lotions/fragrances/body products are you using? Surprisingly, there's very little regulation of the chemicals used in makeup and body products by the FDA. Quite often the chemicals in these products can cause hormone disruption. Hence, the more infertility issues we're seeing with men and women along with an increase in weight gain for both parties. Personally, I check everything I use on the Environmental Working Group website to see how toxic it is. As long as I'm in the green, I'm good (that means low toxicity). Check your products out here. Chemical toxicity also relates to how many drugs/ medications or supplements a person is taking. Multiple meds can be very hard on the liver, so it's important to be extremely clear on what's absolutely necessary to take and what's not. 

Lastly, take a look at your emotional or spiritual toxins. How stressed are you at work or at home? Can you do something to change the levels of negativity or stress if they're high? Finding a therapist or finding a support group to talk to can be incredibly beneficial. And as always, we use acupuncture to take the body's stress response down significantly. 

If you're considering a deeper detox, let us guide you through it! Karen and I have other amazing tools to help you through a healthy detox process in order optimize your liver and gut functions. We've been using some new supplements from a few established and trustworthy companies (both Chinese Medicine and Western medicine based) that have proven to be extremely beneficial for us personally and for our patients. Depending on what you need specifically, we have detox options that range from full meal replacement shakes to herbal supplements you can add to a clean diet. From there, we can explore other ways to help rebuild the system once the detox is over. Feel free to contact us with any questions and happy detoxing! 

The Great Healthcare Debate

Okay, I'm mad. Those silly people in Washington are really getting on my nerves. They keep calling this program of theirs "healthcare" when it should really be called "sickness management." The system is broken, and not only in the way they say it is. That old healthcare paradigm is so outdated - you know, the one where you think someone else is in charge of your health - and it clearly isn't working to make anyone healthy. Its primary focus seems to be extending life, not enhancing health.
So let's bypass it. Let's take care of our own bodies, our own minds, our own health. Instead of doing the same old thing - sitting for hours each day, eating processed foods, skimping on sleep and stressing out, let's try something new. Let's do what it takes for us to be well nourished. 
Don't get me wrong - I'm all for the sickness care management when it comes to the big daddies - cancer, heart attacks and accidents, but let's do everything we can to avoid getting there. And let's take care of the "little" stuff ourselves. 
For example: Does wine give you reflux? Maybe stop drinking it. Can't manage your stress without the wine? Let's look at other options - yoga, deep breathing, acupuncture, time with friends, journaling or just getting out in nature.
I'm definitely not saying you should ignore any symptoms, but instead listen to what they are telling you. Don't just cover them up with something given to you by the sickness management system!
***steps off soapbox***
Thanks for letting me rage.

Practicing What I Preach - Fighting Off A Cold

Ahhh, spring. Now that winter is dying down and spring is spring-ing, it's important to keep our allergies in check along with maintaining some protection from the nasty colds and flus that have been circulating. SO, I thought I'd tell you exactly what I do when I start to feel under the weather; just in case it gives you inspiration on how to take care of yourself in the future. Think of it as a WWSD (what would Sarah do)?

As I boast to most of you, I don't get sick often. Almost never in fact. But recently, my immune system did get put in its place when I came down with a cold about a month or two ago. It started with the typical symptoms: sore throat, congestion/runny nose, headache and body fatigue. Of course it happened during my few days off, so I was busting my behind to get well before getting back to work. If I had caught it early enough, our Cold Quell herbal formula would have been enough to kick any early symptoms I had been experiencing. Unfortunately, I was too late for that stage, but I took a few doses anyway. Next, I took double probiotics along with shots of lemon juice, cayenne, apple cider vinegar, oil of oregano, and ginger throughout the day (all of which were cold pressed by a juice bar-- I didn't make them myself). The immune system starts in the gut, so I knew I had to boost the bacteria in my digestive tract in order to fight this off quickly. I immediately stopped any extra sugar (including fruit), grains, or dairy, so as to not contribute to any phlegm production or immune suppression. I drank hoards of Breathe Easy and Throat Coat teas (from Traditional Medicinals) along with tons of water and bone broth as well. I know, I know, at this point, it sounds like a lot. Within 24 hours I received 2 acupuncture treatments with Karen and she got me started on stronger Chinese herbs. I continued this regimen for 2 days, slept a lot and boom, the cold was gone at the end of 48 hours. 

The same can go for allergies. I used to suffer from horrible allergies in Austin, but here I don't experience much. However, when I get a little sneezy and start to get itchy in the back of my throat (the main indicators for me), I jump to the same sort of routine. Apple cider vinegar in hot lemon water, no sugar, dairy, or grains, and I take the AllerEase herbal formula. 

Long story short, I usually find the easiest road to recovery involves cutting back on some of the things you're used to, and incorporating a few things that you might be less familiar with. Also, as with most things, jumping on symptoms when they first occur instead of letting them become a chronic condition is key.

Wishing you all a beautiful and healthy spring! 

Immune Support - Keeping Healthy at the Change of Seasons

It's that special time of year - colds are still running rampant, and yet allergies are starting up too. What's a person to do?

Here are some tips for helping your immune system stay in balance:

  • Get good sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep stress at bay
  • Watch your diet:
    • Eat lots of plants - consume a good variety of fruits, and especially veggies to get your nutrients
    • Limit dairy and gluten - for a number of individuals this can trigger the immune system, making allergies worse, as well as making you more susceptible to infections by causing systemic inflammation
    • Eliminate sugar - it has a very detrimental effect on your immune system
  • Consider a few supplements:
    • Vitamin D - especially important in Colorado, Vitamin D has been shown to improve immunity
    • Probiotics - keeping your gut in shape helps to balance your immune system, as your gut is often your first line of defense
    • ColdQuell herbal formula - can prevent colds, or shorten duration if you happen to catch one
    • AllerEase herbal formula - treats the symptoms of seasonal allergies without the brain fog/fatigue of most allergy meds
    • Immune+ herbal formula - For immune enhancement, this formula can be taken throughout the cold season

And, of course, acupuncture helps!  

This review of studies from the National Institutes of Health concludes "more and more research has revealed that acupuncture can regulate immunity, for example, to enhance anticancer and anti-stress immune function and exert anti-inflammation effects." Check it out if you want to get super nerdy about all the different effects acupuncture can have on your immune system. 

As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

Sleep and Heart Health

We all know that diet and exercise are important for the health of our heart. Did you know that sleep is too? Trouble sleeping has been linked to an increased likelihood of heart disease, according to a 2011 study by the American Heart Association. It's not completely clear why less sleep is detrimental to heart health, but researchers understand that sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation, which can all contribute to poor heart health. 

Do you know what helps insomnia? Acupuncture! 

In a 2009 systematic review of randomized controlled trials, acupuncture was superior to medications regarding the number of patients with improvement of total sleep duration. In addition, acupuncture along with medications or herbs showed better effect than either medications or herbs alone.

Other things you can do to improve your sleep:

  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. If you can't escape a noisy environment, invest in a white noise machine, humidifier or fan to mask the offending sounds.
     
  • Stick to the same bedtime and wake time. Yes, even on the weekends! When your body has a consistent rhythm it is easier to wind down.
  • As part of your bedtime routine, shut off your electronics and dim the lights at least one hour before bed. Do some light stretching, read an old-fashioned book with real pages to turn, or listen to some relaxing music.
     
  • Try a hot bath with epsom salts and essential oils. The cooling of the body after a bath can help to induce sleep. Some experts suggest doing this about 2 hours before bed.
     
  •  Exercise can help, but try not to do it in the evening, as it can have a rousing effect on your mind and body.
     
  • Avoid napping, if possible, especially in the afternoon, as this has been shown to disrupt nighttime sleep in some individuals.
     
  • Download the Relax into Sleep Meditation (#50 on the page) from the Meditation Oasis podcast page and listen in bed. 
    ***This is the one exception to the no electronics rule. Get it cued up before you start your bedtime routine, and then just hit play and look away quickly!

A good night's rest is an important piece of your heart health, as well as your overall health. Don't skimp - make it a priority!

Please feel free to talk with us about any sleep trouble you may be experiencing. 

Sweet Treats for a Healthy Heart

Alright, February! Let's do this. For me, this is the hardest winter month to get through. I don't know why - it just feels like the "cranky teenager" of the winter months. It's not January where everything is new and fun; it's not March, when you're looking forward to spring... it's in the middle - where it's just plain cold. AND I'm starting to dread the Daylight Savings time change that is rapidly approaching. Not even Valentine's day can cheer me up! But ok, my rant about dreary winter is over - just wanted to get that off my chest. (Since it's heart health month after all... hehe). 

So, enter my favorite hibernation coping mechanisms - I eat, sleep, exercise and repeat. Since I gave up sugar after the holidays, I have felt tons better. Surprise, surprise, clinical research is showing that sugar is the main culprit when it comes to putting your health at risk. It can lead to a laundry list of health problems along with putting extra pressure on vital organs like the heart! I know I feel my best on a high fat and protein/low carb diet with no sugar. I occasionally use organic raw honey as a sweetener, but I don't eat or drink anything with added sugars (only naturally occurring). That's the best way to cut down on inflammation. 

That being said, I'm not trying to totally rain on your Valentine's day parade! If you want to give yourself a V-day treat, focus on dumping the junk. Stay away from candy and anything with artificial sweeteners. Replace it with some fresh fruit and organic, high percentage (72% or higher) dark chocolate squares. Like this one. The higher the cocoa percentage in dark chocolate, the lower the sugar content. Cocoa also has great antioxidant benefits, meaning it can simultaneously bind free radicals in the system (aka toxins) and eliminate them. Therefore, its the most heart-healthy choice for a sweet treat! 

Another fun fact about dark chocolate: the bitter taste of a high percentage is said to open the Heart meridian according to Chinese Medicine theory. No wonder chocolate-covered strawberries are such a fan favorite for all of the cupids out there! Pretty flowers are great for the heart too, just sayin'. Enjoy! 

The Year of the Rooster

Finally, 2017 has arrived! Last year was the year of chaos and unpredictability and it did NOT disappoint. Needless to say, I think we're all ready for new energy/new routines in 2017 and I think the year of the Rooster will bring just that. According to this Chinese tradition, the Rooster's characteristics incorporate mental clarity, independence, self respect, and precision in whatever you try to accomplish. They describe this as a "wake up" year after a wild ride in the year of the Monkey. 

Because the Rooster is a "fire" sign in 2017, the vibrant energy can be intense, so make sure you don't go overboard. It gives you just enough of a push to really accomplish the goals you set with drive and fierceness! Personally, that aligns with everything I want to incorporate into my intentions for 2017. I can't wait for a fresh start! 

Here are a couple interesting things to consider this year as you form your resolutions. I would encourage you to incorporate the Rooster's energy and support yourself during this amazing time of change:

  • Create a vision board for what you want to accomplish and add a small description of HOW you're going to do it. Like a theoretical blueprint of your year ahead, focus on the areas that you want to make a change. It can be in the realm of relationships, health, wealth, job success, etc etc. 
  • Change the doormat in your house. I know it sounds strange, but what a great visual reminder of how to represent yourself as you leave in the morning and come home at night. Who do you want to be in the world? 
  • Get great sleep. If you're well rested, you can be fully invested in what you're trying to accomplish!
  • Do something NEW. The brain releases specific hormones (dopamine) when you try or do something new. This can be a new hobby, trying new restaurants or types of food, learning to cook, travel to a place you've never been. When you do something new, your brain actually GROWS and it contributes to more motivation and success.
  • Speaking of food: The most important thing you can do for yourself this year, diet-wise, would be to incorporate new tastes and flavors. Expand your palate! Enjoy and keep releasing that dopamine! 

If you're interested in learning more about the year of the Rooster click here and get more inspiration for your new year's resolutions! 

Body Image and Good Health

It's the new year. We're all thinking about getting healthy again, and working out and eating well are at the top of most people's list. And while I will always always always encourage you to eat well and move your body, I want to be clear about my intentions.

Eating well is not dieting. Its main focus is not losing weight, being skinny, or looking a certain way. It is about giving our bodies good nutrients, good fuel so that it can function optimally. 

It's all about feeling good. 

I know plenty of people who are extremely healthy, but they don't look like models. Come on, by now we all have seen what it takes to look like one of those people in a magazine. Make-up, hair, and lighting for the photo shoot, followed by major photoshopping before it goes to print. We know it's not real, so why should it be something to strive for?

Instead, let's strive for health. Let's feel, good, sleep well, and have great energy that gets us through the day. Let's find happiness outside our appearance and take joy in what it feels like to be healthy.

Here's to a happy, healthy 2017, with or without those few extra pounds!

New and Interesting Ways to Chill Out

With the holidays coming up, I've been thinking about new ways to keep the stress at bay. Here are a few ideas that I like:

Float Your Worries Away

Have you ever tried floating in a sensory deprivation tank? It's AMAZING! I have been to the Samana Float Center in RINO a couple of times recently and I wanted to share my experience with you. At the center, there are four rooms to choose from. Three are float cabins, which are spacious, claustrophobia-free rooms, and one room has the traditional pod that you might be familiar with. Once inside, you float weightlessly on your back in a dense saline solution at body temperature which provides a zero-gravity environment void of external stimuli. What do you do while you're in there? Nothing!! Just check out of the business of modern life for a bit. Sessions last 90 minutes. 

Worried you won't float? With as much salt as there is in the water, even the beefiest of bodybuilders will float!

I also talked the nice owners into giving us a deal - first time floats for Alpenglow clients cost just $45. Just mention Alpenglow when you call to schedule. 720-573-8744
Offer good thru end of 2016.

Dig Your Frustrations Out

I also got to do something recently that I've always wanted to do - operate a back hoe! I know, I'm an eight year old boy at heart, but something about digging a big old hole with some heavy machinery just made me smile! Then I found out about this place in New Jersey. 
 Diggerland USA. Hopefully there will be one coming to Colorado soon! (A girl can dream, right?)

Use Technology For Relaxation

Another way to relax is to use your phone or computer to help you. One simple thing I like do is set a reminder on my phone that says "breathe." Then, in the midst of my busy day, I get a little "ding" that helps me take a mini-break.

There are also helpful apps and podcasts out there.
Two that I like are Meditation Oasis and Headspace.

You can check them out by clicking on the links, or download the apps straight from your app store, and let me know what you think!

© Copyright 2014-2017 Alpenglow Acupuncture, Inc.
All material provided on this website is provided for informational or educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for a relationship with, and advice provided by, your healthcare professional or physician.

Privacy Policy