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.

Slowing Down for the Season

I know that in Colorado many of us are weekend warriors, constantly on the go with an array of outdoor activities, exercise and fitness regimes, jam-packed schedules and places to be. I think that one of the best parts about this time of year is the opportunity to slow down and step back from the constant business and rushing around.

Being busy is a pretty much a huge badge of success in our culture. Many of us base our sense of self worth on how much we are able to accomplish and pack into our schedules. Add to this that the cognitive and mental demands of modern life are only increasing. Recently I have been trying to sort through all of the login and password information I have for the various websites I use  - banking, paying bills, shopping, personal interests, continuing education for my profession. So. Many. Logins. So many passwords!

Sometimes we don’t really have much choice in the matter in terms of how busy we are at a given time in our life. It’s just the reality of what is. Work cycles and deadlines, the end of the school semester, family life being full and ongoing. But it’s such a good idea to think about counteracting some of this constant activity with rest and downtime. Being constantly busy might signify a busy and full life, but there are downsides, and when we’ve exhausted our body’s reserves, it has a way of letting us know, whether we like it or not.

Another interesting thing about being busy all of the time is that we never really have a chance to check in with ourselves and integrate our experience and make it a part of who we are. It’s like we’re constantly playing catch-up and are always out of sync on some level. We can’t believe we’re at the end of November when just yesterday it felt like August. We don’t have the time or the space to take our emotional temperature and feel our emotions, to check in with our inner landscape. We don’t have the time to process and digest and contemplate what’s happening in our world and how it impacts our life. We don’t have the space to feel the nuance and ambiguity and largeness of living a human life. There’s too much to do!

There is way more to life than being busy, and hopefully this season can be a chance to reconnect with our human beingness and not just our human doingness. You don’t need to do anything more or accomplish anything else to prove your worthiness as a human being. It could be a chance to reconnect with a favorite hobby, start a meditation practice, or catch up on sleep. Rest is powerful medicine and I hope we all get to have an abundant dose of it in the months to come.

Highs and Lows of the Holidays

I can’t believe it’s the LAST month of the year! We are well into the holiday season and with that brings a lot of fun and festiveness, but can also be tense for some. Thanksgiving has come and gone, but it has always been one of my favorite holidays. Between the yummy food and family time, it has an overall sense of ease. However, as we transition into the winter holidays, I sometimes feel a slight bit of stress with this time of year.

Like some, the holidays can be overwhelming for me. For example, the “Christmas craze” is distracting, the expectations around giving gifts and receiving them, the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers, anticipation for the new year, etc., etc. can be a bit much. It’s not easy to find grounding in the chaos. For me, this time of year also brings in a bit of sadness. It’s a reminder of the things we love and hold dear- most of all family. If you’re like me and have lost loved ones, the holidays can be a little tough. But always with the ebb and flow of life, it’s a good reminder to continue to practice gratitude, for the year that has passed (no matter the highs and lows)!

My personal holiday traditions have changed over the years and I’m still trying to find ones that bring me joy as opposed to what everyone else does, or what I think I’m “supposed to do.” So often it feels like we need to have traditions tied to a specific day. While that can be so much fun, it can sometimes lead us to feel like our day, or ritual doesn’t compare to others.

Instead, the idea behind traditions is to give you something to look forward to when this time of year rolls around. It can be as simple as having an annual conversation with a loved one, or even something you do for yourself in the name of self-care (that you might not normally do otherwise). Releasing yourself from the constraints of a specific day or holiday can be freeing, and help remind us of the REAL things we look forward to every year. Barrett and I have a tradition (that has been passed down) of lighting a specific candle during the first snow of the year. Which helps us look forward to the winter season, and whenever it happens, we know the time to gather is upon us.

How do you fare with the holidays? Do you have things you look forward to or traditions of your own that you do during the winter months? Let me know next time you’re in!


Holiday Traditions

Welcome to my December quickie-blog!

Last month I told you we were going to do a gratitude exercise every day at home with our little toddler where we wrote down what we are thankful for. I also said I’d let you know how it went….Drum roll please….

HenryThankfuls.jpg

It was great!! After the first few days, he would remind us at breakfast every day “it’s time to do our thankfuls!!” His slips of paper included such things as being grateful for bananas, berries and kombucha to friends, cousins and airplanes so we can visit Nana and Grandpa. It was fun to watch him process what I said I was thankful for and see similar themes pop up in the next few days in his “thankfuls.”

Now I’m working through what the winter holidays can and should mean to me, and to us as a family. This has been a common theme, especially since I had a child, but now I feel like I’ve got to get it down since he’s 3!! And, by the way, I’ve been thinking about this since Labor Day...

You see, I wasn’t raised in a church, so the religious celebration has always been on the “light” side, if you will. Holiday food goes against everything I preach all year long (except, maybe, “everything in moderation” - if I can keep it moderate. HAA!). We don’t go crazy with presents and the STUFF of the holidays.

So what else is there? I wondered. And then it hit me - experiences! I think that I really want to focus on the experiences of the season - of community, of giving back, of making our own traditions, as well as keeping some old ones. We will go to candlelight walks, parades, concerts. We’ll get together with friends and family. We will go shopping for those less fortunate than us. We might even go cut down our own Christmas tree again this year. We did it last year for the first time and it was SO FUN!

I want to fill this season with fun, love-filled memories - you know, the things that will last a lifetime. Now here’s hoping the toddler is on board with this one too!!

What are the traditions and experiences you most treasure in this season? Let me know - I’d love to hear more ideas!


All the Gratitude

Cue the tears! It is nearly impossible for me to start talking about gratitude for the year without getting a little (or a lot) teary-eyed. Before we get to that, I want to say how powerful practicing gratitude is. Either for yourself, or others, gratitude is a reflection of the things you might otherwise take for granted, but you’re thankful to have in your life. To take a step back and say that you’re thankful for something puts out so much positivity into the universe. It’s an incredible tool you have to create change, be happy, and focus on the good in your life. In Chinese medicine, it circulates the heart qi (or energy) which leads to JOY!

I look back at the last year with absolute awe and amazement. My heart qi has been blown through the roof! To have so many personal dreams come true in a year, is a flat-out miracle. From marrying my best friend, buying our first home together, making it ours, to taking some awesome trips, getting chickens to take care of, maintaining a busy practice, is absolute insanity! Looking back, it makes my heart sing and there’s no better feeling in the world. All made possible by our willingness to grow and change together, to forge our own path with our own timing, understand and be grateful for the process, and to be thankful for everyone who has helped me (and us) get to where we are today. (And yes, I’m still crying)!

My husband and I have started having a “pit and peak” conversation on most nights of the week which allows us to unload the worst part of our day and also talk about the best! It’s another  way to practice gratitude; recognizing the challenges we face and knowing if not for those, our successes wouldn’t be as sweet.

Writing “thank you’s” and other little notes are another one of my favorite ways to express gratitude to people. We’re slowly making our way through our list of incredible peeps who helped us celebrate our wedding and it’s very fulfilling. There’s nothing better than a handwritten letter to someone, telling them how much you love and appreciate them. I find myself doing this more and more for people, even for the smallest thing, because it spreads love. You can translate this to gratitude for yourself by setting out positive intentions or affirmations to read to yourself daily. If you need a list- we’ve got one! Make sure you ask us next time you’re in for a tune up.

I had a teacher in acupuncture school that used to say “if you’re having a bad day, go treat a patient” and he was absolutely right. There is nothing better for my soul than to help all of YOU! My patients. I am so grateful to all of you for trusting me (and the rest of the Alpenglow/CRT team) with your health care. Without you, our dream of a successful acupuncture practice wouldn’t be thriving and so for that, THANK YOU!

What are you thankful for? What are you peak’s and pit’s for the year? Share your gratitude with us- we want to hear things you are thankful for!

Gratitude For the Hard Stuff

The checkbook that I couldn’t find and looked all over for. The coffee filter that folded over in the coffee pot and ended up causing coffee grounds to seep into my fresh pot of coffee. Breakfast there was barely enough time for. Lost emails. Junk mail. Voicemails that need to be returned. The traffic jam that lasted far longer than I anticipated this morning. I am grateful for all of the minor inconveniences, misplaced items, intrusions into my schedule, unexpected hassles. All of it being proof of a full and busy life.

Spending time with a friend in the hospital after four days of protracted labor and her birth plan being completely torpedoed. Being able to provide some form of relief with acupuncture and gentle touch. Hearing a newborn wail for the first time down the hall. Semi-decent hospital food. Finally surrendering to the reality of the situation and getting the epidural anyways. Driving back to Denver with the windows open at 3 am. Full body tired. Finally getting texted a picture of her newborn the next day while working. I am grateful for friends who give me the privilege of being there for them.

A tight right hip that needs yoga on the regular. Hair that is greying much earlier than I ever anticipated. Sensitive skin that easily burns and will never fully adapt to a high-desert environment. Crunchy knees from years of weightlifting. A psyche that needs lots of sleep, downtime, and solitude in big doses. I am grateful for all of the messages my body gives me, good and bad, subtle and strong. A body that carries me through life and shows proof of living on my skin, in my bones, on my face, everywhere.

Miscommunications. Half completed house projects. A nail in my car tire. Marital strain. Prescription cat food that drains my bank account. Political ads. I am grateful for all of it, the whole enchilada. Hassle, inconvenience, the unexpected, the difficult, the annoying, the painful, even the completely tragic - all of this is part of life and it’s not going anywhere. It is inherent in living. I don’t have a lot of control over much of it, but I do have a choice over how I respond. I can let it wake me up to life and I can choose to be grateful for all of it. It may feel burdensome and difficult and completely impossible, but I am grateful for that as well.

A Time For Gratitude

Can you believe the holidays are almost upon us again? It’s the time of year where I like to focus on gratitude, and that is something I am planning on sharing with my 3-year-old this season.

For the month of November, we are going to do a gratitude challenge at home (and at work), where we each come up with something we’re thankful for every day. I know it’s probably a high-level concept that may or may not be appropriate for that age, but I also think it’s never too early to start. I’ll let you know how it goes next month. ;-)

I can tell you what I’m grateful for right now - being able to provide for my little man in so many ways. Of course, there is the materialistic side - being able to buy him clothes and toys and experiences. Okay, mostly experiences because the clothes and toys are largely hand-me-downs. (Which, side-note, I’m super grateful for!) But also being able to spend time with him and getting to go on our “adventures,” which may just be a hike or getting to play on the beach of a lake, but are things that are way more precious than possessions. I’m grateful for the cuddles I get while we read books, and the opportunity to teach him about the world around us.

I was really grateful the other day when he woke up, looked out the window, shouted “SNOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!” at the top of his lungs and danced around with joy. That was the moment I knew he was truly my kid.

I have so many things to be grateful for, and this year I have the added joy of watching my kiddo express these joys in life as well. Of course, living with a toddler isn’t all puppies and rainbows, but focusing on the positive aspects will only bring more happiness and wellbeing to me as well.

What are you grateful for? Please join our celebration of gratitude in the month of November - we’ll be filling our gratitude jar in the office, and will also have a chance to share on Facebook!

Sleep Matters!

Ahhh, sleep. My favorite non-active activity. Sleep is one of those things that can totally make or break your health and/or happiness. If you’re a good sleeper... Bravo! Keep doing what you’re doing. Unfortunately, there are tons of people that experience insomnia (or lack of sleep) in some way and the results are the same: you’re tired and cranky and just want to rest. Some people have trouble falling asleep at the beginning of the night, some wake up in the middle of the night due to one thing or another, toss and turn, or can’t get back to sleep easily. Nighttime shift work is another reason people’s sleep is disrupted (obviously.. It’s just not the same in the daytime). The list can go on and on..

To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything more tortuous than losing sleep for any of the above reasons. We’ve all been there. Sleep isn’t talked about as much, but without a doubt, is just as important as diet and exercise. In fact, according to The National Sleep Foundation, they site that people who don’t get enough sleep have an increase in appetite! There’s a hormone in the body called leptin, an appetite regulating hormone, that decreases if a person doesn’t get the recommended 6-8 hours of good sleep. Consider that a double whammy: tired and hungry; a recipe for weight gain. Because of that, your metabolism is regulated just as much by sleep as it is by diet and exercise during the day time. (Mind Blown). When we stay up late, or continuously lose sleep, it only sets us up to have potential health complications like compromised cardiovascular systems, gut disregulation, and increased risk of cancer. Research shows that here.

So what does this mean in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)? Because we are a form of natural medicine, we believe that your circadian rhythm should match that of nature. IE. When the sun starts to go down earlier, you should wind down earlier and vice versa. In the summertime, the sun is out until 9 pm some nights, so its OK to enjoy the lengthy days and go to sleep a little later.

In TCM, sleep is a very “yin” or restorative, nourishing activity (vs. exercise which is very “yang” or active). Chinese medicine believes you get your best rest between the hours of 11:00 pm and 1:00 am. Those hours are considered to be the most “yin” or nourishing time on the Chinese clock, so doing the most yin activity, during the most yin time of day is ideal! Talk about rejuvenation. If you can solidify a deep sleep pattern during those hours, your chances of maintaining through the night go up.

Now, no matter what type of insomniac you might be, we can help! If you can’t settle the “monkey mind” or you just pop awake at 3:00 am, we can take a look at what is going on in the system and treat whatever pattern is showing up for you. Through acupuncture and Chinese herbs, we can help reset your system so you’re getting deeper rest and can function on a higher level throughout the day. Let us know how things are going next time you’re in for a tune up!

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine For Emotional Stress

Those who have tried acupuncture to manage emotional stress find that receiving a course of treatments is incredibly helpful for discharging and relaxing the accumulated tension and nervousness that can build up in our body over time. Prolonged emotional stress, whether stemming from relationship discord, occupational stress, major life transitions, and many other contributing factors can wreak havoc on our health and sense of personal well-being. Common effects of stress that we see here at Alpenglow include fatigue, muscular tension and pain, headaches, digestive upset, sleep problems, headaches, restlessness, and feelings of irritability, overwhelm, and depression.

One of the theories put forward to explain the effectiveness of acupuncture is that it is believed that by inserting acupuncture needles into the body we are stimulating the body’s endogenous opioid system, which is a scientific-way of saying that we are stimulating the body to release its’ own highly potent, healing, feel-good neurochemicals that play a role in everything from sleep to mood to how we experience sensations of pain in our body. This is part of the reason why acupuncture is thought to be so effective in addressing the pain and distress that detrimentally impacts both our mind and body, and why after regular treatments for a period of time, patients often remark on a global and systemic improvement in their overall health, including their pain levels, mood, energy level, and overall sense of wellbeing.

For patients looking to use acupuncture to help ease the symptoms of emotional stress in their lives, very often we will recommend Chinese herbal formulas in conjunction with a course of acupuncture treatments. When prescribed by a qualified practitioner, Chinese herbal medicine can improve the effectiveness and response to treatment. Leaves, stems, roots, tubers, flowers, and seeds comprise a majority of the herbs we use in the Chinese herbal tradition. For convenience, the primarily delivery method we use here at Alpenglow includes patent herbal formulas that come in pill form, as well as tinctured herbs in liquid form.

Evergreen Herbs is a company we use here at the clinic because it is an industry leader in its use of quality control and Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) in its acquisition and testing processes for their herbal formulas, as well as the extensive pharmacological and clinical research they do on their formulas. A great formula in particular is CALM ZZZ. The formula’s anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), muscle-relaxant, and antidepressant qualities make it a really great formula for individuals looking to address the symptoms of chronic and constant stress, insomnia with difficulty falling asleep, and those with a hard-driving but possibly overly-ruminating and restless personality style.

Another formula commonly used here at the clinic is called Augmented Rambling Powder. This combination of cooling, moving, and nourishing herbs makes it a really great formula for those of us who struggle with irritability, headaches that get worse under stress, night sweats, and the kind of PMS symptoms (moodiness, irritability, anger)  that makes your loved ones want to run and hide.

Finally, another herbal formula commonly prescribed here at the clinic is good one but it’s also a mouthful -  Emperor of Heaven’s Special Pill To Tonify The Heart. This is a great formula for those of us who are easily unsettled and sensitive to stress, which can then throw us into a pattern of sleeping poorly, difficulty staying asleep during the night, a sensation of fluttery feelings and anxiety in the chest, feeling ungrounded, and feeling overall very anxious and uneasy in body and mind.

Finally, oftentimes there are certain lifestyle modifications and daily practices that can help to ease the fallout from some of the stress that we have to manage in our lives. Lifestyle counseling is a huge cornerstone of Chinese medicine practice and including it along with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine further increases the likelihood of a good clinical outcome. Decreasing and even eliminating caffeine and alcohol for a time can be very helpful, because both increase the stress hormone cortisol and can leave us feeling both tired and wired at the same time. Exercise and deep breathing practices can help to ease stress and both nervous and muscular tension. Certain teas and aromatherapy oils can have a really positive impact on mood and energy levels. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. There is so much in life we don’t have control over, and it doesn’t help to give ourselves a hard time over it. If you have any questions about your own unique circumstances and symptoms, or more questions about how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help ease emotional stress, please reach out to the clinic and we will be happy to answer your questions.


A Good Night’s Sleep

As the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer, it makes me think about the winter, and hibernation. I really think it’s a lovely idea - such a nice, long period of deep, restorative rest. Mmmmm…

Just think of the marmot, whose heartbeat slows down to 3-4 beats per minute for up to 8 months! While I don’t really want to miss out on 8 months, I would like to get that kind of rejuvenation, and I bet you would too!

As you may know, I have had some struggles around sleep myself, so I thought I’d write down all those little things I have learned about to help keep my sleep on track and share them with you. Maybe there’s a gem in here that will get you back to sleeping like a baby. Not a newborn, but an older baby...when they sleep thru the night. :-)

Tips for a good night’s 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/or 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. If you must nap, keep it under 30 minutes.

  • Avoid stimulants, like nicotine and caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening. These can make it hard to fall asleep, or sometimes even cause trouble staying asleep.

  • Get daytime light exposure. Making sure to expose yourself to natural light/dark cycles can help maintain a good circadian rhythm.

  • Eating before bed can be bad for some people, as it can contribute to indigestion and discomfort, making it hard to sleep.

  • Conversely, some people need a bedtime snack to maintain blood sugar levels throughout the night. If you wake in the night, try eating half an avocado before bed. The fat can help sustain you through the night, and avocados are also high in magnesium, which can help you relax.

  • Meditation or visualization can be helpful to quiet your mind and relax your body.

As we’ve mentioned in several past articles, sleep is very important for so many aspects of our health. Why don’t we all do a little for our own wellness and get sleeping!

Let us know if you have any additional tips on great sleep, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below!


Transitions (Lessons From A Toddler)

As we are moving from summer into fall, it got me thinking again about transitions. I say “again” because transitions have been a big theme around our house all summer long. Coming from someone who used to just jump into changes willy-nilly (ask me sometime about how breaking my toe led to me to move to Japan), it’s been a great exercise to try to figure out how to help someone deal with change. Even if it is just going from lunch to naptime. Seriously. As anyone with a toddler will tell you, transitioning from one activity to another can last a whole afternoon. In trying to help my son move through changes a little better, I’ve come up with some fairly reliable strategies, and then I realized that those strategies can help us all. Let me share a few:

  1. Leave plenty of time.
    Trying to rush a toddler is a bad idea, as it often makes them dig their heels in even more. Even the “easy” ones. Trust me.
    As an adult, it’s good to give yourself time to adjust to any transition as well. I have recently started getting to work a little early so that I can meditate before I begin treating people. What a great way to transition from mom-Karen to acu-Karen! It has really helped me to become centered and able to focus more on the person right in front of me, instead of bringing my crazy toddler-chasing energy into the treatment room.

  2. Have a plan. A loose one.
    With a toddler, it is a good idea to have an outline to your day, but be able to redirect if things start going south. Because some days it just goes south.
    As an adult, having an outline to your day can keep you focused and on task. However, I think it’s important to not be too rigid, so if one piece of your plan falls apart it doesn’t have to take out your entire day. If it’s more of an outline than a strict schedule, you can recover more easily.

  3. Think/talk about upcoming change.
    With our toddler, it is important to talk about any big change coming up, as opposed to just springing it on him. For example, potty training: First round - we went with the method that many people love; we just took off his pants and put him on the potty whenever he started to go. HUGE failure. Tears, screaming, major drama (from all parties involved). Second round - we got books from the library and read about it and talked about it for about a month. That time, potty training was all done in a couple of days, with hardly any drama.
    As an adult, it can be helpful to mull over a big change for a while before implementing it. For example, if you are going to stop eating sugar it’s a good idea to come up with a game plan - clean out the pantry, come up with ideas of what to do when you are out with friends, and maybe journal about the reasons you want to give it up. Just jumping in can often lead to failure, whereas planning a bit can set you up for success. But be flexible if you fail in that plan, figure out what happened, and start over.

So, as I’m thinking about these tools for transition, I am also thinking about how I’m going to implement them in moving into the fall season.

  1. I’m leaving myself plenty of time by thinking about it NOW. By doing so, I have enough time to prepare without feeling rushed.

  2. I’m making a plan. What supplements should we be starting as we head into germ season? How should our food choices be changing? How are we going to handle the demands of the holidays?

  3. I’m talking with my family about what they want for the next season, and if they need any help transitioning. We’re talking about how the weather is going to change and how we will be needing to wear warmer clothes. We’re coming up with possible fun indoor activities in case the weather is poor. And we’re all getting pretty excited because the fall is an awesome time of year!

How about you? How do you deal with change? Are you ready for the fall season? We’d love to hear!

Self-Care Strategies for Fall

With the summer season coming to an end and school being back in session, now is a good time to consider some thoughtful self-care strategies to start implementing for fall. As they say, prevention truly is the best medicine, and that’s a dictum those of us practicing Chinese medicine try to put into practice every day we are in the clinic seeing patients. The best self-care strategies are typically very accessible, straight-forward, and easy to implement in your daily life. Here are some useful self-care strategies to consider as we move into the fall season that can help support us in not only maintaining our well-being but also feeling our best.

Stay Warm

Mom really was right. Over the past couple of years scientists have discovered that cold weather weakens our airways’ first line of immune defenses. Now is the time to stock up on fall/winter essentials before the weather really turns. Don’t underestimate how useful a good pair of lined gloves, a warm hat, a well-insulated coat, and a thick scarf can be in keeping your body warm, comfortable, and healthy. Even if you’re going to be outside for a short period of time - getting the mail, scraping ice off your car, walking the dog around the block - make sure to stay warm. While I was in school studying Chinese medicine an instructor always encouraged us to keep our calves and ankles and feet fully covered and warm in winter because the Kidney Meridian starts at the bottom of the foot and winds up the medial part of the leg - in Chinese medicine the Kidney meridian is negatively affected by too much exposure to cold temperatures. Since then I’ve never worn flip-flops into a yoga class in the middle of winter again!

De-germify!

I don’t know if that’s even a word, but it does get the point across. Yes, as we enter into the fall season, this is the time when people start to get sick. And you, my friend, do not want to get sick if you can help it! Some of the ways to avoid getting sick are so incredibly simple that we tend to overlook them, like washing our hands. Do yourself a favor and watch a video on YouTube put out by the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization on proper hand washing technique. There really is a proper technique to it that includes vigorously rubbing your hands together, as well as rubbing underneath the fingernails and up onto the wrists. In addition this is also a great time to clean all of the dirty, gross electronic devices we use on a daily basis, such as cellphones, laptops, Kindles, television remotes, and so on. With how often we use these devices in our daily life they can start to become dirty little devices covered in bacteria and other microbes. There are a lot of great resources online for how to clean your tech gear.

Cook Your Food

Eating flavorful and nutrient-dense whole foods is a great way to take care of yourself during the fall season. Squashes, beets, and sweet potatoes are all incredibly nourishing foods in Chinese medicine that help to tonify and support our Spleen/Stomach energy. Personally I am a big fan of sweet potatoes. I think they are really satisfying, satiating, and they help to keep my personal carb gremlin in check. There are so many different varieties (Purple, Jewel, Garnet, Okinawa) and creative ways to incorporate them into meals. They are a great source of fiber as well an excellent source of Vitamin A, as well as Vitamin C, manganese, and B6. Roasted sweet potato with poached eggs and organic chicken sausage is probably my favorite breakfast. I’m also a big fan of curried sweet potato soup and roasted sweet potato served with fish. If you need recipes, you can find them here.

Commune With Nature

Make a point to spend some reflective time in nature this season. Take a drive up to the mountains to see the changing leaves. Spend more time outdoors. Find a new hiking trail in the area. Wake up early to get a little time on the back porch when the world is still quiet. Spending time with Mother Nature has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure, support respiratory and cardiovascular health, relieve muscle tension, improve mood, and reduce the production of stress hormones. Don’t underestimate how healing spending time in nature can be. The effects may not be immediate - sometimes it takes a few days for our bodies and minds to relax. But with a little free time it is a simple self-care strategy to implement and one that you won’t regret.

Tips for Supporting the Spleen and Improving Focus

Nowadays, it can feel like achieving sustained and meaningful focus and concentration is so darn difficult, especially with the pace and busyness of modern life, as well as the constant dings, alerts, and intrusions of all of our technological gadgets and social media updates. It can feel exhausting, and in Chinese medicine it can really exhaust and deplete our Spleen energy. In Chinese medicine, Spleen energy is not an unlimited resource - it is nourished and replenished on a daily basis by the food we take into our bodies, and it is deeply restored through rest and relaxation. Excessive worrying, overthinking, ruminating, inconsistent dietary habits and eating routines all take a toll on Spleen energy. But fear not! Supporting our Spleen energy can help to improve our ability to achieve sustained focus throughout the day. Focus is very much like a muscle - through consistency and effort you can improve your ability to achieve sustained focus. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Do Your Most Important Tasks First Thing In The Day
Conscious, sustained focus and effort takes a lot of brainpower. It’s fueled by our metabolic processes (which falls under the umbrella of Spleen energy in Chinese medicine), and it is not an unlimited resource. Our ability to focus and concentrate at our best lasts for a limited amount of time throughout the day. With this in mind, getting your most important tasks completed first thing in the day when your energy reserves are at their highest will set you up for a better chance to be able to put sustained focus towards the task in front of you. It is much harder to focus on difficult tasks at the end of a long day when your tank is completely empty and you’re feeling totally spent.

Try Meditation
No matter who you are and no matter how shoddy your attention span is, you can improve upon it. You really can! Our brains are incredibly malleable, adaptable, and workable. Mindfulness meditation, even for very short periods of time, can help develop our focusing muscle. By strengthening our ability to keep coming back to the present moment, we improve our ability to sustain our focus on what is right in front of us, instead of getting lost and carried away by thoughts, distractions, and ruminative thoughts - all of which can work to deplete our Spleen energy.

Check in with Yourself, and Take Breaks!
Lovingly and attentively treat yourself like an adult toddler. I’m serious about this one! If you have an important task to focus on, take breaks every 30 minutes. Stretch. Move your body. Get yourself a snack or eat a really nourishing meal - restock your Spleen energy! Drink water. Check in to see what you need. Set yourself up to be comfortable and at ease in your body so that you can put your focus and attention to the task at hand.

Be Mindful of Social Media and Internet Use
There is a growing understanding that an abundance of social media and internet use can really wreak havoc on our attention spans and focus. Every time we check our email, Facebook, or Instagram accounts, our brain gets a little hit of the feel-good neurochemical dopamine, which basically says to our brain “This is awesome! Pay attention to this!” That’s how we can set ourselves up to feel this constant phantom inkling to check our social media accounts consistently throughout the day. It can be a real brain drain, depleting our Spleen energy in the process. Turning off notifications and taking sustained breaks from social media can help to quiet this down.

Routine for the Spleen

Happy August everyone! I hate to say it, but the summer is almost over! (Cue the tears). I hope everyone has had lots of fun and adventure-- or at least some time to get away! Between the vacations, wonky schedules, weddings, naughty eating habits and everything else that’s out of the norm, I would say it’s been a total success. Exactly what a summer should be. Since most of the craziness is over, I’m personally ready for things to slow down and get back to a bit of a routine.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it all boils down to boosting the spleen’s energy after an action-packed summer. Just for the record, when I talk about the spleen, it has nothing to do with your physical organ, but just the energetics surrounding it, according to our eastern theories. When we talk about healthy spleen qi (or energy), the BEST way to give it a boost is by understanding its function in the body. The spleen is responsible for “transformation and transportation,” so taking the food we give it and separating it into the pure substance we can use for energy and getting rid of the “impure” (or the junk we can’t use). Eating a balanced healthy diet will give the spleen more pure qi to work with.

 During the summer, we’re constantly staying up late, traveling, eating inconsistently or differently, and all of those things can bog down the spleen’s ability to function properly. Needless to say, the pizza diet I had going for a while post-wedding was totally trashing my spleen qi. Oops. The same goes for emotionally difficult things. The spleen also sorts the “pure from the impure” in that department as well. So when we’re worrying about stuff, overthinking things, or percolating over work or home situations, it can create a depletion in the spleen’s energy too. You can tell if you’re a little depleted if you have fatigue, brain fog or inability to focus, digestive issues, heaviness in the arms and legs, bloating, or just feeling a little spacey or ungrounded.

The best way to give the spleen a boost is to slow down and set up a routine. That means, getting up at the same time every morning, eating at the same time every day, and going to sleep at the same time every night. Get back to a healthy diet and clean eating while you’re at it. Cutting back on the “inflammatory foods” like sugar, dairy, and processed grains will give the spleen a better chance to recover. Other bonuses: digestion improves, it quiets the mind, you can feel more grounded as we transition into fall, mental acuity sharpens, and it stops the insanity of summer!

If you have questions about the best foods to incorporate for the spleen’s function or other ways to boost your qi, ask me next time you’re in for a tune up!

5 Common Headache Causes And How To Fix Them

One of the issues we see more frequently here in the clinic is headaches. While there are many causes and treatments for this ailment, here are my top five:

Dehydration

Well, it would seem obvious that the way to treat dehydration is to drink water, but there are some things that can hinder getting that done:

Remembering to drink. This is one of those times I like to use technology for assistance. You can set a regular reminder or use the timer on your smartphone or computer (or even use a kitchen timer if you don’t have those!) every 30-60 minutes to help you remember to take a drink.

Not liking the taste. I hear this one a lot, so I say spruce it up! Add some fresh lemon or lime juice, cut fruit, or get fancy with cucumber and mint or some ginger. Or get yourself a Soda Stream to make your own bubbly water at home. (I would just stay away from their artificial flavors.)

Needing electrolytes. Sometimes, you need to add some electrolytes to help you absorb better. I don’t recommend drinking electrolyte replacement drinks all day, but 8-12oz a day could be helpful. I like plain coconut water or a Skratch Labs mix, or to make my own:

  • 8 ounces water (warm or at room temperature)

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • a pinch of salt

  • 2 tablespoons or more of honey or maple syrup

  • A little lemon juice to taste

Sinus Headaches

This is a time of year when many people experience sinus headaches. Between allergies, the tail end of cold season and weather changes, sinus pain can be a doozy. Here are a few things that can help:

Sinus rinses. Either with a Neti pot or bottle, getting those sinuses rinsed out and hydrated can go a long way to reducing headaches.

Eating right. What you eat can have a strong effect on the health of your sinuses. Both dairy and sugar are big contributors to sinus problems.

Acupuncture and herbs. This is an area where our medicine really excels. We can look for and address underlying causes, such as allergies or a gut imbalance, while treating the symptom of the headache. Often, we will also use some moxa with this type of headache to help treat those underlying causes.

Tension/Stress Headaches

Our current lifestyle can wreak havoc on our bodies, often leading to headaches. Here are a couple of ideas to reduce that tension and stress:

Stretching. Gentle stretching of the upper back and shoulders can reduce the tension in those areas, reducing the referral pain that can go into the back of your head, or up and over into your forehead.

Meditation. Starting a meditation practice, even just a few minutes a day, can help bring down your stress levels and reduce headaches.

Trigger Point Acupuncture. Also known as dry needling, we can address knots and tightness in the neck and shoulders that contribute to headaches. We follow up this type of needling with a complete acupuncture treatment to address the underlying stress as well.

Hormone Related Headaches

Hormones can be a complicated matter, but there are a few things you can do right off the bat to get things back in order:

Eating right. Too much processed foods, sugar or soy can really throw your hormones out of whack. Filling up on vegetables and organic/free range animal protein can help your body get back into balance.

Exercise. Getting that body moving, especially before your typical trigger time (but throughout the whole month, ideally) can help regulate hormones and reduce headaches.

Acupuncture and herbs. Again, TCM can address the underlying issue (hormone imbalance) while also relieving the symptom (hormones).

Hangovers

I’m afraid to admit that I treated this a lot while I was in acupuncture school. I certainly had some friends who liked to have fun. Anyway, here are a few tools:

Water. Drink lots of water during your night (or day) out - a glass for each alcoholic drink you consume.

Electrolyte replacement. Use any of the options listed above - coconut water, skratch labs or make your own. Drink at bedtime and when you wake up.

Curcumin. This is a great natural anti-inflammatory  that may reduce the elevated number of cytokines released after drinking too much. Take a dose at bedtime and another upon waking.

Acupuncture. Make sure to do your partying on Friday and come see us Saturday morning!

Herbs. TCM formulas such as Curing Pills and Bao He Wan can make a dent in that hangover headache. Take them before bed and again in the morning.

Headaches can have all kinds of causes, but the good news is that most of them can be treated or avoided. As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or if you need some help!

Headaches According to Chinese Medicine

Headaches are incredibly common and affect millions of people every year. To be exact, 45 million nationwide (according to ihateheadaches.org). That’s a staggering number! I also read on migraine.com that out of that many people, 18% of sufferers are women and 6% are men which is quite interesting. There could be tons of reasons why you have headaches, and it’s just a matter of getting to the bottom of what’s going on.

Like many ailments, our approach is similar: we do a full intake to try and understand where the headache is coming from. We ask questions like: Where is the pain? How long does it last? When does it happen? What helps or hurts? Etc, etc. There are two things going on when someone suffers from headaches: the root and the branch. The root refers to the reason WHY the headache is occuring. The branch refers to the actual pain you experience. From there, we treat based on what the imbalance is that we see happening in your system.

Below are some common Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis for each of Karen’s top 5 headache causes, along with treatments that usually help! That being said, not everyone fits into a cookie cutter diagnosis.  This is why we encourage you to get a full intake to see what might be most effective when treating your headaches specifically. We want to get to the bottom of what YOUR “root” diagnosis is and treat it appropriately! Here’s a few examples of the diagnoses we see with each main type:

  • Dehydration could be a “Qi Deficiency” or meaning there’s just not enough energy circulating through the body (because you haven’t had enough water) and its affecting the head! Surprise, surprise. In cases like this, we usually add in moxibustion (that smokey herb we burn) because it nourishes the system more.

  • Sinus headaches are usually aggravated by allergies, colds, the flu, things of that nature. Most of the time with sinus headaches, people usually experience pressure and fullness. We call this “damp” in TCM. Just as it sounds, there’s an accumulation of dampness, or phlegm, boogers, etc that won’t come out. In this sort of condition, we use needles in the face to help disperse that inflammation and fullness.

  • Tension Headaches are mostly related to what we call “Qi Stagnation” or when the energy flow in the body is getting stuck! Usually this occurs mostly in the neck and shoulders and can pull on the base of the skull, thus causing pain at the back of the head or temples. We use a lot of “trigger point therapy” for this type of headache. Meaning: when Karen and I get a muscle to twitch and release the hold its got on your body! Cupping is a great way to help with tension headaches as well.

  • Hormonal headaches. This one is so tricky to pin down just one diagnosis or even two. This is one of those headache categories that could easily have 10 or more different reasons they’re happening according to TCM. At the most basic level, we have to determine if your headaches are coming from a stagnant place or depleted place, so we know how to best to treat them! Rest assured, needles and/or moxa are involved. Or both!

  • Hangovers!! Hmm… can’t say that I treat this THAT often anymore. Usually people aren’t super pumped to come to acupuncture when they’re hungover, but if they did, it would help!! Treatment for hangovers definitely falls under the “stagnation” or “damp” category, so just your average needling will do! Added bonus: you get an acupuncture nap to help sleep it off.

  • Is there a headache for wedding planning??? Just kidding. But for the record that falls under “Qi stagnation!”

If you suffer from headaches, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or Naturopath if they are moderate to severe in nature - just to rule out anything serious. In the meantime, schedule an appointment if headaches are a problem for you or a family member or friend! We can help with the pain and eventually harmonize the pattern to make them go away completely.

The Face-off : Liver and Spleen

If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you might be (probably are) frustrated that western medicine doesn’t have much for you in terms of treatment. In this case, hooray for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)! In TCM, we take your specific symptoms and try to find what the pattern is, or WHY it’s happening. There are many ways the body can present digestive symptoms and a million ways to treat it in Chinese medicine. I’ll be going over why your digestion might be feeling a little wonky in this season specifically: spring time!

Quite often in the spring, digestion can be off for anyone, not just people with IBS. Normally in Chinese medicine, the spring is the time of waking up! We all start to move and stretch after winter. There’s more heat in the universe to warm us up, get things moving, and we all feel the dynamics of the body going through those energetic changes - from the inside out. The liver organ, specifically, is in charge of the flow of qi (or energy) and sometimes as we’re going through a transitional season, it can be hard for the body to have a smooth flow on its own. Insert: needles!! (Hehe, acupuncture joke).

One of the most common patterns we see is called “liver overacting on spleen” when the liver energy encroaches on the spleen and stomach, the most important organs for digestion, according to TCM.  Different kinds of constraint and inconsistencies in the way qi is moving can cause the typical IBS symptoms like constipation, intermittent diarrhea, gas and bloating, etc. When you throw extra stress in the mix as well, people can experience more severity of those symptoms, stomach pains, and digestive upset immediately following a stressful event. Yikes! Acupuncture can be extremely beneficial to help MOVE the qi and get it to flow correctly. We also use moxibustion, or mugwort, to help nourish the spleen and stomach. When you burn mugwort on certain acupuncture points, it boosts the ability of the spleen and stomach to function correctly. Therefore, those organs aren’t as vulnerable under the liver’s attack! We often use both together, or separately based on what your needs are specifically.

Other ways you can soothe the liver qi are taking out the things that are causing you stress! Also, exercise more, get outside, breathe fresh air and get your extra vitamin D from natural sunlight. To naturally boost the spleen and stomach, make sure you’re eating well (as always), warm, cooked nourishing foods and rest well! For IBS, you want to bump up your probiotic use and potentially incorporate prebiotics as well. Ask us about what might be right for you next time you’re in the office! Happy spring!

5 Natural Ways to Alleviate IBS Symptoms

April is National IBS Awareness Month and I love talking about poop, so let’s get started! Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is often called a “trash can” diagnosis, or a diagnosis of exclusion. Basically, when you have been through a battery of tests and no one can see anything wrong with the structures of your digestive tract, IBS is a label that often gets used. Essentially, “Um...We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but your bowels sure do seem irritable. Let’s call it ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome.’ There. Doesn’t it feel nice to label things?” Sheesh. There are so many things that contribute to the function (or dysfunction) of your digestion that it can be hard to pinpoint the culprit, but here are 5 things you can do at home to help things go more smoothly:

De-Stress

Stress is one of the most common triggers for digestive disorders. It is estimated that 90% of serotonin (a major neurotransmitter) is made in the gut. If this gets disrupted it can have a big impact on your digestion.

Try meditation, yoga, chatting with friends, journaling or acupuncture to relieve your stress.

Address Gut Dysbiosis

An imbalance in the microbes found in your intestines can have an ill effect on digestion as well. To help balance things out, avoid foods that can contribute to the overpopulation of the bad bugs - sugar, grains, alcohol and fried foods (basically the foods we tend to crave), and add in the good bugs by eating fermented foods or taking a good probiotic.

Stop Overeating

Eating too much can overload your digestive system and trigger symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

Try eating mindfully, paying attention to hunger and satiety signals. Enjoy each bite so that you aren’t tempted to keep shoveling it in!

Reduce Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can activate bowel movements, causing loose stool and diarrhea. In the long term, it can also cause dehydration which can contribute to constipation. After a while, you can get stuck in a nasty cycle where you get dependant on caffeine just to go!

Try herbal teas or good plain water instead to keep hydrated and get that digestive tract moving properly.

Get Moving

Movement is very important in keeping all our organs functioning well, and can have the added benefit of reducing stress.

Go for a walk or a hike with friends, do a little yoga at home, or try something completely new to keep yourself interested in exercise. A little physical movement can do wonders for your, ahem, movements.

And, of course, here’s a bonus tip - we can always help you get that digestion back on track. There’s a good reason I have one patient that calls me “the poop whisperer” - acupuncture can really get things moving along!

As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about how to improve your digestion.

Treating Allergies with NAET

We’re coming up on that time of year again. I feel like I’m always saying this, but the seasons really do affect our health! With spring approaching, it’s time to talk about allergies.

You may have seen NAET listed among our treatment options, and you may have asked yourself, “What the heck is that?” Well, NAET stands for “Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques.” Now, isn’t that a mouthful?

Dr. Devi Nambudripad developed this approach in the 1980’s when she herself was dealing with some severe allergies, and it has become a successful treatment modality used around the world.

The treatment is designed to desensitize a patient to a substance using kinesiology, acupressure and acupuncture so that they will not experience hypersensitive symptoms when coming into contact with that substance in the future. These symptoms may vary from the ones you usually associate with allergies, such as sneezing, nasal congestion and itching, to those you may not, such as headaches and digestive issues.

The treatments start with a set series of food/nutritional items, and then can move on to environmental substances. It begins at the basic nutritional level because when we take in something we are even mildly sensitive to, it can make our other allergies much more severe. I always give myself as an example for this – when I first went through the treatment series, my seasonal allergies went away after treating for wheat/grains. This makes a lot of sense to me, since wheat/grains are plants that are related to things in my environment. My experience with this really opened my eyes!

For best results, we treat one substance at a time. For less severe reactions, it may only take one session to clear the sensitivity to each item, but for more severe problems, it may take several sessions to clear just one substance. Mild to moderate allergies often take 15-20 treatments, as we work our way through the different substances you are sensitive to.

When people ask me about the treatment, I honestly reply “it’s weird” or “it’s kinda woo-woo,” since the kinesiology we use is a little foreign to a lot of us, but it can really be effective! I love having this option to help people with allergies.

Please feel free to contact us for more information on this innovative allergy treatment.

Spring – Season of the Liver

As we move into Spring, we enter the season of the Liver. The color associated with the season of the Liver is green, and the sound related to the Liver is shouting. This makes me think of little green seedlings, popping out if the ground, excited that winter is over. It is like they are shouting, “Hey, look at me, I’m here now!” as they seem to declare that it is the time for them to vigorously grow.  

The Liver has some very important roles in Chinese Medicine, which include storing the blood, ensuring the smooth flow of qi (qi in this case can be defined as an energy that manifests on both our physical and emotional level), and controlling the sinews. The Liver also manifests in the nails, opens into the eye, controls the tears, and is affected by anger. Additionally, the Liver also houses our Ethereal Soul. The Ethereal Soul plays a very important role in our mental and spiritual life on a psychic level. It supplies our minds with inspiration and creativity. It is involved with our life dreams and our sense of direction in life.  

This spring, you can nourish your liver by staying calm and taking things slow. Do not let anger or frustration get the best of you in trying situations. Try doing some mental or physical exercises to keep your body and spirit relaxed and calm. Meditation or some gentle stretching and yoga can be a good place to start. Pick something that is relaxing for you. Let go of as many stressful situations as you can this spring. If this is not possible, try to reduce the stress involved in the stressful situations that you are exposed to.

If you need help doing this, let us know! We can give you some ideas to get you started.  Acupuncture, massage, and reflex therapy can all help with stress. Not only can they help calm your physical body, but putting the time aside to come in and visit us for a session can be like a mini vacation for your mind as well. When you let your mind relax and allow it to settle in to the sensations and energy it feels during a treatment, it helps you to become more self-aware and aids in supplying the energy needed for the body to function calmly and effectively. Let’s make this Spring one that is filled with life, new beginnings, and creativity, with room to grow ourselves without the stress!

 

Spring Break

Raise your hand if you get spring fever! Me, me - I do! Traditionally spring has always been the perfect time for change and to do something different from the routine you had during the dreary winter (even though our winter has been pretty mild). The energy around spring is moving and dynamic; becoming alive again and stretching out after a long hibernation. In Chinese medicine, the spring correlates with the liver meridian, which ensures a healthy and smooth flow of qi in the body. The liver also detoxifies the blood, a similar characteristic to what it does Western medicine as well. Of course there are plenty of ways to detox the body in the spring, but I’ll be talking about a few ways to detox the mind! When you sit down and think about it: what makes you feel alive and new?

For me, there are two major ways for me to feel my best when transitioning seasons. First, travel - getting away from anything in my norm has always been at the top of my list of ways to rejuvenate myself. February is one of the toughest, coldest month to get through during winter and I so look forward to March. Some years it’s because it’s so dang cold, some years it’s just because it’s ONLY the 2nd month of the year and sometimes it’s because as soon as someone says “March,” the mindset changes and I get excited about more sunshine.

So, my advice (that I’m taking myself) if you need to get out from under the rock of winter and do something spontaneous, is to take your adult Spring Break!! That’s right - I’m giving you permission to take some time, no matter if you’re in school or not, to give yourself a break. Whether it be just a weekend away or random trip to Mexico that popped up, take it! I’m counting down the days until I get to take a break myself and enjoy sunny Sedona for a weekend in April. There’s nothing better than letting yourself check out for a few days, sip on a cocktail, read trashy romance novels, and stare into the sunset.

Secondly, I like to shift gears for spring by purging all of my STUFF. We’re about to move into our new house and we’re literally getting rid of everything! I’m convinced that the more things we keep in our house, the more mental clutter there is. My fiance and I have been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and I agree with so much of what Marie Kondo says. We’re only keeping the things we absolutely love because it brings us joy, not for any other reason. So going through clothes, trinkets, home decor, shoes….whatever we don’t love, must go!! What a great feeling to donate lots of stuff and sell things to someone who might think your old couch is THEIR new favorite thing!

So, this spring, take some time to give your brain a stretch as well as your body! Go on spring break, get rid of some clutter, go out and move! I love to hear about all of the travels you do, so be sure to update me on your adventures next time you’re in for a tune up!

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