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.

Painful Periods

UGH.. painful periods.

Ladies, this is the worst, am I right? It turns out, dysmenorrhea (painful periods) affect around 85% of women out there. That is a staggering number. Theoretically, our cycles should not be painful at all, if you can believe that! The menses should come once a month and it should be a smooth process, without PMS or other complications. In the olden days, there were far LESS instances of pain with periods due to a number of reasons. However, in this modern time, we are constantly surrounded by things in our environment that disrupt our endocrine systems (aka. our hormones). I’ll get into what might be contributing to painful periods and what diagnoses we see mostly in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Painful periods occur in the body because of one thing: stagnant blood and qi (energy) in the uterus. That means that there isn’t a smooth flow of either- things are stuck or blocked. But how does that happen exactly? We aren’t born with that pattern. Its formed over the course of our lives, based on what we expose ourselves to and how we treat our bodies.

The most common cause of period pain, according to TCM is called “liver qi stagnation.” It has nothing to do with your actual liver, but the Chinese energetics that is associated with that organ system. There are several things that allow for the liver qi to stagnante leading to pain with the cycle. If you are drinking too much alcohol, eating too many fried foods, are sedentary, or are constantly stressed or emotionally haggard, that can lead to “liver qi stagnation.” Our lifestyle dramatically affects the way we menstruate. Other symptoms of liver qi stagnation include breast tenderness/swelling premenstrually, mood swings (majorly in the way of irritability), anxiety, depression, and cramping that can start before the actual flow.

If this sounds like you, the best way to ease some of those painful periods are to get some exercise in! The week before your period is a great time to get acupuncture and cupping in order to get that stuck energy moving before your period starts. We have a great formula called “The Free and Easy Wanderer” that helps alleviate some of that horrible PMS and help aid in a healthier, less painful period.

Another cause for dysmenorrhea can be described as “cold stagnation in the uterus.” This is the typical qi and blood stagnation that we see with painful periods, but adds in an element of cold. This is typically felt as sharp, stabbing pain that is better with warmth. Cycles can also be heavier and clotted. If you have been exposed to the cold for some lengths of time, walk on cold floors with bare feet, eat raw/cold foods often, you might have an element of cold as a part of your pattern. Try using a heating pad once a day for the few days leading up to your period. You can also incorporate cooked foods into the diet and drink ginger tea daily to add an element of heat to your system as well.

Other environmental factors, like chemicals used in our homes or body products, can be linked to hormone dysregulation. They are discovering that phthalates, parabens, and fragrances used in lotions and makeup can mimic estrogen; therefore, disrupting our menstrual cycles. The same goes for chemicals in cleaning products or burning soy-based candles. The best bet is to switch to safer products! If you’re curious about what the toxicity level is of anything you use, the best bet is to go to the EWG.org and look them up under the “Skin Deep” portion of their website. (Link to : https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAnY_jBRDdARIsAIEqpJ1OIVwuvHXWD8xLF2cnjJH3yFubn6z6QVSn7SsZNwn5qbu9AjL8wAgaAkHnEALw_wcB ).

If you or a loved one has painful periods, don’t hesitate to reach out! We have an arsenal of modalities and herbs that can be beneficial for this particular condition. Let us know if you’re struggling! We can help.


The Winter Blues and Blahs

Someone recently mentioned to me that they felt like this past January has felt like one long, continual Monday. This time of year can be tough for many of us. Even though we live in a very sunny state with mild days and warm temperatures even in the winter months, it is not uncommon for many individuals to experience a lower mood this time of year.

For some people this may warrant a clinical diagnosis by a primary care doctor or mental health professional of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a mood disorder that is characterized by depressive symptoms that occur at the same time each year during the fall and winter months. Symptoms can also include low energy, fatigue, feeling sluggish, intense irritability, having trouble sleeping, a marked increase or decrease in appetite, and a loss of interest in activities that typically bring enjoyment.

Feelings of low mood during the winter months can take us by surprise. Some people describe it as a feeling of “the veil coming down.” Life can start to feel very grey. For other people, they might experience symptoms of irritability or pervasive negativity. If feelings of hopelessness crop up, it’s very important to speak with your doctor or a mental health professional.

For those of us who struggle with a lower mood during the colder months, or just an overall sense of lower motivation and general unease, there are some things that can definitely help:

Light Therapy

Light therapy (also called phototherapy) is considered a first-line treatment for low mood that starts in the fall months. It involves purchasing a special light box that mimics the light found in nature, and sitting in front of it for an hour upon waking in the morning. The light positively supports chemicals in our brain that our linked to positive mood.

Check in With Your Doctor

Your doctor can run tests to rule out whether or not the pervasive low mood is linked to an issue with your thyroid, and can also check your Vitamin D levels. Contrary to popular belief, Vitamin D levels can even be low for those of us in sunny Colorado.

Exercise

You don’t need to blow it out everyday at a Crossfit class to get the benefits out of exercise. Moderate and gentle exercise will do. Moderate exercise has consistently been shown to improve the symptoms of low mood.

Herbs and Supplements

A licensed herbalist and acupuncturist can give you some great suggestions for supplements as well as herbal formulas that will support mood, energy levels, and balanced sleep.

Support the Mind-Body Connection and Manage Stress

Deep breathing and gentle yoga can help you get back into your body and lift your mood. Take downtime for yourself. Try to keep some space in your schedule. Recognize that this is the darkest and coldest time of the year and respect your need for quietude and deep rest.

Get A Course of Acupuncture Treatments

Weekly acupuncture treatments over the course of 8 to 12 weeks can not only help you make this time of year more manageable, it can dramatically improve your overall sense of well-being, boost your energy levels, improve your sleep, and lift your mood. Consistency is key in conjunction with lifestyle support.

2019: Year of the PIG

On February 5th, we’ll be celebrating the Chinese New year! That means, OUT with the year of the Earth dog (2018) and IN with the year of the Earth pig! This is an exciting time for all interested in the Chinese zodiac. The pig is the last animal in the 12-year line up, meaning it’s a really good time for enjoyment, celebration, and reflection! It also has a bit of good luck attached to it. How great does that sound??

If you’ve spending lots of time working, cultivating a career, building your empire, then now is the time to reap your rewards. Look back at everything you’ve done in the last few years (or full 12-year stretch) and give yourself the freedom to enjoy the place you are in your life! The pig is a social animal, so reconnect with lost friends or loved ones and celebrate all of your undertakings together. If you’re starting a new adventure in the year of the pig, you have luck on your side, and success is in your future! Ok, ok I know I’m starting to sound like a fortune cookie.

The Earth element in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) relates to nourishment for the body and mind. Because it’s the second Earth year in a row, we should continue to look at how we nourish ourselves. This can boil down to the food we eat, how much down time we have, and what we subject ourselves to emotionally.

In TCM, the spleen is the major organ associated with the Earth element. It’s the “sorter” of the body, separating the pure from the impure. Like I said above, that can relate directly to what you’re eating and how it benefits your body or how emotionally balanced we are. Do the people around you bring you joy? Are you doing something, whether it be hobbies or a job, that fulfills you? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you watching happy things on TV or dark, disturbing things? How does that impact your wellbeing? Oh wait… that last part sounds like me. :) My darkness detox is still going strong for anyone following along!

According to the Chinese zodiac, the pig is also the sign of wealth! So check in with your surroundings and ask yourself- what are you RICH in? It could be time with loved ones, your health, time carved out in your schedule for vacation, making good money this year… anything! For me, I am rich in deep sleep at the moment. Due to my “darkness detox,” I’m sleeping better than ever. What a dramatic change it has made in my overall enjoyment of life. Imagine that… My spleen is thanking me.

PSA: the little red envelopes full of surprises are making a comeback in the office too! Come in for a treatment the week of the Chinese New Year and see what surprise is in store for you! Maybe yours will be pig-themed. Hope to see you soon!

Connecting With Your Bigger WHY

It’s a new year and another chance to approach life with a fresh perspective. This is commonly the time of year when we start taking stock of how we are living our day-to-day lives, and whether the habits, attitudes, and practices we are cultivating serve our larger values as well as how we want to show up in our lives.

At the beginning of this new year, if you have larger goals or habits you are wanting to implement in relation to any aspect of your health - your physical, emotional, psychological, or even spiritual health - I think it’s useful to consider your larger why in relationship to your short-term and even longer-term goals.

Oftentimes we set out with the intention of reaching a goal or changing some kind of behavior or habit without really fully understanding all of the underlying whys. Let’s use eating healthy as an example. Why do you want to start eating healthier? Is it because your doctor recommended you need to, or because of something you read in a magazine, or something Oprah said? Is your partner or spouse wanting you to eat healthier? Are you wanting to eat healthier in order to reach an ideal body weight or self-image? Do you even really want to eat healthier?

There are many reasons to consider and reflect on the larger why as it relates to our health and wellness goals. Sometimes the people in our lives (partners, loved ones, medical professionals) may want us to have certain goals for our health for their own particular reasons, but they might not be our own reasons. Oftentimes our larger health and wellness goals rely on some kind of external acknowledgement or reward. Many times we set goals because we think we should be doing certain things, or because we are trying to avoid or outrun a sense of shame or unworthiness we feel about ourselves.

Why does this all matter? There are a few reasons. If you are setting out to change a habit, implement a practice, or make any important change in your life, it takes a lot of work - planning, thoughtfulness, self-reflection, fortitude, anticipating future obstacles. Intuitively we all know this. So when circumstances get tough and there is every reason to give up, you need to connect with your larger why to carry you on through those rough patches, otherwise you are more likely to set the whole thing down and give up. And as much as we may love and want the respect of those around us, oftentimes other people’s whys are not always enough to carry us on through. We need to connect with the larger values, reasons, and visions in our own hearts and minds.

Ultimately you want to live your own life and not someone else’s life. Give yourself time and space to reflect on these topics. It can take a lot of self-reflectiveness patience in order to connect with these larger answers. Talk about these things with other people you trust and can thoughtfully engage with you around this. You will most likely surprise yourself. Your own personal why may be incredibly unique, thoughtful, and eccentric. If you can make a strong personal connection with your own internal values and your own internal why, it will serve as a powerful ally and motivator in living the kind of life you want for yourself.

The Scoop On CBDs

A lot of people ask me about CBD products, and I have finally taken a deeper dive into how it works, why it can be pricey, and contraindications for use. I’ve broken some of it down here - and if you have any questions let me know and I’ll cover more later!

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is present in all living beings except insects, and its main job is to maintain homeostasis in the body. Interestingly, both acupuncture and TCM herbal formulas have been shown to regulate the endocannabinoid system as well.

Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are compounds that bind to receptors in the body to bring about homeostasis. In humans, there are two cannabinoid receptors that have been discovered - CB1 and CB2. These receptors are found pretty much everywhere, from the major organs, bones, and skin to the brain stem and vagus nerve. With the increase of research in this area, many people think we will find more receptors as well as more endogenous cannabinoids. As of now, we know that humans have at least 2 endogenous cannabinoids: anandamide and 2-Ag.

Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Vs. Marijuana

By legal definition full spectrum hemp has less than 0.3%,THC and has over 113 cannabinoids, so you get the benefits of the wide range of cannabinoids without the high.

Marijuana also has over 113 cannabinoids, but it also has THC which is usually anywhere from 5-35% of its chemical constituency, so you can see that the concentration of the other cannabinoids would be lower.

The Legal Stuff and Pricing

Previously, hemp was a grey area, where it wasn’t explicitly legal or illegal, but after the passing of the federal farm bill on 12/13/18, it has become explicitly legal. What does this mean for the future? Hopefully, prices will go down, as more farmers are able to grow hemp. The main reason these products are so expensive is just a lack of supply. Also, there will be even more research into the effects and possible side effects of CBD.

Caution! The CYP3A4 Enzyme

CBD products can inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme in the liver when they are ingested. This enzyme is also responsible for controlling the half-life of many pharmaceuticals, so CBD could potentially extend their half-life in the bloodstream. As more research goes into this interaction we will be better informed as to how to manage this potential outcome. In the meantime, if you are on a medication that interacts with grapefruit juice (which has the same effect on CYP3A4), I would be cautious about consuming CBD products internally.

On the other hand, topical usage of CBD is safe for those individuals, as it bypasses the bloodstream and the liver by working with the cannabinoid receptors on the skin. These receptors help it treat more than just pain. Clinically, we have even seen that using topical full spectrum hemp oil can help with anxiety and insomnia, especially when applied to the back of the neck or insides of the wrists.

Long Term Use

For some people (especially those ingesting CBD), the body can become tolerant to a certain dosage and they may find that they have to increase dosage to get the same results. Taking a small break from consumption can reduce that tolerance and the smaller dosage will often work again. Research has shown that It is not biologically addictive - you can come off it for a few days and not have any detox reactions like alcohol or opiate withdrawal.

Overthinking It

So, theoretically, if these compounds are helping the body return to homeostasis, once they have accomplished this feat they should no longer be needed, right? I think this is really possible, but you have to be working on the underlying imbalance that caused the problems in the first place. So while I don’t think that CBD is the panacea we are all hoping for, I do think it can teach our bodies about homeostasis, and create an environment where we can begin to take care of ourselves and keep our own bodies in balance, as well as bring us some relief in the meantime.

New Year's Intentions

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and are in the midst of beginning a happy new year! You did it – You made it through the most chaotic time of the year, and are on your way to a new and exciting 2019! Does anyone else get excited about setting intentions and goals, or is it just me? I try not to overload myself with too many, but I do love the idea of a fresh canvas to paint my story on. Cue: Bob Ross and all of his happy trees. 

So, what intentions did I set for the new year? In the wake of a crazy 2018, I’m vowing to slow down. My only true intention is to pick up my meditation practice again. It’s been too long since I’ve spent actual time during my day (other than during a yoga class) practicing meditation. This will be hard for me! Considering I like to burn the candle at both ends and I thrive on being busy, taking some down time will be much needed.

Other things I’m excited to incorporate in 2019: 

  • Darkness detox: in January, I’m taking a break from listening and watching dark documentaries or podcasts. Embarrassingly, I have a horrible addiction to anything related to true crime or dark stories. So in order to keep my sanity, I am breaking up with them for a month and potentially longer. Deliberately letting the light in! 

  • Dietary balance: I had some serious ups and downs with my diet this year and I’m still feeling the reverberations. This year, I’m going to worry less about being super strict or giving myself “treats” when I think I deserve them. I feel like it set me up with some bad habits that I need to break. Instead I’m going to try and stay consistent with what my body craves and makes me feel the best.

  • Try 5 new things this year. This could be a new experience, a new genre of book, a new style of food, or travel to a new place. I’m interested in the unknown and how to experience it to the fullest. We’ll see what they end up being! Stay tuned..

What are you looking forward to in 2019? Do you have plans or resolutions? I cannot wait to hear about them! Sharing your goals with others is a great way to hold yourself and others accountable, so let us know what they are next time you’re in. 

Finishing Up the Holidays and Setting Intentions For the New Year

I’m keeping it short and sweet again this month, but look out for some long nerdy articles coming your way soon!

First of all, I promised an update on our holiday experiences so here are a few highlights:

  • The kiddo’s favorite part of the Golden Christmas Parade was the Colorado School of Mines marching band. And I have to agree - they were good!!

  • We went to a tuba Christmas concert in Olde Town Arvada where he told me “I want to do that when I’m bigger.” Yay!

  • Then he said he liked his school’s holiday program better than the Colorado Symphony Orchestra because he was was on stage. Hmmm...

I think we have a musician on our hands, folks.

When we had an impromptu visit with Santa, the kiddo shyly asked for a strawberry, and Santa replied “I’ll see what I can do” in the softest, sweetest voice.  Then, on Christmas morning, there was a 10” strawberry stuffie under the tree. He was so thrilled, it has not left his arms since. (It even rates way higher than the remote controlled car and the hot wheels track!) I’m kind of a proud mama...

So, yeah, all in all it was so fun!

Now, on to the new year.

I love this time of transition. We just had some good family time, and perhaps some indulgences, and it’s time to reflect on this past year and set our intentions for the new year.

As I look back at last year, my biggest intention was to slow down and create space in my life. For someone who likes to go! go! go! and may suffer a bit from FOMO (fear of missing out), this intention definitely was one I had to work at, and while I didn’t always make it happen, I did find some space.

As I look forward to the new year, I am craving a little more excitement. I’m feeling more energetic and I want to start doing more. I’ll still keep some of the space I created last year, but will also find more interesting things to occupy me as well. Travel is on my mind, as well as returning to running (actually at this point we’ll call it “joggling” now, a fabulous term coined by a good friend of mine - it’s jogging, but mostly jiggling). I’ve also had some good ideas on how to make Alpenglow even better, too - stay tuned! But most of all, I want to honor my most important intention that I keep from year to year - to fully live my life and truly enjoy what I have.

What about you? What are you looking forward to in the new year? Have you set any new intentions or made resolutions? I’d love to hear!

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!

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