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.

Self-Talk

Self-talk is kind of a funny subject, and if it makes you roll your eyes or cringe on some level to think about reciting positive affirmations to yourself, and the cheesy factor is just too high, you’re not alone on this one. But it’s a worthy topic of exploration for many reasons.

Self-talk is about how you talk to yourself about yourself. It’s the always running internal monologue, the voice in our head, the constant commentary that is ever present between our ears. It may be something you’re aware of, or it may be something you’re not very conscious of, just like background chatter that we barely perceive. But it can have a very strong impact on how we think about ourselves and how we move about in the world, and it is closely linked with our perception of our self.

It’s especially easy to become familiar with your self-talk when you do something you perceive to be a mistake or embarrassing - if you berate yourself for messing up, being clumsy, foolish, being too loud, being too quiet, too shy, or “too much.” We may even lapse into calling ourselves names that we would never think to call someone that we cared for and loved.

Why become familiar with your inner monologue? Because it can exert a pretty big influence on our lives. It can really run the show. If you spend your time looking at Facebook or Instagram, and before you know it your self-talk is a raging dumpster fire of jealousy, self-loathing, and compare-and-despair - that’s an altogether very unpleasant and painful experience. Negative, painful, and critical self-talk can be a catalyst for depression, anxiety, and feelings of low self-worth. It can feed into and perpetuate feelings of helplessness and despair. It can perpetuate personal suffering and color the way we see the world and our place in it.

Just becoming aware of what you are saying to yourself is the first step. And it’s huge. You’ve got to give yourself credit for doing this. One of the ways to start to become familiar with your inner monologue is to engage in a meditation practice. You have a front row seat to that little voice that is constantly chattering all day long. You could also go to therapy. Or journal. Or look at yourself in the mirror and see what you start to tell yourself about yourself. There are many ways to start the process.

By doing this you are not at the mercy of this constantly chattering little voice in the background, always running the show. You can choose to listen to it when and if you want. You can disengage from it. You can see how it operates, what it is triggered by, what sets it off and what calms it down. You can even laugh at it. And most importantly, you can also work with it, influence it, and sculpt it to become more compassionate, clear, and wise.

Becoming aware of and reflecting on how we talk to ourselves is a fascinating journey into what it means to be a human being. It’s always interesting. And it’s a relief to know that we can make a better and wiser relationship with it.

Visualization

Happy spring everyone! I’m feeling the pull of the season change in a big way. Time to stretch, move, cleanse, re-focus and repeat. Anyone else? This is the part of the year I get really motivated to get things done and set some new goals. Recently, I sat down and tried to think on what motivates me and how I want to achieve it. I realized that it all starts with my mindset. I am a visual person, so I know I have to get my head in the right place in order to achieve anything else physically or emotionally. This is referred to as “mental training” and scientists and doctors are discovering it can be a game-changer when it comes to success.

Published in Psychology Today, (seen here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization ) are studies that prove that using your mind to visualize goals is almost as good as doing them! In one specific study of weight lifters, they saw significant data that the brain was activated in the SAME way when lifting hundreds of pounds vs. when they were just visualizing it. Say whaaaat??!  In the same vein, there have been other studies that show statistical increase in muscle tone for those who visualize a muscle being used while working out vs. those who don’t. Incredible! Note to self: picture 6-pack abs anytime I’m exercising and maybe one day I’ll have some!

There are tons of ways to use visualization and even more ways it applies to our productivity. I recently listened to a podcast on the Goop channel (Gweneth Paltrow’s health-conscious company) and she interviewed a woman named Bonnie St. John. I had never heard about her before, but as the podcast continued, I learned that Bonnie was the first African American to win medals at the Olympics in 1984…with one leg! She also graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and had a number of other incredible life achievements. Talk about motivating. During the interview, she was going through a few of her favorite “life hacks” for her listeners in order to have a big impact on their focus, drive and goals.

The one tip that really stuck with me was an exercise to help push you through the mindset of limiting factors. She calls it “reversing.” This is a good one for all of you visual people out there. Here’s how it works: take a note card and write a limiting factor or obstacle that you’re facing on one side of the card. Then on the other side of the card, write the complete opposite. One of the examples she uses was writing “I need a higher degree, but I don’t have time or money to go back to school” and then on the other side write the opposite: “I have time and money to go back to school.” Her point is that writing the complete opposite statement suspends your brain’s belief in the negative obstacle that you THINK is true, but it doesn’t have to be. If you stop that pattern, you make room for ideas or ways to make the opposite come true. Very, very fascinating stuff. To learn more about her ideas and work, Bonnie’s book is called Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive, and Energy.  Check it out or find the podcast for more inspiration!

Other random ideas of how I use visualization in my daily life/goal setting:

  • Making a vision board using pictures and quotes

  • Write out a to-do list of things you want to get done during the day and check them off

  • Write out a goal list that includes the who, what, when, where, why and how you’re going to do it. Turns out, the more specific you get, the better. Paint the picture for yourself so it’s easier to move through the steps to get there.

  • Make a list of 10-20 things that you want to do before you die (must have a big picture, right?)

  • And now I’ll be visualizing my muscles working at the gym so I can burn more fat :)

Are you a visual person? How do you visualize goals and put that into motion? I would love to hear how you achieve this. Let me know next time you’re in for a tune up!

5 Years!

Planning our 5 year anniversary party has really gotten me into a reflective mood. I’m the type who is always looking forward, so it has been nice to take a moment and look at where we came from. I have been thinking back to when I moved over from Olde Town, hoping that others would see my vision - health and wellness care that is still affordable, but even more personalized.  I was so excited to bring back the other tools that we have in TCM - cupping, moxa, guasha, and more. I was a little nervous to make the leap, but I believed so strongly that we could make it happen. That we just HAD to make it happen.

I didn’t realize at the time just how much it would change my life as well. For the last 5 years, I feel like I have gotten to know my people WAY better than I could have before. I get to hear more about their lives and I get to learn more about what makes them tick. I’ve gotten to see babies born and loved ones pass on. I’ve gotten to celebrate and grieve with you.

You have taught me too. I’ve gotten some great advice about life. About how to survive being a mom and businesswoman. About how to best cut a pineapple. About how to be gentle with myself when I am not perfect taking my own advice. (This is where the holiday sugar fest comes to mind. Gah!)

I am also very thankful for the team we have created here. Elena and her otherworldy healing magic and unwavering support. Sarah, who has been such a rock and cares so much about everyone around her. Kailey, with her unbounded compassion and mindful presence. And Madison, who has kept us all together and can do absolutely anything we need while keeping that amazing smile of hers. They are my sisters on this journey, and I appreciate greatly what they each bring to the mission.

And, of course, I am thankful for my actual related-to-me-by-blood-or-marriage family. They have always been my biggest cheerleaders and always believed in me.

What a great 5 years. I feel like we’ve built such a wonderful extended family here, a fantastically supportive tribe, and I am so incredibly grateful. So thank you. Thank you so much for being a part of all this.

With gratitude,

Karen

Fertility Basics

As more and more women and men struggle with fertility issues, I thought it would be helpful to cover some fertility basics. If you’re out there reading this and thinking about having a baby, trying to conceive, or going through some medical intervention to help you along, this is for you.

Infertility is technically defined as the inability to conceive after 6 months to 1 year or longer, depending on the woman’s age and previous pregnancies. Unfortunately for women, the older we get, the more challenging it can be to get pregnant. Or that’s what your doctors tell you. However, I truly believe that depending on a mix of genetics and how well you take care of yourself, anyone can defy the odds!

First off, there are a number of issues that can cause infertility in women including ovulatory functions (whether you’re ovulating or not and the quality of your eggs), blockages (like tumors, fibroids, cysts, or adhesions), hormone dysfunction, endometriosis, and unfavorable cervical mucous (aka. a hostile environment). For men, they’re seeing a decrease in sperm count and morphology of sperm that really contributes to the inability to conceive. Side note: guys, DON’T keep your phone in your front pocket of your pants. They’re discovering that that might be contributing to the drop in fertility rates.

On average, 65% of couples conceive within the first 6 months of trying and 90% at 12 months of so. The numbers are in your favor! If you’ve been trying for a while and aren’t able to get pregnant, it’s always a good idea to go see your OB/GYN and get some blood tests run. They give us SO much information to work with and more accuracy in how we treat you with acupuncture and herbs. Here are some of the main tests we look at just to get a gist of what’s happening in your body:

  • TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone). If these numbers are off, it could be a signal higher in the hormone cascade that you aren’t ovulating. So get your thyroid checked! This should fall between at 1.0 and 3.0 Iu/ml.

  • FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone): This is a hormone released by the pituitary gland close to the brain and can indicate the quality of the eggs. 10 mIU/mL or less is the magic number. Any more than that can indicate that some might have an issue conceiving.

  • AMH (Anti-Mullerian hormone): predictor of ovarian reserve. So the smaller the number, the less functional the ovaries are. Greater than 1.0, you have good ovarian reserve. Borderline numbers are around 0.7-0.9 and low AMH is considered to be down to 0.3 ng/ml.

Depending on several factors, like the results from the tests above or after a certain amount of time trying naturally without any luck (or if you’re in a same-sex partnership), often doctors will recommend using protocols such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to help the process along. IUI is less invasive and is less expensive than IVF. Both processes function by engineering impeccable timing. For IUI, doctors place sperm inside the uterine cavity at the exact moment of ovulation to ensure the best shot at conception. Two weeks later you test and see if it worked! IVF is a much more invasive and lengthy process. It’s usually incredibly expensive and not covered by most insurances. Typically this process is 3-6 months in length and involves taking hormones, retrieving eggs, fertilizing them and re-implanting them inside the female to see if they take. For both IUI and IVF, some couples might have to go through multiple rounds of each in order to have a successful conception. Others have success in the first try.

PHEW! That’s most of the scary stuff… but the reality is, SO many of the women we see don’t have anything “wrong” at all. Lots of times, numbers and lab tests come back “normal” and yet they still aren’t getting pregnant naturally as quickly as they thought or hoped. We as acupuncturists and others in the alternative medical field, look at other factors that could contribute. Stress being the most prominent; but hormone disruptors/chemicals, diet, exercise, and sleep are all part of the picture. Bottom line: our goal is to bring your body into harmony and balance! From there, nature takes its course and you’re able to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy as it should be.

We live in a society that relies on instant gratification and that is NOT the case when it comes to fertility. When I see a new fertility patient, I tell them to give me 3-6 months of treatment with acupuncture and herbs in order to affect the new, complete cycle of follicles (which turn into eggs to be fertilized). There have been incredible studies done that prove that acupuncture and herbal medicine have had significant effectiveness in treating a plethora of fertility-related issues, including boosting the chances of pregnancy with IUI and IVF procedures! Heck ya!!

Things to remember when trying for a baby: don’t get frustrated and stressed! That will only work against you. I know, I know… easy to say, hard to do. The most important thing is to HAVE FUN during this process and be patient. Think about it- that’s how it should be! Watch the diet, remove toxic chemicals from your household, exercise a few times a week, and make sure you’re sleeping soundly throughout the night. If you or family or friends are having issues with fertility, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We are here to answer any questions and help you through your journey!

Endocrine Disruptors and Fertility

If you are thinking about getting pregnant or having a difficult time conceiving, it’s important to give some consideration to the increasing recognition of the impact of environmental toxins and endocrine disrupting chemicals on human health and fertility.

Researchers have tracked worrisome trends in increasing infertility rates over the past few decades, and the ubiquity of industrial chemicals that disrupt the human endocrine system are theorized as partly to blame. Although more research needs to be done, many organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Environmental Working Group, The Endocrine Society, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), are in agreement that these hormone disrupting chemicals pose a risk to human health and fertility.

Healthy fertility depends on balanced hormone levels. Hormones are the chemical messengers that are secreted by different glands in the body directly into the bloodstream that help to regulate a wide variety of physiological functions in the body, including metabolism, sleep, growth and development, mood, and reproduction, amongst many others. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (sometimes called EDCs for short) disrupt normal hormone functioning in a variety of ways - from potentially blocking or interfering the way certain hormones are made or controlled, increasing or decreasing normal hormone levels, as well as mimicking naturally occurring hormones in the body such as estrogen. Research has found that EDCs have very negative effects on viable eggs in women as well as sperm count in men.

Two of the most commonly used EDCs are bisphenol-A (also called BPA) and phthalates. BPA was originally used as a synthetic estrogen added to animal feed to help fatten the animals up, and it is currently added to plastic to help soften it and make it more pliable. Phthalates are also used to soften plastic (sometimes referred to as a “plasticizers”), as well as a solvent in many cosmetic and personal care products.

But fear not! There are many practical and pragmatic choices you can make to help significantly reduce your exposure to these troublesome chemicals. Here are a few of the important things you can do to help reduce your exposure to EDCs:

  • To the best of your ability try to minimize your use of plastic beverage bottles, plastic cutlery, and foods prepared or wrapped in plastic.

  • Avoid heating (especially microwaving) foods in plastic containers, as heating plastic containers causes the EDCs to leach out of the plastic.

  • Avoid washing any plastic items in the dishwasher, as this also causes the plastics to soften and leach out chemicals.

  • Avoid canned items, unless it states that the can lining is “BPA-free.”

  • Use cosmetics and personal care products made of natural and organic products that state “phthalate-free” on the label.

  • Avoid products with fragrances and heavy scents - phthalates are found in many common household items in this category, such as air fresheners, dryer sheets, and scented candles.

  • Break a sweat. Researchers have found that we eliminate and clear phthalates from our system in the process of sweating.

  • Taking regular Epsom salt baths helps to cleanse and clear the the tissues of chemicals. Use two cups of Epsom salts per bath.

PCOS

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a condition that is estimated to affect over 5 million women in the US. It appears to be on the rise along with other chronic inflammatory disorders and diseases, so it is time to for us to take a look at what’s going on. Some signs of the disorder are excess weight, excess facial hair, loss of hair on the head, acne, and irregular or missing periods. In addition to these signs, clinical testing often shows elevated blood sugar levels, imbalances in sex hormones, and elevated cholesterol.

While the exact mechanism of cause for PCOS is still under investigation, it is known that a number of root lifestyle issues contribute to the condition. Here, I will walk you through a few of these problems and how to address them.

Blood Sugar Imbalance

Insulin resistance is one of the main features of PCOS, and it is also becoming associated with a lot of other inflammatory diseases. Now is it the chicken or the egg? Time will tell.

Either way, there is something you can do about it.

How do you know if you have this?

There aren’t always symptoms with blood sugar imbalance, but feeling tired and sluggish first thing in the morning or after meals can certainly be a sign. If eating something brings you out of your stupor, or you tend to get “hangry,” it’s probably blood sugar related.

What to do

The same advice we always give for everything holds true here too (broken record warning): get rid of processed foods, sugar, flour, dairy. Eat lean animal protein, veggies, nuts, and limited amounts of fruit and starches. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa are not the enemy - just keep your portions limited to a total of about a cup per day.

Exercise also helps to regulate blood sugar, so get out there and get at least 10-15 minutes of intentional exercise a day. What do I mean by “intentional?” I mean that you are exercising for you and your body. This can be something as simple as a nice walk, but what you already do in a day, like walking from your car to your office, doesn’t count.

If diet and exercise alone are not cutting it, you can add in some supplements like inositol or NAC to help your body gain back control of your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Gut Health

Poor gut health leads to a LOT of diseases/disorders. Our standard western diet has done a lot of destruction to our intestinal microbiota (all those good little bugs in our gut that help us digest our foods). Without those guys helping us, we get inflammation inside the gut and out.

How do you know if you have this?

Digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or heartburn all point to poor gut health. Generalized achiness or pain can also be a sign, as the inflammation invades the rest of your body.

What to do

The same advice we always give for everything holds true here too (broken record warning): get rid of processed foods, sugar, flour, dairy. Eat lean animal protein, veggies, nuts, and limited amounts of fruit and starches. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa are not the enemy - just keep your portions limited to a total of about a cup per day. (yes, I just copied-and-pasted from that paragraph above ;-))

One huge change that can really help your digestion is to SLOW DOWN your meals and chew your food thoroughly, as this is really the first step of digestion. Time yourself and see if you can make your meal last for at least 15 minutes.

If diet alone is not cutting it, you can add in some fermented foods (sauerkraut or kimchi, for example) or probiotics. Digestive enzymes can also be taken before meals to help you break foods down.

Adrenal Overload

The HPA axis has been in the natural health news for years now. Our reaction to daily life stressors is having quite an ill effect on our health. Our body truly doesn’t understand the difference between work deadlines or watching a scary movie and actually being chased by a tiger, so our stress hormones often flood our system even when we don’t think we are stressed.

How do you know if you have this?

Trouble sleeping, brain fog, daytime fatigue, and feeling “tired but wired” are all signs that your HPA axis is out of whack.

What to do

Re-think how you think about stress. Our perception that something is stressful makes it even worse. But try not to stress out about how thinking you are stressed is even worse for you. :-)

Get plenty of sleep and cut down or cut out caffeine.

Yoga, meditation, and acupuncture can also regulate the HPA axis as well.

There are also some great adaptogenic herbs to help get this system back in balance, like ashwagandha or eleuthero, or certain TCM herbal formulas. It’s a good idea to consult a health care practitioner (like us!) before taking something like this, though.

While PCOS can feel like a permanent disorder with a host of distressing symptoms, I really don’t think it has to be a lifetime diagnosis. With a good, clean diet and thoughtful self care, your body can come back into balance and those symptoms (as well as clinical test results) can often go back to normal.

Please let us know if you have any questions about PCOS or any other women’s health issues. As always, we are here for you!

Acupuncture for Endometriosis Support

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is fairly prevalent, believed to affect 10% of all women, or 176 million women worldwide. It is very under-diagnosed, with many women not even knowing that they have it, and very often finding out in the course of trying to get pregnant.

Endometriosis is a peculiar gynecological condition that isn’t very well understood. In endometriosis, some of the uterine tissue that is normally shed during menstruation (uterine tissue inside the uterus is called the endometrium) is found outside of the uterus and in other areas of the body, most often in pelvic cavity. This abnormal uterine tissue that makes its way outside of the uterus then acts as if it still lining the uterus - becoming thicker during the cycle and then shedding during menstruation.

This uterine tissue can form into tiny superficial patches, as well as into larger areas of lesions. The immune system can perceive these patches as a type of injury, and in the course of trying to heal it, can form scar tissue. These endometrial patches can form on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, on the pelvic side-wall (the peritoneum), the rectal-vaginal septum (an area of connective tissue that separates the vagina from the rectum), the recto-uterine pouch (a small cavity that separates the uterus from the rectum), the bladder, cesarean-section scars, and even the bowel, intestines, and colon.

The classic signs of endometriosis are intense menstrual cramps, pain during intercourse (especially during deep penetration), and infertility, but not all women who have endometriosis will experience these symptoms. Other symptoms include chronic pelvic pain, low back pain, painful bowel movements during menstrual periods, heavy or irregular bleeding, and fatigue. Another curious aspect of this condition is that the degree of pain a woman experiences can be very much unrelated to the severity of the condition. For example, small patches with a minor amount of spreading can lead to debilitating pain for some, while extensive spreading of lesions can produce no symptoms in others.

The causes of endometriosis are not well understood. One theory is that somehow endometrial cells can flow backwards out the fallopian tubes and spread throughout the pelvis - this is termed “retrograde menstruation.” Endometriosis can also be difficult to diagnose. Ultrasound can diagnose ovarian endometriomas (sometimes called chocolate cysts) but the most reliable test is laparoscopy, with tissue biopsy as confirmation.

More and more women are turning to acupuncture to help address and diminish the symptoms of menstrual pain and endometriosis. Acupuncture, herbal supplements, and heat therapy (in the form of TDP lamps or moxibustion) can help to regulate hormone levels and the menstrual cycle, greatly diminish the symptoms of menstrual and pelvic pain, increase and support the the healthy supply of blood flow to the uterus, ovaries, and throughout the pelvic cavity, as well as work to diminish some of the other side effects that can come with severe menstrual pain - such as stress and anxiety, digestive upset, and fatigue.
Another lifestyle factor to consider if you experience symptoms of intensely painful periods or are trying to get pregnant is greatly diminishing or quitting alcohol (https://www.thetemper.com/the-top-10-health-risks-of-alcohol-for-women/) use altogether. A review of 15 studies concluded that the risk of endometriosis was increased 24% in those who drank alcohol compared to those who abstained.

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 stagnate 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 EWG.org and look them up under the “Skin Deep” portion of their website.

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!

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