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From Deep Freeze to Heat Wave: How to Handle this Craaazy Weather

First I wish to apologize for the unusually extended duration between newsletters, as I am still naïve enough to be astounded by just how much time having an infant consumes. It reminds me of the power of adolescent peer pressure, which I heard about throughout middle school and my “tweens,” but always figured would not befall me so dramatically. In retrospect it’s amazing my parents survived my high school years. I like to think I am now paying a small piece of that karma back with our lovely, but rambunctious 9-month-old.

We took her to the Smorgasborg food festival (highly recommend) yesterday, conveniently located one block from our building, but shortly after we sat down, eager to enjoy our indulgent foods, realized she could not get comfortable in the dramatically sudden spike in temperature. Although she is an August baby, we kept her inside for most of the first month (Chinese medical tradition), so the only outdoor reality she is familiar with is one of frigid winds and bitter cold. Upon reflection of how my own body has felt in the past week, I recalled that we are almost as vulnerable to such weather changes as is my little munchkin.

Throughout winter the “yang qi” of the body builds perpetually, fortifying itself to warm and protect us against the cold weather, and cold pathogens. The constriction created in our blood vessels is partially a self-protective, innate wisdom; to keep our blood thicker and warmer in winter. While in the past we had a spring season by which to transition, both internally and externally, climate change has all but omitted this, especially in the northeast.

As a result of this climactic shock to the system, many of us—especially those with warmer physiological constitutions—feel bittersweet about the arrival of summer: Mentally relieved and excited for outdoor fun, though physically uncomfortable, just as my baby was yesterday while interrupting my food festivities.

At the risk of medical bias, the best thing I can recommend for immunological thermoregulation to sudden change is herbal medicine. Xiao Chai Hu Tang is a bupleurum, skullcap, and ginger-based formula that can be modified and specifically tailored to each individual’s body type for times like these, of course when there are not other resoundingly more pressing internal issues that demand herbal formulas of their own.

Other advice falls under the heading of David’s/Chinese medicine’s broken record, which is to continue eating warm foods. The tendency when we are overwhelmed by such heat is to reach for cold foods, cold drinks, and iced coffee instead of hot in the morning. The reason this is counterintuitive is because such substances and temperatures will further constrict our already narrowed, winter-made blood vessels that are struggling to adequately dilate to keep up with this unusual climate. Instead, it is a fine time to start going lighter on the heavier fats and animal proteins, and plain, steamed veggies are always a good idea (you can sprinkle salt, a great olive oil, and/or lemon on them on the plate to not taste so boring). Hot peppermint, chamomile, or chrysanthemum teas are the perfect nighttime elixir at this time, especially while in your air-conditioned homes. Moderate, sweat-inducing exercise is also a good idea to encourage vasodilation, purge some of the dampness we are absorbing by way of this humidity, and boost immune function by releasing microbial peptides in our sweat. The ideal time for exercise is between 10am-2pm (at the height of the day’s “yang qi”), but the “second most ideal time” is whenever you can. ‘Tis better to do imperfectly than to not do.

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Benefits of Acupuncture during Pregnancy

Benefits of Acupuncture during Pregnancy

Bringing a child into the world is one of life’s greatest gifts. But, along with the anticipation of that little bundle of joy, often comes some physical challenges and discomfort that can make for a long nine months. Did you know that acupuncture has been shown to address several issues that come up during pregnancy? Here’s what to know about the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy and what the research actually says is true. continue reading »

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Putting Your Best Face Forward with Facial Acupuncture

Putting Your Best Face Forward with Facial Acupuncture

Facial acupuncture might sound like too much to try (you’re going to put needles in my face?), but it really is beneficial to overall health and wellness. In a cosmetic facial acupuncture practice, the practitioner uses acupuncture points on the body to treat the underlying patterns of disharmony and local face points to address facial symptoms. Facial acupuncture is typically not done as a standalone treatment, rather it works best as part of a whole body approach to wellness. continue reading »

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Three Ways Acupuncture Can Help with Menopause

Three Ways Acupuncture Can Help with Menopause

For many women, the journey through menopause can be fraught with various symptoms that can range in severity from mild at one end of the spectrum to debilitating at the other. The menopausal transition is different for every woman and tailored treatments offered by acupuncture can provide significant benefits. Although studies outline more, let’s look at just three of the benefits of using acupuncture to treat menopausal symptoms.  continue reading »

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Why Are We Damp & How Can We Dry Out?

It’s rare to speak to a Chinese medicine practitioner for very long without hearing about “dampness” as a pathology within us. Most likely they are referring to a pathogen within you, but fear not—a similar diagnosis likely applies to them as well—as when it comes to dampness the question really is only how much there is and where it is concentrated.

 

Since the human body is made of approximately 60% water, proper fluid physiology is everything in our medicine. Any physician worth their weight should initially inquire not just about your digestion, but urination, sweat, and thirst as well (if they don’t, run). Our fluids must be properly moved and nourished, lest they coagulate and disease ensues. Anyone whose life is not stress free, plus without the perfect diet and exercise will suffer some degree of dampness. The good news is there are countless micro-decisions we can make throughout each day to mitigate or minimize its accumulation within us.

 

The first and most obvious is diet: Sugar, dairy, gluten, booze, and even a lot of foods that are generally considered healthy, are most implicated. For example, while salads, smoothies, fruit, hummus, and (non-dairy) yogurt all check off as nutritious within the context of a scientific lab, within the context of our microbiome they have a heavy, obstructive quality that requires more energy to digest. If you must have any of these it is advisable to chase it with hot, raw ginger tea.

 

Next is exercise: If we never sweat we will retain fluids, especially in the muscle layer, which might eventually manifest as a strong aversion to humidity or damp climates. While no one particularly enjoys the subway platform in August, for many it is at least tolerable, while for others it can potentially ruin their entire day. The latter folk generally cannot get enough air conditioning in summer, which further constricts blood vessels and closes pores, which traps even more fluids, and perpetuates the vicious cycle.

 

On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much exercise, sweating where we pass the point of purging unhealthy dampness and begin to lose healthy fluids which carry within them the same cellular energy required by our metabolism to avoid creating inflammation in the first place. As Jake LaMotta said: “Defeats its own purpose.”

 

Beware to wait to shower while we actively perspiring, as immersing open sweat pores in water makes us susceptible to dampness lodging in the muscle layer, which may later on manifest with symptoms that doctors tell us there is “no reason for.” If you must shower while still sweating, warm or hot water is preferable. Also, ideal to wait to shower at least 30 minutes after eating, as the last thing the microbiome needs is to be submerged in water while trying to break down food and keep itself relatively dry. I’d like to stop briefly bathing my infant immediately after dinner, but of course sometimes we have to sacrifice perfection for schedule sanity.

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