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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.

Will Smith’s Assault on Chris Rock, from a Chinese Medical Perspective

I couldn’t resist… Last week I was on the phone with my brother when we both suddenly remarked how weird it felt to be engaging in Hollywood gossip. I reassured him that it was understandable. We get a pass. This transcended the prototypical “Hollywood gossip”—a crime had been committed between two of our childhood idols, and something happened that no one had ever seen before: A live assault on The Oscars. Crazy.

Let’s begin with (Jada’s) alopecia. Chinese Medicine generally views this as “blood deficiency,” which may be a result of many causes:

  1. A weak microbiome not absorbing enough nutrients to build and create blood
  2. An otherwise healthy microbiome not absorbing enough nutrients as a result of stress
  3. A lack of dietary iron
  4. Chronically heavy menses

From what I hear, there is a history of adultery on her part, which is bound to create resentment in her partner, Will. In Chinese Medicine resentment affects and is affected by the gallbladder meridian, the liver’s big brother, which of course means anger.

Chris made a joke, debatably in good taste, but a joke nonetheless, intended to induce laughter. In Chinese Medicine laughter is “the sound of the heart,” and the heart is engendered by the liver (crying is the sound of the lungs, speaking is of the stomach, and you guessed it—shouting, is the sound of the liver). What does it mean, “the heart is ‘engendered’ by the liver?”

It means that once we express our anger (functionally) we can express our joy more freely, organically, a mechanism that summarizes precisely what most comedians do. It may also be in reference to the odd tendency some people have to laugh when their rage is triggered. Think hyper-confident, offended villain in Hollywood action movie about to retaliate upon his prey.

When enough heat builds up in someone’s liver channel it surges into their chest and mind, and feels irresolvable by any means but aggression. Surely, they shouldn’t hit their perceived enemy, but they must hit (or throw) something. If not a comedian, then a wall or a door. Many of us have been there. This doesn’t make it excusable, but those for whom temper tantrums feel more foreign and inorganic, it doesn’t necessarily make them more mature or evolved. From a Chinese medical perspective, they simply have less constitutional heat in the liver channel.

I can’t say whether Will Smith has heat in his liver channel, although he surely did in that moment. Herbs like gardenia fruit and gypsum might be indicated, followed by poria mushroom to calm the spirit and help his microbiome recover from the ensuing stress.

Neither can I say whether his wife’s alleged affairs were a result of sex addiction… but if they were the plot thickens much more than it has in any of her movies: Sexual addiction is most often a pattern of “yin deficiency,” which is synonymous with “liver blood deficiency!” All too apropos that she and her husband share yin and yang pathologies, respectively, around the same organ. I’m not sure who their present acupuncturist is, but it might be time for a second opinion.

As for Chris, I thought he handled it wonderfully, almost as if he were someone who is famous for handling difficult situations alone on stage. If his jaw was hurt by the assault I’d recommend physical trauma pills, Yunnan baiyao, to reduce inflammation and blood stagnation. These are important in the first 24 hours after any fall or injury. In case Chris experiences any lingering fear from the incident, this affects the brainstem, which fortunately can be treated by needling just above the upper lip, which might also aid in local facial healing.

Ultimately, it seems Jada’s yin and blood deficiency, combined with Chris’ heart fire, collaborated to stoke Will’s liver fire, and create “the greatest night in the history of television.”

Managing Spring Allergies with Acupuncture

Albeit in its classic, bipolar, northeastern form, it seems even relatively less so this year that spring has sprung! We might collectively shout it from the proverbial rooftops, which for many of us may express in the form of a long-awaited vacation or just seeing loved ones for outdoor dining.

In Chinese Medicine spring corresponds with the wood element, the liver and gallbladder channels, and our emotions of anger, resentment, decision making, and initiative. The former two of which might seem ironic, as the warm-weather months tend to imbue our collective consciousness with a great sense of joy, especially in the northern regions where we’ve been all but hibernating for longer than most of us care to remember.

Recall that the “liver” is referring to our cortisol/stress hormone and how it impacts the body’s overall circulation. “Cortisol” has reached the point of sounding almost like a derogatory word in the medical community, as if necessarily a bad thing, but some degree of cortisol is actually quite healthy, quite functional, a delightfully motivating hormone without which we would fail to say, make important decisions or take any initiative.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone, a very “yang” hormone, and the nature of yang, as goes the nature of heat, is to RISE in the body. Simply look to nature to observe the most primary Chinese medical principle, which is that we are its microcosm. Just as the plants and flowers are sprouting, growing upwards, the energy within us moves accordingly. This is a good thing, but like any good thing potentially challenging for some, all to varying degrees.

For those of us with sedated, “yin-like” genetic constitutions, “liver yang energy rising” will pose very few side effects. These people need all forms of rising, as their Achilles heel is one of lethargy, feeling cold and/or depressed. For their opposites, those of us who tend more towards feeling over-heated, angry, or anxious, an increase in cortisol is a potential threat worthy of our disciplined consideration. Some of the ways to “soothe the liver” this Spring are:

  • Sour foods, such as sauerkrauts, pickles, and lemon water, of course still alongside warm, cooked foods, so as to not harm the gut. You can also begin adding a sprinkle of lemon juice to your sauteed kale or collard greens, but be sure to dress with a good olive oil for best flavor.
  • More exercise—still not to the degree we recommend in summer, but more than winter
  • Hot peppermint or spearmint tea. Friendly reminder to NOT get your tea from local supermarkets if possible. To get the true medicinal benefits of tea (and food) it is important to buy top grade, such as from Arbor, Mariage, or Harney and Sons.
  • Acupuncture is great for reducing the effects of cortisol and increasing circulation. The ancient texts instruct us to use more “luo (Lew-Oh) points” in the spring, which are be indicated for preventing latent pathogens from entering deeper into the body until the body’s qi is robust enough to expel it. This bears logic, as most of our bodies feels most robust in the summer season to follow. Additionally, I am that much more apt to employ liver and gallbladder points as indicated between now and June.
  • Herbal medicine, such as bupleurum root, are excellent to manage stress and allergies this time of year, but as always only in the appropriate body types. This is not allopathic medicine with 1:1 symptom-prescription correlates. Bupleurum root has a raising and drying effect, which for many will feel like the greatest massage of their lives—for others like an uncontrolled panic attack. That, my friends, is medicine.

If you have any loved ones who might benefit from our FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION they can CLICK HERE or the link below.

Love,
David

How to (Emotionally) Survive Mercury Retrograde

About a week ago I started to notice my aging laptop struggling to start up, freezing, and requesting permission for the kinds of back-ups I didn’t understand. With any old computer we know these preliminary hiccups to be inevitable; nonetheless they always catch us off guard, interrupting the planned flow of life and work with an enormous inconvenience, ironically incited by this source of enormous convenience.

A few days later, while lying in bed I stretched my arms up, then dropped them down as I’ve done thousands of times before, this time accidentally knocking my favorite coffee mug off my nightstand, sent crashing onto the floor, in spite of having placed it in the most familiar location.

Why is this all happening? Then I remembered there was a Mercury retrograde upcoming in January. I dutifully googled the dates only to confirm that my absent-minded clumsiness and technological woes could once again be attributed to the planet Mercury moving in reverse, which is often the cause of miscommunications, travel delays, technological problems, odd accidents, and a whole host of pragmatic shit just not working out.

If you’re like me, a Gemini (or Virgo), Mercury is your “ruling planet,” so these few periods throughout each year can be especially challenging and disruptive. If you’re not like me and you deem all of astrology as kooky hogwash, I offer these questions for thought:

· If the sun and moon from so far away can have such a constant and obvious impact on us physically, is it so far-fetched to surmise the planets might impact our psyches?

· What would the ulterior motive be for contriving the paradigm of astrology? Skeptics can cite power as a motive for religion, and finances as a motive for medical charlatans or psychics, but what would be the motive for deceiving the planet that astrology is real? There is no money to be made, nor control to be had. To read more on this pontification, check out MY ARTICLE that was published years back in ELEPHANT JOURNAL.

I digress… Mercury Retrograde isn’t all bad. It is known to be a time when old friends (or lovers) happen to reach out or run into you on the street. Last week I spoke to an old friend for about an hour who I’ve probably only seen in person twice in the past two years, and when I think about it, I may have never actually spoken to him on the phone before, ever! As “Mercury…” is also not the best time for action, it is a good time for planning and organization.

Mercury returns direct on February 3, however it is still “wonky” for 1-2 weeks subsequent. For those who are so inclined I offer the following advice:

· Double check emails and texts before sending to make sure you’re saying what you want to say and that you’re sending to the right person!

· Back up, back up, back up all important files and technology.

· Don’t sign any important contracts or make life-defining agreements.

· Wait to have difficult interpersonal conversations if possible.

· Wait and take an extra breath before reacting in interpersonal exchanges if possible.

· Try to exercise more patience with your phone, internet & computer. Shit will happen.

· Look both ways when you cross the street! Seriously though… be careful. These are the kinds of times when people roll their ankle by stepping oddly off the curb, bump their head into the kitchen cabinet, or… knock their favorite mug off of the place it’s been situated in all their lives.

· Leave early—there will be delays!

Finally, take care. Personally, I’ve found Mercury Retrograde to be times where I’ve struggled more with anxiety or insomnia symptoms, both of which can lead to a whole host of other systemic imbalances. There is no direct connection between acupuncture and astrology—except maybe that both are heavily subscribed to by our kooky cross-section of the population—but obviously Chinese Medicine can offer wonders in restoration of psychological harmony. BOOK NOW 🙂

How Walking May Improve Difficult Conversations

As new parents in a global pandemic Jillian and I have found that it is not possible to avoid disagreements—in fact even as non-parents outside of any pandemic it is not possible to avoid disagreements. Such naivete might be equated to the hope that we can somehow avoid disappointment in life. Disagreement, disappointment, getting dissed, basically all of the undesirables of existence, seem inevitable, and as Zen philosophy teaches, it is only how we react to it that is in our control.

Just as each organ in Chinese Medicine is associated with a season, a time of day, a body part, a five element, and emotion, there is also an associated MOVEMENT. While this may sound like an outlandish reach from a biomedical perspective, in fact it translates quite easily with very little thought.

The “spleen qi” translates as the microbiome, and the movement of the spleen (or lack thereof) is to be seated. Sitting while we eat and for the initial stage after is known to optimize digestion. Conversely, excessive sitting is known to “deplete the spleen,” or in biomedical terms, an overly sedentary lifestyle weakens the microbiome and leads to weight gain and inflammation.

The “kidney qi” might translate as adrenal and hormonal strength, and the movement of the kidneys is to stand. Strong kidney qi and/or hormonal health equals strong bones, and we know that a lack of standing in life can lead to osteoporosis, osteopenia, and all kinds of bone depletion. Conversely, excessive standing is known to “deplete the kidneys,” or in biomedical terms exhaust the adrenals and low back, both of which are also exhausted by working nights, which is why we should all have great sympathy for waiters and waitresses and tip well!

The “liver” is most associated with healthy circulation and our stress responses, and its movement is walking. “Walk it off” is more than a cliché, but in fact bears great scientific logic, as it becomes easier to manage anger, irritability, or any form of hyper-excitability while the body is in motion. Ever been in a nerve-racking situation like a job interview or first date and felt like you just needed to move? That is the qi of your liver channel.

If you have to have a difficult conversation with someone it is easier to do so skillfully while out for a walk. If you have to remain inside on the phone simply pace around your apartment during the talk. It will help to circulate the liver qi so that your delivery and reactions can be calmer. The good news is, if you happen to have a baby they have to go out for walks every damn day anyway, so it’s a nice two bird with one stone.

To find out more about how Chinese Medicine might smooth out your liver qi and improve healthy communication, CLICK HERE for your FREE CONSULTATION!

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