Herbal Tonics for Allergies

An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen.  This could be anything from something you inhale to something you touch to something you eat.  An allergic reaction may cause sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, a running nose, a sore throat and rashes. In severe cases, allergic reactions can induce something known as anaphylactic shock, which can actually be deadly. continue reading »

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Liver Health

Patient Help Sheet – Acupuncture to Strengthen the Liver

Traditional Chinese medicine looks at the human body quite differently than Western medicine.  In TCM, there are energetic pathways associated with specific organs in the body. When these pathways or meridians, and the energy flowing through them, are out of balance, the body may become diseased.

Acupuncture LINYIn TCM, the liver and its corresponding meridian are responsible for the smooth flow of Qi or energy, blood and emotions. The liver is easily affected by excess stress and uncontrolled emotions. Anger is the emotion commonly associated with the liver and gallbladder. If a person is frequently irritable, gets angered easily, has difficulty relaxing or letting things go, and is unreasonable, it is safe to guess their liver Qi isn’t functioning properly.

Acupuncture for Liver Problems:  In TCM, the liver has multiple functions. The liver is responsible for the movement of Qi throughout the body. When the Qi becomes blocked or stagnant, then disease can occur. Regarding the liver, this can manifest as anger, irritability, frustration, eye problems, tendon tightness, menstrual issues or even things like cirrhosis. Liver imbalances are one of the most commonly treated issues in TCM. Almost everybody has some degree of liver imbalance. Acupuncture is very good for releasing emotions, decreasing stress and eliminating pain associated with liver imbalances. TCM can bring the body back into balance by improving circulation and increasing blood flow to areas that may need the extra nutrients carried by bodily fluids.

Acupuncture Points for the Liver:

  • Liver 3 – This point is located on top of the foot in the depression formed where the first and second toes meet. Liver 3 is used to spread liver Qi and nourish the blood.
  • Gallbladder 34 – This point is located on the outer lower leg, in the depression found behind and below the head of the fibula bone. This point should be used for almost anybody who has liver issues because it is a powerhouse at dislodging stagnant liver energy.
  • Liver 2 – Liver 2 is located on the top of the foot, between the first and second toe, just above the web of the skin. This point is very effective at strengthening the liver, as well as harmonizing it.

Chinese Herbs and Formulas for the Liver:  Another integral part of TCM is the use of herbs and herbal formulas. Many times the herbs can be used alone, but there will be a more synergistic effect when the single herbs are combined to make a formula. One such herb is the chrysanthemum flower, also known as Ju Hua, which clears liver heat. Lycium fruit, also known a Gou Qi Zi, enriches the liver to help with tendon and blood issues. Then there is a formula known as Da Bu Gan Wan. This formula is commonly called the liver nutrition formula. It can help with everything from hepatitis to general liver Qi stagnation.

Dietary Recommendations for the Liver:  Nutrition is also very important for proper liver function. Starting the day with fresh squeezed lemon juice in a glass of warm water will help decongest the liver and flush out toxins. Beets are good for cleansing the liver and tonifying the blood of the liver. Foods like ginger, peaches, scallions and garlic are good additions to the diet of anybody who is exhibiting signs of liver Qi stagnation because they move and regulate liver Qi.

Seeking help from locally licensed acupuncturist Robert Lutz is a great way to take care of your liver. Holistic Alternatives can guide you along the path to wellness to give you the best chance of success for strengthening your liver or helping it heal.

Liver Qi Stagnation

Who really considers their liver? Is it just a wedge-shaped spongy organ that somehow soaks up alcohol and squeezes out blood and digestive biochemicals? An imperfect champion of modern life, buffering us from the burden of late-night fries and whiskey, only to be guiltily appeased with salads and fresh juices the next morning? What is this being with whom we have such a tumultuous relationship? It is time to get to know the value of the liver according to Chinese medical theory.

Chinese medicine has a long history of placing the functions of the body into analogical frameworks that help make light the complex ideas of functional relationships between organ systems.

Physiologically, the liver embodies the decisive aspect of a military general, in setting up the preconditions for the correct functioning of nearly every organ system. For example, the liver is related to blood pressure via its synthesis of albumin, the blood plasma protein that helps balance oncotic pressure, which ultimately influences systemic blood pressure. The liver stores and releases important vitamins, minerals and glucose; metabolizes hormones; synthesizes proteins; detoxifies various metabolites; and secretes biochemicals vital to digestion such as bile.

These functions allow the entire body to function correctly, and in a broad Chinese medicine sense this can be understood as governing the directional movement of Qi through the organ systems- to allow Qi to enter and exit the organs, stop and start metabolic processes, raise or lower pressure.

By allowing the correct movement of Qi through the body, the liver consequently governs the movement of blood, in a similar way to an army getting supplies and forces to the right people at the right time. The basic momentum of the blood is managed by the heart, but the usage of blood by any organ system is controlled by the liver.

So when you digest that heavy meal, blood gets shunted to the digestive organs; when you run, blood is made more available in the legs and lungs; when you sleep, blood retreats back to the liver for processing, allowing the liver to perform over 500 functions in the body.

According to Chinese medical theory, the liver Qi can become “bound up” by strong emotions, which physically inhibit its smooth functioning. Conversely, if the liver is physically injured or obstructed (say with fatty liver or even the blockage of the diaphragm), this causes a tendency toward angry outbursts, in the body’s attempt at removing obstruction with a forceful outpouring of energy.

Although this may sound like a stretch, consider the act of sighing. The liver sits just under the diaphragm physically. When the liver is obstructed by emotional tension, one begins to heave a heavy sigh to move the diaphragm and hence force the liver to move as well. It is no coincidence that a heavy sigh indicates a release of emotional tension. In this way we move our livers so our livers can “move” us, move our Qi and move our blood.

Liver Qi stagnation affects a large number of body processes, and it makes all of them less efficient. When the liver system is constantly challenged and bound up with stress, what follows are more severe imbalances of digestion, blood pressure, hormonal expression, blood sugar regulation and mood. This can cause muscle tension and pain, anxiety and/or depression, accumulation of fat, insomnia, menstrual cramps, low libido and more.

The correct movements of the body based on the “planning” action of the liver ultimately create a harmony of action of the body that nourishes a positive sense of self that allows stressful situations to be dealt with and not “held on to.” When one holds onto stress after the moment has passed, the smooth coordination of the planning process is interrupted; but as we all know, when one part of a carefully organized plan goes awry, it throws off the timing of the rest of the plan.

The modern condition of “decision fatigue” contributes directly to the binding up of activity of the liver system in a similar way to the “decision paralysis” that occurs when we have too many options or cannot decide. We go into fight or flight mode, release a bunch of stress hormones, and then stew in them because the organ system responsible for clearing out and metabolizing these stress hormones, the liver, is the one being most strongly impacted by our emotional response.

Another catch-22 of the liver system is that things like alcohol and fatty foods do tend to relax our minds and do technically ‘soothe’ the liver in small amounts. The prescription of medicinal wines are a perfect example of this; as is eating liver pâté to support liver health. However, these same substances in too large of quantities will injure the liver itself, disallowing their further use as a liver-supporting substance.

Ultimately, a little liver Qi stagnation is to be expected in modern life, and we all enjoy a bit of challenge to keep things interesting.

But, the higher the daily stress level, the more important it is to unwind this ‘bound’ Liver Qi. Allow the conscious or subconscious expression of emotion via playing sports, artistic pursuit, meditation, taking an extra long time to enjoy a healthy meal with friends, or in the most medically immediate way- seeing Holistic Alternatives for acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, cupping and massage.

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Five Reasons to Get Acupuncture for Allergies

Allergies, seasonal or otherwise, is one of the biggest health issues people deal with in the United States. And the numbers are rising every year. Part of this is because our agricultural practices have changed drastically in the past 40 years and our bodies are not accustomed to dealing with genetically modified foods or the excessive amounts of pesticides now being put in and on our food. We are also being over-medicated with antibiotics used in livestock we eat and that we are prescribed by our own doctors. This has created superbugs like MRSA that no longer responding to antibiotics. Our immune systems just can’t keep up. So every year, the number of people experiencing allergies is increasing. continue reading »

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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Spring

Spring is generally regarded as a happy season, especially for those that live in areas where winter is cold and dark. Spring brings with it longer days, more sunshine, the rebirth of plants and more activity. But for many, the months of spring can also bring irritability, anxiety, sinus issues, allergy flare-ups and even colds.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for nearly 3,000 years, which gives the medical system, as a whole, a lot of credibility. TCM classifies things in many different ways. There are five seasonal associations in TCM – winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Each season has its own unique set of properties and associations. Spring is associated with the wood element. The wood element governs the liver and the gallbladder and their energetic pathways in TCM. The five seasons and their corresponding elements interact with one another daily, creating balance and harmony or complete chaos within the body.

The season of spring is a time of expansive movement and growth. Spring is a time of creativity and planning. Since the liver and gallbladder are associated with the tendons and are responsible for the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body, our daily activities should reflect this. Being more active and spending more time outside can be great ways to strengthen the liver and gallbladder energies during the months of spring. We should imitate the budding trees and flowers and allow ourselves to grow and reach for bigger and better goals during the spring.

The color green is the color of spring in TCM. During these months, fresh greens are abundant. It is highly recommended that we incorporate more fresh greens into our daily diets. Greens have been shown to be very beneficial for helping the liver do its job, detoxifying the blood. Dandelion greens, in particular, are a good source for detoxification, which ultimately strengthens the liver and gallbladder meridians.

It is also recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. Things like coffee are considered expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. But during the spring, when life is abounding, excess energy can actually be harmful to the body. It can create headaches, insomnia, anger and more.
When a person is completely balanced, transitioning from one season to another is not such a big deal. However, knowing what elemental type you are can also be very beneficial in determining how you will react to each passing season. For instance, a person who has a wood element constitution, may experience anger during the spring. This is because the wood element is already closely associated with the emotion of anger and spring brings added stimuli that can trigger fits of rage.

One way to keep the body balanced is through acupuncture and TCM. The body is designed to maintain proper balance, but we tend to not pay attention to the warning signs until we experience pain or illness. Getting regular acupuncture treatments can work as preventive medicine, providing harmony throughout every season of the year.

If you experience feelings of anxiety, anger or even self-loathing, acupuncture can help. It can also help with those seasonal allergies that might flare up. Acupuncture is a wonderful way to maintain health and balance all year long. Be sure to find a fully licensed acupuncturist in your area, so you can enjoy spring without any emotional or physical impairments.

Reasons You Should Get Acupuncture This Spring

Muscles Feel Stiff and Tight: This can be caused from the lack of movement throughout the winter months. If this is something you experience at the beginning of spring, then acupuncture can help. The liver and gallbladder nourish the tendons, ligaments and connective tissues throughout the body. During the winter months, many people forget to drink water and this can affect the muscles and joints. Acupuncture can actually stimulate the flow of blood to the muscles and joints which allows them to heal and become flexible again.

Irritability or Anger: Many people report they feel irritable or angry during the spring. This is because the emotion associated with the liver is anger. When the liver is imbalanced, the emotions can become stagnant. Acupuncture is a great way to balance the liver and the emotions.

Eyes are Irritated: The liver, the organ associated with spring, opens to the eyes. Therefore, any issues related to the eyes and eye health are usually attributed to liver imbalance. This may include dry eyes, eye fatigue, allergies and pain. Studies have shown acupuncture is more effective than Western Medicine and over-the-counter medications for eye issues.

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Does Your Liver Need a Spring Tune-Up?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is ruled by a particular organ system and spring is connected to the liver. What does this mean? Well, you probably notice changes in the way you feel, both physically and mentally, as the seasons change. We tend to feel a bit more contemplative and introspective during the winter months. Once spring hits, we’re ready to recharge and get things done. The liver energy is strong and assertive, the type of energy you need to create plans and then propel them into motion. However, if your liver is a little out of balance, you might notice you are more irritable or on edge than usual.

Here Are a Few Signs That Your Liver is in Need of an Acupuncture Tune-Up:

1. You’ve noticed an increase in headaches lately, and these headaches seem to feel worse when you aren’t active. Generally these headaches tend to manifest at the vertex of your head.

2. You might begin to feel constipated or bloated. Your bowel movements might become irregular, alternating between constipation and loose stools. Hard, difficult stools that appear pebbly are also a sign of liver imbalance.

3. Your friends or coworkers are scared of you, because you are cranky, cranky, cranky. When liver energy is out of balance, you might feel agitated, irritated and generally out of sorts. Sometimes irritation can expand into outright anger more easily than it would if this energy was flowing smoothly.

4. Ladies, you may notice your PMS symptoms have been worse lately. Bloating, breast tenderness, sensitivity…you can blame all of the above on your liver. If your periods are more painful or clotted, this is also due to a stagnation of liver energy.

5. Your eyes are red, itchy or irritated.

6. Your shoulders, neck or jaw are uncomfortably tight. If the liver energy is out of balance, it can flow upward. This causes everything in your body to rise up: you might grind or clench your teeth, your shoulders will levitate up around your ears, and you might experience symptoms of Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)

7. Your allergies are in full force, complete with itchy, red, watery eyes.

If you are suffering from any of these issues, your body is crying out for a visit to your acupuncturist!

Ways to Shui Your Day

Feng Shui (pronounced “fung shway”) is defined as a Chinese system of laws that govern the spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy and whose favorable or unfavorable effects are taken into account when designing buildings or laying out floor plans. In layman’s terms, it means balancing the energies of any given space to assure health and good fortune for those living there. Feng translates into wind and shui translates into water. So when there is good feng shui, a person or place is considered healthy and when there is bad feng shui, there may be disease and disaster.

Create A Sacred Space

Having a place where you can feel peaceful is essential. This space should be intended for meditation and inner reflection. It should be comfortable, quiet and calming. In this space, you should try to focus on your breathing and silently repeat a mantra to yourself.

Complete Unfinished Projects

If there are things around the house that need to be completed, take the time to do them. Hang those pictures, unpack those boxes, fix that leaky faucet or change that burnt out lightbulb. By leaving things undone, your energy can become depleted and you set up barriers keeping you from doing the things you love.

End Each Day With Rituals

Just as you did in the morning, establish rituals to end your day, de-stress and bring about peaceful sleep. Allow yourself at least one hour of time without any television or computer, so that your mind and body can start to unwind. In your journal, write down three to five things you appreciated over the past 24 hours. And most of all, say a prayer of thanks. Gratitude is the most important thing you can do to bring positive energy into your daily life.

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Acupuncture: The Liver and Spring

There is a lot of history and theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) when you consider it is a medical system about 3,000 years old. There are five elements and five seasons in TCM. Each element has numerous associations that relate it to the theory of TCM. The elements and their associations provide one way for TCM practitioners to diagnose the ailments of their patients.

The season of spring is the season of the wood element and the liver energetic pathway. Spring is a time of growth and this is evident by all the plants and flowers coming into bloom, as well as the wildlife awakening from the winter slumber. Spring is the time of birth and regeneration. This season tends to be trademarked by optimism and opportunity.
Spring is linked to the wood element in TCM due to the prospects of growth and development. When a tree is nourished properly, it will grow and expand. This is very similar to what happens with the body and spirit within every living being. Just like the wood that makes up the trunk of the tree, we must be able to be flexible and bend, always changing and adapting to whatever comes our way. We need to remain strong and rooted, yet able to give a little if needed.

Wood element people tend to be well motivated and organized. They are planners and doers, always having things mapped out and ready for any situation. These people are completely dedicated to anything they pursue. They tend to initiate creativity and walk a path towards success. However, wood element people can be very vulnerable in their livers. In TCM, the liver and its energetic pathway deal with the ability to freely express emotions and anger is the emotion linked to the liver. When feelings are suppressed or blocked, physical symptoms like hopelessness, indigestion, bloating and resentment can manifest.

The color green is beneficial to supporting the liver’s detoxification function and it also strengthens vision. Incorporating green foods will greatly improve the function of the liver and help keep the wood element personality balanced. And as spring is the time of year when there is an abundance of fresh greens available, it makes perfect sense to incorporate them into the daily diet more regularly.

Along with eating more greens during the spring, it is recommended other healthy habits be incorporated as well. Regular stretching is a good way to start and end the day. The liver controls the tendons in TCM, storing blood during periods of rest and releasing it to the tendons during times of activity. Adding yoga or tai chi into the daily routine can be very beneficial for the liver, tendons and the whole body.

Drinks and foods that are sour are believed to stimulate the liver’s healing abilities. Adding lemon slices in your drinking water or using vinegar and oil as a salad dressing are some good examples. However, if you are a person that has anger issues, sour tastes should be avoided, as this can send the liver into overdrive.

When the weather warms in the spring, it is a great time to be more active outdoors. Fresh air helps the liver to function properly and decreases any stagnation being experienced in the body. This can help with anger issues too.

As with any seasonal change, adding acupuncture treatments can be a huge asset, but especially in the transition from winter to spring. Due to the winds picking up and the weather becoming warmer, things like bell’s palsy, allergies or sinus infections can become more prevalent. Using acupuncture as preventive medicine can vastly improve your chances of remaining healthy throughout the transition. So for the sake of your liver and your overall health, be sure to connect with a locally licensed acupuncturist today. You won’t regret it.

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Eating According to TCM: Five Foods for Spring

Spring is a time of renewal, regeneration, growth and energy. The plants and animals awaken from the slumber of the cold winter months. The vital nutrients that have been stored in the roots of the plants and the bodies of the animals, comes to the surface and life becomes more vibrant and fluid. Human beings are no different. Humans tend to stay indoors more during the winter months and sometimes pack on a little extra weight in the process. As the weather warms, humans become more gregarious and spend more time outside enjoying nature. This is just a natural process. continue reading »

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Research Update – Acupuncture, Incontinence and the Urinary Bladder

Researchers at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Science conducted studies to look at the effectiveness of treating urinary incontinence in women. Specifically, they were looking at mixed urinary incontinence that can be caused by sneezing, coughing and during exertion. The researchers studied 42 females with mixed urinary incontinence and used acupuncture combined with electroacupuncture for the study. Many of the subjects reported no urinary incontinence or less than two grams of urinary leakage after receiving the series of treatments.

It was determined acupuncture and electroacupuncture are viable solutions for the treatment of urinary incontinence. And they also determined none of the participants in the study needed the assistance of pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures to achieve these results.

IncontinenceAccording to the World Health Organization, urinary bladder control problems affect nearly 200 million people worldwide. Women tend to be more likely to be affected by urinary bladder dysfunction than men. The most recent reports show more than 50 percent of older Americans struggle with urinary incontinence. This is just one of the many urinary problems that plague people all around the world. Urinary bladder dysfunction can mean anything from enuresis (urinary incontinence) to bladder stones. Many of these illnesses are preventable or treatable.

The urinary bladder is part of the filtration system in the human body. The bladder stores and excretes urine from the kidneys and really only has this one function as an organ. However, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the bladder is viewed somewhat differently. As an energy system, the bladder is very closely related to the functions of the autonomic nervous system. The bladder energetic meridian runs along both sides of the spine from head to heel. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for the control of the unconscious bodily functions, such as breathing and digestion.

Acupuncture, part of the nearly 3,000 year old medical system of TCM, has been shown in numerous studies to be effective at treating Incontinence

Acupuncture elicits an autonomic response that applies a modulation effect on the nerves that control bladder function. Acupuncture has also been shown to positively influence the immune system, as well as the psychological well-being of the patient. This benefits the individual who might be suffering from urinary bladder issues.

The general premise of TCM and acupuncture is that when the energies of the meridian are not flowing properly, then something is out of balance. This can manifest as either an excess or a deficiency. Regardless of excess or deficiency, the energy has to be balanced for it to flow properly and allow the organ to function as it should. The acupuncture needles modify the flow of energy, creating balance and harmony. There are over 400 acupuncture points on the body and 67 of those exist on the bladder energetic meridian alone. This makes it one of the most commonly used meridians in TCM and it is used to help treat various different conditions.

Contact Holistic Alternatives today for more information.

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