Do I Need a Detox?

Who can benefit from a cleanse? People who have had exposures to chemicals (recently or in the past); patients preparing for pregnancy or menopause; patients with or wanting to prevent autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic disease, neurodegenerative disease, hyper-inflammatory disease, chemical sensitivities, frequent infections, migraines, allergies, hives, eczema, foggy-thinking, fatigue, IBS, constipation… so, basically, anyone could benefit from a cleanse.

The body has built-in systems for eliminating naturally produced waste products as well as chemicals and heavy metals from exposure. Unfortunately these cleansing systems are often under-utilized due to lack of fiber in the diet, nutrient poor diets, dehydration, shallow breathing, lack of regular sweating and lack of rest. This leads to the reabsorption of many of the toxins that would normally be eliminated from the body if the systems were in ideal working condition. For example constipation can lead to the build up of chemicals leading to a headache.

Solvents, fossil fuel products, insecticides, herbicides, plastic residues, flame retardants, wood preservatives, toxic metals, and more can be eliminated via sweating and via our liver and kidneys. Even breathing helps to eliminate volatile compounds from solvents, cleaners, dry cleaning fluids and fuel compounds.

The toxins in our bodies are often stored in fat, nerve cells and the brain decreasing the overall tissue functioning.

The basics: quality sleep, clean air, nourishing diet, adequate hydration, love, healthy thought processes, etc. all support organs in the elimination process.

Keep in mind: The more inflammation the body is already experiencing, the more antioxidant support needed during the cleansing process (a diet rich in antioxidants may be sufficient support for many while others may require supplemental support and greater time). Also, when we “stir things up” in the body, there is re-exposure (as the toxins are circulating to leave the body) and often strong emotions may surface. So it’s important to stay connected with your physician and other support networks during a cleansing process.

Photo courtesy of A. Graber

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How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture refers to one of many modalities that a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner uses.

Acupuncture can regulate the flow of qi, moving qi towards or away from areas to create overall balance. Acupuncture points are found along meridians (described in the last post). Research has shown these points have less resistance to electrical flow (than neighboring areas of the skin) and therefore are areas where energy in meridians can enter or exit the body. A metal needle (also low resistance) inserted in these points conducts electrical flow in or out of the meridians. Effectively, acupuncture points allow practitioners to access and influence the energy in the meridians. In this way, deficiencies, excesses and stagnations can be modulated to allow smooth flow of qi through meridians and the proper functioning of the body as a whole.

Acupuncture is considered relatively painless, however the stimulation of qi movement can cause a sensation of heaviness, tingling or electric at the acupuncture point and/or along the meridian. This ‘qi sensation’ signals to the acupuncturist that the patient’s qi is moving towards balance. Because the objective of acupuncture is to achieve overall balance, acupuncture is used for many conditions including: anxiety, insomnia, joint pain, menstrual disorders, fertility, immune support, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, nausea, paralysis from stroke or Bells Palsy and neuropathy.

Only pre-packaged, sterile needles are used. Disposable needles are used one-time only and disposed of as indicated by law.

What is Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been developing for over 3000 years. This sophisticated form of healing is based on the individual’s presentation rather than the disease. Physical, mental and emotional signs and symptoms are all considered on assessment.

In TCM, the goal is to achieve the smooth and correct flow of sufficient qi throughout the body. Qi (pronounced ch-ee), also referred to as ‘vital force’ or ‘vital energy’ flows through a network of channels, or meridians, and drives the proper functioning of the body as a whole. Numerous meridians course throughout the body to ensure all tissues and organs are accessed. These meridians, although similar, are not identical to nerves and blood vessels. There can be deficiencies where qi is not adequately conducted through the meridians leaving the tissue system or organ it supplies unable to function correctly. Similarly, stagnation of qi or blood can interfere with the flow of qi through a meridian. Anything leading to the improper flow of qi further leads to lack of nourishment, maintenance and functioning of tissues and organs. This dysfunction manifests as pain, pathology and disease. One can think of the flow of qi like the flow of water through channels that are irrigating fields. There can be areas of water turbulence (qi stagnation) resulting in certain ‘fields’ (or tissues) getting flooded while other areas lack water supply.

Diagnosis is based on interview, observation, tongue inspection, palpation of wrist pulses and palpation for tender acupuncture points. Treatments can include acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Chinese nutrition, moxibustion, cupping or Tui na (Chinese massage).

A Short History of Medicine

Here’s a cute anecdote I read:

“Doctor, I have an ear ache.”

2000 B.C. – “Here, eat this root.”
1000 B.C. – “That root is heathen, say this prayer.”
1850 A.D. – “That prayer is superstition, drink this potion.”
1940 A.D. – “That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill.”
1985 A.D. – “That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic.”
2000 A.D. – “That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root!”

GOOD Bacteria, BAD Bacteria

Probiotics

Last month I had a wisdom tooth extracted. The process of removing the tooth went quickly and smoothly but days later I had an unpleasant skin and abdominal reaction to the antibiotics. It prompted me to discuss this important topic. 

Why do I need bacteria?

We have an important symbiotic relationship with bacteria in our gut. These ‘good’ bacteria help us better digest food and absorb nutrients while keeping the lining of our gut healthy. Since most of our immune system is located in the gut, ‘good’ bacteria help to keep our defense systems strong and working appropriately. Since the lining of the gut and respiratory tract is continuous, ‘good’ bacteria also helps control conditions such as seasonal allergies and hay fever.

Not all bacteria found in our gut are ‘good’. Some strains cause gas and bloating and in sufficient numbers can cause serious gastrointestinal infections. Antibiotics may be appropriate in cases where the ‘bad’ bacterial load (in the gut and other areas of the body) becomes too high causing acute illness. Unfortunately, antibiotics also eradicate ‘good’ bacteria. Unchecked by ‘good’ bacteria, bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics take over the available space in the gut and can cause further acute infections (even though in small numbers these ‘bad’ bacteria are normally safe).

Traditionally we acquired ‘good’ bacteria from fermented foods such as miso, natto, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha and live beer. Today the frequent use of antibiotics and the decreased prevalence of fermented foods in our diets emphasize the importance of probiotic or ‘good’ bacteria supplementation.

Do I need probiotics?

Conditions and symptoms of weak and/or inappropriate immune function, inflammation of the skin, gut or respiratory system, poor digestion and dysbiosis (imbalance of beneficial vs. harmful organisms) suggest a need for probiotics. These include antibiotic use, gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gastrointestinal tract infections, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (such as ulcerative colitis and Crohns), abdominal distention, yeast infections/candida, high cholesterol, hay fever, eczema, ulcers, difficulty with lactose digestion, leaky gut syndrome, fatigue and traveller’s diarrhea.

Remember to take probiotics with food as these are live organisms. Food protects probiotics from stomach acid so more will reach the intestines intact. Also fiber acts as food for ‘good’ bacteria. Probiotics are usually very well tolerated but consult your physician about the most appropriate strains of probiotics, suitable dosages and if you are immunocompromised.

For deeelicious, probiotic-packed foods, check out Probiotic Boost!!

3 Health Tips That Will Change Your Life, Number 2

#2 Eating Mindfully

To quote my neurology instructor “the gut is a slave to our nervous system.” The gut is controlled by the (parasympathetic) branch of the nervous system dominant when are body is at rest (during meditation, sleep, in the presence of pleasant company, etc.). During this relaxed state, the nervous system signals the stomach to release more acid and digestive enzymes to ensure foods are digested fully and efficiently. Also the coordinated movement of intestines to allow for nutrient absorption and maintain bowel regularity occurs during this relaxed state.

How’s my digestion?

Bloating, gas, acid reflux, excessive belching, bad breath, abdominal cramping, feeling of food “sitting in the stomach”, constipation, diarrhea, cravings, excessive changes in blood sugar, low energy are all signs of less-than-optimal digestive function.

So how do I improve my digestion?

The key is to get our bodies into that relaxed (parasympathetic) state. Create a pleasant eating environment that is relaxing (eating with family and friends, nice scenery or in a pleasant dining area, relaxing music, etc.). The process of preparing your food (exposure to aroma and visual presentation of food) also helps to stimulate your digestive processes to prepare for digestion. Avoid eating while working, reading, driving, ‘zoning out’ in front of the TV or engaging in any stress and anxiety producing tasks. Keeping your attention on the pleasure of eating will improve digestion greatly. Bitters, digestive enzymes, acupuncture and identifying food intolerances may also be helpful to get efficient digestion, effective nutrient absorption and eliminate unwanted symptoms.

3 Health Tips That Will Change Your Life

People often ask me what my top health tips are; these 3 topics come up frequently as  significant factors in a broad range of conditions from acid reflux and  acne to heart disease and chronic pain. Before turning to medications or surgery, make sure you’ve got these areas optimized!

#1 Quality Sleep

How many hours of sleep do you get? Do you wake rested?

Is sleep that important?

A recent European study showed those who sleep 6 hours or less have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD). Disease risk also increases with poor quality sleep (not waking rested). When both short sleep and poor sleep quality are combined there is even higher risk (65% higher risk for CVD and 85% higher risk for CHD).

How is my sleep?

Fatigue, difficulty with concentration, irritability, poor blood glucose control, changes in mood, decreased stress tolerance, chronic pain, poor memory, weakened immune function resulting in infections are all possible symptoms of inadequate rest.

To improve sleep:

Determine what your sleep obstacles are: Stress, poor blood sugar control, eating large meals before bed, alcohol, caffeine, sleeping pills, insufficient exercise during the day, exercising late in the evening, irregular sleep routine, watching TV late, etc. all prevent us from getting quality sleep.

Keep the bedroom a place of rest (instead of a place to work or study), support a regular sleep routine ideally heading to bed by 10pm. Acupuncture, stress management, nutrition counseling, exercise prescription, screening lab tests and other tools may be used to improve sleep quality, in turn, improving energy level and overall health.

Photo courtesy of J. Chahal