Monday, November 29, 2010

Stress and Anxiety

Holiday season is a supposed to filled with joy, peace, warmth and gratitude but that isn't always the case.   Often around this time people experience an increase in anxiety and stress.  This could be due to  difficult family visits, money worries, work demands or simply not enough rest from overbooked schedules.  If you are feeling the burden of the holidays take some time to reduce your stress and ease anxiety.

  • Maintain your health and fitness regime.  If the gym or walking 3 times a week has been part of your schedule keep it up.  If you don't have a regular exercise plan there is no need to wait until January 1st to start incorporating exercise into your daily life.  Instead of meeting co-workers for cocktails head up to the mountain for a night of snowshoeing.  
  • Avoid grabbing quick snacks and eating more processed, refined foods as they can exacerbate anxiety.  Instead take time to prepare a meal and enjoy it making sure to include high quality protein, whole grains and a variety of fresh vegetables which will help to calm nerves and ease the mind.  Even better invite friends over for a simple potluck so there is less prep, less stress and more time for fun and relaxation.
  • De-stress with an acupuncture session to help rejuvenate your body and mind.  Acupuncture can help you reach a deep state of relaxation to calm the nerves, quiet the mind as well as regain clarity and focus.  Auricular or ear acupuncture has also been shown to be effective in reducing preoperative anxiety.  Although the setting is different the same type of protocol could be used for other anxiety inducing situations.
  •  Incorporate calming activities such as yoga, walking meditation and deep breathing. 
  •  Try herbal teas or supplements for calming the nerves.  Valerian, passionflower, chamomile and even green tea all have calming properties.  I also recommend ling zhi tea and Bach Flower Remedies.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Warm Winter Beverages

The cold snowy weather in Vancouver has got me looking for ways to warm up.  I have always loved hot beverages in the winter, such as cocoa with Baileys, lattes with caramel, hot buttered rum, mulled wine......the list could go on, however this year since expecting my first child I am looking for yummy alternatives that also may have some health benefits.

There are many variations of the well known Indian tea but the basic recipe uses spices with many health benefits.  Clove, cardamom, cinnamon and fennel are part of the traditional recipe.  Peppercorns are also often added and some alternatives are nutmeg or orange rind.  In traditional Chinese medicine nutmeg is called rou dou kou,which has an effect on the spleen, stomach and large intestine organ systems. It has warming properties to strengthen the yang qi which is weaker in winter making it a great addition to most hot beverages.  Orange rind called chen pi has more of a regulating effect on the body aiding digestion and helping clear phlegm in the chest.  Fennel, clove, cinnamon and turmeric are all discussed in my ezine article Chinese Herbs Add Spice and Health.  In addition to containing antioxidants black tea leaves have the following healing properties reducing inflammation, enhancing immune function and improving arterial function.

Mulled Cranberry or Pomegranate Tea
Use cranberry or pomegranate juice ideally organic, fresh and unsweetened.  Also have berries and seeds for garnish.  Cranberries are often used to help with urinary tract infections due to proanthocyanidins which inhibit bacteria adhesion.  They also contain phytonutrients and antioxidants which are well known for preventing a host of diseases including cancer and heart disease.  Read about the benefits of pomegranates on my blog post.  Cloves and cinnamon are commonly used in mulled beverages along with lemon, which is high in vitamin C and as with other citrus rinds aids digestion.  Hot lemon water on it's own can even be a tasty drink which will also help flush out toxins, purify the blood and strengthen the immune system.

Hot Apple Cider
Ingredients include apple cider, maple syrup, allspice berries, clove, cinnamon, lemon and orange rind.  Benefits of clove, cinnamon and citrus peels are mentioned above.  Allspice berries contain potassium, iron, magnesium and copper plus vitamin A, C and some B vitamins.  They also have anti-inflammatory properties, stimulate digestion and contain eugenol oil which is a topical pain reliever.  Maple syrup contains zinc and manganese.  To get the most benefit from apple juice it is best to juice the skin as well since it contains the most vitamin A.  Apple juice has also shown to improve the mood of Alzheimer's patients.

Ginger-Turmeric Tea
For this tea you can use half a teaspoon each of powdered ginger and turmeric with 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and the juice of half a lemon.  Grated ginger, turmeric and lemon rind can also be used make sure to boil the raw herbs with the water.  Ginger is a common herb known to help with nausea and cold prevention.  The benefits of turmeric are discussed on my blog post on Chinese medicine spices

Common spices in all of these drinks are cinnamon, clove and citrus rind.  Experiment with your favourite tea or fruit juice and spice it up.  Some spices will probably taste better with certain teas and fruits than other.  Maybe pear with lemon, cinnamon or fennel.  Rooibos tea is often flavoured with vanilla instead of getting the flavoured type get organic loose leaf tea and brew with a vanilla bean pod, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.  

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pomegranates for Health

Pomegranates are a beautiful fall fruit with festive looking red seeds.  I love the colour of the deep red juice, the sweet-tart flavour and crunch.  They are a tricky fruit to eat but worth the effort in health benefits.  Like many bright fruits pomegranates are packed with antioxidants and vitamins, in particular vitamin C, with one serving containing almost half of your daily requirement.  You'll also find the B vitamins, vitamin K, iron, calcium, potassium and fiber.  The only downside is there are 25 grams of sugar per serving.

Antioxidants are important in preventing free radical damage which is thought to contribute to aging and diseases such as cancer.  In addition antioxidants help keep the immune system strong therefore pomegranates or the juice can help prevent colds.  If you do happen to catch a cold and have a sore throat pomegranate juice can help soothe it due to the anti-inflammatory action of vitamin C.  The high vitamin C content can also reduce wheezing in young children with asthma.

Another major health benefit of pomegranate is its effect on blood vessels and cholesterol.  The juice has been shown to reduce hardening of the arteries associated with high LDL cholesterol and help reverse blood vessel damage.

From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective we look at the colour of the fruit.  Pomegranates are a bright red, which is associated with the Heart organ system and blood.   Therefore pomegranates will have the action of strengthening the heart system and the blood, which is why the juice mixed with a bit of honey and cinnamon can be used to tonify the blood in cases of anemia or monthly blood loss.

The seeds are not the only medicinal part of the pomegranate in traditional Chinese medicine the rind can be used to help treat diarrhea and skin conditions such as eczema.  For diarrhea the rind is steamed with the seeds and salt then the decoction is taken 3 times a day.  For eczema the rind is simmered with water and then applied as a poultice to the affected area.

For more food cures check out my blog posts on spices, five flavoursfood cures or sign up for my newsletter which always has seasonal recipes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

3 Benefits to Smiling

Heading into winter the days are becoming grey and dreary.  With darkness arriving earlier and earlier there is less to smile about, however there are health benefits to smiling.

1.  Smiling can prevent wrinkles.
Some types of lines around the eyes and mouth are associated with smiling, but smiling can actually help prevent wrinkles because smiling activates the muscles of the face.  There are also facial exercises which can tone these muscles thereby slowing down the development of wrinkles.  

2.  Smiling can improve your mood.
People associate feeling happy with the desire to smile, however if you aren't feeling your best you can change your mood just by lifting the corners of your mouth and creating a twinkle in your eye.  The action of smiling releases endorphins and serotonin, which regulates mood and sleep, will make one feel better.   In addition stress and anxiety shows up on our faces and by changing our facial expression from a frown to a smile the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline are reduced.

3. Smiling can boost your health
Smiling has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve immune function through activation of T-cells thereby reducing colds or the flu.  Smiling, especially combined with laughter, can also help regulate sugar levels after a meal if you have type II diabetes.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Better sex?  Longer life?  Less stress?  More sleep?

I don't know but I'm sure that like women it depends on the guy and what makes them feel good.  What I do know is that acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can help with it all.

Let's talk about sex.

First it is an important component to overall health according to TCM philosophy.  Too little or too much sex can cause imbalances in the body and lead to certain conditions over time.  A common example is excessive sexual activity uses up Kidney energy.  The Kidney organ system is related to the low back and knees therefore if you are experiencing pain in these areas  don't be surprised if your TCM doctor asks you about your sexual activity.

A recent study shows that an active sex life has the following health benefits improved cardiovascular health, less depression, less prostrate problems and improved metabolism.  Not bad for an activity that can be for pure pleasure.

Unless one suffers from low libido or erectile dysfunction then sex may cause more stress than it alleviates.  Chinese medicine views dysfunction of the male sex organs as an imbalance in the Kidney organ system most commonly it is a deficiency of the Kidney Yang Qi, sometimes referred to as the ming men fire.  This is often treated with acupuncture to "stoke the fire" as it were or herbs that will strengthen the Kidney Yang energy.  Ideally an individual formula will be prescribed to address the individual's diagnosis.

Men's Health magazine has an online article discussing 5 benefits of acupuncture, which include treating neck and back pain, sports injuries, gastrointestinal issues plus anxiety and depression.

Addressing health concerns as they arise is key to a long healthy life, which may explain why men's life expectancy is increasing according to a recent article in the Globe and Mail.  TCM principles of longevity apply to everyone but change as one ages.  Ideally a person is living in harmony within their environment, following seasonal changes with activity and diet as well as striving for a balance between work and rest.    Work can refer to one's job or physical activity.

Sleep is one aspect of rest and an important one at that since it is the time when the body rejuvenates.  Good quality sleep can increase life expectancy and alleviate stress.  Chinese medicine can provide solutions to sleep problems through herbs or acupuncture.  Acupuncture allows the body to enter into a deep relaxed state which calms and regulates the nervous system.  Many people actually get caught up on lost hours during acupuncture where it is easy for them to enter a deep restful sleep.  Herbs can help with insomnia or frequent waking however they differ from pharmaceuticals in the way they work.  Sleeping medication is often used as a quick fix unfortunately it can be easy to rely on them as the body loses it's ability to recognize sleep signals.    Herbal formulas on the other hand work well when taken consistently to regulate the organ systems that are out of balance.

As always it is recommended that you see a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (DrTCM) or licenced practitioner to obtain a proper diagnosis before starting any treatment.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mo' Men's Health

In the spirit of Movember I am focusing on men's health this month.  Movember has been great at creating  prostate cancer awareness, which is one of the top 5 causes of death for men.  The other four, heart disease, stroke, suicide and lung cancer, are all preventable diseases and treatable if found early.  Other common conditions are diabetes, liver disease, erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, urinary urgency/frequency and hair loss.  

Women typically live longer than men, however that gap is closing as more men are taking an interest in their health by eating healthier, exercising, stopping smoking and getting regular check-ups.

Over the next month I'll be posting links to recent studies in men's health as well as articles on how acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can treat or prevent some common conditions.  The only thing I won't be doing create awareness of men's health is sporting a moustache.

If you have any specific questions related to your health or someone you know please email