For some, losing an hour of sleep is a truly lamentable thought -- and if sleep is already a struggle for you, springing forward can be the perfect set-up to get completely thrown off-track. Personally, I love Spring and Summer, so I am pleased to welcome longer days, blooming plants, and chirping birds. That said, it can still take a week or more to get adjusted to time changes; it often feels a bit like jet-lag to me.
Generally speaking, change of season is the optimal time to get an acupuncture treatment. While it's not Spring according to the calendar, our bodies will inherently start to notice the change. And if we do not have the luxury of sleeping in or naturally allowing for a window of re-adjustment, acupuncture will aid in this process, especially by helping to balance and regulate hormones. Just about EVERY facet of our bodily functions are regulated by hormones -- and sleep is no exception. Melatonin is a popular supplement these days for a reason: it's secreted in larger amounts as bedtime approaches. In the morning, cortisol rises to help perk us up and get us going, while melatonin naturally decreases.
Try to stay within 30 minutes of your typical wake and sleep times, even with the time change. So, if you normally go to bed at 9:30pm and rise at 6am, go to bed at 9pm and get up no later than 6:30am. After a week or so, you should be able to start to push this out by 15 minutes, and eventually to the same time before springing forward. It may seem insignificant, but time changes can cause an increase in car accidents, heart issues, and work-related injuries, so do your best to make sleep a priority.
Exercise is pretty much the go-to for whatever ails ya! In this case, exercise and movement helps promote serotonin and endorphins (which, incidentally, acupuncture also does), increases blood circulation, improves metabolism, and exercising outdoors during daytime hours gives an added boost to regulating circadian rhythms -- your inherent sleep/wake cycle.
How's your diet? Lots of leafy green vegetables, especially slightly bitter ones (think dandelion, mustard greens, etc.) will naturally calm tension. How so? According to Chinese medical thought, a slightly bitter taste moves "stuck" energy. So if you're feeling sluggish or irritable with the time change or lack of sleep, up your veggie intake. Lightly stir-frying or sauteeing is best for optimal digestion, so skip the smoothies.
Look on the bright side! I know there might be some whining and complaining over losing some sleep -- personally I wish we didn't have to go through this tradition twice a year. But the arrival of longer days and warmer weather is certainly something to welcome! Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
*Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine is a wellness clinic that provide guidance and treatment within the legal scope of practice as regulated by the Kentucky State Board Of Acupuncture. Our advice is not a substitute for medical advice from a physician, and we do not diagnose medical conditions. Please consult a physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.*
Feeling unmotivated, heavy, or like you need extra sleep? It's important to make a distinction between a physiological issue, & the natural slow-down & hibernation period associated with Winter - the season we're currently in. As a Chinese Medical Practitioner, observing the external & natural world is an important thermostat for gauging what our own bodies are doing & how we should accordingly respond. Our body's energy wisely goes deeper & more internal during the Winter -- versus being more superficial during the Summer. It's a survival instinct to slow down & conserve our energy, as a mechanism for keeping the body warm & alive.
One of the precepts of Chinese Medicine is the idea of "wu wei" 无为. Very roughly translated, this is the concept of non-action or non-doing. One of my favorite illustrations of wu wei is the flow of water; water generally doesn't force itself & it inherently finds the path of least resistance. How do we translate this into our lives? It's not about being lazy or giving up completely. Instead, it's about doing things with grace & non-forcing, especially those things that come easily to us, or that feel right in the moment. Also recognizing that when it's cold outside, what does water do? It slows down or freezes. I don't generally recommend freezing completely -- and that's not exactly realistic -- but this is an excellent time of year to S L O W down. And following the current phase of nature means non-forcing. What does that look like during Winter?
*Sleep more. Especially if you are tired. There are more hours of darkness, so embrace the darkness by sleeping more, meditating, writing, reading, or having quiet conversations in the dark.
*Eat warm & nourishing foods. This includes things like soups, stews, stock, well-cooked veggies, stir-fries, & warm herbal teas. Avoid cold temperature vegetables, salads, iced beverages, & raw foods. Eating foods naturally high in Vitamin D & "healthy" fats, will also help keep the Winter blues away. Consider getting Vitamin D levels checked too.
*Get some exercise, especially something like moderate walking, during daylight hours. This helps with circadian rhythms (sleep & wake cycles) & it keeps your blood circulating. If you go outside in the cold, cover up your neck & knees especially -- don't go out in shorts! This helps keep you from catching colds & flus according to Chinese Medicine. You may laugh & think it's an old wives tale, but I can't tell you how many people I've seen get sick doing this in the Winter!
*Engage in reflective activities such as journaling, writing, talking, eating with friends & family, or planning things for the rest of the year -- especially Spring, when it's an appropriate time to begin new things.
*Cutting yourself some slack. Being kind & compassionate to yourself -- this also means with regards to your self-talk. Do you beat yourself up with all the things you "should" have done today? Or that you naturally feel inclined to slow down this time of year -- but you're not comfortable taking your foot off the gas pedal? This is the best time of year to reflect on why you do that to yourself & to create a new habit of allowing yourself to observe the natural rhythms & cycles of our bodies & the planet. Living in harmony with nature & our environment creates internal health, rather than dis-ease (going against the flow by forcing).
*Keep your feet covered -- especially when you're inside & have bare or hardwood floors. What gives? You have a major Kidney point located near the ball of your foot. As such, walking regularly on cold surfaces allows cold to penetrate right up into your Kidney meridian, which only makes it harder for your body to stay warm. The Kidneys, according to Chinese Medicine, create the fire in the entire body. Keep a pair of socks on your tootsies!
*Get some acupuncture! If you feel moody, blah, in the dumps, worn out -- come in for a treatment or two. Acupuncture balances your neurological/endocrine systems & will give you a natural energy boost, without any sort of artificial stimulation or "forcing" of your body. And if something truly feels off despite the season, we can work on that too! Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
Curious if acupuncture & lifestyle modifications can help with pregnancy & fertility challenges? Check out our latest feedback, which really makes my job a pleasure:
"Just wanted to let you know that the reason I didn't return... is that we conceived very shortly after our last session! I had a single picture-perfect cycle (regulated by herbs) and it was during the one after that.
We are expecting a little girl.
We are over the moon and I can't thank you enough."
Whether your fertility issues are related to a diagnosis like PCOS, hormonal issues after stopping birth control, miscarriage, or you want support during IUI or IVF, let's talk about the perfect plan for you. Acupuncture & Chinese medicine can also help with nausea of the first trimester, & any pains throughout pregnancy.
Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
Can you relate to being labeled as "too sensitive"? This one is especially for those of you who have heard this numerous times, & have started to believe that this is a negative thing. If you're already asking what this has to do with health, let me offer a few qualifiers; I often find that "sensitives" display accompanying symptoms, such as sleeping issues/insomnia, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), gastro-intestinal issues, digestive problems, food sensitivities & allergies, chronic migraines/headaches, skin issues/rashes/hives, depression, anxiety, & chronic pain. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's meant to illustrate the connection existing between emotions & the physical body.
I find it valuable to re-frame being a "sensitive" person from a negative, to a positive. "Sensitive" is derived from latin, meaning "to feel". It is defined as, being "quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences" & also, "having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others' feelings." This is a trait of awareness, empathy, & adaptation. Would these be positive or negative attributes to describe yourself at a job interview? Sensitive people tend to pick-up on the emotions & vibe of an environment, & also the unspoken words. How is this not a super-power?
Trouble can arise when a sensitive:
*allows the feelings or moods of other people to change how they are feeling, or throw their day off
*makes assumptions or stories about what other people are thinking or feeling because of what they're sensing
*clings to other people's feelings or emotions, or stuffs them down, which can lead to physical illness
*mistakes empathy for sympathy; that they must wallow with another person who is in emotional or physical pain
*fails to listen to their own gut instinct & push it down or ignore it, repeatedly
*doesn't develop a healthy relationship with their sensitivity & allows other people to criticize or dismiss this trait
*chronically stays in the sympathetic/fight or flight/hyper-vigilant mode, which is the exact opposite of where a healthy body resides
A big part of sensitivity is your reaction to input & stimuli. When other people fire off a, "You're just too sensitive", they're often reacting to your seemingly over the top reaction. There are two parts here, one being the other person's inability to express themselves in a constructive manner (which we're not going to focus on now), but you may indeed have a hyperactive response to a situation that is likely upsetting to both you, & your loved ones. Or maybe your responses or coping mechanisms (OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, explosive anger, panic attack, etc.) leave you feeling exhausted, powerless, or they're destroying your relationships. Maybe you feel out of control, or maybe you even go into full-blown physical symptoms, like IBS (diarrhea), cramps, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness or vertigo, headaches, or extreme fatigue.
Sensitivity often develops when children have an unreliable or unpredictable care-giver or parent. Meaning, the child learns an acute sense of awareness & vigilance to protect themselves from repeated abusive, neglectful, or explosive situations. Children may often learn to "walk on eggshells" at home, or use humor or talent to deflect or entertain a parent. They may also find ways to disappear or be "invisible" when their caretaker is on the war path. As a result, sensitivity to emotions strongly develops for protection purposes, as someone who is blind or deaf will strengthen their other senses to cope.
As a result, sensitives tend to learn to live chronically in the state of fight or flight, or hyper-vigilance, which activates the sympathetic nervous system. This can eventually lead to issues with regards to the delicate balance of hormones within the body, which regulate everything from sleep, energy, menstruation, fertility, digestion, & more.
Acupuncture is just one of the ways to regulate the neuro-endocrine systems of the body, which ultimately create hormone balance, & sense of calmness & well-being. In a sense, acupuncture helps hit the "re-set" button on our bodies, in the same way doing so re-sets our phones or computers. It doesn't delete all the data, but it clears out the garbage so that the body can heal itself.
Being sensitive is not a crime, nor is it a death sentence. First it's essential to learn new ways to process hyper-vigilance, then bringing awareness to when/where/what situations evoke a reaction out of you, & finally, how to protect yourself from accumulating other people's emotional "garbage". The best place to start is by scheduling your initial visit. Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
The International Journal of Nursing Studies, noted that anxiety and fatigue have undesirable effects on women’s postpartum recovery, & there aren’t many effective pharmacological interventions that can relieve these common symptoms.
Researchers aimed to examine the effectiveness of auricular acupressure (the same acupressure points are stimulated in acupuncture, we just use a needle instead) in reducing anxiety, fatigue, cortisol levels, blood pressure & heart rate after a Caesarian section.
Women who underwent a C-section were randomly assigned to two groups: intervention and control. The intervention group received auricular acupressure twice a day, while the control group received the usual postpartum care. The researchers measured serum cortisol levels, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and fatigue.
Of the 76 women who finished the study, the ones who received auricular acupressure, had significantly lower cortisol levels, heart rate, fatigue symptoms and anxiety symptoms five days postpartum than those in the control group. Sounds like a great reason to get acupuncture!
Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine, Lexington, Kentucky.
Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine can be extremely foreign, scary, & downright odd if you've never been exposed to it. I doubt many folks WANT to get poked with needles (though I assure you, the tools used in acupuncture are small, hair-thin needles that elicit a very relaxing & rejuvenating experience) but what most people DO want is to feel better -- & for their symptoms to go away.
I decided to make a major life-change by going to medical school for Traditional Chinese Medicine. My initial exposure to acupuncture was for a chronic shoulder injury, though I was pleasantly surprised by how light & floaty & centered I felt after my first treatment. It was truly a holistic experience like nothing I had encountered before. Although many people come to see me for pain or other undesirable symptoms, this medicine & what I do is not just about symptom relief. It's about changing your life & being the best version of you (I know that sounds like an Oprah-ism, but Oprah's usually pretty right on).
I often begin by explaining to my patients that no symptom within the body, whether it's back pain or hot flashes or digestive issues or fertility challenges or anxiety -- is existing independently within your body. A human is made up of systems that are both visible -- your physical body -- and not visible -- your personality, your thoughts, your spirit, & even your internal body, which is not visible unless you're cut open. We know all of these things exist, even if we cannot physically see them. As an example, we know our thoughts exist because they occur. But if I asked you to "show" me your thoughts, how could you do that? We don't live in a time where that's physically possible. Since you are not an island within your community, your symptoms are not islands independent from all the factors that make you, you.
I am a practitioner who helps my patients grow as humans, If you are having physical symptoms you need help with, great. But do you also want a practitioner who can address emotional and spiritual issues or challenges too? Do you desire long-term results? In my clinical experience, long-term results come from changes that start from the inside, out. I also want my patients to feel like they can come to me for ANY issue, whether it's a broken heart, clouded thinking, insomnia, food issues, migraines, or shoulder pain. I want my patients to also feel empowered, so that they can learn how to deal with issues without my assistance all the time.
Being truly "well" is to focus on how you feel emotionally, understanding how to fully experience your emotions, & following your passions. It's also about doing things that light you up & express why you are here on Earth in the first place.
Schedule an appointment so that we can talk about how I can help you! Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist in Lexington, Kentucky at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine.
Here in Kentucky, it's the week of Derby, a national holiday in this neck of the woods. What's the iconic beverage of the Derby? Why, the Mint Julep! What's that have to do with Chinese medicine? Well, there's an entire sub-set of acupuncture points located within the ear, which can be used to treat just about any condition or issue. I love to use these points for calming, especially in cases of anxiety, worry, stress, or insomnia.
One of my favorite ear points is affectionately called the Mint Julep! It's known by several names: Master Cerebral specifically - and Neurasthenia. Neurasthenia is a relatively out-dated term, but I appreciate the visual created by its descriptive nature; I imagine ladies quietly sipping Mint Juleps in the shade, relaxing and watching the world go by, even though 20 minutes ago, they were feeling quite flummoxed and frazzled. Who isn't already feeling calmer imagining that scene?
This point targets the prefrontal lobe of the brain, the part of the brain that makes decisions and initiates conscious action. It's known to calm nervous anxiety, fear, worry, dream-disturbed sleep, poor memory, obsessive-compulsive disorders, psychosomatic disorders, and the negative thinking that often accompanies chronic pain.
Want to try the Mint Julep point for yourself? Schedule an appointment today! Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
Ancient Chinese secrets inevitably support modern traditions! In celebration of Valentine's Day, let's talk a little about the Heart meridian - which incidentally coincides with the element of fire. A little fire & passion keeps the Heart energy pumping! Naturally, the energetics related to the balanced functioning of the Heart are joy, love, peace, contentment, wisdom, courtesy, & forgiveness. When the Heart is out of balance, anxiety, insomnia, racing thoughts, excessive energy, & anger can all be present.
Most impressively in Chinese medicine, is the recognition of the psycho-emotional aspects of the Heart. Before modern scientific knowledge, the Heart was often viewed as the emotional center of the body, & truthfully, a contented Heart is the seat of the soul. Keeping some of these concepts relatively simplified, the main essence or "Spirit" of the body, is housed in the Heart. This can be somewhat of a difficult concept to grasp, as it is not necessarily the religious definition of "Spirit", though has to do with how the body & mind receive & interpret sensory information. Basically, how a person views the world, processes it, & responds, is in direct correlation to a relaxed & free-flowing inner "Spirit".
At night, the "Spirit" should return to the safety of the Heart, to rest peacefully & rejuvenate for the following day. Deficiency in this aspect can lead to restlessness, worrying, & poor or dream-disturbed sleep. It's no wonder heartbreak can cause sleepless nights.
Modern insight & research shows just how unique the Heart really is. It contains unique cells & muscle structures that ONLY exist within the Heart. It produces approximately 50 times the amount of electricity the brain does, & communicates directly with the neo-cortex via specific ganglia. Think of how your Heart functions effortlessly without your conscious effort.
Alternately, both your thoughts & breathing can alter the rate & speed with which your Heart beats & the efficiency with which it functions. And for ladies who are looking to conceive or obtain an optimal menstrual cycle, the Heart plays a direct role in the healthy flow of blood to the Uterus during menstruation. This may explain why in times of distress or excessive worrying, the period may be delayed, scanty, or missed all together.
Craving chocolate on Valentine's? The good news is, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for your Heart! And each meridian in Chinese medicine is associated with a particular flavor, in this case, bitter is the language of the Heart (in more ways than one!). Foods that are naturally red &/or bitter by nature, will support the health of your Heart:
Red wine (small amounts, please), dark chocolate, beets, red meat (organic, grass-fed is best), cherries, red beans (kidney, adzuki, etc.), radishes, strawberries, rhubarb, dates, & coffee are all excellent to indulge in when you want to give a little boost to your Heart.
Curious if your Heart meridian needs a tune-up? Or insomnia, worry, & menstrual issues got you down? Even if you're post-heartbreak & need some support, come in for a treatment to feel better & receive tailored help. Here's to your health & Heart! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
Beginning of a new year & post holidays, cleanses & detoxes get a lot of attention - and partially due to the indulgences of the festive season. Maybe we feel sluggish & burnt out or just plain guilty & critical of our choices. So - does your body need to be cleansed or detoxed? In a simple answer, no - & - let me explain why:
Your body came equipped with its own detoxification protocol:
Specifically, your liver & to a certain extent, your kidneys all play a natural role in detoxification. Subsequently, you release waste through sweat, urine, feces, skin, hair, & some may be stored in fat. It is important to understand that substances, such as drugs & alcohol can, over time, damage the detoxification processes of these organs, which is why moderation or avoidance are preferable. If you have over-consumed alcohol, drugs, been exposed excessively to heavy-metals, or have taken over-the-counter pain relievers (Tylenol or acetaminophen are notorious for damaging the liver) you should SUPPORT these organs, which leads to the next point...
Less deficiency, more sufficiency:
MOST people are operating in a deficient, run-down state, not an excess state. In Chinese medicine, there are conditions & constitutions where there is too much of a substance, where a valve needs to be released, similar to an over-inflated tire. This is where too much is not necessarily a good thing & a "purge-like" treatment may be useful. This is a very specific individual or disease-state, & most people do not necessarily need to be "detoxed" in this situation. They may need more calming & nourishing herbs & food - or to have the more nourishing aspects of the body (often referred to as yin) built up & supported. In the end, detoxing or cleansing often leaves people feeling more poorly or with another issue that then needs to be addressed, especially when they self-prescribe.
Our bodies work like a thermostat & are not dirty or broken:
There has been a perpetuation of the belief that our bodies are "dirty" or "un-clean" - especially for women. Our bodies are dynamic & function on a constant feedback loop. All of our hormones, including appetite, temperature, urination, reproduction, sleep, thirst, pH levels - are at a delicate set-point & our systems inherently know how to determine the best set-point - without needing to be "purged". Quite often, detoxing can lead to a longer healing process. Acupuncture is an excellent way to help the system re-set. Exercise & working up a sweat, helps to naturally release waste from our tissues, as do infer-red saunas.
Food and appropriate herbal medicine assist with optimal wellness:
Eating a well-balanced diet, in addition to intermittent fasting, keep the gut healthy. A healthy gut means a strong immune system, efficiently running organs, and excellent mental health (there is more seratonin located in our gut than our brain). Appropriate herbal formulas can help boost our systems as needed, but I believe getting digestion on-track is one of the most vital aspects to optimal wellness.
Feeling guilty about your dietary choices is going to make the issue WORSE:
I am the first to agree that we are what we eat - BUT - how we feel about ourselves, including the potentially critical voices in our head - can be even more destructive to our health. If you made some less than ideal choices over the holidays, it's okay. It really is. Did you enjoy yourself? Well, that's the key right there. If you are going to eat a cookie or ten, just enjoy that moment and move on. If you have a difficult time abstaining from the stuff you know makes you feel bad - or you feel drawn to it - these are issues I can help you with. These are what I call ROOT issues. I can help you address these root issues, which will ultimately help with BRANCH symptoms - which can be excess weight, pain, inflammation, insomnia, & mental health issues. Simply losing weight & stopping pain do not typically lead to long-term results. The root cause of the issue needs to be addressed, & I am good at that.
Ready to tackle some of the over-whelm & over-indulgence of the season? Schedule your consultation or appointment now! Here's to your health - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, KY.
Last month, I was invited to speak at the Lung Force Expo in Lexington - held by the American Lung Association. Our Lungs are particularly susceptible to injury & illness during the dry months of Late Autumn & deep Winter & the information I shared at the Expo is relevant for happy & healthy respiration.
The Lungs are sensitive & particular & aptly named "The Delicate Organ" in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dryness, heat, & cold are all said to damage the Lungs, as can excessive phlegm or dampness.
Colds, flu, respiratory illness, asthma, loss of voice, coughs, & other diseases of the Lungs can be caused by harsh temperatures, poor dietary habits, smoking, stress, speaking too much (teachers & anyone who speaks often needs regular treatment to prevent laryngitis) & emotional dis-regulation.
The Lungs are especially sensitive to grief & sadness. Prolonged depression or excessive sadness can precipitate a cold - or progress to a more serious illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Chronic grief could - in theory cause more severe respiratory distress such as wheezing & asthma. Have you or someone you love gotten really sick after a death or severe loss? This is considered a direct strike to the Lungs!
The Lungs are more susceptible during Autumn & into Winter - when the air tends to be drier. Also, the prevailing energy of Autumn is harvest & Winter is about hibernation. Our bodies can sense this & experience seasonal “mourning”. I encourage you to embrace the change (possibly decrease) of energy as we roll into Winter. Fighting or denying the changes of season can cause disease & illness. Our bodies are a manifestation of nature & want to naturally slow down, rest more, & pursue contemplative activities such as reading, watching movies, & visiting with loved ones during colder months.
The Lungs are associated with the color white - naturally white foods, such as cauliflower (which incidentally resemble lungs), and Asian pears are excellent for the Lungs, as is honey (created from pollen from flowers). Pears that have been sliced, baked in the oven, & drizzled with raw, local honey, are very pleasing to the Lungs & can soothe a dry, Winter cough.
Please note that this information is general & not intended to replace consultation with a licensed medical professional. For specific & tailored information, please schedule a consulation or appointment. Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, KY.
About the Author:
Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist, currently practicing in the gorgeous, horse capital of the world: Lexington, Kentucky.