Posts Tagged ‘digestion’
Oct 23, 2013
Nobody debates that a healthy diet includes a lot of vegetables. But how to eat them is another story.
Chinese medicine has long been an advocate of eating cooked vegetables over raw. This is because cooked vegetables are easier to digest, allowing the body to more easily absorb the nutrients. And cooked vegetables are easier on the digestive system preventing unwanted symptoms like bloating (more on this below).
In this week’s Times, an article examines how cooking vegetables can improve their vitamin absorbability. As one can expect, not all vegetables or vitamins in the vegetables act alike. For example, boiling and steaming vegetables can help with the release of fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, and K as well as the antioxidants. And in tomatoes, cooking helps to release releases lycopene. But boiling does degrade some of the water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C.
This research is difficult to be comprehensive. But it is important to note that many vegetables become more healthy when cooking them.
In the end, it is best to eat vegetables in a way that you enjoy them. Steaming, boiling, in soups can all be delicious. Particularly for fibrous vegetables like broccoli. Of course some of the crunchy vegetables like peppers, lettuce, and arugula taste great in a salad.
Protect the Digestive Qi
Qi, the body’s energy, is actually a very practical concept. We use qi to work, exercise, stay healthy, and digest food. At the same time, digestion is the primary method for creating qi. Simply put, the body uses digestive qi to digest food and make more qi.
Eating vegetables that are cooked helps the digestive qi extract the qi of the food. Raw vegetables that are hard to digest can injure the digestive qi functioning. This sometimes happens when you too many raw veggies that are difficult to digest vegetables.
Photo: Enric Archivell
Jun 11, 2013
Kombucha is experiencing a revitalization as a healthy tonic beverage. While only recently gaining the popular spotlight, kombucha is believed to have first developed in China over 2000 years ago. From there it spread throughout Asia, and within the last century, to the West.
Some have said that kombucha can help with many types of illnesses, from insomnia, to poor digestion, and even reduce of gray hairs. So does it do all that? Let’s start with a little background.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a delicious fermented tea beverage. Its taste is both sweet and sour. Known as hóngchájùn (red tea fungus) in Chinese, the English word has been traced to Japanese etymology. The term “red tea fungus” can be misleading, as “red tea” is simply the Chinese equivalent for “black tea.”
In the process of brewing kombucha, tea is fermented with healthy bacteria and yeast. As a fermented food, Kombucha has many of the health benefits of fermented foods containing a plethora of lactic acid bacteria. Bacteria can play a very important role in the healthy functions of the digestive system, immune system, and even reproduction.
The fermentation process also raises the level of some B vitamins. According to Kombucha Kamp, a website with extensive information about kombucha, “Vitamins available in living form from whole foods are the easiest for the body to assimilate. By drinking small doses of Kombucha over a long period of time, you are delivering these water soluble vitamins in a bio-available form such that can be immediately utilized by the body. These microdoses over a long period of time have a far more beneficial effect than any megadose pill or synthetic supplement can provide.”
So the kombucha delivers both pro-biotic lactic acid bacteria and vitamins that can help with overall health and well being. I don’t think it is a panacea for all conditions (unfortunately not a cure for gray hair or baldness). But in my personal experience, kombucha helps with digestion and immune functioning in general. And best of all it tastes good.
How to Make Kombucha
While many opt to purchase already-made kombucha in stores, brewing at home can be delicious and much more cost effective. It’s very easy to do; all you need to do is make a batch of strong black tea with sugar, and then add your SCOBY (symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast). With proper storage in a dark, dry place, you will have your own batch of kombucha ready in 7-10 days.
Here’s a great step by step recipe on how to get started brewing kombucha at home.
Amanda Mester significantly contributed to this article.
Oct 31, 2012
The introductory class for Acupressure for Self Healing at the New York Open Center is starting next week!
Monday November 5th 2012 at 6pm.
Interested in learning more about how you can use acupressure to relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, digestive problems, and improve overall health? Then you should come to my class at the New York Open Center in November 2012.
What is acupressure?
- Acupressure is a traditional Chinese healing art in which physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points with the hand (rather than with needles as in acupuncture), so it can be practiced by everyone.
How does acupressure work?
- Acupressure can helps to circulate and balance our qi (energy) to improve our overall health and wellness or help address specific conditions
What will I learn in the class?
- This course will introduce you to the basic concepts and practices of acupressure, including how to
locate points, how to diagnose imbalances in energy flow through the meridians, and how to apply pressure correctly. You’ll also learn some qigong breathing exercises and tui na massage techniques.
- By the end of the course, you’ll be able to use acupressure on ourselves and others to alleviate a range of ailments, including indigestion, PMS and menstrual cramps, headaches and migraines, back and neck pain, as well as to boost overall wellness and energy.
Mar 16, 2012
Everyone knows that seasonal allergies are painful and uncomfortable causing runny nose, sneezing, sinus pain, fatigue, watery eyes, and other debilitating symptoms. Allergies also effect your productivity at work and school and may be linked to depression, insomnia, and anxiety.(1)
Acupuncture offers an effective drug free treatment so you can smell the flowers.
Acupuncture for Allergies
Acupuncture is different than taking a pill. Acupuncture helps to reduce pain and inflammation. But rather than adding a medication that will temporarily block a receptor, histamine in the case of allergies, acupuncture works to regulate the body’s functioning. The goals is for long term improvement from the acupuncture treatment.
The idea is that acupuncture helps to reset the body and remind it how to be healthy. As balance is achieved, your body is able to maintain the healthy state without medications. So instead of simply suppressing the body’s reaction, it works to correct the root cause of the problem.
Acupuncture’s Understanding of Allergies
Acupuncture has its own view of the body and health. Acupuncturists look for an imbalance that is causing of allergies.
Qi (pronounced chee) is the body’s vital energy, it gives you the power to work, study, exercise, and fight illness. In acupuncture, the cause of allergies is often a qi imbalance. There are two major qi imbalances. The most common one for allergies is when there is too little qi, we call this a qi vacuity. When your qi is vacuous, you feel tired, can get colds easily, may have poor digestion, coughing, wheezing, and possibly asthma. The acupuncture and herbs work to boost up your qi, giving you more energy and protecting you from allergies.
The second imbalance is called qi stagnation. This is when your qi does not circulate well. This is often caused by stress, and can cause pain, headaches, menstrual cramps, and in some cases, bring on asthma attacks.
Inflammation is a cause of allergies and chronic sinus pain. In acupuncture, this is often related to an imbalance called heat. Heat can cause dryness, irritation, and pain. This is often common in chronic sinusitis.
The Acupuncture Treatment
An effective acupuncture treatment is based upon a specific and accurate diagnosis of the imbalance. Chinese herbs can also be helpful in reducing inflammation and sinus pain. By targeting the exact root of the condition leads to the most successful treatment.
I combine acupressure, Chinese medicine massage, with the acupuncture to create greater results and a stronger sense of relaxation. Usually people will feel some relief after only a few weekly visits.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation and increase circulation. Acupuncture also helps to regulate the brain to reduce pain, so it is also possible that is another way it works to help regulate the immune response to allergies (2).
1. Marcus MB. Seasonal allergies could spark depression, fatigue. USA Today. 3/18/2008.
2. Napadow V, Ahn A, Longhurst J, et.al. The Status and Future of Acupuncture Mechanism Research. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 September; 14(7): 861–869.
written by: Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
Late Edited: 2/22/2012
Jan 9, 2012
The Meaning of Zhen Jiu ( 针灸)
Acupuncture is not just acupuncture. In fact, the word for acupuncture in Chinese, Zhen Jiu, actually translates to “acupuncture and moxibustion” which shows how central moxibustion is within acupuncture.
Moxibustion is the warming of acupuncture points or needles. Most often, this is done through burning an herb called mugwort. It can also be done with heat lamps as well as herbal lotions.
In my office, we use smokeless moxibustion because it is treated and does not create much smoke.
How does Moxibustion work?
Just like with acupuncture, moxibustion focuses on correcting the underlying imbalance in the body.
Because it is warming, generally moxibustion is used when there is cold in the body. Moxibustion can help to warm the body and add qi as well. The warmth also helps to increase circulation.
Boosting the Qi
There is a tradition that one can use moxibustion on the acupuncture point Stomach 36 for 100 consecutive days in order to boost the body’s qi. I think this therapy is particularly effective for those with poor digestion or asthma due to low energy.
Dec 27, 2011
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It consists of a large bundle of smaller nerves that begin in the lumbar spine, travel down the buttocks, and move through the leg.
Sciatica is a group of symptoms that affect the region of the sciatic nerve. Radiating pain is one of the more common and intense symptoms associated with sciatica. There can also be numbness and tingling starting in the lower back radiating down the leg. Acupuncture is very effective for relieving symptoms of acute and chronic sciatica.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica occurs when something pushes on the sciatic nerve. This can be a muscle spasm, the spinal discs, and sometimes even the spine itself. Most often this pain is due to muscle spasms or a slipped disc, but it can also be a sign of serious illness and it is important to go to your doctor for a diagnosis.
Spinal Disc herniation, often referred to as a slipped disc, is when a small portion of the spinal disc bulges out of the spinal column. This disc then pushes on the sciatic nerve causing pain. In some severe cases, spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal, can push on the nerve and cause pain. Another serious cause of sciatica is spinal tumors, which require immediate medical attention.
Muscle spasms are also a common cause of sciatica. Most often it is the piriformis muscle, but it can be other muscles in the lower back and pelvic region.
Piriformis syndrome can cause chronic sciatica. Sometimes the sciatic nerve runs under or through the piriformis muscle. This muscle is located in the pelvis. It is connected to the bottom of the spine and the top of the femur, or thighbones. If the piriformis muscle starts to spasm or becomes tight, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause the pain as well as the radiating symptoms. This persistent spasm of the piriformis muscle is called piriformis syndrome. It can be caused by an injury or sedentary lifestyles in people who don’t stretch or exercise. Particularly if you sit all day at a desk or computer, this can be a problem.
Acupuncture’s Approach to Sciatica
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine state that the body is interconnected; no one part can be separated from another. The diagnosis and treatment of sciatica is based upon identifying specific imbalances in the muscles and the body as a whole. Correcting the imbalance does not just treat the symptoms or mask the condition, but rather corrects the root of the problem by encouraging self-healing of the body. Acupuncture treatment of sciatica will focus on relaxing the muscles and stretching the tendons and fascia. It can also help strengthening the muscles.
Acupuncture Diagnosis for sciatica
The most common acupuncture imbalance in acute sciatica is qi and blood stagnation in the back channels. Qi and blood stagnation in the channels often affects the soft tissue of the lumbar, hips, and pelvis. This is what causes the muscle spasm and tension that triggers the intense shooting pain of acute sciatica.
Other common acupuncture imbalances are kidney qi vacuity, spleen qi vacuity with dampness, and liver qi stagnation.
Kidney Qi Vacuity: If your back feels very weak and it does not get better with a lot of rest, the underlying imbalance may be kidney qi vacuity. Other symptoms include weakness of the knees, extreme fatigue, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and a weak pulse.
Spleen Qi Vacuity with Dampness: For those with spleen qi vacuity with dampness, you will also have fatigue and weakness, but the back feels better with rest. Your body may feel very heavy and you may have poor digestion.
Liver Qi stagnation: Liver qi stagnation causes your muscles to be very tight and in spasm when you become angry or frustrated. Also, you may suffer from frequent headaches and, in women, painful menses.
Acupuncture Treatment for Sciatica
I believe the most effective therapy for sciatica includes acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, and Tui Na, which is Chinese medical massage. In some cases, cupping and stretches are very helpful. The back, hip, and pelvis are interconnected and the treatment should incorporate the entire region.
Overall, the acupuncture treatment should relax and stretch the tendons and fascia while strengthening the muscles. This will help release the spastic muscles and strengthen them, allowing the back to naturally heal. It can even encourage an out of place disc to go back into place, depending on severity.
Acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation through regulating neural pain pathways, stimulate the release of natural pain relieves in the body, such as opioids, as well as regulate pain relieving opioid receptors. Many studies have also shown acupuncture to have a anti-inflammatory effect, reducing the circulating inflammatory hormones in the blood (1). This will help to reprogram the muscles to stay relaxed, and in effect, encourage the body heal itself.
Chinese massage, or tui na, works to support the acupuncture by releasing any extra tension in the fascia and connective tissue around the muscles. The technique called rolling is very important to deeply relax the muscles and improve circulation at the same time.
After the pain is gone, it is important for you to exercise and stretch to maintain a pain free life.
If you have questions about acupuncture for sciatica, call us 917-887-4946 or click below to make an appointment online.
1. Napadow V, Ahn A, Longhurst J, et.al. The Status and Future of Acupuncture Mechanism Research. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 September; 14(7): 861–869.
Written by Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
Last Edited 12/27/2011
Oct 20, 2011
Green tea is well known for its health properties. Recently, it has become popular for its antioxidants, which have been purported to reduce heart disease and cancer rates. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners sometimes will add green tea to an herbal formula, primarily for headaches.
In Chinese culture, green tea is the staple drink. Unlike in the West, in China people will refill their tea cup many times with water, using the same tea leaves.
Not only is refilling the cup efficient and cost effective, by doing this one is drinking more of the antioxidants from the tea.
The majority of the caffeine is extracted from tea within 30 seconds of brewing. So the refills have very little caffeine in them, but continue to extract other substances.
For most people, the small amount of caffeine in green tea is fine. For people with inflammation and anxiety even a little caffeine is too much.
How to Naturally Decaffeinate your Green Tea: Washing the Tea
It is easy to decaffeinate green tea yourself without loosing much of the taste or health benefits. Most of the caffeine is extracted within the first 30 seconds of brewing the tea.
To naturally remove the caffeine from the tea, quickly brew the tea and discard the water after 20-30 second. Refill the cup with hot water, and you have a naturally decaffeinated cup of tea. This process is called “washing the tea.”
When drinking more refine types of tea, the custom is to wash the tea. This is also part of the traditional Tea Ceremony.
There are other regional types of teas and styles of brewing. Some regions brew the tea at lower temperatures.
Green Tea in Chinese Medicine
There are many varieties of tea. Just as in New York, there are many varieties of apples. But they all come from the same plant, the difference is in the extent of their oxidizing, breeding, and region.
Green tea is cool in nature and as opposed to black tea which is warmer. Green tea helps to clear heat and drain dampness. As I mentioned before, it can also be used for headaches. Add ginger for headaches from damp weather.
Because green tea is cooler, I prefer to drink more green tea in the summer and more black tea in the winter. For some people with weak digestion, green tea may upset your stomach. This is due to its cooling properties.
Oolong tea is somewhat neutral and is a good alternative for people who find green tea a little upsetting to the stomach.
Jun 2, 2011
Anything with the word “revenge” can’t be good. Commonly called Montezuma’s revenge, traveler’s diarrhea is a common illness for adventurers.
Traveler’s diarrhea was a concern of mine when we were trekking in Peru. I’ve always known that I had a sensitive stomach when traveling, and I remember getting sick when in other countries. I wanted to try to avoid it on this trip.
I was still in graduate school during my Peru trip, and I did not have that much experience with treating traveler’s diarrhea. I asked my favorite teacher, Dr. Kejian Xiao, who is a master herbalist about what to take for traveler’s diarrhea.
Herbs for Traveler’s Diarrhea
First, need to observe the intensity and symptoms.
If you have mild upset stomach, mild to moderate diarrhea, possible slight nausea, slight chills, no pain or burning, then you need to use a formula that will warm the stomach. This formula is Huo Xiang Zheng Qi tang.
This formula is aromatic and it helps to warm the stomach and the digestion. Many of these herbs are helpful for killing bacteria in food such as zi su ye, perilla leaf, and ginger. Perilla leaf and ginger are both commonly eaten with sushi. Not only do they add to the taste, but also help to mitigate any possibility of bacteria in the foods.
Huo xiang zheng qi tang is a very safe formula. But in some people it can slow down the digestion.
For more severe symptoms and burning, the huang lian su may be a better choice.
Huang lian su is simply the the herbs huang lian, or copitus. This herb is very strong anti biotic properties as well as immunological regulatory properties. It is very bitter and cold and can easily cause constipation.
Regulating your stomach after getting sick is also important.
The best formula for this is called Curing Pills. Curing pills are a great remedy for digestive issues. They are mild and help to regulate digestion, ease bloating, and constipation to help your stomach recover.
Dec 13, 2008
I serve as a volunteer expert on a number of websites for individuals looking for answers about health and Chinese medicine. Sometimes there is a question which I think would interest a lot of my readers. If you have a question about Chinese medicine, please feel free to e-mail me.
Question: I have diabetes and have been tested for the GP and found to be retaining more than 30% of my food after four hours. I was taking Zelnorm which seemed to help but that has been withdrawn. Now I am on Reglan but my bowels seem to get unstable with it severe diarrhea followed by severe constipation. I have recently been dxd with my second colon infection also felt to be due to the Reglan. I am looking for something which may help me move my food a little faster. I have tried increasing fiber as well as water but neither seem to do any good. I believe many of my medications are getting caught up in my stomach and not being dispersed and I am actually getting overdoses on many of them. Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Thank you for your question. I understand you are in a difficult situation.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very effctive for improving gastric motility and the treatment of constipation. Because TCM is a holistic medicine, it works to help improve overall health.
TCM is not a one size fits all treatment. Each patient is diagnose individually. So I cannot tell you an herbal formula or an acupuncture point which may necessarily help. That can only be done after an examination which includes various questions, taking the pules, and looking at the tongue.
In TCM, constipation may be related to various diagnosis including internal heat and dryness or qi (the body’s energy)deficiency.
Acupuncture can help by boosting the body’s energy and getting rid of the heat. From a western science perspective, we’re not completely sure how it works. But it may help by “waking up” the nerves in your digestive tract and reminding your brain how to digest well.
I recommend you find an acupuncturist in your area who also is trained in Chinese herbs. Herbs can be very effective for constipation as well. Your practicioner will be able to research if there are known herb drug interactions for their formula.