Spring Sniffle Season Guide

It seems like spring is starting off a bit early here in the North East. We will pass 60 degress 3 days this week! So much for March coming in like a lion!! More like a kitty ;)

While I'll never count out a late winter snow storm, it does seem that these crazy mild temperatures are going to head us into an early Spring (Sorry Groundhog, you were wrong!)

I am SO ready for some sunshine and more outdoor time. (getting 2 tiny kids into snowgear just to hear "I need a snack" 5 minutes later.... this is a phase I wont miss!) But with the pretty blossoms that will be soon arriving comes the not-so-pretty sneezes and sniffles. If you suffer from seasonal allergies it can be enough to want to hide under the covers until summer.

The good news is there are lots of things you can do to help prevent or lessen your allergies and now is the perfect time to get started!

Seasonal allergies are caused by an immune response to the grass and flower pollens that circulate in the air during the onset of spring. This causes all those fun symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, skin reactions, headaches, fatigue, and coughing. 

In Chinese Medicine, we consider season allergies to be a deficiency in the body's lung qi and wei qi, our protective energy. Think of it as the body's first line of defense. When the soldiers are weak, the allergens are able to attack. Acupuncture has long been known to improve immune function, so starting a regular acupuncture regimen in the weeks leading up to  the change of seasons can be incredibly helpful. PREVENTION IS KEY!

Chinese herbal formulas can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, stop a runny nose, and boost immunity. When used together, acupuncture and herbs can really work wonders. 

Over the counter allergy remedies contain anti-histamines, which will definitely help reduce the reaction to allerges, but can come with a host of side effects like dry mouth, dizziness and drowsiness, which is probably not what you're looking for when you're already feeling crummy. 

It's also a good idea to boost your intake of Vitamin C by eating more broccoli, red peppers, citrus and kale. Digestion can play a big role in immunity, so invest in a good probiotic to help keep things running smoothly. 

If you spend time outdoors, try to rinse off as soon as you get in the house to avoid transferring pollen to your furniture. Using a neti-pot to keep your sinuses clear will help too. 

For more info on acupuncture for allergy relief, check out this article on the Cleveland Clinic's website. 

If you are in Westchester or Fairfield County and want to set up an appointment, email me at sarah@fairfieldfamilyacu.com

Happy YOU year!

Happy YOU year! I don't know about you guys, but I was really ready for 2017. Last year was a rough one- it was the Chinese Astrology year of the Fire Monkey and that Monkey sure lived up to its wild reputation.

A lot happened last year, and for many of us, myself included, our focus was often on all of those things going on in the world rather than on ourselves. So let's make this year a YOU year. This is a chance to reset, refocus and set some new intentions.

One of my resolutions for the New Year is to prioritize the things that help me feel my best. I find it really challenging to do this with so many other balls to juggles- my practice, my kids, my friends, my family, and oh yeah, my slight obsession with news and politics (who's with me?).

Along with prioritizing these things, I'm also planning on tossing the things that don't help me feel my best- the time suck of social media, the news shows that make me an anxious wreck, and the all too frequent glass(es) of wine. I'm hoping that eliminating some of these things will allow me more time to focus on the good stuff. (and no, that doesn't mean NO Facebook and NO wine, just limiting it!)

I always preach that you can't pour from an empty cup, so I'm recommitting to filling my own cup. That means sticking to my regular workout schedule, getting back on a meal-planning and cooking schedule (if only someone else would do all the dishes), and sticking to regular acupuncture treatments myself! Acupuncture is such an amazing tool to keep our bodies strong, healthy and relaxed, and it's a gift that I am so grateful to be able to share with others. So now I'm committing to giving myself that gift.

What are you committing to do for yourself this year? I'd love to help in anyway possible. I've been building such an awesome network of health and wellness practitioners in the area, so if you're looking for a yoga teacher, a personal trainer, a therapist, or just want some advice on how to stay committed to your goals, don't hesitate to ask! E-mail me at sarah@fairfieldfamilyacu.com

And if you're thinking of committing to regular acupuncture treatments, I have an amazing gift for you! Now through the end of January, I'm offering a 10 pack of sessions for $800. That's $100 off the regular price and total a $400 savings, so get this while it's hot! 

Just a reminder that I do accept out-of-network insurance, and more and more employers are offering this benefit (hooray!), so if you'd like to check your benefits, please fill out this form!

HAPPY YOU YEAR!

CUPPING!

Have you been watching the olympics? I'm loving the swimming and gymnastics and it's been really fun to see purple cupping marks on some of the athletes. 

cupping_stamford

What's cupping?

It's a modality of chinese medicine that uses glass or plastics cups to create a suction vacuum on the skin. It looks weird, but feels great. The suction helps to bring blood flow into the area under the cups. This forced increase in blood flow helps to reduce pain and inflammation by bringing oxygen into the tissues and by moving cellular "debris" left over by old injuries. It speeds recovery and can help prevent injuries by keeping tissue and muscle healthy. And its not just for olympic athletes! Cupping is great for anyone suffering with chronic pain or muscle tension. It's even helpful for kids with asthma and coughs. 

acupuncture_cupping-therapy

Does it hurt?

No! Most people think it feels great, much like a deep tissue massage. It might feel funny at first, but most people feel really relaxed and calm after cupping. 

How long do those marks last?

Not everyone gets dark marks, but the darker ones usually fade in 3-5 days. 

**Watch my interview on News 12 CT about the benefits of cupping!**

THE SCIENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE

The Acupuncture Now Foundation, a leading organization for furthering acupuncture research, recently released its first white paper entitled “ACUPUNCTURE: MORE THAN PAIN MANAGEMENT: A review of research and potential of an ancient therapy in modern times” much to the delight of acupuncturists like myself who like to discuss the crossover of the traditional and ancient medicine with the cutting edge research that is helping to legitimize this medicine in the west. This document, written by ANF’s co-founders Mel Koppelman and Matthew Bauer answers a lot of questions that I frequently hear in my office, and explains, in easily understood language, why acupuncture is so effective at treating so many things.

Following are some sections that I thought were particularly interesting, but I highly suggest downloading the article here and reading it in full!

THE SCIENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE- HOW IT WORKS: Scientists are finding that needling acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system, causing adjustments to body chemistry in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. This process changes the experience of pain and can trigger the release of a wide range of chemicals, including hormones, that influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The result is an improved balance of biochemical factors that can lead to a reduction of various symptoms, enhanced energy, and a better sense of physical and emotional well-being.

PAIN RELIEF: The role of acupuncture as a primary approach for pain relief has never been more relevant. In fact, in response to the North American opioid epidemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued new recommendations to physicians for treating pain. The first of these advises that whenever possible, non-drug and non-opioid drug therapies should be used initially rather than opioids. Non-opioid drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, however, are known to have serious adverse effects, including severe gastrointestinal and liver damage. This dilemma leaves non-drug therapies, such as acupuncture, as the best option for easing pain without these serious or even fatal side effects. Out of all of the options for non-drug therapies, only acupuncture has been shown through extensive animal research to actually stimulate the production of “endogenous opioids” — the body’s own natural opiate-like substances.

FERTILITY: A review of research on acupuncture for women’s reproductive disorders, focusing on both clinical findings and experimental research on acupuncture’s mechanisms of action, found that acupuncture may improve menstrual health and coping for women experiencing delays in becoming pregnant. In particular, acupuncture was shown to regulate uterine and ovarian blood flow (OBF), which can encourage a thicker uterine wall and improve embryo implantation. This effect was thought to take place as a reflex response via the ovarian sympathetic nerves.

DEPRESSION: In a recent meta-analysis, researchers concluded that the efficacy of acupuncture as a stand-alone therapy was comparable to antidepressants in improving clinical response and alleviating symptom severity of major depressive disorder (MDD). Also, acupuncture was superior to antidepressants and waitlist controls in improving both response and symptom severity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The incidence of adverse events with acupuncture was significantly lower than antidepressants. The American military, as well as the U.S. Veterans Administration, has been successfully using acupuncture for several years not only for pain control of wounded soldiers -- known as Battlefield Acupuncture -- but also for treating PTSD and depression.

THE LIMITS OF ACUPUNCTURE: The limit of acupuncture is the limit of the body’s resources. In practice, knowing the limits of a therapy that stimulates the body’s own resources can get complicated but roughly falls into two broad categories: disorders beyond the limits of anyone’s resources and disorders beyond a particular person’s ability to self-heal. We used the analogy that the traditional theory of qi flow is like an irrigation system and that a blockage would cause damage from over- and under-watering. Restore the normal flow and the plants return themselves to health naturally – as long as the damage has not gone past the point of no return. Some health disorders can go beyond what the body’s resources could possibly repair, putting them beyond what acupuncture can treat. Many congenital disorders, for example, fall into this category, as would irreversible injuries such as a severed spinal cord.

Other health issues, however, are types that under normal circumstances would self-heal, but may not for a given individual because their resources are not sufficient enough to heal the problem. For example, a small cut on the foot of a diabetic or someone with a vascular disease may resist self-healing. In such cases, the boost acupuncture gives to facilitate the more optimal use of the body’s own resources may or may not be enough to spark natural repair. Whatever category a particular health disorder may fall into, experienced acupuncturists can offer advice on the likelihood of whether acupuncture would be effective, and they will usually recommend a trial series of treatments to test their patient’s responsiveness to the therapy. 

I hope you found this information as helpful as I did! If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment to see how acupuncture can help you, email me at sarah@fairfieldfamilyacu.com

How spending dough on quality food and smart healthcare can save you money in the long run

I recently came across a quote by awesome food writer Michael Pollan that said “Cheap food is an illusion. There is no such thing as cheap food. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere. And if it isn’t paid at the cash register, it’s charged to the environment….And it’s charged to your health.”

WOW. Maybe this shouldn’t have come as such an eye-opener, but I’ve never seen it put so succinctly. I’ve always felt that it was important to buy high quality food, especially for my family, but it gets really expensive. I hadn’t really thought about the “cost” of buying cheap food.  It certainly made me feel better about all the dough I drop at Whole Foods and Mrs. Greens. 

If it's true what they say that 'you are what you eat' then I'd much rather be a grass-fed, home cooked burger than a 99cent big mac, how about you?

It also made me think about the cost of healthcare, especially acupuncture and other forms of natural healthcare. Until insurance fully covers acupuncture for the treatment and prevention of disease, it can seem like a hefty out of pocket expense for many people. But when compared to the longterm costs of medications that only act as a “bandaid” and the quality of life costs that come in the form of side-effects, acupuncture is SO cheap.

(A quick aside on insurance- now that more studies are showing the efficacy and cost-savings of acupuncture, more insurance companies are willing to pay for it and I suspect in the next few years almost every insurance company will fall in line.)

So when considering a course of acupuncture treatment, it’s so important to see the big picture. Is coming in for a treatment for back pain twice a week for 5 weeks costly and time consuming? YES. But if it can help you avoid years of pain or prolonged suffering, costly painkillers and medications and decreased quality of life, it’s worth every penny and it's way cheaper than the alternative.

Check out this cool infographic on the duration of treatments in eastern (Chinese) vs western (conventional/allopathic) medicine. For the full infographic, click here. 

eastvwest.jpg

5 Common Myths about Acupuncture

misconceptions about acupuncture

Myth #1 It Hurts!! Acupuncture needles are tiny, about the width of a hair, and the insertion is virtually painless. Most people don't feel anything besides the acupuncturist's touch. Some people report feeling a tiny prick when the needle is inserted and a dull, heavy sensation after insertion- this is what we acupuncturists call “de qi” or the activation of the body’s energy.

Myth #2 It’s quackery- The NIH funds many clinical research trials on acupuncture, and these studies time and time again prove the efficacy of acupuncture. Acupuncture has made its way into mainstream medicine and is used in many medical institutions, and even by the US Military. Research has shown that acupuncture has a powerful effect on brain chemistry and the nervous system, regulating important substances in our body like neurotransmitters, hormones and natural pain killing substances called opioids. Theories that acupuncture’s success is based on the placebo effect have been disproven, and high-tech scientific tools are being used to help us learn exactly HOW it works. 

Myth #3 Chinese herbs are dangerous- When prescribed by a board certified herbalist and sourced from herbal pharmacies with rigorous testing, Chinese herbs are extremely safe and effective, with very few side effects as compared to western pharmaceuticals. Like any other medicinal substance, it’s important to only take herbs after being prescribed by a professional. Be sure to let your acupuncturist know about any other medications you may be taking so they can check for any interactions.

Myth #4 It’s only good for pain- While may people have their first experiences with acupuncture for treatment of acute or chronic pain, it is beneficial for SO much more. Clinical trials have shown that acupuncture can help with asthma, arthritis, depression, nausea, fibromyalgia, infertility, anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, and more.

Myth #5 It’s only for adults- Acupuncture is great for kids! Treatments are really quick and sometimes can use other modalities in place of needles. It can help kids with lots of issues including allergies, asthma, eczema, ADHD, chronic coughs and ear infections, and more. Read my blog about pediatric acupuncture here!

WATERMELON- Food as (Chinese) Medicine

watermelon

Need one more reason to enjoy some watermelon this holiday weekend?

Did you know that watermelon, aka Xi Gua (Shee Gwa) has been used as a Chinese medicinal herb for centuries? It has has appeared in Chinese herbal medical texts since 1350 CE. This favorite summertime treat is not only delicious, it can also help keep you cool and hydrated. 

Chinese herbs, some of which are actual foods, are categorized by their taste, temperature, associated meridians and their effects on the body. 

Watermelon has medicinal properties of being sweet and cold and is associated with the heart, bladder and stomach meridians. It clears heat, reduces irritability and promotes urination. It is effective in treating summerheat, the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) equivalent to heat stroke, which has symptoms of fever, restlessness, sweating, dizziness, and nausea.  It also has a beneficial effect on the liver and, in some cases, can help expel jaundice. Mixed with other cooling herbs, watermelon is used to treat mouth sores, tooth infection and sore throats as well as burns and ulcers.

Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, mung bean, and lotus leaf are just a few other examples for common foods that are used in Chinese herbal medicine. 

I asked my favorite nutritionist (and younger sister) Carolyn Brown, RD for her take on the benefits of this sweet treat. Here’s what she had to say: "Watermelon is the perfect summertime snack because just like it’s name implies, that juicy sweet fruit is mostly water - 92% water content! It’s hydrating and has tons of good for you nutrients, like lycopene which is great for heart and bone health and cancer prevention. Another nutrient, citruline, helps with circulation and soothes sore muscles. It’s also loaded in vitamin A, C and potassium too! Make sure that in addition to the fleshy part, you nosh on the white part closer to the rind too, because that’s where the highest concentration of nutrients is (even if slightly less tasty!)."

But remember— everything in moderation. Too much of this cold fruit can cause upset stomach, cramping and diarrhea-- symptoms of cold-invasion of the stomach in TCM. If you experience these symptoms, warming herbs like ginger and cinnamon can help. 

Here are a few of my favorite Watermelon inspired recipes:

SPICY WATERMELON SALAD:

  • 4 cups diced watermelon
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Flaky Sea Salt 

Directions: Toss watermelon in lime juice and cayenne, add sea salt right before eating.

Source: My brother :)

SUMMER SALAD WITH WATERMELON AND TOMATO:

  • 4 cups diced watermelon
  •  2 diced heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup torn mint or basil
  • 1 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 tsps balsamic vinegar
  • Flaky Sea Salt 

Directions: Toss watermelon, tomatoes, onion and feta in olive oil and balsamic. sprinkle feta and add torn mint or basil. Right before serving, add flaky sea salt. (If you add this too soon, it will suck the water out of the melon and you will end up with soup!)

Source: Ive been making this in different variations for 5 years now. Not sure where original credit belongs!

WATERMELON GAZPACHO:

  • 8 cups of seedless watermelon, diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded and finely diced.
  • ¼ cup of chopped flat-leafed parsley
  • 3 Tablespoons of red-wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup of chopped fresh basil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ jalapeno pepper

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Using a hand blender, puree 3 cups of the mix, transferring to another bowl. Puree 3 more cups and add to pureed mixture. Stir in 3 cups of the remaining mixture. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Source: http://www.tcmworld.org/

Wishing you all a happy 4th of July! Hope it's filled with lots of sun, fun and watermelon :)

-Sarah

Acupuncture during Pregnancy

The joy and anticipation of new life often comes with some not-so-nice symptoms including nausea, constipation, back pain, pelvic pain, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and depression.  Did you know that acupuncture can help?

Acupuncture is a safe, gentle and effective way to support the body through the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy, especially since Western medications are not advised during this time. Acupuncture is also extremely helpful during the labor and postpartum period. 

During the first trimester, seeing an acupuncturist as soon as any unwanted issues appear can help reduce the severity of symptoms and keep others at bay. Most women are advised to come every week or at least every other until they feel better.

By the second trimester, many women report feeling better. During this time, moms-to-be are advised to come in for a monthly "tune-up" to keep the body running at it's best and to allow mom-to-be to enjoy this amazing time. 

In the third trimester, acupuncture can help with the aches and pains associated with a growing belly- sciatica, pelvic pain, fatigue, heartburn, etc. If your baby is presenting in breech position, coming in for a treatment between weeks 32-34 can help turn the baby to head-down. Studies show that acupuncture and moxibustion (the use of a Chinese herb similar burned like incense on the tip of the pinky toe) is more effective (and much more comfortable) than the External Cephalic Version (ECV). 

After week 37, it is recommended that women come 1-2 times weekly to help prepare the body for labor. Studies show that acupuncture can help stimulate the uterus and soften the cervix, reduce medical induction rates, reduce epidural use and reduce labor time. While acupuncture at 40+ weeks to help avoid medical induction can be effective, it is recommended that women start treatments earlier to allow the body time to respond. 

In the postpartum period, your body is working hard to return to it's normal function, while also providing nourishment for the new bundle of joy. This time can be very hard for new moms and acupuncture can help restore energy, balance emotions, treat fatigue and restore vitality. It's important for new moms to remember that they need to take care of themselves in order to best take care of their new babies. 

As always, it's important to make sure your acupuncturist is licensed by your state board and nationally certified by the NCCAOM. 

To make an appointment at Fairfield Family Acupuncture, click here.