Maintaining Good Health this Winter

winter phase, 5 elementsChinese Seasonal Calendar is an ancient system of regulating and harmonizing one’s qi to the seasonal cycles of qi. As an acupuncturist, I use certain points on your body to support you in transitioning more smoothly from one season to the next. There are four seasons and five elements and one element corresponds with each season. They are as follows:

Spring – Wood                         (Feb 11 – Apr 26)

Summer – Fire                         (May 14 – Jul 28)

Autumn – Metal                       (Aug 17 – Oct 28)

Winter – Water                         (Nov 15 – Feb 27)

That leaves one element left and that’s Earth. How does it play into the seasons, you wonder? Earth is the 20-day transitioning phase between each season and its corresponding element.

Earth Transition to Summer      (Apr 27 – May 13)

Earth Transition to Autumn       (Jul 29 – Aug 16)

Earth Transition to Winter         (Oct 29 – Nov 14)

Earth Transition to Spring         (Jan 28 – Feb 10)

Using the appropriate acupuncture points for each Transitional Phase also helps ensure a strong, healthy system that is prepared to take on any obstacle the next season might bring.

Currently, according to the Chinese Calendar, we are in the Winter Phase, which is regarded as the seasonal phase of storage of energy reserves. During this time, care should be taken to maintain our vitality. We can do this by going to sleep earlier, resting & reflecting, and simply by keeping quiet. During this phase, one cultivates good heath by promoting the storing functions of the body. One best does this by keeping warm and not sweating as much (in comparison to exercising on a hot summer’s day). Any unnecessary over exertion in the Winter Phase will weaken the energy of our kidneys (the organ responsible for our vitality). This leads to having less energy for growth and renewal come Spring.

Acupuncture treatments are a great way to harmonize your qi with the Winter-qi. When your qi is harmonized, you fortify yourself against:

  •  retention/loss of urine
  •  manic/depression disorders
  •  pain in the ears, neck, back, buttocks, back of legs, knees
  •  nasal congestion/watery nasal discharge
  •  pain in abdomen
  •  impotence
  • irregular menses
  • edema
  • weakness in the lower limbs
  • nosebleeds

Foods & Supplements that Interfere with & Enhance Iron Absorption

strong bones with ironIt is essential that your body has an adequate amount of regular iron absorption. Your body requires iron to carry  oxygen in your red blood cells. Iron is also important for energy production and strong bones. Taking certain supplements and foods at the same time you take iron can interfere with iron absorption in your intestines and increase your risk of anemia.

More easily absorbed heme iron is found in organ meats, beef, poultry, fish, oysters and eggs. Non-heme iron is found in beans, lentils, peas, nuts, leafy greens and blackstrap molasses. The recommended amount of iron for adults ranges from 8 to 18 milligrams daily, while pregnant women need around 27 mg.

Not enough dietary iron leads to anemia. With anemia, tissues do not get adequate oxygen, which is why weakness and fatigue are the primary symptoms.

The supplements and foods that interfere with iron absorption are calcium, zinc, manganese, milk, soy products and tannins (red grapes, tea & coffee).

Also, antacid tablets interfere with iron absorption. On the other hand, to increase iron absorption, take your iron supplement with vitamin C (e.g., a glass of orange juice).

To make sure you’re truly absorbing the right amount of iron, I recommend that you take your iron supplements apart your morning coffee, tea or other other vitamins except for vitamin C.


Lower Back Pain

Are you currently experiencing back pain or know someone that is?

psoas stretch

Have you not been able to find the root cause of it?

Back pain is one of the most prevalent ailments of our society.

In Chinese Medicine, one of the most common causes of lower back is a deficiency in the energy supplied to the body by the Kidneys. What we do as acupuncturists, in this case, is use needles and moxa on specific points to tonify the Kidney energy to support your back.

Structurally speaking, another common, and highly overlooked, cause is the iliopsoas muscle group. Comprised of three muscles, this group is the major hip flexor (a major postural stabilizer of the body). It consists of the Psoas Major muscle, the Iliacus muscle, and the Psoas Minor muscle.

How does this muscle group cause pain?

Stress and fatigue interferes with proper healing and contributes to the over-all stress of the muscles, so keeping a balanced life and limiting stress is one of the keys to a healthy psoas.

Sitting too long, with a forward head posture, as we often do at the computer or cell phone, shortens the iliopsoas muscles. Even when sleeping or driving, if the posture places the iliopsoas in a shortened state for too long, it can remain shortened and tight permanently.

Many people experience back pain more often in the morning than any other time. This has a lot to do with your posture while you’re sleeping. If you tend to sleep in fetal position or with one knee up, this shortens the psoas muscle and pulls the spine into hyperlordosis and an anteriorly tilted pelvis (an over-arched low back). This posture can put stress on all the spinal muscles and all the vertebral joints of the lower spine, ultimately causing pain.

If you think the iliopsoas muscle group is a possible cause of your lower back pain or if you want to find out, it’s best to sleep on your back with proper support of your neck and knees. Along with this postural change, I highly encourage you to do stretches known for the psoas muscles, the most common is the Warrior 1 yoga pose. You can modify this pose by placing your back knee on the ground.


Keeping Your Brain Sharp

Feeling forgetful or scattered lately? Changes in memory or mental cognition is common as we age, but sometimes I wonder how much of it is simply not staying present. There is so much to be distracted by these days, with social media hitting the top of the list, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for one to stay present. In this week’s blog post, I want to share a handful of ways to keep your brain sharp.

sharp brainDIET

Make sure you get your daily dose of omega 3’s. This can be done with a quality fish oil or if you’re vegetarian, flax, sesame or sunflower seed oil does the trick. A healthy brain needs the right levels of Vitamin D. Proper sun exposure is all it takes. Activated Vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. You can also incorporate the 9 foods for brain power in your diet: curry, celery, broccoli or cauliflower, walnuts, crab, chickpeas, red meat, blueberries and healthy fats (avocado, coconut & olive oil, organic grass fed butter, etc).


Keep your mind active by learning new skills or playing brain games. This prevents degeneration of the brain, counters the effects of stress-related diseases and enhances well-being. When you’re looking for a new skill, it needs to be something that truly interests you, keeps you mentally engaged and brings you great satisfaction. As for stimulating your brain with games, try Luminosity or Brain HQ.


Research has shown that multitasking may ultimately slow you down, create more errors & forgetfulness. Prioritize your brain use. You need about 8 seconds to commit a piece of information to your memory so if you’re talking on the phone and bringing in groceries, you’re more than likely to forget where you put your keys down. Sound familiar? Contrary to multitasking is mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you focus without distractions and keeps control of the monkey mind we talked about in my last blog.


If you don’t take a break, your mind will for you. When you notice that you’re losing concentration, stand up and take a walk. Give your mind and your focus a mental breather. This way, when you get back, your brain is trained to focus at the task at hand and not relate working to mind wandering. Also, studies have shown that changing your driving route supports a healthy brain and the ultimate change of scenery brain enhancing experience is moving house!


Acupuncture has many protocols and points for memory loss, better focus and thinking more clearly. There are certain organ systems that regulate our cognitive function and our ability to remember. The spleen supports our short term memory, concentration and our analytical thinking. The kidney also supports our short term memory along with how we retain information. The heart influences our long term memory and how effective and efficient we can access that information. What’s so unique about acupuncture is that through tongue, pulse and question diagnosis we can tailor treatments specifically for you and any imbalances you might have.

Other ways to support better focus and brain cognition are:

  •  Stay social
  •  Use all your senses
  •  Take a nap
  • Don’t sweat what you forget
  • Exercise
  • Meditation

How to Tame your Monkey Mind

Are you tired of the constant chatter in your mind? Is it bringing you down or keeping you distracted? What is it and where is it coming from?

Many people, including Zen Buddhists, refer to this constant chatter as our Monkey Mind. And it’s coming from your past and future and doing all it can to keep you not present.

People may experience this chatter as: 
  • Your mind reading off a laundry list of to-do items.
  • Your mind listing its fears, both real and imaginary.
  • Your mind recalling hurtful things that have happened in the past.
  • Your mind judging the present.
  • Your mind creating catastrophic “what-if” scenarios of the future.
With all this chatter, it’s so difficult to remain present, peaceful, joyful and focused. Taming your monkey mind, however, may support you in the following way:
  • It will give you clarity of mind.
  • It will allow you to focus on the present and on the task at hand.
  • It will improve the quality of your sleep.
  • It will increase your sense of calm and of well-being.
  • It will make you happier.

So how can we tame it? Well, the first step to calming down all the chatter is simply knowing that it’s possible to do so and remembering that your thoughts don’t rule you. You rule your thoughts. Other ways to tame this wild monkey in your head is to:

1. Talk to it!
Ask it what it’s trying to communicate to you and why? Or be an observer of all that chatter. Sometimes your monkey mind just needs to be heard and once you allow it to run its course and/or observe it, it tends to calm down.

2. Journal
Create a regular journaling practice and write down all that your mind is chattering about. Sometimes getting things out and on paper is healing and forgiving.

3. Meditate and Deep Belly Breathe
Sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing is one of the most effective ways to calm the mind. Inhale slowly and expand your belly. Exhale slowly and release all tension. Our breath is our greatest gift. I encourage you to take some time every day to acknowledge and honor it.

4. Stop Assigning Meaning
Have you ever considered that your thoughts might not mean anything? In other words, we give meaning to things based on our past experience.

5. Recite a Mantra                                                                                                                                        Repeat a positive phrase or quote that brings you peace.

6. Play the Game of Fives
Once you notice your mind is creating chaos, pause for a moment and come back to the present by noticing 5 things in your environment using any of your 5 senses. Hear them, smell them, touch them, look at them or if you’re having a meal, take a little bit longer to chew and fully experience all the flavors in your meal.

7. Acupuncture
Acupuncture is well known for creating balance in body, mind & emotions. Where there is balance there is peace and good health.
Calming your mind and staying present has so many benefits. Trust that it takes time to tame those wild monkeys in your head, but anyone on this planet can do it. As Buddha says,
               “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all,
               one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind
               he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come
               to him.”

Stimulating the Vagus Nerve to Relieve Stress & Anxiety

In continuation of my last few blog posts , I wanted to mention one easy & effective way to relieve stress and anxiety. Instead of taking a prescription drug, try a safe and effective remedy for stress that is backed by thousands of years of scientific evidence: stimulating something called the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve originates from the brain stem and it travels all the way down into the belly, spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal chords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines. It also connects to glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones like Acetylcholine, Prolactin, Vasopressin, Oxytocin. These hormones influence digestion, metabolism, and naturally, the relaxation response. The vagus nerve is the most important element of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s the one that calms you down by reducing your heart rate, blood pressure and controlling your relaxation response. It counteracts your sympathetic nervous system, the one that causes stress by activating your fight-or-flight response.

So how can we stimulate your vagus nerve? By deep bellybreathe cartoon breathing.

Start by taking a deep inhalation into your belly, expanding your diaphragm, while counting to five. Then very slowly exhale while puckering your lips. To get into a vagus-nerve stimulation mode, try reducing the number of breaths from the usual 10-14 per minute to 5-7 per minute.

Studies have shown that practicing 10 minutes a day of deep breathing is enough for you to notice you’re relaxing yourself. The key is diligence! Without forcing it, gradually work on reducing the number of breaths per minute. The whole point is feeling relaxed!

Meditation & Acupuncture for Weight Loss

weight lossLast post we discussed stress, its effects on the body and supportive ways to deal with it. This week I would like to expand on a couple of those ways, mainly meditation and acupuncture, and how they not only support you in dealing with stress, but also weight loss. 

Can meditation really help you lose weight? Yes!

Exercising, cleansing and eating healthily all support one’s journey in losing weight and lowering blood pressure. But what about those food cravings? How does one deal with those? Well, let’s think about it…

Where do these cravings usually come from? Stress!

One of the biggest causes of obesity is trying to comfort oneself with food from daily stresses of life. Meditation helps you become more aware of your thoughts and actions, including those that relate to food.

Researcher Jennifer Daubenmier shared her experience of the correlation between meditation and weight loss. “You’re training the mind to notice, but to not automatically react based on habitual patterns — to not reach for a candy bar in response to feeling anger, for example…If you can first recognize what you are feeling before you act, you have a greater chance of making a wiser decision.”

If meditation is not an option for you and you’re dealing with stress and/or weight loss, how can acupuncture support you?

Similar to mediation, acupuncture is an adjunct therapy. If you’re truly open & willing to change your lifestyle, acupuncture has been found effective in helping one not only lose weight, but keep it off as well. Needles, inserted in particular points in the body and ear, release endorphins which have a soothing and relaxing effect that makes it easier to deal with the kind of stress and anxiety that ultimately results in overeating and binging.

Triggering an endorphin release also benefits the digestive and hormonal systems. It helps rebalance the organs involved, supporting processes such as metabolism and water retention. Interestingly enough, it also fortifies the will power to accomplish these goals.

Stress Reduction Techniques

Stress is almost inevitable now-a-days. We all encounter it at some level and almost on a daily basis. So what can we do to deal with stress so that it doesn’t effect our health or relationships? There are many ways to find the balance in life. Here I’ll name a few and I invite you to give them a try and find the one that really works for you. Unknown


When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
There are many different types of mediation such as:
  • Guided Meditation
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Mantra Meditation
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Qi gong
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga


As we learned last week, the body secretes an assortment of hormones, such as cortisol, into the bloodstream as a reaction to stress. Studies have shown that acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of these hormones and the pathways that cause “fight or flight”.

Balanced Nutritional Diet

Stress and a poor diet can cause an imbalance of blood sugars resulting in tiredness, lack of concentration, and mood swings. An over excess of caffeine negatively effects your hormones and can result in restlessness, lapses of concentration and a decrease in your ability to be fully effective. Also, under stress, vital nutrients are used up more quickly, the body’s natural defences can be severely affected and leave the person with a weaker immune system. This leaves the person more prone to contracting illnesses. A well balanced nutrition will boost our resistance against the effects that stress brings upon the body.

Other common ways to deal with stress are:

  • quality sleep
  • exercise
  • a walk in nature
  • spiritual studies/practices
  • laughing!
If you need anymore information on any of the practices above, feel free to contact me.

Stress, Cortisol & their Effect on your Body

StressSymptomsDo you experience stress on a daily basis?
Do you often feel tired, anxious or have trouble sleeping?
What toll is stress really taking on your body?

When we experience stress, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. This system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and enhances your brain’s use of glucose. We need these hormones to follow through with daily tasks such as getting up in the morning, or responding to acute stress.

So what’s the problem?

Well, in order for you to perform such daily tasks, especially acute stress (like an unknown dog suddenly barking at you) cortisol also shuts down bodily functions that are nonessential in these types of situations. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. Could you imagine the havoc this wreaks on our health in this fast-paced, consistently stressed lifestyle? Our bodies are pumping out cortisol on a constant basis and when chronically elevated (along with our heart rate & sugars in the bloodstream), cortisol can have deleterious effects on our system such as:

  • Blood Sugar Imbalance and Diabetes
  • Weight Gain and Obesity
  • Immune System Suppression
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Fertility Problems
  • Other Issues – Long-term stress and elevated cortisol may also be linked to insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia, depression, and other conditions.
So how to we find the balance and deal with the life stressors of today? Tune in next week…

Acupuncture & Infertility

According to a Tel Aviv University Study, there are an estimated 4.5 million couples experiencing infertility each year. When combined with western fertility treatments, acupuncture increases conception rates by 26%. Part of the mechanism that facilitates conception is
pregnancythe reduction of stress, balancing the endocrine system, and increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs. This way, there is a stronger chance for the egg to be nourished and carried to term. With acupuncture our goal is not only to get you pregnant, but to keep you pregnant and have a healthy baby.
Now-a-days, stress is on top of the list for infertility, for both men and women. When we are under stress, the hormone cortisol is released in the brain. This interferes with the balance of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which both play a big role in the reproductive cycle. Fertility drugs are created to stimulate the hypothalamus to effectively balance the endocrine system. Unfortunately, they have undesired side effects such as bloating, fluid retention, weight gain, and nausea. Acupuncture has been found to complete the same function as the drugs, but without the unfavorable side effects. We can also work with the fertility drugs to increase fertility yet lessen the side effects of the drugs.
On your journey of getting pregnant and starting a family, acupuncture also helps with morning sickness, low back pain, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, insomnia, breast milk production, breached baby, postpartum depression and many others.