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Five Reasons to Get Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

Statistics show eight out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. It is also very well known in the United States, people are too sedentary and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back. continue reading »

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Weight Loss for the Long-Term: No More Diets and Gimmicks

Approximately 70 million Americans are overweight. 34% of our country is obese, which means that one is over 20 pounds his or her optimal weight. The vast majority of overweight people have been on a variety of diets and regimens. It is quite common to experience initial success on diets. Unfortunately, the good results are usually temporary and eventually spiral into the same or a higher weight than we were at prior to the diet. This cycle can continue through life, which leaves many people feeling disempowered, cynical, and depressed about their ability to maintain an optimal weight. In my practice, I have helped many people lose weight and keep it off. This is because I educate my patients that they are NEVER to diet again. Instead, what they need to do is find a healthy way to eat that truly works for them and then stick with it as long as they live.

The problem with dieting is that we think it’s OK to revert to the way we were eating after the diet is over. Dieting implies a short period of time in which we use will power to shed weight, only to return to our old ways sooner or later. At the end of the diet we usually say, ‘phew, I’m glad that’s over!’ This mindset is undoubtedly a form of self-sabotage. As our bodies become accustomed to losing weight and eating different foods on the diet, they easily go into a state of shock once the old foods are reintroduced. Our metabolism will eventually shut down altogether if we abuse ourselves by repeatedly gaining and losing large amounts of weight.

I also tell my patients that there simply is no magic bullet for losing weight. There is no pill that will effortlessly make the weight melt off. Having a healthy body takes work; there is no way around that. The key is to have a healthy relationship with ourselves so we can make changes that are not based on will power. We have to learn how to enjoy taking care of ourselves. We have to find the balance between immediate gratification and harsh discipline. This means that we are proactive about our health; we aren’t using food to beat ourselves up or to take away the pain in our lives. Instead, our food choices reflect a very strong commitment that we have made to ourselves to heal our bodies and minds with nutrition. Every one of us is entitled to this relationship with food and it is definitely possible. We can actually enjoy the hard work it takes to live well.

The truth is that we will never have the body we want until we are educated about making the right choices with food, healing the underlying emotional imbalances that make us crave unhealthy foods, and generally make a commitment to achieving optimal health. Let’s take a look at each of these in closer detail:

1) Making the right choices with food: This means becoming informed about nutrition. There has to be a basic understanding of the effects of various foods on our health if we are to use food as medicine. (And that is what we are getting at, using food to heal ourselves rather than as poison). Our knowledge of food must go beyond, ‘eat your fruits and vegetables.’ Here are a few basic guidelines for getting your on track with your food choices. This advice is simple to follow and will drastically change your food choices:

  • Eat organic foods– If you aren’t already doing so, start shopping at your local health food store for the majority of your daily meals. Yes, it is a bit more expensive, but you have to look at this as an investment in your health. 95% of the foods that you buy over the counter at regular grocery stores have no nutritional value whatsoever. Instead, many conventional foods are pumped with additives, refined sugar, herbicides and pesticides, genetically modified ingredients, transfats, and hormones. Do you really want these kinds of things in your body? Shopping at your health food store will drastically reduce your intake of these unhelpful additives. Organic foods have much more nutritional value.
  • Try to eat mostly whole foods– Eat foods in their natural state. Fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken, grains, etc. are all examples of whole foods.
  • Reduce your intake of refined sugar and carbohydrates— These are the foods that will make the weight pile on. Muffins, pasta, cereal, white rice, candy, soda, bread, bagels, etc. are the culprits in weight gain and water retention.
  • Drink 6-9 glasses of filtered water daily– Hunger pangs are often a sign of dehydration. Reach for water before you reach for food.
  • Eat a big breakfast and a small dinner. Eat whole food snacks every 2-3 hours throughout the day.

2) Healing Our Emotions and Food Cravings: Food is definitely a drug for many of us. To make it worse, it is a socially accepted drug, which means that it seems OK because everyone around us is indulging, so why shouldn’t we? We are surrounded by images of food all around us. The marketing gurus for major food corporations are masters at making us feel deprived if we don’t indulge our desires for immediate gratification. Many of us are overweight because we use food to fill an emotional void. Our deeper needs in life are not being satisfied and we don’t know how to nourish ourselves appropriately. Healing our relationship with food is often dependent upon our ability to satisfy ourselves in our work and relationships, Many people turn to food when their sexual life is either non-existent or dissatisfying. When we are engaged with our lives and know how to handle the various stresses that come with adult responsibilities, then we will not turn to food compulsively. We will discuss how to go about healing ourselves in these ways in a bit.

3) Making a Commitment to Optimal Health: Most of us are conditioned into believing that other things in life are more of a priority than our health. We only make our health a priority when we experience symptoms that alert us to the fact that something is wrong. Committing to optimal health means that our health becomes one of the top priorities in our lives right NOW, even if we feel fine. This means taking the time to eat nutritious foods, exercise, and keep stress at bay with techniques such as meditation or yoga. When we make this commitment and truly live by it, our weight will naturally be more balanced. This commitment is can only be genuine if we deeply respect and value ourselves.

Achieving optimal health and a balanced weight entails having the same relationship with exercise as we do with food. Both nutrition and exercise must be key elements to our daily lifestyle. I recommend exercising 20 minutes a day, 5 days per week for those of you just starting out. Just as there is a way to eat that is both healthy and enjoyable, there is also a way to exercise that we can commit to for the long-term. Your main strategy should be to experiment with all forms of exercise until you find something you really like. This doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but it certainly can be enjoyable. If we don’t have a basic enjoyment for exercise, then the only way to get through it is by using will power, which will run out sooner or later. Many people find that exercising in community is much better for them than exercising alone. Anyway you choose is fine as a long time you exercise.

Every February/March and September/October I organize a 21 day purification program. If you have interest in joining us or/and have any question about it, please give me a call at
408 386 2689.

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5 Time Tested Ways to Dissolve Stress

Most of us can attest to the fact that stress is reaching epidemic proportions in modern society. Balancing work, family, health, money, etc. is a challenge that many of us feel ill equipped to face. Eighty percent of the doctor visits in our country are stress related. Our quality of life and health is largely determined by how we adapt and relate to daily stressors. Excessive stress not only takes its toll on our bodies, but strips the joy out of life and suppresses our creative instincts. Without physical health, joy, and creativity, life is scarcely worth living. Dissolving stress is certainly possible, but takes a commitment to making lifestyle choices that create balance throughout our lives. Here are a few ancient techniques for eliminating stress, increasing energy, and creating emotional balance. These are some of the most powerful tools we have for achieving optimal health and preventing future disease.

1) Meditation: Practiced for thousands of years in many Asian cultures, meditation has long been recognized as one of the most powerful tools we have for cultivating peace of mind and balance. Numerous studies have proven the incredibly positive effect that meditation has on stress reduction. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques taught around the world. For beginners, the most helpful approach is to start with basic mindfulness techniques that develop both relaxation and alertness. Once a basic ground of awareness has been stabilized, then more advanced meditation practices can be undertaken. Meditation is a practice that helps us identify with stillness and silence. It cultivates intuition and surrender. It can deeply help just about anybody, but is truly a miraculous practice for reducing stress and anxiety.

2) Yoga: This ancient practice has also been utilized by millions of people throughout history. Yoga is typically considered a form of meditation that involves putting the body into a variety of poses in combination with deep breathing to induce mental clarity, increased energy, and physical strength and flexibility. The healing benefits of yoga have been repeatedly documented by a variety of clinical studies. There are many forms of yoga and it is best to experiment to determine which form feels the most helpful for your needs. I highly recommend combining yoga with sitting meditation, as they work synergistically to induce deep states of relaxation.

3) Acupuncture: One of the pillars of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. Perhaps one of the last truly holistic forms of healthcare remaining on the planet, acupuncture works with the Qi (life force ) of the body in order to induce a variety of therapeutic effects. The safety and efficacy of this practice are well documented which accounts for its incredible surge in popularity in the Western world. Acupuncture is considered one of the most powerful treatment options for stress reduction. Only seek acupuncture treatment from licensed acupuncturists ( as opposed to chiropractors or MD’s who practice acupuncture).

4) Herbal medicine: There are a variety of both Chinese and Western herbal formulas that have been clinically proven to reduce stress and create emotional balance. Herbs are much less concentrated than pharmaceuticals, which is why they have far less side effects (but can still be as effective). If you are interested in this treatment option, many acupuncturists can skillfully prescribe herbal formulas. This is recommended over buying herbs over the counter with little knowledge of their intended usage.

5) Nutrition: Eating a diet high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and low glycemic carbohydrates can go a long way toward healing stress. The standard American diet (high in processed foods, saturated fat, sugar, and transfats) has been linked to anxiety, depression, and increased stress in numerous studies. Change your diet to an organic, whole foods approach and both your body and mind will reward you beyond measure. Poor adaptability to stress is often a sign that our brains are starving for nutrients that we aren’t getting from our standard American diets.

Making these lifestyle changes may not be easy in the initial phases. It is often helpful to seek out the support of a health care practitioner to guide you through these transitions. Once you start feeling the enormous payoff of making such changes, there truly is no turning back. Your stress will dissolve, your weight will decrease, and your energy will skyrocket, not to mention the preventative measures you are taking for heart health. Isn’t that enough to warrant making a few changes?

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Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Smoking Cessation

Many people turn to acupuncture when they want to quit smoking. This is because acupuncture can be a gentle and effective way to reduce cravings, detoxify the lungs, and stabilize one’s emotions as they are quitting. Is it a magic bullet? Usually not. The patient has to be ready to quit. They have to be willing to shift to the identity of being a non-smoker. This often means giving up activities/rituals that promoted the smoking habit, such as going out to bars, drinking the morning cup of coffee, or looking forward to the smoke break at the office. Sometimes it is also important to step back from others who continue to smoke.

Acupuncture has enjoyed a long history of helping people with a variety of addictive behaviors. To this end, people have turned to acupuncture for alcoholism, drug abuse, food cravings, and even other addictions such as gambling, sex, or shopping. Acupuncture works by balancing the flow of Qi in the body and mind. In acupuncture theory, addictions are due to a number of potential imbalances in the way that energy flows through the body. In particular, people who exhibit highly addictive behavior tend to have problems in their heart Qi, which is due to a history of emotional or sexual abuse or a betrayal of trust. As their core emotional response to life is based on a sense that life isn’t safe, they turn to external solutions to provide a sense of comfort and security.

Every addiction offers something up front that it eventually takes away down the road. In the case of cigarettes, the smoker is filled with an immediate sense of fire and fullness that often compensates for inner feelings of chronic dissatisfaction and emptiness. After a period of time, the smoker cannot access an innate feeling of being OK without smoking. So, there is more to nicotene than the physical craving. Many smokers are trying to fill a void in their lives through cigarettes that has rather deep psychological and/or spiritual undertones.

On a biochemical level, addictions to substances such as cigarettes create an imbalance in the way that serotonin and dopamine is regulated in the brain. The addict needs a constant fix of the substance in order to keep a relative balance in their neurotransmitter levels. When the substance is removed, then serotonin levels plummet which causes irritability, fatigue, anxiety, or depression. Acupuncture has been clinically shown to regulate these vital brain chemicals without causing unwanted side effects.

Most the of the patients need to get two treatments per week for 3 weeks and take Chinese herbs throughout the process. Along with acupuncture, herbs, and supplements I also recommend a technique called EFT which stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques. This is considered to be an emotional form of acupuncture that involves tapping on specific acupuncture points while repeating specific phrases to oneself. This technique breaks the neural patterning that perpetuates addictions. It can be a miracle for people who have struggled to quit smoking. It is easy to learn and can be useful in a variety of ways.

Meditation can also be a profound resource for people trying to quit. Mindfulness exercises help with developing space around the cravings and observing them in a neutral state of awareness. This helps to take a lot of the momentum out of the energy of addiction. It gives one a deep inner resource to draw upon when difficulties arise.

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Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Sciatica

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have proven to be effective for many people who suffer from sciatica. This condition, which is characterized by nervy and gnawing pain that radiates from the low back down one or both legs, can be debilitating and frustrating. Many patients have tried conventional therapies such as pain medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic but still struggle with the condition.

In acupuncture theory, pain is believed to be due to stuck energy and stagnation of blood in the body. It is always a result of impeded circulation, which can lead to inflammation or degeneration. In the case of sciatica, the gall bladder meridian is typically in need of energetic balancing. This meridian runs from the piriformis muscle in the buttocks down the lateral side of the legs, which is the pathway of the sciatic nerve. Qi stagnation (stuck energy) occurs in this meridian due to suppressed anger and stress. Because of this, a common dynamic amongst sciatica patients is that they tend to hold onto anger or express it inappropriately.

Acupuncture is a gentle treatment that is intended to be very relaxing, restorative and balancing. As the primary goal is to regulate the flow of Qi in the gall bladder meridian, one often notices that their entire sense of health is boosted from the treatment: physically, emotionally, and mentally. Most sciatic patients come for treatment 1-2 times per week for 4 weeks, at which time we assess for progress. The treatment plan depends upon the severity of the pain and how long it has been there.

Chinese herbal medicine can also play an important role in treating this condition. Many herbal formulas have been proven to be useful in the treatment of sciatica. Each formula is based on each patient individual needs.

There are also specific yoga posture that are helpful for both prevention and for active flare ups. These poses are best learned from a yoga instructor, as it is fairly easy to exacerbate this condition with stretching.

With the right combination of therapies, sciatica typically responds very well to treatment. I recommend combining acupuncture with Chinese herbs for a few weeks and possibly adding some targeted stretches. This should go a long way in your recovery from this painful condition.

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