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Prenatal health and nutrition

Chinese medicine has long emphasised the importance of a good balanced diet for optimal health. This is particularly important when trying to conceive as we are all made up of “prenatal-Jing” from each of our parents. “Prenatal-Jing” is a broad concept in Chinese medicine that encompasses the inherited DNA from the egg and sperm; and the nourishment a developing foetus receives in utero. It provides us with the foundation for our own health and longevity. The quality and strength of this “pre-natal Jing” is determined by the health of our parents and grandparents.

So, it’s interesting that modern scientific researchers are now finding evidence that this ancient Chinese knowledge can be scientifically proven. It has been recommended for a while now, that pregnant women and those hoping to conceive should take a folic acid supplement. This is because folic acid mimics the naturally occurring substance folate which is essential for the developing spine and helps to guard against conditions such a spina bifida. Research into epigenetics (the switching on and off of genes) is showing that how our cells read the DNA is affected by diet and other environmental factors. A recent report shows that scientists have now been able to demonstrate this also happens in utero and is dependant on the nutrition of the mother in the early stages of pregnancy. This reveals that prenatally, lifestyle and nutrition has a profound effect on the future health and long-term susceptibility to disease of our off-spring and that it is not just folate we need to ensure we are getting.

Professor Andrew Prentice, quoted in the Guardian said, “If a mother’s diet is poor then it causes a whole lot of damage to the genome which has a shotgun effect, so a baby might have possible adverse outcomes. This general phenomenon might explain preterm births, problems in pregnancy, brain defects, or why some babies are born too small.” You can read more on this research in the original article from the Guardian here. This article and the report discussed above focus, on the mother’s health, but a baby is not just made up of its mother. The father’s health impacts significantly on the health of his sperm. There is an ever growing field of research on the role of sperm in recurrent miscarriage and the health of the child.

Ultimately, what conventional and ancient Chinese wisdom points towards and is being increasingly backed-up by research, is that the quality of nutrition developing sperm and eggs, and foetuses receive in utero, plays a crucial role in the health of the child. To get this essential nutrition, it important to eat a healthy balanced diet with lots of nutrient dense vegetables and good quality protein. However, given our intensive farming practices and busy lifestyles, it is not always possible to get enough nutrients from food so adding in good quality supplements can help. You also need to ensure that you have good gut health so that nutrients can be digested and absorbed; and ensure you have good blood flow and circulation to your reproductive organs so the nutrients can get to the womb lining, eggs and sperm.

Acupuncture can help to improve blood flow to and reduce inflammation in the reproductive organs, and help to improve digestive function. Acupuncturists do more than just apply acupuncture – a significant part

of what we do is also to provide appropriate, individualised lifestyle and dietary advice to help you and your future children stay in the best of health.

 

Jill Storstein, MBAcC is a traditional acupuncturist working in Edinburgh and Aberfeldy with a special interest in fertility, pregnancy and paediatric support.

 

 

 

Acupuncture Awareness Week 6 – 12th March 2017

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Today marks the start of Acupuncture Awareness Week 2017… I’ll be sharing research and information about about acupuncture throughout the week on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but thought I’d start with a brief introduction to acupuncture for my blog post.

Introducing Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine which has been used in China and other far eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health. Acupuncture is a very safe and versatile therapy that has been used to help relieve a wide range of both acute and chronic symptoms including (but not limited to): back pain; arthritic pain; IBS; sciatica; hay fever; severe headaches; menopause; musculo-skeletal pain and dysfunction; PMS and other gynaecological conditions including fertility support; and mental-emotional issues such as low mood, stress, insomnia and anxiety. Because acupuncture has its own diagnostic framework, you don’t need to have a formal medical diagnosis to try it. It is very safe for people of all ages and can be used in the elderly, in children, and even in pregnancy.

Acupuncture focuses on all factors that contribute to disease and not just the presenting symptoms. Because every patient is unique, two people with the same western diagnosis will have different acupuncture treatment plans because the pathology of their illness is different. Trained Acupuncturists like myself, Jill Storstein and my local colleague Lou Radford (based 9 miles west of Aberfeldy) have a wealth of professional experience.  We are trained to observe and interpret subtle signs and physical changes in order to identify the precise nature of imbalance. Treatment plans are designed for each individual using selected acupuncture points to relieve both the immediate symptoms and the underlying root cause of the problem.

Acupucture is very safe when carried out by appropriately trained practitioners. It involves the insertion of a few very fine, sterile needles into carefully selected points. Most patients barely feel the needles going in and soon forget about them once they are in. People tend to find acupuncture a very relaxing experience which leaves them with a general sense of wellbeing and relaxation afterwards.

Acupuncture predates contemporary western medical science by thousands of years. It has been developed, tested, researched and refined over centuries to give a complex and detailed understanding of both the body’s energetic balance and its physical functions. Acupuncture is just as logical and empirical as any other system of healthcare. Traditional acupuncture’s benefits are widely acknowledged around the world and in the past decade acupuncture has begun to feature more prominently in mainstream healthcare in the UK.

Jill Storstein is fully qualified in Traditional Acupuncture and is a member of the British Acupuncture Council. Jill works in Edinburgh and Aberfeldy, Perthshire.

Jill Storstein, MBAcC Tel: 07772 501810, http://jillstorstein.com

Aberfeldy Acupuncture Clinic, Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL

Albany Street Clinic and Natural Fertility Centre, 36a Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QH

 

Acupuncture Awareness Week 6th – 12th March 2017 http://www.introducingacupuncture.co.uk

 

A new year – a new health kick…

pitlochry-picThe new year can be a good time to take stock of life and consider what you want to achieve in the forthcoming year. However, new year’s resolutions are not necessarily the best way to bring lasting change as they can be easily broken. Instead it is better to set goals for the year, that way you haven’t failed if you have a wobble. If your goal for 2017 is to get healthier, this article based on founding principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine will help guide you.

The best way to improve your health and wellbeing is to take a holistic approach and aim to bring balance to the 4 pillars of your health:

  1. Your mind. The stresses of life can have a profound impact on health and wellbeing. Get the right balance between keeping your mind stimulated and being able to switch off your internal dialogue to be still and focus on the things you are doing. Make sure you keep joy in your life by doing things you enjoy and seeing people you love. Keep your mind healthy by managing your stress using therapies such as acupuncture and practices such as mindfulness or meditation.
  2. Your food and drink. Eat real food including plenty fruit, vegetables and good quality protein. Avoid excess sugar and processed foods. Eat at regular intervals, don’t skip meals and don’t eat too late at night. Drink according to your thirst and activity. Enjoy your food and remember that the key to good health is moderation. Eating the occasional bit of chocolate is Ok, so long as you enjoy it in moderation and eat plenty of healthful, nutritious foods (see my previous blog for more information on healthy eating here). If you find you crave a lot of sweet foods, your digestive system is out of balance and acupuncture could help to address this.
  3. Your body. Find the right balance between exercise and relaxation. Some daily physical activity is essential for good health, but how much will depend on your individual constitution. Balance your exercise – cardio activities such as running and aerobics shouldn’t be the only type of activity you do, also do something more nurturing such as yoga, pilates or tai chi. And make sure you have some down time where you can rest and just be. If you have pain or physical injury – consider a restorative treatment such as acupuncture to help you recover.
  4. Your sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy mind and strong body. It is the time when our minds process the days events and our body repairs and regenerates. To get a good sleep, try to aim for 7 – 9 hours a night, ensuring you get to bed well before midnight. Avoid looking at screens before bed and don’t drink any caffeinated drinks after 5pm. Keep your room nice and dark and free from electronic gadgets. If you struggle with sleep, acupuncture can help.

Lifestyle and dietary advice form part of the therapeutic treatment in an acupuncture session. Acupuncture is a very versatile, safe and effective treatment that can be use to help treat not just symptoms but the underlying cause of those symptoms. It aims to help restore your natural balance and proper function in whatever way is needed. To find out more about living well, visit http://jillstorstein.com and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Acupuncturist, Jill Storstein is member of the British Acupuncture Council working at Albany Street Clinic, 36a Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QH and Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL. To make an appointment go to the Contacts page or call: 07772 501810

Why do we get more colds in winter, and how can we prevent them (naturally!)

Why do we get more colds in winter – the modern science perspective

We all know that people seem to be more likely to catch colds in winter, – 80% more likely according to the NHS[i] – but scientists cold-canstockphoto17250512are less sure why. We also know that the weaker and more vulnerable a person is, the more likely they are for a cold (or flu) to affect them badly. This is why the NHS has its flu vaccine programme aimed at the young, the elderly, the immune-compromised, asthmatics and pregnant women. It has been shown that rhinoviruses (colds) survive better in lower temperatures. Our nasal passages tend be colder than the rest of our bodies therefore, it would seem to follow that it is easier to catch colds when it is colder. A study at Yale University[ii] looked at the relationship between the temperature and the body’s innate immune system’s ability to fight the cold virus in mice. It found the immune cells in the nasal passage were less effective at fighting the virus when the temperature was cooler.

 

Why we get more colds in winter from a Chinese medicine perspective

These are interesting findings because it supports ancient Chinese medical theories about the relationship between seasons, pathogens (e.g. viruses) and our immune system. Chinese medicine recognises the affect a virus has is relative to the strength of a person’s immune system and the strength of the invading pathogen. Chinese medical theory developed very many years ago and so understands the immune and respiratory system in a slightly different way to modern science. It is known as Wei Qi or “Defensive Qi” and is responsible for protecting the body from invading pathogens and regulates the body’s temperature. If a person’s Wei Qi and/or Lungs are weak, then a pathogen can invade more easily and the stronger the pathogen is, the more easily it can invade. Therefore the more we do to strengthen our Wei Qi and keep our Lungs and supporting systems healthy, the more resilient we will be and able to fight off invading viruses.

 

In Chinese medicine, the common cold is usually a “Wind-Cold Invasion”. It is the “Wind” which drives in the cold – the stronger the wind or cold or both, the stronger the pathogen. These invading pathogens are strengthened by the environmental weather – therefore, “Wind-Cold invasions” tend to be stronger in winter. Moreover, the body needs to work harder at keeping itself warm and well-nourished in the winter so our wei qi can be weaker at this time.

 

What we can do to prevent colds?

So, what can we do to keep our immune system strong in winter? According to Chinese medicine, the immune system is regulated primarily by Lungs with support from the digestive system and the body’s constitution. So keeping well and having a strong immune system depend on maintaining the standard pillars of health – with a few seasonally applicable modifications:

 

  1. Get enough sleep and relaxation time– and remember in the winter we need more sleep than we do in warmer, lighter months. But don’t oversleep – everyone needs a different amount of sleep – you should aim for 8-9 hours in winter. You can help your body’s natural sleep rhythm by making sure you experience the daylight – open shutters and curtains while it’s light and try to make sure you spend sometime outdoors everyday.

 

  1. Eat a good, healthy diet with a broad range of seasonal vegetables, good quality meat, regular mealtimes and warm foods (no cold salads in winter! – see my previous blogs about diet and keeping well in winter for more informVegetablesation). Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet – good quality produce will help. Nutrients particularly important for supporting the immune system include vitamins C, D and E and zinc.

 

  1. Keep active and your energy flowing:
    1. Physically: do some gentle exercise each day – we do need to slow down in winter so this shouldn’t be as much as you would do in the warmer months. And try to get outdoors – fresh air is good for strengthening the lungs (just make sure you wrap up well)
    2. Socially: although it can seem more of an effort in the colder weather, it is important to keep our family and friend relationships alive to nourish our souls – just make sure you also leave time for peaceful relaxation.
    3. Mentally: nourish your mind with interesting reading or self-study; avoid stress where possible and manage your response to stress you can’t avoid.

 

  1. Wrap up warm especially vulnerable parts – keeping warm takes more effort and energy in the winter – and putting additional strain on your body weakens its resources and therefore its defences. So help your body out by putting enough layers on and keep vulnerable parts of the body warm. Vulnerable parts are areas where wind invasions can get in more easily and include the neck, feet and back – so make sure you are all covered up using long thermal underwear, scarves and thick socks.

 

  1. Have acupuncture! Acupuncture can help to regulate and strengthen the body’s wei qi. If your immune system is working well, you will be less likely to catch a cold and have fewer symptoms that resolve more quickly when you do. Some studies have shown this in a research setting. It has been shown that acupuncture does appear to help modulate the production of immune cells to help prevent colds and can help to reduce the some symptoms of colds[iii][iv].

 

What if it’s too late and you’ve already caught a cold?

 

There are some remedies based on Chinese medicine that might help if you have already caught a cold. The quicker you take action the quicker and easier it is to ward it off.

Stage 1: slightly tickly or runny nose, sneezing mild headache:

  • Eat spring onions, ginger and garlic. Ginger tea with a little raw or manuka honey and lemon is a nice soothing remedy.
  • Eat lots of vitamin C and zinc containing foods such as berries, red peppers and green leafy vegetabginger-tea-canstockphoto22045274les
  • Have a hot bath then wrap up warm afterwards and sweat it out
  • Rest and keep warm!
  • Visit your acupuncturist who will be able to treat you to help the cold and give you some acupressure techniques to do at home

 

Stage 2: streaming nose, sneezing, shivering/chills, headache fatigue:

  • Keep up with the spring onions, ginger and garlic and include turmeric and horseradish
  • Have bone broth, chicken soup or congee (congee is rice that has been cooked for so long it has become like a porridge) – you can combine all of the above to make a tasty and nourishing meal.
  • Avoid mucous producing foods such as dairy, bananas, rich fatty meats, fried food, wheat (including pasta and bread), sugar and sugary foods.
  • Rest and keep warm!!
  • Visit your acupuncturist if you’re well enough – otherwise ask for some guidance about self-acupressure.

 

Jill Storstein DipAc, MBAcC is a traditional acupuncturist working in Aberfeldy, Perthshire and Edinburgh City Centre

[i] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Healthywinter.aspx

[ii] http://news.yale.edu/2015/01/05/cold-virus-replicates-better-cooler-temperatures

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17432639

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15649831

Live long, live well – lessons from the Nei Jing

The origins of Chinese medicine can be traced back at least 4000 years when the seminal text, the Neijing was written. Its wisdom and teachings are still just as relevant today as they were back then. At its core is the search for the formula for a long and healthy life – now, as then, we all want to live to a ripe old age in the best of health and avoid chronic illness. 4_chinese ornament

 

In the opening chapter the Neijing discusses the lifestyles of “the ancient people” in contrast to the contemporary population. According to it, the ancient people lived for 100 years because they “understood the principle of balance”. The book notes however, that contemporary people of 4000 years ago, lived their lifestyle as follows:

 

“They drink wine as though it were water, indulge excessively in destructive activities, drain their… body’s essence…. Seeking emotional excitement and momentary pleasures, people disregard the natural rhythm… They fail to regulate their lifestyle and diet, and sleep improperly. So it is not surprising that they look old at fifty and die soon after” [p. 1, translation by M. Ni, 1995]

 

This could just as easily be the lifestyles of those living today. In our modern times, skipping meals or overeating, regularly going to bed too late, over or underdoing exercise and regular overindulgence are commonplace and contribute to many of the chronic pains and illnesses suffered today.

 

Prevention of illness and longevity is fundamental to Chinese medicine principals and is explained in the Neijing. People should look after their health by living a harmonious balanced lifestyle and thus avoid the need for acupuncture treatment or other medical intervention. This balance, followed by the “ancient people” was achieved by not overdoing anything (food, sleep or activity), by doing the right amount of exercise and relaxation, by eating a balanced diet at regular times, with a regular sleeping pattern, and the avoidance of excessive physical and mental stress. The need for exercise and a healthy diet is increasingly recognised in modern health advice but frequently it fails to mention the importance of balance within that.

 

Living a life out of balance can affect health in a huge variety of ways but similarly health can be improved by finding the right balance. There are four key areas where appropriate balance needs to be found to help optimise health.

  1. Nurturing of the mind
  2. Regulation of food and drink
  3. Nurturing of body through work, rest and exercise
  4. Regulation of sleep.

 

Examples of ailments due to imbalance that I often see in my acupuncture clinic are general feelings of stress which may be accompanied by symptoms such as insomnia or anxiety. When discussing their lifestyle it becomes clear that they are overdoing things. They may be working long hours and still squeezing in regular trips to the gym or jogging, they may be skipping meals, eating late and perhaps they are also checking emails and social media late in the evening. They often are not having enough true relaxation time where they allow their mind and body to be still. The result can be that the mind goes into overdrive, overthinking things and unable to switch off at bedtime. Acupuncture can help by helping to restore the balance and enable improved sleep as well as reducing the stress and help to calm the mind. This helps to reset things to build a renewed foundation of health. However, improvements will be better felt and longer lasting alongside adjustments towards a more balanced lifestyle that is more appropriate to the constitution of the individual.

 

There is a lot that can be understood about modern day afflictions and their causes and cures through the studying of ancient Chinese medical wisdom. Practitioners of the branches of Chinese medicine (including acupuncture) have a unique understanding of ill health and its deviation from optimal health through imbalance. Acupuncture treatments are carefully selected according to the individual’s diagnosis, to restore balance. This diagnosis is arrived at through understanding in what way different areas of normal function are out of balance and learning what in the individual’s lifestyle and constitution could have caused this. Acupuncture gets to the root of the cause by improving the balance and therefore improving the symptoms. However, part of the treatment will also include dietary and lifestyle advice, which will help the individual to maintain that balance.

 

 

Reference: The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (Neijing Suwen), translated by M. Ni, (1995), Shambhala, Boston, MA.

 

Jill Storstein is an acupuncturist and member of the British Acupuncture Council. She works at Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL. Website: http://jillstorstein.com, Tel: 07772 501810

Improving your health with food and how you eat it

Feeling wellAfter all the excesses of the festive seasons, you may be thinking about getting a bit healthier again… Perhaps you’ve been feeling a bit rubbish lately – sluggish and tired, have put on a pound or two more than you’d like or perhaps you have something a bit more troublesome going on. Acupuncture can be a great help to restoring your health and it can also help improve your motivation to make changes. I have seen some great changes in my patients following a course of acupuncture. The best results, I find, come from people who also follow some of the dietary and lifestyle advice I give to complement their treatment. Advice given is tailored for each individual, depending on the presenting conditions and present lifestyle. However there are some generic rules that can help to improve everyone’s sense of wellbeing. In this blog I offer some timely wisdom from Chinese medicine to help you in the initial stages of improving your sense of wellbeing through diet and eating habits.

Our digestive systems are sensitive and can easily be damaged by eating the wrong types of foods, eating in the wrong circumstances or by emotions such as stress, anger and worry.  In Chinese medicine, our digestive system is responsible for a wide range of bodily functions and also maintains the intellectual and cognitive function of our minds. Its function is understood to have the key role of transforming food and fluids into the nutrients our bodies need and transporting them to the places they need to go. If the digestive organs are not working properly, foods and fluids are not transformed and transported as needed and can cause a variety of different symptoms and ill health – some more prominent than others. Following some basic guidelines can help to keep things working well.

How to eat

Chew: Your stomach has no teeth, so remember to chew your food well. This begins to break the food down making digestion easier for your stomach and gut.

Relax: Sit down to eat and have proper meal times at a table away from work or other distractions wherever possible. Be mindful of what you are eating and take pleasure in it. This helps to stimulate your digestive process making it more effective.

 

Cook your food whenever possible as cooked food is easier to digest than raw food. Have your food warm whenever possible and never have or at least at cold food straight from the fridge. This cools yourdigestive system and inhibits the action of your digestive enzymes and means your body has to work much harder to warm the food for any digestion to take place. If eating cold food really is unavoidable, have a warm drink with it – either warm water or herbal tea such as ginger tea. But preferably, never have cold food.

Don’t drink large quantities of fluids with a meal (especially cold drinks). This floods and cools your digestive system. If you like to have a drink with your meal, have a small cup of luke-warm water or a small herbal tea.

Don’t over eat, it is better to leave a meal feeling a little hungry than to overload the digestive system.

The Chinese have a saying, “eat like a King for breakfast, like a Prince at lunch time and like a pauper at dinner time“. Your digestive system is strongest earlier in the day, so breakfast time is the best time to have your biggest meal. We have a tendency to think that we have to have a milky/cereal based breakfast or stick to traditional breakfast foods. But actually, you can have anything you like for breakfast. Try heating up left overs for example. If you start the day with a good hearty breakfast, you will feel fuller through the day, function better and need to snack less.

What to Eat – (and what not to eat!)

Eat natural foods as much as possible, and if you can afford and source it, buy organic meat and fresh, seasonal produce. If you must buy pre-packaged/pre-preprared food always read the label and avoid foods with preservatives and additives. Ready-meals and other pre-packaged foods claiming to be low in fat are not usually healthier options. These foods are often loaded with sugar and salt – so check the lables.

Reduce your sugar intake

Sugar causes all sorts of problems. In Chinese medicine terms, it has a very heating effect on your stomach and throughout your body. It undermines your digestive system and therefore energy production and absorption of essential nutrients. Sugar is not just the sugar you have in tea, coffee and sweet treats, but also refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta.

In western medical terms sugar (in any form) upsets your body’s delicate homeostasis and balance of hormones. Your hormones are responsible for regulating everything from mood, metabolism of food (and therefore energy), balancing your reproductive health and gender hormones, to your heart and brain function. Insulin is the hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood, too much sugar in the diet leads to too much sugar in the blood and therefore an increase of insulin in your system. This is enough to push your system out of balance. Having too much blood sugar causes health irritations such as energy slumps, headaches, mood swings, skin breakouts and more serious health problems such as inflammatory diseases, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Eat lots of Vegetables and Fruit

Eat a wide variety of different vegetables and fruit every day. They are packed full with a broad range of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre, which is essential for good digestion. There is a saying “eat the rainbow” which means eat vegetables and fruit of every colour. The 5 a day guideline is really the minimum we should be eating of fruit and vegetables – so have more if you can! Remember, light cookVegetablesing (steamed or stir-fried) of vegetables is best for your digestion. Vegetables are better than fruit because of the sugar content in fruit. Fruits to be eaten in moderation with a particularly high sugar content are bananas, citrus fruit, mangoes and pineapple. In Chinese medicine terms overconsumption of these fruits can also damage the digestive system by cooling it and generating an over abundance of fluids and therefore swelling and mucus. Fruits that are particularly good are berries and pears. All vegetables are good (for most people), but especially the green leafy ones like spinach, kale and brussel sprouts.

Get enough Protein

Make sure you have some protein with every meal. Some good sources of protein include: fish, chicken, red meat, eggs and nuts (peanuts are best avoided, but other nuts are very nutritious).

**Remember to have free range & organic where possible and definitely not processed**

Eat Fish

Fish is very important to include as a regular part of your diet because it is the best and highest source of omega 3 oils. Omega 3 is very important for your brain and heart and helps to reduce inflammation. Try to have fish at the very least 3 times a week – more is better. Try to include oily fish like mackerel and salmon. And have shellfish too – it is high in zinc and other vital minerals. Seafood is also an excellent source of protein.

What to Drink…

Water is essential – we all need water for healthy functioning. However, how much we need depends on person to person, because we get some of the water we need from food and other liquid intake. The best guidance is to drink when you are thirsty and don’t ignore your thirst! Your urine should be straw colour – if its darker drink more, if it is very pale drink less. Generally speaking you shouldn’t have ice cold water – it is best to have water at room temperature or warmer. However, if you are prone to feeling hot, it is a hot day or you have been exercising cool water is better – but not with a meal.

Reduce coffee and caffeinated teas. Coffee in particular is very heating. Some people can tolerate a little coffee well, but others may find it doesn’t suit them at all. Too much coffee can cause stomach problems, insomnia, headaches, anxiety and increase recurrence of UTI’s. Sometimes people can fall into a trap of using coffee as a prop to give you a boost when feeling sleepy, but it will just leave you feeling even worse when the caffeine hit wears off. If you are feeling drowsy at work or another time when you need to be active try walking around a bit, taking a short break and getting some fresh air.

Herbals and green teas are good to drink as an alternative to water. However, what is best depends on your particular health pattern. For example someone with weak digestion and prone to feeling the cold should avoid peppermint tea which is cooling, and someone who is very stressed or has hot flushes should avoid warming teas such as ginger or cinnamon. Speak to your acupuncturist for advice on what teas are best for you.

Don’t drink fizzy drinks like cola and lemonade – even if they are the diet versions. Sugar and sweeteners are equally as bad for you.

Fruit juices and smoothies have very high sugar content and no fibre. Fruit juices made from concentrate have no goodness in them – just fruit sugar which, is as bad as any other kind of sugar. So, if you do drink fruit juices, keep them to a minimum, dilute them with at least 50% water and don’t drink those made from concentrate.

Essential Rules:

  • In the winter and on colder days, it is important to eat warm foods that are easy to digest like soups and stews.
  • Don’t eat too late at night
  • make sure you have a substantial (warm) breakfast and lunch that includes protein.

A Final Word on Healthy Eating

The key to healthy eating is balance! Approach these modifications in a way that you can sustain. For some it will work best to make these changes gradually and for others, it works best to dive straight in. If you do make the changes you will start to feel the benefit in your health. The more you follow the guidance the better you will feel. Ultimately, it is your health, your body and your food choices so do what feels right for you and tune in to how your body reacts when you eat foods that are ‘good’ for you or ‘bad’ for you.

Everyone is different and has different nutritional needs. Chinese dietary therapy, like all Chinese medicine is tailored for the individual and their particular needs. For example, sometimes it is appropriate to reduce dairy, but for others, increasing protein and iron rich foods may be more important. Your acupuncturist will be able to advise you based on your diagnosis and symptoms. To make an appointment visit http://jillstorstein.com, Email: jillstorstein@gmail.com or telephone: 07772 501810

Jill Storstein, DipAc, MBAcC

‘Like ́my Facebook pages for more healthy eating and living tips www.facebook.com/JSAcupuncture or http://www.facebook.com/aberfeldyacupuncture/

 

Keeping Well in Winter – Reminder

Loch Tay Ben LawersI wrote a blog post last year in the winter about keeping well. Its been a busy month getting my new Aberfeldy Acupuncture Clinic ready so I’ve not had time to write a new article recently. However, since I have now moved 75 miles further north and it is a good bit colder – I thought this would be an even more relevant post this year, so I am recycling it…

We are now deep into winter with short days, long nights and freezing temperatures. It is important at this time of year to conserve our energy, slow down a bit and wrap up warmly. We tend to do this naturally anyway because our bodies are working that bit harder at keeping warm. In this modern age, we can lose touch with listening to what our bodies’ food needs are and allow generalized public health advice and marketing cloud our natural judgment and food desires. For example, in the supermarket fruit and vegetable isle and we still see a big selection summer fruit and veg such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and even melons. Raw fruit and vegetables are very cooling on the digestive system, which can prevent our bodies working efficiently and in the longer term can weaken digestion, our defenses and leads to a variety of chronic health issues including perennial runny noses, IBS and fatigue. Moreover, these foods are out of season and will have traveled many miles across the globe losing at great deal of vitamins (not to mention the carbon foot print!). So salads and summer fruits are best avoided in the winter.

At this time of year we need warmth and extra nutrients to keep healthy and our immune systems working well. So what can we do help support our health in the winter? Eating warm cooked food is essential. The body’s enzymes involved in digestion need to be at a particular temperature to work efficiently. If we are eating cold foods, our bodies need warm the food up to the optimal temperature – which uses precious energy. In addition to this, the cell membranes of many fruit and vegetables are tougher in their raw form. Cooking helps to break down these membranes so we can get the nutrients out. Soups are perfect winter foods and you can cram loads of nutrients into a soup.

My favourite soup of the moment is Chicken, Leek and Kale soup made with bone broth. Bone broth is a very nutrient dense type of stock and is made by boiling bones as you would a homemade stock but for a really, really long time. This helps to break the bones down and release all the nutrients that are locked away and that can be difficult to get in our natural diets. It contains collagen, glucosamine, calcium and magnesium to name but a few. Collagen and glucosamine are vital for the good functioning of our soft tissues, muscles, tendons and ligaments. They can also help to improve the lining of our guts.

In terms of Chinese dietary therapy, bone broth is wonderful for our Jing which is the core of our being and our foundation. It supports the production of everything else include our blood and bones. The combination of Chicken, Kale and Leeks is warming, good for helping to build the blood and boosts our natural defenses. The leeks also help to keep good circulation of energy and the kale helps to balance bodily fluids. All in all, it is the perfect winter soup, so easy to make and is a great use of the left over roast chicken.

Recipes

Chicken Bone Broth

Ingredients*

Left-over roast chicken carcass

1 tbsp Apple Cider vinegar

1 onion

2 stalks of celery (optional)

2 bay leaves (optional)

bunch of thyme (optional)

2 cloves of garlic (optional)

1 tsp sea salt

ground black pepper

water

Strip all the edible meat of the chicken carcass and keep in a tub in the fridge until the stock is ready to make into soup. Put all the rest of the bones, skin and cartilage into a large heavy based pot (with a lid) or a slow cooker. Cover with water and add the other ingredients. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low heat and cook for a minimum of 3 hours but preferably about 18 hours to allow the bones to get really soft and the cartilage to dissolve. Check the water levels periodically and add more as necessary – it will boil dry on the stove if you don’t. After a few hours of cooking you should be able to easily break the larger bones either with your hands or a potato masher. Breaking the bones up helps them to break down more quickly.

Chicken, Leek and Kale Soup

Ingredients*

1 large leek, washed and chopped

Coconut oil or butter

150g Kale washed, thick stalks removed and sliced

left over roast chicken

750ml of Chicken Bone Broth

A glug of white wine if you happen to have a bottle open or a squeeze of lemon at the end.

Salt and pepper to taste

Gently sauté the chopped leek in some melted coconut oil or butter for a few minutes add the chicken, bone broth and wine if using. Bring up to simmering and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the kale for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Adjust the seasoning as necessary and add a squeeze of lemon if you’ve not used wine.

*Use organic where available and funds allow.

Read more about the benefits of these ingredients here:

Kale http://foodfacts.mercola.com/kale.html#

Leeks http://foodfacts.mercola.com/leeks.html

Bone Broth http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/03/health-benefits-of-bone-broth.html

Sources:

Hartwig D & Hartwig M, (2012) It Starts with Food: Discover the WHOLE30 and Change your life in unexpected ways, Victory Belt Publishing Inc. Las Vagas, NA

Leggett D, (2005) Helping Ourselves, A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics, 2nd Edition, Meridian Press, Totnes, England.

Pitchford P, (2002) Health with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA

Acupuncture and Migraine

A couple of weeks ago was Migraine Awareness week and it inspired this latest blog as it is a subject close to my own heart.

Acupuncture can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines
Acupuncture can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines

After the birth of my second son, I began suffering from frequent, debilitating migraines. After the birth of my third child I was having them so frequently I was rarely well. I seemed to be in a cycle of migraine and gradual recovery from it only to be hit with another one again. It was awful trying to look after three small children when at times, I didn’t even have the strength to walk across the room. I had tried several different treatments including the conventional triptans and beta blockers (which didn’t help at all), and other alternative therapies which helped a little. Various other stressful events happened in my life and I became seriously unwell with a chronic illness as well as still having the migraines regularly. I was really at my wits end when a colleague suggested I try acupuncture. The relief from migraines was almost immediate and to this day, I very rarely have migraines and on the odd occasion that I do, they are very mild and short lived.

I became fascinated by acupuncture and the philosophy behind it – the more I read, the more I wanted to know so I decided to study it for myself. I learned that Chinese medicine views health in a very different way to conventional western medicine. Conditions with the same diagnosis in conventional medicine such as migraine are considered symptoms of a variety of different patterns of ill health in Chinese medicine. These patterns can have different root causes due to a combination of constitutional tendencies when combined with lifestyle and dietary factors. Acupuncture seeks to address both the symptom (the migraine) and the underlying root causes.

Migraine in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, migraine – the symptom – is considered to be due to Yang Rising. Yang in this context, is energy or heat. The Yang rises from the torso to the head and can cause the aura and pain. The Yang rising can be due to an underlying deficiency or due to excess. If it is due to excess, there is too much of something that is generating too much Yang. This could be due to a build up of emotional tension that overflows and with a catalyst surges upwards causing the headache. Other excesses that can lead to Yang rising can be consumption of rich, spicy or greasy foods or too much coffee or alcohol or even being in too hot an environment. Where there is deficiency, it is because there is not enough of the Yin balancing component to contain the Yang. Deficiency can arise out of an underlying weakness or a combination of overdoing things and not eating well.

As an acupuncturist, I would be looking to ascertain whether your migraines were underpinned by deficiency or excess or possibly a mixture of the two and I’d be finding out more about your lifestyle, your general health, your menstrual pattern (in women) and your eating habits. This is because common triggers for migraines can be: eating and drinking too much or certain foods; skipping meals, emotional factors like stress or anger; tiredness; and hormonal imbalances.

Example of an Excess Migraine Patient

Some key signs and symptoms that one might see in someone suffering from an excess type migraine could be extreme irritability and prone to shouting outbursts of temper, red face, tending to feel the heat, restless sleeper and the headache would likely to be severe and pounding, on one side, probably around the temple and eye. Someone suffering from this type of migraine would be likely to have triggers such as eating too much rich or greasy foods, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, being in a hot environment or being under additional stress.

In this instance, Acupuncture treatment would focus on a selection of points that helped to clear heat in the system and reduce stress and suggestions would be made for stress management, lifestyle adjustments and reduction of heating foods and drinks.

Example of a Deficiency Migraine Patient

It is most often women who suffer from deficiency type migraine headaches and they can often, though not always be related to her menstrual cycle. This person would be likely to feel tired a lot of the time, have difficulty getting to sleep at night, suffer from episodes of lightheaded-ness or dizziness, get blurred vision and dry eyes, and feel weak, especially after missing a meal. Someone suffering from this type of migraine is likely to have triggers that include skipping meals, overdoing things, lack of sleep or feeling particularly tired, certain foods may trigger migraines such as wheat or cheese and a female patient may find that she gets migraines during or after her period.

In this instance, Acupuncture treatment would focus on a selection of points that would strengthen the digestive system to help improve the uptake of nutrients and strengthen constitutional reserves. Advice might include some dietary adjustments, ensuring the person is eating enough and enough of the right sort of food and that enough rest is built into the day and increase sleep.

Example of a Mixed Deficiency and Excess Migraine Patient

The mixed migraine patient is likely to share some similarities to the deficiency and the excess patient but their symptoms of tiredness and temper may not be quite so extreme as the other categories. This patient may have a busy life and feels stressed and irritable a lot of the time. They may find they have enough energy whilst at work or for other essential tasks but feel exhausted when they are finished. Their headaches often start at the end of a particularly stressful day or week and are likely to be painful at the time and leave them feeling exhausted afterwards.

Acupuncture treatment would focus on reducing stress and strengthening core reserves. Advice would be likely to include relaxation techniques and additional sources of support for stress management as well as doing appropriate exercise and some dietary recommendations to help improve energy.

Acupuncture for Everyone

Everyone is unique and has his or her own complex pattern of health, and every migraine sufferer has their own individual set of circumstances that underlie and trigger their migraines. My role as an acupuncturist is to identify what is out of balance in your individual set of circumstances and provide you with individualised treatment and advice.

The Evidence

Acupuncture has a proven track record of success and is recommended as preventative management of migraines by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN: http://www.sign.ac.uk/pdf/sign107.pdf ) and by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE: http://pathways.nice.org.uk/pathways/headaches/management-of-headaches#content=view-node%3Anodes-prophylactic-treatment&path=view%3A/pathways/headaches/management-of-migraine-with-or-without-aura.xml).

One of my patients was kind enough to write this on my own Facebook timeline about her experience of acupuncture for migraines:

Gem GD Suffering from 1-2 stress related migraines a week and now down to 1 every 4 months all thanks to Jill Storstein

You can read more about the evidence of acupuncture for migraine by clicking on the links below:

http://www.abetterwaytohealth.com/the-uks-top-migraine-charity-is-about-to-reveal-a-safe-effective-drug-free-treatment-for-migraine/

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/migraines.html

How can you find out more?

If you’d like to discuss how acupuncture could help you or book an appointment get in touch with Jill Storstein on 07772 501810 or use the contact form here.

Nausea in Early Pregnancy and Acupuncture

Early pregnancy is a strange time. It can bring up a range of emotions – sometimes unexpectedly. I remember finding out I was pregnant with my first child. I was in a good relationship, at a good stage in my life to have a child and although not exactly planned, it wasn’t a surprise either. Nevertheless, I felt shocked and terrified for a good while before I felt happy about it. Once it had sunk in, I still felt adrift and very lonely as I adjusted to my new reality… Then there are the physical changes to contend with I was fortunate enough only to experience mild nausea, but I

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / AndreyPopov
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / AndreyPopov

know plenty of other women and patients who have had it a lot worse. Women can feel sick constantly, not just in the morning. Some just feel sick for much of the time, others are actually sick. I remember one friend telling me how she had vomited in the kitchen sink while doing the dishes!

Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce nausea and calm anxieties. In a large scale study conducted in Australia, traditional acupuncture was found to significantly reduce nausea and vomiting in women less than 14 weeks pregnant. You can read more on the findings of the study in this article from the Daily Mail here, and access the original study here.

There are several hypotheses about what causes nausea in pregnancy. It could be due to the change in hormone levels of hCG and oestrogen, or due to the brain stem’s reaction to these hormones. It has also been suggested that women who were deep down tired and under stress prior to pregnancy can be more likely to experience more nausea (Betts, 2006). This last theory would certainly fit with the Chinese medicine model which recognises that pregnancy can accentuate existing minor imbalances in one’s health. In this model, pregnancy can also  exacerbate emotional confusion or upset and cause pregnancy disorders.

Traditional acupuncture looks to support the whole person mentally and physically. It works to restore balance, bringing a sense of calm and helping to alleviate symptoms. Nausea in pregnancy is viewed as a result of rebellious Stomach Qi (energy) which can be caused either by an underlying weakness in the digestive system, emotional difficulties upsetting the natural flow of energy (Qi), or an excess of heat or phlegm. Sometimes it can be a combination of one or more of these. Acupuncturists treating nausea would be looking to address all the underlying causes as well as using points to address the immediate symptoms. Many women who have received acupuncture for nausea relief find they feel better soon after the needles are in and find coming for treatment twice a week initially, then dropping to weekly helps them get through those early weeks more comfortably. Dietary tips based on your specific Chinese medicine diagnosis may also help to lengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.

If you’d like to ask me more about how acupuncture could help you or you’d like to book an appointment you can either use this contact form here or call me on 07772 501810

There is an excellent advice sheet from one of the leading acupuncturists in obstetric acupuncture (Debra Betts) available here. This short film clip is also interesting about the use of acupuncture for nausea.

Jill Storstein DipAc, MBAcC is a member of the British Acupuncture Council with clinics in Edinburgh and Portobello.

References:

Betts D, (2006) The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth, The Journal of Chinese Medicine, Hove, East Sussex.

Smith C et al. (2002) Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Birth, Mar;29(1):1-9.

Eat well to keep well in Winter – Bone Broth and Chicken, Kale and Leek Soup Recipes

winter pic 4

We are into the darkest part of the year and there has certainly been a corresponding shift in the weather. It is important at this time of year to conserve our energy, slow down a bit and wrap up warmly. We tend to do this naturally anyway because our bodies are working that bit harder at keeping warm. In this modern age, we can lose touch with listening to what our bodies’ food needs are and allow generalized public health advice and marketing cloud our natural judgment and food desires. For example, in the supermarket fruit and vegetable isle and we still see a big selection summer fruit and veg such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and even melons. Raw fruit and vegetables are very cooling on the digestive system, which can prevent our bodies working efficiently and in the longer term can weaken digestion, our defenses and leads to a variety of chronic health issues including perennial runny noses, IBS and fatigue. Moreover, these foods are out of season and will have traveled many miles across the globe losing at great deal of vitamins (not to mention the carbon foot print!). So salads and summer fruits are best avoided in the winter.

At this time of year we need warmth and extra nutrients to keep healthy and our immune systems working well. So what can we do help support our health in the winter? Eating warm cooked food is essential. The body’s enzymes involved in digestion need to be at a particular temperature to work efficiently. If we are eating cold foods, our bodies need warm the food up to the optimal temperature – which uses precious energy. In addition to this, the cell membranes of many fruit and vegetables are tougher in their raw form. Cooking helps to break down these membranes so we can get the nutrients out. Soups are perfect winter foods and you can cram loads of nutrients into a soup.

My favourite soup of the moment is Chicken, Leek and Kale soup made with bone broth. Bone broth is a very nutrient dense type of stock and is made by boiling bones as you would a homemade stock but for a really, really long time. This helps to break the bones down and release all the nutrients that are locked away and that can be difficult to get in our natural diets. It contains collagen, glucosamine, calcium and magnesium to name but a few. Collagen and glucosamine are vital for the good functioning of our soft tissues, muscles, tendons and ligaments. They can also help to improve the lining of our guts.

In terms of Chinese dietary therapy, bone broth is wonderful for our Jing which is the core of our being and our foundation. It supports the production of everything else include our blood and bones. The combination of Chicken, Kale and Leeks is warming, good for helping to build the blood and boosts our natural defenses. The leeks also help to keep good circulation of energy and the kale helps to balance bodily fluids. All in all, it is the perfect winter soup, so easy to make and is a great use of the left over roast chicken.

Recipes

Chicken Bone Broth

Ingredients*

Left-over roast chicken carcass

1 tbsp Apple Cider vinegar

1 onion

2 stalks of celery (optional)

2 bay leaves (optional)

bunch of thyme (optional)

2 cloves of garlic (optional)

1 tsp sea salt

ground black pepper

water

Strip all the edible meat of the chicken carcass and keep in a tub in the fridge until the stock is ready to make into soup. Put all the rest of the bones, skin and cartilage into a large heavy based pot (with a lid) or a slow cooker. Cover with water and add the other ingredients. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low heat and cook for a minimum of 3 hours but preferably about 18 hours to allow the bones to get really soft and the cartilage to dissolve. Check the water levels periodically and add more as necessary – it will boil dry on the stove if you don’t. After a few hours of cooking you should be able to easily break the larger bones either with your hands or a potato masher. Breaking the bones up helps them to break down more quickly.

Chicken, Leek and Kale Soup

Ingredients*

1 large leek, washed and chopped

Coconut oil or butter

150g Kale washed, thick stalks removed and sliced

left over roast chicken

750ml of Chicken Bone Broth

A glug of white wine if you happen to have a bottle open or a squeeze of lemon at the end.

Salt and pepper to taste

Gently sauté the chopped leek in some melted coconut oil or butter for a few minutes add the chicken, bone broth and wine if using. Bring up to simmering and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the kale for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Adjust the seasoning as necessary and add a squeeze of lemon if you’ve not used wine.

*Use organic where available and funds allow.

Read more about the benefits of these ingredients here:

Kale http://foodfacts.mercola.com/kale.html#

Leeks http://foodfacts.mercola.com/leeks.html

Bone Broth http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/03/health-benefits-of-bone-broth.html

Sources:

Hartwig D & Hartwig M, (2012) It Starts with Food: Discover the WHOLE30 and Change your life in unexpected ways, Victory Belt Publishing Inc. Las Vagas, NA

Leggett D, (2005) Helping Ourselves, A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics, 2nd Edition, Meridian Press, Totnes, England.

Pitchford P, (2002) Health with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition, North Atlantic Books, Berkley, CA