Getting healthy in 2018

Happy new year to all of you… I don’t know about you, but I certainly have a tendency to overindulge over the festive season – a bit too much chocolate and booze; late nights, long lies and much reduced activity! It has been a delicious indulgence…. However, I am now feeling the effects of these dalliances away from the path of healthfulness, and am eager to get myself healthy again. The key to getting yourself healthy in body and mind is balance in four main areas. This article will guide you through and is based on founding principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

  • A peaceful and contented mind. Keep your mind stimulated with things you enjoy and love. Spend time with friends and family, have a laugh, pursue a hobby or passion. But also get the right balance between stimulation. Keep your mind healthy by managing your stress using therapies such as acupuncture and practices such as mindfulness or meditation.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet filled with nutritious, real food. Eat real food including plenty fruit, vegetables and good quality protein. Avoid sugar, processed foods and reduced refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and white potatoes. 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 (preferably dark organic), 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 along with some dietary adjustments.
  • Get moving – but don’t push your body beyond what you can manage. 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.
  • Get enough sleep, but don’t over 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 day’s 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

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

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/

 

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.

Summer Allergies – An Acupuncturist’s Perspective

Woman sneezing
Woman sneezing (Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The warmer weather and longer days makes such a welcome change after the long dark and wet Scottish winter. It is glorious to see all the flowers and blossom blooming. It seems decidedly unfair that this can mean the arrival or exacerbation of allergies. An allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to something in the environment which would normally be harmless. Its this reaction that causes the irritating and even debilitating symptoms. Allergies can present in a variety of different ways. Most commonly people associate the Spring with hayfever (allergic rhinitis) and its symptoms of runny/blocked nose, incessant sneezing, red itchy eyes and headaches. However, other allergies such as eczema, asthma and even migraines can also get worse for some in the summer months. These allergic reactions can be caused by allergens which is the collective term for anything provoking this reaction and includes pollen, man-made environmental pollutants, dust and animal dander which also increases as furry animals shed their winter coats.

A recent study (Acupuncture in Patients with Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomised Trial) showed acupuncture can be an effective treatment. So how does acupuncture help? Chinese medicine evolved over several millennia with an Eastern philosophical framework and without the use of microscopes and blood tests to identify environmental pollutants or measure increased immunoglobins. Nevertheless, it recognised and identified the invasion of pathogenic factors causing the symptoms we call allergies. The impact these pathogenic factors can have depends on the individual person’s constitution and the relative strength of the pathogen. Its for this reason that Chinese medicine (which encompasses acupuncture and Chinese dietary therapy) recognises that people can be more susceptible to allergens depending on what’s been going on in their lives, what their constitution is like, what the surrounding environmental conditions are and what foods they have been eating. What’s more, Chinese medicine has a diagnostic framework that combines these factors allowing practitioners to formulate a treatment that will not only address the immediate symptoms for example, itching or sneezing, but also the underlying causes. Using the appropriate acupunctures points can help to expel the pathogen, alleviating the symptoms and can help to strengthen the body’s defences and constitution to minimise future attacks. Moreover, using the principles of Chinese dietary therapy, traditional acupuncturists can provide easy to follow general dietary advice that will help further reduce sensitivities to allergens.