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

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.

 

 

 

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

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.

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.

Springing Forward

Changes afoot this Spring for Jill Storstein Acupuncture
Changes afoot this Spring for Jill Storstein Acupuncture

Its been a while since I’ve written a blog entry and what better time to write one than the start of Spring when the clocks have just gone forward.  Chinese medicine theory developed over the millenia based on observance of patterns of symptoms in people and correspondences of nature with people. Spring is a season of change with the most dominant organ being the Liver which in the 5 elements, corresponds to Wood and is susceptible to Wind. It is also a time of growth and development. Interestingly both of these factors have been demonstrated in my own practice.

A Flurry of Sore Necks and Painful Shoulders

I have had a lot of patients in my practice in recent weeks coming to me with neck and shoulder pain. In Chinese Medicine theory, the Liver is responsible for ensuring flexibility in our muscles and sinews and corresponds to wood, hence its vulnerability to Wind. Trees need to have some flexibility in them to be able to sway and move  in the wind. If they are too rigid they will break in the wind or they will break if the wind is too strong. Wind is the element in dominance in the Springtime and so we need to be careful to protect ourselves against the Wind, by keeping vulnerable areas such as our necks wrapped up – particularly on windy days or in drafty places. If the wind gets in, and our Liver is not functioning as well as it could our muscles and sinews will have less flexibility and so be more susceptible to the wind invading and causing injury. So, it certainly does fit with Chinese medicine theory that I would be seeing more patients with this complaint just now.

Protecting your ‘Liver’

So what can you do to help protect against wind invasions and to help your Liver nourishing your muscles and sinews to keep them supple?

  • The Liver doesn’t do well under stress, whether its personal emotional issues, or work pressures. Make time for yourself to unwind and acknowledge your emotions. Even just closing your eyes for a minute and focussing on your breathing can help drain the tension from your neck and shoulders.
  • Keep the wind out! Seal up drafts in your house or work place and if you are outdoors, wear a scarf – particularly on windy days.
  • Drink plenty fluids – particularly warm drinks on cold days.
  • Get enough sleep – the Liver recharges and builds blood at night which is essential for nourishing your muscles and sinews to keep them supple.
  • Exercise to keep your energy and muscles moving – but don’t overdo it – to much could damage your muscles and sinews too. (And remember to keep your neck and shoulders covered if your outdoors in the wind)
  • Visit your acupuncturist! Acupuncture is great for keeping you energy flowing smoothly through your muscles and can be very relaxing.

Growth and Development for Jill Storstein Acupuncture

I also mentioned that Spring is a time for change and development. Things have certainly been happening for Jill Storstein Acupuncture. My practice is continuing to grow and getting more and more patients coming to me for treatment. It is about to grow even more. I have just joined the KnotStressed team of therapists. KnotStressed is a therapy centre who’s outlook is very similar to my own. They have three main areas they are particularly passionate about:

  • Helping to relieve tension, stress and ongoing chronic issues
  • Supporting women and their families through fertility issues, pregnancy, birth, the postnatal period and the menopause
  • Empowering people to take ownership of their well-being

I am very exited to be affiliated with them – I’ll still be working at my own clinics in Portobello and Clerk Street, Southside, Edinburgh but now have links to them so will participate in open days and you might see flyers with my name on the KnotStressed branding in addition to my own flyers. Find out more about KnotStressed and my practice with them at the following links:

http://www.knotstressed.com/eastern-acupuncture/

http://www.knotstressed.com/fertility-acupuncture/  

http://www.knotstressed.com/jill-storstein/

This is a development and adjunct to my existing general practice where I treat whatever condition you come to me with.

Things are continuing to develop with my new clinic space at Natural Foods Etc. Their new website is due to be launched within the next few weeks and we will have having some promotional events later in the spring/early summer so look out for more updates.

And last but no means least, my practice is continuing to grow in Portobello. I am still based at GW Allans Pharmacy on the High Street every week. I do love working down in Porty – it has such a great community feel and being so close to the beach is just heavenly. I also get to meet all sorts of interesting patients with conditions such as back pain, gynaecological issues, urinary difficulties, insomnia and tendonitis. Its a real privilege to get to work through these difficult health issues that people face and to be a part of their recovery.

 

Chinese Medicine and the Winter Season

Traditional Chinese methods of preserving optimal health are grounded in the theory of maintaining a natural balance and living in harmony with our natural surroundings and environment. There are a variety of ways we can do this including living according to the seasons. We are almost at the winter equinox when the days are at their shortest and often their coldest.  Our bodies are using a lot of energy just to keep warm so we must preserve our energy as best we can by wrapping up warmly and eating warming foods such as stews and soups made with root vegetables – it is not the time of year to be eating cold salads! Try warm salads with steamed or roasted vegetables instead. Drink warm drinks such as herbal teas rather than drinking cold water. We need to make sure we get plenty sleep and rest to conserve our energy. However, that doesn’t mean no exercise at all – it is good to get outdoors in the daylight  for a walk or gentle run to keep our energy moving freely, reduce stress and keep our spirits up. By taking these steps we will help to keep our immune systems working well and wrapping up will help to avoid the cold getting into our muscles and bones and causing constriction and injury.

Keep healthy and enjoy the festive season!

Jill Storstein Acupuncture will be open on Monday 23rd December (3 appointments left), closed on the 30th and open again on 6th January.