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/

 

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.

 

Early developments

This will be my website for my fledgling acupuncture practice. Currently writing copy for it and designing the art work. Do come back again and see it once it is set up.

As for my acupuncture practice… Well, premises have been found . I will be working out of GW Allan Pharmacy in Portobello in one of their treatment rooms. Start date now is dependant on confirmation of my licence from City of Edinburgh Council. Application is submitted and I’ll update with progress along the way. Can’t wait to get started!