2018 – A busy year of Fertility research and study

2018 has been a very busy year for me and it’s been a while since I wrote a blog article. So I thought I’d use a few spare minutes to let you know what I’ve been up to and give you an idea of what’s in store for 2019.

Over the course of the year, I have been doing the Diploma in Advanced Fertility Acupuncture with Naava Carman, founder of the Fertility Support Company. I’ve attended 5 intensive weekends on various fertility and pregnancy related topics including:

  • causes of infertility such as PCOS and endometriosis
  • reproductive immunology and recurrent miscarriage
  • supporting IVF, IUI and other Assisted Reproductive Techniques
  • treating complex diseases in pregnancy.

It was a wonderful course taught by an inspiring and very experienced, knowledgeable woman. The course included talks from experts in the field such as Dr Thum, specialist in Reproductive
Immunology at the Lister Clinic.  It has greatly enhanced my knowledge of complex fertility issues and given me some valuable contacts. The course culminated in a 5,000 piece of coursework which
focused on anonymously auditing my patient notes to identify women with indicators of reproductive immunological issues and evaluate commonalities and effectiveness of treatment approaches.  It was a lovely piece of work to audit how many women have come to see me and gone on to become pregnant and have babies. I’ll be writing more on this and the other topics in the coming months.

I was delighted to receive my certification this morning from the Fertility Support Company and am proud to display the logo on my website to demonstrate the depth of additional CPD I have undertaken in this field. You can see it on the Welcome page and the Fertility Support page of my website.

In addition to that I have completed another major piece of work that was two years in the making with the lion’s share of the work from September 2017 to September 2018. It was a piece of research in fulfillment of an MSc in Acupuncture with the Northern College of Acupuncture. The research study was about treating Recurrent Miscarriage and utilised the Delphi method which is used to seek consensus between a group of experts. The aim was to produce a set of guidelines and to do so, I assembled a group of fertility acupuncturists with significant experience of working with women who had experienced two or more miscarriages. I asked them what in their view were the most important things to consider when diagnosing, treating and supporting women with this condition. I will write more on this in the New Year as there are a lot of interesting points I’d like to share.

My research has fitted very nicely with the Diploma in Advanced Fertility Acupuncture as there were many commonalities in diagnosis and treatment strategies between the topics covered in the diploma and issues that arose in the guidelines produced by my research. Although my CPD (Continuing Professional Development) in 2018 has focused largely on Fertility Support based topics, much of the subject matter has relevance and is transferable to other health conditions I regularly treat in my acupuncture clinics.

For example, a pervasive theme that crops up throughout working with fertility patients and most other patients is that of “self-care”.  This is a topic that I can identify with particularly after this very busy year. Self-care is a very broad term and means different things for different people depending on their circumstances and the state of their health. It is also something that can be adapted to suit your lifestyle. This will the be the subject of another blog article I am preparing for the new year, where I will reflect further on my experiences of juggling my own acupuncture business, studying and family life and will provide you with tips to look after yourself in your own busy life. However, I wanted to give you just a quick few points on self-care to help you over the festive season…

  • Find a little quiet time for yourself each day where you get to do just what you want guilt-free and without judgment;
  • Get enough sleep – aim for 8-9 hours a night;
  • Aim to get a bit of fresh air everyday, even in inclement weather – just remember to wrap up well;
  • Eat seasonally, naturally and healthily – that means eating warm food cooked from scratch with real foods that include lots of vegetables;
  • Drink plenty fluids (and I’m not talking about alcohol!) – you may prefer warmer drinks in this cold weather;
  • Enjoy time with friends and family, but keep the drinking moderate and have a drink of water for every glass of alcohol you have.

You can read more on ways to keep yourself healthy in the winter and supporting your immune system in earlier blogs I have written:

Although 2018 has been a very busy year, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and am proud of my achievements. I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring – which will include a few new developments for my clinics… Have a very happy, healthy festive season filled with warmth, laughter and love.

Acupuncturist, Jill Storstein is member of the British Acupuncture Council and  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

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

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

 

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

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