Spring Series: Growth and Expansion

 
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Spring is in the air! Daylight feels longer with slightly warmer temperature during the day, flowers are blossoming, and plants that had laid dormant under the soil are sprouting upwards . We are slowly rising from deep hibernation that has rejuvenated and renewed our energy which we begin to gently release it outwardly. The heavy Yin energy (cold, slow and deep) begins to slowly shift and transform into a light Yang energy (warm, growth and light).

In Chinese medicine, spring is the governed by the Liver, belongs to the Wood element, and the flavour that supports the Liver is Sour. Its colour is Green, the climatic element is Wind, and sense organ is the eyes. The energetic organ of the Liver is in charged of the smooth flow of Qi (energy), stores Blood for nourishing Organs, and controls the tendons and sinews in the body.

In an ideal situation, we would have rested and built our energy through winter months to transition into spring. However, life, emotions, illness and work often challenge our intentions, making us feel that there is not much reserve to spring into the coming season. As much as there is growth and expansion in spring, there can also be volatility and sudden movements in the transformation, especially when we are depleted and deficient in Qi. For example, when the Liver is not nourished and anchored, external Wind can stir emotions such as anger, irritability and annoyance outwardly (Liver Qi Stagnation). Internal Wind generated due emotional outburst sending Heat to rise up to the head causing headaches, migraines or sudden outbreak of acne. In addition, we may feel a sense of overall tightness, sluggishness and stagnant energy in the body due to sinews and tendons that are either not nourished by Liver Blood or caused by Liver Qi Stagnation. Here are a few handy tips to help the Liver and body to move forward into spring:

 
  • Squeeze of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with warm water in the morning before breakfast to get that Liver Qi moving and to kick start the day

  • Move, move, move! After long months of winter hibernation and lack of outdoor activities, spring is the best time to go out for walks or to get back into yoga, Pilates or gym. When we move, we stimulate Qi to flow to the body and sending endorphins to the brain therefore, making us feel less lethargic, moody and snappy

  • Switch from heavy winter diet such as curries and lamb stews to lighter meals such as sauteed or quick stir fry fresh green vegetables

  • Use dry brushing to stimulate Qi and Blood flow under the skin. Starting from the leg, using long gentle strokes, move the brush upwards towards the Heart. This helps to exfoliate the skin, support lymphatic drainage and reduces the appearance of cellulite

  • For those that have a roller jade or facial gua sha tool handy, you can use it to help stimulate Qi flow to the face, and lymphatic drainage. This is especially useful for hay fever sufferers or problems with the sinuses

 

I hope this short list can assist you in transitioning into spring a little easier. However, if you need extra help, we are here to assist you. Simply BOOK ONLINE for either a FREE 15 minutes consult to discuss your concerns or a treatment.

Fertility series - Five Key Aspects from Chinese medicine perspective for Preconception Health

 
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When you and your partner decides on when to start trying to have a baby, it is good to have an idea of your partner's and your health in check.  Here are 5 important aspects from Chinese medicine perspective for preconception health:

Cycle, Ovulation & Fertile mucous - It is important that your cycle is regular and there are signs of ovulation.  The appearance of substantial fertile mucous that is clear and stretchy resembling an egg white consistency preceding ovulation is an indication of your "peak day".  Fertile mucous acts like an alarm, alerting you to your most fertile days and, it facilitate the sperm's journey up the cervix aimed at getting these sperm inside the female reproductive tract well before the egg is released.  The egg is one of the shortest lived single cell in the body, its lifespan only last between 6 to 12 hours.  A simple tool such as a fertility app can help you monitor your cycle and body temperature to determine when ovulation occurs.  It also indicate your most fertile phase for intercourse and it keeps a log of your physical and mental health symptoms.

Emotions and mental health - Anxiety, depression or fear can affect your reproductive health.  In Chinese medicine, there is a connection between the Heart (Mental/Emotions) and the Kidney (Uterus).  It is said that when the Heart is happy, peaceful and tranquil, the function of the uterus would be harmonised.  Meaning ovulation would occur at the right time and the cycle is regulated.  Emotional well being and mental health is important to your partner as well.  This will impact on his sexual function and his ability to enjoy the journey with you.  Not only do you need to work on your physical health, emotional and mental health is equally as important in preconception health.

Nutrition and Nourishment - How you fuel your body can either enhance or deteriorate the function of your body.  Food influence your well-being, weight, energy levels and how you feel from a day to day basis.  By understanding that food is medicine that provides nutrition for your body, you can begin to nourish your body by changing the way you connect with food.  From a Chinese medicine perspective, we are encouraged to consume warm cooked meals and to stay away from cold and raw foods such as smoothies, cold and raw salads, poke bowls, protein shakes, and ice-cream.  Greasy, deep fried food, junk food, and overly spicy food are discouraged and the consumption of alcohol should be limited and cold beverages should be avoided.  This general principle is applied for preconception health.  It helps to keep the stomach and womb warm and well nourished, an important aspect in increasing the success rate of natural conception.

Lifestyle - Stress!  Most common issue that I constantly hear about during preconception consultation in my clinic.  In Chinese medicine, stress can cause Qi stagnation.  When Qi does not flow harmoniously, it disrupt the balance of Yin and Yang in the body.  Therefore, hindering the energetic Organs of the Liver, Spleen, Heart and Kidneys that aid in reproductive matters, to work on coping with stress rather than on conception affairs.  Begin by addressing what is the source of your stress, than take steps to either minimise or find strategies to manage that stress for example, reducing work load responsibilities, practice meditation or yoga, etc.  By tweaking and adjusting your lifestyle now will help you and your partner have a higher success rate in conceiving naturally.

Sexual function - Check in with each other.  Is there poor libido, premature ejaculation problems, performance issues or pain on sexual intercourse?  These are signs that suggest an imbalance in the body or a physical problem that can either be addressed with Chinese or western medicine.  It is best to address these issues as soon as possible because treatment to restore good healthy sexual function does take time.  Therefore, the sooner you get it checked out and treated, the quicker you can start trying for a baby.

The body is very resilient and copes with whatever we throw at it.  We also believe that the body can heal itself quickly.  As a practitioner, I would like to believe that this is the case for every body but we are all built and shaped differently.  If you and your partner would like to have a baby six months to a year down the road, I urge you to put your health and lifestyle as a priority now.  Changes on the physical, mental, emotional and cellular level takes time therefore, preconception health should be right at the top of your "To Do List".

Would like more information?

Dr Jacqueline's main focus of practice is fertility and women's health.  She is compassionate and understand the struggle and emotional strain a couple goes through natural fertility.  If you would like to discuss or understand how Chinese medicine can help with natural fertility, we have a FREE 15 minutes consultation at the clinic which you can BOOK ONLINE NOW!

Resources

Lyttleton, J. (2013). Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine.

Image from Unsplash by Taylor Hernandez

Autumn series: About Grief and Letting Go & A Sweet Recipe

 
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As the cool crisp air of autumn mornings and warm afternoons begin to be apparent, we will start to shift our diet, and prepare our body and mental state to help us transition into cooler temperature and shorter daylight days.  Adjusting to the ebb and flow of the changing season can be challenging to some as the body and mind find it difficult to cope, or a pleasant welcome for others. 

Autumn in Chinese medicine belongs to the organ of Lungs and Large Intestines.  The Lungs govern our respiratory function and circulate our ‘Wei Qi’ also known as immunity or defence Qi around the body.  Wei Qi helps our body to adjust and protect us from the changes in the external environment.  Those with poor or compromised immune function might be prone to getting cold and flu like symptoms, dry throat and skin, and excessive mucous production and congestion.  Other may start to see an increase in digestive problems especially with bowel movements leaning towards constipation and dry stools. 

The emotion associated with the Lungs is sadness and grief.  We may start to feel a sense of low moods and noticeable mild depression.  The paired organ of the Lung, the Large Intestines, function as an organ of elimination.  This may be a good time to release and let go of emotions, career or baggage that we hold on to that no longer serve our highest good.

As nature slowly contracts and moves inward and downwards, we will begin to introduce warm and pungent spices such as horse radish, cardamom, chili, white pepper and coriander into our diet.  We will also see more white coloured food available such as the onion, garlic, cabbage, leek, radish, daikon turnip, fresh ginger, apple and pear.  These warming and pungent spices, and white coloured food are a great way to boost the function of the Lungs, aid in circulating Wei qi around the body and disperse and eliminate the stuck energy of the organ.  Another way to help strengthen your Lung Qi is to practise deep breathing exercises daily for 5 minutes.  It is also a great way to help reduce stress which can easily compromise our Lung Qi/immune function.

Try this simple autumn recipe by Gloria Chan @mgtestkitchen incorporating seasonal produce to help boost your Lung Qi – Enjoy!

GULA MELAKA POACHED PEAR

There’s nothing quite like comfort food as the colder months approach. Minimal effort and versatile, poached pears are great as a light and elegant dessert, or delicious with quinoa porridge to start the day.

To give the poached pears a deeper depth of flavour, try using Gula Melaka, a sweetener derived from coconut palm instead of caster sugar. It’s readily available in most Asian grocers or large supermarkets in solid or liquid form. Everyone’s palate is different, so have a play with the amount of sweetener until you find the perfect measure for you.

Ingredients

4 medium firm pears, peeled (leave stalks on)

Gula Melaka to taste (shaved from a block or liquid. Replace with coconut sugar if you’re unable to find Gula Melaka)

Star anise (1 large one, or 2 small ones)

Cinnamon stick (whole)

4-6 Cardamom pods

1 inch of fresh ginger (sliced)

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a pot and with water, ensuring that the pears are submerged entirely. Taste the poaching liquid and adjust with more Gula Melaka if required.

Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer (the bubbles should just be popping gently on the surface of the liquid). Poach for 1.5-2 hours, depending on the size of your pears. Pears are cooked once a knife spears through the thickest part easily.

Remove from poaching liquid and continue to reduce the liquid until it’s syrupy. Store the pears in the liquid until you’re ready to use them (they’ll store for up to a week, if you can stop yourself from finishing it in one sitting!).

 

Workshop - Facial Gua Sha: The Eastern Anti-Ageing Technique

 
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Continuation from my previous gua sha workshop on musculoskeletal tension, this time back in Kuala Lumpur I offered a workshop on Facial Gua Sha.  Now you are wondering from the previous blog will those 'sha' appear on the face?  The answer is no!  The technique used for Facial Gua Sha is far more gentle than those used to relieve muscular tension, aches and pain.  The only similarity is the ability of the gua sha to bring more Qi and Blood to the face.

Facial Gua Sha – The Eastern anti-ageing technique has been used by ancient Chinese to keep their facial skin looking youthful and healthy.  Dubbed as the ‘Eastern Facelift” or “Eastern Botox” in current times, facial gua sha has the ability to smooth fine lines & wrinkles, plump, tighten, and rejuvenate tired skin.  This is achieved by using gentle gua sha techniques to the face that encourages circulation, lifting, rejuvenation and lymphatic drainage.  With daily and continuous practice, this method together with daily facial care will see the skin glowing, and benefit overall skin health.  In addition, facial gua sha is also extremely relaxing and a great way to have some “me” time.

It was a wonderful workshop that introduced facial gua sha techniques, how to use the gua sha tool and application on the face.  We talked about emotional factors that may cause premature lines and wrinkles, the Organs that governs that areas of the face, and meridians that transverse over the face.  We also discussed about dietary and lifestyle factors that may contribute towards ageing of the skin.  In addition, as part of Chinese medicine therapy, each participants were given individualised tongue and pulse diagnosis.  This gave each participants a more detailed diagnosis about specific changes in lifestyle and diet to minimise the signs of ageing.

Here are some photos taken at the workshop held at Prana Yoga Kuala Lumpur:

 

Workshop - Gua Sha: An Introduction to Self Healing

Gau Sha is one of my favourite 'go to' ancillary tool to reduce and ease muscular pain, stiffness and tension, plus for many other ailments such as cold and flu, chills and fever, bronchitis, and a fantastic therapeutic method for facial rejuvenation treatments.

Gua sha, also known as “spooning” or “scrapping” is a common therapeutic treatment used in Chinese tradition and Chinese medicine practice.  Gua means to rub or to scrape and Sha is a distinctive name given to a type of red dots or sand like redness that appears on the skin surface during and after treatment.  These sand like redness are toxins and stagnation that lie deep within the muscle layers that are brought up to the surface to be eliminated.  This encourage fresh blood flow to the site of blockage by nourishing and enhance healing to the body.  This method of treatment is effective and brings immediate and lasting benefits to ones overall health.

My lovely friend, Angeline from Prana Yoga Kuala Lumpur suggested that I run a workshop on gua sha during my visit to Malaysia.  She is a convert after I gave her some gua sha a couple of years ago to treat her chronic stiff neck and shoulders.  She felt immediate release and subsequently, with further treatments the stiffness was completely resolved.

The workshop was held in Prana Yoga on an overcast and humid Saturday afternoon.  The naturally lit and light wood flooring yoga space was a welcoming reprieve from the weather, and the perfect place to have the workshop.  The attendees that signed up were in good spirit and enjoyed each other company while giving gua sha to each other.  We started the workshop by going through the meridians that transverse on the neck, shoulders and upper back, and the primary and secondary signs and symptoms that is caused by the imbalance of these meridians.  We also briefly talked about other benefits of gua sha other than for the treatment of musculoskeletal symptoms before the hands on demonstration and gua sha techniques were introduced.  Below are some photos of the workshop and the results of the gua sha.  The redness on the body may look painful and 'hideous' but the therapeutic effects of releasing stagnation and stiffness of the neck, shoulders and upper back were felt immediately, and enjoyed by everyone that attended.

Here is a short video on the demonstration of doing gua sha