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

 
Facial gua sha

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

Wellness Series - Floor Series for the Tech Neck

 
Tech neck

We have collaborated with a registered yoga teacher, Angeline Liew from Prana Yoga Kuala Lumpur to give you some useful tips in this Wellness series called the "Tech Neck".

Do you spend hours in a fixed position, slouched in front of a computer, spine rounded, neck sticking out like a turtle craned towards your screen, wrists and jaw tensed without you even realizing it?  Do you complain of constant stiffness in the neck and upper back? I often find that these are the main culprits for clients that come in to the clinic for neck and shoulder tension and pain which can lead to temporal and/or occipital headaches.  In Chinese medicine perspective, aches, pain and tension is related to Qi and Blood Stagnation in  meridians.  In thes case of the "Tech Neck" meridians that are affected are the Bladder, Gallbladder, Large Intestine and Small Intestine channels.   Qi and Blood stagnation can also be exacerbated by stress, lack of exercise, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Here are a few simple yet effective yoga sequence designed by Angeline to ease tension in the neck and shoulders, and relief compression in the front body, whilst stretching out those tight knots, to enable more range of motion, and hopefully help to minimise the occurrence of headaches.  She highly recommend doing the Tech Neck series at least once a day.

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  1. Extended Puppy Pose - a delicious and deep chest & upper back opener. Modify by placing your forehead on the floor, instead of the chin, and let gravity assist your chest to sink to the floor.
  2. Shoelace Pose for the Arms - stretches the deep muscles between the shoulder blades (#rhomboids), posterior and lateral deltoids and upper arms.
  3. Intense Shoulder Stretch - one of my fave stretches to target the front muscles of the upper arms. By squaring the hips, you'll also get a nice upper back twist. Do support your head so that you don't end up straining the neck.
  4. Gomukhasana (Cow Pose arms) - works on increasing range of motion in the shoulders, as the top arm is externally rotated, and the bottom arm is internally rotated. Remember to switch sides, and use a towel or strap if you can't bind.
  5. Supported Chest Opener - one word : "Yummy"! Seriously, I can fall asleep in this pose, as it helps to deepen and regulate the breathing too. Block is placed at the bottom tips of your shoulderblade .
  6. Trigger Point Therapy for the Neck : Very gently turn the neck side to side, to self-massage the tightness in the neck.
  7. Trigger Point Therapy for the Arms : tension in the neck travels down the arms too, causing limited mobility. Here, I use lacrosse balls, but you can use tennis balls too. Target the front of the shoulders and #pectoral muscles (avoid the collar bones), and slowly move down the upper arm.

Remember to relax, and breathe deeply to allow your body to receive maximum benefit from the practice. (*Avoid lying on your belly if you're pregnant, and consult your teacher for alternatives), and if symptoms persist please seek professional help to remedy your condition. 

 

Women's Health Series - PMS Menstrual Island

 
Menstrual Island

Does this island sound familiar?  I found this illustration rather amusing but yet it is something that is not funny either.  Countless of women that I know of, both friends and clients that I have treated can relate to Menstrual Island.   

In Chinese medicine, Menstrual Island is a sign that our body is not functioning the way it should and there are some elements of stagnation and imbalance in the system.  Where there is pain, there is stagnation;  where there is acne, there is heat in the Stomach and imbalance of the hormones and where there is bloating there is rebellious of the Stomach Qi.  There is also one experience that almost every women (or men) have encountered is premenstrual syndrome (PMS).  Irritability, moods swings, tearful, headaches, breast tenderness, misery and depression point towards what we call Liver Qi stagnation in Chinese medicine.  

The Liver governs every aspect of Qi.  It tells it where to move, which direction to go and stores the ethereal soul.  I like to think of the Liver as the General Manager of the body.  It manages each organs in terms of their function and movement.  When the General manager gets too stressed out, the rest of the system will begin to feel overwhelmed and does whatever it wants without any direction or aim.  Therefore, to avoid the Liver getting all worked-up, and to ensure minimal trips to Menstrual Island try to avoid:

  • A sedentary lifestyle - find ways to move eg. walk to work, take the stairs, do some form of exercise for 30 minutes
  • Constant stress from working, family life, studying and etc - try to aim for a balance lifestyle by doing some meditation or yoga, time-out for some 'me' time, time management to overcome stress
  • Poor diet consisting of spicy, fatty, processed, deep fried foods & take-aways - incorporate a daily dose of fresh vegetables and fruit into your diet, cut down on sugar (a little dark chocolate is ok if you need something sweet), prepare your own meals so you know what goes into it, and aim for simple meals with high nutrition and flavours

However, if symptoms persist or are getting out of control, Chinese medicine is great at sorting it out, even my gynecologist recommends and acknowledged that Chinese medicine has better outcomes than western medicine can do to help relief these symptoms.  So stop putting up with the misery, cramps, crankiness and bloating every month.  Give your body and yourself some kindness and relief from it today.

Want to learn more on how Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help to ease your PMS symptoms?

Come in either for a FREE 15 MINS COMPLIMENTARY CHAT or BOOK ONLINE with Dr Jacqueline for a treatment today.  Dr Jacqueline has a keen focus is in Women's Health and Gyneacology and have years of experience in treating problems affecting women during their menstrual cycle.  Whether to reduce the signs and symptoms of PMS, regulating irregular menstrual cycle for future pregnancy plans or painful periods, Dr Jacqueline will design an individualised treatment based on your diagnosis, targeting not only your symptoms but also the root cause of your symptoms.

Resources

Image used with permission from  Gemma Correl 

 

 

Acne - Western Medicine vs Chinese Medicine

 
acne

Acne is one of the most common form of skin problem faced by many teenagers and sometimes persist into adulthood for some people.  There are countless of commercial and natural products, and prescribed medications and ointments to help counter the growing rate of people facing acne problems.  There are varying degrees of acne presentation - from big angry red and painful pimples presenting all over the face right to the neck, chest and at the back of the skin to mild small pinkish bumps that are presented on the chin, jawline, cheeks or forehead.  Whatever the presentation is, having acne can be frustrating, embarrassing and it can affect your confidence.  I have listed below the different approach and views by Western and Chinese medicine perspective so that you can be informed with which treatment option is best for you.


Western medicine perspective

The most common trigger of acne is due the onset of puberty when the surge of androgen stimulate sebum production and hyperproliferation of keratinocytes.  Other triggers are hormonal changes occurring with pregnancy or menstrual cycle; types of cleansers, lotions and clothing used; and high humidity and sweating. 

Diagnosis of acne is via examination.  Differential diagnosis of acne includes rosacea, corticosteroid-induced acne, perioral dermatitis and acneiform drug eruptions.  The severity of acne is graded as mild, moderate or severe based on number and type of lesions. 

Treatment for acne:

  • Comedones - topical tretinoin
  • Mild inflammatory acne - topical antibiotics and/or benzoyl peroxide
  • Moderate acne - oral antibiotics
  • Severe acne - oral isotretinoin eg. Claravis, Sotret
  • Cystic acne - intralesional triamcinolone

Common side effects of topical ointments prescribed for the skin are:

  • Mild burning, stinging or tingling sensation
  • Mild chapping or slight peeling
  • Mild redness, dryness and itching
  • Mild sensation of warmth or irritation

In addition, doctors are quick to prescribe oral contraceptive pills (OCP) to teenagers to help control/reduce acne.  This seems unnatural as the primary use of the drug is for the prevention of pregnancy.  There is also the question of what long term effects does OCP have on women's fertility and emotional stability.  There are a few interesting studies and articles in the resource section below on the long term effects of OCP on fertility and the emotional impact it has on women.  

Chinese medicine perspective

Acne is caused by an internal imbalance of the body which cause excess Heat and/or Damp that manifest in the face, neck, chest or the back of the skin.

Causes of internal imbalance are often related to:

  • Poor diet of spicy, greasy, damp foods such as junk food, excessive chili consumption, and deep fried food
  • Stressful lifestyle, lack of exercise
  • PMS and other emotional upsets such as anger, irritability and frustration
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Diagnosis often require:

  • Questioning the function of the body as a whole 
  • Accessing the lesions ie. the severeness of the acne, areas where the lesions are presented ie. chin, jawline, forehead, cheeks, neck or back of the body, and other symptoms such as dry, greasy, itchy skin or painful to touch. 
  • Evaluation of the emotional/state of the mind, lifestyle and diet. 
  • A comprehensive questioning of women's gynaecology and reproductive systems

In Chinese medicine, both the root cause and presentation (acne) are treated at the same time.  There are five differential diagnosis/patterns that can cause acne.  Each pattern are presented differently in terms of lesions and overall internal imbalances.  Therefore, treatments are individualised based on the presenting signs and symptoms. 

Treatments include:

  • Acupuncture and herbal medicine to re-balance internal imbalances
  • External topical ointment, herbal facial wash or herbal masque to tackle acne on the outside
  • Dietary and lifestyle changes to further strengthen the treatment process

There are little to no side effects in treating acne with Chinese medicine.  Some common complaints are the herbal medicine can be a little difficult to digest or the taste can sometimes be off putting.


In conclusion, it is important to be aware of which modality will have the biggest benefit in the long term without harming or upsetting the body's natural system.  Western medicine treatments for acne is often good for a short term purpose however, I question what these drugs do to the body in the long term and the one-size-fits all approach.  Chinese medicine is a natural medicine therefore, progress of treatments does take time.  However, the long term benefits of this individualised treatment which targets both the root cause and the lesions are - 1) the presentation of acne is reduced and 2) future flare ups are minimised and can be prevented.

 

Resources

Balfour, A., 2014.  Why Chinese Herbs Are Great For Treating Acne.

McKoy, K., 2013.  Acne Vulgaris.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 2010.  Acne. 

NPS Medicinewise, 2013.  Oral Antibiotics: An Option In Acne But Consider The Risks

Ryan. M., 2016.  I Stopped Taking The Pill And Changed My Life.

Grigg-Spall, H., 2016.  The Pill Is Linked To Depression - And Doctors Can No Longer Ignore It.

Talukdar, N. et al., 2012.  Effect Of Long-term Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill Use On Endometrial Lining.

Farrow, A. et al., 2002.  Prolonged Used Of Oral Contraception Before Planned Pregnancy Is Associated With A Decreased Risk Of Delayed Conception.

 

Spring Series - 5 Tips To Survive Hay Fever This Spring

 
hay fever

We are well and truly into hay fever season as I see more patients coming into the clinic for this reason.  Besides treating hay fever with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, I often advise my clients to do some additional work to further help them manage their hay fever symptoms.


1) Nasal wash.  This is one of the best way to clear nasal congestion.  It cleans your sinus cavities from excess mucous and pollen or inflammatory materials it may contain.  I highly recommend Flo Sinus care as I use this product myself and have found it to be very effective (I am not paid to do any advertising for them).  I wash my sinus cavities at least 2-3 times a day.  I have made it a habit of washing my sinuses every time I have spend time outdoors.  You can find this product in any Chemist Warehouse near you.  Here is a Youtube Video explaining the importance of caring for your sinuses and how the product is used.

2) Removing clothing items and showering when exposed to pollen.  After spending a glorious spring day out removing any item of clothing exposed to pollen and jump straight into the shower to wash away pollen stuck to the hair and eyes helps to ensure that the pollen does not irritate the nose and eyes when I am at home safe from allergen.

3) Invest in an air purifier.  As the weather warms up, I love opening the windows to let in the fresh air flow through the house.  However,  to combat pollen flowing around the house, I use an air purifier to clear the air of allergen after I have shut the windows. It is also very important to continuously keep your space clean and dust free to reduce any trigger to your allergy.

4) Avoid foods that produces mucous.  Dairy, sugar, raw and greasy food should be avoided.  In Chinese medicine, foods that deplete the transformation and transportation process of the Spleen will often lead to the formation of Damp (sinus congestion, mucous and phlegm).  If you are prone to being Damp these food should be avoided to reduce mucous build up in the body and sinus cavities. Foods to avoid are banana, avocado, chocolate, ice-cream, yoghurt, cheese and cold and raw salads and smoothies.

5) Wear a mask and sunglasses.  Wearing a mask may not be fashionable and may get some people staring at you.  However, if you have bad hay fever symptoms and hate being stuck indoor on a wonderful spring day, wearing a mask and sunglass is an alternative to reducing the severity of symptoms while enjoying the outdoor.  Do be cautious that on high pollen count days, it is advisable to stay indoor.


I hope you have found these tips useful.  There is a link to pollen count in Australia and some interesting articles about hay fever that you may be interested in the resources section below.  If you have further questions on how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help to reduce the severity of your hay fever symptoms, we have a FREE 15 minutes consult at the clinic.  Simply BOOK ONLINE and we will be happy to have a chat.  In the meantime, implement these suggested strategies that can help you minimise your allergic reaction to enjoy spring a little more this year.  From a hay fever sufferer to another - good luck!

Resources

Pollen Forecast in Australia

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology And Allergy, 2015.  Pollen Allergy.

Ryan, C., 2015.  Don't Blame The Wattle:  Allergy Expert Explains Real Causes of Hayfever And Why Spring Isn't Always The Worst Time For Sufferers.

My Hayfever (n.d.).  Hay Fever In Australia

 

Winter Series - The Secret To Managing Hay Fever In Spring

 
hay fever

PREVENTION! That is the secret to managing bad hay fever symptoms in spring.

Spring is not my favourite season of the year because I get severe hay fever symptoms such as constant nose drip during the day and at sleep, non-stop sneezing, watery and itchy eyes and etc.  It feels like you are having a common cold continuously for 3 months, and all you want to do is to cut your nose off or live in a bubble until spring is over.  I have tried all sort of western medication such as Zyrtec, Claratyne and nasal spray - none of them had worked for me.  What did work in helping my body to manage and prevent severe hay fever attacks is Chinese herbal medicine and nasal wash.

What I found when I took herbal medicine to boost my immunity and defence system in Winter season, my body was more able to cope with hay fever in spring.  Last year I had one of the best year from my severe hay fever symptoms.  There was the occasional attacks but that would only last for a day and most of the days and during the night, my nose was drip free, itchy and watery eyes free and sneeze free.

So, here is my one simple tip in preparing your body to combat hay fever in spring -


PREVENTION - acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is by far the best.  It is natural and it works!  If you are afraid of needles, there is herbal medicine that you can take to help boost your immunity and defence function to help your body cope with hay fever season.  Preparing your body NOW is the best solution to reducing the severity of your symptoms in spring.


If you dread spring time because of hay fever and are tired of western medication that does not work for you, there is a solution.  From my own experience, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can reduce the severity of hay fever symptoms.  However, there is a catch - natural medicine takes time to work.  Therefore, the sooner you start your treatment, the better you will be able to face hay fever nose on this coming spring.  Do not hesitate to make an appointment for a consultation with us - we are more than happy to have a chat with you and your concerns.