There Are A Number Of Ways That Heat Can Be Used To Heal

Heat Therapy In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

A wide variety of healing therapies fall under the description of Chinese medicine. Practitioners of Chinese medicine have the use of acupuncture, herbs, and dietary therapy at their fingertips. They may also use heat therapy to effectively treat their patients for certain cold conditions.

Heat therapy counteracts the effects of cold, which can cause symptoms and illness in a number of ways. The basic understanding of Chinese medicine is that in order to be healthy, you must have adequate energy to fuel your body’s systems, and that the energy must flow. However, like a river that freezes in the winter, cold contracts and impairs the smooth flow of your body’s energy and functions. Think about it; when it’s cold outside, things like bodies and car engines slow down and arthritic joints flare up. In Chinese medicine, cold is considered to be a pathogen—something that can make you sick—and can cause muscle spasms, metabolic issues, digestive problems, cramping, and joint pain.

Heat therapy is a way to offset the effects of cold. While heat can be considered to be a pathogen in Chinese medicine, in the form of a fever or inflammation, it also has a powerful ability to counter the harmful effects of cold conditions. There are a number of ways that heat can be used to heal.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion is an effective form of heat therapy and is an age-old way of applying heat in Chinese medicine. It entails burning the fuzz from the leaves of the artemesia plant, which is also known as mugwort. Moxibustion, or moxa, burns very hot, has a penetrating smell, and helps to increase the circulation and range of motion in your joints and muscles.

Moxa comes in a variety of forms, from loose wool that is burned directly on the head of acupuncture needles, to small prepared cones on a cardboard base that are placed on your skin and lit (the cardboard base prevents burns). One of the most common ways that moxibustion is administered, however, is through a long, cigar-like stick of compact-rolled mugwort. During a treatment, a moxa stick is lit and placed near your skin in a slow pecking motion until the area feels warm.

Moxa has a very strong, penetrating smell, which is a mixed blessing. Part of its therapeutic effect is the smell, which is said to enter and heal the energetic pathways of your body. However, the smell is strong, causing many modern practitioners of Chinese medicine who work in clinics or office buildings to abandon the use of moxa and look for other warming strategies.

Far Infrared Light

Many practitioners have turned to Far Infrared heat in the clinic as a substitute to moxibustion. Far infrared light (FIR) are light rays that exist beyond the red end of the light spectrum, and are invisible to the human eye. These FIR rays transmit heat, which can penetrate beyond the surface of your body, but don’t cause skin changes like UV light from the sun does. FIR light has been found to be therapeutic in a number of instances. Research on the use of FIR light has documented that it can increase circulation, decrease pain, help promote sleep, and decrease inflammation.

In a clinical setting, FIR is most commonly delivered through the use of lamps that look and feel like large heat lamps. However, FIR can also be delivered through heating pads, wraps, heaters, and even saunas.

Warming Herbs and Foods

In Chinese medicine, herbs and food therapy can also be a therapeutic way to counteract the pathogenic effects of cold. Herbs, and to a lesser extent, foods exert a variety of effects on your body. They can boost your energy, strengthen the nourishing quality of your blood, dry up phlegm, or drain excess water. Both herbs and food can affect specific organs, such as nourishing your liver or strengthening your lungs to build immunity. However, one of the most powerful actions of both herbs and the foods you eat regularly, is that they can affect your internal temperature.

To warm your body using Chinese herbs, your practitioner might prescribe a formula that includes hot or warm herbs, such as ginger, cinnamon, clove flower buds, fennel fruit, pepper, and very small amounts of aconite. Warming your body through diet can be far more creative and delicious. Meals that include warming foods, such as lamb, trout, salmon, chicken, walnuts, onions, garlic, scallions, and red peppers would be recommended. Cooking with warm herbs, like ginger or cinnamon, also enhance the warming effects of the meal. In addition, the longer a food is cooked, the warmer it becomes to your body. Therefore slow roasted vegetables are far more warming than a salad of those same vegetables.

If you’re chronically cold, suffer from aches and pains in the cold weather, or have tight and cold muscles, heat therapy can be an effective strategy. Warming your body or areas of injury can increase your circulation, improve your range of motion, and decrease your cold-related pain. Your body will thank you warmly!

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8 Chinese Herbs You May Already Have In Your Kitchen

Chinese Herbs In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

To many people Chinese herbs may feel exotic and mystical and very foreign, for a good reason. In treating serious illnesses and complicated conditions with herbs, you need a practitioner who is well-trained in the properties, actions, and nuances of Chinese herbs; someone who knows how to combine them into effective formulas.

Chinese herbs can be complicated because each herb carries with it specific properties. Herbs have a temperature, which means that some herbs can cool your body down and others can warm you up. They also have one or more actions, which is the effect it has on your body. For example, an herb can drain excess fluid, build up your energy, or help to dry out phlegm. Herbs also affect specific organs; some benefit your Lungs, while others may help your Liver. And herbs, when combined with one another, may have a synergistic effect—they may strengthen, balance, or offset the actions of other herbs. For that reason, and for maximum effectiveness, herbs are almost always combined into formulas.

Despite the complexity of dealing with them, you may be surprised to know that you likely have many Chinese herbs in your kitchen right now. That’s because some of these herbs are also foods and common spices. In fact, Chinese herbs are everywhere. Here are 8 examples and how to use them:

  1. Ginger is a warm and spicy herb that has many uses. It can be effective in treating nausea and vomiting, and can be helpful for people undergoing chemotherapy. Ginger is useful in helping you ward off a cold in the early stages. A little known fact: pickled ginger is almost always served with sushi because it can help protect you from seafood poisoning. To use ginger at home, grate or slice it into soups, stir fried dishes, or boil it in hot water for tea.
  2. Scallions are also warm and spicy. They’re warm enough to help drain congested sinuses and help you sweat out a cold. A simple formula for an early cold is to combine chopped scallions and grated ginger in boiling water or broth. Drink it down and go to bed to sweat out your cold. (This is not the right formula if you’re already sweating or running a high fever; instead use cooling herbs like mint).
  3. Cinnamon is also a warm and spicy herb, but its flavor is sweeter than ginger or scallions. Cinnamon can also be used to drive out a cold, however, its warming effects are better if you feel achy with your cold. Cinnamon can also be used for joint pain that’s worse in the cold weather. It can work as a mild antibiotic for low-grade bacterial infections. Ground cinnamon can be used as a sweet spice in baking or mixed with cooked fruit. It’s also found in whole sticks, which can be used in tea, stews, soups, or curried dishes.
  4. Turmeric has gotten a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. It’s warm and bitter and somewhat moving. Turmeric can be used for inflammation, pain, and to increase the circulation of blood. To use it in cooking, peel and chop fresh turmeric root, or used powdered and dried turmeric in soups, vegetable dishes, and stews.
  5. Mint is a cooling herb that is useful for colds and flu in which you’re running a fever. It can help cool you off and alleviate a sore throat, headaches, and a cough. In Chinese medicine, mint is also used to help drive a rash to the surface of your skin to speed up its healing. Mint is best boiled in hot water, mixed with a little honey, and drunk as a tea. Fresh mint may also be added to curries and stews.
  6. While you may only think of walnuts as an ingredient when you’re baking, it is actually considered to be a useful Chinese herb. Walnuts are warming and help to strengthen your overall metabolism, build up your Kidney system, and help to moisten your intestines to relieve constipation. Try them mixed with raisins for a nutritious snack or baked into your favorite cookies or banana/zucchini/pumpkin bread.
  7. Watermelon doesn’t look anything like what you think a Chinese herb might be. However, as an herb watermelon is very cooling, moist, and sweet. It’s used in treating fevers, loss of appetite, fatigue, and inflammation that arise from the hot weather. No preparation is needed; you can just slice it and eat.
  8. White rice is considered to be slightly cool, sweet, and nourishing. It’s used to treat digestive problems, diarrhea, and is a good choice for a sensitive stomach after you’ve had the flu or food poisoning. You can just steam the rice and eat, or mix it one part rice to seven parts water and slow cook it to make a thick, porridge-like soup. Add miso broth and ginger to settle a queasy stomach or cinnamon and dates for breakfast.

In a Chinese herbal pharmacy, most of these herbs are dried. They’re mixed into various formulas, either whole or powdered.  Combining Chinese herbs into formulas can be complicated and should be left to a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine.  There’s good news though in that many of these same herbs can be eaten as foods, and are as accessible as your nearest grocery store.

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The Cause Of Your Back Pain May Not Be What You Think It Is

Back Pain Relief In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

What Is Piriformis Syndrome?

One of the most commonly underdiagnosed conditions associated with lower back pain is called piriformis syndrome. This condition often mimics many others, including sciatica and disc problems, but it’s actually something very different.

Piriformis syndrome occurs when a flat band of muscle located between the base of your spine and your hip, called the piriformis, acts up and compresses your sciatic nerve. The piriformis works to stabilize your hip, lift and rotate your thigh outward, allow you to walk, and aids in balance. It’s considered to be a core stabilizing muscle that’s in play whenever you move your hips and legs.

Your sciatic nerve is a large nerve that passes under (or sometimes through) the piriformis muscle. The nerve then runs down the back of your leg, with many smaller nerves branching out from it in your lower legs and feet. Piriformis syndrome is caused when the muscle goes into spasm, and compresses the sciatic nerve.

It’s estimated that up to one-third of all cases of lower back pain are the result of piriformis syndrome. In addition, more women than men experience piriformis syndrome. This may be because women tend to have a wider pelvic angle than men, which also contributes to a variety of women’s sports injuries. In most cases, piriformis syndrome occurs on one side of your body, but in some patients it may occur on both.

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include pain in the buttock on the affected side, along with pain along the trajectory of the sciatic nerve, which includes the back or side of the upper leg, the side of the lower leg and into the foot. Patients also describe pain and discomfort when sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time and weakness and difficulty when walking. Piriformis is often caused by overuse, poor athletic form, running or walking on irregular surfaces, extended time sitting, direct compression such as sitting on a wallet, and even from prolonged exposure to cold.

Because piriformis syndrome acts like so many other conditions associated with the lower back, it’s frequently misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed. Health care providers familiar with this condition may diagnose it through the patient’s symptoms, specific muscle tests and movements, and in some instances when palpated, the aggravated muscle feels like a thick cord that runs through the mid-buttock. In some cases, an MRI may be used to rule out other causes of the pain and nerve compression. Piriformis syndrome is most commonly confused with sciatica because of the similarity of the symptoms. However, true sciatica is compression of the sciatic nerve from damaged lumbar discs, trauma, or degeneration of the lower spine.

How Can Piriformis Syndrome Be Treated

Conventional treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescription muscle relaxants, pain medications, and steroid injections. In severe cases, Botox has been used to relax the muscle, and surgery may be a last resort when all else fails. Physical therapy is usually recommended to help loosen the muscle and relieve compression on the nerve.

In Chinese medicine, piriformis syndrome is considered to be a pattern of stagnation. This simply means that there’s a blockage in the area of the muscle, and circulation, energy, and function has been hampered. Acupuncture can be a good stand-alone or adjunct treatment for piriformis, because it works to increase the circulation of blood and nutrients to the area, decrease inflammation, loosen the muscle, speed up the healing process and increase chemicals in your brain that help relieve pain.

Beyond acupuncture, a practitioner of Chinese medicine may also use heat, a kind of bodywork called Tui Na, stretching, and at home care. Electro-acupuncture can be especially effective in treating piriformis syndrome. During electro acupuncture, standard acupuncture needles are inserted into the area near the muscle, and the needles are then hooked up to a small machine that painlessly delivers an electrical impulse. Electro acupuncture works by helping tight or spastic muscles relax and increases circulation to the area.

Care at home for this condition involves rest and heat. Many health care providers may suggest ice; however when treating a muscle in spasm, heat may be more effective in helping it to relax. While rest is important, avoid sitting for very long periods of time. Stretching the muscle may also be helpful. An easy stretch for your piriformis is to sit in a chair with both feet on the floor and gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in your lower back and butt. To get more of a stretch, place the ankle on the same side as the pain on top of the opposite knee. (E.g. if the pain is on the right, place your right ankle over your left knee, keeping your left foot flat on the floor.) Then very slowly and gently, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your lower back and buttock. Repeat on the other side. If there’s any pain associated with this stretch, stop.

Treating this condition early is important, because over time chronic nerve problems or muscle weakness may persist. The good news is that in most cases piriformis syndrome responds well and fairly quickly to acupuncture treatment.

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7 Simple Tips To Ease Back Pain

Back Pain Relief In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

Back pain is one of the most common health complaints reported by adults of all ages worldwide. Experts estimate that 80 percent of people will suffer back pain at some point in their lives, making it one of the most common reasons that employees miss work. Beyond the physical toll, back pain costs Americans between 50 and 100 billion dollars in health care costs and lost wages.

There are a number of causes for back pain, including sprains and strains, disc problems, nerve root compression, traumatic injury, osteoporosis, and stenosis, which is a narrowing of the bony openings that can compress spinal nerves. Your risk for having back pain increases with age and weight gain. In addition, people who have very physical occupations are at a higher risk of experiencing back pain, as are those workers who are bent over a screen, people who regularly hunch forward from back pack use, and those people with poor posture. Being physically out of shape also raises your risk for back problems.

Standard Western medical treatments for back pain include over the counter and prescription pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, nerve block therapy, physical therapy, and in extreme cases, surgery. Many people suffering from back pain turn to complementary therapies, including acupuncture, either because they don’t want to take medications or undergo surgery, or because Western treatments haven’t worked for them.

There’s good news in that acupuncture can be beneficial for many people who suffer from back pain, and research is backing this up. The National Institutes of Health reports on several research studies that have found acupuncture to be effective in reducing back pain, and in some instances, better than standard Western treatments. While the actual mechanism of how acupuncture works for pain is not completely clear, there are some important physiological clues. Researchers have found that acupuncture ramps up the circulation of your body’s own pain-relieving opioids that are produced in the brain. In addition, acupuncture works to block the transmission of pain signals reaching your brain. Acupuncture also increases the concentration of inflammation-fighting white blood cells in the areas where acupuncture needles have been placed, which helps decrease pain and support healing.

Suffering from back pain isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. There are a number of steps that you can take to keep your back healthy and prevent pain. Among them:

  1. If you sit most of the day for your work, make sure your work space is ergonomic. Your chair should support your lower back and your feet should be able to rest flat on the floor, with your knees at a 90 degree angle. If possible, an adjustable desk that allows you to work while standing is a great option.
  2. Check your posture. When you’re standing, your body should line up—ears, shoulders, hips, and feet should stack up one below the other. If you slouch, regularly visualize a string coming out of the top of your head that pulls you straight upwards.
  3. What you wear on your feet matters. Shoes that are comfortable, with a low heel and a good arch are ideal. Avoid high heels, except for very special occasions, as they throw your spine out of alignment. Also, avoid flip flops; they offer no support, shorten your stride, and rotate your legs outward—all of which can strain your back muscles.
  4. Move your body. Lots of sitting and lying down weaken your back muscles. Exercise as simple as walking engage and strengthen the core muscles in your abdomen and back. In addition, physical activity increases circulation throughout your body, which translates into healthy muscles, ligaments, and discs.
  5. When you lift, do it the right way. Don’t lift a heavy object by bending over it and pulling upward; that’s a recipe for back strain. Instead, squat down to the level of the object you’re lifting, hold it close to your body and lift by straightening your legs. On the way up, don’t turn or twist, and keep the object below chin level.
  6. Eat to avoid back pain. A diet that packed with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish can help reduce inflammation overall. Foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meat and fried foods can clog your arteries—including those in your back and spine—and those foods along with lots of sugar, alcohol and highly processed meals work to fuel inflammation.
  7. Rein in your stress. You may be aware that high stress hampers your digestion, suppresses your immune system, and raises your blood pressure. However, you may not know that lots of stress also tightens up the muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders. Over time, these tightened muscles can become painful knots, can compress nerves, and may make you more prone to back injuries. So do whatever it takes to bring a little calm into your life for the sake of your back.

The bottom line is that even with the best of practices, you may one day suffer from back pain. If that happens, consider acupuncture as a first line of treatment. Your practitioner can combine acupuncture with heat therapy, cupping, electrical stimulation, and a variety of other healing tools to bring you effective back pain relief and speed up the healing process.

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Research Shows That Acupuncture Can Be An Effective Tool To Quit Smoking

Help Quit Smoking In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

Quitting Smoking? Acupuncture Can Help

Many former smokers will tell you that quitting smoking was one of the hardest things that they’ve ever done. Nicotine is incredibly addicting, and whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or chew tobacco, quitting is hard. Furthermore, the cravings for tobacco can last for a long time after you quit. For that reason, it can take one or more attempts at quitting to finally give up tobacco for good.

Health Risks Associated with Smoking

Almost every smoker is aware of the risks associated with smoking. They may have seen ads on TV, warnings on their cigarette boxes, or heard it from their loved ones. Most know of the increased risk for lung conditions that come with smoking, including asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. However, many people don’t know that smoking can raise your risk for a number of health conditions that aren’t related to your lungs. Among them:

  • Heart problems. Smoking impairs your circulation and can damage your heart. It can increase your risk for heart disease, vessel damage, blood clots, and heart attacks.
  • Your brain. Compromised circulation from smoking raises your risk for stroke and damage to the arteries that send blood to your brain.
  • Reproductive health. Smoking increases the risk of impotence, damaged sperm, lower sperm count, and testicular cancer in men. In women, smoking can increase the time it takes to conceive, as well as increase your risk for cervical cancer. During pregnancy, smoking increases the chance of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth.
  • Throat and mouth. Damage to your mouth and throat can result from both smoking and chewing tobacco. The health implications include a greater risk for cancer of the esophagus, throat, voice box, lips, and tongue. In addition, tobacco use is unappealing. It stains your teeth, gives you bad breath, can cause gum disease, and dampens your sense of taste.
  • Other cancers. Smoking is associated with an increased risk cancer to the stomach, head and neck, esophagus, kidney, and pancreas.
  • Your skin. Poor circulation from smoking reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your skin and shows up as accelerated aging and a dull complexion. Increased facial wrinkles from smoking, especially around the eyes and mouth, combined with a sallow complexion, gives smokers the appearance of being older by a decade or more.

Some Good News

Your body is programmed to heal, and that healing begins as soon as you quit smoking. In as little as 12 hours, the carbon monoxide from smoke is out of your body and oxygen levels are back to normal. After about a day, your risk of having a heart attack begins to decrease and your blood pressure starts to drop. Your sense of taste begins to return after two or three days, and after a month of not smoking, your lung function starts to improve with less coughing and shortness of breath. In the months following, your circulation continues to get better and your lungs are significantly healed. After ten years as a non-smoker, your risk of developing certain cancers is significantly reduced, and your lung cancer risk is cut in half. In 15 to 20 years after quitting, your overall health risks are the same as if you never smoked.

The Role of Acupuncture in Quitting

There’s no doubt about it; quitting tobacco is hard, but there’s also help in the form of acupuncture. Researchers have documented that acupuncture can be an effective tool in reducing cigarette use and quitting smoking altogether. They also found that after acupuncture treatments, study participants reported that cigarettes tasted worse and their desire to smoke was reduced. Other studies have concluded that acupuncture can help quitters remain tobacco free for longer, boosting chances of quitting for good.

Your acupuncturist has a number of strategies to help you quit successfully. One technique is through ear acupuncture, which is a protocol specifically targeted at treating addictions. Ear acupuncture uses needles during a treatment, but can be augmented with small beads that are left in your ears to prolong the decreased frequency and intensity of cravings. Your practitioner will also likely include acupuncture on body points to support your lungs, boost overall health, and improve your circulation.

Beyond supporting your health and reducing cravings, acupuncture is also effective in the mental game of quitting. It alters your brain chemistry to decrease stress, which can spike during the process of quitting. Acupuncture boosts the circulation of feel-good endorphins in your brain which helps to elevate your mood, reduce irritability, and enhance sleep.

A good strategy for quitting is to begin by making a commitment to become tobacco-free. Slowly reduce your use over the next few days or weeks, and determine your Quit Day. Book an acupuncture treatment for the day you quit. You’ll likely need follow-up treatments in the early days and weeks after you quit, but as your cravings subside, you’ll be able to taper off to less frequent treatments.

The bottom line is that quitting smoking is hard to do. However, millions of people have done it, and with commitment and some help from your acupuncturist, you can too.

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Control The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis With Chinese Medicine

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Not all arthritis is created equal, and this is especially true when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is the result of age-related wear and tear on your joints, RA is an autoimmune illness. While osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, it usually affects your weight bearing joints only, such as your hips and knees. In contrast, RA can affect your entire body, but frequently begins in the small joints of your hands, wrists, and feet.

As an autoimmune illness, RA is caused by confusion on the part of your immune system. Normally, your immune system is able to identify the good from the harmful when it comes to bacteria, viruses, and toxins in your body. However, an autoimmune illness occurs when your immune system becomes mixed up and sees your healthy cells as invaders, and attacks them. Scientists are unsure why this happens, but the result can cause a number of illnesses, including RA.

About a million and a half people in the US have RA, with about three times as many women as men being diagnosed. RA occurs most frequently in adults, but children can also get it. There isn’t a simple lab test to diagnose RA, so doctors combine signs, symptoms, and blood tests that may identify specific types of inflammation to diagnose this disease.

The symptoms of RA include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and redness. In addition, as RA progresses, it causes joint destruction and deformity. However, because RA is an autoimmune illness, your whole body may also be affected. As a result, RA may also cause fatigue, achy muscles, poor appetite, and even depression. The systemic inflammation associated with RA can cause damage to your heart, lungs, eyes, nerves, and muscles. In addition, people with RA may have compromised immune function, and with it an increased risk for infections and developing other autoimmune illnesses.

There is currently no cure for RA, so treatment is focused on treating symptoms and controlling the disease progression. In Western medicine, RA is treated with medications to inhibit the immune system, decrease inflammation, and control pain. These may include NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory medications), steroids, DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic drugs), and biologics, which target specific steps of the inflammatory process without wiping out your entire immune system.

In Chinese medicine, the symptoms of RA are considered to be a Bi (pronounced bee) Syndrome. Bi Syndromes are described as an impediment or blockage that occurs in one or more joints, due to inflammation, swelling, bone spurs, and poor circulation in the area. There are a number of different presentations of Bi Syndromes, including:

  • Wind Bi, in which the symptoms move around from one joint to another
  • Cold Bi, which is associated with severe pain and is aggravated by cold weather
  • Damp Bi, in which the symptoms are worse during damp or humid weather
  • Heat Bi, characterized by warmth and redness in the affected joints

It’s also possible to have a combination of these conditions. For example, you can have a combination of a damp and heat Bi Syndrome, in which your joints are hot, red, swollen, and made worse in the warm and humid weather.

Because there’s no cure for RA, many people add acupuncture and Chinese medicine to their Western treatments in order to better manage their RA symptoms, control flare ups, and slow the advance of this disease. A practitioner of Chinese medicine can combine acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet, heat therapy, lifestyle changes, and other healing tools to help lessen the impact of RA. Acupuncture for arthritis treatment can help by decreasing the inflammation locally and systemically, increasing circulation in the affected areas, and reducing pain associated with this disease.

If you’ve been diagnosed with RA, there are some things that you can do to help control your symptoms, including:

  1. Don’t wait to seek treatment. The sooner you’re diagnosed and the more aggressively you’re treated, the better the outcome. The goal of treatment is to curb the inflammation, slow down the damage to your joints, prevent damage to other organs, and limit the progression of your RA.
  2. Use your diet as a healing tool. Because inflammation plays a large role in RA, choosing an anti-inflammatory diet can help control flare-ups and slow its progression. Simple dietary guidelines to reduce inflammation include reducing sugars and simple carbohydrates, and eating more plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts, fish, and heart healthy fats, such as olive oil.
  3. Get enough rest. Your body heals and regenerates while you’re sleeping.
  4. Stay active. Researchers have found that regular exercise can help keep your joints mobile and retain muscle strength. Activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming can help reduce pain and improve range of motion.

While RA isn’t curable, it doesn’t mean that you’re sentenced to a lifetime of pain, stiffness, and disability. By combining the best of Western medicine, the wisdom of Chinese medicine, and healthy lifestyle habits, you can help to control the symptoms, flares-ups, and inflammation associated with RA.

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Did You Know That Food Therapy Is An Equally Important Healing Tool In Chinese Medicine?

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There are a number of healing practices that are included in Chinese medicine. You may be familiar with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, but many people are unaware that food therapy is an equally important healing tool in this medicine. The Chinese say that practitioners should first try to heal by prescribing the right foods, and only if that fails should they turn to acupuncture and herbs.

It’s difficult not to notice how differently we think about food in the Western culture compared to the theories behind Chinese food therapy. Many of the ideas behind healing with food fly in the face of what we think we know as good nutrition or eating well according to Western traditions. Here are some examples:

  • It’s all about energy in Chinese medicine. From a Western perspective, we tend to count calories in order avoid eating too many. However, in Chinese theory the reason for eating is to gain energy for your body to function. The calories you eat are a kind of Qi, or life force, which are needed to fuel all of the things your body does, including immunity, the ability to heal, movement, digestion, breathing, temperature regulation, and metabolism.

  • How you cook your food matters. This is also about energy, but also about your digestion. According to Chinese theory, you need an adequate amount of digestive fire, or energy, to digest your food completely in order to derive the energy and nutrients from it that you need for your body to function. However, raw vegetables and fruits take more fire than cooked foods to digest completely. Simply put, cooking your food is a little like pre-digestion. If you’re having digestive problems, are ill, or are fatigued, eating a lot of raw foods may only aggravate your condition. According to Chinese theory, you’ll get more overall energy out of your food if it’s cooked.

  • Foods aren’t considered to be good or bad in general. One of the foundations of Chinese food therapy is that foods are chosen based on your specific needs. What’s good for your best friend may not be what’s healthy for you. In Western culture however, we’re quick to look for superfoods that are a panacea for everyone, or to eliminate whole categories of foods that might only be a bad choice for some people. For example, in the past fats have been labeled as foods to avoid without making the distinction between healthy and unhealthy fats. Today, carbohydrates are labeled a food culprit, when in fact there are many healthy carbohydrates. The end result is that we’ve eliminated potentially healthy foods from our diets and are eating a lot of foods that might not be optimal for everyone.

  • In Chinese medicine, eating too many of the wrong foods aren’t necessarily considered to be fattening, but instead are dampening. Dampness occurs when you eat too much of the wrong food for you, combined with poor digestion or metabolism. Your body gets bogged down and moisture accumulates, causing “puddles” of dampness to build up in the form of edema, yeast overgrowth, athlete’s foot, and moist rashes. In addition, adipose tissue—or fat—is also considered to be an accumulation of dampness.

  • In Chinese food therapy, foods are classified by how they act on your body. In Western medicine and dietetics, we categorize our food in terms of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Our food pyramid and recommended dietary choices are based on these categorizations. However in Chinese food therapy, foods are classified by how they act on your body. Similar to Chinese herbal therapy, foods have inherent temperatures and actions. The temperature of a food is not a description of how spicy it is, but a way to describe the thermal effect it has on your body. For example, melons are considered to be cooling foods, but lamb is warming. In addition to its temperature, foods also have an action. For example, a food can boost your energy, build up your blood, or drain dampness. In Chinese food therapy, the foods that are recommended for you are based on both temperature and action, according to your specific health needs.

  • According to Chinese medicine, one of the underlying causes of disease is eating food that’s been “wrecked”. If you wheel your cart through a grocery store, either in the United States or China, you’ll find foods that have all kinds of additives. With ingredients such as artificial flavors, to food dyes, to preservatives, many of the foods you find in the grocery store have been chemically altered to enhance shelf life, flavor, and appearance. According to Chinese medicine, one of the underlying causes of disease is eating food that’s been “wrecked”. In ancient times, that meant rotten or spoiled food. Today however, wrecked food might mean products that are unrecognizable as food due to chemical additives or processing that has stripped them of their nutrients. One of the basic principles of Chinese food therapy is eating foods as they’re found in nature.

While Chinese food therapy is best done in partnership with your acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese medicine, the above comparisons offer up a few guidelines for eating just a little better. Pick foods that make you feel your best, not those based on current diets or food fads. Try to choose foods with few or no additives; cook most of your produce; don’t worry too much about calories; eat slowly; and enjoy your meals.

In addition to her training in Chinese food therapy, Cynthia Chamberlain is also certified as a Functional Nutrition Guide by mindbodygreen’s Functional Nutrition program.  In choosing appropriate food therapies for an individual, she incorporates both western Functional Nutrition and Chinese food therapy.

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The Symptoms Associated With Your Headaches Can Be Clues To The State Of Your Overall Health

Headache Relief Treatment In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

When someone tells you that they have a headache, it’s hard to imagine what they’re feeling. Do they mean that it hurts throughout their head or just over their left eye? Is their pain dull and achy, throbbing, burning, or sharp?

The Different Types of Headaches

The one true thing about headaches is that they come in all shapes and sizes. You may suffer from headaches every day or have an occasional whopper every couple of months. There are a number of different types of headaches, too. They include:

  • Headaches caused by congestion, swollen sinuses, or a full-blown sinus infection. The pain from a sinus headache is usually felt in the front of your head, forehead and cheeks.
  • Tension headaches, which are triggered by and the result of stressful situations, chronic stress, and emotional upsets. Frequently tension or stress headaches begin in your neck and shoulders, which are areas where it’s common to feel tightness when you’re under stress.
  • Cluster headaches that can be intensely painful, usually one-sided, and with the pain that occurs near your eye or nose. They’re called cluster headaches because it’s common for them to occur in a group of frequent attacks, or clusters. Beyond sharp pain, this kind of headache may cause your nose to run or your affected eye to water.
  • Rebound headaches are those that occur when you stop drinking coffee, caffeinated drinks, or certain medications. They tend to be dull and achy, and usually resolve after three or four days.
  • Migraines are considered to be the mother of all headaches, and are actually considered to be a neurological event, with headaches as one of the most notable symptoms. Migraines tend to move through stages, are usually one-sided, and can be extremely painful.

Treating Headaches with Acupuncture

In Chinese medicine, the categorizations between headaches are a little different than that of Western medicine. The symptoms associated with your headache give your practitioner a number of clues to the state of your overall health—not just your headache. Essentially, your headache has a personality that mirrors the condition of your entire body.

Your headache may be dull and achy or sharp and stabbing. In general, mild and dull pain is an indicator of being depleted; along with your headache you may be run down or fatigued. These headaches tend to be chronic in nature. In contrast, a headache that is fixed, sharp, and intense is associated with some kind of blockage or constriction. In the case of your headache, it may be constricted blood vessels, contracted muscles, or both. While this type of headache can be chronic, they’re more likely to be acute, occurring less often than mild and dull headaches.

Triggers, or what sets off your headaches, can be extremely helpful in diagnosing and treating them. Some triggers are obvious, such as high levels of stress or quitting coffee. However, there are other triggers that are more subtle. For example, food intolerances are a common trigger for headaches, but can be very hard to identify. Variations in blood sugar, hunger, or becoming dehydrated can also be culprits. The weather is also a common cause of headaches for many people. Changes in the weather, a drop in barometric pressure, very cold or hot weather, and damp or humid conditions all can spark a headache for some sufferers. It’s also important to realize that it may be a combination of factors that is setting off your headache, which ultimately makes it harder to pinpoint.

Symptoms that accompany your headache are also a clue to what’s going on in Chinese medicine. For example, some people who suffer from migraines feel hot in their upper body or head during an attack, but others may feel chilled. Other symptoms that may occur during your headache include nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound, fatigue, and irritability. Knowing these symptoms are helpful to your practitioner in diagnosing and treating your headaches.

In Chinese medicine, illnesses and conditions are diagnosed according to patterns, or clusters of symptoms. This is true for headaches, as well. The nature of your headache symptoms, along with the condition of your overall health, determine the pattern—and the underlying cause—of your problem. In fact, your acupuncturist can’t begin to treat effectively until they’ve established the source of what’s making you ill.

If you choose to treat your headaches with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, your practitioner will develop a treatment strategy based on your unique combination of symptoms and overall pattern. They will likely combine a number of healing tools, starting with acupuncture. Your practitioner may also prescribe an herbal formula, which can be tailored to your specific needs. In addition, they may incorporate food therapy, lifestyle modifications, and stress relief strategies into your treatment plan. The bottom line is that while no two headaches are exactly alike, Chinese medicine can offer effective treatment for your unique symptoms.

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How Your Pulse Can Tell A Great Deal Of Information About Overall Health

Chinese Medicine Pulse Reading In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

When you think about a health practitioner feeling the pulse on your wrist, do you automatically assume they are checking your heart rate? Often this is the case with a Western doctor, but if you’re visiting a practitioner of Chinese medicine, they’re taking your pulse to get far more information beyond the rate at which your heart is beating. In Chinese medicine, the characteristics of your pulse tell your practitioner a great deal of information about your overall health, a possible diagnosis, and how best to treat you.

There are about 27 different pulse types or combinations that your acupuncturist may feel, making pulse reading a complicated skill to learn. It can take years of practice to do it well, but a good practitioner can gather a great deal of information from your pulse alone. Here’s a little information about Chinese pulse reading:

How It’s Done

Pulse reading is usually taken at the radial artery of your wrist, and both sides are felt, because they can differ in quality. Your practitioner will use three fingers, because she’s feeling for differences at three different positions; nearest your wrist crease, mid-position, and the rearmost position. Each position corresponds to a different organ system in your body.

Pulse Rate

Like your Western doctor, a Chinese medical practitioner also pays attention to the rate of your pulse. However, in Chinese medicine your pulse rate reveals more than just the state of your heart. A pulse rate that is about four or five beats to one breath, or about 60 beats per minute is considered to be normal. If your pulse is much faster than that, it indicates that there’s heat of some kind going on in your body. That heat may be inflammation, infection, or a fever. If your pulse is dramatically slower, it suggests that your body is cold, or that you’re depleted in some way. One exception is that athletes or people who do a great deal of physical labor, who tend to have a slow pulse.  In their case, a slow pulse occurs from a training effect and is considered to be normal.

Strength

How weak or strong your pulse feels is an indication of the quality of your overall energy. A strong, easily felt pulse suggests that your overall body constitution is also strong. However, if your pulse is weak and hard to find, it’s likely that you’re run down or depleted in some way. For example, a young man in his early twenties is usually at the peak of his health and vitality, and therefore should have a robust pulse. However, if his pulse was faint and difficult to feel, a practitioner would suspect that his health was compromised in some way.

Depth

When you get sick, the depth of your pulse can also offer up some clues as to what’s going on. If you have a cold or mild flu, your pulse will be felt on the surface, almost like it’s trying to push the illness out of your body. However, if you have a more serious illness or symptoms that are affecting your body systemically, your pulse will feel deeper, indicating that what’s upsetting your health is lodged deeper in your body. Therefore, a deeply felt pulse is common in people who have chronic conditions or illnesses.

The Quality of Your Pulse

Beyond, rate, strength, and depth, your pulse also has a quality or personality. It can feel soft, tight, rolling, thready, rough, or soggy to name a few. For example, a wiry and tight pulse is felt in people who are in a lot of pain, very stressed, or are emotionally upset. A pulse that feels soggy and soft, or one that you can feel coming and going may indicate that you’re not metabolizing fluids well and you’re retaining water. An irregular pulse with skipped beats can indicate heart issues, anxiety, or insomnia.

Other Considerations

Your pulse will change over time as your health changes. If you’ve been sick or run down, your deep and weak pulse will become stronger as your recover. As you age, your pulse tends to slow down, and men tend to have a stronger pulse in general than women. Medications can also affect your pulse. Steroids, blood pressure medications, amphetamines, thyroid medications, decongestants, and some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can all affect the quality of your pulse. Older adults who are taking heart medications such as digoxin or digitalis can have an unusually strong and forceful pulse for someone of their age and state of health.

When you combine all the factors, including rate, depth, strength, and quality, there are literally an infinite number of possible pulses. It takes a deep understanding not only of pulse reading, but also of Chinese medicine to be able to translate the nuances of your pulse into what it means for your health. Those who do it well recognize that a good pulse diagnosis can offer up a clearer picture of your condition.

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Losing Weight with a Little Help from Chinese Medicine

Natural Weight Loss In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you understand how difficult and frustrating it can be. It’s slow and hard and takes a lot of resolve—sometimes without any noticeable results. If this is you, you’re not alone. Every year, people spend billions of dollars on books, supplements, miracle foods, and diet plans, all in the name of shedding pounds.

Why is it so difficult to lose weight? One reason is that we tend to look at being overweight one-dimensionally. It’s easy to think that gaining weight is just about eating too much, and to lose weight you just need to eat fewer calories, right? Maybe not. There are a lot of factors that go into how you metabolize those calories you eat. Among them: the health of your digestion, your history of previous dieting, antibiotic use, stress hormones, mood, your overall metabolism, and your emotional health.

Here are a few thoughts from Chinese medicine that might help you lose some weight, get on the right track nutritionally, and ease your frustration:

  • Chinese medicine is based on the theory that your body needs energy to perform everything it does, and that energy needs to flow smoothly. You get your energy from the food that you eat, which is measured in calories. While it seems pretty cut and dried, determining energy, or the caloric value of your food, is not clear-cut. It fluctuates based on how you cook the food, how much fiber it contains, and how well your body digests and metabolizes that food.
  • Beyond having enough energy to get through your day, in Chinese medicine that energy must also flow smoothly. This simply means that all the moving parts in your body need to keep moving without obstruction. In the case of weight loss, it’s important that your food moves through your gut and is metabolized properly. Any digestive problems that you may have tends to slow down how you metabolize foods and fluids, causing an overall moist bogginess, called dampness in Chinese medicine. Excess weight is considered to be damp tissue, because it’s heavy and full of fluid. The upshot is that if you have problems with your digestion, it’s likely hindering your weight loss efforts.
  • You’ve heard that exercise is a good way to facilitate weight loss because it burns calories. In Chinese medicine, exercise is also considered helpful in your weight loss efforts because it creates flow in your body. It gets your muscles moving, your heart pumping, and your digestion rolling. In addition, movement creates more movement—in a good way. The excess damp weight that’s settled around your waist or on your hips are considered to be stagnant. Moving your body helps to move some of that accumulation of damp tissue.
  • Diets don’t work, Part 1. Chinese food therapy is based on the idea that each of us has a very unique body constitution, or makeup. Therefore, the foods you need for optimal health are different than those that your best friend needs. This is true whether you’re dieting or not. It also explains why the diet that worked for your co-worker didn’t work for you. If you talk to your practitioner of Chinese medicine, they can determine what foods are best for you to not only maintain your health, but also to help you shed a few pounds.
  • Diets don’t work, Part 2. Your body is programmed to protect your energy stores. When you go on a strict diet, you may lose weight for a while.  However, during that time your metabolism slows down in an effort to keep you from starving—it doesn’t know that you’re just on a diet. When you stop dieting your slower metabolism causes you to gain back the weight you lost and then some. A better strategy is to find a healthful way of eating that you can sustain for the rest of your life.
  • Your emotional health plays a role in your weight, too. Stress and strong emotions cause the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and insulin to ramp up or down in a way that allows you to sustain the fight or flight response. As a result, some body systems are put on alert and others, like your digestion and immunity, are dialed back. This shift in hormones is also responsible for the intense sugar or carbohydrate cravings you may have during times of stress, high emotions, or depression.

So you understand that you need to eat what’s right for you, exercise is important, diets don’t work, and you need to get your digestion on track. But how do you move forward, and how can you lose weight with Chinese medicine? A good first step is to meet with your acupuncturist and talk through your goals for losing weight. They can help determine the kinds of foods that are best for your particular body type. They can also tailor their acupuncture treatments to help you relieve stress, deal with food cravings, get your digestion straightened out, and resolve dampness. Losing weight takes time, and your acupuncturist can offer you the support you need to make the long-term changes necessary that are the key to your weight loss success.

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