Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine

Spring is here, and with it, after a long winter of hibernating, comes new life, and the growth and activity of plants and animals. In the clinic, it’s my experience that during spring we seem to have more birth and pregnancy announcements.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the Liver is associated with new growth and expansive energies. Just as the plants around us are stretching out and springing up, reaching for the sun, so do the energies relating to our Liver. Spring is the best time to support the Liver, eating fresh green foods and being mindful to express our emotions.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver is represented by different aspects:

Yin Organ – Liver
Yang Organ – Gallbladder Season – Spring
Colour – Green
Direction – East
Flavour – Sour

One of the functions of the liver is the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. In TCM, illness or disease is seen to be a blockage of the flow. When things, like Qi, are not flowing properly, this will cause disharmony in the body. So, the Liver’s function of keeping Qi moving in the body is important for our overall health and wellbeing. A blockage of the flow of Qi is central to almost all Liver disharmonies and is one of the most common patterns seen in clinical practice.

To help the liver and free flow of liver Qi, we begin by eating less than we did in winter, consuming lighter foods and cleansing the body of the excess fats and heavier foods have eaten. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, a time of expansion and expression. Spring is when we introduce newly grown greens and sprouts, salty foods and pungent herbs which support the liver and help to cleanse the body.

Cleansing the body is especially beneficial in spring not only because of the liver’s function of filtering toxins, but emotionally as well – emotions like frustration, impatience and anger are associated with the liver and a cleansing of the body and emotions allows us to clear out old residues and enables us to see more clearly and move forward in life with renewed passion and purpose.

The best way to keep the Liver happy, healthy and able to do its job is through a nutritious and seasonally focused diet, observing our emotions and releasing them healthfully as well as trying to ensure you get to bed by 11 pm.

Dry Needling

Dry Needling specifically treats musculoskeletal pain. A fine, single-use needle is inserted into a dysfunctional muscle with the aim of returning it to its optimal state. Studies have shown there to be a localised increase in blood flow and a release of endorphins as soon as a needle is inserted; both positive reactions to reduce pain and dysfunction.

What is a trigger point?

A trigger point is a contraction in a tight band of muscle which causes pain when palpated or squeezed, in a specific site and/or referring to other areas of the body. Trigger points can cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or lack of normal range of movement.

Dry Needling Vs Acupuncture?

It is important to know that Acupuncture and Dry Needling are two very distinct modalities. Dry needling is based upon the western medicine paradigm.

It is used for soft tissue correction, which involves inserting extremely fine and painless needles into muscle fibres, causing a local twitch response. This, in turn, helps to deactivate and resolve trigger points in the muscle and release constriction. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine and the stimulation of Qi (pronounce Chi).

Acupuncture diagnoses using complex theories, meaning only a qualified and registered Acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine practitioner can treat with Acupuncture. Many health professionals utilise Dry Needling as a method for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain, including Myotherapists, Physiotherapists, Podiatrists and even some GP’s.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture began in China more than 2000 years ago and has been a major part of their health care system ever since. It involves fine, single-use needles being inserted into very specific points along the body’s meridians which are found on every corner of the body including the hands, feet, and head. The individual points have a specific function and are chosen depending on the condition being treated.

Acupuncture helps conditions based on symptoms using ancient Chinese theories. These theories aim to achieve wellness and to restore balance throughout the body.
The techniques are gentle and the practitioner spends quality time with the client to ensure a positive experience occurs.

Are you a highly sensitive person?

We all have our gifts and we all have our challenges – often they are one and the same thing.

Some of us are exceptionally good at creating beauty – whether that is a beautiful experience or a thing of beauty. These people are great visionaries, they know exactly what they want to create; they know all the details that need to come together to create that vision. They can sometimes be referred to as ‘Control Freaks’ as they can have trouble delegating or even allowing others to help. They can be very sensitive to criticism, not that they can’t handle it, but rather that they are already very self-critical. In fact they are often perfectionists and never really satisfied with their own efforts. So they are already providing all the criticism and when someone else notices that something is not perfect, it hurts!

Part of this ability to create beauty is a sensitivity and as is always the case in Chinese Medicine, the sensitivity applies to all dimensions of life. So these people, as well as being sensitive to the details and how things come together to create beauty, are also energetically sensitive. They may be particularly sensitive to foods or toxins or pharmaceuticals. They may pick up on someone else’s feelings and be driven to wanting to make that person feel better. They may be sensitive to energy of spaces. They may also be sensitive to energies from other realms.

Now these are ALL extraordinary gifts but if that energy is overwhelming – if the lines become blurred between what is their own energetic stuff and what is not theirs – then this can feel like anything BUT a gift!!!

The wisdom from Chinese Medicine allows us to see that the strengths of this sensitivity are also its challenges. Just to know this alone can help and then to focus on the light of this quality rather than the shadow.

A balanced life

As in Chinese Medicine, sensitivity applies to all dimensions of life.

If this sounds like you and you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your sensitivity, there are a few things you can do. The aim of the game is to befriend your sensitivity. You can’t hate something away, but you can LOVE it into balance.

RITUAL 1

One thing to try is simply expanding and contracting your energy. After all, you, more than any of us, know that we do not end with our skin! Imagine you are standing in a large hall and at the other end of the hall is someone you love. Someone who makes you feel safe. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Create that image in your minds eye; then expand your energy out to reach that person that you love. It is safe for your energy to connect with theirs. Enjoy that feeling – soak up that feeling.

Then do the opposite and imagine someone you dislike at the other end of the hall. Contract your energy, bring it in close around you; to protect you; set that boundary; don’t allow your energy to connect with that other person.

As you play with this concept you get better and better at either allowing your energy to mix or protecting your energy. It’s just like a muscle at the g – the more you use it the stronger and more flexible it becomes.

RITUAL 2

Here is another simple ritual you may like – to define and protect your boundaries and to stop negative energies from invading your space.

When you wake up in the morning and stand up feet on the ground and stretch both arms out in front of you, like you are pushing something away and affirm to the world I can see you better over there’. Then pushing each arm out to your sides in the same way, say out loud, I will not get caught between a rock and a hard place’.

Say it and mean it!!

Then pushing both hands down to the ground, I hold down the rising tide’.

Pushing both hands up from your shoulders to the sky, I release the weight of the world from my shoulders’.

And finally, tell the universe to get off your back!

You have covered the energy around you in all six directions and created the physical, emotional and energetic space you need. A simple time efficient ritual that is based on prevention is easier than a cure.

There are lots of ways to ground your energy; these are just two simple options. It’s important to ensure your subconscious mind is supportive of your healthy energetic boundaries. PSYCH-K and hypnotherapy are powerful ways to connect to your subconscious and update the software that runs your mind. Remember your sensitivity is a beautiful part of who you are.

Liz Champtaloup – Holistic Hypnotherapist, Advanced PSYCH-K Facilitator, EFT Practitioner, Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy

 

A Balanced Life

If we apply ancient Chinese wisdom to a modern day problem then we would not be seeking work-life balance.

It’s too late by then to bring balance to our lives. The key to balance is to be balanced from within. When we are balanced from within we come to everything from a balanced perspective. Nothing can disturb our balance because we are not relying on external factors to bring us this blissful state.

This is why mindfulness and meditation are such powerful tools to incorporate into our lives.

A balanced life

Just a small amount of stillness in the mind can bring about a significant amount of balance to our lives.

The mind is incredibly lenient and kind to us! Just a small amount of stillness in the mind can bring about a significant amount of balance to our lives.

So don’t think that you need to replicate the meditation habits of The Dalai Lama in order to bring balance to your life! Just starting with 10 minutes of stillness a day is worthwhile.

There are also many ways to meditate and the simpler the better.

So if meditation is something you have thought about but never tried then be kind to yourself and know that it can be easy to meditate.

There are loads of apps available for very little expense that can be a lovely gentle way to start bringing some stillness into your life. Or you might like to start just focusing on your breath; breathing in and breathing out.

Whatever you choose just find 10 minutes in your day and breathe deeply into your belly. Set yourself a goal to have 10 minutes stillness a day for a week…and then a month…and then 15 minutes.

You might be surprised at how good you are at meditating and your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it.

Liz Champtaloup – Holistic Hypnotherapist, Advanced PSYCH-K Facilitator, EFT Practitioner, Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy

The Heart Protector

The Chinese believe we have an extra organ called The Heart Protector.

It’s like an imaginary gate around our hearts. When we are in balance the gate is slightly open, allowing us time to decide if we trust someone or something into our heart or not.

It is not just about romance, everything is connected, so it may be a business relationship or any other decision that we need to make.

If we choose not to let a person or situation into our heart then we can close the gate and protect our heart. Or if we feel safe then we can open the gate and allow that situation in to our heart.

In Chinese Medicine the heart is known as The Emperor. It is literally the heart of all our abundant richness and resources. The Emperor is the keeper of all things beautiful.

 

The General or the Emperor?

Who do you want to give the power to…The General or The Emperor?

Our heart is where we nurture our authentic self, our truth. It is where we feel. But sometimes the Emperor is distracted by The General. You guessed it – the General is our mind. We can overthink things and lose connection to how we feel about something. Western thinking is very much about that we need to ‘do something’ or ‘to fix the situation’ so it can be very easy to get stuck in our thoughts.

Sure it’s important to be able to analyse and think, and we all need our General, but as ancient Chinese wisdom would ask ‘Who do you want to give the power to…The General or The Emperor?’

When we give too much power to The General we shut ourselves off from our feelings. We lose touch with our authentic self. We forget what lights us up and in the extreme may even lose our passion for life.

Many ancient and modern philosophers talk about the journey from the head to the heart being the longest journey. If you feel disconnected from your heart you are not alone, over 90% of people are said to have excessive energetic protection around their hearts.

But the good news is the power of the subconscious mind can help you gently reconnect to all your richness and resources. Your subconscious loves you to bits…it’s all there waiting for you.

Liz Champtaloup – Holistic Hypnotherapist, Advanced PSYCH-K Facilitator, EFT Practitioner, Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy

Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Traditional Chinese Approach to Period Pain

Amongst the multitude of treatment options for those experiencing primary dysmenorrhea (period pain which is not attributed to any other pathology such as: endometriosis, fibroids etc.), traditional Chinese medicine and the complimentary medicine approach excels in the management and treatment of symptoms.

From the western perspective, primary dysmenorrhea is one of the most prevalent and disabling gynecological disorders with no identifiable aetiology. It is a disorder which is said to incur an economic impact on a global scale, with an estimated 600 million work hours and 2 billion dollars lost annually in the USA alone. One study recorded as many as 50% of women were affected by primary dysmenorrhea and another 10% experiencing symptoms severe enough to render them incapacitated.

Despite this, other than ruling out secondary dysmenorrhea, the conventional medical approach can offer little insight to its origin. The level of understanding with regard to causative factors from a TCM point of view is more comprehensive in comparison.

In TCM gynecology, the Liver organ and Penetrating vessel, also known as the Chong Mai, are crucial in the free flow of Qi and Blood. Free flow = a painless existence.

The Chong Mai flows through the uterus and is also known as the sea of blood.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture reduces pain in women with dysmenorrhea

Acupuncture, Tui Na (Chinese remedial massage) and Chinese herbs work to harmonise the flow of Qi and Blood in the uterus by treating meridians on the body. There are however, plenty of things that we can do to ensure free flow without even getting to the point of disease! A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, an abundance of physical activity and relaxation exercises, nourishing sleep habits and an avoidance of drugs and alcohol will all benefit the Chong Mai and help to keep the menstrual cycle in balance. This also applies to the treatment of subfertility with Chinese medicine. A healthy cycle is a good way to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Many women are led to believe that it is quite normal to have a huge amount of pain during menstruation and that it is normal to pop a few pain killers or take oral contraceptives to avoid this. According to the old Chinese texts, this is only a modern pathology. Normal periods are pain free and regular in length.

Conventional medicine, although efficient in its pharmacotherapy, lacks the availability of a lasting solution for primary dysmenorrhea and a youth of periods spent fighting pain with prescription medication or pain killers, often leading to undiagnosed complications with fertility, is pretty common unfortunately.

There is a stack of research out there that shows the efficacy of acupuncture and Chinese herbs in dramatically improving the quality of life and level of pain that women are experiencing. Generally, studies show the best results are had over a 3 month treatment regime for chronic cases. The added benefit of an individualised diagnosis and treatment, is that the effects are seen on a more than symptomatic level. Accompanying symptoms such as referred lower back pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, fatigue, anxiety, and dizziness were also alleviated from acupuncture. TCM treatment is also found to have lasting effects on pain relief of up to a 3-6 month follow up period.

Hugh Hayward – Chinese Medicine Doctor, Acupuncture & Chinese Herbalist, An Mo Tui Na and Qi Nei Tsang

Winter Is Coming…

Chinese medicine ideas for staying healthy and warm in winter.

Studies have shown that the Influenza virus is more stable and air borne for longer in cold and dry air; the winter months being the perfect conditions for transmission. This is possibly one reason we experience the flu more in winter.

In Chinese medicine theory, the cold and dry air put strain on the Lung and Wei Qi (defensive qi or immunity), thus allowing for the invasion of pathogenic influences. Some of us may already have poor Wei Qi as a result of things such as: poor diet, overwork, chronic illness, recurring respiratory illness, long term use of antibiotics, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, being an infant or elderly, mental stress or poor sleeping habits. If this is the case, we need to make a special effort to combat the seasonal shift and stay healthy.

Most of us probably fit into one or more of those characteristics and will encounter 2-4 bouts of the flu or other respiratory illnesses, of varying intensity each year. It is normal from a conventional medicine point of view to experience this, and you probably have heard that this is your body’s way of developing immunity. From a TCM point of view however, once your Wei Qi is developed and healthy, we should only ever experience this during a seasonal shift, and with far less consequences.

Some people may have difficulty kicking the sickness once it arrives and may have residual symptoms for up to a month or more. If this is the case, complications can arise and cause long-term illness. It puts a huge strain on your mental state and can impact your productivity at work and the relationships that surround you, especially if you pass it on to your family or peers!

Here are some ways to stay healthy and keep up that Wei Qi throughout the year.

Cover up!

In Chinese medicine, the more your temperature fluctuates, the more energy we expend keeping out pathogenic invasion. Constant battling against the weather is a sure way to deplete your Wei Qi and become ill. So stay rugged up, especially on the neck and shoulders, lower back and soles of the feet and try avoiding drafts or air conditioning.

Keeping your head and neck warm in winter helps to keep your defences working well.

Eat seasonally.

As the cooler months set in, the types of foods naturally available to us will change. Stick to seasonal fruit and vegetables and this will aid your digestion in transforming food into energy. According to Chinese dietary theory, your body has an internal cook pot, which needs to work harder to digest colder foods such as raw vegetables and fruits. In the winter months, when these foods are naturally less available, the internal cook pot generally benefits from more easily digestible foods; broths, stews, root vegies, congee, oats, soups and slow cooked roasts are all great ways to stay warm.

Conserve your energy.

Most of us will relate to the desire to stay indoors and be less active during winter. While it is not so applicable in Queensland, most cultures that experience a full-blown winter nestle in when the cold hits. Winter is about consolidation and hibernation. Exercising to the same degree as we do in summer will deplete hard earned energy stores. Athletes who train all year round make an exception to this rule, although they make sure to aptly warm their bodies before a work out. In many cases due to their high intensity training, the Wei Qi of an athlete is much stronger and they don’t feel the weather like most. To stay moving in winter some exercises that we could continue include yoga (not hot yoga), tai chi, qi gong, meditation or stretching.

Finally, avoid damaging the Wei Qi with substance abuse.

Culturally speaking, Australians love to get loose on the weekends and winter is no exception. If you really can’t avoid hammering your immunity with cigarettes and alcohol at least try to drink seasonally and responsibly. Good quality mulled wine, red wine, plum wine, rice wine, port, porter, stout, dark ales and dark spirits, can all be enjoyed in moderation and are more nourishing and warming.

If we try our best to listen to what our bodies crave naturally in seasonal shifts we will have a much easier time adapting and staying free from illness. While we can still afford the occasional slip up from time to time, when the bugs hit the battle will be quick and with minimal casualties.

Posted by acupuncturist Hugh Hayward.

Cleansing Summer Salad for Post-Holiday Overindulgence

This is a modified version of a recipe that my sister and I created.

If you’ve let yourself go a little too loosely over the Christmas feasting period, and are keen to break free of that sluggish bog before the New Year has taken over, this is the recipe for you.

The Chinese medicine pathology is labelled as food accumulation in the middle burner, and more than likely, if the break was accompanied with excessive alcohol consumption, damp-heat in the stomach and large intestine.

Based on what we know about the enteric nervous system and the chemistry of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), eating to excess will generally leave you with a feeling of slackness. It can also cause symptoms such as reflux, indigestion or heart burn, nausea, bloating and sensitivity to certain foods. Excessive food consumption can also give you a generalised feeling of inflammation such as aches and pains, loose stools, pain or burning on passing, phlegm or cold and flu symptoms. All of these drawbacks are exacerbated by drinking large amounts of alcohol and can even feel similar to a week-long hangover.

 

Eating to excess will generally leave you with a feeling of slackness.

 

This recipe helps to re-establish the gut health and move the accumulated gunk through to the other end. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) terms, we are looking to alleviate this accumulation, clear the heat (inflammation), and moisten and nourish the Middle Burner (GIT).

Ingredients (roughly 6 servings)

2 cucumbers

1 large bunch of coriander

1 or 2 fresh chilies

1 small handful of sesame or sunflower seeds

2 cups sprouted lentils or sprouted mung beans

Dressing

1 nub of fresh ginger

As much garlic as you like

Juice of 1 or 2 limes depending on taste

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. soy sauce or Tamari

1 teaspoon of raw sugar or coconut sugar

(This recipe is great with boiled quinoa as a protein addition if you are so inclined)

How to sprout lentils and other beans 

  1. Buy whole green lentils or mung beans, rinse them and let them soak in a large jar or container for 12 hours or maybe a little longer for mung beans. (Make sure you leave a little excess room in the jar because they expand to about double the original volume).
  2. Drain the water and cover with a tea towel or breathable membrane to keep the air flowing and the bugs out.
  3. Repeat the rinse and drain about 3 times per day to keep them moist and your lentils should be well and truly sprouted by day three. They are edible at any stage after the soak but I prefer to leave them to get a nice long sprout.

Cleansing Summer Salad

Cut cucumbers into small cubes, then finely chop coriander and chilies. Add to a large salad bowl together with the sesame seeds and sprouted lentils.

Salad Dressing

Finely chop or blend the ginger and garlic and place into a small bowl or jar. Add the juice of a lime, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar to the ginger and garlic, and stir or shake.

Note:

The longer that you let this dressing sit before adding it to the salad, the garlic and ginger will lose its spice so depending on how you like it, you could let it soak for a day or just eat it fresh. Adding the chilies to the dressing rather than to the salad will have a similar effect, so if you like it mild let it soak!

Hugh Hayward – Chinese Medicine Doctor (CMD), Bachelor of Health Science, Diploma An Mo Tui Na Massage