Acne is one of the most troublesome issues in both men and women. It commonly begins in the teenage years as your hormones change, but can also persist later in life. Some people also experience on onset of acne in their adult life.
Because acne is so cosmetic, it can really bother people and lead to issues with self-confidence. This causes stress which then can further exacerbate the problem. More severe acne can also be quite uncomfortable and can lead to scarring.
What causes acne?
Acne is usually a multifaceted problem which is why it can be tricky to pin-point one cause. Most often hormones are involved – acne that begins in the teenage years is due to the fluctuations in sex hormones that occur. Other factors can also be at play, including eating the wrong type of diet, stress and digestive issues.
Acne occurrence based on location
From a naturopathic perspective, different parts of the face give clues as to the underlying cause of the breakouts. Breakouts around the mouth and chin-line are usually due to hormonal issues. Breakouts between your brows are normally liver related and the forehead are from digestive toxicity.
Can you cure acne naturally?
YES! In our experience acne can be treated very successfully. The key is to uncover all of the underlying causes – usually we find there is more than one factor. For example it is very common for people to have acne that is affected by stress, which disrupts the hormones, but is also affected by diet. If we take a holistic approach to healing the acne both externally an internally then we have an excellent chance of a successful outcome.
How do you treat acne?
There are 2 main areas of treatment that need to be covered for the best results. You need to look at topical treatment (your skin care) as well as internal treatment that will address the underlying causes.
What you put on your skin can make a huge difference to your acne. Most people that have had acne have tried everything under the sun – the issue is that most products do not help to balance and heal the skin; rather they are very stripping and encourage scarring. We stock a range of natural and organic skin care lines that are designed to heal your skin and reduce scarring. Rather than using strong antibacterial agents, we recommend cleansers that help to make the skin slightly acidic, which stops bacteria from populating. Organic facials are also a great way to facilitate healing and break up scarring in acne sufferers.
Internal treatment is individualised to suit what is going on for you. Here are some of the ways that our naturopaths may treat acne.
Stress management – In nearly all cases of acne, there is a stress component. Our naturopaths use herbal adaptogens – herbs that help your body to cope with stress better as well as nutritional support.
Hormonal support – We work on helping your body to regulate hormones as well as to detoxify excess hormones that can be causing acne. Our naturopaths can specifically work on issues like PCOS that can contribute to acne.
Detoxification – Improving your detoxification pathways always helps with skin conditions. This includes clearing any digestive toxicity, improving your liver function so it can eliminate hormones properly and using herbal medicines that help to purify the blood.
Sebum control – For cystic acne working internally on sebum control can be very effective. Our naturopaths use specific nutrients that help to reduce the production of excess sebum as well as herbs that remove congestion in the skin to prevent blind pimples.
Digestive support – It is important to clear any constipation as this can lead to more toxins building up in the system. Our naturopaths also look at your levels of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut as this can impact your skin as well.
Most people need a combination of these approaches to fix their acne. Our naturopaths are experts in finding the underlying cause of acne and will be able to give you an idea of what might be the issue after your initial consultation.
How long does acne take to treat?
Unfortunately, acne is not a quick fix and most patients find that they need a good 6-12 months treatment to resolve it. Significant improvements can be made in the first few months though – and often within 4 weeks, we have some reduction in severity. Combining the naturopathy with our recommended skin care regime can take the severity down a notch pretty quickly.
Can acupuncture help acne?
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is another way that you can treat acne. Acne treatment from a Chinese medicine perspective is quite different to a naturopathic approach – it will depend on the type of acne, location as well as your concurrent symptoms as to what your TCM diagnosis will be. Acupuncture should still also be combined with a good topical therapy for best results.
If you’d like more information about how we can help your skin or would like to make an initial appointment, please call us on 07 3367 0337.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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
- 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).
- Drain the water and cover with a tea towel or breathable membrane to keep the air flowing and the bugs out.
- 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.
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.
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
We all get tired from time to time, but for many people low energy is a daily occurrence. Low energy is anything less than feeling that you have enough energy to do all of the things you want to do. If your energy levels are good you won’t have slumps of energy or periods throughout the day where your energy wanes.
So why do we get tired? The answer is not complicated, but can be multifaceted. Let’s explore the most common reasons for fatigue.
Not getting enough sleep
This one is a bit of a no brainer – if you don’t sleep enough your energy will be low. Many people stay up too late and wake up too early, getting far less than their 8 hours a night on a regular basis. Not many people can function on less than 7 hours a night, with most of us needing 8 to fully replenish and restore our bodies.
Then there is the problem with not being able to get to sleep or stay asleep, which eats into your sleep hours. This is linked with the next cause of fatigue.
Your adrenals are little crescent shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. It is their job to release cortisol, a hormone that helps your body deal with stress and keep you energized during the day. When you have high levels of stress, or even low levels of unrelenting stress, your adrenal glands become depleted which leads to tiredness. The 3pm slump is a classic sign of adrenal depletion.
The other effect of your adrenals working overtime is they can start producing cortisol when they are not meant to – at night when you’re meant to be asleep. High cortisol may stop you from being able to fall asleep and can also wake you up during the night. This can turn into a vicious cycle where your adrenals are keeping you awake so you can’t sleep, which further depletes your adrenals and so forth. If a holiday to the Bahamas isn’t an option, a trip to a naturopath or acupuncturist will help to break this cycle and get you sleeping properly again.
To make energy within your cells, you require many nutrients, but the B group vitamins, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10 are the most important. A deficiency in B vitamins can show up as fatigue, mood issues and sleep problems. A deficiency in magnesium can cause symptoms like muscle cramps, nervousness, irritability and anxiety. Magnesium is used up more rapidly with stress so is commonly deficient if your stress is high. Coenzyme Q10 is needed in the citric acid cycle (how your cells produce energy) but also helps to keep your blood oxygenated which helps boost energy reserves. Those that are taking statin drugs (cholesterol lowering drugs) will be deficient in CoQ10 as these drugs greatly reduce the production of this important nutrient in the body.
Iron deficiency can also lead to fatigue as it stops your red blood cells from being able to carry oxygen around the body. Signs of iron deficiency are fatigue, feeling dizzy or light headed, losing your breath easily when walking up hills of stairs and bruising easily. To get assessed for nutrient deficiencies, see a naturopath or nutritionist.
Other causes of fatigue
Nine times out of ten correcting the above causes will alleviate fatigue, but sometimes there can be other issues that play a role. Some people suffer from post-viral or post-bacterial fatigue, where the initial infection has cleared up but the body has not recovered. Hormonal imbalance can play a role – low testosterone can cause fatigue in both men and women. Allergies are another cause of fatigue, often accompanied by a feeling of tiredness around the eyes, or heaviness behind the eyes.
Fatigue is something that we treat every single day at the clinic. It is important to get on top of fatigue, as the more energized you are the more likely you are able to look after yourself. When we’re tired we tend to buy more takeaway food and eat more convenience foods, which in turn can make you feel even more exhausted.
In two out of three cases, there is likely to be a male-related subfertility cause, either alone or in combination with a female factor.
In many cases, conventional reproductive medicine practice tends to ignore the issue of male fertility and it is the female partner who seeks treatment. Most men have semen analysis, although in many cases if the semen is found to be suboptimal, these couples are automatically referred for IVF, rather than the man undergoing further investigations and treatment. Furthermore, men are usually presumed to be fertile if their semen parameters are normal. However, male infertility may be present even when the semen analysis is normal.
Other functional factors which contribute to male infertility include:
- Lowered or non-existent sperm production
- Sperm blocked from or imperfectly being released
- Sperm not functioning properly
Studies report that acupuncture treatment can improve ejaculatory dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, sperm motility, concentration, sperm vitality and total motile count. This is possibly due to the effect that acupuncture has in increasing testosterone levels.
Sperm take about 72 days to clear the production line, so an acupuncture treatment schedule of at least 3-4 months is preferable to ensure benefits are realized.
Semen parameters are not the only measure of male fertility. Delayed parenthood may contribute to low sperm count and higher rates of DNA damage. However, the ensuing lifestyle factors on both the male and female parts could also contribute to these findings, of which, acupuncture can be incorporated with positive results.
Weight and BMI
Paternal weight is also important in male fertility. A 2012 systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 studies concluded that being overweight or obese significantly increased the risk of azoospermia (no sperm) or oligozoospermia (low sperm concentration). The recommended BMI for optimum baby making is currently set between 19 – 24 kg/² for both males and females trying for pregnancy.
Although there are mixed results regarding exercise and sperm count, one study showed that men who exercised for at least 15 hours per week had a 73% higher sperm concentration compared with men who exercised under 5 hours per week. The study also showed that men who spend more than 20 hours per wek week watching TV had 44% lower sperm counts compared with men who did not. In any case your general health will be better by being more active and maintaining a healthy weight. Creating offspring should not be the only motivation for exercise!
Consuming alcohol has been shown to affect sperm morphology and sperm production. This is exacerbated with increased intake. Binge drinking on the male part (more than 20 units/week) has shown to significantly increase the couple’s time to conception. There has also been a link with alcohol intake on both the male and female part with miscarriage and reduced IVF success.
Smoking in males reduces fertilisation rates and success rates of IVF and ICSI, as studies have shown a link to poor semen parameters.
Recreational drug use is strongly associated with infertility in both males and females, and can contribute to as much as a 70% increase of risk factors.
Prescription and over the counter medication can also contribute to male infertility, so it is important to make a note of anything that you and your partner are taking and to be aware of which medications could potentially harm reproductive function.
Environmental factors such as air pollution and exposure to contaminants can affect male fertility. Increased temperatures can also alter sperm production and can include: sitting for long periods, hot baths, using a laptop placed on the lap and sauna use.
Mention any potential environmental predisposition which might be involved to your practitioner.
Occupational factors have also been linked to reduced fertility so therefore it is important to disclose this information. Male occupations most strongly associated with subfertility include, welders, bakers, drivers (or others involving high scrotal temperature), radiotherapists, engine drivers, agricultural workers, chemists, laboratory workers and painters (due to solvent exposure).
Macronutrient intake and diet play a huge role in reproductive health. As an acupuncturist, it is important to work with a naturopath or dietician who can rule out any nutrient deficiencies leading to subfertility. Generally speaking, to ensure healthy sperm quality, men should:
- Eat a diet rich in vegies, fruits, grains, poultry and seafood
- Reduce intake of foods that have high amounts of carbohydrates and high sugar content, and also reduce intake of processed meats
- Replace full-fat fairy with low-fat dairy
Generally speaking, conventional medicine perceptions are most often guilty of relinquishing the task of conception and pregnancy to our female counterpart and quick to assume a dysfunction in the female rather than the male. There is much more at play for the paternal role in the synergistic bond of creation. Men so easily forget, as the woman bares the child and experiences the birth, that she is not just a vessel for breeding.
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