Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep

For some, a good night of sleep comes naturally. For others, sleep can be a constant battle, but all of us struggle with sleep at one time or another.

Sleep is an important time for your body to recover from the day and prepare for the next. It’s recommended to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

Here’s some “secrets” to a good night’s sleep:

  1. Get outside and get some exercise. Even a short walk around your neighborhood can be a great way to work in some easy exercise on your lunch break, after work, or after dinner. The fresh air and exercise helps our stress levels too, which can be a contributor to poor sleep.
  2. Cut out nicotine, caffeine, and other stimulants at least 4-6 hours before bed time to allow your body plenty of time to start winding down.
  3. Find a healthy night time routine. Avoid tv, phones, computers, and other screens 1-2 hours before bed. The light from screens is stimulating to the brain. Try some relaxing activities before bed like taking a hot bath, reading, or meditating.
  4. Try to keep the same sleep schedule. Your body’s sleep-wake schedule is regulated by your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock. With a consistent schedule, your body learns the appropriate time to get sleepy at night and when to start waking up for the day. Even if you’re struggling to sleep, make a consistent effort to get into and out of bed around the same times everyday.
  5. Try melatonin or magnesium. Melatonin is a hormone naturally released in the body to signal time for sleep. The release of melatonin is triggered by exposure to darkness, so the use of bright electronics can disrupt this signaling. Magnesium is one of my favorite supplements for its calming effects on the body, making it a great night time supplement to help calm the body and mind. I like using Benesom from Metagenics because it has melatonin as well as magnesium.
  6. And of course, get acupuncture! Acupuncture is super calming to the nervous system allowing it to help calm stress and anxiety levels as well as addressing any other issues that may be going on in your body.

With these simple “secrets,” you’ll be on your way to a better night’s sleep. Remember sometimes it takes time to create new habits in the body, so stay consistent and be patient!

 

References:
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency

5 Immune Boosting Tips to Stay Healthy

With all the unknowns in the world right now, it is important to focus on things you can control – like self care. It’s more important than ever to make sure you’re taking care of your body, including emotionally and physically.

To stay healthy, focus on boosting and supporting your immune system. Try these immune boosting tips to stay healthy!

  1. Drink lots of water. It is recommended to drink about half of your body weight in water every day. For example, if you weight 120 lbs, you should be drinking 60 oz of water daily. Water is important to support healthy mucous membranes, which are the first line of defense for the body.
  2. Keep stress low. Stress puts added pressure on the immune system. Focus on shifting your perspective and taking the time to enjoy each day. Take a break from news and media. Try taking a walk outside or starting a new project around the house!
  3. Get enough sleep. The body needs rest to recover from the day and prepare for the next day. Turn off the screens and start winding down a little earlier.
  4. Support healthy digestion. Focus on eating a nutrient dense, whole foods diet. Avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, processed foods, and alcohol. Add in foods rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that plays a vital role in immune function. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables, such as oranges or red peppers. Try adding in a probiotic to support digestion and give the immune system an added boost. My favorite, high quality probiotic is UltraFlora Balance by Metagenics.
  5. Supplement strategically with powerful immune boosters. An important vitamin for immunity is vitamin D which supports the immune system by stimulating the expression of anti-microbial peptides in immune cells and in epithelial cells lining the respiratory tract. Many herbs also have powerful immune strengthening functions. Ask about a custom herbal recommendation to help support your specific immunity and health concerns.

With these strategies, you are well-equipped to stay healthy during this pandemic and future cold and flu seasons. Stay healthy, my friends!

 

References:

Vitamin C: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
Vitamin D and Immune Health 


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3 Reasons to Try TCM for Your Digestive Issues

According to the National Institutes of Health, 60-70 million people in the United States are affected by digestive issues including chronic constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS. It doesn’t help that we all tend to live stressful lives and eat the Standard America Diet (SAD).

Digestive issues are bothersome alone. However, a weak digestive system can lead to many other health issues as well such as fatigue, brain fog, skin issues like eczema, inflammation, and headaches.

Here’s 3 reasons why you should try tradition Chinese medicine (TCM) for your digestive issues:

  1. Personalized Approach: TCM includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutritional and lifestyle recommendations, and by combining all of these tools, we can effectively come up with an effective treatment plan for your unique condition.
  2. Regulate Digestive Function: Acupuncture has been shown to regulate gastric acid secretions, decrease inflammation, and regulate gastrointestinal motility.
  3. Lower Stress: Stress is one of the major contributors to many digestive issues, especially IBS. The combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine supports a healthier response to everyday life stressors.

With the support of TCM, you can find relief for your digestive issues. With a whole body approach, your digestive will likely not be the only area that sees improvement.

References:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/digestive-diseases

 


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Treating PMS with TCM

Every woman and her menstrual cycles are different. For some, menstruation is quick and easy, but for many, it can be difficult and painful. Premenstrual syndrome is a common occurrence for many women. The premenstrual phase occurs one to two weeks prior to actual menstruation and it can be quite debilitating. Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome include emotional changes (irritation, anger, depression, etc.), abdominal bloating, breast tenderness and swelling, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, low back pain, and fatigue.

While the exact cause of PMS is not known, it is believed to be due to fluctuating hormone levels that happen prior to menstruation each month. Conventional medicine tends to focus on treating the symptoms of PMS using pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter medications. But for those who are looking for natural alternatives, there is a better choice: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM provides many tools for combating PMS. Here are just a few examples of how this ancient medical system can help.

Acupuncture for PMS

According to TCM theory, PMS occurs when the normal flow of energy and blood are interrupted. The endocrine system, which controls our hormones, is dependent upon the smooth flow of energy and blood. When the blood and energy become blocked because we are not taking care of ourselves as we should, then pain and dysfunction can occur.

Acupuncture has been shown to improve circulation, thus allowing blood and energy to flow more freely. It also balances hormones in the body, while providing relaxation that many women need. When all these components are working in harmony, PMS symptoms are eased.

Acupuncture Points for PMS

  • Spleen 6: This point is located on the inside of the lower leg. It is found 3 thumb-breadths above the medial ankle bone and just behind the tibia. Spleen 6 is frequently used by acupuncturists. It helps with abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, menstrual problems, edema, dizziness and insomnia.
  • Ren 6: This point is located on the midline of the abdomen, about 1 ½ thumb-breadths directly below the belly button. Ren 6 can be used to help with abdominal pain, edema, diarrhea, constipation and menstrual problems.
  • Large Intestine 4: Located on the back of the hand. When the thumb and forefinger are brought together, this point can be found directly in the middle of the fleshy mound that is created. It is helpful with lower abdominal pain and constipation. LI 4 also helps to calm the uterine muscles and lessen headaches sometimes associated with PMS.

Chinese Herbs and Herbal Formulas for PMS

Individual herbs and combinations of herbs, known as formulas, are used frequently in TCM. Dang Gui is an herb that is commonly used to help treat PMS. Dang Gui is especially good at promoting the healthy flow of blood throughout the body. It also helps improve the secretion of hormones allowing for proper balancing during the monthly cycle.

There is a particular herbal formula that is used frequently in TCM to help with PMS. This formula is known as Xiao Yao San, or Free and Easy Wanderer. This formula focuses on creating harmonious flow of blood and energy throughout the body, which is particularly helpful for headaches, cramping, and mood changes.

Nutrition for PMS

Proper nutrition is vital for everyone, but when the hormones are imbalanced and working overtime, it is even more important. When we experience pain, we tend to reach for comfort foods that are rich and full of sugar or starch. But for PMS, these can actually be more aggravating of symptoms. More whole foods are recommended during the cycle. High fiber foods like beans, pears, and avocados help combat digestive issues that are common with PMS. Foods high in calcium, like kale and broccoli, are also a good choice for reducing cramps.

As you can see, TCM is a great way to deal with PMS. If you are having difficulties dealing with your menstrual cycle, contact your local acupuncturist to see what they can do for you.

 

Boosting Your Circulation With Acupuncture

Healthy blood circulation is a vital component of life for human beings. Without proper blood flow, life would cease to exist. Blood isn’t the only thing that’s important, it’s what the blood is carrying that makes circulation so important. Blood carries fresh oxygen, hormones, and nutrients that we absorb from our food. Without these components, the organs and tissues of the body become depleted, weakened, and eventually stop functioning. Any blockages in the veins and arteries can deprive the brain and the rest of the body from the needed oxygen, which can then lead to a plethora of other medical issues.

A Bloodflow Overview
Poor circulation is a problem that affects thousands of people around the world, and  decreased circulation is frequently referred to as a silent killer. Many people assume that blood circulation issues aren’t a worry that needs to be prioritized until it’s too late and gets overlooked for years. Poor blood flow can cause pain, numbness, tingling, cold hands/feet, and even heart rhythm irregularities.

Another complication of poor circulation is the possibility of blood clots. Blood clots can be very dangerous. They can dislodge and travel to the heart, lungs or brain and block major blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

There are many causes of poor circulation including excessive cholesterol buildup in the arteries, obesity, diabetes, poor lifestyle choices, improper diet, smoking, alcoholism, pinched nerves, bacterial and viral infections and even excessive stress. The symptoms of poor circulation include weakness of the limbs, loss of sensation, extreme sensitivity, tingling, numbness, burning sensation and pain. If circulation issues are left untreated, it can eventually lead to the tissues turning black and dying, which is then a case for amputation.

Modern medicine treats poor circulation issues using prescription medications, angioplasty, surgical placement of stents, and even amputation. All of these treatments can have serious side effects and any time surgery is done, there will be down time for recovery that may be extensive. But there are alternatives too.

TCM and Circulation
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that has been around for thousands of years. TCM uses modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, and herbs to treat the effects of poor circulation, while actually addressing the root cause too.

Acupuncture in particular is great for increasing blood circulation because the use of acupuncture needles stimulate nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a key regulator of localized circulation. Therefore, the more nitric oxide, the greater the blood flow and circulation to the tissues.

Acupuncture treatments have also been shown to stimulate the release of compounds like leukotrienes and antihistamines that both dilate the blood vessels, while also reducing swelling of tissues. This leads to increases in blood flow to the areas of the body deprived of oxygenated blood.

Another element of TCM is the use of herbs and herbal formulations. Foods, such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper can be very beneficial for those suffering from poor circulation. However, we advise that adding these herbs needs to be discussed with a physician if you are already taking blood thinners for a circulatory problem.

Poor circulation can be painful and can even be deadly in some cases, but it doesn’t have to be. Ask me to find out how TCM and acupuncture can help you with your circulation problems.

acupuncture, autoimmune, RA, pain, Billings acupuncture

Acupuncture for Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune diseases are a collective group of disorders that plague nearly 50 million people in the United States today. When a person suffers from an autoimmune disease it means their own immune system is attacking the body and altering or destroying the tissues. Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Conventional medicine can diagnose 100 different autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, the treatments available to people with these disorders is not as plentiful through conventional medicine. It typically involves the use of pharmaceuticals that can have side effects that are as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms of the disease itself. And even worse, many people are told they have no options. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine can be beneficial.

Many factors play into an autoimmune disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the body as a whole, allowing the patient to get a more complete treatment. Research has shown that acupuncture causes responses in nerve cells, as well as in parts of the brain. By utilizing acupuncture, those suffering from an autoimmune disease can, over time, reprogram their brains and cells to perform as intended.

The use of electroacupuncture may prove useful for people suffering from autoimmune diseases too. Electroacupuncture emits mild electrical stimulation to acupuncture needles. This gentle stimulation triggers the body to produce hormones that suppress pain and inflammation. This helps raise endorphins circulating in the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.

Chinese herbal formulas can also be very effective in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. When acupuncture and Chinese herbs are combined, the effects can be quite favorable. The herbs will actually compliment the acupuncture treatments by extending the effects of the needles. Many times this will shorten the number of treatments required, as the patient will start to see results sooner.

Many people dealing with autoimmune diseases also experience high levels of stress because of their disorder. It can be very stressful trying to lead a “normal” life with severe pain and other symptoms. Studies show acupuncture is very relaxing, and it helps reduce excess cortisol levels in the brain that contribute to chronic stress.

As autoimmune sufferers start to see improvements with acupuncture treatments and herbs, they may also be able to do things they couldn’t before, like exercise. Exercising not only improves blood flow, but it also increases immunity. Exercise also increases the amount of endorphins in the body. So just by receiving regular acupuncture treatments and herbal supplements, those suffering from autoimmune diseases may be able to lead a much more normal life with a lot less pain and suffering.

If you are dealing with some type of autoimmune disease, consider giving Traditional Chinese Medicine a chance. The outcomes may be life changing.

The Many Health Benefits of Ginger

I have to admit I was pretty excited when we finally got a good layer of snow here in Billings, but I’m a baby when it comes to the cold weather! Luckily, there’s a very popular Chinese herb (that I’m sure you’ve heard of) that makes a super warming and delicious tea.

Ginger, or sheng jiang, is an herb found in many Chinese herbal formulas. It’s in so many formulas because it’s such a beneficial herb! Often, it’s added to balance out the formula so that none of the herbs are too harsh or cause digestive upset. But, it can be used alone for many health benefits too! Ginger is great for:

  • digestive upset – the warming property of ginger makes it great for promoting healthy digestion. Try ginger for an upset stomach or after indulging in a large meal.
  • nausea – many people experience nausea, whether it be from motion sickness, morning sickness, or chemotherapy. Ginger is a safe and well known remedy to combat nausea naturally.
  • common cold – ginger is considered a diaphoretic, which means it promotes sweating. During a cold, it will seriously warm you up and encourage your body to sweat out that cold.

Here’s how you can make a cup of warming ginger tea for yourself!

  1. Bring 2 cups of water and 6 slices of fresh, peeled ginger to a boil and allow to boil for about 10 minutes. Feel free to add more ginger or boil longer for a stronger tea.
  2. Remove from the heat, remove slices of ginger, and pour into your favorite mug! A little honey can be added for taste if desired.

So easy and so delicious. Great to calm an upset stomach, promote healthy digestion, reduce nausea, or just warm up on a cold January day!

 

herbal medicine, natural health, acupuncture in billings montana

Chinese Herbs – Are They For Me?

For thousands of years, people in China relied on acupuncture and herbs as their primary medicine. They created herbal formulas to address all kinds of health concerns because this was their only treatment option. Over thousands of years of trial and error, Chinese herbal medicine produced numerous formulas for countless conditions such as pain, common cold, digestive issues, irregular menstruation, and traumatic injuries.

So, what is Chinese herbal medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine uses plant and animal products for the therapeutic benefits. Different herbs produce various effects in the body. Many modern pharmaceuticals originated from herbal remedies or their constituents. For instance, aspirin evolved from willow bark, which has long been used for its’ pain relieving properties. Willow bark contains salicin that converts to salicylic acid in the body, and modern aspirin uses a derivative of a synthetic salicylic acid.
With Chinese herbal medicine, single herbs are combined into formulas. Formulas produce a more balanced product, reducing the chance of any adverse reactions. Herbal formulas account for any harsh properties of herbs and adjust accordingly, adding in ‘harmonizing’ counterparts.
Most Chinese herbs consist of common plants, roots, fruits, etc. For instance, ginger, licorice, and mint are commonly used herbs in Chinese medicine. However when given a Chinese herbal formula, don’t be surprised if the label contains the pinyin, or Chinese name, for the herb. On the product label you may see sheng jiang (ginger), gan cao (licorice), and bo he (mint).

How does it work?
A trained herbalist prescribes an herbal formula based on your unique presentation. The herbal formula may come as raw herbs, granules (powder), or pills. Depending on the condition, an herbal formula may only be needed for a few weeks or a few months. Herbal medicine is a powerful tool, so changes will likely be noticed quickly. However, treatment aims to not only address the main complaint but also address any underlying imbalances. Your primary concern may resolve quickly but continued herbal treatment may still be beneficial.

Are they safe?
Generally, yes! As with any medication, it’s always best to have any Chinese herbal medicine prescribed specifically for you by a trained herbalist. Many acupuncturists have additional training specifically in Chinese herbal medicine to safely and effectively address a variety of conditions.
In the past, herbal supplements have been known to contain contaminants. Carefully sourcing herbs avoids the risk of any unwanted substances. Nowadays, Chinese herbal companies have increased their standards and testing of herbs to ensure safety. If you have any question about the supplier or quality of herbs prescribed for you, ask your acupuncturist or herbalist.