Late Summer: The Earth Element

This week we usher in late summer.

We can see and feel the abundant harvest associated with this time of year. Fruits and veggies abound, the warm weather waxes and wanes as the lush greenery soaks up the moist air, and in the natural world the energy stabilizes and provides us with the opportunity to settle and ground. 

The period of time that spans roughly the 3rd week in August until the Fall Equinox (September 23rd, 2019) is associated with the Earth element. In Chinese medicine, the Earth element corresponds to the Spleen and Stomach. 

The Earth element, as you might have guessed, governs the digestive process, is a significant system relating to how much energy we have throughout the day. It does indeed have a role related to grounding, as well. The Earth element encompasses both the Stomach and the Spleen, however, the Spleen is given particular emphasis in the Chinese medical system. No one reveres your Spleen and its energy quite like your acupuncturist! We literally will not stop talking to people about their Spleens. :)

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Our Blessed Spleens

In Chinese medicine theory, the Spleen energy powers proper metabolism of both food and fluids. As such it plays a major role in our digestive health and our experience of day-to-day energy. If metabolism is functioning properly, we can extract the nutrients we need to be able to power our individual systems. You can tell quite a bit about the quality of your digestive system by the quality of your daily bowel movements as well as by the quality of your energy throughout the day.

Emotionally speaking, the Spleen processes worry. An imbalance in your Spleen energy can be a contributing factor to a tendency to over-think things, to be stuck in repetitive thought patterns and to over-analyze.

The spiritual function of the Spleen relates to our intellect and aspects of our cognitive capacity. The Spleen helps us take in and digest information from the world around us and to assimilate ideas. A healthy, functioning Spleen supports our capacity to extend the energy required to grasp concepts and knowledge, to take in the abundance of information and make use of it. Healthy Spleen energy allows us to be able to think clearly and to have sufficient energy.

Earth Element: Self Check-In

How is the quality of your digestive system?
Are you having daily, regular bowel movements that pass with ease?
Are you experiencing any nausea, belching, bloating or gas?
Are bowel movements feeling complete?
How is your appetite?

How is the quality of your mind?
What is the tendency (recently or long-term) in your emotional state?
How do you notice the ways in which your emotional state impacts your physical body?
*For a lot of folks, a go-to is worry (and with plenty of good reason) - and they can feel it in the pit of their stomachs.

How is the clarity of your mind?
How is your energy level?

Is there any abnormal fatigue or a feeling of heaviness to your limbs?
Do you notice any swelling (outside of what you might experience on a hot, humid Summer day)?

Please always take the time to reflect for yourself but then bring your self check-in responses to your appropriate professionals. If that's not available, please consider your individual context of recent or long-term life experiences. There are a great many individual and global factors that comprise a person's Earth energy. Go gently with yourselff. It is always fruitful to pause, rest and allow yourself a reset.

Helpful Tips for Correcting an Earth Element Imbalance

1. Dietary adjustments
It is and always will be the cornerstone of health. What we eat has a direct impact on how well we feel. We eat for many, many reasons: nutritional, emotional, social, cultural, etc, etc. More important than anything is noticing and paying attention to how certain foods make you feel. And if it's hard to get clear feed back (and you have excessive fatigue, pain, headaches, or bowel irregularity), I highly recommend exploring The Elimination Diet.

2. Spending time in nature
This is a solid suggestion year round! The benefits of spending time in nature are many: it helps us to calibrate to the energy of a given season, it allows us to connect to our own internal rhythms within a context of a season and it allows us some separation from the stimulation of devices + the buzz of daily life. My personal suggestion is to see how slowly you can walk in nature. Thich Nhat Hanh has a beautiful suggestion to "walk as if your feet are kissing the earth". That simple intention can change our pace and our connection to the ground below us (the ground below us signifying the Earth element).

3. Flipping the switch on worry
This is a big one and it often requires additional supports. If it were easy, no one would ever worry. When things feel overwhelming or unclear, call upon your besties, your people, your therapeutic professionals and of course your acupuncturist to help yourself gain some perspective and to tap back in to your personal center and inherent goodness.

4. Don't abandon warm drinks & warm dishes
The Spleen's energy is benefited and supported by the consumption of lightly steamed, stir-fried or roasted veggies and soups. Warm ginger tea is also indicated to promote healthy metabolism. Drinking room temperature water and warm herbal teas is also very supportive to the digestive energy.

My goal for all of these newsletters is that they might spark insight, prompt self-reflection and facilitate greater self-awareness. We all benefit from a deeper understanding of the connectedness of our emotional and physical experiences and how these are additionally related to rhythms of the natural world. It is my wish that you all feel empowered in your health and wellness.

If you have any particular questions, themes or topics you would like to know more about from the Chinese medicine perspective, please feel free to reply to this email! As always, thank you for your hearts and for your commitment to your health and healing!

Cold Season Is Upon Us: Tips For Staying Healthy!

We've seen a lot of colds this past week...

And it's ok! Because I have a personal crusade against phlegm! If you've met me, you already know.

Treating acute sinus and bronchial conditions is one of my very favorite things because Chinese medicine helps SO MUCH and works so quickly. Of course bacterial and/or viral conditions can be persistent and stubborn - it can take a 2-4 treatments + Chinese herbs to completely eradicate your acute symptoms. In addition to utilizing Chinese medicine to treat colds and flus, I want to share with you a few simple yet supportive practices and dietary tweaks you can utilize when you feel something coming on or when you are in the throes of some serious discomfort!

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1. Dry Skin Brushing

I practice this daily but it is also great when you are sick! Dry skin brushing stimulates lymphatic flow and assists in decongesting the skin. You can purchase a dry skin brush from the Community Pharmacy or you can swing by our clinic as we will be carrying them next week! I recommend it so often I decided to have them on hand for patients <3 

2. Detox Bath

I have a tried and true "detox" bath recipe that I have been using for over a decade. It has spared me from developing many a full-blown illness and has helped me while I am recovering from an acute situation. The recipe includes:
* 4 cups epsom salts (I buy them in 50 lb bags from Greg at Float Madison)
* 2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger root, wrapped in a hankie (from your local grocery store)
* 2-32 oz bottles of 3% hydrogen peroxide (you can buy peroxide by the gallon at Woodman's grocery stores. I know it seems excessive, however, one gallon gets you 2 bath's worth!)

Add all the ingredients to a bath tub full of water, not too hot, not too cold. Get yourself all dry skin-brushed beforehand. Soak for at least 20 minutes. Repeat as necessary (thus the bulk options).

3. Castor oil packs

Castor oil packs provide additional lymphatic support and aid in elimination of the gnarly stuff. You can get wool flannel + castor oil from the co-op or any local natural grocery store OR you can pick them up our clinic - we will have them in next week! We stock castor oil in 16 oz. glass bottles + unbleached wool flannel. 

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4. Hydration 

An obvious choice! Being on your hydration game can further help elimination. Sometimes water is not enough and in that instance I recommend incorporating a little coconut water to replenish your electrolytes. This can be particularly helpful if there is sweating or heat involved in your symptom picture. You might not think of the fluids you are losing & so I am here to gently remind you. In Chinese medicine, your fluids are precious! More on that later. 

5. Rest

Another classic. Culturally and socially, rest is not encouraged. It is, however, one of our most underutilized healing modalities. We also have different rest requirements depending upon the seasons. More on this later, too. My general recommendation: when there is more darkness, you should rest more. I often like to refer to a solid acute sinus situation as "forced rest" because it will stop you in your tracks. The expression of various acute symptoms is of course related to the influence of microorganisms but it also speaks to the function of your overall immunity, the state of your qi and your body's ability to mount an appropriate response to various insults. If you are totally laid out by an acute illness, take a moment to reflect on your stress level + your various obligations. It is completely acceptable (and necessary!) to take time to yourself, to rest and to allow your body to heal properly! 

6. Dietary tweaks

Eliminate dairy and sugar. I know this is blasphemous being a human being born and raised in the Dairy State but it's TRUE. Dairy moistens, it produces mucous. It is an actual fact. If you have chronic and persistent or simply acute sinus congestion and phlegm: dairy is not your friend. It will only make you more phlegmy and it will hinder your body's ability to fully recover. Sugar lowers your immunity, as well. Eating warm, cooked vegetables, soups and stews, bone broths or veggie broths will all support your vitality and help nourish your system while your body heals.

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May these recommendations keep you well and vital throughout the seasons!