Three easy things you can do RIGHT NOW to make you feel BETTER

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Three easy things you can do RIGHT NOW to make you feel BETTER

By Isaac White, L.Ac.

Ok, I get it.  Sometimes life is HARD and can leave you hanging and struggling to even scrape through your morning, much less the week. As a healthcare practitioner, I know of so many options that are available to help your situation, including acupuncture, exercise, diet, etc., but all of these things take some time and effort to do so this post is all about 3 things that you can do right now that can improve your day and your health.

1. Breathe

When life gets tough at all, the first thing that seems to go is our ability to breathe. Stress, anxiety, pain, etc all cause us to start breathing inefficiently.  It turns out that oxygen is a vital component for cellular respiration (the way which our body makes energy) and without it, this process can't happen.  This lack of efficient breathing hinders all of our physiological processes and can ultimately make our lives miserable. So take a moment today and breathe. Keep it simple -expand and contract, and do this for even a minute and I bet you will feel better. 

2. Drink some water

There is an alarming statistic that reported 75% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration (1). Water is a vital substance that all almost all life on earth depends on and its properties dictate a great majority of the physics on this planet. There is a reason that the majority of our body is comprised of H2O, and when our body is depleted of water LIFE BECOMES HARD. The body will struggle to maintain an optimal level of physiology and in the body's revolt, you may suffer from headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, digestive problems and perhaps other severe health complications. We recommend that you intake at least half your body weight- in fluid oz- of water each day. A good way to monitor this is to watch the color of your pee -  If dark and yellow, there is a pretty good chance you need more H20. So ditch that soda, coffee, and tea and grab a nice tall glass of thirst-quenching water to help you feel better right now!

3. Smile

I recently came across some articles indicating that people who are happy seem to live longer lives (1,2).  The Dahli Lama was once quoted that the secret to life is happiness, but the difficulty was how to achieve this.  It is being shown that you can achieve this life-sustaining action in your life through the simple act of smiling (1,2,3).  Even if it is forced, a simple smile has the ability to lower your stress, lower your blood pressure, improve mood, lower heart rate and make you feel better overall.  So, try and find a smile today and improve your life and health.

So there you have it, three simple things that you can do right now to help you to feel better.  If you have questions or want to find out more ways to feel better contact us at info@foothillsacupuncture.com for a free consultation.  If you have found easy ways to improve your life, please leave a comment below.  

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Mental Health

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Mental Health

By Isaac White, L.Ac.

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Today is May 27th and it has a particular special meaning to me because 43 years ago, on this day, my brother Aaron White was born.   Happy Birthday bro, love you lots! While today remains a special day to me, it is also a bitter and sad day as well.  It was on October 4th 2014 when I received what was one of the worst calls of my life.  My mother was on the end of the line with a simple, horrible message- my brother had sometime in the prior two days took his own life.  My heart was torn apart, and I couldn’t breathe.  All I could think of was-  how could this happen? What went wrong and why? How did my family and I miss the signs? Perhaps the most torturous part of this all is thinking about my brother and what he must have been undergoing to lead to such a devastating, and final act in life. 

Now it has taken me almost four years to begin to accept the impact of this event, and even then I can’t pretend that I have even close to understanding as to what happened.  My brother’s death had obviously changed my life, but it has especially changed my view on mental disorders and charged me to find real, viable solutions to a growing problem.  As a an acupuncturist and an Emergency Medical Technician,  I have seen my share of mental health situations , and what I do know is that the issue of mental health is something that needs to be seriously addressed in order to successfully move forward in this fight. 

Ironically May is National Mental Health awareness month and it important that we all have a discussion on the issues of mental health disorders because the following statistics are an indication that something needs to be done. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2016, one in six adults in America was diagnosed with some form of mental health disorder (almost 45 million Americans), and there are perhaps millions of others that went undiagnosed (1).  Other sources report that depression is  the leading cause of disability in among people ages 15-44 (3), 40 million people in the United States suffer from some form of anxiety (2), and that the rate of mental health disorders are on the rise in our youth (4).   Suicide is listed as the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S., claiming nearly 45,000 lives a year (5). Colorado specifically listed almost 1100 deaths caused by suicide in 2016 (6). When broken down into different subgroups, suicide alarmingly becomes the eighth leading cause of death in 55 - 65 year olds, the fourth leading cause of death in 35 – 55 year olds, and the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 - 25. With numbers like these it is imperative that we put in the effort to change these statistics, because it is most likely that everyone reading this article knows someone who suffers from a mental health disorder. 

One of the greatest challenges that all healthcare practitioners face with the issue of mental health is that we are not entirely sure what the actual problem is.  While there are a number of scientific leads that can help us better understand the processes behind mental health disorders, there are not any definitive answers to the cause of mental health disorders.  This being the case makes it difficult to effectively treat mental health disorders.  Although definitive answers are hard to find, there still exists an understanding into many of the patterns related to mental health disorders.  By utilizing this understanding, healthcare practitioner can have a positive effect on changing the overall negative pattern that the patient may be in.   

Perhaps the first fundamental change that needs to happen is in the way we as a society see mental health.  There is a definitive negative stigma surrounding mental disorders and that people with mental health issues are “just crazy” and that there is little that we can do about that.  Now changing this stigma can be extremely difficult to change because people with mental health disorder can be extremely difficult to deal with!  However, it is through this difficulty that we as a society need to endure, because people with mental health disorders are not just “crazy”, but just trying to be heard.  I don’t think that anyone chooses this particular path in life.

What can be done?  This is another great question and a great challenge. It seems that a combination of different therapies can be effective to help someone to get back in to balance.  Such therapies can include acupuncture, psychotherapy, herbal medications, western medications, EMDR, etc.  As an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, I find that these therapies can really help relieve the symptoms of stress and anxiety, which can be major contributive factors to mental health disorders. However, I believe that a conjunctive approach with a mental health professional is highly beneficial to achieve the greatest results.  I’m sure there are several different ways possible to find the ideal balance.  Below are several resources I have found that can help you to get a better understanding on mental health disorders and ways that you can help the situation.

Mental Health Information:

Acupuncture for Mental health disorders:

Suicide prevention:

 

Although there are not enough answers to a hard problem, I am hoping to spark a greater awareness and conversation about mental health disorders.  I encourage that you share your stories or thoughts on this subject so that we can continue to strive towards a better mental health existence.  Although it is too late to help my brother and the millions of others lost to mental health disorders, it is not too late for those currently suffering from a mental health disorder, so become aware and keep the conversation alive. 

 

 

 

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Acupuncture and Arthritis

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Acupuncture and Arthritis

By Isaac White, L.Ac.

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May is here and spring has finally sprung.  Spring, a time of rebirth, is the often the time to when people clean house, plant fresh flowers and decide to finally enact that New Year’s resolution to get active and fit. However, if you are suffering from arthritis pain, then this resolution may get put back on the back burner.  Current statistics show that over 54 million US adults have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis (1).  However, this is not just a disease of the older population because it is reported that almost 300,000 babies and children suffer from arthritis, or some form of rheumatic disease as well (2). It is estimated that by the year 2040 more than 78 million adults will be diagnosed with some form of arthritis (3).  May has also been designated as National Arthritis Month, and so it seems appropriate to address arthritis and what Chinese medicine can do to help.

First, it is important to figure out what we are dealing with.  Arthritis is literally defined as “joint inflammation”.  However, the term arthritis is commonly used to refer to disorders that affect the joints.  There are many types of arthritis that affect the body.  According to the Center for Disease Control, the following are the most common types of arthritis (4):

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis is arthritis that affects the spine. It often involves redness, heat, swelling, and pain in the spine or in the joint where the bottom of the spine joins the pelvic bone.

  • Gout is caused by crystals that build up in the joints. It usually affects the big toe, but many other joints may be affected.

  • Juvenile Arthritis is the term used to describe arthritis in children. Arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints.

  • Osteoarthritis usually comes with age and most often affects the fingers, knees, and hips. Sometimes osteoarthritis follows a joint injury. For example, you might have badly injured your knee when young and develop arthritis in your knee joint years later.

  • Psoriatic Arthritis can occur in people who have psoriasis (scaly red and white skin patches). It affects the skin, joints, and areas where tissues attach to bone.

  • Reactive Arthritis is pain or swelling in a joint that is caused by an infection in your body. You may also have red, swollen eyes and a swollen urinary tract

  • Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body’s own defense system doesn’t work properly. It affects joints and bones (often of the hands and feet), and may also affect internal organs and systems. You may feel sick or tired, and you may have a fever.

These are just a few of the most common types of arthritis that people suffer from, however, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis that can be diagnosed!

The most common complaint that people have when dealing with arthritis is pain, usually in the affected joints or areas close to the joints. 

Common western treatments used to treat the symptoms of arthritis include: 

  • Heating pad application

  • Cold compress/Ice packs

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

  • Steroids

  • Analgesic medications

  • Narcotics

  • Immunosuppressive drugs

  • Surgery

However, many of the treatments may not be effective for very long and can leave the patients dealing with harsh and annoying side effects. 

Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain that is associated with arthritis, and when administered by a licensed acupuncturist, the risk for injury and adverse side effects are very low.   The following article printed in 2015 showed acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine to be effective in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis.

There is another article that was published recently in 2017 that showed that a key biological marker had been identified, quantified, and directly correlated with the application of acupuncture. This research is further evidence that acupuncture is an effective form of treatment to reduce inflammation.

Another modality that can be integrated into most existing health plans is the addition of Chinese herbal medicines.  Several Chinese medicinal herbs have been scientifically shown to reduce inflammation in the body which will, in turn, reduce arthritis.   A review published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in 2014 discussed several Chinese herbs that can be used individually, or combined in a formula, to effectively in reduce inflammation in the body. 

By utilizing a trained Traditional Chinese medicinal herbalist, your ideal formulation can be discovered and incorporated into your health regiment, which can allow you to access the path to optimal health.

Of course, there is plenty that can be done outside of the treatment room that can allow you to reduce inflammation and arthritis. Both western and Chinese medicinal practitioners agree that changing diet and exercise habits can greatly improve your arthritis pain and inflammation.  Avoiding inflammatory foods in one’s diet can greatly reduce the body’s overall inflammation and quickly improve arthritis symptoms. It should be noted that many foods are considered inflammatory, and this list will change from practitioner to practitioner.  Of course, if you have food allergies, such as gluten problems or nut allergies, you should avoid these foods because they have a possibility of initiating a severe inflammatory reaction. In general, the following food substances have been associated with higher amounts of inflammation:

  • Sugar, especially refined sugar

  • Processed foods of any kind

  • Trans fats, and heavy oily/fried foods

  • Alcohol

  • Simple carbohydrates

  • Dairy

  • Meat, esp. red meat

  • * Although technically not a process of eating, smoking (anything) is a leading source of lung inflammation.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you must give up all these foods all at once. Try and reduce the overall amounts that you ingest, and if you do eat any of these foods, moderation is key. It is important that you give your body enough time to process and recover from these foods.  

The second area that can have a major impact on your life with minimal effort is adding a half hour of exercise to your day at least 3 times a week. Exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective ways for the body to lower its inflammatory state.   Walking, tai chi and yoga are three minimally impactful exercises that can be great for reducing the body’s overall inflammation. However, people with severe arthritis and pain should consult their medical practitioner to find what exercise is most appropriate for their situation.

So whatever way you choose to fight inflammation, whether it be through diet or exercise or through acupuncture and herbs, it will be the first step towards alleviating the pain and suffering from your arthritis.

 

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Holistic Chinese medicine for improving cardio vascular health

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Holistic Chinese medicine for improving cardio vascular health

By Isaac White, L.Ac.

With greater acceptance of Chinese herbal medicine throughout western society, one of the common questions from our patients is what is Chinese herbal medicine and how can it help me?   In an effort to answer this vast question, we at Foothills Acupuncture have come up with a series in which specific Chinese herbs and formulas are explored in hopes to illuminate the many health benefits that Chinese herbs can offer.

Cardio Vascular Health

Shan Zha (Hawthorne Berry)

https://pixabay.com/en/hawthorn-berries-red-haws-nature-2826829/

https://pixabay.com/en/hawthorn-berries-red-haws-nature-2826829/

In honor of national heart health month, we thought a talk about an effective Chinese herb that is commonly used to help digest fatty meals, lower cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, and help heart contractibility. According to traditional Chinese medical texts, the herb Shan Zha, also known as Hawthorne Fruit or Crataegus Fruit, has been documented to do the following actions(1):

  • Improves the digestion of red meat and oily, greasy and fatty foods. Treats indigestion with abdominal distention, pain and or diarrhea

  • Treats post-partum, or amenorrheal abdominal pain and spotting. Also used for hernia.

  • Treats Cardiovascular Disease, hypertension, coronary artery disorder, angina, and high cholesterol

  • Stops Diarrhea and treats chronic dysentery disorders

 

There are several western studies that have been done that corroborate the Traditional Chinese medical viewpoint.  In the review study: Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease by Tassel. M et al, it was concluded that “Crataegus preparations hold significant potential as a useful remedy in the treatment of CVD (Cardio Vascular Disease)”.   Some of the health benefits of Hawthorn berries confirmed by this study and other sources are as follows:

  • Greater heart inotropy , or ability to contract with greater strength without affecting heart rate(2),

  • Decreased amounts of blood triglycerides (fat)

  • Lower LDL (low density lipoproteins aka “bad cholesterol”) levels in the blood(3, 4).

In a study published in the Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology, it was shown that Hawthorne berries can help reduce blood pressure by causing the blood vessels to relax. (5)

Side effects associated with Shan Zha, or Hawthorn berries are minimal however, there are still adverse reactions that can happen when taking this herb. Side effects reported include nausea, stomach upset and cramping, dizziness, fatigue, and other symptoms. Extra caution or avoidance has to be taken if you are currently taking western pharmaceuticals, or if you are pregnant or nursing.  If you have allergies to plants in the Rosacea, or rose family, there may be a higher risk of an allergic reaction to Hawthorn fruit.   

We advise you to work with a traditional Chinese medical (TCM) practitioner if considering taking this herb.  The trained TCM practitioner will be able to prescribe you the proper dosages of this herb as well as mitigate potential side effects, by combining it with other natural Chinese herbs.  The TCM practitioner will also be able to properly assess possible risks associated with combining this herb to any pharmaceutical medications that you are currently taking. With the proper education and guidance, this powerful and inexpensive herb is a great supplement to keep you and your heart healthy.

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