Supporting your immune system
We all know that a good offense is the best defense. Prevention is the best medicine, but when someone straight up coughs in your face, your immune system is the first line of defense, medicine (eastern and western) being the second. The stronger our immune system, the less need we have for external help from medicine. And let's be honest, does anyone actually enjoy taking medications? No. They certainly have their time and place, but if we can fight something off without their help, we become stronger and we're spared the "bubblegum flavor" that we all know is actually pink chalk. First, lets explain how the immune system works...
Coming together through COVID
As I mentioned in my last post, the silver lining of COVID-19 is how it's bringing us together in new ways. However, it may be difficult to find those new ways with limited interaction. So, here's a list of things we can do to help each other!
Viruses as a vector for change
My teacher describes all disease as an opportunity for change. I heard someone else described coronavirus as mother earth putting us all in a time-out to think about what we've done. I think they're both perfect explanations of where humanity is today. I frequently describe pain to my patients as the body saying, "if you're not going to stop and deal with [insert issue here], then I'm going to force you to." If we are to be totally honest with ourselves, humanity as a whole has been ignoring several issues that can no longer be ignored. So, here we are, forced to stop and deal with our reality by a pandemic. What a perfect time to re-evaluate and welcome change.
Treating COVID-19 at home
I'm going to be honest with you...unless you're showing severe symptoms, the doctors don't want to see you! It's nothing personal, there just really isn't much they can do for you. While understandable, that still leaves us with the question of, "well then what are we supposed to do?" The answer: home remedies. Chicken soup, epsom salt baths, tea with honey, warm olive oil in the ear, the list goes on...and the reason why we all know and use these? THEY WORK. In a time where the safest thing we can do is stay inside, it's time to put these tried and true treatments to work.
It's coronavirus, not The Hunger Games
In light of Earth being cancelled, I thought it would be prudent to talk about everyone's favorite topic: coronavirus. First things first, turn off the news, and visit the World Health Organization or Center of Diesease Control's websites. Most of what is reported (or what we hear while flipping through the channels) is twisted to grab our attention, and becuase of that, there is a lot of misinformation spreading around. For anyone who's read the information on WHO or the CDC's website, you've probably realized that the coronavirus isn't going to end the world. If you do think it's going to end the world, stop hoarding toilet paper. It won't save you. What will save you however, is knowledge. So let's take a deep breath and go over the basics, transmission, and prevention and put an end to the mass hysteria.
Su Wen Chapter 1 - Chill Out
It's been a while since my last post! I've been running around like a chicken without it's head and thought, "what a perfect time to blog about that constant, on-the-go lifestyle and why we shouldn't be doing it." The way we live here in NY, it's a miracle if we have any free time. If we're not at work, we're working around our homes, running errands, or taking care of others. Sleep? Fahgettaboudit. Vacation? What's that? Time to rest is a foreign concept these days, but back when our classic text the Su Wen was written (about 2,500 years ago), rest was imperative to a healthy lifestyle. In this excerpt is a conversation between the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, and his acupuncturist, Qi Bo:
On Monday, July 22nd, I walked into the Frank Ohman School of Ballet with every intention to take class with my teacher and mentor of 24 years, Frank Ohman. But he didn't show.
Red, white and brown. Liniments to get you through your 4th
Oh that smell! Can't you smell that smell? Nothing tells the world you have an injury with the same punch as liniment. Though the odor may be unpleasant to some, we can't deny that it helps alleviate pain from inflammation, pulled muscles, sprains, strains, twists, and all those other injuries weekend warriors and athletes alike obtain. But which is the best to use? How and when should they be applied? Let's go through my top 5:
Summer time and the livin' is easy...ish
Summer is finally here! It's time for sun, and beaches, and barbecues, and more sun! I love the sun and it loves us too! Without it, life wouldn't exist, but too much? Well there is unfortunately such a thing as too much sun. Sunburn is only one of the side effects. Overexposure to sun can lead to sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, skin cancer, eye damage, and even speed up the look of aging. Does that mean we should avoid it? Absolutely not! Getting out in the sun helps alleviate symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder, regulates sleep, and can even support weight loss (and your mood) by increasing the levels of serotonin being released. It's also our best source of vitamin D which is crucial in calcium absorption and phosphorous regulation (meaning healthy bones and muscles), supports the brain, cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems, regulates insulin, and supports lung health. So how do we get all these benefits without going overboard? The key is to limit (NOT eliminate) your exposure. Our skin makes vitamin D from the UVB rays from the sun and this requires some unprotected exposure. In my research, I've found that the recommended amount of unprotected sun per day ranges from 1 to 15 minutes but overall, that amount of time is determined by skin tone. As we all know, darker skin tones will absorb more light before getting damaged. That doesn't mean you're exempt from using sunblock! What I recommend is applying sunblock just before going outside. By the time it kicks in, you've met your unprotected sun quota. Be sure to re-apply because it does come off with sweat and water and you will burn. For those who are of lighter skin tones, wait the full amount of time before going out. Broad spectrum SPF 50 blocks about 98% of the UVA and UVB rays, so that 2% is probably all the "unprotected" sun you really need.
Meditation and Letting Go of the GOT Finale
C'mon now, 2 more episodes would have filled in the blanks and we all wouldn't be nearly as upset with the writers of Game of Thrones. The unfortunate reality is they didn't and we were left with a very confusing and disappointing finale. If you're still feeling the sting (as I'm sure you are now because I just re-opened the wound), never fear, the Nine Breathings of Purification is here! The Nine Breathings of Purification is a Buddhist meditation technique that works to release the three root poisons: anger, attachment, and ignorance. These poisons are understood to be the root of all suffering and if you can release them, you will no longer suffer. I would like to make it clear that a lack of suffering doesn't mean you'll enjoy perfect health. Health and wellness are two sides of the same coin but I'll go into that in another post..."No longer suffering" means your maladies and frustrations in life (or with poor writing) won't affect your emotional health.
How does acupuncture work?
Well...that's a great question. To answer that from the western side, I'll have to write a whole other blog post. Basically, stimulating the skin triggers a response in the Central Nervous System to release hormones that change how you feel and function, and fMRI studies show that brain is affected by acupuncture. Since acupuncture developed far before imaging technology (over 2,200 years before), we don't really need that to explain how it works. It does take an open mind, however, so stay with me here.
Eastside -vs- Westside
There seems to be an ongoing debate on which form of medicine is best: western (aka traditional) or eastern? In my opinion, they're two sides of the same coin. Two schools of thought which hold strength where the other has weakness. Both forms of medicine are complete in their understanding and treatment of the body, but we see things through different lenses which provide different perspectives on the same condition. As we all know, looking at something from a different angle can show us things that may have otherwise been missed. When east and west can work in sync, modern medicine will know no bounds.
Yin and Yang
Our first lesson in the basics of acupuncture theory starts here: the tai chi. Probably the most famous symbol representing the Chinese understanding of the universe. Everything in the known universe can be broken down into yin and yang, something and it's complement. Nothing can exist without it's complementary force because everything is defined by it's complementary force. I choose not to use the word "opposite" here because opposition suggests separation or conflict. In Chinese numerology, the number two represents division without separation. As you can see, though the symbol is divided into two colors, they are unified as one whole circle. Another reason why I choose the word compliment is because comparing yin and yang is relative. Take men and women for example. When comparing one to the other, men are yang, women are yin. If you were, however, to compare two women to each other, one being a ballet dancer and the other a construction worker, the former would be yin in relation to the yang of the later. To move a level deeper, there are yin and yang aspects within every individual. Referring back to our female construction worker, she may be yang while at work, but yin while she's home knitting.