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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Winter, Depression, Pain and Chinese Medicine

Winter in William, Az.
   It feels appropriate to write my first blog on death, being that we are in winter and many things die to be reborn in Spring, in Chinese medicine death is associated with winter.  Winter officially starts with solstice on December 21st, representing the longest night and shortest day of the year and continues to the spring equinox on March 20th.
    This season represents the Water Element, and is associated with the kidneys, adrenal glands, urinary bladder, bones, ears and hair. In addition to the organs, all elements have a nature, taste and emotion correspondence. 
  • Element: Water 
  • Nature: Yin 
  • Organs: Kidneys, Bladder, Adrenal Glands, Ears, and Hair 
  • Taste: Salty & Bitter
  • Emotion: Fear and Depression
    Winter is a time to rest, reflect, meditate deeply, refine our spiritual practice, yet at the same time it is important to stay active to keep the spine and joints flexible, thus aiding a mindful influence to our aging process.  The kidneys hold our vitality and give indication to the process of our aging.  The more we eat with the seasons the more we support our vital organs, immune system and metabolic factors.  Because winter time is Yin and many people reduce their activity, it is wise to reduce the amount of food you eat.  Avoid raw foods during winter as they tend to cool the core of the body, rather emphasize on warming foods.

Miso Soup
 Foods for Winter                                          
  • Soups and stews                                
  • Root vegetables
  • Beans
  • Miso and seaweed
  • Garlic and ginger
  • Cinnamon - in case of Kidney Yang Deficiency
  • Oats, rye, quinoa, and amarath
  • Watercress, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa
  • Walnuts, pumpkin seeds
Eating warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts help to warm the body’s core and to keep us nourished.  Sleep early, rest well, stay warm, and expend minimum quantity of energy.

General Symptoms of Kidney Imbalance 

Back Pain
  • all bone problems, especially knees, lower back and teeth
  • hearing loss, ear infections, tinnitus, and dizziness
  • hair problems, loss, split ends and premature graying
  • any urinary, sexual and reproductive imbalances
  • cold hands and feet
  • menapause
  • premature aging                                  
  • excess fear
  • depression
  • stress

Common Syndromes of the Kidneys
  1. Kidney yin deficiency
  2. Kidney yang deficiency
  3. Deficient kidney qi
  4. Damp-heat in the bladder (Bladder Infection)
  5. Jing deficiency

Do you feel more tired, unmotivated, unable to concentrate and want to sleep more during the winter?  If so, you may suffer from Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) a condition occurring in the Fall and Winter seasons.  It is believed that the decrease in sunlight can have an effect on hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate mood and sleep, like Serotonin.  Most common in women 25 to 45 years old, although can happen to  anyone.
The common symptoms are:  
  • depression 
  • fatigue                                                    
  • low energy
  • increase need of sleep
  • increased appetite
  • weight gain
  • no motivation
  • poor concentration and focus
  • social withdrawal and isolation 
By receiving Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, you would be helping your body and mind to cope better into the transitions of low light seasons.  The goals of treatment are to give you more energy and boost your spirit. It is so important to keep our internal light shining even in the darkest of days!

Ways to stay healthy during winter

With winter season comes wind, rain, and snow and then comes the colds, flu, aches, and pains. Depending on how much stress we are internalizing, frustration and unresolved anger, in addition to our diet can work together or against you to throw off your immune system, allowing pathogenic factors to affect your body.
  • Get plenty of sleep. It is believed our bodies are intended to follow the sun and moon cycles, meaning during winter the sun goes down and raises earlier, therefore allowing and making time for body to get more rest and sleep.
  • Reduce stress. It is imperative to find ways to relax and release stress on a daily basis. Such methods may include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, simple relaxation therapy, hot epsom salt baths, or whatever method you use to release the stress and pressures of modern life.
  •  Wash your hands regularly. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons that we catch colds and flu in the winter season is that we are indoors and in closer proximity to others in cold weather. Protect yourself by washing your hands regularly and try not to touch your face.
  • Protect neck.  According to Chinese Medicine it is very easy for pathogenic factors such as cold, wind and rain  penetrate the meridians of our necks.
  • Diet.  Cut back or cut out as much dairy and processed sugars as they tend to feed phlegm and weaken our systems during winter.
  • Ravensara essential oil.  Is strongly anti-infectious, antiviral, antibacterial and a strong immune stimulant.
  • Vitamin D.  During the winter when the Sun hides, we easily become deficient in this vitamin, so make it a habit when the Sun comes out, spend time in it.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can prevent colds and flu by building up the immune system with just a  few needles inserted into key points along the body’s energy pathways or Meridians.  These points are known for strengthening the circulation of blood and energy and for supporting the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (wei Qi) so germs and viruses cannot enter through them.  Many of my patients come in for seasonal treatments, for a tune-up to tonify and strengthen the inner organs.  Needles or pins are ultra-thin and insertion is coordinated with breath, so there is no real pain sensation.  Pins are typically left in 15 to 20 minutes with treatment to both the front and back side of body.

Recommended Reading: 
Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition, by Paul Pitchford

Disclaimer:  Please seek out a qualified medical care professional before making any medical or dietary changes.

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