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Fresh Food Has More Chi

It's April and our local farmers markets are just about to start up once again for the season. In honor of this highly anticipated spring event, I though I would take a little time to talk about the connection between our chi and how it relates to the types of foods we eat, especially the importance of eating fresh foods. One of the most common complaints I hear from my patients is that of fatigue. Many times what they are feeling is a lack of chi. Simply put, chi is your lifeforce, the basic underlying energy that makes everything in the universe, including us, go. The theory of chi is similar to the theory of energy as it is described in physics: that everything in existence is essentially a different manifestation or expression of energy and forces.

Fresh Food Has More Chi

We get our chi from just two sources: whatever we inherit from our parents and whatever we extract from air, food, and water. Our respiratory organs extract chi from the air, our digestive organs extract chi from food, and our urinary organs extract chi from water. In other words, besides the energy that we are born with, air, food, and water are literally the only fuel that keeps us going. This is why it is so important to get fresh air, eat well, and stay hydrated.

In Chinese medicine, eating well most of all means eating fresh foods. Fresh, seasonal, local, and unprocessed foods, just like the ones found at our farmers markets, are the best. This is because fresh foods contain a nutrient that you cannot get from foods that are dehydrated, canned, frozen, preserved, or highly processed - chi. Not only are fresh foods higher in vitamins and other nutrients, they are literally also more alive. Foods that lack chi can even rob us of ours, taking more energy and nutrients to process and digest than they replenish, or they may contain toxic ingredients like artificial flavors and preservatives that require great amounts of energy to neutralize and safely eliminate. Foods like these have been stripped of their nutrients but have also been dead for a long time, perhaps for months or even years before they are eaten. In short, eat more fresh foods to have more chi!


Yintang, the Most Requested Acupuncture Point


Most acupuncture points have more than one indication and yintang is no exception. Like all acupuncture points, it is valuable for treating local conditions such as frontal headaches. It also benefits the nose so it can help with congestion, nasal discharge, sinus pain, and seasonal allergies. The main reason it is requested by so many of my patients, however, is because of its positive effect on the emotions. This point is located where we furrow our brow when we are angry, worried, scared, or anxious. Needling this point is an excellent way to release these emotions to help calm the shen (spirit). I also find that it can empty the mind, stopping the incessant chatter that comes with these emotions so we can think clearly once again. I use this point a lot in my practice, especially for stress, anxiety, and sinus issues.

This point has interesting indications in other systems of health as well, both ancient and modern. Its location corresponds to the third eye, a metaphoric sensory organ in Hinduism and Buddhism that opens as our consciousness expands and we approach enlightenment. It is also the location of the brow chakra, the 6th of 7 major energy vortexes that exist in our bodies, which specifically relates to inner guidance, mental clarity, and intuition. Even in western medicine this is an anatomically important place where the pineal gland senses changes in natural light, since there is a hollow sinus cavity directly behind it, allowing light to come through. As light decreases in the evening, the pineal gland is stimulated to secrete the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy. As the sun comes up and light increases, the pineal gland stops producing this hormone and we wake up. I always find these types of intersections across systems to be so fascinating, don't you?


10 Reasons Why Your Neck and Shoulders Hurt

Acupuncture Points of the of the Neck
1. Stress: Over time stress can cause tension to build up in the body, especially in the tissues of the neck and shoulders. Because of this, we call the acupuncture points in this area of the body "accumulation points."
2. Stationary Activities: Spending long hours in a fixed position doing activities like driving or working on the computer can cause our tissues to become rigid and fixed.
3. Not Moving Enough: Sitting around a lot in general is just as bad as spending long hours doing stationary activities. Lack of movement causes the chi and blood to stagnate.
4.Dehydration: Dry muscles are stiff muscles. More than denser tissues like bones, muscles are spongy and rely on fluids for movement and elasticity.
5. Injuries: Unfortunately, even minor injuries cause irreversible damage to our body. Nothing quite lines up right again, interfering with the transmission of nerve impulses, blood circulation, and the flow of chi.
6. Exposure to Cold: Cold contract tissues, making them tighter. Bracing against the cold by hunching our shoulders up can also make us stiff and achy.
7. Poor Posture: Tissues get pulled and stretched when things get out of alignment. This strain itself can cause pain but will also make the tissues less flexible and, therefore, more prone to injury.
8. Overuse: Without adequate time for recovery and repair, repetitive stress activities like sports can cause strain and lead to inflammation in the long run.
9. Holding Things In: Keeping things in, especially things we feel compelled to express, can cause both energetic blockages and actual physical constraint in the body.
10. Aging Process: As we age our body generally gets stiffer and drier. This is why it is so important to start young and make a habit out of exercise and adequate hydration your whole life through.

Spring Health: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Here we are in Spring, nature's new year. The energy in this season rises up again from the earth after a winter of storage and rest: plants sprout up and out, buds force out leaves, sap rises up to nourish branches and twigs. The energy is moving, bright green and tangible. And we are not immune to the effects of this energetic shift that makes us, too, want to get up and out. After a winter of hibernation and inactivity we crave movement and sun. Internally our bodies are at work, processing all of the accumulations due to winter's inactivity and rich foods.

There are shifts like this with every seasonal change. As spring moves into summer the energy intensifies even more and the earth heats up. This is the season of the fire element and the energetic direction is up, like how flames rise up from a fire. The sun is high, the temperature is high, and daylight dominates the 24-hour cycle. As fall arrives the energy returns down into the earth once again. Leaves fall and mulch into earth. The leafy plants die back and retreat underground, concentrating their energy in their roots, tubers, and bulbs. The sun drops down earlier and earlier until the stillness and cold of winter descends. The energy is lowest in the winter with animals in hibernation and early nightfall. This is the natural time for rest, for sleeping more, and for introspection.

The Spring Equinox falls this year on Wednesday, March 20th.
Color = Green: eat wild, seasonal greens like chickweed and dandelion.
Organ = Liver: drink detox teas, fast, do a juice cleanse.
Timing = Beginnings: start a new project, watch the sunrise.
Quality = Growth: learn something new, plant a garden.
Cherry Blossom
Sense = Vision: envision future goals, make a plan to get there.
Element = Wood: hike in the woods, burn some sandalwood incense.
Direction = Up and Out: climb up a mountain, get outside.
Climate = Wind: embrace the winds of change.
Tissue = Connective: gather with friends, reach out to others.

Heat or Cold for Pain?

People with pain often ask me whether they should be applying heat or cold. In Chinese medicine neither is universally appropriate and, in fact, their are times when the incorrect treatment can even be detrimental. The basic idea is to choose whatever will neutralize your symptoms.

Fire and Ice
1. Warm cold pain. Cold pain is subjectively cold in nature, is generally aggravated by cold weather, and improves with the application of heat. Since cold contracts, this type of pain is more likely to be cramping or spastic in nature than hot pain. Circulation may be inhibited so there may be swelling, but there will definitely not be any redness, and the tissue will be cold to the touch.
2. Cool hot pain. Hot pain is subjectively burning in nature, is generally aggravated by hot weather, and improves with the application of cold. Hot conditions correspond with inflammation in that symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, and tissues that are hot to the touch.
3. Swelling does not necessarily indicate inflammation. Please note that pain and swelling can occur when there is an accumulation of stagnant fluids, as seen in edema. Signs of heat must be present as well for cold to be applied. Since cold contracts, inhibiting circulation, applying cold to edema will actually further constrict circulation, aggravating symptoms.
4. Never use ice! Chinese medicine considers ice to be too extreme, especially when it is used to numb pain. The numbness that ice induces is actually an early warning sign of frostbite and indicates that the tissues are being damaged. Though it is good to cool hot pain, the recommendation is to use a cold compress, a cloth that has been run under cold water and rung out, instead of ice. Using ice on cold pain can be especially detrimental, temporarily numbing it but ultimately prolonging recovery time.
5. Not sure? Go with what feels good. It you have either a preference or an aversion to using either heat or cold, go with it! Listen to your body, it is wise and knows what it needs.
"I don't live in Asheville, so don't get to see Nancy as often as I would like, but when I do get there I am always so grateful to be in her presence and have her work on me. She is empathetic and especially intuitive and can go steps ahead of what you, yourself think is your problem you are being treated for. I have total confidence in Nancy's healing treatments and in her personal abilities that give added value. I wish I could go more often. She is very very good at what she does." ~Carole S.
Dr. Nancy Hyton
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
By Appointment M to F, 9:30 to 6:00
26 Fairfax Avenue, West Asheville, NC 28806
Text or Call (828) 606-6791
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