Healthy Digestion

spleenboxThis Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks to our bodies for digesting our food day in and day out. Many people struggle with bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea. How can we ease our digestion and help us have less pain?

  • During and after eating, avoid excess thinking. Our mind likes to “chew on things” just as our stomach does. If we are thinking too much in addition to eating, we are taxing our ability to break down food. Just as we need to simply chew our food, enjoy it, and let it go down, we need to learn how to let go of thoughts when they are no longer useful or enjoyable thinking about them.
  • Roasted Barley or Hawthorne Berry tea. Barley is especially helpful in digesting starch and dairy, while Hawthorne berries are great for fats and meat.
  • The stomach needs to be the right temperature. Too hot and you get things like burning and belching. Too cold and you get pain and loss of appetite. Avoid excess spicy foods (peppers, garlic, ginger, and alcohol) or cold foods (which includes iced drinks and ice cream, but also raw vegetables, smoothies, and dairy), and instead eat warm foods that are easy to digest. Things like soup, oatmeal, congee, and steamed or sautéed vegetables are great warming foods.
  • Eat seasonal. We’re going into winter time. Although many of us can still buy pineapples, bananas, and mangos, this isn’t the time our body actually likes to eat those things. Tropical fruits are cold and damp in nature, which is great when it is hot and dry in the summer, but not when it is already cold and damp outside! Go for your local apples.
  • Eat at regular intervals. Our digestive system likes regularity. Meals at the same time, in the same portion. Aim for regular meals that aren’t too small or huge (OK, except for on Thanksgiving!)
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Stop Icing

stopicing1We often hear from patients that they are icing their sore muscles or injuries. Many doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and other medical professions recommend the use of ice for just about any injury. So the following point may come as a shock to many: do not use ice!

The widespread use of ice as part of the injury recovery process is relatively new. In the late 70s, Dr. Gabe Mirkin created the acronym for people to remember the key steps to recovery: RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Many know this acronym. What many don’t know is that Dr. Mirkin has since redacted the idea, citing a lot of research which shows that ice actually slows healing.

The main idea is easy to understand: if you make an area cold, the blood flow will decrease. This is effective for reducing inflammation. But the problem is that acute inflammation is actually necessary for activating the body’s immune response and starting a quick and speedy recovery. Without inflammation, the body doesn’t release certain hormones, like Insulin-like growth Factor IGF-1, which helps tissue re-grow.

Take away blood flow and you take away the body’s natural ability to heal the area. The more you use ice, the longer it takes for the body to heal and the more pain you have. The more pain you have, the more you want to use ice. It can be a vicious cycle.

Though in some very severe circumstances you may want to stop blood flow and inflammation (such as a severed limb), in the vast majority of situations this is not desirable. To get the same sort of pain relief that ice provides, without slowing the healing process, try herbal products like San Huang San, known as “herbal ice”.

Not only does using ice slow the healing process; from a Chinese medicine perspective when applied to a joint, ice will bring cold and damp deep into the joints. Cold and damp in the joints basically equals arthritis. This is why osteoarthritis is much more common in cold damp climates like Seattle or London than it is in hot dry climates like Phoenix. Some would argue that the widespread use of ice has and will continue to contribute (in addition to other factors like lack of exercise) to rising numbers of osteoarthritis.

If you really want to use ice after an injury, use it only within the first 6 or so hours for about 10 minutes and follow it with 15 minutes of heat. Once you’re past the acute stage (first day or two), use heat, which will increase circulation of blood and fluids and hasten your recovery time!

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Cupping: The Olympic Treatment

FamousDC came to City Acupuncture Circle to try out cupping! Watch below to see JoseLo give a demonstration of various types of cupping techniques at our clinic. Come in to try out it out — cupping treats muscle tension, swelling, and acute or chronic pain. It’s great for hard-core athletes (like the Michael Phelps out there) and your everyday aches and pains.

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Acupuncture for All People

As a community acupuncture clinic, we are committed to a mission of health and social justice. We strive to give the best care to the most amount of people possible, regardless of age, gender, or race.

The gold standard for ethics in Chinese medicine comes from one of the most famous ancient practitioners of acupuncture and herbs: Sun Simao, who wrote what is coined “the Chinese hippocratic oath.” In these sometimes turbulent and divisive times which call for a renewed and passionate dedication to social justice, this code of ethics is still an essential text for Chinese Medicine practitioners.

“If anyone comes to me because of an illness or any other difficulty I will not concern myself with whether they are powerful or humble, rich or poor, old or young, beautiful or ugly… I will think of each of them of them as a close and loved relative – or indeed as if it was I who had been struck down by an illness.”

May we extend this thought to all we come across, realizing we all have the ability to heal and support each other. And may our clinic serve as a healing space for all people.

Read the whole Healer’s Oath by Sun Simiao here.


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Beating the heat of Summer


306_summer-allergies-field-of-dandlions-628x250We are in the height of summer yet the thick humidity of late summer is yet to come. This heat can feel oppressive both physically and emotionally, leading to feelings of irritability or heaviness. How can we stay cool in the summer without always relying on air conditioning or avoiding being outside? Chinese medicine gives us many techniques for sustainably staying cool through the dog-days of summer. Consider trying some of the tips below!

  • Eat watermelon. There’s a reason why watermelons are popular to eat in the summer: according to Chinese dietary therapy, they are one of the coldest foods we can consume! Eating a watermelon is like giving your insides a nice, cool ice bath. If you want to get extra cool, try cooking with the watermelon rind which is actually even colder than its insides. Check out these recipes for inspiration! Note: many people are sensitive to very cool foods. If you have digestive symptoms like bloating, loose stools, or generally low energy, you should avoid watermelon.
  • Acupressure on your third eye. If you start to feel hot-headed, give yourself a gentle massage on your forehead in the space between your eyes. This acupuncture point can calm the mind, soothe anxiety, and promote sleep.
  • Drink water with lemon and cucumber. Avoid drinking too much coffee or alcohol which are hot in nature. Instead, drink cool, not cold water. Ice cold water can actually be too much of a shock to our warm stomach and intestines. It’s best to cool off slowly and in moderation.
  • Notice if you’re doing too much. Part of why summer is so awesome is that along with taking trips and having fun, hopefully we have more time to lounge around and do nothing! If you find yourself too busy and active you may notice irritability, fatigue, feelings of being overwhelmed, and tendency to be hot. Give yourself permission to take a day off, lounge around, and do nothing.
  • Get acupuncture! Acupuncture has many techniques for releasing heat, calming the mind, and promoting the more grounded and centered qualities that are often missing from our lives during the height of summer. Sometimes all we need is an hour to relax and cool off.
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Allergies according to Chinese Medicine

This year the DC region has seen record levels of pollen in the air. Pair that with the high amount of rain we’ve experienced, many people are experiencing a variety of allergy symptoms right now: congestion, dry skin, headaches, itchy/red eyes, frustration, and fatigue. Chinese medicine generally relates springtime allergies to the liver, the organ associated with springtime in acupuncture theory.
When we come out of the depths of winter, it is the energy of the liver that pushes us to make changes, create new plans, and generally be more engaged in the world. If we are in some ways over-engaged, this can contribute to allergic reactions, causing us to be hyper-sensitive to the world around us.

Besides acupuncture, which has been proven to be effective in treating seasonal allergies, other lifestyle shifts can also help relax and cool your senses which may be hot and itchy with activity. Consider trying these tricks:

  • Create an eye compress with green tea and chrysanthemum flowers. This is extremely cooling and soothing to those hot, itchy eyes.
  • Drink “poet’s tea” – a mixture of goji berries and chrsysanthemum flowers. This tea helps bring our attention internally, calm our nerves, and cultivate introspection during the wild months of activity in the Spring.
  • Go swimming. Swimming challenges our lung capacity. By enhancing the strength of our lungs, we also support what is referred to as the “third lung” – our skin. The skin and orifices are usually quite affected with allergies; if we can strengthen our lungs, we can strengthen our entire immune system.
  • Do a Neti pot. It may look scary, but it works.
  • Look at your diet: cut out dairy, and add in foods high in Vitamin-C, D, and anti-inflammatory properties. Think kiwi, carrots, and tumeric!
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The Heart

10352344_774314499320614_880969187037184660_nThe heart holds a special place in Chinese philosophy. We could learn a few things about love by looking at how the ancient Chinese regarded the heart:

It’s the center of “mind”
The word heart (xin) is often translated as heart-mind, as the heart is thought to be the center of mental activity even more so than the brain! Ancient traditions understood that the mind is not just in the brain, but in the whole body. We may think thoughts are racing through our brain, but the mind – which encompasses thought, as well as feeling – is experienced throughout the body, and the heart is the center of it all.

It’s considered the “emperor” of the body
Ancient Chinese called the heart the emperor (or empress) of the body. Being at the center of the chest and pushing blood throughout all parts of the body, it fills us with life, awareness, movement, and action. In our western world, the brain gets a lot of attention (many might consider it the emperor of their body), but what if the heart was the one calling the shots in our day-to-day action and not the brain? Would life look different? It would probably look a little less anxious, a little more peaceful.

It’s open
The Chinese character for heart is the shape of an empty bowl. This is how our heart works best: open to the world and empty of judgement.

It understands boundaries
When the heart is sick, we may find ourselves without purpose, chaotic, and confused. With no “emperor” the body has no one to keep you on the path that is most meaningful for you.

It’s associated with the element of fire
The heart embodies the elemental qualities of fire most strongly: warmth, laughter, enthusiasm, connection and playfulness.

May your Valentine’s Day be filled with the virtues of the heart!

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447721_06b7f3f2-0523-46fe-b418-ebb1a1108c10Cupping is an ancient technique used by many cultures from Native Americans and the Middle East to ancient Egyptians and of course, Chinese medicine. The basic idea is that the vacuum created by the suction cup assists in the circulation of blood, bringing oxygen to the muscle tissues where the cups are applied. This helps to detoxify the area and support the movement of blood, fluids, and Qi in the body. It is indicated for symptoms that are thought of as cold and damp in the Chinese medical tradition. Some cold and damp symptoms that cupping treats very well are muscle tension, swelling, and deep or chronic pain.

What’s so unique about cupping is that it is like an inverse massage. Instead of putting pressure on the skin, it is pulling the skin and tissues up – a difficult effect to do with just hands. The application of cups leaves a superficial bruise that may last from 3 to 7 days depending on the patient’s circulation. These are indicators that blood was brought to the surface. It does not indicate tissue damage and it should not be a concern.Fire-Cupping-Orangerie-Events

Depending on the quality and the location of the bruise, your acupuncturist can make an assessment on the state of you body energetics and circulation.NY-DD407_NYCUPP_G_20140805122405

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Acupuncture for Fertility

images-9Acupuncture is an extraordinary modality for treating fertility issues or for complementing modern fertility treatments.

Here at City Acupuncture Circle, we have seen an increase in patients seeking support for a range fertility issues (pregnancy loss, infertility, PCOS, and irregular ovulation, among others). Unsurprisingly, fertility issues are increasingly common in our modern society, where stress and over-work are the norm for many men and women.

Considering that stress-relief is anecdotally (and scientifically) proven to be one of the number one “side-effects” of acupuncture, it is not surprising that more and more people are seeking alternative methods like acupuncture to help restore their body’s nature rhythms and healing abilities, which are disrupted by excessive stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet.
However acupuncture does much more than stress relief. Because acupuncture treatment aids in the body’s blood flow to the reproductive organs and stabilizes hormones levels, it can increase ovarian function in women and sperm production in men.
Based on scientific studies, the Wiell Cornell Medical Center has made some phenomenal conclusions about the effect of acupuncture on reproductive health. They have found that acupuncture:

  • normalizes hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation
  • positively affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (which means less stress, better immune system and digestion)
  • regulates the menstrual cycle, and increase blood flow to the uterus
  • regulates elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)

Studies have also shown that acupuncture increases the rate of pregnancy in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). A study done in 2002 showed that of the 80 women who underwent IVF and received acupuncture, 34 women got pregnant. That’s a success rate of 42.5%, compared with 26.3% for women who only received IVF and no acupuncture!
Our newest acupuncturist, Sarah Knaup, L.Ac, has specialized training in fertility issues, including working with a leading endocrinologist in the San Diego area, utilizing acupuncture to complement patients’ IUI and IVF cycles.


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Gua sha for healing

gua sha

The picture might be a little scary to some, but trust us, gua sha feels pretty good. And it’s even better for you.

Gua sha means “scrape red” and it is just that: scrapping the skin (with the help of oil and a round and hard tool – traditionally a soup spoon, coin, or horn) to create an abrasion. The result, a rash-like spotting, might look a little jarring to those who don’t know what it is, but it is actually a great sign that healing is occurring. The scrapping motion helps to release toxins, heat, and stagnation built up in the superficial layers of the body. It moves stagnant blood, qi and fluids, and boosts the immune system – making it a great treatment for inflammation, chronic pain, back pain, migraines, fever, and colds.

We’ve known for thousands of years that gua sha works, and now studies are helping to explain how. One study found that after a gua sha treatment, patients were found to have a significant increase in body temperature and blood perfusion compared to non-scraped areas, meaning increased circulation and perhaps the removal of small obstructions in the capillaries (Xu, Q., et al, 2012). Another randomized control study reported that gua sha treatment resulted in improvement in range of motion, levels of pain, quality of life, vitality, and patient satisfaction, when compared to patients who were given a heat pack and ginger instead (Braun, M., et al, 2011).

Patients can expect to feel a little tender or sore for a day or two after receiving treatment. It is important to keep the area protected away from sun, heat, or cold, so that it can heal properly. It is also important to hydrate very well following a gua sha treatment, as your body is flushing out toxins and regenerating!

Braun, M., Schwickert, M., Nielsen, A., Brunnhuber, S., Dobos, G., Musial, F… Michalsen, A. (2011). Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese “Gua Sha” Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Control Study. Pain Medicine, 12, 362-369.

Xu, Q., Yang, J., Zhu, B., Yang, L., Wang, Y., and Gao, X. (2012). Effects of Scraping Therapy on Local Temperature and Blood Perfusion Volume in Healthy Subjects. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 521-525.

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