.Often, pain is a result of inflammation caused by injury or disease. How do your emotions affect inflammation? How do your emotions affect pain? In a recent published study in the journal Emotion and summarized in an article in Psychology Today, having a diversity of positive emotions: active, alert, amused, at ease, attentive, calm, cheerful, determined, enthusiastic, excited, happy, inspired, interested, proud, relaxed, and strong - reduces inflammation. The study followed 175 adults, ages 40 - 65 years, and measured blood markers of inflammation; IL-6, CRP, and fibrinogen. 30 days later those who on a daily basis experienced a breadth and abundance of positive emotions daily had lower circulating levels of inflammation.
This reaffirms the interconnectedness of emotions and their effect on health, In Chinese Medicine, our physical and emotional states are intimately intertwined. Positive feelings and help promote health so practice some 'emodiversity'. We tack on these emojis on our texts and emails daily, let us feel these 16 positive emotions daily to reduce our inflammation and susceptibility to disease.
Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest. Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. A couple of days ago, I had a midday break and I am grateful only 10 minutes away from my office, I immersed myself in open green space with live oak, redwoods and madrone trees, with irises, and shooting stars flowers dotting the understory. Studies show the benefits of being in the forest boost immunity and mood as well as reduce stress and lower blood pressure. I do have a preexisting condition - I love trees. I pursued my love of trees to Upper Peninsula Michigan and studied for a Masters of Science in Forestry, as a tree planter and Environmental Volunteer with Peace Corps Ghana, and as the Community Forestry Coordinator with Utah Forestry, Fire & State Lands. Now as a Chinese Medicine practitioner and acupuncturist I appreciate many of the medicinal herbs sourced from forests. If you have an opportunity, go take a forest bath.
I just saw a very interesting documentary film "The Pursuit of Silence". The film also provided the experience of short scenes of silence juxtaposed to the "noise" that has become part of our everyday lives.
One of the subjects in the film was research done in Japan by Yoshifumi Miyazaki on "forest bathing" and the positive effects of making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest. The results show that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol (stress hormone), lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure than city environments. In effect, boosting the immune system. What is the impact of this sound on our health?
According to WebMD, normal conversation is about 60 dB (decibels), a leaf blower is about 90 dB, and a loud rock concert is about 120 dB. In general, sounds above 85 are harmful, depending how long and how often you are exposed to them. How does loud sound or noise harm you?
1. Physiologically - loud noises produce cortisol and elevated levels contribute to cardio-vascular disease and other diseases. On the other hand the gentle sound rain on a roof can create a calming effect.
2. Psychologically - one scene in the film showed a street scene in Mumbai, the noisiest city in the world, during a festival with noise well over 100 decibels. This noise causes distress to the elderly and infants, and a sad story shared in the film of a young girl being raped, whose screams were not heard over the din of street noise.
3. Cognitively - in a public school next to track with trains going past every 5 minutes, the average noise level was above 85 dB. In the US, sounds above 55 are considered harmful. Test scores of students are lower and reading skills are many months behind their peers in schools without overhead air traffic or next to train tracks.
Noise and sound pollution has a huge effect on our health, however, we are unaware of the ill effects until chronic exposure leads to a profound health issue including hearing loss. Protect yourself from noise by wearing protective earplugs when exposed to loud sounds like mowing the lawn with motorized mower or attending loud rock concerts or more recently in the Bay Area when viewing the Blue Angels fly over during Fleet Week.
The effect of silence or at least gentle sounds like birds singing or leaves rustling in the breeze in a forest, produce a calming effect and positive physiological effects, increase productivity, and in a 2013 study by Imke Kirst, "Is Silence Golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis", 4 groups of mice were exposed to sound, but the one group of mice that had silence showed new brain cell growth.
One of the fundamental English language books on Chinese Medicine is titled "Between Heaven and Earth." That title refers to a human being as a bridge or link between the elements of Heaven and Earth. Chinese Medicine bases one's health on the balance and harmony of the Five Elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood.
I love trees and volunteered for 2 years with US Peace Corps in Ghana, West Africa, growing and planting trees to help restore and create woodlots for fuel wood and cash crop fruit trees like cashews and mangos. At the same time, I was doing research for my Masters of Science in Forestry with Michigan Technological University.
I then spent 8 years working with the Forest Service, Utah Division of Forestry, and Utah State University promoting, educating, and facilitating the planting of thousands of trees. I now practice Chinese Medicine, that medicine is based on nature and how we, the link between Heaven and Earth, interact with nature. Trees reach up to the heavens to capture sunlight and with their roots gather nutrients and water from the earth and create through the most important chemical reaction, photosynthesis, adding carbon dioxide (CO2), sunlight, water (H2O) to produce oxygen (O2) we breathe and simple carbohydrates.
When a tree's environment is disrupted from a healthy ecosystem where sunlight, clean water, unpolluted earth is not available, they often fail to thrive, becoming susceptible to pest and diseases and eventually will die. This can be a lack of sunlight due to air pollution and smog clogging their leaves, therefore leaves unable to capture sunlight or open their stoma to bring in CO2. The earth, the soil environment around the tree roots being compacted or too many chemical fertilizers or pesticides poisoning the soil. Or in recent history in California, several years of drought limiting water. The signs that a tree's health is failing may not be evident immediately, as mature trees may have some reserves and it's only after several years of drought or exposure to harmful pollutants that the signs appear.
When I was a forester and horticulturalist, diagnosing plants and trees, the number one suggestion for preventing diseases and pests were to keep the plant healthy with proper watering, rich composted soil and adequate sunlight.
As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, I diagnose human diseases and illnesses, and humans are also similar in that symptoms may only show up after years of stressors like: lack of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, emotional upset. One of my colleagues recently wrote it is more important to maintain health rather than restore health, to be mindful of our interaction with nature and how to live in harmony between heaven and earth and not wait until symptoms cannot be ignored.
For a 30 minute health and wellness consultation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book online at maggieshao.com
Much is written is about what we eat and not so much on how we eat. A popular diet right now is a Paleo diet, like our hunter gatherer ancestors ate, whole foods focusing on protein and vegetables and no sugar or processed food. But little emphasis is placed on how we eat. With our busy lives, let's throw everything into a smoothie and drink it while we commute or eat our lunch working at our desk or chow down fast food looking at our smart phones and the classic starting in the 1950s - eating tv dinners in front of the television.
I hosted a friend and professional colleague a few years ago, raised in France who came to SF Bay Area for two days of interviews for a high level position. He made 2 observations that I remember: 1] he gave a presentation during a catered lunch meeting and everyone was eating and drinking and he felt that the audience was not paying much attention to his presentation. He didn't understand this American custom to eat and work at the same time 2) he had never seen drive-thru fast food and was horrified that people would eat in their cars off their laps - he called it "BARBARIC".
Tips on how to eat. People are so busy, eating means ripping open a bag or downing that smoothie in a few minutes. DO take a moment to be mindful and grateful - as a Girl Scout whenever we ate together at camp, before every meal we would sing grace such as "the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the appleseed". In many cultures, it is important to take a moment to show appreciation and gratitude for the nourishment the food provides our body by saying a simple grace.
DO NOT multi-task, put away the smart phones, magazine, work, television - better option is to find someone to eat with and have a nice conversation while eating. Try not stand over the kitchen sink and eat your meal. Being mindful about how we are eating will often help us to make better choices about what we are eating.
I attended an interesting Linked Local Marin County sponsored talk on "The Future of Cannabis". Last November, California passed Prop 64 (AUMA - Adult Use of Marijuana Act) and the implications, regulations, and access was presented, the speakers were only able to scratch the surface of access , use, and regulations.
Huo Ma Ren, the pinyin name for Cannabis Semen or cannabis seed, is listed in the category of Moist Laxatives in the Materia Medica. The first mention of Huo Ma Ren is found in the Classic of Herbal Medicine, an agriculture and medicinal plant book, attributed to Shennong, a Chinese scholar believed to have lived around 2800 BC. The key characteristics of Huo Ma Ren are: enriches the Yin fluids, moistens the Intestines, unblocks dry constipation.
Huo Ma Ren or better known as hemp seed, can be imported to the US as long as THC (the psychoactive constituent) is less than 0.3%. The hemp plant has been used for thousand of years for fiber and oils. I remember in my travels to Nepal and Bhutan in 1994 seeing hemp harvested for animal food and fodder for pigs and buffaloes and I thought to myself "HAPPY PIGS". Hemp seeds are now readily available at health food stores and grocers. Recent research report healthy benefits of eating hemp seeds are the high levels of essential fatty acids, mainly Omega 6's and Omega 3's, high levels of protein, and high levels of insoluble fiber (resonates with the Traditional Chinese herbal use as a laxative). Easy ways to incorporate hemp seeds into your diet is to sprinkle a tablespoon into your smoothie or onto your salad.
Cannabis related products are becoming more available - those containing CBD (cannabidiol) without THC (less that 0.3%) are legal for use in all 50 states, however local county and city regulations may limit sale and use. As a practitioner I am curious to increase my knowledge of these new products. Some of the benefits being promoted are topical use for pain, eczema, dryness and that makes sense with the high levels of essential fatty acids found in hemp seed. Other benefits being promoted are as an ingested tincture or capsules for pain and anti-nausea. I am always learning and researching protocols, techniques, and products that may benefit my patients.
Among the adult population in the United States, it is reported that 23% of the population suffers from insomnia. Poor sleep affects your daytime functioning including lack of concentration, energy, focus, and attention. In China, acupuncture is one of the primary treatment therapies for insomnia. The results of a 2013 clinical study, the efficacy of six-week influence of acupuncture on sleep quality and daytime functioning showed among the three groups: acupuncture, sham acupuncture, and control group, the acupuncture group had significantly improved daytime functioning. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is a holistic and natural and integrative approach, and one of the positive side effects many of my patients report, who initially came in for pain or other disorders, was improved sleep and increased energy. If you want to improve your energy, focus, concentration consider acupuncture. You can schedule a free 30 minute consultation by clicking on this link: Free 30 minute consultation
Bell's Palsy is a temporary condition that affects one side of the face, the facial muscles becoming weak or paralyzed. Bell's Palsy sometimes is confused with a stroke because of the droopy appearance and very sudden onset of facial paralysis. The cause is not well understood, sometimes attributed to a virus infecting the facial nerve or people affected with migraines are at higher risk to develop Bell's Palsy. however, anyone can develop this condition. In Chinese Medicine Bell's Palsy would be diagnosed as External Wind Cold Attack of Channels in the Face. Acupuncture is a highly effective treatment therapy for Bell's Palsy. I have helped several patients recover from Bell's Palsy in my private practice as well as in Nepal when volunteering with Acupuncture Relief Project. In an upcoming Vanity Fair cover story article for the September 2017 issue, Angelina Jolie confided she struggled with Bell's Palsy and attributed her full recovery to acupuncture.
.The Tour de France is an amazing sporting event and cause for celebrating human endurance, strength, teamwork. Chris Froome of the UK just won his fourth Tour. I remember a couple of years back in 2014, a lot of buzz about acupuncture and the Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali. Italy's Astana team was supported by a medical team with an acupuncturist, osteopaths, and physical therapists. Read an interview with Belgium based acupuncturist Eddy De Smedt about working with top athletes and the Astana team at the Tour de France, http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=32946
I found a recent article about unified welterweight world champion Keith Thurman who uses acupuncture as part of his training to be a top performing boxer. He attributes acupuncture helping him with deep relaxation and focus. Enjoy the following NBC sports 2 minute video with Keith Thurman receiving acupuncture and his positive responses to acupuncture treatment:
I chose the name hedgehog blog because hedgehogs are cute and they look like they are acupuncture models with their "needles" covering their bodies. I hope these blog posts educate and inform you about Chinese Medicine and Wellness.