Eating With Your Heart in Mind

Acupuncturists understand the body as a complex system of energy systems, meridians, and organs. However, when an acupuncturist talks about an organ, like the spleen, heart, or kidneys, they are not referring to the physical organ that sits inside your body, but rather the energetic side of these organs. The energetic system is much bigger than just the physical organ and governs certain functions in the body on many levels.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is massively important to care for your heart. Why? Well for starters, the heart governs the ability to think clearly, sleep soundly, and maintain a good memory. Our emotional state is strongly influenced by how healthy or unhealthy our heart may be. A weak and deficient heart may create feelings of anxiety and mania, while also contributing to insomnia, forgetfulness, and lack of concentration. The heart is known as the “king of all organs”. Meaning, other organs will sacrifice all to keep the heart in motion; this involves giving away their energy and nutrient supply (commonly referred to as Qi).

When it comes to your heart, what you eat matters. Follow these tips for heart-healthy eating:

  1. Eat less saturated fats. Look for lean meats, like seafood, poultry, lean cuts of pork, and cut back on fatty red meats and high-fat dairy products. Limit foods like pizza, burgers, and creamy sauces or gravy. Look for products with no trans fats and choose foods with unsaturated fats like salmon, nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils.
  2. Cut down on sodium (salt). Read the Nutrition Facts label and choose foods that are lower in sodium. Look for the low-sodium or “no salt added” types of canned soups, vegetables, packaged meals, snack foods, and lunch meats.
  3. Get more fiber. Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to add fiber to your diet. Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body cannot break down, so it passes through the body undigested. Fiber can help prevent heart disease from its ability to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol.
  4. Cut back on sweeteners. Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease. When choosing a sweetener, look for natural options like honey, dates, maple syrup, molasses, or agave nectar.

Without a healthy heart, the body cannot function properly and the mind may be clouded and disconnected. Contact me for a consultation to see how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can assist you with all of your heart health needs. We are conveniently located 205 W. 2nd Street in Duluth Minnesota.

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The Human Heart; an Element of Fire

The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function but also their mental, emotional, spiritual, and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons. Let’s explore the heart and unique perspective Traditional Chinese Medicine can offer.

The heart season is summer, and the heart is considered the most yang: hot, bountiful, and abundant. Yang is what is bright, moving, outward, hot, and loud. Yin is what is more inward, still, dark, and cooler. The color of the heart is associated with red, the climate is heat, the flavor is bitter and its paired organ is the small intestine (many urinary issues are due to “heart fire” heat descending). The sense aligned with the heart is the tongue, and the vessels associated with the heart are the tissues. The heart sound is laughing, and the emotion is joy. The heart houses what is known as the shen, which is the mind and spirit. You can see a person’s shen in a healthy complexion and radiant eyes that are clear and bright. The heart is in charge of circulation and keeps the tissues well nourished. It is also associated with mental clarity, memory, and strength. The motion of this fire element is upward, like a flame. Many who have this element dominant in their personality have red hair that is curly or spikes upward. The heart is also connected to speech. An imbalance in heart energy can result in stuttering, speaking excitedly, or talking excessively.

A balanced heart:

A healthy heart energy exudes a sense of joy, enthusiasm, action, warmth, charisma, and fun. These people are the “life of the party,” and love to have a good time with friends and to be the center of attention. When the heart is balanced, sleep is sound and one is well-rested.

An unbalanced heart:

On the other hand, when there is an overabundance of fire this can result in restlessness, anxiety, sweating, excitability, and symptoms such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, disturbing dreams, mouth sores, thirst, red face, constipation, and dryness. This person might shrink if not in the limelight and would constantly seek attention and need activities that produce a lot of excitement. He or she might have trouble being introspective and could not be alone. “Overjoy” is an imbalance of heart energy and is likened to manic behavior. A dominant fire may also be extremely sensitive to heat. A lack of the fire element, on the other hand, can result in a lusterless complexion, low energy, inertia, depression, feeling cold, low libido and the personality may lack warmth. This type may seem cold, frigid, lack drive, and may be prone to addictions.

How to help your heart stay in balance?

Studies show red foods have been shown to help the heart biochemically; foods such as hawthorn berries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, and goji berries keep your heart happy with lycopene and anthocyanin, antioxidants, and beneficial vitamins. Other helpful foods include garlic, cayenne, cilantro, basil, magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts, and soy), and green tea. Also try ginseng, jujube dates, reishi mushrooms, dong quai, seaweed, and schizandra berries. Calming activities such as walking, tai qi, or qi gong help calm the shen.

It is best not to self-diagnose, make sure to seek the guidance of a medical professional to confirm these foods are right for you. You don’t want to assume you have too much of one element and end up eating the wrong foods. A thorough diagnostic evaluation is the best way to get a proper diagnosis. As far as the Five Element theory goes I’d be happy to see which element is dominant in you, and together we can treat your condition with acupuncture, herbs and offer advice for beneficial diet and lifestyle adaptations. If you are looking for heart health remedies, give me a call at (218) 724-3400 today.

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Research Update: Nutrition for Heart Health

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nutrition combines ancient wisdom with modern science. TCM nutrition is a holistic approach, which aims to balance all five flavors within most meals with one or two flavors being emphasized for therapeutic purposes. TCM nutrition for hypertension emphasizes bitter flavors, sour flavors, and energetically-cooling foods.

TCM theory states the bitter flavor benefits the heart in moderation but an excess is harmful as it has a drying effect; for example, coffee is bitter. In moderation, coffee acts as a vasodilator increasing circulation but in excess, it can raise blood pressure and has a diuretic effect. Modern scientific research has discovered while the human genome has 25 bitter taste receptors 12 of these are expressed in the human heart.

Foods with bitter flavors include romaine lettuce, dandelion, arugula, rye. Foods that combine bitter with pungency include citrus peel, radish, scallion, and white pepper. In TCM nutrition the pungent flavor can help disperse phlegm (e.g. plaque). Foods that combine bitter with sweet include asparagus, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, quinoa, and papaya. Lemon rind is bitter and sour; vinegar is also bitter and sour.

Bitter flavors have a yin, or cooling effect, clearing heat in the body while encouraging a descent of Qi, which aids in the draining of fluids. For example, celery contains the phytochemical phthalides which relax arterial wall tissues to increase blood flow and thereby reduce blood pressure. The fiber, magnesium, and potassium in celery also help lower blood pressure and regulate fluid balance. Caution: according to TCM, those with a lot of dryness and/or bone disease should moderate their intake of bitter flavor.

A tomato a day keeps the doctor away! The combination of lycopene, vitamin C and E, potassium, and folic acid in tomatoes make it a powerful food for heart health. The bitter flavor of tomatoes comes from the seeds; to reap the full benefit of tomatoes eat the seeds too. Heirloom tomatoes in the season have the most flavor, find the tastiest tomatoes at your farmer’s market or try growing your own.

Chrysanthemum tea is very popular in Asia; it is helpful for headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, chest pain, and also fevers. You can add chrysanthemum flowers to your morning green tea and in the evening combine it with chamomile tea for extra cooling benefits!

TCM nutrition cautions against overdoing cold foods and drinks. Too much cold inhibits the digestive process. Drinking warm beverages and soups, as well as eating foods with a little pungency (chili pepper, garlic, ginger) causes the body to perspire slightly which naturally cools the body.


5 Flavors Chickpea Salad for Healthy & Happy Heart

15 oz cooked organic chickpeas (1 can)
1/2 c cup cooked quinoa or 1 cup brown rice (warm)
4 stalks celery, minced
6-12 cherry tomatoes, chopped in 1/2 or 1/4
8-12 Romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
2 TBSP red onion, minced

Toss with a dressing made with:

2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice + a little lemon zest (organic is best)
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp honey or agave
1-2 garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
1/8 tsp Himalayan or Sea salt (or to taste)
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)


Resources

Celery & High Blood Pressure

Foster, S. R., Blank, K., Hoe, L. E. S., Behrens, M., Meyerhof, W., Peart, J. N., & Thomas, W. G. (2014). Bitter taste receptor agonists elicit G-protein-dependent negative inotropy in the murine heart. The FASEB Journal, 28(10), 4497-4508.

Kastner, Joseph, MD, L.Ac, (2009) Chinese Nutrition Therapy, Thieme, Stuttgart and New York

Pitchford, Paul (2002), Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California

Ried, K., Frank, O. R., Stocks, N. P., Fakler, P., & Sullivan, T. (2008). Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC cardiovascular disorders, 8(1), 1.

Willcox, J. K., Catignani, G. L., & Lazarus, S. (2003). Tomatoes and Cardiovascular Health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 43(1), 1-18.

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Healthy Heart

In the spirit of Valentine’s day, let’s talk about heart health. Did you know, the heart will beat over 100,000 times pumping roughly 2,000 gallons of blood each day! Heart health is massively important to one’s overall wellbeing. When the heart is strong, circulation will be sufficient, the body will be well-nourished, and the pulse will reflect that by being full and regular. Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM), just like Western medicine, believes the heart is responsible for the circulation of blood. Both medical systems agree that a weak heart can manifest in palpitations, chest pain, heart disease, or lead to a heart attack. Where the two medical systems differ is this: a TCM practitioner acknowledges and uses many other qualitative diagnostic reasoning tools and unique non-invasive therapies right there in the office to ideally prevent but also treat chronic systemic imbalances, including cardiac irregularities.

What does this mean? When you go to see a TCM doctor they will look to your body for clues, but more often than not they don’t need to refer you for more exams and tests. For example, they have the ability to read your pulse evaluating things like “quality of expansion” and “duration of cycle” not simply the rate and pressure. A pulse reading in TCM is one of many diagnostic tools that take practitioners years of intensive training to perfect. This is why it is so important to seek advice from only medically trained professionals, such as myself and my colleagues. Your body is asking to find wellness, it just takes a trained ear to listen.

A TCM Perspective on the Heart:

In TCM, the heart is the “king of all organs”. Other organs will sacrifice all to keep the heart in motion; this involves giving away their energy and nutrient supply (commonly referred to as Qi). The heart governs the ability to think clearly, sleep soundly, and maintain a good memory. Our emotional state is strongly influenced by how healthy or unhealthy our heart may be. A weak and deficient heart may create feelings of anxiety and mania, while also contributing to insomnia, forgetfulness, and lack of concentration.

Heart health can be reflected in the facial complexion. A rosy complexion indicates a strong healthy heart, while a pale or sallow complexion is indicative of a deficient, weak heart. If the heart blood becomes stagnant, the complexion may have a purplish tint.

Acupuncture and TCM have been managing heart health for centuries. Regular acupuncture treatments are very helpful in lowering blood pressure. The needles stimulate the release of opioids, which then decrease the heart’s activity and its need for oxygen. This will help the body lower blood pressure, increase oxygenated blood flow, and regulate the heart’s rhythm.

Stress is another factor that can greatly affect the health of the heart. Unmanaged, chronic stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and even heart attacks. Numerous studies have shown stress can be easily managed through the use of acupuncture. TCM offers more than just acupuncture to treat stress though. Herbal formulas and exercises like tai chi and qi gong are all wonderful tools for managing stress and keeping the heart-healthy.

When the heart is balanced and healthy, it results in an easy transition into sleep. If you have insomnia, the heart is often treated. Difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, and sleep terrors can result when this organ is unhappy. If you are the type of person who lies in bed forever, unable to fall asleep because your mind is racing, acupuncture can help to settle the heart energy and give you a great night’s sleep. Yet again, TCM can help treat a wide array of sleep problems without the harsh side effects of many pharmaceuticals. If you are ready to start your journey to wellness, don’t wait, give us a call today.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine & Insomnia

Roughly half of all adults have experienced insomnia at some point or another. There are many treatment options for insomnia ranging from meditation to medications. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) continue to come out on top of the list of suggested treatments for sleepless nights and improper circadian rhythms. The reason TCM is so effective has a lot to do with the adaptability of treatment modalities. TCM does not only suggest herbs and acupuncture, or massage and physical exercise but also lifestyle changes to introduce healthy habits. Here are some of our favorite lifestyle adaptations you can consider if you or someone you love is struggling with insomnia.

Spent time outside:

Camping has been shown to help reset the sleep cycle of insomniacs. Your body will be able to reset itself after a couple of days, allowing your circadian rhythm to get you back into a proper sleeping pattern. This theory goes hand in hand with some of TCM’s primary principles; staying in tune with nature. Ask me for some of my favorite wintertime outdoor activities.

Digital detox:

The digital stimulation we experience these days is overwhelming, though often necessary. With the “go-go-go” attitude of mainstream culture, sometimes digital stumilation alone can make it hard to slow down enough to find rest. Turn off the devices at least 2 hours before bed. Better yet, create a digital detox day of the week. One day where you and your family unplug and allow yourself to reacclimate to the natural world.

Plan for sleep:

Seting a bedtime, and sticking with it, can help reset your sleep cycle. Implement a routine and do the same things nightly before going to bed. If you are struggling to fall asleep on time, consider a wind-down routine. Create a routine for yourself that may include a cup of tea, a yoga or tai chi session, reading or writing, experiment with what feels best for your mind and body.

Change the lighting:

We are all sensitive to light. Before the regular use of artificial lighting, humans spent their evenings in a slow transition to nighttime darkness. In the evening create a darker environment in your home to help your brain ease out of the daytime stimulation and start slowing down. Alternatively, when you wake up in the morning, be sure to open the shades and turn the lights on again to help tell the brain to wake up and get going. Consistency is essential and will help train your brain and balance your circadian rhythm.

Daytime activity:

Studies show that people who exercise regularly tend to sleep better and feel less drowsy in the morning. Make sure to do the appropriate types of exercise at the right time of day. Save intense exercise classes for mornings and do something more relaxing before going to bed.

Late night binges:

Stop ingesting caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine and go easy on the late-night snacks. Eating too late is common and can cause indigestion and restless nights. If you’re still hungry right before bed, try something light and healthy, like a tablespoon of peanut butter or a handful of almonds.

Schedule your TCM evaluation:

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been proven by many studies to be a safe and effective treatment for insomnia. Treatments include acupuncture, at-home acupressure routines, breathing exercises, lifestyle changes, environmental adaptations, herbal prescriptions, even nutritiaonal recommendations and so much more. Your specific symptoms and patterns of disharmony will be addressed all in an effort to find the root cause(s) of your sleeplessness.

As you can see, there are many ways to battle insomnia and balance your sleeping patterns. Find the remedies, therapies, and routines you resonate with most, and stick with them. I’m here to help, give me a call or schedule your appointment online for more information.


Life will only get better when you do!


A TCM Perscription:

There are a variety of reasons I recommend a full in-person diagnostic evaluation to address your health concerns. One of the benefits to the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the adaptability of therapies including herbal prescriptions. Herbal remedies are often prescribed based on the individual’s patterns of disharmony.

Traditionally Chinese medical practitioners use acupoints along the meridian system to stimulate the movement of Qi. There are a variety of reasons Qi can become imbalanced within the body, all of which can be diagnosed and treated by a TCM practitioner.

Call me at (218) 724-3400 to schedule an appointment to get more information on at-home acupressure routines to conquer those sleepless nights.

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