Exploring the 24 Hour Qi Clock

Most people are familiar with the terms diurnal and nocturnal. Diurnal means active during the daytime, while nocturnal means active during the nighttime. Together the two make up a 24-hour cycle known as a day. But, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this 24-hour cycle is viewed as much more than just a day in the life. The 24 hours of the day are viewed as increments of time and every two-hour section is associated with a specific energetic meridian that runs through the body. This is known as the Qi clock.

Do you wake up every night or every morning about the same time? Have you ever wondered why? Some people call that an internal clock. In Chinese medicine, this gives a much deeper look into how the body functions though. Chinese medical theory divides the body based upon the 12 energetic meridians. Each of the meridians is assigned a two-hour time slot. For example, the liver meridian is associated with the hours of 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. If you wake up during this time frame, then there is an issue with your liver meridian. So knowing this information can be very important to an acupuncturist/Chinese medicine practitioner.

During a 24-hour period, your energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) moves through the organ systems in two-hour intervals. Qi draws inward to help restore the body between the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. The liver cleanses the blood and performs other functions, such as getting the blood ready to travel outward into the rest of the body. Over the next 12 hours, Qi cycles through the organs that assimilate, digest and eliminate food through the body or our diurnal organs. By mid-afternoon, the body begins to slow down again in preparation for the nocturnal phase. The nocturnal phase is all about restoring and maintaining. So when one organ system is at its peak, its counterpart, on the opposite side of the clock is at its lowest point. An example is 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., which are the hours of the stomach. This is when the stomach is at its peak and also why it is recommended to eat a big breakfast. On the opposite side of the clock lies the pericardium, which is associated with the pituitary, hypothalamus and reproductive organs. The pericardium is at its weakest point between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Here’s a brief summary of the 24 hour Qi cycle:

3 a.m. to 5 a.m. is lung time
5 a.m. to 7 a.m. is large intestine time
7 a.m. to 9 a.m. is stomach time
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. is spleen time
11 a.m. to 1 a.m. is heart time
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is small intestine time
3 p.m. to 5 p.m. is urinary bladder time
5 p.m. to 7 p.m. is kidney time
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. is pericardium time
9 p.m. to 11 p.m. is triple burner time (associated with the thyroid and adrenals)
11 p.m. to 1 a.m. is gall bladder time
1 a.m. to 3 a.m. is liver time

So if you have recurring problems at the same time every day, then there is a good chance that the organ/meridian associated with that time is in distress. This is why Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners ask so many questions and also why they look at the body as a whole instead of just one particular organ. By understanding that every organ/energetic meridian has a maintenance schedule to keep daily, you can then treat your body properly so you achieve the ultimate health and well-being and acupuncture can help you achieve that goal. Acupuncturists treat the body based on things like your symptomology, your pulses, your tongue and the 24-hour Qi clock indications you exhibit. The goal is to bring the body back into balance and knowing when the meridians are at their peaks and valleys is a great place to begin.

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You’re Getting Sleepy…

Enjoying Naps in the Winter Season

Most mammals are polyphasic sleepers, meaning that they sleep for short periods throughout the day. For humans, days are divided into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefulness, which is a monophasic sleep pattern. However, this may be a product of living in an industrialized world and not the natural sleep pattern of humans. In many cultures, young children and elderly take naps midday. Our bodies are programmed for two periods of intense sleepiness a day: between 2 and 4 am and 1 and 3 pm. Unfortunately, despite our biological vestige, we are having to consolidate our sleep into one long period.

Several short sleep periods are common among most mammals. There is solid scientific evidence napping lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, excessive weight gain and diabetes as well as reducing stress.

A short 20-minute midday nap boosts mental alertness, mood, productivity, and sharpens motor skills. Naps up to 45 minutes can sometimes include REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which enhances creative thinking and sensory processing. If you need to spring into action upon waking, keep your nap below 45 minutes.

Naps can be categorized in three ways:

Planned napping: Taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. This is also called preparatory napping. You may use this technique as a mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier or when you know that you will be up later than your normal bedtime.

Emergency napping: Taking a nap when you are suddenly very tired and cannot stay awake to continue with what you were doing. This type of nap can be used to combat fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery or drowsy driving.

Habitual napping: Napping at the same time each day. A person might take a short nap after lunch every day or young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon.

Tips for Getting the Perfect Nap

* First off, get over the stigma that you are being lazy for taking a nap. Recognize that napping will make you more productive and more alert after you wake up. Napping isn’t for the lazy or depressed. Bill Clinton, Lance Armstrong, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison are/were known to be afternoon nappers.

* Avoid consuming large quantities of foods that are heavy in fat and sugar or caffeine, which can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Instead, choose foods high in calcium and protein, which promote sleep.

* Find a clean, quiet place where passersby and phones won’t disturb you, preferably where you can lie down. It takes about 50% longer to fall asleep sitting upright.

* Darkness stimulates melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Try to darken your room, or wear an eyeshade.

* Body temperature drops when you fall asleep. Raise the room temperature or use a blanket.

* Set your alarm for the desired duration to prevent oversleeping.

Notes on the Negative Effects of Napping

Napping isn’t always the best option for everyone in spite of its benefits. Naps that last more than 20 minutes can leave people with sleep inertia, a feeling of disorientation, and grogginess that last for half an hour or more. Especially for those who are sleep deprived, post-nap impairment, and disorientation can be more severe.

Another downside of daytime napping is that it may have a negative effect on other sleeping periods. A nap longer than 45 minutes or taken too late in the day may adversely affect the length and quality of nighttime sleep. If you usually have trouble sleeping at night, a nap may only aggravate this problem.

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Foods to help you overcome anxiety and depression

Did you know that eating healthier foods gives you a better chance to reduce your depressive symptoms? Eating a diet of processed food does more harm to your body due to the fact that those foods may be high in sugars and fats.

Additionally, it’s known that there are approximately 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells in the body. These bacteria serve many purposes including the curation of Vitamin K, digesting the food we consume and even regulating our immune system.

This implies that maintaining a healthy gut bacteria and overall diet can improve your mood.


SO WHAT CAN I EAT?

Studies show that dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard decrease inflammation, which has been linked to depression. Nuts are another powerhouse used to fight depression. The omega 3 fatty acids found in most nuts can reduce the symptoms of depression. Decreasing daily sugar intake can also help. Excess sugar in the diet decreases a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which can lead to depression if there is not enough of it being produced.

Though symptoms of anxiety and depression vary wildly among individuals, often these symptoms can follow someone for months if not years, slowly wearing down the body.
Here are a few simple examples of foods that can help lift your mood:

Fatty fish: Fatty fish are high in omega-3. Omega-3 is a fatty acid highly connected to cognitive function. Salmon and sardines are a great choice being among the few foods containing vitamin-D.

Eggs: We probably already know this, but the egg yolk is a great source of vitamin-D as well. They are a complete protein, which simply means they contain all the amino acids the our bodies need to grow and develop properly.

Brazil nuts: Often those suffering from mood disorders have a heightened level of inflammation. Brazil nuts are high in Selenium, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Brazil nuts are also anti-carcinogenic which can help prevent cancers from developing.

Pumpkin seeds:Potassium is needed to regulate the electrolyte balance and manage blood pressure. Pumpkin seeds as well as bananas are a great source of potassium. Some studies indicate that pumpkins seeds can have a positive effect on mood thanks to their high zinc levels as well. Zinc is essential for the brain and nervous system, in fact the highest level of zinc in the body is found in the brain regions involved with emotion.

Chamomile: For thousands of years people all over the world have used Chamomile to find relaxation thanks to it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Some people believe that the relaxing properties of this herb come from the flavonoids present, this is why a warm aromatic chamomile tea is a very popular remedy for managing anxiety.

Yogurt: Praised for it’s helpful bacteria, yogurt can be incredibly beneficial for many reasons. Gut health and brain health go hand in hand. Yogurt and other fermented foods can benefit the gut naturally all the while reducing anxiety and promoting happiness.

Green tea: Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, has recently received popular praise due to its potential effect on mood disorders, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Theanine has anti-anxiety and calming effects which can increase the production of serotonin and dopamine. Green tea is easy to add to any diet, and is a great substitute for soft drinks or coffee as green tea also contains caffeine.


WHICH FOODS SHOULD I AVOID?


Avoid foods made with added sugars or flours such as baked goods (donuts and pastries), breads, pastas and cereals. One should also minimize the consumption of animal fats, processed meats such as bacon, and even butter.

It’s important to remember that health starts from within. Maintaining a healthy balance of self-care, such as providing yourself with adequate sleep, hydration and physical activity is just as important as eating well. The road to wellness isn’t always paved, but the good news is that we are here to help guide you though this transformation right in Duluth MN.

If you are somebody who suffers from depression and you are looking for natural, holistic solutions, maybe give these suggestions a try. If nothing else, it is worth looking into. But most importantly, once you find the right path to correcting depression, follow it. Everybody is different and there is no one right answer.

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Building Protective Qi with TCM

Everybody gets sick at some point in their life. For some, it’s just a quick weekend thing. For others, it can last for several days and even weeks. Why do some people always get sick whenever there is a bug going around and others don’t? It all comes down to immunity. People who have a stronger immune system, tend to be sick less often. Those with compromised or weak immune systems, seem to get sick at the drop of a hat. There are many things that can be done to strengthen the immune system though. And Traditional Chinese Medicine is probably one of the best and least invasive ways to boost the immune system, not just during the winter months, but all year long.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the immune system is called Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”). The Wei Qi is closely associated with the internal organs, specifically the lungs. When the energy of the lungs is well-balanced, Wei Qi is strong and can easily fight off any external attacks. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs dominate the skin and breathing. If lung function is deficient or compromised in any way, then the body is more open to external pathogens like viruses and bacteria. Common symptoms of decreased Wei Qi or immunity include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, headaches, fever and/or chills.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that has been around for nearly 4,000 years. There are many tools in the kit of a TCM practitioner. Probably the most commonly used tools for building Wei Qi are acupuncture and herbal formulas. Acupuncture uses hair-thin stainless steel, single-use needles that are placed on specific acupressure points that can boost immunity and balance hormones. When the hormones are stressed and unbalanced, illness can occur. Acupuncture points associated with Wei Qi can strengthen the circulation of energy and blood, which will then boost the body’s defense mechanisms, thus helping to prevent illness. Regular acupuncture treatments can also cause the brain to increase T-cells in the body. T-cells destroy bacteria and viruses. Acupuncture needles provoke the body’s immune response by sending T-cells and white cells to the needle sites to fight off the invaders. These effects can last for several days, which keeps immunity higher than normal.

Chinese botanicals are another great way to build up Wei Qi. Any herb or herb combination that boosts or enhances the immune system will keep the body functioning at its optimal level. In TCM, there are many individual herbs that boost the Qi and some specifically boost the Wei Qi. Astragalus (huang qi) is one of the more frequently used Chinese herbs. It is used to tonify the Wei Qi, fortify the lungs and protect against pathogens. Studies show huang qi increases white blood cells, which can help fight off infection and pathogenic invasions.

Cordyceps (dong chong xia cao) is another immune-boosting herb. Cordyceps enhances immunity by increasing white blood cells, T-cells and interferon. It also can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. While cordyceps works very well by itself, it works even better when used as part of a formula, as do most Chinese herbs. When looking to use Chinese herbs, be sure to seek out a qualified herbalist and TCM practitioner to insure overall safety of the herb or formula.

TCM and all of its modalities can be very helpful in staying well and healthy. When added to the practices of proper sleep and nutrition, drinking lots of water and mild exercise, TCM will help keep the body’s immune system healthy. And hopefully if illness does occur, it will only be mild. Here’s to your health!

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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition believed to be linked to a lack of sunlight where the individual experiences mood changes and emotions similar to depression. SAD occurs mostly in the Fall and Winter months when there is less sunlight exposure.

It’s found that around 5 percent of people may experience SAD lasting 40% of the year (especially in areas with less sunlight such as the Pacific Northwest and other Northern regions), and it is more common in women than in men.




SYMPTOMS OF SAD

The most common symptom of SAD is a feeling of sadness or a depressed mood. Other symptoms may include any of the following:
• changes in appetite
• cravings for sweet & starchy foods
• fatigue and low energy
• depression/low mood
• social withdrawal
• decreased libido
• aches and pains
• irritation
• Increased restlessness (such as pacing)
• difficulty focusing

Symptoms vary from person to person, but they can be severe enough to disrupt daily life. While SAD can be a frustrating condition, there are treatments and coping techniques available.


Here are some general guidelines that can help structure the treatments:

  • Keep treatments simple by addressing the root of the disorder instead of treating symptoms.
  • Begin treatment at any time; however, the summer is ideal. By doing so, there is a good chance the practitioner can break up the cyclic pattern of symptoms so that they are reduced or even eliminated before the problematic seasons arrive.
  • Treat the patient 1-2 times a week, depending upon which interval works best for them and in light of the degree of their symptoms.

METHODS TO REDUCE SAD


Light therapy: This involves daily exposure to a full-spectrum light that duplicates natural sunlight. When used regularly throughout the winter months, light therapy has been shown to reduce symptoms in 70 percent of SAD sufferers. Please note that light therapy is different than tanning in a tanning bed.

Psychotherapy: Working with a counselor to learn to navigate negative thoughts and behaviors can be beneficial.


Exercise: As a natural antidepressant, exercise may alleviate some of the symptoms of SAD. Try swimming, biking, lifting weights, yoga, or just walking outside.


Acupuncture: Acupuncture can work to rebalance the body’s Qi, relieve your symptoms, and reduce stress. 


Medication: Antidepressant medications are a common treatment, but it should be noted that these medications often have side effects. There are also many natural and effective approaches available to combat SAD if over-the-counter medications aren’t something you want to start with.

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