Archive for tag: health

Want to Freak Out an MD?

2014-07-03_yurasekWhen they ask you why you came in for an appointment today, go ahead and let them know that your urine is coming out in long, clear streams, and that your dreams have been creepily vivid this week. Tell them that your bowel movements are light brown, formed, and coming with ease twice per day in forearm lengths that would make Dr. Yurasek proud. Mention that you've been feeling kind of cold and that you can't stand being out in the wind. That heaviness in your arms? Mention it.

Dive straight into the rest of Oriental Medicine's famed "Ten Questions," noting whether you've been extra hungry, not so thirsty, frigidly anti-sexual, exhausted from periods with quarter-sized black clots, or muzzy-headed in the afternoons. It all matters. If you're in an AOM clinic, these are the types of things you can expect to be asked by your acupuncturist or herbalist. No one here bats an eye when patients share the color and consistency of their bowel movements. In fact, if you withhold that information, we can't really help you very well.

Here they are, in detail but translated by me:

The Ten Questions

  1. 2014-07-03_outlineDo you feel hot or cold, or do you experience fever or chills?
  2. Are you sweating and is it during the day or at night?
  3. What's up with your head and face? (EENT)
  4. Do you have any pain anywhere?
  5. How's your urine and stool coming out?
  6. Are you thirsty? Hungry? Got cravings?
  7. How've you been sleeping?
  8. Anything noteworthy going on in your abdomen/thorax? Who says "thorax"?
  9. What's up with your gynecology? If male, you can put "N/A," thank goodness.
  10. 10. General/Past Medical History (in case we didn't cover it all yet)

Your acupuncturist or herbalist not only wants to know these things, but also actuallyneedsto know many of these things in order to properly diagnose your condition and begin a treatment plan. If you have long, clear streams of urine, loose stool, weak knees, a sore lower back, and feel cold all the time...well, we know what's going on. No, I'm not going to tell you here. Look it up. Better yet, visit an acupuncturist!

So, if you're in an AOM clinic, have your thoughts on these vital topics prepared beforehand. Otherwise, you might be so thrown off guard by some of the Ten Questions that you can't formulate sentences. That's actually fine, because none of the 10 questions directly correlate to grammar skill level. Thank goodness, right? However, if you find yourself in the office of an MD, keep in mind that you might not want to just jump right in with details about where you are in your menstrual cycle and how gassy you've been, if your chief complaint is seasonal allergies. Just a tip, from me to you.

Damp-Heat in the Gall Bladder and Liver Blood Stasis

Of course this just happened. It's springtime. Spring correlates with the Liver and its interior-exterior partner in crime -- the Gall Bladder. I'm unfortunately already prone to the ridiculously difficult to eradicate pathogen known in TCM as "Damp-Heat." My protective wei qi was still struggling to recover from the exotic array of assailants it managed to fend off in Central America last month. "Oh, Juli, did you get Dengue Fever again this year?" "Well, not that I know of..."

2014-05-30_graphic

The pathogenic stars had aligned. The signs and symptoms appeared over the course of 2-3 days. First, it was just a seemingly innocent wiry Liver pulse. OK, OK, it's springtime; I'm irritable and I know it. No big deal. A quick tongue check in the mirror confirmed that yes, of course, I'm teeming with damp heat in the lower jiao. What would I be without my characteristic tongue coat? (A healthier person, for one!)

I go about my day only to realize that by afternoon I'm starting to feel weird. Really weird. There's no valid excuse for the sudden and growing nausea, accompanied by an intermittent, unilateral shooting headache that jumped around as if someone was sprinkling headache pop rocks all over my temples, vertex, forehead, OWW! I usually don't get headaches, and I'm not usually nauseous. I wanted to vomit and get further down the road towards recovery. Then the blurry vision started in, and I noticed I'd been ignoring a hypochondrial pain all day. And, oh MAN, what is that strong bitter taste in the back of my mouth? Did I just crack a filling and let the poison ooze out? Gross. I'm getting dizzy and don't feel like lifting the phone to call the dentist.

2014-05-30_tongueAaaaaand it finally dawns on me. It's all over me, from head to toe. I have Damp-Heat in the Gall Bladder. As I run to the mirror for a tongue progress report, I get all the confirmation I could ever dream of. There's the Damp-Heat coating, yep, and now it's grown in size and had two long greasy arms on display down the sides of my tongue. But, oh no, what…?! You have to be kidding me. Are thosepurple spotsall over the sides of my tongue, too? I mentally scanned the other symptoms I'd noticed over the week, and realized it was true. I also had Liver Blood Stasis. Great. Hey, it's not like I had anything else planned for the next few days.

Why do I always get the stubborn pathogenic scenarios? At my first visit with a doctor of oriental medicine, she struggled a bit with my diagnosis. Was it yang deficiency? Or, was it yin deficiency? Maybe it's both. She said I had Spleen deficiency and Kidney deficiency. Don't forget the Liver Qi Stagnation! Seriously? I know this is a first-time appointment, but isn't that almost too thorough?

So, here's when TCM swoops in and saves my holiday weekend. After doing the dangerous deed of self-diagnosing (never recommended) on Thursday afternoon, I started in on an individualized acupuncture treatment plan. Then I repeated it the next day, too. What points did I use? Don't try this at home, but I did: LV3, GB43, GB41, GB40, GB34, SP9, LI4, and LI11. Is that right? Sure, in my limited opinion. Of course, there were more difficult-to-reach points that I should have added in, but hey, I'm needling myself here! And judging by the fact that I felt almost normal again by Friday afternoon, I'm calling it awesome. Sure, I also made some dietary changes to balance the Damp Heat and give my overloaded Liver and Gall Bladder a rest from the constant inundation of delicious fatty foods.

Yes, whole-fat dairy and meat is good for me, generally speaking, but when my Liver boss and Gall Bladder assistant are under siege, I have to abstain from the delights of my life. That's right -- no buttery popcorn this week. Instead, I emphasized the cooling foods like celery and watermelon, some beverages like green tea, and I focused on eating really light for a couple of days. That went surprisingly well, considering I had completely lost my appetite from the Damp-Heat in the Gall Bladder thing. Western natural medicine has noticeably compatible suggestions for altering your diet during the spring to help cleanse and support the Liver and Gall Bladder. They emphasize a diet of light, sprouty and shooty foods; must avoid those heavy, greasy foods for a while!

Gall Bladder Springtime Renewal

 

   

EAT
Pears
Parsnips
Seaweeds
Lemons
Limes

 

 

AVOID
Heavy Meats
Dairy
Eggs
Nuts
Seeds

 

   

By Saturday, the greasy coated arms of the Damp-Heat beast that lives on the back of my tongue had receded, as did almost all other symptoms. I beat you, Springtime. You got me good -- but this time I was prepared to fight back. Sorry, Spring -- maybe next year!

My Loathe-Hate Relationship with Microwaves

I pretty much hate microwave ovens. Everyone who's been to my home knows that I haven't even had a handle on the door of my microwave in the past 5 years. I distrust this appliance. I find them abhorrent. I think they are one of the actual and figurative problems with American society today. Why do people regularly cook food in a box that changes it at the molecular level, rendering the food nearly nutritionally void? Convenience, my friends. Convenience.

Veg2I'm committed to using the oven and the stovetop as my cooking methods of choice. Sure, any heating destroys some of the nutritional content of many foods, but these methods are gentler and less damaging on the goods. Why is a microwave worse? Mike Adams, editor of NaturalNews.com, explains, "Microwave ovens heat food through a process of creating molecular friction, but this same molecular friction quickly destroys the delicate molecules of vitamins and phytonutrients (plant medicines) naturally found in foods."

This isn't groundbreaking news, people. Years ago I was scarred for life after reading that the microwave destroys around 97% of the vitamins and other nutrients in vegetables. Apparently, many people are OK with this, judging by the new microwavable veggies in "steam bags" available at your local grocer. Yuck, and no thanks. If I'm choking down peas, they better have full nutritional value, thank you very much.

Veg1If you haven't faced the hidden toxins in your microwave popcorn by this time, let me offer you a hand up to 2014. One of the most special ingredients in the little bag is diacetyl, which, although derived from butter, acts as an artificial butter flavor in the microwave popcorn. Sounds nice enough, until you find out that when heated it releases a gas that frequently gives popcorn factory workers a condition called "popcorn lung." Actual name--bronchiolitis obliterans. Break that Latin down. "Obliterate my bronchioles?" Yep. Turns out, it can also happen to the consumer who heats and eats this stuff at home, and it can certainly happen to the mice in laboratory settings that are exposed to this heated chemical.

Veg3And that brings me to the reason that I keep my old broken microwave around at all. Well, first of all the gaping hole above my stove would look weird. Mostly, though, the reason that I keep my microwave is because I actually melt butter in it when I air pop popcorn, which, if you know me, you'll know is all the time. I try to lessen the evil of my popcorn addiction as much as possible, believe me. I melt the organic, grass-fed cow butter on low power in a glass dish. I pour it over organic popcorn (to reduce my pesticide exposure). I lovingly tap on a good amount of sea salt, and then I eat it with voracity that only another popcorn addict can understand.

So, I'm guilty. I hope I never said I was perfect, because that would be way off. However, I do what I can to reduce my exposure to some of the health-hampering substances on the market today, including microwave popcorn. For now, the microwave, which I vehemently hate, stays... if only for one small but critical purpose in my life.

Make Time to Take Time

Make time to take time...for yourself, that is. As we students return to the NUHS classes this week, after a well-needed winter break, many of us find that we aren't quite as well rested as we thought we'd be. Personally, I envisioned a two and a half week stint of total relaxation...or, at least, as relaxing as life can be with two young children! Instead, what I got was the usual hectic schedule of drop-offs and pick-ups, with my own work crammed in between appointments and holiday travels.

2014-01-15_snow
The welcoming sight of a snow-covered Lombard campus as we returned for the "spring" trimester.

Yes, that's right. I came back to campus in January just as stressed out as when I walked off after my last final exam back in December. How did this happen? After talking with some classmates this week, I quickly realized that I was not alone. Sure, a few people took it easy and maintained the "AOM" lifestyle of healthy eating and weekly acupuncture treatments. Lucky them. The rest of us overindulged with the holiday treats and put the exercise routines on hold while we visited relatives and friends.

What's wrong with us? Don't we, students of acupuncture and oriental medicine, know better? Don't we know that a relaxing and rejuvenating acupuncture session is even more important when we are stressed out by final exams and holiday travels? It turns out, we're just like everyone else. We don't always practice what we preach. And, the prognosis isn't great for our future actions, either. An article in Newsweek  revealed that 44% of male doctors are overweight or obese (Kalb, 2008). Sure, this is better than the average American statistic, which puts around 65% of Americans as either overweight or obese, but it's not role-model material! (Kalb, C. (2008). Drop That Corn Dog, Doctor. Newsweek, 152(15), 17.)

If we don't take the time to make time for ourselves--for our health and well-being--now, as students, then how can we become a strong force for good in our future patients' lives? I want to model the behavior and lifestyle that I am explaining to my patients. If I can't prioritize and sacrifice to make time for my own acupuncture sessions and yoga classes, then why should a patient take my advice to do so? If they see me wolfing down my fast food in between appointments, then why should they look to more healthy options for their own lunch?

My personal path this year will be to slow down, to be more aware of my choices and my priorities, and to model the lifestyle and mindset that I want to introduce to others. Welcome, 2014.