I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people expect themselves to function like a machine and absorb stressful circumstances, conflict, and even minor irritations without any consequences. Of course, humans are amazing, and we often can function for a long time even if we don’t pay any attention to our mental and physical needs, but over time, stress gets into every area of our lives and affects our sleep, our immune system, our moods, our posture, and our response to challenges. For example, studies show that sleep deprivation can be even more harmful to our ability to function well than alcohol (refer to https://dx.doi.org/10.1136/oem.57.10.649), so imagine what happens to your reactions when you’re tired, as well as stressed.
On the other hand, imagine what happens when we accept that we are people, not robots, and introduce small daily rituals and short breaks into our busy lives. We don’t just become less stressed. We also become more focused, more aligned with the things that really matter to us, and more present. Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t have the time, energy or resources to take a long enough break to recover… and if you do go away you worry about how things are going without you. Well, I’ve got good news! You don’t need to run away from stress to reduce it.
Recently, I’ve been stressed to the max. I had a crazy couple of months with my mum’s health issues and other stuff going on in my life that sapped my energy and enthusiasm. Not surprisingly, I ended up getting this nasty virus which is going around town, and I felt pretty awful.
When I took time to look at everything that was going on around me, I could see why my immune system had given way, and why I was generally feeling frazzled: I had been acting as though I was a machine and could simply absorb anything life threw at me and ignore the clouds of negative energy that enveloped me. Does that sound like woo-woo? Well, have you ever walked into a room, and suddenly felt uncomfortable, or exhausted, when just a few moments earlier you felt fine? Most people have and if they think about it, it is because the emotional energy of people builds up. That’s why it can be hard to walk into a hospital sometimes.
You can’t always run away from negativity, but you can create little energy cleansing rituals that cleanse your personal energy and the energy in your home or workplace. I believe that becoming more conscious of energy, and establishing little energy cleansing rituals and moments of presence act as a pattern interrupt, so that we can show up in the world as the best version of ourselves. Try creating some rituals for yourself – lighting a candle and feeling the brightness and warmth inside you, washing your hands and really feeling the water cleansing you, breathing deeply… becoming aware of the deep silence underneath the layers of noise in your mind. These are all little rituals that can reduce stress, and help you deal with everyday challenges with more courtesy and focus.
Skin Health, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Food Therapy – Alice Louey
Healthy Skin Starts on the Inside!
Do you suffer from dry, itchy, patchy, or flushed skin? You can actually alleviate the symptoms with food.
Winter Skin Stressors
During winter many people notice that their skin is especially dry. This can be exacerbated when we alternate between our heated indoor environment and the crisp, cool air outdoors. The cold biting wind doesn’t help either.
You may want to consider exercising indoors in a gym or studio during the winter if your skin is particularly susceptible. Remember to nourish and protect your skin with moisturiser and sunscreen. The foods you eat will help to provide nourishment to your skin.
Foods & Your Skin
One branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) involves food therapy. Food therapy is part of the self-care regime that enables you to take care of your own health on a day-to-day basis and build your immunity. One of the basic philosophies behind this is that different foods produce differing thermal effects on the body:- cooling, heating, and neutral.
In Chinese medicine, we classify certain conditions as ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. Skin conditions that are caused by too much heat include: psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and rosacea. Although individual responses vary, some people see an improvement by eating more foods that have a cooling effect on the body such as tofu, cucumber, apples, bananas, lettuce, watermelon, and peppermint tea. If you also avoid foods that heat your body such as deep-fried food, prawns, lamb, curries, chai tea, alcohol, and caffeine you may notice even more benefits.
These are general guidelines. Every individual responds differently to food therapy; some people have a slow, steady response to a condition while others have an immediate response. Work with your practitioner and pay attention to the effect your food choices have on your skin’s health. You may be surprised at what you discover!
Jim is in his early 50s. He had never had any skin issues until this year. Soon after his recent bout of tonsillitis he developed patches of dry itchy skin on his back, shoulders and scalp. We treated this condition with Chinese herbs plus advice to increase consumption of cooling foods and a simple skincare regime. Two weeks later, his skin was no longer feeling dry or itchy, and he just had a slight post-rash pigmentation.
We changed his Chinese herbs formula to one which targets the post rash pigmentation. He continued the cooling foods diet and his skincare regime. At his next follow up session, 4 weeks later, his skin was all clear, felt moisturised and the pigmentation was gone.
Alec is 27. He has had psoriasis for many years, but it has never been as bad as it is now! He recently had a severe flare-up with new red patches and white scales all over his body which were very itchy. He was feeling hot all the time, especially his hands and feet.
We treated Alec with a course of acupuncture, Chinese herbs and dietary advice. Even after just one session, he noticed some improvement: he was feeling a bit cooler and far less itchy.
As his treatments progressed, he continued to improve. His hands and feet reduced to a normal temperature and he generally felt cooler over his whole body. The itchiness continued to subside and no new psoriasis patches appeared. Existing patches were also less itchy,scaly and inflamed.
He is now at the maintenance stage of his treatment and has noticed how his dietary habits can really impact his skin. When he has a big weekend with the guys (involving lots of alcohol and greasy fried foods) he notices that his psoriasis flares up for a number of days.
Let me start with a story: Recently I paid a home visit to an elderly client who couldn’t get up the stairs to our clinic because she was having severe spasms in her back. For five months she had been having conventional treatments and expensive tests to try to alleviate her pain and discover what was wrong, but her doctors couldn’t find the cause, and physio and other treatments hadn’t helped.
We talked about what was going on, and I asked lots of questions and examined her gently from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) holistic perspective. It turned out that 6 years previously she had a car accident and injured her back. She had deep bruising which had slowly moved out along the floating ribs and was causing her pain. Examining her from a different perspective, and with my own experience of bruises which took months to appear on the surface, I was able to identify and treat the pain at its root… and alleviate her misery. The signs and symptoms were all there, but the assumptions that her medical team made had prevented them from seeing the true problem.
Now, I am not suggesting that TCM has the answers to every disease and problem, or that you should only use TCM. My point here is that we are all immersed in our own assumptions, perspectives, and ways-of-seeing and that these all come with inbuilt blind spots. So we have a choice: we can live with our blind spots, or we can be open to other new perspectives and frameworks which might bring healing to our mind, emotions, soul and body.
The problem with seeking independent advice and new perspectives is that we may hear things we don’t want to hear, or can’t relate to.
How is that a problem? It’s not really… or it shouldn’t be. But what do you do when you hear advice that you don’t like, or which sounds trivial or ‘wacky’? If you’re like me, you’ll often disregard it until you are truly desperate for an alternative solution.
When I look at my own issues, in any area of life, I’m always biased by the things I know, or “think” I know. For example, when it comes to my own health I have a tendency to minimise interventions in ways I would never suggest to my clients. This is the reason why most doctors don’t treat themselves or their own family members… because assumptions can be both wrong and dangerous!
I like to challenge myself on a regular basis to change some apparently trivial habit of thought, activity, or routine, as well as looking outside my own discipline of TCM for health information and advice. When we mostly listen to people who think and talk like us, we miss out on the opportunity to look at life from different angles and this may not be ideal for our mental, emotional, and physical health.
Next time you are tempted to think that a recommendation is too trivial or irrelevant to make a difference, ask yourself, “Why not give it a try?”
“Why did I wait so long for this vacation?” was the question I asked myself as I prepared to come home from Queensland after my 1 week vacation feeling rested, refreshed, and energised.
Part of the answer to that was that I had underestimated the value of simply getting away from my usual surroundings. It’s not as though I work 52 weeks a year, it’s just that usually I spend my holidays at home doing home-improvement projects or just lounging around. Planning to go somewhere just seemed like too much of an effort.
In the end we went to stay with some friends(our last real holiday was when we went to Fiji 4 years ago). We spent our time visiting friends and family, fishing (we just caught toad fish, but enjoyed the fresh air and quiet), and hanging out at the Broad Beach Blues Festival (I hate blues, but my partner loves it) where I got to see The Slim Jim Phantom Trio.
I was surprised at just how great it felt to be in a different environment away from any of the distracting projects or unfinished tasks that faced me at home, and, of course, the luxuriously warm temperatures of northern Queensland were a real pleasure after our chilly Melbourne autumn and winter.
Traditional Chinese Medicine guides us to stay healthy all year long. You can stay healthier and prevent disease by eating in harmony with the different seasons. Foods become part of the body after being consumed – so you really are what you eat!
Winter is the time to tonify your kidney energy by cooking food longer, at lower temperatures, with less added water. Slow-cooked meals are ideal!
Winter foods should focus on rich stocks, bone broth, and stew using hearty vegetables like pumpkin, black or kidney beans, walnuts and chestnuts, dark leafy greens, carrots and other root vegetables, mushrooms, cabbage, etc. A small amount of salt in the cooking is okay, but too much salt will put a burden on the kidneys.
Replenishing your kidney energy is essential at this time for both men and women because it is the centre of your deepest physical, mental, and emotional well-being and health. The good news is that eating these warming foods will benefit and support the kidneys, while warming the body’s core during the cold and darkness of winter.
Acupuncture can also be a very helpful immune boosting treatment at this time of year to build protective energy. Chinese herbs are the strongest for some people and you will need to book an appointment for a diagnosis and some prescribed medicinal herbs that are exactly right for you.
So in winter it is important to get to bed early, continue drinking water, stay warm, rest well and of course eat the correct winter foods. Wishing you a happy and healthy winter from one and all at Bing’s Natural Health.
We all have our favourite seasons… in the year and in life… but the truth is that each season brings its own special gift for us to honour and blend into.
Many people love the crispy chill of winter, but some struggle with feelings of stillness and sadness and sometimes even confuse these winter blues with depression. Look around you! The trees are bare, the bright autumn colours are fading, the sky is over-cast and the leaves are lying on the ground in a sodden mass. Wild animals are beginning to hibernate, living off their stored fat and provisions, protected from the cold and wet in their cosy shelters and burrows. It’s all part of the natural cycle of rebirth and renewal and without this time of pruning and reflection there cannot be the same level of new life and growth.
Sometimes, we humans act as though we’re immune to this natural cycle in our climate controlled cars, houses, and offices, with electric light to eke out the fading daylight, and our flickering TVs to ward off boredom and unwelcome reflections, but that is a mistake that can cost us dearly in terms of health of mind, body, and spirit.
If we don’t honour the rhythm of nature and take the time to look inside ourselves and adjust our activity and diet to support these seasonal needs we are actually stealing from ourselves… robbing ourselves of important nourishment, cleansing and resources for the coming springtime of creativity and growth. However, if you listen to your body and allow yourself to set aside salads and focus on the warm nourishing foods that feed your kidney energy at the deepest level of your being, slow down your activity, and set aside extra time for journaling, reflection, and contemplation… so that when springtime comes again, you’ll be astounded at the bounding energy of mind, body and soul and the way in which you move forward without feeling depleted or constrained.
It can be surprising to see just how much benefit you gain from this time of pruning, cleansing and nourishing. Maybe it feels as though it’s a wasted period of the winter blues, but the end result is clarity, energy, and tremendous growth.
N.B. If you are used to constant activity and have a low winter diet, your body, mind and soul may need some extra rebalancing. Talk to your Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner about adjusting your herbs, or allowing some extra time for acupuncture.