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Complementary, not alternative

MD. ND. Rx. Acupuncture. Chiropractic. PT. Herbs and supplements. Massage. Reiki. Homeopathy. Yoga. Reflexology. Counseling. Juicing. Meditation. Cleansing. Nutritional Healing. Spiritual Healing. There are LOTS of modalities out there that want your attention. There are lots of people who have a financial interest in you spending your money on one in particular. I’m one of those people; I’m not gonna lie. But here are some of my honest thoughts, and hopefully this will lead to more acceptance all around.

I am a licensed acupuncturist. I studied for many years, saw many patients as an intern, and passed many exams so the State of Texas and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine deemed me worthy of putting sterile pins in people and recommending herbs, supplements, exercises, and other things that may make a patient more relaxed, in less pain, and in better health. In the state of Texas, if not treating for chronic pain, weight loss, or quit smoking, one cannot practice acupuncture without the referral of a chiropractor or the patient having seen an MD within the last year for the condition being treated.  If there is no improvement within the shorter of 30 days or 20 treatments, the acupuncturist must refer to an MD, though whether or not to follow up on that referral is up to the patient.

An acupuncturist is not allowed to diagnose in Texas. We are limited to observations such as “the lower back hurts.” If you have an MRI saying you have disc prolapse or sciatica, that’s nice. We have provided relief to plenty of patients with various diagnoses. In a practical sense, I think it doesn’t make a difference. Patients usually want pain relief and more range of motion and general function. If it matters to you that your practitioner use a lot of big Latin words, you might limit yourself to modern medicine. If you’re not ready for surgery and have a problem with drugs, then reconcile it in your head or try another practitioner. We have studied medical terminology and basic reading of imaging. However, since I’m certified in an ancient technique, I tend to be treating for “this part hurts, especially when I go like that,” no matter what the technical diagnosis.

I work on a lot more than back pain, but I am not the end all be all for your health care. Skeptics and science purists point to alternative practitioners and say, “You killed Steve Jobs.” (Notably, his friend, famous MD and diet guru Dean Ornish told him early on that he needed surgery. This is not saying alternative therapies are worthless; it’s saying you do need to match your tools to your projects.) My malpractice insurance asks if I treat cancer, and I certainly do not. I do not represent myself as treating cancer. I do get referrals from an oncologist, because neither the disease nor the treatment are comfortable.

I am pleased when patients recognize that they need something more. I’m really pleased when practitioners recognize the patient might need something more, and I’m disappointed when they don’t. I once saw a young woman about IBS, and between several medical doctors, nobody had ever thought to ask her if she had a gynecologist! Now, what else lives in the abdominal cavity aside from the digestive tract that can make one feel pain, cramps, and bloating?

It’s not just modern medicine, though. There are lots of alternative practitioners who don’t believe in doctors…or don’t believe in giving up market share. I hate that I’m kind of a weirdo in my field because I think everybody should be insured (even if it usually doesn’t cover what I do), and almost everybody should be vaccinated. Yes, it’s awful that lots of people don’t take care of themselves. You know what? Cancer happens to the best of us. It’s a joke older than I am of joggers dropping dead of heart attacks while Keith Richards shoots heroin into his eyeballs. I might not have died left to my own devices, but when my appendix flared up, I was more than happy to go to the hospital and get it cut out.

So. When do you see what? You might need a doctor or another or several of the laundry list I opened with. Doctors, I don’t want to see people who are against you if they need you, but I think everyone has been not-sick-enough-for-diagnosis at some point. See someone who is great at what they do but realize it’s not everything. I get adjusted, needled, and massaged, do moxibustion, and I take supplements, but I still go to the doctor and get lab work every year. It’s a free benefit now. I always tell my patients if it’s covered, why not go get more information. If they have an obviously asymmetrical gait or posture, I tell them they might look into chiropractic. Of course, I think I can help with a lot of things. The typical patient I see either feels their condition is not serious enough for the next medical (or surgical) therapy or they are unsatisfied with their current progress. I must stress that this article is not me telling you to go see somebody else about what is bothering you! But I do feel like it’s a strength of mine that I know that I am not the only thing that can help you and am willing to share. Your improvement will always be more important to me than my ego or my check.

 

What is “healthy?”

Who could deny that salads are good for you? How could raw vegetables be a bad thing? Particularly when not overwhelmed by a mucus-forming, creamy, high-calorie dressing?

I say that different people need to exercise different degrees of moderation in all things. More raw food is probably great for someone with heat imbalance. Someone who needs the cooling influence of raw food may have a short fuse, a red face, tendency towards heartburn, and/or excessive body heat. Raw plant matter requires extra effort in digestion to liberate the nutrients from inside the cell wall. When a body has plenty of vigor and stored fuel, this can be a good thing for weight reduction.

When someone is drained, pale, tends to feel cold, is prone to indigestion–but not the sharp heat of heartburn, more like a prolonged dull pain of bloating–then a daily salad could be the worst thing for them. When digestion is weakened, so is the body. When the body is already weakened, it is not a good idea to make it work harder for its nutrition. If you’re overweight and wonder why eating salad all the time made you feel terrible, that’s why. It probably is not right for your body type.

I’m not saying meat and starch is the answer, either. Eating lots of vegetables is generally a good thing. But maybe, instead of mixing them in a salad bowl straight out of the fridge, you can toss ‘em in a wok for just a minute or so, to get a little wilt and color bloom. They don’t have to be mushy, just not stone cold and raw. I’ve never cooked lettuce, but kale, cabbage, chard, spinach? Sure.

A patient recently told me, “Hey, remember how you told me to not eat raw food? I didn’t for a while, and it was good. But then I did last week, because that’s what I eat in the morning, and the symptoms were worse.” I get it, habits can be tough to make and break, and raw food is pretty easy! But do listen to your body. If it isn’t happy, try a change for a couple of weeks and see what happens. We are all works in progress.

Acupuncture Happy Hour

Lucky Dog Books in Oak Cliff has graciously agreed to host a weekly community session that I will be doing on Wednesdays, from 5:30-7, starting on October 16th. (Please park away from the front door, to accommodate bookstore customers who need to load in their trade materials.)

If you have never experienced acupuncture, if private sessions are too expensive, if I’ve told you that more frequent sessions would help, if you’re bad at making appointments, or if you just don’t want to cross the river, here’s your chance. The treatment is free (unless you should like to $upport me and the store, which we would appreciate). To deal with not being especially HIPAA compliant (as is the nature of a group session, but I will not share your details without your consent) and all the records I am supposed to keep on every patient, I am billing this as a demo, with a short history/liability waiver form.

If you don’t know anything about acupuncture or have a few preconceived notions, here’s a little about how it goes. I frequently see people about pain, women’s health, anxiety, depression, digestive issues, insomnia, and allergies. The form has a list and some blanks; let me know your top 3 concerns. You will fill out a form, sit in a chair, and I will choose the points based on the data in the form and what I have access to. Optimally, I can get from your elbows and knees out (you can use my hand sanitizer if your bare feet stink), but if you wear skinny pants or tights I may just work in your ears and arms. I swab your skin with alcohol and use sterile, single use needles. You might feel some discomfort as the pins go in, but if it hurts (there is a difference between noticing it’s there and it hurting), let me know and I’ll fix it. You sit quietly for a while. You don’t have to be still as a stone, and if we’re working on something like frozen shoulder, I may have you move it as you sit there. After a while, I’ll take the pins out. Or you can take them out, but it’s really best to say, “Hey, Laura, I think I’m done,” and then I can make sure to apply pressure if you’re bleeding (a drop, maybe) and get all the pins into my sharps container.

I am not needling through your clothes, and please don’t strip in the bookstore. Even in a private session, if you need to disrobe, I will tell you and provide a drape sheet. That you get under, not lie on top of. As opposed to a private session, I will probably not have a lengthy conversation about your condition. Chances are, you don’t want that with an audience, anyway. I’m not providing music; it’s nice, but not an essential part of the treatment. Headphones are okay if you want to bring something to listen to. In my office, I have had people rocking out on the table, which is totally fine, but if you’re not alone, don’t sing. Thin walls, ya know?

making miso soup

I love miso soup and will eat it in any variation, from a spoon of paste in hot water on up. I’ve made some pretty decent and some pretty slapdash miso soups, and generally my audience will prefer the dry packets. (I should buy stock in Kikkoman.) I was told tonight that this was the best, so here you go!

Amounts for one serving:

Add 1c dilute broth into the pot. Traditionally, this is boiled bonito, but who has time for that. (For 2 servings, I used 2c water and about a teaspoon of dashida. Yeah, it’s basically flavored msg, but it is delicious. Water down some broth if you’re very sensitive. I really don’t eat a ton of msg every day. I’m a big fan of Better than Bouillon.) Add a tablespoon or so of sake. (Hey, it’s just a little. And one of my teachers said to take all the move-blood herbal formulas with a few sips of wine to encourage circulation.) Warm this up on medium heat. Miso soup should never boil, or it loses its flavor. So if you get the broth boiling, turn the heat down and don’t move on until it is at most a gentle simmer. If you like your green onions soft, chop one and add now.

For the miso part, put a heaping tablespoon per serving into a dry bowl or ladle. You are going to gradually loosen the paste with broth until it is smooth and runny. Add a few spoons of broth to the miso paste, mix it up until it is smooth, then add another spoon of broth, mix, repeat until it is loose enough that it disperses well in the pot. You started with a very bland broth. Gradually add your miso mix until the soup is barely saltier than you like it.

The tofu will absorb a bit of saltiness. (Yes, you might end up wasting some miso. If you use yours up before it gets dry and iffy in the tub, you go through a lot more miso than my house does!) If you like your green onions a little crunchy, add them here. Cube some silken tofu (I’m told my key mistake in the past is using the wrong tofu) and add it to your soup. Let this sit on med-low (at most) heat for a few minutes, stir well, and serve.

 

To my knowledge, miso soup is super good for you because it is fermented, has lots of B vitamins, helps alkalize and detoxify your body, and it’s loaded with enzymes to help with digestion. (The packets are not as beneficial, since the cultures and enzymes don’t survive dehydration.) I’ve had more than one teacher say that you should eat it every day. Maybe not always loaded with msg and alcohol. Sure is tasty, though.

Go TEAM Cat!

This blog post has a few good points. Acupuncture and herbology are not just Chinese. Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is a term used a lot. I don’t think I would have gotten parental approval to go to graduate school for it if not for people telling them it is harder to get into traditional medical school than modern medical school in Korea. And Oriental is a word with its own ick factor.

“It’s only the east if you’re from somewhere else. It’s a Eurocentric name… which is why it’s wrong.” Traditional East Asian Medicine still is a bit of that, but it’s better than the other two, in my opinion. I’m not sure if it’s going to stick, but I’ll try it.

Regular blog readers know my whole household is all about the cat, who is literally The Genki Neko. The humans frequently say, “Go Team Cat!” and high five if we’ve, for example, prepared a particularly nice dinner. Thus the title for today.

For the hot ladies!

Feeling prickly. Flushed. Breaking out in a sweat. Waking up at night with the sheets all drenched. So hot, you itch. Like you might never feel cool again. Summer in Texas? Try Summer in Texas and going through menopause.

If you’re reading this for someone else and never had a hot flash? (Say, too young, or male?) If you aren’t prone to low blood pressure, you can simulate one by taking 30 to 50 mg of niacin. (Not niacinamide, and check with your doctor first if you are on any medications.) In the summer, this is an uncomfortable exercise in empathy. In the winter, it’s a pretty neat trick to make doing the dishes more comfortable when on camping trips. While Asian women experience hot flashes less than many demographics, Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) has a well developed explanation of the phenomenon.

TEAM has its roots in balance. The modern medical term would be homeostasis, keeping the internal environment of a living organism stable. For life processes, temperature, pH, concentrations of water, sugar, and electrolytes, among other things, need to be in a pretty narrow range.

The most fundamental TEAM balance is the yin/yang balance. Yin and yang are opposite, but complementary. Like light and dark, something is not precisely one or the other, but they are on a scale. An overcast day is darker than a sunny one but is lighter than the night of a new moon. A man can be empathetic, and a woman can be strong.

 

Yin

Yang

female

male

cold

hot

dark

light

matter

energy

wet

dry

stillness

activity

contracting

expanding

 

As modern medicine explains menopause as estrogen withdrawal, TEAM looks at it as declining yin in the body balance. When there is not enough yin, yang takes over, resulting in symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and irritability. Fortunately, there are ways to supplement yin that aren’t straight hormone replacement!

So how can you beat the heat from the inside and out?

Some very basic yin boosts include staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax. Smoking or being around a lot of secondhand smoke is particularly bad for menopause–fire is about as yang as you can get! Although stillness is yin, exercise is beneficial. Regular activity from the muscles leads to the internal organs not having to work as hard.

While Black Cohosh is a very popular western herb, it is not in the TEAM materia medica for menopause. It is in the chapter for the common cold, though. Eating a slice of watermelon every day (nibble on the rind a bit; that part is beneficial, too) can help clear heat from the body. More fruits and vegetables are good in general. Meat, dairy, and alcohol promote heat. One drink may promote relaxation and benefit the heart. More than one makes the body work harder, so cut yourself off.

For more specialized treatment, see a licensed acupuncturist. Acupuncture is generally very relaxing and has recently gotten good press for diminishing hot flashes. In my clinical experience, herbs are more effective and efficient for these symptoms. In Texas, acupuncturists take a national exam for herbs as well as acupuncture. There are a few very commonly used formulas for hot flashes, but your particular case may call for something different.

I would recommend to everyone trying to survive summer, wear layers and wicking fabrics. Carry a water bottle–you’ll drink if it’s with you. I hope this helps you stay cool!

The year of the snake!

How are y’all doing with your new year’s resolutions? Today marks another (lunar) new year, the year of the snake. As it is an animal that sheds its skin, it signifies a particularly good year for dropping bad habits!

However, you don’t need an excuse to work on your transformation. Any day is a good day to eat nutritious food, connect with a loved one, move your body, floss, think, breathe and sleep well. What would you like more or less of this year? Can I help?

Looking for a miracle?

You guys, I hate marketing. Health care marketing tends to be either fear based (consume this or you will die painfully/catch a horrible disease/be ugly and unpopular) or sets unreasonable expectations (consume this and you’ll be full of life, energy, beauty, and general sexiness). I guess that’s mass marketing in general, but there is something about applying it to what I do–making a personal connection and really helping someone–that is very off putting to me. But if I don’t do it, then I don’t get customers, and if I don’t get customers, I have to look for a “real job,” one where my talents will likely be underutilized, and I’m making widgets instead of helping people.

Optimally, people see me on a regular basis, increasing the time between visits as they are getting healthier, until they feel well enough that I don’t expect to see them anymore. Over the years, I have seen a lot of temporary relief. I have seen plenty of people not have significant improvement. Most of those, I take with a large rock of halite, because if someone’s had a condition a long time and sees me sporadically once or twice? I’m not expecting much, in the same way that if a pneumonia patient takes one or two antibiotics a few days apart, that patient is still going to have pneumonia!

I’ve also had some unexpectedly awesome results.

  • “He could smell and taste his last holiday meal.” (cancer patient with anosmia)
  • “I sat up all night looking at the Christmas tree. I could see it.” (severe macular degeneration)
  • “I don’t know if it was the acupuncture, but I can tell you my husband and I were trying for four years, and I was never pregnant before!” (actually, I don’t even remember if I was treating this young lady particularly for infertility. Oh yeah, it was for amenorrhea. Which after a while was a symptom instead of a syndrome.)

Looking for your Christmas miracle? I’ve facilitated a few. I’m not going to guarantee it, but let’s see what we can do. “I can pick up my baby girl, and it doesn’t hurt.” Merry Christmas, dude who was in daily sciatic pain since January!

Thankful for my mom

Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving holiday? I had a pleasantly uneventful couple of days. I did catch up with my mother on the phone, and she tells me her blood pressure is getting back to normal. “I’m not doing anything different, but I never was,” she reports. “But I have been sleeping pretty well in the last few weeks. I didn’t sleep well for a long time after that sting.”

Ha! I knew it was related to that episode! Folks, my mom was working in her garden this spring, and for Mother’s Day, she discovered she is violently allergic to yellow jackets. Yeah, happy freaking Mother’s Day, right? Shortly after, her annual physical showed elevated blood pressure. It stayed high for months, despite eating well, exercising daily (which she does anyway), and taking herbs that I sent to her. Much to her pride and relief, her doctor said she didn’t have to take medication just yet.

Mom used to always start phone conversations with, “Are you eating, are you sleeping?” I noticed the lack, but I figured she was starting to trust me to take care of myself. I think there was maybe a bit of denial there, too. “No symptoms, nothing is going on except my systolic is high.”

Insomnia can affect the nervous, metabolic, immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems, which cover every process in the body. If you aren’t getting proper sleep, your body is not functioning as it should. How long has it been since you got a good night’s sleep? Let me help! Whether through acupuncture, supplements, and/or better habits, you can stress less and get the rest you need!

New digs

In the next couple of weeks, I will be transitioning my practice to work full time for/at Manning Wellness Clinic. While Tyra and I would have loved to make this move more gradually and gracefully, the zoning folks have spoken, and our office space is not viable for our business. I’ll be working on transitioning my web presence, too, so please let me know when you still see references to Bishop.

Working with patients is what I do best, and as any business owner knows, it can become what you do the least! I’m really looking forward to doing more of what I love.

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