Happy late new year!

Y’all, I completely forgot to wish you a Happy New Year and Happy Lunar New Year. But guess what? Resolutions, goals, new starts and the like can happen at any time. Why not today instead of some arbitrary landmark? I mean, I can dig “I will stop eating so much processed food after I finish this box of Girl Scout cookies,” but why wait until Monday to start your exercise program? Eat those cookies (enjoy them mindfully), but have an extra fruit or vegetable, too.

Whatever new habits you are establishing (or quitting!), start off simple and work your way up. Going to drink more water? If you usually do 2 glasses a day, don’t shoot for 8 right away. Try for 3 a day for a week. Determined to exercise more? Do a little bit at first, because you won’t make it a habit if every time you try you make yourself sore.

Diet, exercise, water, how boring. I know. But they are important. Another thing I am doing lately is trying to budget my time realistically. KonMari-ing my daily planner, if you will. Doing dishes doesn’t spark joy, but it has to be done. However, I am trying to look at more of my to-do list as “I get to” rather than “I have to make time for.” Join me with that, won’t you?

In preparation for the new year

Even if you’re not about to give up, this is a good self care article. Sometimes the obvious escapes us. I once had a therapy session that started out with how I’m not eating and sleeping well, went over a bunch of dumb overwhelming problems I was having, and the therapist asked me what would be a good first step and sign of things improving. “Beats the hell out of me,” I said. “So about that eating and sleeping…” “Well, shit.” And that is why I mention it to almost every single one of you!

As I type, it is after 2pm, and I’ve only had two cups of water. Not good. I’m going to do better. I have a new calendar that I’ve already started using (that includes a daily section for how much water and exercise), and I have a resolution of checking the internet less for stupid stuff.

Be safe, y’all. Drink water between alcoholic drinks so you don’t dehydrate, and you’ll be less hungover the next day. If you aren’t staying out TOO late, public transportation around here is free from 6pm NYE to last ride.

World Health Organization endorses TCM

expect deaths to rise


I’ve heard a couple of viewpoints on this. The skeptic community thinks we’re all bullshit and sees this as the WHO endorsing faith healing. On the opposite side, practitioners are up in arms about “standardization,” because they don’t want to be told how to practice by some organization. (If you follow the first link in the “expect deaths to rise” article, you’ll see it contradicts…the entire rest of that article. This is not the WHO endorsing every crazy eat-endangered-species-to-promote-virility idea. This is trying to get a broad idea of what generally works1 and what is esoteric nonsense.)


My viewpoint is that in order to have an endorsement, there must be a definition. I don’t want the pangolins to become extinct, and I think bile farms are cruel and disgusting. I don’t want to be told how to practice, but even without regulations, I tell patients that acupuncture, like any therapy, works better on some people for some things, is not the right thing for every condition or every person. Basically, there are going to be die hards on either extreme, but in reality, I think it’s not such a big deal.

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1”Nothing!” yells the skeptic. “Folk medicine that works is eventually called ‘medicine!’ Show me double blind studies with acceptable placebo design!” Okay, but placebos are very difficult to design for procedural based therapies like acupuncture and surgery. I am a big fan of both of those things when appropriate.

People are really good at hearing what they want to hear.

There is a lot of conflicting information being presented, and one has to process it to decide what seems right and how to proceed. No, I’m not talking about voting, though you totally should. Today I will look at alcohol.

The French Paradox says wine is good for you!

A writer at Mother Jones wonders, “Did alcohol give me cancer?

And most recently, “No amount of alcohol is safe.”

I have a history of high cholesterol, and I got to play with cholesterol in Organic Chemistry lab. If you never took OChem in college, every lab is about synthesizing or isolating a product, and your grade depends on how efficiently you managed to do so. So the instructor always checks how much you made and makes sure it matches with the lab report you eventually turn in. Cholesterol is a pale paste that kind of resembles lard. My lab partners and I ended up with this test tube with a splat of cholesterol in it, and to our horror, realized we forgot to weigh it empty. (Weight full – weight empty = weight of product, then you do math with molecular weights to see how efficient your process was) We’re on limited time, so they were cleaning up and grabbing stuff for the next experiment, while I frantically scrubbed with soap and water. Which did precisely nothing. Finally, the lab instructor took pity on me and advised, “There is some ethanol under the fume hood.” With a teensy little splash, that test tube sparkled! This convinced me of two things: 1) When dish soap doesn’t do it, try cleaning a grease spot with cheap vodka and 2) There is probably something to having a little drink with fatty foods.

And I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told that story to and had them process it as: drinking heavily is totally good for me. But here’s the thing: your blood vessels are not made of glass. Alcohol is a bit poisonous, so it is processed out of your body by your liver and various enzymes. And if you give your liver too much to deal with, it won’t deal with it all. Then you have toxic crap wreaking havoc on the rest of your body.

It’s a rather long Mother Jones article, but my takeaway was that 2 servings of alcohol per day raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer higher than having the BRCA gene. You know, the one that had Angelina Jolie have her ovaries and her breasts removed? That one. Men, you had a statistic in there, too, but I don’t have it on the top of my head, because I didn’t store it into RAM.

Now, to get pedantic about it, there will always be at least trace amounts of alcohol in your body. There’s going to be some fermentation (that’s okay, everybody farts) somewhere in your guts, which will result in alcohol. Unless you have a rare condition, your body will detoxify it so that you won’t actually notice, but you’ll never get down to zero, just like you’ll never avoid chemicals, because if you’ve taken even a high school science class, you know that every bit of matter in the universe is made of chemicals. (Yes, even YOUR water, sales guy at Whole Foods. Especially your water.) HOWEVUH, if you can’t go a week without having a drink, maybe that is something you should examine.




It’s finally fall!

So, you’ve heard of yin and yang, but the other major system of balance is the five elements. The Guanzi, a text attributed to the philosopher Guan Zhong who lived during the 7th century B.C.E., observes that “the human being completes physical form after five lunar months and is born after ten.” Chinese theory is big on cycles of 5.

Lots of Chinese theory comes from the 5 elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Wood burns to make fire, whose ashes become earth, from where metals are formed, which enriches water, which nourishes trees (wood). Wood is cut by metal, fire is extinguished by water, earth is penetrated by wood (tree roots), metal is melted by fire, water is channeled and contained by earth. Yes, I know the periodic table and modern anatomy and physiology exist, but these simple interactions can explain a great deal of imbalance in the natural world and its microcosm in the human body.

Any basic acupuncture or Chinese medicine book will likely have a table of correspondences. Each season also has associated organ and meridian systems, sense, tissue, emotion, body fluid, color, pathogenic influence, and taste (which also speaks to dietary recommendations). Autumn is metal, associated with the lung and large intestine, nose, skin, grief, mucus, white, dryness, and pungency.

The lung is the tender organ, and a lot of traditional fall tips involve building the immune system and staying covered. It’s all about avoiding that autumn cold, so do keep a light scarf or jacket around for when you go from the 90 degrees outside to 60 degrees inside. Even if you don’t believe in cold actually leading to catching one, why deal with the shock to your system? Pungency means spices, so have that PSL, but maybe skim, maybe soy, easy on the sugar. I have seen a lot written about fall cleaning instead of spring cleaning, organizing, downsizing, and letting things go. The paired organ to Lung is Large Intestine, so I will let you make your own poop joke.

You might catch this parasite, but not from me.

Rat lungworm transmitted by traditional Chinese remedies! Is the impression I get from some of the headlines. The New York Times has a story in Global Health with a close up of a caterpillar. If you actually read the story, it closes with

 

some traditionalists boil them in teas or pickle them in wine to use as home remedies.

“In my opinion, it would be rude to tell the customer, ‘Don’t eat them raw,’” [Dr. Lingli Lu, neurologist] said. “It would say the customer is stupid.”

 

And it’s true, one of the items in the pharmacopoeia is a venomous caterpillar. I don’t really remember it in my studies, since that was over a decade ago, and it wasn’t common. But I do remember that the ingredients of our nasty brews (except delicate aromatic herbs like mint) were boiled for at least 20 minutes.

The NYT story features a 2012 incident in Guangzhou. From unregulated folk medicine, with someone who didn’t think to prepare it properly. But rat lungworm has infected Americans in the United States. One of the google blurbs said it was “endemic in the southeastern US,” though the CDC doesn’t mention it. There have been cases in Hawaii, though. So where might rat lungworm live if not in rats and centipedes? Slugs and snails, and those babies are super tiny! Honolulu Family published notes on avoiding the wee beasties. In short, don’t drink out of the hose, wash wash wash, look at your produce carefully, freeze or cook your veggies. Chinese dietary theory says eating too many raw veggies is bad for you anyway.

My takeaway from this is that there are lots of things to worry about, but unless you live in slugland*, this probably shouldn’t make your top 100. Close ups of many legged creatures and fears of exotic illnesses sell papers, though**. And definitely don’t let it give you a bad impression of acupuncturists and herbalists! I get all my stuff from GMP certified sources, properly processed, in sealed packages. I don’t have the storage space to deal with nasty brews anyway; anything I order for you will be in a pill.

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*For my bf, who may well be freaking out about the arugula from my garden: no incidences in Texas that I know of, I haven’t had so much snail/slug trouble this year, and I always triple wash my harvest.

**Don’t “fake news” at me, though; the NYT is a fine source, and there were no lies here. I am just fleshing out the story in its relevance to me.

Reasons to be cheerful

Y’all, in my line of work, I see plenty of stress, depression, anxiety, and frustration. Lately I see more. I feel more. I’m not even that much of a news junkie, and I have been absolutely speechless for the last month +. I will get back to regularly scheduled programming in a little bit, when talking about wellness doesn’t seem quite so out of place, but for now, here is a link and a thought. You will die, and your government will fall. But either one, probably not today, so live your life.

Watermelon, but maybe buy it whole.

Watermelon, or xi gua, is well known as a great remedy to cool down. One of my professors even recommended that women who had hot flashes should eat it daily. According to Southwest Acupuncture College, “To relieve heat exhaustion, the outermost layer of the rind is used as opposed to the sweet, juicy part of the fruit. In addition to clearing heat, watermelon promotes urination and reduces jaundice.”

But in some states, you definitely want to buy your melon whole.

Facial rejuvenation

Somebody asked me if I did facial rejuvenation acupuncture, and without thinking of the irony, I replied, “That’s really a younger practitioner’s game.” Frankly, as I have been taught, it is. I don’t have the patience, the eyesight (I don’t absolutely require reading glasses…yet), the knuckle control (I’ve bitched about how my hands are prone to arthritis before, and I don’t tend to do more than 30 needles in a regular session), or the back flexibility to lean over someone and do near a hundred extra small (yes, yes, acupuncture needles are tiny. Facial acupuncture needles are tinier.), precision (regular acupuncture is going a certain depth into muscles with a few millimetres of leeway. Facial acupuncture targets the dermis.) needles to the face. Frankly, recreating Hellraiser seems easier.

I was working on an older woman and mentioned that when I work both sides, I like to end face up so the patient has a chance for the sheet wrinkles to settle before facing the world. She said something to the effect of, “If you’ve made it to my age without wrinkles, there is something wrong with you. Life is reflected on your face, and if it hasn’t made an impression in 60 years, you haven’t had much of one.”

Which is not to say I don’t understand vanity or that I won’t work on your face if you ask me. Facial cupping is a great way to manually smooth the skin and bring extra circulation to the complexion. It’s also great for your sinuses. Some of the deeper wrinkles between the eyebrows or in the nasolabial groove can benefit from threading a pin through them. Both of these are best if you’re not wearing makeup. As with all facial work, it’s best if you’re not wearing makeup, with me, with another practitioner, or at home.

Link Dump

Diet for depression. Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like every other recommended diet?

Loneliness and health Maaan, they didn’t even bother to survey my people. (GenX represent!) So, unless you’re the most extreme introvert, here’s some more fun general health advice other than “eat better food, sleep more, and get a little exercise.” Hang out with your friends at least once a week.

Social media’s not social Get off your phone and into your life.