• Late Summer

    by Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director LAc MSOM

    According to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory, the world is composed of 5 elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Because the ancient authors wanted everything to be neat and tidy with the theory, they divided everything up that way – flavors, colors, senses, and even the seasons. So, while in Western culture, we only embrace 4 seasons, TCM has added a 5th season: Late Summer, usually a shorter time between August to early September. It’s the time when its just plain hot and extra dry/humid depending on your location. The plants have peaked and are beginning to ripen their fruits. The ads for back-to-school are in full swing and no one even cares about their swimsuit body anymore. Nature is experiencing one last burst of transformation before we settle into the retreat and contraction of Fall and Winter.

    In TCM, Late Summer is the domain of the element of Earth. Its color is yellow, its flavor is sweet, its internal organs are the Spleen and Stomach, the organs of digestion, which transform the food we take in into our flesh and blood. The Spleen and the Stomach are associated with nurturing, grounding energy. 

    The Earth element’s direction is the Center. In Chinese, the country of China is called Zhong Guo中国 , or “Central Country,” meaning that to them, they are the center of the world. In fact, the name of the emperor who is credited as being the father of Traditional Chinese Medical theory, Huang Di 黄帝 (2711-2598 BCE), can be translated as Yellow Emperor, thus demonstrating his connection to central, Earth energy. 

    Late Summer is a time when people who have imbalances in their metabolism & digestion often experience increased symptoms: allergies, nausea, loose stools, low energy, weight gain, blood sugar instability, and other digestive and metabolic issues. 

    Here are a few ways you can help yourself stay in balance during the Late Summer season:

    1. Eat in moderation, especially when it comes to sweets. I find that writing down what you eat – whether in a simple journal style or with an app like Lose It or Weight Watchers – helps to keep you accountable for everything that goes through your lips.
    2. Avoid sweets, excessive simple carbohydrates (breads, pastas, baked goods, etc), excessive dairy, and greasy/fried foods. All of these are enemies of the Spleen (digestive function) and can “gum up the works” so to speak, especially at this time of year. Cold foods are also very tempting on a hot day, but can also slow digestion. Try keeping cold drinks separate from meals to aid in proper digestion.
    3. Reduce worries! Ok, that sounds much easier than it actually is sometimes, but the emotional manifestation of an imbalanced Spleen is WORRY. So, find the things that really bring you peace – it could be meditation, yoga, acupuncture, but it could also be hanging out with friends/family, taking a walk, sitting by the lake, listening to your favorite tunes. Do what works for YOU to find your center, your happy place to release (even if can only be temporarily) worry.
    4. Nurture yourself! Along the same line, take the time to give yourself your basic needs: sleep, good nutrition, exercise, relaxation. If you don’t have those things consistently, it is difficult for your body to remain in balance. 

    Happy Late Summer! Visit Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director at Pulling Down the Moon, in Highland Park on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays!  New hours available in Chicago on Mondays and Thursdays starting on Thursday, September 5th! Try something NEW and save with one of our monthly specials today!

  • Nutrition, Hormones, and Microbiome Diversity

    By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM

    I often get the question, “Why do I need a probiotic?” It is easy to take a probiotic and start to develop valuable high quality and diverse forms of gut bacteria.  All too often, that diversity in bacteria is lacking. Probiotics can help adjust that.

    Study after study shows correlations between gut health and vital system health throughout the body. Just recently, I read an article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that illuminates a relationship between PCOS and gut bacteria. In “Gut Microbial Diversity in Women With PCOS Correlates With Hyperandrogenism” the study revealed links between PCOS and a reduction in microbiome diversity. It also showed a possible correlation between elevated testosterone in women and decreased microbiome diversity. In a follow-up study, one of the same researchers, Varykina Thackray, Ph.D., stated, “Our new results suggest that altering the gut microbiome via prebiotic or probiotic therapies may be a potential treatment option for PCOS.” (Links to studies at end of blog.)

    What does the gut have to do with hormone balance? Glad you asked. Hormones are metabolized in stages as they trek through the body.  They travel to the liver, and then they go to the gut, where hopefully and ultimately, they are eliminated out of your system. At various points along the way, hormones can get tripped up in their metabolic process.  If hormones get to the gut, and there is an unhealthy microbiome balance, they can easily get stuck there. This is one way that hormones accumulate and mess with digestion, disrupt biofeedback signaling, and slow down healthy hormone production.

    I think about what probiotics have to do with Chinese Medicine a lot. Traditional diets across cultures use daily fermented foods to assist digestion. Ancient Chinese texts describe the digestive system as the earth element and the center.  “The Earth permits sowing, growing, and reaping.” This is a very important passage from the Shang Shu, translated by our beloved late teacher Giovanni Maciocia. You hear your acupuncturist talk often about “reducing damp” and “reducing sugary foods that cause damp accumulation.” As the stomach and spleen are the origin of qi and blood, this makes sense.

    If you are trying to get a certain amount of highly nourished blood moving, without hesitation, to the uterus, you need the digestive system to be on it. You need the Earth element. You need the Spleen and Stomach channels to not be overworked and bogged down.

    If you are trying to metabolize hormones, whether in a natural cycle,  a medicated cycle, postpartum, menarche, perimenopause, or menopause, you need your digestive tract working optimally.

    Unfortunately, most of us were not raised to have a diverse palate that intuitively steers us to foods, herbs, and spices that are bitter, sour, pungent, salty, AND sweet. We mostly enjoyed sweet and salty diets. This creates an environment that appeals to certain microorganisms in the gut and discourages microbiome diversity. Did you know that there are taste receptors in the lower GI tract? So, we need to balance the flavors we eat, if we want our bodies to outmaneuver the impact of our less than healthy choices.  

    What does a sour food do for us? Technically, it increases saliva, digestive enzyme secretion, stimulates metabolism, and encourages proper liver function. (By the way, the sour flavor falls into a TCM category with the liver and spring, so when you feel like heavy wintery foods are not working for you anymore, try adding sour foods into your menu with greens to aid in the digestive transition). Apple cider vinegar? Yes, add a splash to your lemon water in the morning, with your probiotic. It will help prep your system to start digesting. Add it to your greens, too, at lunch!

    What about the taste of bitter? Bitters increase saliva and digestive enzyme production. They enhance the movement of blood in the digestive system after meals. If you have been in our offices, you know HOW IMPORTANT it is to keep blood moving in the abdominal cavity. Bitters encourage more complete absorption of nutrients. This can protect the body from having to deal with stray food particles leaving the intestines through the bloodstream, otherwise known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Guess what that does? It reduces damp and clears heat. Where there is inflammation, there is fluid accumulation, and vice versa. Next time you go to buy your chocolate bar, go as dark as you can and think about how beneficial that bitter is!

    Pungent flavors are amazing. These are the wildcard friends that open you up and make you laugh your eyes out! They literally open up the orifices, again, when the tendency is to contract. These are things like onion, garlic, ginger, scallions, horseradish, mustard, mint. All of these plants are known across cultures as medicine.  Mint needs no introduction to my clients. It is cooling, vents pathogens, soothes the liver, motivates blood flow, and is uplifting. It is part of an essential formula in Chinese Medicine called Xiao Yao San, or Free and Easy Wanderer. Pungent flavors are medicine. Use them in your meals. A little goes a very long way.

    Empty nutrition is robbing us of systemic health. Non-functional food is fueling the growth of harmful bacteria that degrades gut health, leaves cells weakened, and entire body systems undernourished and in distress. And there is a lot that you can do. If you are on a mission to balance hormones, regulate a cycle, reduce bloating and promote healthy metabolism of hormones from a medicated cycle, or reduce anxiety, and you haven’t aimed your attention at your gut, start now! Take a breath, get in warrior pose, and start helping your gut be as strong as it can be. Come in and talk to us. Let us help you through it.

    Exciting stories often start in very tiny packages.  Microorganisms are an example of this. Our entire body is understood as an ecosystem in Chinese Medicine. I remember reading an article about salmon shortages affecting old growth trees. It said that more than 75% of the nitrogen the trees needed to thrive was provided by the remains of salmon dragged into the forest by animals.  It reminded me of the human digestive system, and how reliant it is on tiny, often understudied components.

    If you are not taking a probiotic, or eating fermented foods daily, consider it. If you are bloated, constipated, or experiencing brain fog and signs of hormone imbalance, come in and discuss what to do with your practitioner.  Probiotics, prebiotics, functional and balancing foods, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, exercise, working with a nutritionist, and supplements can help create a healthy structure for you to take your next step forward.

    Try acupuncture, nutrition, massage, and yoga during these summer months with passport savings! Pick-up a probiotic on your visit, too!

    Research Links:

    Pawelczyk L, Duleba AJ, Kelley ST, Thackray VG. 2018. Gut Microbial Diversity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome correlates with hyperandrogenism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 103:1502-1511. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-02153 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6276580/

    The Endocrine Society. “Improved PCOS symptoms correlate with gut bacterial composition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2019. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190323145201.htm

     

  • Summer Lovin’

    by Stephanie Marynus LAc

    Summer Solstice is just around the corner! YAY! Street festivals, concerts, grilling and vacation – the last thing you want to think about is health. Summer is one of the times of year that most people fall off track with their routines the most, aside from the winter holidays. However, I believe in giving yourself some leeway here and there so you can enjoy life. As an acupuncturist, we believe it’s all about balance.

    You don’t have to deprive yourself, especially if you tend to be more active during the summer months. There are simple things  you can do to keep yourself from going overboard during summer. These things will help you stay on track this summer, so that you don’t have to start over at square one when September rolls around.

    1. Stay Hydrated

    If you have seen me for acupuncture you know I am a stickler for water. Being hydrated cleanses the body and gets it ‘moving’, so to speak. This is a simple method to reduce the side effects of fertility drugs that, energetically speaking, “dry” you out.  It improves your mood, reduce aches and pains, prevents constipation and bloating, and increases your energy.  Click Here to see what happens after drinking 1 gallon of H20 everyday for a month! The general guidelines for water intake state that you should drink at least half an ounce for every pound you weigh. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds you should be drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day. Strategically set water bottles around the house and at work to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day.

    1. Get Moving

    It’s time to get moving and release that energy that you built up during winter. Not only will workouts counteract any of your splurges over the summer holidays but they can also improve your happiness.  According to the international best seller, The Happiness Equation, by Neil Pasricha, “Pennsylvania State researchers reported in the Journal of Sports & Exercise Psychology the more physically active people are the greater their general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm.” It doesn’t take much: Half an hour of brisk walking three times a week improves mood. That is great news for a woman who can not exercise while undergoing stimulation. Something as simple as a daily stroll to check out the neighborhood’s new hip restaurants can keep you on track.

    80/20 Rule

    I am not going to tell you that you should skip every ice cream outing that you are invited too. Life is all about balance and eating right a majority of the time. The key is knowing when to allow yourself a treat and when you should make healthy choices. Simple things like swapping out unhealthy choices for healthier ones can make a huge difference. When grilling out, instead of choosing that bacon cheeseburger, swap it out for grilled chicken. Instead of potato chips choose carrots and celery. In choosing healthy alternatives you won’t feel so bad about having that ice cream snack later on. Food was made to fuel our bodies, but treating yourself every now and then is not a crime.

    Ferris Bueller, a Chicago favorite, once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Let your hair down and enjoy yourself this summer. After all, you have been waiting for this time all year. Keep your goals in the forefront so when fall comes around you won’t be regretting 3 months of slacking. Just remember the 80/20 rule, and keep your body moving. If you follow these easy tips, you will not have a problem staying on track with your health.

    Try our Summer Passports this season to make the most of the season and save!

  • The Stress Response, Gut, and Fertility: Why You NEED to Read This!

    by Amie Shimmel Handa, D.C., Dipl. Ac., L.Ac

    People talk about stress all the time, and we all know that it is bad for us, but most of us don’t realize the long term consequences of chronic stress. It can impact our fertility, our nervous and immune system and even our gut. But what does that really mean to us?!

    I am going to break down what happens during a stress response and hopefully the next time you start to feel stressed you can take some action before the stress starts to control you,When you experience any kind of stress, physical, emotional , or mental, your body processes it the same- through the adrenal glands. When you encounter a perceived threat, (could be a work deadline, something going wrong with your body or life, or even something your body ate that was detrimental, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

    Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system (fertility) and growth processes. Did you know that 70 % of your immune system is in your gut so when cortisol affects the gut it’s also impacting the immune system? Cortisol, long term is highly inflammatory. When inflammation is chronic and it’s been around for a while, it can even trigger an autoimmune disease. As a result of this chronic stress your body continuously cycles through periods of high inflammation, which can damage the gut lining and make vulnerable to pathogens like bacteria, yeast, and parasites and a suppressed immune system.

    When the digestive system is compromised and harmful bacteria or yeast multiply and grows, the neurotransmitter “Serotonin “production is lowered and it is your “feel good, well being” hormones so your mood and happiness is reduced from this stress response. We know in holistic medicine the connection between cortisol (stress) and fertility. “We know now that stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signaling between the brain and the ovaries, which can trip up ovulation,” says Sarah Berga, MD, an infertility specialist and vice chair of women’s health at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

    The good news is you don’t have to live with chronic stress. There are numerous actions you can start today to reduce your stress. One of the best ways is through regular acupuncture treatments. Each time you receive acupuncture, especially ear acupuncture, you are stimulating the parasympathetic system the “rest and relaxation” system. Other great action steps are massage, yoga and meditation. My best piece of advice for stress is being kind to yourself and knows you are doing a great job!

    Try an Initial Acupuncture Consultation in April and get a follow-up session for FREE ($95 value)! Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 or book online today with the promo code BOGO19!

     

  • ❤️ Take Care of Your Heart with TCM ❤️

    by Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director LAc MSOM Dipl OM

    February is American Heart Awareness Month. In western/traditional medicine, the heart is obviously a very important organ! If you have concerns about your heart, see your doctor!

    In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Heart is the most precious of all the organs. It is considered the Emperor/Ruler of the body and all other organs contribute energy to make sure that it can function as best as possible. The Heart is responsible for circulation of blood, but also stores the Shen (Spirit) which generates qi (pronounced “chee”) and is the root of life. The Heart is associated with the element of fire (remember in the English Patient when Hana reads “The heart is an organ of fire?” It’s true!), it’s flavor is bitter, it’s direction is South, it’s emotion is joy, it’s season is Summer, and it’s color is red.

    Your acupuncturist is excellent at seeing how the Heart (in TCM physiology) is functioning. Changes in color, texture or coating on the tip of the tongue tell us about Heart health. The pulse that is felt on the left wrist right at the crease is the Heart pulse. It should be not too weak and not too strong, not too fast and not too slow. Like Goldilocks, the Middle Path is the way to health.

    Here are some ways to keep your heart healthy:

    1. Laugh often. The Heart in TCM is associated with the emotion of joy. While too much joy (mania) can injure the heart, it is usually a great idea to laugh and smile as much as possible. Try Laughter Yoga – it’s a way to “fake it ‘til you feel it” to bring back joy to the moment.
    2. Place your hands over your heart and feel it beat. Say “thank you” to your heart and express gratitude toward yourself. It will feel silly at first, but the more you do it, the more you will see how powerful loving yourself can be.
    3. Daydream! Allowing your mind to wander at bedtime or other quiet moments can clear the spirit and heart of emotional & mental junk that can clutter your mind and muddle your ability to manifest your desires.
    4. Take long walks. This is good exercise which is great for your heart and clears the mind. Try clasping your hands at your low back as you walk to open the chest/heart area to the energy around you and brings the tips of the fingers, an area associated with the heart, together.
    5. Break a sweat! Getting your heart rate up (check with your doctor before starting a new routine) is the best way to keep your heart strong.
    6. Reduce sugar intake. Sugar has been strongly associated with increased rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other major health concerns.
    7. In an emergency situation involving the heart, while you are waiting for help to arrive, try opening and closing your hands making sure your fingers completely curl in and touch your palms. Open and close for at least 5 minutes or as long as possible.

    Want to learn more?  Try Acupuncture today!  Christine is available in our Highland Park Office on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

  • Stay Cool While TTC

     

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM

    Summer is here, in Chicago! It is time to get out, play, and stay cool. While trying to conceive in the heat, there are a few things to remember, and they are not new ideas.

    • Cotton is queen! Organic cotton is even better, especially down there. For guys and girls, it is important to stay cool and non-toxic where it counts, so wear loose clothes made of organic materials.
    • Use peppermint essential oil in your diffusers at home, and look for cooling, non-toxic deodorants.  They are stronger than ever, and last much longer than cheaper versions.
    • Diet and fluids are vital. Keep your barbecues sensible. If you are charring meat, know that you are creating heat and inflammation. So add greens, add cucumber and watermelon, and add water to drink, even if it is in between alcoholic beverages. Alcohol creates heat, so if you imbibe, hydrate smart with coconut water, electrolyte water and lemon and cucumber water, and fresh fruit and watery vegetables.
    • Keep your distance at night. If you can, sometimes it’s relaxing to sleep alone and rendezvous with your partner in the middle of the night. Two bodies lying next to each other on a hot night creates a lot of heat.  Studies show that birth rates are lower 8-10 months after hot days. (https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/375/pdfs/does-hot-weather-affect-human-fertility.pdf?v=1) What is more important about this study is that the discomfort leading to a lack of intercourse was not the primary contributing factor to the lower birth rates. It was more likely a decline in reproductive health—lower sperm production in males, and potential embryonic development issues, once fertilization occurred, in females.
    • Play with air conditioning wisely! The environmental costs of air conditioning are pretty high. So use it, and use it wisely if you’re TTC. It’s a tough call, because do you keep your air on all day? It takes more energy to re-cool a warm room, than it does to lower the temp in an already cool room. You make the call, but air conditioning is going to help humans keep making babies as temperatures rise, and it will do it an environmental cost. Experiment to find the sweet spot with your energy use.
    • Find your local watering hole and enjoy it.  The closer you are to a body of water on a hot day, the cooler the temps will be. If you are on the water, you will stay cooler throughout the warmest part of the day. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
    • Iced Beverages—when hydrating, keep it simple. Filtered water in a stainless water bottle is your best friend. Add ice, lemon, cucumber, crushed mint leaves to it. To add variety to your fluids, ice some matcha green tea and add some mint.
    • Disconnect your devices, and keep them out of the bedroom, at night. It is not always easy to keep your phone off your person, but at night, definitely do it. It will serve you.  Keep your devices off your laps, in general, and especially out of your front pockets.
    • Emotions! In Chinese Medicine, all emotions eventually create qi stagnation and heat accumulation. How it does this is fascinating, and can help you manage your response to all of your emotions. Imagine an event or encounter stimulates an emotion in you. When we have the capacity to witness that emotion, it is easier to let go. But more often than not, because of the sheer volume of stimuli, we do not let go of every emotion we experience in a day. These emotions that linger, sometimes get stuck. That stuck emotional energy blocks free flow of other energy and the stagnation builds. When stuck energy builds in one channel or body area, it creates heat. I love to describe this in the terms of a party. Imagine this: You are having a party. Your house is all set. You are a little chilly in the living room so you’re wearing a sweater.  Joy arrives early. You two chat and then Sorrow arrives. They start catching and then Excited arrives. The party is starting to get lively. Anger and Anxious arrive together and the room is really filling up and WARMING UP. You take off your sweater. Sympathetic and Loving arrive and it is really starting to heat up. You hydrate, and go the other room to cool off and get some space. By the time Mopey and Kind show up, you don’t want to be in the living room anymore because you can barely move and it is so hot. This is how emotions build up and stagnate in the body, and lead to heat. So remember to manage your emotional life, so that things keep moving.
    • Come in and get acupuncture and herbs! There are many things we can do in the office to help you clear heat and cool down, so ask your acupuncturist if you have heat signs and if you should amp up your heat clearing at home.

    Things are getting hotter, and we want you to enjoy it!

     

     

  • Supporting Milk Supply

    Have you recently given birth and noticed that you are having issues with your supply of milk? Did you know acupuncture can help with insufficient lactation?

    Image result for milk supply

    Breast milk is the main food source for infants and breastfeeding has been shown to provide many benefits to both the mother and baby. Breastfeeding benefits the baby by increasing the baby’s immunity while decreasing the risk of respiratory tract infections and diarrhea, lowering the risk of asthma, food allergies, type 1 diabetes, and leukemia. Breastfeeding may also help with cognitive development and decrease the risk of obesity in adulthood. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother in a number of ways including better uterus shrinkage and less postpartum depression. Long term benefits that have been seen for mother’s that breastfeed are a decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

    While breastfeeding has many benefits to both mother and baby, there are many women that suffer from a lack of sufficient milk supply. Insufficient lactation usually occurs 2-6 weeks after birth. A decreased amount of milk supply can be caused for a number of reasons. Some examples are a difficult birth, excessive bleeding after birth, history of miscarriage, IVF treatments, multiple children, high levels of stress and tension, and age. The great news is that acupuncture can help increase milk supply. Acupuncture restores the normal breast milk production by nourishing and regenerating the body’s blood supply and fluids that are lost during the birthing process. Research conducted at the Hanzhong Shanxi Hospital demonstrates that specific acupuncture points significantly boosts lactation quantities. This study showed that women who had acupuncture successfully increased breast milk secretion from an average of 49.63 ml to 115.21 ml. In addition to the increased milk quantity, the lactating mothers receiving acupuncture had improvement in levels of prolactin (the hormone that stimulates milk production).

    If you have any questions regarding how acupuncture can help with your breast milk supply or to schedule an appointment feel free to contact the office at 312.321.0004 or you can contact me directly at christina@pullingdownthemoon.com .

    Christina is available in Chicago Wednesday mornings, Buffalo Grove Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays, then starting on May 22nd, she will be available in Highland Park on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

    Christina Livas L.Ac.

    * https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325417/

    ** http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1773-acupuncture-boosts-breast-milk-production

    ** https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627208600382

  • Baby It’s Cold Outside

    Burrrrrr!

    It’s officially cold in Chicago, dry in our homes, and time to get down to the business of hydrating our way into a new year! Whatever your goals are, make sure you hydrate. If you are frequently cold and dry, it will warm and moisten you. If you have heat, it will clear it out, via sweat and urine. Remember, blood is mostly water. So to keep the blood moving, and warming those toes, drink water, eat a piece of fresh fruit or veggie. Drink broth, eat soup, sit by a fire, and hydrate! If you are actively warming up by having a cocktail, enjoy it and rehydrate between drinks.

    Winter is as yin as it gets. Build your most yin substances—blood and water, and remember to hydrate!

    Have a wonderful season,

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM
    Pulling Down the Moon

    Learn more about holistic health can support you this season!