Food plays a central role in health when looking at the body holistically. During the hot summer, there are certain foods we can eat to help cool our systems from the inside out, helping maintain balance within our bodies.
One such food, which may not be well-known here in the United States, is the mung bean. Mung beans are classified as legumes and can be delicious in sweet or salty recipes! According to traditional Chinese medicine, they are particularly helpful when it comes to cooling the heart, which rules the summer season, and treating conditions of overheating in the summer. Read on for a delicious, nutritious and cooling recipe for mung beans!
Slow Cooked Mung Bean Soup
2 cups of raw mung beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 cup shredded kale
1 sweet potato, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup light coconut milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground black pepper
Preparation: Place all ingredients into the slow cooker, ensuring the beans are covered by at least 2 inches of liquid. Cook on low overnight or for 8-10 hours or until beans are soft. Enjoy alone or with a seasonal salad and bread!
Much of acupuncture and Chinese medicine theory is centered around the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire and earth. Each of these elements corresponds with a season of the year: metal represents fall, water represents winter, wood represents spring, fire represents summer (of course!), and earth represents a fifth season known as late summer. These connections become even more layered as you delve deeper into acupuncture meridian theory, in which each element also pairs with a meridian system that is named for one of the body’s vital organs.
In Chinese medicine, the seasons are not only used to discuss the external environment but also when considering a person’s internal health and wellness. According to The Tao of Nutrition by Maoshing Ni, “The five elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, connect in that sequence for what is called the creation cycle. This cycle occurs in nature as well as in our bodies,” (Maoshing Ni, p.12). When you visit an acupuncturist, they feel your pulses and look for other indications regarding which of these elements/meridians might be “out of balance,” thus causing illness or pain in a particular area of the body. Acupuncture points along certain meridians are chosen to restore balance and resolve pain or disease.
Summer, Season of Heart and Fire
We are in the summer season of the five element system. On June 21st, summer began with the longest day of the year. Summer is governed by the heart meridian and the element of fire. Because summer is ruled by the heart, it is a time of mental/emotional awareness and growth. If the heart becomes out of balance in the summer, you might experience symptoms such as feeling overheated, restless sleep with vivid dreams, heightened anxiety, heart palpitations and constipation.
To balance the heart and fire element in summer months, it is helpful to eat plenty of cooling foods, like cucumbers, fresh in-season veggies, and watermelon. Meditation can also help balance the heart and mind. And, this goes without saying, but if you are spending a lot of time outdoors, make sure you are drinking plenty of water! With the allure of the sun and warm weather, it is easy to get overheated and dehydrated without realizing it.
How Community Acupuncture Restored Peace in a World of Pain
The day that Susan Gaudet slipped on a small patch of black ice was the day her life changed forever. “I knew immediately that I was hurt,” says Gaudet from the dining room of her Falmouth, Maine, home. She had no idea the incident would start her on a decade-long path of medical intervention and the search for relief from chronic pain.
Unbeknownst to her, Gaudet had sustained a spinal cord injury called Cauda Equina Syndrome, a serious condition caused by compression of the nerves in the lower portion of the spinal canal. The injury left her unable to walk, unable to feel the lower half of her body, unable to control her bladder and bowel movements, and in a state of chronic pain.
In an instant, this young mother of three – who’s youngest was only 3 at the time – was changed forever. She was told it was unlikely that she would walk again.
For the next ten years, Gaudet traveled through the conventional medical system, which has treated her condition in many important ways. She can walk and drive again, she works again, and she and her husband continue to raise their three girls at home. But the severe nerve pain persisted, and Gaudet had no bladder or bowel control, which seriously affected her ability to function normally in the world.
“Every day is still quite challenging when it comes to things that are simple for others and not quite so simple for me,” she says.
Gaudet’s team of specialists continued to offer painkillers to address her chronic pain, but Gaudet did not like the side effects nor the cost of her conventional treatments. Not only that, but the system of medicine she found herself trapped in was not giving her a sense of hope. She felt as though she had plateaued, so she started hunting for alternatives.
“I found Wildwood Medicine through an acquaintance who had significant medical issues,” she notes. “She too did not find Western medicine particularly helpful – she was being offered a lot of prescription pain medication.”
Gaudet, who had never tried acupuncture in her life, decided to try Wildwood Community Acupuncture in hopes of finding relief. “I went three times a week for the first month and found that things were really starting to move,” she recalls. “It was almost as if I had my life back.” Gaudet’s bladder control improved markedly, and her nerve pain started to subside.
In addition, at Wildwood, she discovered an alternative medical team that was taking a genuine interest in her recovery. Gaudet was stunned by the personal touch she found at Wildwood. “In the conventional medical world, no other doctor had ever stopped me and put their hand on me and said, ‘You’ve got this.’”
“Wildwood is a blessed little place – a small oasis of peace. I love knowing that I am going there because I can just shut off,” says Gaudet. “After the acupuncture needles are in place, it’s so peaceful. It’s hard to explain the level of comfort that comes from it.”
Gaudet continues to visit the community acupuncture clinic several times a week and she continues to see improvements and to feel hopeful and optimistic about her path to recovery.
“I feel like I won the lottery finding Wildwood,” she says.
Spring has sprung! The sun is (occasionally) peeking out from behind the clouds to thaw us from the winter chill, and, after months of being cooped up and bundled up indoors, we are all ready to get out into the wild, bare our skin, and …
Get bit by a tick?
Of course, no wants to bring a tick home with them from their outdoor adventuring, but, if you are living in Maine or other coastal areas of the United States, the likelihood is very high. According to the website Everythingticks.com, these minuscule insects thrive in warm, wooded and humid environments – which describes the Maine climate in the spring and summer to a T! Unfortunately, these creeping, crawling creatures can transmit serious diseases through their bites, including Lyme disease. The sooner ticks are found and (properly) removed, the lower the risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease or other infections, many of which have long-term side effects if left untreated.
Tick Checks Can Keep You Safe and Healthy
Performing a tick check as soon as you get back home from hiking or other outdoor activities can help keep you safe from ticks that carry disease. Follow the steps below on yourself and any friends or family members that were adventuring with you outside – even if you were just frolicking in a grassy backyard!
1. Remove Clothing – Try to remove most of the clothing you wore outside as soon as possible to avoid bringing ticks into your home on shirt sleeves, pant legs or socks. Leave the clothes outside until you are ready to put them in the dryer on high-heat to kill any ticks that might be lurking.
2. Check Hot Spots – Just as ticks like hot and humid external environments, they also gravitate to the hotter and sweatier areas of the human body before they latch on for a meal of blood. “Hot spots” are areas of the body to which ticks gravitate, such as the armpits, groin and hairline. Because ticks can be so small, it is important to look closely, especially in areas with dark hair. If you are on your own, you can use a mirror to check hard-to-see areas, or you can ask a friend or family member to double check spots that are difficult to reach on your own.
3. Remove any Ticks – If you do find any ticks, it is important to remove the tick properly and fully. For more information about how to do this, go here.
4. Monitor for Signs and Symptoms – After removing a tick from your body, monitor how you are feeling closely. If you come down with a fever or chills or notice any odd rashes, body aches or other strange symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor immediately to discuss treatment options.
5. Consider Getting Your Tick Checked for Diseases – Click here for more information about testing a tick for disease-causing pathogens.
When Susan Gaudet went to Wildwood Medicine for treatment of her chronic pain, she had no idea that the treatments would handle her peri-menopausal symptoms, too.
“I was very uncomfortable. I had this vague constant headache, and I was hot. I don’t just mean summer-day hot, I felt like I was cooking,” she recalls. Gaudet recalls being sweaty, hot, and cranky, which was not her typical nature.
Do you know why acupuncture can help restore harmonious balance?
Westerners often use the term yin & yang to loosely describe masculine and feminine energy. “It gets used a lot on tattoos and logos but I don’t think a lot of people actually know what it means,” says Daniel Katz, co-founder of Wildwood, a holistic, integrative health practice on India Street in downtown Portland, Maine. “People think it means balance, connectedness, or things like that.”
Yet, the written characters for yin and yang are literally translated as follows:
Yin means the shady side of a hill.
Yang means the sunny side of a hill.
The iconic black and white symbol is representative of a dynamic balance that happens in nature, within humans, and within our universe, explains Daniel. As a way to understand and even to visualize this further, consider:
The summer solstice is the most yang time of year
The winter solstice is most yin time of year
Midday has the most yang
Midnight the most yin
Heat is yang in nature
Cold is yin in nature
To fully grasp this as it relates to human nature, stop to consider the waxing and waning of your own life, just as the sunlight waxes and wanes on a hill. In our ever-changing lives, sometimes you achieve perfect balance and harmony; other times there is too much shadow or too much light.
The job of an acupuncturist is to assess the human body and help restore harmony.
Before the 1920s and the discovery of penicillin and focus on biomedicine, doctors did not focus on what was happening inside the human body on a cellular level. At that time, medicine was more observational in nature, and Chinese medicine tended to look at things from a big (non-microscopic) perspective in order to determine a person’s health. Specifically, acupuncturists assessed a person’s Qi (pronounced Chi).
Over thousands of years, Chinese medicine has become a highly evolved system of medicine that employs a series of techniques to break down and diagnose patients. A variety of treatments are then used to help restore the body’s balance. These treatments are often referred to as the three pillars of Chinese medicine:
Acupuncture / Manual Therapies
Internal Medicine/Herbal Formulas/Diet
Acupuncturists today use precisely the same points on the body that were used thousands of years ago in China. And amazingly, “the 365 acupuncture points on the human body – one for each day of the year – relate directly to yin and yang,” says Daniel.
If you are seeking a harmonious balance for your life on a hill, consider incorporating the three pillars of health, and allow your life to achieve a dynamic balance. And while you’re at it, why not think about how you and your loved ones can contribute to more a balanced and healthy universe!
To learn more about Wildwood or to schedule an appointment, visit our home page.
At long last, spring has sprung! For many of us, the tender spring flowers, leaves and grasses blossom in tandem with runny noses, sneezing, itchy, red and watery eyes, headaches, brain fog, fatigue and scratchy throats. If spring is an enigmatic harbinger of long-awaited beauty as well as debilitating seasonal allergy symptoms for you and your loved ones, you’re in luck! Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be effective therapies when it comes to battling the pollen and keeping you feeling healthy enough to get outside and enjoy all that spring has to offer.
According to Chinese medicine theory, allergy symptoms arise when your body’s wei qi (protective barrier or immune system) is weak. The wei qi is connected to the Lung meridian, which is in charge of opening and closing the pores to release toxins from inside of the body and keep immune-compromising pathogens out. Imagine your wei qi as the first line of defense against an enemy attack! If the wei qi/ immune system is weak, the lungs cannot properly close the pores of the skin to protect the body from pathogens. Pathogens that cause allergies – like pollen – ride into battle on spring winds and easily invade weak immune systems, causing the combination of symptoms we know as “seasonal allergies.”
Counter-attack and Strength Building
If you seek help for allergies from an acupuncturist, they will choose acupuncture points that not only help alleviate allergy symptoms but also work to re-balance and build up your immune system so it is not as susceptible to invasion. Acupuncture can effectively help clear sinuses, soothe irritated throats and boost energy. When it comes to chronic allergies, however, it is best to receive regular acupuncture treatments for several months prior to the season when your symptoms flare. That way, you and your acupuncturist can ensure your body’s immune system and wei qi is strong enough to withstand allergens.
The Story of the Jade Screen
Chinese herbal remedies can also be effective when it comes to building up your body’s immune system and treating allergy symptoms. One of the most popular formulas for seasonal allergies is called Yu Ping Feng San or Jade Screen Formula. Just like acupuncture, this formula contains herbs that help expel seasonal pathogens from your body and bolster your immune system against future allergy attacks.
A teacher of mine once told me that the story behind the name of Jade Screen Formula stems from a tradition in ancient China. In the springtime, people used to put screens carved out of jade in front of their doors when they opened them to let fresh spring air into their homes. The screens were supposed to protect the household and its inhabitants from “evil wind pathogens” … otherwise known as seasonal allergens.
It is best to take this and other similar formulas for at least a month prior to allergy season.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, speak with an acupuncturist today! You may be stopping to smell the roses this year after all!
Today, February 5th, is the Lunar New Year, and with the new moon we welcome a new year under the Earth Pig sign of the Chinese Zodiac. While this may not seem like the most elegant emblem, a year filled with greater contentment, success and friendship is aligning in the stars!
The Earth in Chinese Medicine
In Chinese medicine and five element theory, the Earth element is at our center; it is in charge of healthy digestion and nourishment of our bodies. When we are well-nourished and our digestive systems are functioning seamlessly, we experience enhanced energy and sensations of contentment, which is what the Earth Pig is all about!
To magnify these feelings of well-being and ease in 2019, strive to be extra mindful of what you are eating. Try to eat plenty of fruits, veggies and whole foods and avoid over-indulgence in sweets, which can throw our Earth systems off center.
Gentle, balanced forms of exercise, like yoga, Tai Chi, and taking long walks, are perfect for the year of the Earth Pig. If you tend to exercise until you hit a point of exhaustion, consider trading in a few of your high-intensity workouts for more nourishing activities.
In the Chinese zodiac, pigs are sociable, kind and sincere. They make friends easily and are often referred to as “peace-keepers.” Just what the world needs in 2019!
Embrace your inner social butterfly this year. You might just find a friend in someone unexpected.
Here’s to 2019, the Earth Pig, contentment and friendship!
There are days when the words of wise teachers can remind us to return to a state of mindfulness. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is one such teacher! As the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama has studied buddhism and mindfulness his entire life and now leads followers from around the globe by his own example. If you ever feel like you are losing sight of what it means to be mindful or why you should practice mindfulness meditation, here are 5 quotes by the Dalai Lama to bring you back to your practice and to a calm and peaceful mind.
Having a calm or peaceful state of mind doesn’t mean being spaced out or completely empty. Peace of mind or a calm state of mind is rooted in affection and compassion and is sensitive and responsive to others.
The inner peace of an alert and calm mind are the source of real happiness and good health.
Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.
We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously, and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort.
“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.“
-Shunryu Suzuki; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mindfulness as: “the practice of maintaining a non-judgemental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” (merriamwebster.com). It seems simple, right? Now think about your daily life. How often are you able to orient yourself in the present moment with attention and awareness? The modern world moves along at an increasingly fast pace, and if you struggle to remain in the present, you are not alone!
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that is meant to guide you gently back into the present moment. Over time, this can help you regain balance and experience less stress, without becoming overwhelmed by emotions such as fear, anger, sadness or uncertainty. You do this by focusing on the breath and letting go of judgement and attachment.
This January, we will ring in the New Year with posts exploring the shallows and depths of mindfulness, beginning with a simple mindfulness meditation practice that you can try at home. Even if you sit for 5 minutes a day, that will be a great step forward on your mindfulness meditation journey!
A Simple Practice in 6 Steps
Step One: Prepare. Find a quiet place to sit. You can either sit on a pillow or blanket on the floor, or you can sit in a chair if that works better for you. If you are on the floor, try to sit cross-legged. If you are in a chair, allow your feet to connect with the floor.
Step Two: Adjust your posture. Lay your hands gently in your lap; they can rest either palm-up or palm-down. Straighten your spine as if a string is gently tugging upward from the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest.
Step Three: Soften your gaze. Allow your gaze to rest about a foot in front of you on the floor. Try to keep your eyes open if you can, as this will heighten your sensory awareness. Let your gaze soften.
Step Four: Focus on your breath. Begin to focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale naturally. Feel the soft breath of air beneath your nose as you exhale and the way the cool air feels as it passes into your nostrils. Can you feel it travel all the way down to your belly? Follow these sensations through several breath cycles.
Step Five: Let thoughts and emotions come. It is natural that thoughts, emotions and images will begin to pass through your mind at this time, and it is okay to let them! The trick is to not get attached to any thread of thought or feeling. Simply observe the thoughts as they pass, and let them go as they leave your consciousness. Return to observing your breath.
Step Six: Don’t Panic. All kinds of uncomfortable physical and mental sensations might come up during your practice, which is why it is perfectly fine to only sit for a short time at first. If your back aches, acknowledge it, and let it go. If anger arises, do the same. Always return to your breath to stay in the moment, and watch how the pain recedes and the anger fizzles. Repeat often!