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Attacking Seasonal Allergies with Acupuncture and Herbs

Ahhhh Choo!

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.

Invading Allergies

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!

 

 


Why Wildwood?

Healthcare that treats the person not the condition

A conversation with Daniel Katz, co-founder of Wildwood, a holistic, integrative health practice on India Street in downtown Portland, Maine.

Katz’s calling into holistic medicine came right after college when he first became a physical therapist. He noticed a lot of patients coming in with particular issues, such as knee or back pain, but they would also have a laundry list of other problems.

At the time, I didn’t really have a context to understand why all of the things they were suffering from might contribute to their knee pain,” he explains. So, Katz started looking for what else might be out there to treat pain that was not related to his training as a physical therapist. At the same time, he started seeing an acupuncturist for sinus problems, which he had suffered from since childhood. This journey eventually led Katz on a path toward attaining a master’s degree in the Science of Oriental Medicine, in addition to his Physical Therapy degree.

Why Wildwood?

In 2005, Katz and his wife Dr. Sasha Rose, a board-certified naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist, moved across the country from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. They knew they wanted to start a holistic healthcare practice, so they joined together to offer a unique eastern/western medicine approach. It all started in one small treatment room, just the two of them, and then Wildwood blossomed. Today the practice occupies a 4,000 square foot building on India Street, with seven health care practitioners offering naturopathic medicine, private acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, herbal medicine and a thriving community acupuncture program.

Why seek alternative healthcare?

Katz and Rose feel deeply connected to greater Portland and find that there’s a community of people who are thoughtful in how they want to be treated for their healthcare needs. Many do not want a complicated plan of care. “They want a simplified and down-to-earth way of looking at their health and many reject the notion of taking a lot of medicine,” says Katz. Wildwood patients often seek an alternative approach or some combination of alternative and conventional medicine.

There has been a bit of divide between alternative and conventional medicine, but I think that is being merged together now,” explains Katz, who has served as a mentor in the Maine Medical Center Integrative Medicine Department. “There’s much more alternative medicine in the conventional medicine world and vice versa,” he adds. People are no longer choosing only a conventional treatment or only an alternative treatment.

Some patients may have had a bad experience with conventional healthcare, or they want a different kind of approach, or they have new diagnosis and don’t want to go down a road that requires a lot of new medication. They are looking for a place that will treat the person and not the symptoms or condition.

At Wildwood, we don’t have a preconceived idea of what people will want when they come in,” says Katz. “We look at people with a holistic point view and meet them where they are on their road to health.”

Wildwood also works to help patients remove barriers to wellness. Some of the most common barriers include the cost of healthcare, work and time-related barriers, physical distance, restrictions, such as social barriers, and mindset. “Some people are locked into their own idea that their illness is part of them as opposed to something that can be treated,” says Katz. “Part of our job is to break down those barriers and see if we can help.”

The calling to be a healer

Katz says he knew from a very young age that he wanted to do something that was bigger than his own health and well-being, and he wanted to help people along in their journey. “I always knew that I was going into some sort of health care,” he says. When he was younger and involved in sports, he was fascinated by how people could come back after an injury even better than they were before. “That’s what drove me right out of high school into a physical therapy program,” he laughs.

Today, one of the things Daniel loves about his practice is that he doesn’t need a lot of equipment to treat people.

All I need is my mind, my hands, and acupuncture needles to help someone to heal.”


Virtual Healing

Relief from Acid Reflux is Attainable, Here’s How

Are you in need of digestive relief but can’t seem to get results, or worse yet, you can’t even make it in to see a doctor? If you’re seeking medications make sure you read reviews such as spectrum awakening reviews first. And if you want a holistic solution for your digestive problems but can’t get access to holistic or naturopathic medicine, there is hope. Technology has been a game changer in health care, and online medical consulting can provide fast, personal, and effective relief, according to Dr. Sasha Rose, a board-certified naturopathic doctor, digestive health expert, and owner of Wildwood Medicine in Portland, Maine, where she has a digestive heath practice. You can also find her online at drsasharose.com.

I treat lots of people who have been living with digestive distress for years. The good news is that it’s often not difficult to make positive changes, the payoff can be immediate, and help is available online,” she says. “With some simple changes patients often feel better very quickly.”

How does online consulting work?

Online health consultations are becoming increasingly popular, especially if you live in a remote area or even in a city where you have trouble getting to a naturopathic doctor or a digestive health expert.

Online visits are particularly effective for busy people and for those in rural areas,” says Dr. Sasha, and it’s not complicated. “If someone has the internet and some kind of camera on their computer or their phone then we can make it work.” After 14 years of practicing holistic medicine from a brick and mortar office, Dr. Sasha’s virtual consultation business is quickly growing and she admits that for many of her patients, online healthcare has been as effective as in-person treatment.

A holistic approach to digestive disorders differs widely from the conventional approach and is based on the premise that given the right tools, the body can health itself. Much of the relief available from acid reflux and heartburn is not found by taking pills or supplements, says Dr. Sasha, it’s found by uncovering the root causes of digestive disturbance. “Pills and supplements are nice adjuncts,” says Dr. Sasha, but they are short-term fixes and they often do not deliver the long-term or even permanent relief that is achievable.

Getting started with online consultations

To get started with online health consultations, Dr. Sasha recommends visiting her website to learn more. The easy step-by-step process begins with scheduling three initial visits to get on the road to better digestive health. Before the first visit, patients are asked to share as much past medical history as possible.

By the time I hear from people, they typically have already been to their primary doctor or their gastroenterologist,” she says, “I encourage people to send records and lab work ahead of time so that I have as much background information as possible before we actually have our face-to-face virtual meeting.” Once that has been done, Dr. Sasha will schedule your first online consultation.

The first online visit

The first virtual consultation usually lasts one hour and is very similar to what you would expect from a doctor’s office visit. Dr. Sasha will ask a series of questions, review your past medical history, your symptoms, supplements or treatments, and other aspects of your lifestyle.

Then we talk about what I think might be going on and we come up with a treatment plan that both of us feel comfortable with,” she says. “I lay out the various tools and inform people of what has worked for patients in other situations.” The first visit concludes once an initial treatment plan has been agreed upon.

The next visits

Your second visit will be scheduled for about two or three weeks out, depending upon the circumstances. In the meantime, patients have access to Dr. Sasha via internet or phone with any questions or clarifications.

I like to give patients time to start out on their treatment plan and make some of the lifestyle modifications, and if we are doing any testing, we have time to get those results and for me to see them.” The second visit is a chance to assess what is working and to make any necessary modifications.

According to Dr. Sasha, there are several big and small modifications patients can make to improve their digestive health. Many of these relate to:

  • when you eat
  • what you eat
  • how quickly you eat
  • your sleep hygiene
  • your stress level
  • your exercise/movement routine

Dr. Sasha’s online practice is designed to support patients in an effective way that produces fast yet permanent results and gets patients on their way to living the life they want to live.

The third visit is often scheduled much farther out so that patients have time to implement changes and start to see and feel lasting positive change. It’s important for patients to recognize that they may not see traction after only one or two visits. It can take time and Dr. Sasha has found that a minimum of three visits is needed to secure long-term solutions. The beauty of virtual medical consulting is that Dr. Sasha is available to support your journey back to health and you don’t have to wait for an in-person visit to get advice, support, and treatment.


Welcoming the Earth Pig – A Year of Contentment and Kindness

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.

Forging Friendships

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!


5 Quotes About Mindfulness by the Dalai Lama

 

 

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.

  1. 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.
  2. The inner peace of an alert and calm mind are the source of real happiness and good health.
  3. 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.
  4. We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
  5. 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.

 


A Mindfulness Meditation Practice for Beginners


“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!

 

Happy New Year, and happy sitting!


Movement for the Mind: How Exercise Impacts our Mental Health

“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” 
― Martha Graham (American dancer)

Get Moving in 2019

Here we are at the end of another year, and the time has come when many people reflect on the past and make plans for a healthier or happier future. If your New Year’s resolution includes getting moving with an exercise plan, research suggests that your physical and your mental health will benefit!

Your Brain on Exercise

If you have ever experienced sadness or depression, you have probably also noticed that going for a walk or getting some exercise helps lift your spirits. Did you know that there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon? 

According to research, exercising triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins into your body. Endorphins not only interact with receptors in your brain to reduce your body’s perception of pain, but also contribute to a mental “euphoria” or “runner’s high” sensation, resulting in an uplifted mood and an enhanced sense of overall well-being.1 Exercise also increases blood flow and neuronal activity in certain areas of the brain including the hippocampus, the area of the brain directly related to memory, emotional regulation and learning.2

Enhancing our physique can be one powerful motivator for committing to regular exercise in the New Year, which, in turn, can boost self-confidence. In addition to relieving stress and producing feelings of euphoria, regular movement can raise levels of self-confidence, according to some studies. 3

Mind-Body Medicine

When you hear the word “mind-body medicine”, you might immediately think of sweaty yoga studios or groups of people practicing tai chi in the park. If you are not a yoga aficionado or a martial artist, have no fear! As you can see from the data above, all exercise is, in essence, beneficial for the mind and body. If you love running, commit to jogging three times a week. If you are a swimmer or a dancer, try to hit the pools or the dance studio more often in 2019.

When we consider the body and mind as integrated, holistic entities, it is easy to see how physical exercise can have a profound impact on mental health. In a recent article published in Psychology Today, the author writes, In fact, increasingly robust evidence suggests that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness.”4

The moral of the story? Exercise in ways that make you happy, and be prepared to reap the physical and mental benefits in 2019!

Happy New Year!

 

 

1https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

2https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

3https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

4https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1


3 Ways to Greet Winter

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

As the sun sets and the longest night of the year begins,  take a quiet moment to greet the darkness not with trepidation but with acceptance and gratitude. Allow the early nighttime to envelop you in warm, dark arms, and permit yourself the space to rest, to conserve, to nourish and to prepare for growth. 

In Chinese medicine, winter is the season to root down and to store. The growth that comes with the springtime requires a lot of energy and focused attention. By resting and nourishing our bodies throughout the dark and cold winter months, we will have the energy to blossom in the spring.

During the time of the druids, the Winter Solstice was marked by celebration. Here are three ways to greet the winter gracefully and without fear of the dark or cold. 

  1. Light candles or a fire: As the sun sets, light a candle or a fire and turn down the electric lighting. Pull your favorite book off of the shelf or simply sit in silence, letting the warm light wash over you. 
  2. Permit yourself to rest: Tonight, put away the cell phone and computer and treat yourself to a nourishing ritual, like taking a ginger bath or a bubble bath with calming essential oils. Then, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” Or, at least for 8 solid hours!
  3. Make an altar: It might feel nice to make an altar in honor of the Winter Solstice. This can be as simple as putting some winter greens in a vase and lighting a white candle. Let yourself sit for awhile in front of the altar, reflecting on the year and feeling the warmth that surrounds you. 
A simple Winter Solstice altar