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Ready, Steady, Neti!

Have you ever heard of nasal washing? Rooted in traditional medicine, Yogi masters used this Ayurvedic technique to literally cleanse the nasal passageways. In fact, "neti", as in neti pot, is translated from Sanskrit as “nasal cleansing.”

In modern times, nasal washing has been recognized for improving the symptoms associated with allergies, sinusitis, dry air, nasal congestion, sinus infections, post-nasal drip, and even pregnancy related rhinitis.

Although it looks slightly intimidating, the technique is really quite simple and easy to do. You can even "selfie" while doing it once you get really good!

Getting started:
The first rule of neti pot protocol is ALWAYS USE CLEAN FILTERED WATER. You definitely don't want to accidentally introduce any foreign bacteria to the nasal passages which could potentially lead to an infection. A few years ago there was a lot of negative press about neti pots because two people contracted deadly meningitis infections by using tap water instead of filtered water. Before you freak out and swear never to try a neti pot, remember the first rule, ALWAYS USE CLEAN FILTERED WATER!

As long as we're on the subject of cleanliness, it's a good idea to keep your neti pot clean between uses by storing it in an air-tight plastic bag.

Supplies need for nasal washing:
Neti pot
Tissues
Warm filtered/distilled water
Saline packets, a combination of sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride (see image below).
*never use iodized salt in your nasal washing practice.

Ready, steady, neti!

The trick to using the neti pot correctly is finding the "sweet spot" with your head position. The correct position will allow gravity to move the water through the nasal cavities without incident.

While holding your head to the side (over the sink), gently insert the spout of the neti pot into the "top" nostril. Allow the warm saline solution to run through the sinuses. You can change the flow by slightly tucking or lifting your chin. When the solution has stopped flowing, remove the spout and gently blow your nose using a tissue. Repeat method on the opposite side.

Trouble shooting:
Be sure to use warm, not hot filtered water for your saline solution. Too hot and not only will it be uncomfortable, but there is potential for injury. Also avoid cold water because your saline packet will not dissolve properly. Always allow a couple of minutes for your saline packet to dissolve completely in the warm water before use. This will create a uniform saline solution which is more comfortable in the sinuses.

If the water flow stops midstream, you may need to adjust the angle of the neti pot or perhaps your sinuses are blocked with mucus. If this happens, stop, gently blow your nose, then begin again on the same side.

Who can use a neti pot?
It is recommended for adults and children over 4 years of age.

Warnings:
Using a neti pot should never be painful. Discontinue use if you experience pain or discomfort. Be sure to consult with your primary care provider if you have questions or concerns about using a neti pot.

Now that you have some insight into proper neti pot technique, you're ready to get started! Good luck and remember, practice makes perfect!

Managing Mid-term Election Stress Naturally

The mid-term elections seem to have Americans experiencing a higher level of stress and anxiety than normal. According to a new survey published by the American Psychological Association, approximately 52 percent of Americans have said that the current political scene is a “somewhat or very significant source of stress.” In a society that already is known globally for our stressed out population, what can we to do to manage our stress?

According to traditional Chinese medical theory (TCM), we need to support and smooth our Liver Qi particularly during stressful times or risk dysfunction and additional complications. The Liver corresponds with the Wood element in TCM. Just like a tree needs to have flexibility in the wind, so too, should the Liver have flexibility during periods of increased stress. Some indications that your Liver energy might need some attention is moodiness/irritability/depression, outbursts of anger, pounding headaches, muscle rigidity/tension, & high blood pressure.

How do we soothe the Liver and reduce our stress response? I'm glad you asked!
Here are four natural ways to combat stress during the election season or anytime you're feeling stressed.

1.) Get Balanced with Acupuncture: Imbalances in the Wood element in TCM are treated often with a combination of acupuncture points. Much of the focus of treatment will likely be concentrated on balancing the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians. It's important to find a highly trained and licensed acupuncturist as they will be able to provide you with the best treatment for your specific pattern or disharmony.

2.) Reduce Alcohol Intake: Although it might be tempting to drink your way through election woes, it's a good idea to take it easy on the libations during periods of high stress. The liver is responsible to breakdown most of the alcohol consumed. This process generates toxins as a by-products that are even more harmful than alcohol. They damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken the body’s natural defenses. Eventually, these problems can disrupt the body’s metabolism and impair the function of other organs. If you do over indulge, it's a good idea to drink lemon water to help support the liver's cleansing abilities as you recover. Your liver is the powerhouse keeping your body active and healthy, think before you drink!

3.) Practice Qi Gong Horse Stance: Connecting movement and breath is vital in activating the parasympathetic nervous system and calming our bodies and minds. When we get caught up in arguments, strained relationships, and things outside of our control, (for example in politics), it's easy to over stimulate out sympathetic nervous system and turn on the "fight or flight" response in our bodies. This pumps our bodies full of hormones that snowball this effect and before we know it we're really stressed-out. QiGong can help you bring our body and mind back into harmony and balance. One of my favorite poses for exercising and soothing the liver energy is the Horse-Stance. To do this simple pose follow these simple steps:
-Stand with feet shoulder width apart, with feet parallel.
-Bend your knees slightly to avoid a "locked" knee stance.
-Bend your elbows slightly to round the arms and drop the shoulders down to a relaxed position
(This pose can also be done with the arms rounded and lifted to shoulder height).
-Turn pelvis under by rounding the tailbone and lengthen your spine with your head lifted.
-Focus your breath on the area just below your belly button. In TCM we call this area the "Dantian, the root of the tree of life." Concentrate on filling this space and expanding the ribs.
-Build up to a practice of 20 minutes in Horse Stance.

4.) Take a Walk in the Woods: The practice of "forest bathing" has become common place in Japan, with good reason. As a preventive medicine goes, forest bathing seems to significantly reduce the root cause of a multitude of ailments: STRESS. Excess stress can play a role in imbalances leading to a variety of ailments such as headaches, high blood pressure, and mood disorders. Forest bathing promotes increased parasympathetic activity, reduces cortisol, which helps the body rest, restore, and remain healthy. In addition, plants have been found to emit a chemical called phytoncides. This chemical naturally protects plants from rotting and insect invasion. When people breathe this same chemical in, there is an increase in the number of “natural killer” cells produced in the body, which are part of a natural immune response to cancer. For more on this please reference a scientific review titled, “Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function,” by Qing Li of the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at Japan’s Nippon Medical School. So go ahead, turn off the media machine, unplug from it all and recharge your body and mind on a walk in the woods!

“Walking just for the pleasure of walking, freely and firmly, without hurrying. We are present in every step. When we wish to speak, we stop walking and lend all our attention to the person before us, to speaking and to listening… Stop, look around, and see how wonderful life is: the trees, the white clouds, the infinite sky. Listen to the birds, delight in the light breeze. Let us walk as free people and feel our steps growing lighter as we walk. Let us appreciate every step we take.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Eat Local!

Have you ever stopped to think about all the processed foods available? Just a quick trip to the supermarket and your mind is spinning from the selections. Label reading can be a huge hassle, especially if you have kids pulling you in another direction! As a nation, our taste buds are under attack from big business. Processed foods are high in sodium, fats, and sugars making their addictive qualities hard for us to resist. The manufactures know this and capitalize on it because it means more money in their pockets. What's the problem? These processed foods are leading us down a path of poor health and limited longevity.

So what's the solution? Buy (or grow) locally sourced, organic, whole foods!

It's harvest time, hooray! Across Wisconsin, and the country, the farmer's markets are fully stocked with delicious and nutritious foods, ripe for the picking. The beautiful abundance of this time of year makes me feel vibrant and thankful. Why should you shop for organic and whole foods locally?
Let's count the ways!

Top 3 Benefits to Buying Locally & Organically

1.) It's Healthy for you and the Earth

Many "fresh" foods in your local market have traveled great distances to get to you. Often food isn't even ripe when harvested and chemical gases are used to artificially ripen and preserve them! I know, yikes! Farm fresh produce and meats skip this time and resources pit fall. Locally sourced foods are traveling right from the farm to your family's table. Not only is this better for the global environment, it's also a benefit to your internal environment. Your body gets a naturally ripened, nutrient rich, healthy foods and the earth gets some love too!

2.) Slow Food is Good Food

Americans have never been so overfed and undernourished in all of history. The obesity crisis is an epidemic problem in our country. The fact that childhood obesity continues to rise and causes undo strain on our children's health should be alarming to everyone. Buying local, organic, whole foods are part of the solution. We need to learn how to cook real, wholesome, foods at home and we need to pass these lessons on to our children. These skills are essential for a healthy life. Cooking at home and experiencing fresh foods is a blessing and an honor. We need to find the reverence in the preparation and consumption of food again. Slowing down and preparing whole foods benefits our own health and will benefit our children's health for generations to come.

3.) Supports your Community's Qi

It's a great feeling to connect with the farmer who is feeding your family. In this fast paced world, it's a blessing to experience this direct interaction connecting our families back to the land and the people who understand it's rhythms. As an added bonus you get to engage with others in your community who are also choosing to shop in the "slow foods" lane. You never know who you'll meet and the influence your smile can have when you share it!

If you would like to discuss bringing more intention to your food choices, I would be happy to help. Schedule your appointment today!

The Healing Properties of Ginger Root

Ginger root, or Gan Jiang, as it's referred to in Chinese medicine, is growing in popularity in the West for it's healthful properties. But did you know that ginger has actually been used medicinally for thousands of years across the globe? It's true!

Maybe you've heard that ginger is good for soothing a stomachache? Or even helpful in reducing knee pain? I'm happy to report that the hype surrounding ginger root is based on great traditional wisdom and modern research.

Here are the top 3 commonly use medicinal purposes for ginger root:

1.) Anti-Nausea Properties:

The Chinese people have been using ginger root in culinary dishes, especially seafood, for ages. It's "detoxifying" purposes were thought to prevent food-poisoning. In addition, ginger root is often used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine formulations. Often being prescribed digestive complaints, it is a traditional remedy that works wonders. Whether your nausea is due to pregnancy, chemotherapy, or motion sickness, you may want to give ginger a try.

2.) Antioxidant Boost:

Modern research has shown that ginger root is an abundant source of antioxidants. Why are these little nutrients so important? I'm glad you asked! Antioxidants are often plant based components that may help protect cells from damage. The body uses antioxidants as a natural defense against the cascading and damaging effects of free radicals in the body. One of the most significant antioxidants in ginger root is geraniol which is currently being studied for it's cancer fighting potential.

3.) Anti-Inflamatory Properties & Pain Relief:
Ginger has been successfully shown to help alleviate pain in patients suffering from joint pain, muscle aches, and even migraine headaches. Because pain is often the result of inflamation in the body, the anti-inflamatory properties of ginger root help to reduce and control pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS, have potential side effects ranging from mild to deadly. Why take the risk if you can manage your pain with this delicious and abundant alternative?

You can find fresh ginger root at most grocery stores. It's also available in a variety of other forms you may want to keep on hand such as essential oil and dried powder.

If you're interested in learning more about how food can help you heal, schedule your appointment today!

What is Facial Cupping?

Facial cupping is a relaxing and restorative treatment that improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and enhances the overall health of your skin. In addition, facial cupping can benefit those suffering from TMJ, Bell's palsy, sinus congestion, stress, and headaches.

So what exactly is facial cupping and how does it work? Cupping is a traditional healing technique that uses negative pressure or suction to stimulate circulation & improve lymphatic drainage. The skin and superficial fascia are pulled slightly away from the underlying tissues and structures. There are a couple of different methods that practitioners use while cupping. Sometimes the cups are used in a quick "hold and release" method, other times the cups are moved smoothly over the skin in a sliding motion.

Some of the benefits of facial cupping are:

Increased local circulation
Reduction of puffiness/edema
Improved appearance of fine lines & wrinkles
Enhanced nutrient absorption
Relaxation- It feels AMAZING!
What to Expect:

I offer a 60 minute facial rejuvenation service that combines acupuncture and cupping. For the best results, it’s ideal to get weekly treatments until your desired results are achieved. There is often visible improvements in skin after the first session, but for longer lasting, more dramatic results, I recommend regular visits. 

If you’re looking for a way to improve your skin's appearance without harsh chemicals or surgery, schedule your facial cupping session today!  

Schedule your appointment today!

Facial cupsFacial Cupping

Treating Back Pain with Acupuncture

Chances are you, or someone you love, has been affected by back pain at some point in your lives. This common ailment affects a large percentage of Americans every single day. Our lifestyles choices contribute to our pain, but are prescription drugs the answer? With the continued abuse and addiction associated with commonly prescribed pain medications, Americans are in desperate need of alternatives to manage pain, and more specifically, back pain.

According to CNN, "The opioid epidemic has crippled communities across the United States, spurred a public health crisis, and is responsible for nearly 100 overdose deaths each day." Medical doctors and patients alike are looking for alternatives to treat pain without using these dangerous prescription medications. Acupuncture is an effective alternative and works without the risk of dangerous, and sometimes deadly, side effects.

Here are a few facts about back pain according to the American Chiropractic Association:

Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
Experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.
Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.
How can Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine help treat back pain naturally?

Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM will not only work to address the back pain, but will also seek to identify the underlying cause or "root source" of the pain. Many studies have been conducted to evaluate acupuncture's effectiveness on back pain specifically. In a recent Swedish study, doctors concluded that acupuncture provided long-term pain relief along with improvements in physical activity, improved sleep quality, and diminished use of pain medication. Acupuncture works by moving or balancing Qi (pronounced "chee") in the meridians or pathways that is contributing to the individuals unique pain pattern. There are three main patterns that we see in TCM that generally contribute to back pain:
Stagnation or "stuck" energy
Cold, damp obstruction
Deficiency or weakness
Once a particular pain pattern has been identified, a unique set of acupuncture points will be selected to help restore balance. Fine, sterile needles will be placed along the meridian pathways at specific acupuncture "points" to restore the balanced flow of Qi and reduce pain. Acupuncture has been shown to improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and relax the body and mind.


Tips to Prevent Back Pain from the American Chiropractic Association:
Maintain a healthy diet, lifestyle, and weight.
Remain active. Keeping your core muscles strong helps support your back and overall health.
Warm up or stretch before exercising or physical activities, yoga and Qi gong are excellent options.
Maintain proper posture while sitting, standing, and lifting. When lifting specifically, lift with your knees, keeping the object close to your body, taking care not to twist.
Manage stress. Stress can contribute to disharmony and pain patterns. Meditation and deep-breathing techniques can help reduce stress.

Schedule your appointment today!

Back pain acupuncture cupping

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine!

What if you could significantly reduce your stress response with a simple activity? Would you do it? Give yourself the gift of laughter and enjoy some added healthful benefits!

When you laugh, it activates your parasympathetic nervous system or PNS. This system creates a shift in your body away from the flight or fight response associated with stress and the sympathetic nervous system or SNS. The PNS is what allows your body to relax, rest, and repair. The late Norman Cousins helped to pioneer laughter research. What his team discovered is that laughter boosts immunity, increases oxygen intake, and reduces pain.

Immunity: laughter stimulates an increase in "natural killer cells" throughout the body. These cells are essential in fighting infections and eliminating damaged or cancerous cells.

Oxygen: laughter encourages deep diaphragmatic breathing taking in more oxygen rich air. The harder you laugh, the greater the reward. So go ahead, laugh until your face turns red!

Pain relief: laughter releases 'feel good' endorphins in the brain, your body's own natural morphine. This is why laughter makes you feel so good! Have you ever noticed how relaxed you are after a good laugh? Thank you endorphins!

If laughing doesn't come easily to you, follow these 3 tips to improve your funny bone:

1.) Increase Exposure: just like exercise, you have to do it to receive the health benefits. Find what triggers you to laugh and commit to exposure. (YouTube videos of babies laughing can be a great resource). Go on, try it, laugh a little!

2.) Lighten Up: try to not take yourself too seriously. It's true what they say, "laugh and whole world laughs with you." It's important to recognize the stress response in ourselves and make a conscious shift to the sunnier side of the street.

3.) Company: surround yourself with friends and family that will be silly and joke around with you. Laughter is infectious! Thank goodness!

Acupuncture also stimulates the PNS, reducing the stress response in the body. 

Schedule your appointment today! 

Stress relief acupuncture