Your Natural Superpower

Before I knew better, I used to get irritated when a helping professional would tell me to breathe deeply when I was worried or upset. I thought that guiding me to breathe was trivializing and disrespectful.

"Didn't you hear what I said? That's it? Breathe?" Puh-leez.

Then I became a tai chi and qi gong practitioner. Then I understood.

Your breath is your direct line to your nervous system, and when you are under stress, being able to regulate your nervous system is like a superpower. You maintain or regain access to the part of your brain that thinks, analyzes, and acts creatively and constructively.

So, no matter what the stress is about or whether it is a big or small stress, breathing is the first step. Sometimes that is easier said than done, so I made you a video to help.

See the video below for an easy breathing technique that can help you keep your cool while you are in the thick of it.

Easy Qi Gong for Lung Qi

by Norah McIntire, L.Ac.

As we go through this time of evolutionary stress together, I wanted to continue to offer my support and the powerful support of Chinese medicine.

In addition to following CDC guidelines, including washing hands, physical distancing, and wearing face coverings, what else can we do to take care of our health and nourish our physical and emotional resilience?

One practice I personally am very consistent with these days is the ancient practice of qi gong, which has existed in some form for over 5000 years. Qi gong combines meditation, breathing, physical movements, and posture practice for whole body benefit.

Plus, it can be exercise that is enjoyable to do. I think it feels awesome!

Research on qi gong has suggested it can have positive benefits in the areas of bone density, cardiopulmonary function, blood pressure, anxiety relief, and immune function/regulation.

So, my dog Tuxedo and I made a video of a short and simple qi gong routine to help support the Lungs, according to Chinese medicine. Tuxedo does a little voiceover work for it, demonstrating the power of her Lung qi.

COVID-19: Things to Do Besides Worry

Years ago, during wildfire season here in Southern California, my tai chi teacher had to evacuate her home. She came to stay with me a few days. During that time, she insisted we turn off the TV, move the couches, and practice the tai chi form. Later, after it was all over, she expressed disappointment that more of her students had not practiced tai chi during the emergency. She said, “Emergencies are exactly the time you need your practice.”

Sometimes doing the calming thing in the midst of a crisis seems counter intuitive, but is the most responsible and effective course of action.

This remains true in our current situation, especially since fear lowers immunity. It is natural to feel anxiety during this moment of uncertainty and disruption. I encourage you to put in place practices to calm and control fear so you can take reasonable action for your health and the health of your community.

Stay home.

It’s not just about you. We are protecting each other.

Do your tai chi, even if it isn’t tai chi.

I have a tai chi and qi gong practice. Maybe you do yoga. Or Zumba. If you have a physical practice that helps you manage stress, now is the moment. Turn off the TV, move your couch if necessary, and do it. If you don’t currently have a practice, I encourage you to look up qi gong on youtube and explore.

Here’s a qi gong exercise to strengthen the lungs to get you started.

Shake:

A basic qi gong exercise for moments of anxiety is shaking. Shake your body. Think an Olympic runner before getting set at the blocks. Shake out your arms, legs, and entire body while taking and releasing deep breaths. Bounce into your heels. This throws off physical and emotional tension.

Practice strategic nutrition:

I gave a Facebook live presentation a couple weeks ago about way to keep our overall systems strong with Chinese medicine nutritional therapy. A quick recap:

Avoid dairy, excessive sugar, and alcohol. They encourage the production of mucus, and sugar lowers immunity. Avoid ice cold foods and beverages because they require more energy to digest and weaken the digestive organs.

Soups are great because they are warm and easy to digest. Bone broth is especially nutritious.

Enjoy the following lung friendly foods, which also help decrease phlegm: onions, garlic, radishes, mushrooms, horseradish, seaweed. Other lung nourishing foods: apples, pears, carrots, almonds.

Fermented foods like raw sauerkraut and coconut kefir can boost the immune system.

Virtualize your social life:

Here in LA they have closed public gathering places like bars to flatten the curve. Please honor these measures to minimize in-person gatherings and groups. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy socializing and the benefits that go with it. Move that interaction online. Zoom: its not just for business meetings any more.

Take a moment:

Here is an easy meditation to interrupt the anxiety cycle:
1. Focus your attention on the center of your chest.
2. Imagine your breath entering and exiting through the center of your chest.
3. Think of something that makes your grateful. It can be a memory, a person, a pet. Whatever makes you smile even a little bit.
4. Stay with the breathing and gratitude as long as you wish.

Use apps like InsightTimer or Headspace if you need additional resources to meditate.

Sleep:

Your immune system needs solid rest. Resist the temptation to stay up late scrolling through your social media feeds or watching TV. Go to bed. Seriously.

Don’t hoard:

Please do not hoard more supplies and food than you need. The populations most vulnerable to the virus do not have the resources to drive multiple places to find food and basic supplies. If COVID-19 has highlighted anything, it is our interconnection with one another. Allowing those around us to have what they need protects the entire community. After this is all over, we all want to be able to look back and know we behaved responsibly, decently, and honorably.

Donate:

This pandemic has taken a toll on food supplies for the most vulnerable in our society. If you can, make a monetary donation to your local food bank. (Money goes further than food items.)

We are all in this together. Please reach out if I can be of service or if you have questions.

Acupressure for Stress Relief

How’s your stress level these days? Your sleep quality? Prolonged stress and tension have health consequences, as does poor sleep quality: lowered immune activity, digestive complaints, mood swings, less stable blood sugar levels, increased inflammation.

If you are feeling tense, anxious, or having difficulty sleeping check out this easy acupressure routine you can do to take the edge off. Do as many repetitions as you like to relax, and remember to take nice gentle breaths while doing it.

If you would like to get in for an acupuncture, EFT, and/or reiki appointment to help counteract the effects of stress, give me a call at 323-475-9282.

Five Ways Chinese Medicine Softens Aging

Aging may beat the alternative, but that doesn’t mean it is always a smooth or comfortable process. As my grandmother used to say, “Aging isn’t for the faint of heart.” Hormonal symptoms, increased aches and pains, shifts in mood, lower energy, sleep disruptions, and other challenges often appear as we get older.

While you can’t stop the aging process (despite all those ads that convince you to try), you can naturally support your body to make getting older a less rocky journey. Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbs, dietary strategies, meditation traditions, and therapeutic exercises, can help you maintain your health and allow you to age more comfortably. Below are five specific ways Chinese medicine can help you maximize your physical and mental mojo as you mature.

Pain relief:

As people age they often notice more joint and muscle pains, a greater tendency toward injury, and longer healing time for these injuries. Chinese medicine can be an extremely valuable way to address these. An increasing number of Western medical professionals recognize and acknowledge one of the primary benefits of acupuncture is effective relief of pain. Some hospitals are even starting to offer acupuncture in response to the opioid crisis, providing their patients access to drug-free pain solutions. In addition to acupuncture, Chinese medicine also includes various types of body work techniques that also ease muscle tension, improve circulation, decrease inflammation, and promote healing. In my practice, I also provide therapeutic exercises to improve posture if the pain is a result of poor alignment. Addressing pain and discomfort is vital to preserving health because it allows you to remain active, an extremely important element of aging well.

Stress reduction:

Stress is nothing new, and doctors in ancient China took it very seriously because they recognized that chronic stress can take years off your life. Chronic stress disrupts digestion, sleep, good decision-making, and overall energy. Chinese medicine always aims to balance the body, and this includes the nervous system. In fact, research suggests one of the primary ways acupuncture works is though regulating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. So, if you are locked in a perpetual stress response (your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive), Chinese medicine helps you downshift to a more relaxed state. When you are more relaxed you can make better decisions, your body is not producing stress-related hormones, and the body is in a mode more conducive to resting and healing.

Hormonal symptoms:

Our hormone levels shift as we age. For instance, for men a decrease in testosterone can be associated with a decrease in energy, libido, and sexual performance. For women changes in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can cause the troublesome symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, fatigue, irregular menstrual bleeding, vaginal dryness, insomnia, poor digestion, and urinary symptoms. Both men and women experience bone loss as part of the aging process. With acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditative movement exercises (tai chi and qi gong), and dietary strategies, many patients I’ve worked with find relief from these symptoms. Western research is starting to support this. In fact, a recently-published review suggests acupuncture can be very helpful for reducing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

Sleep quality and quantity:

Sleep quality and quantity decreases for many people as they age. Insomnia can be irritating, but it can also be dangerous since it increases numerous health risks. Sleep provides the body time to regenerate and heal. Adequate sleep is also important to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Western research also recognizes associations between decreased levels of sleep and sleep quality to risk of dementia and heart disease. Acupuncture, herbs, exercises, and traditional meditation/visualization practices can all help improve sleep quality, which not only helps manage risk for significant health problems but also makes day-to-day living more pleasant.

Digestive health:

Both Western and Eastern medical traditions recognize a relationship between aging and digestion. Chinese medicine actually ties the aging process to the deterioration of our digestion. As one ages, digestion becomes less efficient and robust. In fact, many women entering or in menopause complain of an onset or increase in gas, bloating, and poor digestion. If our digestion is compromised and less effective at extracting and using nutrients, our cells have less fuel to regenerate. While Chinese medicine can’t provide immortality, it can strengthen and support your digestion naturally to pay big dividends for preserving and improving overall energy, health, and quality of life.

Are you suffering from any of the above issues? Are you having other health challenges? Or do you want to give your body the most support now to avoid being sidelined with any of the above later? Chinese medicine offers natural, effective methods to keep you balanced, energized, and active. If you want to know more or have questions about your specific situation, give me a call: 323-475-9282.

Chinese Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is now so widespread some health professionals have labeled it an epidemic. Diabetes affects more than 30 million people in the U.S., and the vast majority of these people have type 2 diabetes. In addition, more than 84 million people in the U.S. have prediabetes, a serious condition when blood sugar is higher than normal but has yet to reach the level for a diagnosis of diabetes. Many people with diabetes and prediabetes are unaware they have the condition.


These conditions are very serious. Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015. Potential complications of diabetes include kidney damage or failure, higher risk of stroke, blood vessel and heart disease, lower limb amputation, eye damage, slower healing, and nerve damage, which can cause neuropathy and erectile dysfunction, among other health challenges.

Diabetes is also expensive. According to the CDC the average annual medical costs for diabetics were over $13,000, and about $7,900 of this was related to diabetes. Medical costs for people diagnosed with diabetes were 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes.

This calculation, of course, does not include life costs such as lost time with family and friends, being unable to participate in favorite activities, and the emotional toll of chronic pain and illness.

Western medicine believes once you are diagnosed with diabetes, the most you can hope for is managing the condition. Only prediabetes is considered reversible.

I recently had the chance to add to my existing knowledge of treating diabetes by studying with one of the leaders in Chinese medicine when it comes to treating this condition. He stressed that type 2 diabetes is essentially an inflammatory condition. Inflammation damages insulin receptors, making the body unable to use insulin and kicking off the other damaging processes associated with elevated blood sugar in the body.

He also reminded us that Chinese medicine treats inflammation very effectively.

Did you know that together acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Eastern nutritional therapy can not only address inflammation, they help balance blood sugar levels, treat pain (i.e., neuropathy), and support organ function to relieve symptoms and rebalance the body.

Acupuncture helps regulate the major systems of the body, including the nervous, circulatory, immune, and chemical systems, i.e., neurotransmitters and hormones. There is evidence that suggests acupuncture can help balance blood glucose levels and also help with inflammation. Acupuncture is also excellent for pain relief, which makes it extremely valuable for issues such as neuropathy. I have treated many people with acupuncture who were referred by their Western providers for treatment of neuropathy.

Chinese herbal medicine is another valuable resource. Unlike Western herbalism, Chinese herbal medicine does not use single herbs but instead uses combinations of herbs. These combinations have been used clinically for thousands of years. Many of the common herbs we use have demonstrated properties that make them useful for treating insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar. In addition, herbal medicine can help address side effects of Western medication and secondary health complaints resulting from diabetes.

Appropriate nutrition is also critical to healing and restoring balance to the body.  Eastern nutritional therapy is tailored nutritional strategy based on the individual’s health condition, their constitution, and even the season of the year. Eastern nutrition focuses not just on which foods are most helpful but also timing and preparation of those foods to ensure maximum benefit from meals. Your food can be medicine.

If you know of someone with type 2 diabetes who wants to take a proactive approach to supporting their body and improving their health, please pass on this information.  If you have questions about how this may help your own health situation, give me a call and let’s discuss your options: (323) 475-9282.

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture: Beauty Through Health

It has been in the news lately, and I have gotten several questions about facial rejuvenation acupuncture, sometimes referred to as an “acupuncture facelift.” So, here is the low down.

Facial rejuvenation acupuncture has been used for centuries in China to combat the signs of aging, and was performed on imperial concubines. If you are interested in a natural, healthy way to care for your skin without the downtime of surgery or injections, this might be the method for you.

As we get older, our skin loses elastin, collagen, and fat, which give skin its youthful appearance. Skin loses its elasticity and begins to sag. Moisture and blood flow to the skin also diminish, resulting in drier skin. Skin cells also divide more slowly, and skin becomes thinner and takes longer to heal.

Common ways to address these concerns are surgery, botox, and/or fillers. Unfortunately, these can have side effects, some of which are serious. For instance, botox does not just remain in the area in which it is injected but travels to other parts of the body. This can cause some dangerous side effects such as difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness. It can even cause urinary incontinence. There is also new concerning research that suggests the paralysis caused by botox makes changes in your brain. Surgery and injections also carry risks: scarring, infection, or toxic buildup of chemicals.

Facial rejuvenation acupuncture, on the other hand, not only avoids such side effects but also supports your overall health. Acupuncture can help the body lay down new collagen to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It tones facial muscles, improves skin circulation, and clears inflammation.  Plus, acupuncture addresses health issues that show on the skin such as stress, poor sleep, and digestive issues. Chinese medicine can also help with conditions such as acne or rosacea.

In addition to acupuncture, the facial rejuvenation treatment also includes facial gua sha and facial cupping. These are gentle techniques that increase circulation to the skin, decrease inflammation, and can even help improve discoloration of the skin. And most people find them extremely soothing, relaxing, and enjoyable.

These changes help return the skin to a healthier and more youthful appearance. Over the years, people who I’ve treated with facial rejuvenation report to me that the people in their life spontaneously comment about how they look especially refreshed, vital, and vibrant. It is noticeable but still natural-looking.

What does facial rejuvenation treatment include?

The initial series consists of 12 weekly 90-minute treatments that include:

A Chinese medicine intake and diagnosis
Personalized whole body acupuncture treatments
Facial acupuncture
Facial gua sha
Facial cupping
Herbal diagnosis and herbal recommendations
Personalized Eastern nutritional therapy recommendations
Maintenance sessions can be scheduled according to individual needs after the initial series.

Interested in using this ancient method? Let’s do it! Contact me if you have questions or would like to schedule your treatment: 323-475-9282 or norah@acuadavantage.com.