Acupressure for Stress Relief

by Norah McIntire, L.Ac.

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

by Norah McIntire, L.Ac.

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

by Norah McIntire, L.Ac.

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

How to Cut Your Health Problems in Half

I studied tai chi privately for several years with an instructor whose pet peeve was when students would roll their eyes at themselves when they made a mistake doing the tai chi form. Evidently lots of students were prone to this, me included.

She used to say that the judgment was a waste of energy and not helping at all. In fact, she said you could cut your problems by 50% if you just stopped passing judgment on yourself. You could just go about practicing and correcting your tai chi as needed, leaving the judgment out altogether.

Judgment didn’t actually help you perform better.

And really this is a very tai chi idea since tai chi is all about the most efficient use of energy, whether in your posture or defending yourself against an attacker. Tension and effort that don’t serve a purpose are simply a waste of your limited life force.

Apply tai chi principles to your health.

I have noticed a similar phenomenon in my acupuncture practice. People may not literally roll their eyes (although sometimes they do) at their bodies when they have a health challenge.

But people often judge their bodies as having failed when they get sick, experience pain, or even age.

And it isn’t hard to see why folks might do this. It is unpleasant to be unwell, and we tend to judge things we don’t like to experience. It can certainly be extremely frustrating to want to participate in life a certain way, but your body won’t seem to cooperate.

Add to that the emphasis our society is increasingly putting on wellness, as if illness is a sort of moral failure. You got sick? You must have done something wrong. You must not have meditated enough or juiced enough or avoided gluten or done enough yoga/cardio/pilates/bootcamp/crossfit, etc.

Or the really toxic New Age-y version: you must be sick because you have unresolved subconscious negativity. Stop thinking those thoughts and you’d get better.

So, just to be clear, getting sick and experiencing pain (and getting older) are all inevitable parts of the human experience. Full stop.

To quote an acupuncture mentor of mine, “Sometimes these things happen.” That’s all.

Bodies get old. All bodies will ultimately die. That’s just the nature of being on the planet. You haven’t done anything wrong. There has been no moral failure.

Holding yourself and your body accountable for an unrealistic standard (never getting sick) is both a waste of energy and an additional problem you have stacked on top of the health issue.

In fact, sometimes in my office the judgment about the health issue can be a bigger problem than the health issue itself. Sometimes it delays people from taking the steps necessary to care for themselves since they have a belief their body shouldn’t require that care.

I shouldn’t be sick or in pain so I’m not going to address the problem.

Better to spend that energy accessing care and resources to help you feel better. Dawdling in judgment just delays healing or relief.

The balancing act.

But wait a minute! Shouldn’t I take responsibility for my health?

I mean, cardio/pilates/meditation/yoga/herbal teas/nutrition really do help your health, right? Don’t I bear some responsibility for taking care of myself?

I am not suggesting that accepting illness as a part of the human experience means you are obligated to throw up your hands and give up on self-care. Accepting the reality that sometimes the body gets sick doesn’t mean you should not access the resources you have to give your body the best chance of thriving and feeling good.

However, taking care of your health doesn’t mean you will fully escape illness, injury, discomfort, or aging. (This is especially true since there are factors beyond your control that play into health, including genetics, environment, and socio-economic status.)

So you can take responsibility for taking care of yourself in a committed way, but you can’t realistically take responsibility for every single health event you ever have.

And making conscious decisions about how to care for yourself during illness can happen very efficiently if you leave the judgment at the door. The judgment is an optional extra, and I don’t recommend it.

What you can do instead.

What you can start with is an acceptance of reality. The body is a temporary thing. It doesn’t last forever, and it sometimes gets sick.

You can argue with this reality and suffer a lot. Or, you can practice acceptance that this sometimes happens and your body hasn’t failed or betrayed you.

It’s just a body being a body.

Instead of judgment, you can simply acknowledge what is with a simple phrase. “Right now, it’s like this.”

Or, my tai chi teacher was a big fan of the phrase, “That’s interesting.” Instead of judging, you can get curious about how your body feels, even if it is uncomfortable.

Then you will not only have avoided the extra stress of judgment, you will have some information about what is happening in your body that will help you take appropriate steps to care for it.

You can just get on with evaluating and applying any available solutions. No wasted time and energy shaking your fist at your body.

Now this doesn’t mean that when you are sick or injured you necessarily won’t feel sad or scared. Being ill is usually no picnic. That can definitely be part of the reality you may have to acknowledge.

However, you can let yourself off the hook. Your body isn’t supposed to be immortal or never get sick.

Cut out the middle step of judgment, save the energy you would have spent shaking your fist or rolling your eyes at your body, and get about taking care of yourself (or correcting your tai chi form).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need additional and optional problems. Dumping half of them feels like a relief.

Full Recovery from Eating Disorders

Imagine unlocking your front door and walking into your home to find it turned upside down, completely ransacked. The mess and damage are so extensive, your place is hardly recognizable. Lamps are knocked over and broken. Shards of glass from vases litter the floor. The drawers are open and the contents spilled everywhere. Tables are tipped over on their sides, and the couch cushions are torn open. Worse yet, some of your belongings are missing. Valuable items from your locked safe are gone altogether.

This can be what it is like to return to your body after having an eating disorder. You may no longer engage in eating disorder behavior or thoughts, but the illness has taken a physical toll. The thief, the illness, may have vacated the premises but has left an awful lot of damage and even stolen some things. And you are left with the mess and have to clean it up.

I’m recovered from my eating disorder. Why am I still struggling with my health?

Examples of health problems people may experience even after recovery include:

*Lowered immunity and frequent infections
*Joint and connective tissue injuries
*Low energy and poor stamina
*Ongoing digestion sensitivity or dysfunction
*Hormonal imbalance or menstrual difficulties
*Easy and frequent bruising
*Lost bone density and dental problems (valuables from your safe that are missing altogether)

These problems indicate how fragile your health is after prolonged deprivation. These issues can remain even after you are fully recovered from your eating disorder and no longer struggle to have a balanced relationship with food.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, an eating disorder (or even extreme dieting), especially if it includes restriction and/or over-exercise, robs you of your energetic funds. Using the analogy above, the eating disorder breaks your (bodily) “belongings” and takes your (energetic) “cash.”

You lose the energy and substances of the body that are responsible for things like your immunity, stamina, connective tissue, dental health, and bone density when you are in a state of malnutrition. And even when you have normalized your eating and nutritional intake, you are still working from a deficit.

The symptoms listed above indicate that your body is insufficiently funded to run day-to-day affairs.

Can anything be done about it?

Well, just like reestablishing balance and health to one’s finances, you have to address the missing “funds” even after you have restored basic “income” levels. Your income, which is your nutritional intake, may now be reasonable and healthy, but you have to take extra steps to restore your missing energy and really heal your body.
You might try a “budget.” You can save your energy by cutting back on activities. For example, maybe you give up exercise or decline invitations to social events. However, if you are having health problems, your body is already saying it doesn’t have enough to keep the basics going. It doesn’t have any extra to put toward repairing your tendons or keeping your immune system strong.

Plus, let’s face it, being on a strict budget is a drag. You have to miss out on a lot. Who wants to keep declining invitations or skipping fun activities?

So, how can you generate more energetic income to really restore your health?

Enter the wisdom of Chinese medicine.

Chinese medicine (the philosophy and practice of acupuncture, herbalism, bodywork, meditation, and tai chi) provides treatment to help restore your body’s missing energetic resources.

In Chinese medicine we first establish which “accounts” have been drained and what items are broken. The account responsible for the health of your connective tissue and joints? Your immune system account? Your digestive account? All of the above? When it is clear which accounts are low, we start to make “deposits” with the tools of Chinese medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine (an especially valuable tool), and traditional therapeutic exercises like tai chi. These methods help the body heal and replenish.

Chinese medicine is all about helping your body balance. Acupuncture helps regulate the body’s major systems like the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. Herbal medicine, for instance, helps by providing raw materials and concentrated nutrition to help your body repair damage.

Just like restoring your financial health, it takes time. I explain to my patients that exactly like money, your energy is easier to spend than to replenish. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, but it takes time. Earning a paycheck and socking away some savings takes longer than going on a shopping spree. You have to be consistent, and the amount of time required depends on how badly you were robbed.

And just like a robbery, unfortunately some of your belongings may not be recovered by the police. Your teeth and bones, for instance, are the most difficult to restore to pre-eating disorder levels. Despite this possibility, it is still worthwhile to clean up the damage left in your house and shore up your accounts so you have enough energy to live, dance, work, study, explore, love, and play.

Start where you are.

Expelling the thief from your house is the first step. If you are recovered from an eating disorder, you have done this. Well done. If you are reading this and you are not yet recovered, please know: 1. Recovery is possible. 2. It is worth it. 3. Time is of the essence. The sooner you kick the thief out, the less damage done and the fewer things stolen.

So, if you are feeling that sense of desperation and sadness looking at the disarray in your ransacked house, know you have some options besides simply accepting the mess. Chinese medicine offers ways to address issues such as lower immunity, decreased stamina, digestive problems, and connective tissue injuries. Once the burglar is gone, it is possible to pick up the pieces and make your house a home again.

I have personally seen people regain their health after eating disorders and extreme dieting. If you have questions about your situation and if Chinese medicine might help, I’d be happy to talk with you.

Letting Your Body Win

My dog is, um, unique. She’s a delicate flower, shall we say. She has a lot of fears and phobias: new people, new places, flies, garbage trucks, bicycles, my hiccups (just mine), my wife’s cough (just hers), and (developed just recently) June bugs.

So when we moved to our new neighborhood Tuxedo had a rough time, especially when I would try to take her for a walk.  It was a mess. New noises and new smells were just too much.  We would venture out, and inevitably she would put on her brakes and refuse to move. She became seventy pounds of “Nope!” and I couldn’t argue (and I certainly couldn’t carry her).

Try as I might to command her to keep moving, she wasn’t having it. Pulling and cajoling, I tried to keep her walking. Every time we would have to turn around and go home, her tail between her legs and me super frustrated.

My dog needed exercise, and I was at my wit’s end. I turned to an online group of owners of shy and scared dogs. It is a group of lovely, helpful, good-hearted people who own and/or train dogs that have difficulty navigating the world due to their fear of various things.

I explained that my dog was too scared to go for a walk, and I was powerless to keep her moving. The more I tried to override her fear, the worse it got. However, I was afraid that if I gave in and let her come home I would be letting the dog win.

Several people responded, but one answer in particular changed my entire view, not only of our present circumstances, but of my entire relationship with Tux.

Regarding the fear of letting Tux “win” she wrote, “You and your dog are on the same team.”

I think I actually burst into tears when I read it.

It wasn’t supposed to be a contest or power struggle. My dog, who was doing the best she could, was trying to tell me something. And I wasn’t listening because I was busy trying to be in charge.  We were supposed to be working together to get her needs met.

What does this have to do with your body and health?

What I was doing to Tuxedo—with the best of intentions—is very similar to what I see a lot of people do to their bodies, especially when it comes to exercise and eating.  Maybe you are doing it too.

You have to force your body to look a certain way, weigh a certain amount, or be a certain shape. You can’t possibly let your body “win” by just being what it is. You have to conquer and control it.

And it is absolutely understandable why this is common. We are constantly exposed to messages that explain this is what we have to do to be healthy, fit and responsible. Work harder! Exercise more! Eat less! Eat better! Count your calories! Lose weight!

But you and your body are on the same team.

And like my delicate dog needed me to understand something, maybe your body is trying to tell you something. Are you listening or are you trying to be in charge?

There are realities that no amount of diet or exercise or meditation or botox or supplements or even acupuncture can change. Bodies get old. Bodies sometimes get sick. Bodies are different shapes and sizes. Bodies need to eat. Bodies eventually die. You can’t change any of this. You can’t vanquish your body to make it something it isn’t. It’s a body.

If this struggle strikes a chord with you, maybe take some time to actually listen to what your body is communicating. It doesn’t mean you give up taking care of yourself. Quite the opposite, actually. You can care for yourself in a way that accepts your body for what it is and where it is. And you can also allow room for your body to be different from someone else’s body.

How do you be a good teammate?

You can start by asking yourself these questions (and being honest with the answers):

Do you exercise in a way that brings you joy and makes you feel good or are you trying to burn calories to look a certain way?
When you choose what to eat are you motivated by an easy sense of enjoyment and appetite or by a need to control your body’s size and shape?
Are you able to enjoy your meal or are you busy doing caloric math in your head because you are afraid of gaining weight?
Are you mad at your body for refusing to be a certain size or shape? Are you frustrated with your body for not “cooperating” in some way?
Then ask yourself, what would you change if you listened to your body’s feedback as valuable information rather than an inconvenient attempt to thwart your will? What support is your body asking for?

What would change in your routine if you considered your body as a teammate rather than something that you had to keep from “winning?”  (And maybe ponder how weird is it that you would want your own body to “lose?”)

What is winning anyway?

I changed strategies with Tux entirely. The walks were out. Instead, we played agility games in the back yard and practiced obedience and new tricks. We enjoyed a good game of hide and seek. When she was scared she was allowed to go in the house. No more powering through despite her fear. She got some exercise and stimulation, and we didn’t have to battle each other anymore.

I couldn’t force Tuxedo to be something she wasn’t. She is a shy dog, and we just have to work with that. We can just enjoy spending time with each other, and I let her be who she is.

Winning starts with treating your body as though you were responsible for helping it, not beating it into submission.

Tuxedo is actually pretty amazing, even with all her foibles.  While she’s not ever going to be the dog we take with us when we hang on the patio of the local coffee shop, she’s still awesome. She’s smart, learns quickly, has a sense of humor, loves a good belly rub, adores romping in the snow and is great and loyal company when either of us aren’t feeling well.

There is so much more ease and appreciation with the relationship since I quit trying to override her personality to get to where I thought we should go. When we hang out, it’s fun, we enjoy each other, and it totally feels like winning.

I wish you the same in your relationship with your body.

If you would like support cultivating a more balanced relationship with your body, please reach out. I'd love to help.