Get ready for summer with acupuncture!

With Memorial Day just passing us this week, summer is just around the corner and BBQ season has officially begun.  My family and I were able to inaugurate this delicious of all seasons by hosting a few families in our backyard.  We all had a nice, relaxing time enjoying the company and the delicious food we all brought (it was potluck style) and watching our children play with each other.

With BBQ season in full force now and summer coming real soon, it's a good time to come in and get an acupuncture session or two.  Why?  One word: tune up.  Just like a car needs her oil changed regularly to keep it running smoothly, our bodies need regular check ups to keep our immune system strong, or digestion functioning properly, and keeping our stress levels down, among other things.

With temperatures rising, the A/C will be blasting everywhere, making indoor and outdoor temperatures often shockingly different.  That drastic change in temperature makes our body very susceptible to catching colds.  Acupuncture can help to maintain and strengthen our immune response to these changes, preventing a cold from coming on.  With BBQ season all summer long, it means you'll get to eat a lot of yummy but potentially unhealthy foods that will only make your stomach sluggish, heavy, unhappy.  Acupuncture can help to keep your GI tract running happily, digesting the foods properly, and absorbing the nutrients appropriately.  It'll keep you regular, too, a very important part of keeping your immune system strong.

Wait, what's the connection between the GI and immune, you ask?  An estimated 60- 80% of your immune system resides in your in your gut, which when you think about it, it makes sense because most toxins come in from the mouth.  In order to attack the toxins that come in through the mouth, the GI tract has to have an abundant supply of immune cells.  So if you can go regularly to the bathroom, you're getting rid of toxic build up in the intestines and blood stream, keeping your immune system in top shape.  That's why it's good to also eat a lot of foods high in probiotic content, like yogurt, which keep the good bacteria in your gut strong.

So come in for a tune up to get ready for all the fun that summer always brings.  You'll feel like a million bucks after a treatment!

Foods You Should Be Eating

There was recently a wonderful article in Well, a New York Times Healthblog. It talks about 11 foods people should be eating but most likely aren't. Luckily, all of the listed foods are easy to find at your local markets, and especially farmers markets.

Since the article already lists what the foods are good for and how to prepare it, I decided to do a twist on those foods from a Chinese Medicine perspective. So here it goes:

Beets: these pee-staining (and you know what I mean if you've eaten them!!) roots nourish the blood, strengthen the heart, calm the mind, lubricate the intestines and cleanse the liver. What does that mean? It's excellent for anemia, restlessness, constipation and for liver intoxification from drugs or alcohol. I like to eat it by boiling the beets in water until tender, peel skin and then eat as is with no seasoning. It comes out so sweet, you don't need any seasoning! I also like to cook the beet greens in a sauté, whether stir fried, or water fried with other hardy greens. Caution when consuming it raw. I one time drank a cup of raw beet juice with nothing else, and I immediately threw it up! Its detoxing abilities are so strong, you have to consume it mixed with other fruits and veggies juices.

Cabbage: it's excellent in clearing heat, lubricating the intestines and stopping cough. When we say clearing heat in Chinese Medicine, it means heat symptoms present in the body, from constipation (you're all dried up, right?), thirst, fever, acne (it's usually red like fire, right?), body odor (fetid food has smell, right? so if you're consuming heat-producing foods, you're more likely to have B.O. than not), hypertension, hot flashes, to anger (that's a form of emotion rising up onto the surface, exploding, like a volcano, right?), and so forth. I like to eat it by julienning it and then sprinkling a little bit of vinegar and salt to it. I then mix it really well until it become a little like pickles. In Japan, there was a craze for a while of the Cabbage Diet. All people ate was cabbage to help them lose weight because of it's high fiber content and aid in promoting bowel movements.

Swiss Chard: Like all dark green leafy vegetables, it has a cooling ability, so like the cabbage, and similar to spinach, it can clear heat. It also nourishes the blood. So it's excellent for anemia, blood disorders, constipation and detoxing. I like to water-fry it with a little bit of garlic and salt, or mix it into some quinoa with kale and salt. Simple but delicious!

Cinnamon: Cinnamon, or rou gui, is used extensively as a medicinal herb in Chinese herbology. It is a warming herb, so we use it for conditions like the common cold, abdominal pain that gets better if you put warmth to it, PMS cramping and low back pain. Think about it, when do you usually use cinnamon in your cooking? During the Fall and Winter right, for that yummy pumpkin pie, in soups, in hot cocoa or hot coffee. Why? Because it's warming, and for Americans, it reminds them of feeling all cozy on a cold winter day. I like to throw a whole cinnamon twig into the boiling water that I use to prepare steel cut oatmeal. Not only does it make it fragrant, but it sure adds that punch of core-warming heat to my oatmeal. For PMS cramping or stomach pain, drink cinnamon tea.

Pomegranate Juice: pomegranates promote urination, reduce inflammation (especially of the throat, mouth and urinary tract), and is mildly nourishing to the blood. It's good for urinary tract infections, like cranberry juice, because its sour and cooling, and like aforementioned, promotes urination and reduces inflammation in the urinary tract. I like to drink pomegranate juice, but like with any fruit juices, because of its high sugar content, I usually dilute it with water. It's best, like with any juices, to eat the real fruit, so if you can find it in your market, buy the real fruit. It's time consuming to get to the seeds, but well worth the effort. Just be careful staining your clothes.

Dried Plums: ok, I don't eat dried fruits, again, because like fruit juices, they are high in sugar content. So if I'm going to eat dried plums, I'm going to choose the real fruit. They are the yummiest during the summer. It's excellent at supporting the healthy functioning of the liver, and helps to keep the qi ("energy source" in Chinese medicine) flowing smoothly throughout your body. Some expressions of stuck qi is irritability, moodiness, PMS, easy to anger, and menstrual problems. Plums are also a digestive aid and relieves thirst.

Pumpkin seeds: it's an anti-parasitic and diuretic, so it's excellent for intestinal worms, diabetes and prostate problems. The raw seeds are excellent at calming nausea and bloatingduring pregnancy.

Sardines: like with fruit juices and dried fruit, I like my fish fresh. In Japan, we eat sardines all the time, broiled. Because it can be quite bitter, we like to eat it with some grated daikon and soy sauce to cut the bitterness. Sardines are wonderful qi tonics and yin tonics. What is yin?, you might ask. It encompasses the notion of body fluids, cooling energy, female energy, night, sleep, calmness and so forth (as opposed to yang energy, which is aggressive, explosive, muscles, male energy, and day). It also nourishes the tendons and bones. So sardines are great for menopause, thirst, bone fractures, osteoporosis, tendonitis.

Tumeric: like cinnamon, this is an herb we use extensively in Chinese herbology. Known as jiang huang, we primarily use it for menstrual disorders like amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, cramps, and for arthritic conditions.

Frozen Blueberries: ok, frozen fruits and vegetables are my exceptions. I do keep frozen blueberries in my freezer to use in my smoothies or oatmeal -- if I can't get access to fresh ones, or if it's not summer. Blueberries nourish the blood and tonify the qi, so it's good for anemic conditions, amenorrhea, and fatigue. Like with cranberries, it also aids in relieving urinary tract infections. I love to eat fresh, sweet blueberries also with some home-made whipped cream! Mmmm!

If you want to learn more about food from a Chinese Medicine perspective, a wonderful book to own is called The Tao of Nutrition by Maoshing Ni and Cathy McNease. Much of the information in this particular post came from this book.

And one last thing I'd like to say about eating these and other foods is to choose organic, locally grown foods as much as possible.

Enjoy healthy eating!!

No Acupuncture Happy Hour Today 9/30 and "Smart Choices" foods

Please note, there will be no Acupuncture Happy Hour today. Will resume next week 10/7.

In the meantime, I wanted to share an article that came out today in the LA Times that warns consumers of the marketing ploy food companies are now employing to have consumers purchase "Smart Choices" labeled foods.

Many of my patients come in confused as to what pertains a healthy diet. What with the conflicting information and marketing ploys out there to get consumers to purchase healthy foods - including this "Smart Choice" labels, no wonder! What I always tell my patients is to eat foods that come from the earth and that has been barely processed. But don't all foods come from the earth at one point? they ask. Sure, but from eating a tomato or an apple or a lean cut of meat, compared to eating Froot Loops, Twinkies, and fast food burgers, which one do you think has the lesser amount of work done on the food? Which one requires just washing, cutting and eating (or in the case of meats, cooked, then eaten)? The first three foods. The latter three foods came from a natural food source, sure, but then they were processed using all kinds of chemicals, additives, flavorings, colorings and god knows what else, to be sold to the consumer. It's a far cry from what it originally looked like when it came from the earth. Eat foods your grandmother would recognize, instead. And unless you have a digestive disease like Celiac disease or diabetes, I always like to tell my patients to eat anything - but everything in moderation. Focus on a variety of vegetables, but meats are good for the body, fish keeps the blood smooth and flowing, and carbohydrates of the complex kind (like whole wheat, quinoa, amaranth, etc.) provide the burst of energy we need. The rest - alcohol, caffeine, sugar/desserts, dairy - those are fine as long as it's occasional. I tell my patients, If you've been eating a really good, clean, healthy diet, reward yourself one night with a gorgeous red wine or a sumptuous chocolate cake! Eating shouldn't be about punishment, calorie-counting, or starvation. Eating is nourishment for the body and soul, and we want to eat foods that promote longevity, vitality and stamina.

So to use Michael Polan's mantra, Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.

If you are interested in improving your dietary habits and/or wanting to see how well your organs and body systems are functioning, I provide nutrition counseling and assessment at Iyashi Wellness. In addition to filling out a questionnaire, during the assessment, I take my patients through several quick tests to evaluate what nutrients their organs and body systems may be lacking. Based on this assessment, I prescribe whole-food based nutritional supplements from Standard Process. Because Standard Process' supplements are high quality, whole-food based using mostly organic ingredients, the body is able to better absorb the supplements nourish the body as opposed to the synthetically created supplements that are commonly available in the market. Please contact me if you are interested in a consultation or nutrition assessment at or 310.770.9560.

Iyashi Vacation

My husband and I recently came back from a 10-day trip to Northeastern Spain. What a beautiful country. So vibrant, rich with history, and a gastronomic tour de force.

One thing that really struck me about the Spaniards and their culture - and this is often noted by Europeans and Americans alike - was that the Spaniards (and the rest of Europe) have a real passion for the joie de vivre. It was very palpable. From the 2 hour lunches and 3 hour dinners, to meals enjoyed in large groups of friends and family, to the resistance to forego siesta time in order to join the rest of the modern world. I observed people sitting out in the cafes, drinking their coffees and thick chocolate drinks, engrossed in deep conversation with one another, not having a care that time was ticking away. And this wasn't relegated just to the young. Senior citizens, both men and women, donning their polished suits, would join their fellow friends to enjoy one another's company in local cafes and bars. Kids would also accompany their parents and grandparents, but they never made scenes. They were happily interacting with their parents and adult friends. When do you see these examples in the United States? Rarely.

At first, I have to be honest, I was annoyed that so many places were shut down during siesta time. How am I supposed to enjoy my trip if so much is closed down, I thought frustratedly. But as the days passed and I started to shed the American stressed mentality, I actually began to enjoy the quiet time that came about when many things shut down. My husband and I would ourselves go to cafes to have a break, snack, and people watch, or go back to our hotel room to just rest.

And that's when it occurred to me. Americans work practically 24-7, especially now that so much can be done on the computer and from home. We just work work work , sacrificing quality of life. And yet our economy is at its worst since the Great Depression. All that working for what? The Spanish economy is in the pits, too, but at least they aren't working themselves to the bones like us Americans. Instead, they are still enjoying life. They see the big picture. It's about Family. Friends. Relaxing. Eating. Drinking. Laughing. Being part of a community.

I left Spain iyashi'd and very importantly, committed anew to living a Wellness life. Watching so many Spaniards bike around for their daily errands, I'm now bicycling to my teaching job or to the market. That way I get my exercise in and get my errands done in one swoop. I'm also incorporating public transportation as part of my commute. I'm now also more conscientious about enjoying what I eat even when I'm alone, chewing everything slowly - and not multitasking while I eat. Spain really left an impression on me. That's what I love about travels - both local and abroad - because it brings new life into your crotchety old mind. It changes you.