De-Stress with Acupuncture and Better Sleep

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Article by guest writer Amy Highland, sleep expert at sleephelp.org

In today’s fast-paced world, stress management is a must. With a two-fold approach using acupuncture and improved sleep habits, you can gain control over stress, which allows you to go through your daily life with a clear mind and healthy body.

Sleep and stress have a cyclical relationship that can be difficult to break. Stress can lead to sleeplessness, but sleeplessness can also increase your stress. Finding methods that address both problems can often be more beneficial than those that only focus on one or the other. Acupuncture has been shown to be able to help with both.

Acupuncture has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Today, we have a better understanding of how and what it can do for the mind and body. A study published in Neuroscience Letters explored acupuncture’s relationship to sleep quality, stress, and the immune system.  After evaluating the sleep patterns, stress and depression levels of study participants, half of the participants received ten sessions of acupuncture. These participants showed improved sleep quality as well as lower stress levels and fewer depressive symptoms.

A research review published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice explored acupuncture’s effect on anxiety, which is a big contributor to stress. Researchers started with 1,135 papers related to anxiety but focused on 13, in particular, that revolved around acupuncture. It was concluded that consistent acupuncture or electroacupuncture treatments can help reduce anxiety with few detrimental side effects.

Acupuncture’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety helps put a stopper in the stress-sleep deprivation cycle. While the effects of acupuncture can last for weeks or months, healthy sleep habits can prolong the benefits and help manage stress to prevent the cycle from starting again.

Healthy sleep starts on a mattress that supports your preferred sleep position – back, stomach, or side. Lumps or valleys in the mattress can not only cause aches and pains in the morning but could keep you awake at night.

Many of your habits during the day can come back to influence your sleep-wake cycle. For example, drinking caffeine and other stimulants within four hours of bedtime can keep you wide-awake. Watching television or looking through social media on a smartphone can expose you to bright blue light that suppresses melatonin, a sleep hormone. You can try avoiding stimulants within four hours of bed and turning off screens at least two to three hours before your bedtime to prevent sleep disruptions.

You can further help your body by keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. As your body acclimates to your schedule, it will automatically start the release of sleep hormones.

The combination of acupuncture and healthy sleep habits can give you the edge over your stress. Together, they give you a way to put your best foot forward on a daily basis.

How Does Acupuncture Help Back Pain?

 photo by Nichole Gawalis

photo by Nichole Gawalis

If you have yet to try acupuncture, it may seem a little odd that such tiny needles could help with problems like back pain. For over 3000 years, acupuncture has been used as the primary form of health care throughout East Asia, and continues to be used worldwide. When performed by a licensed practitioner, acupuncture is very safe, effective and relaxing. Most patients drift off to sleep during treatments, and report feelings of not only pain relief, but better energy, mood, digestion and improved sleep patterns overall. The basic concept of how acupuncture works is by improving circulation. The Chinese have an idiom: “where there is free flow there is no pain, where there is pain there is no free flow.” Chronic pain is not natural, and it depletes energy for daily activities and survival needs. When pain persists long- term, the body perceives this as a potentially infected area, and further inhibits circulation to that region – which leads to more pain, creating a vicious cycle that must be interrupted. Acupuncture helps the body to correct itself via the insertion of hair-thin needles. Anything that passes through the skin (even a paper cut) activates the immune system, and the body sends a cascade of red and white blood cells to clean and repair the tissue, as well as endorphins – which create a relaxing effect. Stagnant, painful muscles with previously-reduced circulation are cleansed and revitalized in the process, and change is rapid. Similar to a deep tissue massage, a sensation of muscular ache or a twitch is felt, and is quickly followed by a deep, lasting sense of relief and increased range of motion. Chinese medicine sees all aspects of health as interconnected. For example, one person’s shoulder pain may be caused by unaddressed anxiety, while for another, weak digestion may be the root cause. During treatments, acupuncture practitioners seek to uncover these hidden correlations, and provide a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation. This includes nutritional and physical modifications to help patients recover faster and stay out of pain. Acupuncture can bring relief to patients with muscle tension, whether from athletic training, old injuries that never fully healed, or mysterious pains with unknown causes.

 

Bone Broth Recipe

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Bone Broth Recipe

This recipe supports a healthy immune system, gut and nervous system health, and tooth, bone and joint health. It is rich in highly- absorbable forms of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, as well as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which help reduce inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis.

Ingredients

■  Bones from (preferably organic) chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, or fish

■  Acidic ingredient such as lemon juice OR apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons per pot

■  Add any other vegetables of choice, such as carrots, celery, sweet potato, etc. for added flavor and nutrition

■  Optional: onion, garlic, ginger provided added immune-boosting power. Turmeric for anti-inflammatory effect. Vegetable scraps contain nutrition - include peels from onions, carrots, garlic if properly cleaned.

Directions

Place the ingredients in a large soup tureen. Cover with pure, filtered water and boil until the water level is reduced by half. Strain. For a richer broth, cook longer until liquid is more dense, and retain some of the meat on the bones during cooking (remove skin and fat). A good broth will be thick and gelatinous when cooled, and have a rich, delicious flavor.

Use the broth as a base for soups. Or, once broth is completely cool, pour into ice cube trays and freeze for an easily thawed base for sautéing vegetables or added while cooking grains such as rice and quinoa. Ingesting these nutrients on a regular basis optimizes recovery.

Slow Cooker variation: follow the above instructions, but cook for 24 hours, after which the bones should be soft. Mash the bones using a ladle or potato masher and strain before use.

2 Key Components

*Do Not omit the acidic component (apple cider vinegar or lemon) - this is vital to leach the joint- healing properties from the bones while they cook

*Do Not skim the "fat," as the white layer that forms is actually the part that is most rich in chondroitin sulfate, the portion which helps joints and bones

Pickled Turnips Recipe

Why eat pickled foods? 

 A) Their tasty crunch makes any meal into an event                                                                  B) They are full of probiotics, which leads to a healthy gut                                                        C) Classic recipes are making a comeback as people rediscover the value of traditions            D) All of the above

Yes, it's D. Now, to the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water  
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 lb turnips
  • 1 small beet
  • optional inclusions: bay leaf, serrano or chili peppers, 3 cloves garlic

Boil 1 cup of water (with a bay leaf or two, if you desire) and dissolve 1/3 cup salt into it. Cool by adding the rest of the water and vinegar. Remove bay leaf. (Side note- you basically want enough liquid to cover the beets and turnips mixture- so feel free to double the liquid portion as needed.)

Slice turnips and beets into small slices, like very skinny french fries. Place them in a mason jar and layer in the garlic and peppers, whole or sliced as you prefer. Pour the vinegar and salt water mixture over them and be sure they are completely immersed. Put the lid on and and leave on the counter for a week to brine. You may then enjoy the pickled turnips, and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Mine never last this long! The bright hue (from the beets) and flavor contribute a lot of zest to each meal. 

My favorite is to serve on top of sliced cucumber for a refreshing mid-afternoon snack. 

In addition to providing a good daily dose of food-based probiotics, turnips in particular are a great source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B2, Vitamin E, Iron, and fiber. They also provide minerals such as Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, and Phosphorus.

"Qi is not Mystical Energy, it is ATP"

Here is a post by my colleagues who explain the language barrier that continues the myth that Acupuncture is based on some level of mystical energetic force. As I explain to all my patients, the main principle is to help increase blood flow throughout the body, reaching places where there has been lack of proper nutrient exchange into, and waste products out of, hypoxic (de-oxygenated) cells. There is no level of belief system required for it to work- in fact, animals and babies respond very well to treatment with acupuncture.

Please get in touch if you have any questions on this article, or about how acupuncture can help you recover and live life to the fullest. 760-820-9355

www.liveoakacupuncture.com/shakespeare-qi-medicine

 

What is Acupuncture?

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Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment, developed over the past 2000+ years in East Asia, and used as the primary form of healthcare. Treating a broad range of conditions, from pain, stress, digestive disorders, to complex conditions such as fertility and immune health, acupuncture works by stimulating the body's own healing resources. 

How does this happen? One explanation for how acupuncture helps the body to heal itself is through the immune system. While modern acupuncturists use sterile needles that are for one-time use only, the body is programmed to "overreact" to any opening in the skin. Sending a cascade of red and white blood cells to heal the tissue and destroy harmful bacteria, as well as a release of endorphins (the "feel good" neurotransmitter), this minute insertion of a hair-thin needle stimulates the body to send some healing attention to areas of chronic pain. 

Where there is pain there is no free flow,
where there is free flow there is no pain.

~ Chinese proverb

Often when you are in pain, you may feel a thickened band of muscle, or even a "knot" at the center of the muscle. This tissue is hypoxic - lacking in oxygen - due to the tissue becoming so constricted that there is a lack of circulation - oxygen and nutrients into, nor waste products out of, the muscle. This results in pain, loss of strength, and over time, nerve involvement which leads to sensations such as tingling, numbness, and pain that travels down the extremities. 

By stimulating the body to send blood flow to the area, and through a more complex relationship with the nervous system than this article will cover, the muscle is released, and the flow of blood then returns to the stagnant area is flushed clean, and a deep sense of relief is experienced.

Most people are surprised by just how good they feel during, and after an acupuncture session. Often patients fall asleep, or into a calm, relaxed state similar to what you may experience after a good workout, or meditation. This is due to the effect of blood circulation, and the side effects to treatment are improved sleep, digestion, and energy.

Similar to giving your car a routine tune-up, the human body greatly benefits from such preventive care, and many people find a monthly acupuncture treatment will keep them from experiencing the chronic ailments they have grown accustomed to enduring. 

Pain should not be a lifestyle.