Spring is a time when the effects of seasonal changes are perhaps most obvious at the clinic. In Chinese medicine, the organ and meridian associated with spring is the liver. The ancient Chinese also associated the element wood and the color green with the liver. The element wood and the color green are clearly seen during spring, when the growth of trees, plants, and grass all return after the harsh cold of winter. Spring is a time of expansion and growth, of movement upward and outward.

We see spring’s signs of growth as early plants peek out of the soil and buds form on trees. But what happens when we have some early spring warmth to encourage such growth followed by another cold snap? This is so common here in southeast Wisconsin where spring comes in fits and starts. Injury can occur to the fragile green plants, stagnating their growth. A similar pattern can occur internally in our bodies with the liver (and an associated organ, the gallbladder). As liver energy starts to expand and grow, we become energized to make changes and motivated to clean out and start something new. Then the cold returns. Our liver energy gets stuck again — frozen and stagnated, just as we witness in the plants.

How does that manifest in our lives? Stuck liver energy can create frustration, anger, anxiety, and insomnia, particularly between the hours of 1-3am (the time of the liver according to Chinese medicine). We may experience more aches and pains as blood from the liver stops flowing to properly nourish our tendons, muscles and joints.

How can we overcome these springtime liver issues? The liver loves the essence of bitterness, which is plentiful in green leafy vegetables. (Green again!). Consume them in abundance. Avoid overly damp foods like dairy, fried foods and even too many grains. When the dampness gets cold internally, it freezes (think of ice) and doesn’t move. It stagnates, further aggravating the liver qi and promoting blood stagnation.

In fact, springtime is a perfect opportunity to do some cleansing. That can be anything from just cutting down on meats and grains for a period of time, to fasting for a day or two (drinking water or vegetable juices only). A popular cleanse during the spring is the Master Cleanse (also known as Star’s Lemonade). The cleanse includes the following

Master Cleanse

2Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1-2 tbsp 100% maple syrup
1/10 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz spring or filtered water.

Drink liberally (6-12 glasses/day) throughout the day or 1 warm glass in the morning upon rising.

Lemons are a great body cleanser, full of vitamin C, potassium, and other minerals. Lemons help loosen up and clear toxins from deep tissue matter and organs.

Cayenne pepper helps clear the blood and eliminates toxins and mucus as it warms the body. Maple syrup provides sweetness and energy.

Exercise is also important for moving the liver qi — and doesn’t have to be excessive. A nice walk with purpose and motivation will do. Jogging, running, swimming, and dancing are all good qi-moving exercises.

And of course, getting an acupuncture treatment during the spring/liver time can be very helpful. Acupuncture is all about movement — moving the qi and blood. Herbs and food are more about nourishing and supporting. That stuck energy from the cold, after a time of warmth and growth, can be unstuck by a few well placed acupuncture needles. Sometimes all we need is a little gentle nudge to get our mind and body back in balance.

We can’t control the weather. But we can control what we do and eat to help us cope with weather imbalances and other natural factors associated with seasonal changes.

I hope you’ll incorporate some of these ideas into your day as we anticipate the emerging spring and move closer to the warmth of summer. If you do, please let me know how they helped you feel more balanced and calm. Did you sleep better? Were you less irritable? If you did a fast, what was that like?

May your spring be full of energy, new beginnings, renewed growth, and, of course, green!

Jan 102015

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting as many as 10% of women of childbearing age. Every month, the ovaries produce a large number of follicles. With PCOS, however, no egg is produced, and cysts form when the follicles stop growing. These cysts resemble a string of pearls on the ovaries when viewed on ultrasound.
PCOS symptoms vary from mild to severe. Many women will have long or irregular menstrual cycles, or the period may be absent altogether. The cysts and surrounding tissues produce elevated androgen hormones, which may result in acne and excess facial and body hair. Weight gain can be common as insulin resistance occurs. The amount of estrogen circulating in the bloodstream increases relative to other hormones such as progesterone, causing increased production of LH (lutenizing hormone) and testosterone. This hormonal shift prevents ovulation.
PCOS may result in an increase of high muscle sympathetic nerve activity that constricts blood vessels and can increases a woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes, which, in turn , can be risk factors for heart attack or stroke.
For young women, the primary Western medicine approach employs birth- controlling hormones in an effort to regulate the menstrual cycle. This usually will regulate the cycle, but once the woman decides to conceive and stops birth control, the original problem remains and must be addressed for conception to occur.
For women trying to conceive, Western medicine will often prescribe ovulation drugs like Clomid. If there is no response, hCG may be added to the treatment regimen. If there is still no response, invitro fertilization (IVF) is usually the next recommendation.
How Chinese Medicine Can Help
As with any health issue, in Chinese Medicine, and at Integrative Health Services, we look at the whole body. Treatments are aimed at balancing hormones using diet, acupuncture, and herbs. At Integrative Health Services, we may also incorporate dietary supplements into the treatment. While women vary in the severity of the syndrome and response to treatments, a typical response is to notice signs of ovulation like increased fertile vaginal discharge, followed by an increase in basal body temperature. Progressively, ovulation should move closer to cycle day 14.
Acupuncture works to restore the entire sympathetic nervous system to balance. Greater blood flow to the ovaries and the uterus improves ovulation and enhances implantation. As hormones balance, follicles mature and release a healthy egg, ready to combine with a healthy sperm and create life.
Herbal therapy works in a similar way. Like food, herbs are used to resolve the underlying issues associated with PCOS and provide ongoing treatment between acupuncture sessions. Herbs can increase blood flow and help dissolve any existing ovarian cyst.
Dietary guidelines include eliminating sugars and refined carbohydrates. Avoiding soda and fruit juice is important because they can quickly raise blood sugar. Lean meats that have not been hormonally treated are recommended along with a variety of fresh vegetables. Dairy products can produce what Chinese Medicine calls dampness in the body, a condition that can aggravate tendencies toward PCOS and should be minimized or eliminated. Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided.
At Integrative Health Services, we are dedicated to helping you achieve your dream of becoming a parent. If you know or suspect you have PCOS, we are ready to help you. We offer a free 15-minute consultation to help you determine our approach is a good fit for you. We are conveniently located in Shorewood, near Milwaukee, WI.

May 122014

I’m not a good blogger. My website designer suggested a new blog post every week. I have good intentions. And then there are technical difficulties. Or misplacing the log-in information. Or illness. Or just plain doing what I love to do-being with patients, treating patients, staying busy with my practice.

Writing a new post finally came to the forefront of my to-do for a couple reasons. 1-I’ve had patients tell me I was going to be gone for a while. I finally realized my last blog post was just prior to my trip to China in 2013. 2-my colleague, Phillip Stamos has moved on from our clinic to his new Chinese Medicine adventure after almost 7 years with us. We will miss him and wish him all the best.(He’s been gone a couple months now, but was still on our website, which I discovered in a Google search.)

My trip to China last year was incredible from an education stand point. 2 1/2 weeks of learning from some of the best and most experienced Chinese Medicine doctors in Nanging, China. All the teaching was about the use of herbs and fertility and/or issues surrounding the menstrual cycle (for woman) or male factor fertility (for men). (We did spend one shift in an acupuncture weight loss clinic at the hospital. Fascinating!) Chinese herbs are practiced in the hospital with both a pharmaceutical pharmacy and an herbal dispensary. The herbal docs (this is all fertility work) would send their patient down to imaging for an ultrasound right there at the appointment. In a half hour, the patient would come back with the imaging results. The doctor then knew right away if there were fibroids, ovarian cysts, if the patient had ovulated or was about to, etc. Talk about integration! I really wanted an ultrasound machine when I got back.

I’ve been using the new herbal knowledge I gained this past year with added success and confidence. PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, advanced maternal age, pelvic inflammatory disease, and male factor infertility were all covered in our training.

This year I also attending the Great River Conference in Minneapolis. It was again a wonderful learning experience covering acupuncture and IVF, spiritual aspects of Chinese Medicine and the application of Chinese herbs to pain.

In the fall, I made the leap into the world of GAPS (Gut and Psychological Syndrome)/Paleo/Grain-Free living following an illness. More on that in my next blog post. Stay tuned and stay well.

  • May 12, 2014
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A common issue I see, particularly in runners and bike riders, is Iliotibial Band Syndrome or IT Band. The IT band runs from the knee to the hip on the lateral (outside) of the leg. The syndrome is caused by overuse or injury and usually results in pain and inflammation. Patients come to Integrative Health’s Milwaukee/Shorewood clinic saying that their IT band is “really tight.” A treatment I often recommend is called cupping.

Cupping dates back to 3000 BC and involves a process of placing glass, plastic or rubber cups on the skin and removing the air inside to create a suction. With glass cups, the air is removed by heating the cup with a gentle flame from a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. The flaming cotton ball is inserted into the opening of the cup to warm the glass and remove the air from inside. The ball is quickly and completely removed before placing the cup against the skin to create the suction.

The earliest record of cupping is in Ebers Papyrus, one of the world’s oldest medical textbooks, which tells of the Egyptians using cupping in 1550 BC. Archaeologists have found evidence in China of cupping dating back to 1000 BC. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 BC) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. Eventually this method spread into medical practice throughout Asian and European civilizations.

Unlike common modern day treatments, cupping is drug-free and non-invasive. It is also a needle-less treatment for patients who might be needle-phobic. Benefits can be gained in just one treatment, although more severe or older injuries would likely require additional sessions, or a combination of cupping, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine.

When working with a patient’s IT band, I treat one leg at a time with the patient lying on their side and the thigh in question exposed. After liberally applying massage oil to the skin surface, I use a manual pump to remove air from plastic cups, then strategically place them along the IT band. I start at the hip and end with a cup just above the knee. After all have been placed, I’ll cover the cups with a towel and position a heat lamp to keep the treated area over comfortably warm and relaxed. The cups remain in place for 5-25 minutes, depending on the patient’s constitution, the nature of the injury, and/or the level of pain.

Patients typically feel a slight tightening of the skin in the area where the cups are placed. Physiologically, suction is gently pulling the skin away from the layers of tissue, muscle, and tendons below, resulting in a feeling of relief beneath the surface. This process allows fresh blood to move into the area and creates further healing beyond the treatment time itself.

When removed, the cups typically leave a raised, pinkish-red ring. I will then massage the leg in the direction of the lymph nodes to help facilitate the removal of toxins and old blood. I will often finish up by applying a liniment or essential oils to sooth the area to maintain blood flow.

Patients often feel better after the first treatment. In order to prevent the possibility of any slight aggravation as toxins release from the treated tissue, it’s suggested that a generous amount of water be consumed throughout the day to facilitate the flushing of any toxins from the body.

After the first session, patients can expect an immediate reduction in pain, improved flexibility, and increased mobility. Most patients require 5-10 sessions for full benefit, usually once a week until complete healing is achieved.

In addition to IT band treatments, cupping is very effective for a variety of orthopedic conditions including, but not limited to, rotator cuff injury, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, back pain, bursitis, tendinitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and frozen shoulder. By removing adhesions, stretching the torsion of the soft tissue, lengthening connective tissue, stimulating nerves and hydrating joints, pain is relieved and healing is facilitated.

Call today or schedule on line! We’d love to help you heal your pain!

4465 N. Oakland Ave, Suite 200 S    |    Milwaukee    |    414-906-0285    |    meredith@myintegrativehealthservices.com

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