If you are a woman you might not realize that your Liver is actually your most important organ when it comes to women's health. (if you are a man, its your kidneys)
Your liver is responsible for the smooth flow of blood and qi (energy) throughout your body. Because the Liver controls the tendons of the body it is the liver/gallbladder system that keeps the body relaxed at rest and strong and active at work. The liver opens to the eyes and manifests on the finger nails. The energy of the liver is most active in the spring time, wind is its pathogen, and anger is its emotion. In Chinese Medicine we are always looking at relationships and so it is also important to note that the kidney is the mother of the liver and the liver controls the spleen. If the liver is out of balance chances are the kidneys and spleen also have disharmony as well.
Many western women believe that PMS and Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes come with the territory of being a women when in fact these are simply your body's way of telling you that there is disharmony that needs to be corrected. When circulation of blood and qi does not flow smoothly it becomes stagnated causing a variety of physical ailments. When it comes to a woman's cycle it should be aligned with nature, ideally following the rhythms of the moon cycles. Most people know that when women live together their cycles come at the same time. A healthy period would follow a regular cycle with NO PMS symptoms such as bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, fatigue,depression, low back pain or cravings. Most times paying attention to a women's cycle can give an acupuncturist all the data they need for how the rest of the body is functioning.
Signs that liver qi stagnation are impacting your cycle might include scanty, sticky dark red or purple menses with a delayed cycle, distending pain in the abdomen, depression and/or irritability, stuffiness in the chest and tender breasts.
Acupuncture looks to free course the liver qi to improve the over all circulation of qi and blood in the body. What is most important to look at when bringing the body back to harmony is that these imbalances probably didn't happen over night and some women start their period like this from having liver qi stagnation as aconstitutional factor from childhood. It may take several cycles of acupuncture and herbs until the root cause of the imbalance is corrected. Especially when it comes to imbalances of a women's cycle it is important to remain consistent or old habits will creep back quickly.
In our fast paced, high stress society we are used to instant results, acupuncture offers lasting results while cultivating patience. If you go through 1 round of treatments and your period is corrected that is great but if you discontinue treatments too soon the stagnation will not have been cleared away on the deepest level, allowing it simply to come back, making that first round of treatment ineffective. Most people who don't find results from acupuncture are not consistent with their treatment or do not come enough times. Think of acupuncture like you would an advil or an antibiotic. If you take the recommended dosage of advil for an ailment it will only last for so long and then that ailment will likely return and you will take another advil or increase the dosage, you probably wouldn't take one advil and discontinue use because it didn't give the results you wanted on the first try. You alsowouldn't complete a course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor because the infection would either come back (most likely even worse) or you would become immune to the drug. Bob Flaws explains how acupuncture has been practiced over the last 5000 years in this article.
We like to think of health like a savings and checking account. If you are overdrawn in your account you are not in harmony. If you come for acupuncture and resolve the superficial issue you might have put a little money in the bank, but how long will that last you until your in the negative again? Just like any good financial advisor would encourage you to have a hearty safety net in your savings account, you acupuncturist will encourage you to build up your reserves so that you can stay healthy. When your child bearing years flow smoothly and you are healthy your next life transition will be a natural smooth crossing as well.
While most of us have a busy life and health concerns that don't seem serious this is exactly when they should be addressed. We'd much rather keep you healthy then work through years and years worth of layered dis-ease. The saying goes, "if you don't make time for your health today, you will make time for illness later."
Acupuncture and Your Mind
I'm currently reading Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Natural Guide to Weight Loss That Lasts by Nan Lu OMD, MS, LAc. I know we've already touched on acupuncture and weight loss here. But seeing as I teach communications and have always been a lover of words as well as a big fan of Louise Hay's work I thought I'd touch on thoughts and language as part of your journey to a healthy body.
Patients use this phrase all the time, "not yet." Please do me a favor, a big huge favor take "not yet" out of your vocabulary. Especially when it applies to the return of pain, stress or tension. Don't program your body to allow it to come back. Better yet get rid of the word pain as well. Instead think about how good your body feels. Mike Dooleysays "thoughts become things, choose the good ones." And Wayne Dyer argues that "we need to surround ourselves with the conditions we wish to create." So start talking about what you do want! For instance, Jamie Rongo choose to age with smile lines instead of wrinkles as a testament of a life lived in laughter.
Lu makes a great point about losing weight. When we lose something we usually want to get it back, or find it. Instead of thinking about losing weight, give it away. I'm sure you have skinny friends that need a little extra cushion. Start to listen to your body, eat when youfeel hungry, not when you think you are hungry.
One patient has decided to apply these ideas to quitting smoking as well. What are your conditioned responses? What is no longer serving you and your healthy body? Carolynn Myss argues one reason people don't heal is because they identify more with their disease and the attention they receive from being sick.
I know this is tough stuff and it requires us to be active participants in our health and not victims to circumstances that just happen to us.Oriah Mountain Dreamer says in The Dance, "let us remember we each have a choice." When you eat take note of what you are eating and why. Notice how you feel as you eat as well. Speaking for myself, and my own journey of maintaining a healthy weight is that emotions are a big part of weight gain. If you change your diet, start exercising and don't look at how you feel about yourself the yo yo will sling you right back to where you were or turn you into an obsessive calorie counter in constant fear of fat returning. For myself, it wasn't until I realized my relationship to men and my weight that I was able to take off the excess 30 pounds I was carrying around. When I became comfortable with who I am as well as comfortable with receiving love from others the weight melted away without me really changing my diet or exercise habits.
What is so great about community acupuncture is that it allows our patients to have a better relationship with their own bodies and what they need. The space to feel this perhaps starts with us asking our patients when they feel their treatment is complete. Acupuncture bridges the gap between "I think" and "I feel" and allows the oppurtunity for aha moments. From here the possibilities become endless for a higher quality of life and this is why Neighborhood Acupuncture Place is so passionate about helping people to become and stay healthy in body and budget.
How Do I Know What's Working?
This blog could be metaphorical for many aspects of life in the interest of simplicity I'll try to stick with health and healing.
Having good health doesn't mean luck, genetics, or spending hours at the gym. While these components might be part of good health they are not the essence. You might instead think of good health like a recipe. If one ingredient is not added or another is added too much it will change the entire outcome, perhaps causing the recipe to taste too salty or the dough not to rise. If the heat is too high or not high enough and the timing is off the recipe could be overcooked, undercooked or burnt.
Recipe for health AKA Balanced lifestyle might include:
> colorful diet
> movement (exercise is such a dirty work)
> clean living and work space
> positive thoughts (what you think about you bring about)
> enjoyment of life and loved ones
Acupuncture is part of a complete system of healing. Some aspects a practitioner uses to assist you in maintaining optimal health and others are up to you to incorporate into your daily life.
> tui na (massage therapy)
> herbal therapy
> diet therapy (food as first medicine)
> qi gong
> feng shui
Many times when patients come to our office they are worried about taking herbs and doing acupuncture at the same time. Their rational is how will I know what is working? Sometimes patients can go to a larger extreme and not want to mix western and eastern medicine. Instead of this getting in the way of assisting the body in healing it might be the missing link. In Chinese Medicine we are looking at the whole body using a complete system to assist the body in healing itself. Chinese Medicine is also complimentary medicine and can assist with western interventions especially with negative side effects of fertility treatments and chemotherapy.
While its never smart to change every aspect of your life all at once for long term success it is important to look at the big picture. Think of balance like a pendulum. If you are out of balance to one side, moving too quickly will only cause imbalance in the opposite spectrum. Slow and steady brings us to the center. Starting with acupuncture, herbs, and making recommended lifestyle changes slowly so that they become habit might be the key to long term health.
Sarah Zender LAc
Neighborhood Acupuncture Place
230 Florence St
Crystal Lake IL 60014