Traditional Chinese Medicine

TCM and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects people all throughout the world. Most commonly experienced during fall and winter months, the symptoms of SAD include depression, hypersomnia, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, negative thoughts and decreased social interaction. Higher levels of anxiety are experienced at the end of the summer season as those who suffer from this ailment start to anticipate the coming months of less sunshine and increased symptomatology. 

Studies suggest many people who suffer from SAD may also be afflicted with other forms of mental imbalance such as addiction, personality disorders or anxiety. This makes Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture great choices for treatment of this condition.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has shown been effective in treating depression, including Seasonal Affective Disorder. Modern medicine usually treats depression with antidepressants and psychotherapy regardless of the presenting symptoms. In contrast, TCM diagnoses each patient on an individual basis and treats the specific symptoms, while also addressing the root of the illness. TCM incorporates multiple modalities such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tuina massage, cupping and exercises like qigong to help restore balance to the body. Traditional Chinese medicine also treats the person holistically instead of treating mind and body separately.

Acupuncture is one of the tools used in TCM. Acupuncture needles move energy throughout the body and releases endorphins. By doing so, it improves the flow of energy throughout the body, while eliminating blockages and bringing balance to the mind and body. Endorphins counter the symptoms of depression and allow the person to resume a normal life. 

Physical activity is also important to combat SAD. One of the best forms of physical activity is tai chi. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition practiced today as a graceful, fluid low-impact form of exercise. Tai chi involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner accompanied by deep breathing. This form of martial art is practiced all over the world and can be performed by anybody, at any age, and in almost any physical condition. Many studies show physical activity like tai chi can improve mood and sleep quality, while also improving immune system function. All of these things are important to address when feeling the grasp of SAD.

Nutrition is another vitally important aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine. During the fall and winter months, when the weather tends to be cooler and the hours of darkness are more abundant, it is recommended to eat less fruit and increase the intake of warming foods like soups and grains. Many studies show depression and SAD can be attributed to nutritional deficiencies, like fatty acids and vitamin D. So during the fall and winter, these nutrients need to be increased to combat the feelings of depression and sadness. Fatty acids can be found in fish and nuts. Vitamin D is also found in fatty fish like tuna and some dairy products.

If you or somebody you know suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression and are looking for a natural way of dealing with it, contact us to find out more information on how acupuncture can help or make an appointment.

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Walnuts and Your Brain

Many people like to add walnuts to food to add some zest and a little crunchy kick, but walnuts are much more than a flavor additive, as they are chock full of healthy properties and have been used in Asia as an overall health tonic and brain booster for years. Let’s take a nutty look at walnuts.     continue reading »

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The Shen Mind Connection

Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at things differently and while it may be a little confusing, there is usually some common ground that can be found upon examination and explanation. One such area is the idea of the mind. The mind in Traditional Chinese Medicine is commonly referred to as the shen.

In Chinese medicine, the shen is interpreted as the spirit or consciousness. The shen lives in the heart organ system and it is considered to be one of the vital substances of the body. The shen is said to preside over the activities that take place in the spiritual and mental planes. So, for many TCM practitioners, shen is actually referring to the mind. And if we look at serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, the shen or mind is where the dysfunction actually appears. Chinese medicine refers to this as being “misted” or “clouded”. However, it should be noted not all practitioners agree the mind and the consciousness are the same thing.  This is because many of our mental processes are considered subconscious.

As stated, the theory is that the shen lives in the heart. So if a person has a disturbed shen, there may be anxiety, stress, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations and more.  Many people with a disturbed shen experience insomnia. Chronic insomnia can then lead to actual mental illness. If we follow this logic, we can see how the shen (in Chinese medicine) and the mind (in Western psychology) are related and somewhat interchangeable.

When we approach the shen from the standpoint of Western psychology, it is hard to deny there is a lot of shen disturbance in the modern world. This can be anything from anxiety, depression in addition to the aforementioned mental illnesses like schizophrenia. A person with balanced shen will present as healthy, harmonious and level-headed. A person with disturbed shen will present with a lack of spirit or emotion, illogical reasoning and symptoms of mental illness.

Ultimately, we all want to have a balanced shen. This means we may have emotional responses to external stimuli or internally generated thoughts or feelings and we are capable of controlling and recovering from these situations without much incident.  Somebody who has a disturbed shen, would not be able to deal with a particular situation and may act out irrationally while drawing attention to themselves. An example would be when a person with a balanced shen becomes upset for whatever reason, he or she may react or even cry but tend to go back to normal soon after the emotion has passed, while somebody with a disturbed shen may continue carrying the irrational behavior for quite some time and they might need an intervention to return to a somewhat balanced state.

Maintaining a healthy shen also means that we maintain a healthy body.  A strong shen is fundamental to good health and vice-versa. When our body is weak, our shen is affected. If the shen is weak, the body will eventually fail.  To keep the shen healthy we should focus on maintaining a positive mindset, getting enough rest, seeking peace, connecting with nature, meditating and treating our bodies with respect, eating healthy.  This means we ultimately need to avoid overwork, chronic stress, an erratic daily schedule, lack of sleep and volatile emotions such as anger, hatred, and resentment. This may seem pretty logical, but based on the amount of shen disturbance/mental illness in the world, it is clear we have lost our way to some degree.

The good news is that our shen can be changed for the better. Your Acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine Practitioner can be a good resource to help you achieve a healthier shen!

 

 

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Physical Aspects Related to The Lungs

In the world of Traditional Chinese medicine, the lung is probably the organ whose TCM functions overlap the most with its Western functions. Respiration, the immune system and the skin are all systems heavily influenced by the lung, both in acupuncture and in Western medicine. continue reading »

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Mental and Emotional Aspects of the Lungs

mental aspects of lungs - chinese medicine acupuncture

As an acupuncturist, I am constantly assessing. Before my patients answer a single question, I am taking in cues as to what types of imbalances might be going on. In five-element acupuncture, the five major organ systems are the kidney, liver, lung, heart and spleen. When any of these systems are out of balance, certain physical, mental and emotional issues can manifest. Even if you aren’t experiencing a specific health issue, however, you will likely display particular personality traits that fall within these five organ systems. In the five-element world, the lungs are connected to the element of metal. continue reading »

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