The Reason Why You Might Be Feeling SAD Lately…

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It’s that time of the year again: days are getting shorter, leaves are changing color,  the holidays are right around the corner, pumpkin spice everything…What’s not to love about this season! Along with all the joys of fall comes one giant pitfall. SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. For many years, I struggled with depression this time of year. I couldn’t figure out why, seemingly out of nowhere, I would feel so down in the dumps. My standard mode of operation of jumping out of bed and trying to jam a million things into the day switches to struggling to get out of bed and unable to find the motivation to do anything.  Along with that comes the social withdrawal and sad, gloomy mood. With my own patients, I’ve seen an increase in complaints about depression and fatigue in the last couple months as well. Something is definitely in the air. Yay for Fall! Can you tell this is my favorite time of the year 😉

It wasn’t until I began to study Chinese Medicine that I realized what was happening each Autumn. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a completely normal, and biological, response to the changing of the seasons when looked at it from a Chinese medicine perspective. Chinese medicine is rooted in the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang. Yin is cool, dark, reclusive, the shady side of a mountain. Yang is bright, active, warm, the sunny side of the mountain. The moon is Yin, the Sun is Yang. Summer is full Yang, and Winter is the utmost Yin. When Yang begins to turn to Yin (summer–>fall–>winter), so does the brightness of summer turn into the darkness of winter. This descent into Yin comes with depression: lack of energy, withdrawal, sadness. On the flip side, when Yin ascends into Yang, you get a burst of excitement and happiness: decreased need for sleep, motivation to complete and/or begin projects, desire and energy to go out into the world.

Upon hearing this explanation, it made complete sense. It makes the prospect of each fall season a lot less daunting. Here are some of the tools from my arsenal to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder:

Get outside! Fresh air and sunlight are in shorter supply, but this is crucial to keeping you from getting too down.

Eat nourishing, grounding foods like soups, stews, and slow cooked meats.

Avoid sugar. The sharp rise and crash in blood sugar following consumption of sugary foods and drinks directly contributes to anxiety and depression.

Changing your mindset. If you have noticed that you suffer from depression this time of year, it’s comforting to know that it is only temporary and that it is normal, biological response to the shifting of the seasons.

Stay active. Although it is tempting to cut back on exercise (or even stop altogether) now that we are well out of swimsuit weather, it’s important to keep moving. The intensity of your workouts should decrease in the cooler months. Instead, incorporate low intensity workouts into your everyday, such as: long walks, bike rides, or yard work.

One of my favorite herbs this time of year is the Albizia flower from the Mimosa tree. In the Chinese material medica, this herb, known as He Huan Hua, is coined the “happiness flower”. It’s found in the section of Calm the Spirit herbs. Commonly brewed as a tea or taken as a tincture, this beautiful herb has a powerful function to lift the spirit. The Mimosa tree blooms throughout the summer, a colorful burst of magenta flowers. I’ve harvested this flower the last three summers to make into a tincture. Coincidentally, the tincture needs to sit for about two months before use. Just in time for Fall!

*If you are suffering from major depressive disorder and/or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek medical attention.

Disclosure: If you are on prescription medications, please check with your healthcare provider for herb-drug interactions prior to ingesting any herbs.

Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

 

The Rise of Acupuncture in the 21st Century

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The first time I had ever received acupuncture was at an open house at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in 2005. A friend had just been accepted into their Chiropractic program and I accompanied them to check out the campus. In addition to touring the chiropractic facilities, we received a presentation on traditional Chinese medicine. We visited the herb garden full of foreign looking plants and walked by charts mapping points on the human body. I was so intrigued! Up until then, all I knew about acupuncture was that it involved sticking needles in people. I hadn’t the slightest idea why anyone would do such a thing. No one I knew had tried it before. It was not something that was ever suggested by any health care practitioner I had encountered or heard about in the media. At that point, I had had success with homeopathic and Bach flower remedies, so was open to alternative medicines. When the older Chinese professor giving a demonstration asked for a volunteer, I jumped on the opportunity. He inserted a needle to the side of my elbow and described the functions of that point. He mentioned that the point helped with sore throat. That same morning, I had woken up with a sore throat and was worried I would end up with a cold. My eyes widened in disbelief when I saw him pull the needle out. The needle had gone in about an inch in depth but I did not feel a thing! Later that day, I noticed that my sore throat was gone. From that day forward, I was convinced of its value as an effective form of medicine, and I knew that wanted to learn everything I could about acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Fast forward twelve years to 2017. Acupuncture is now covered by most health insurance companies and by MediCal in California. Companies like Kaiser Permanente have acupuncturists on staff. Major medical centers like Stanford (here) and the Cleveland Clinic (here) have departments that integrate acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. When I talk to people about acupuncture, the response is no longer “What’s that?” Instead, it’s something like, “It helped my mom’s knee pain when nothing else would”, or “I swear by acupuncture, it’s amazing!”, or “I’ve heard so many good things about it, I’ve been meaning to try it out.” Celebrities will step out onto the red carpet with cupping marks on their backs and post selfies with needles in their face. Just this month, the FDA is now recommending to physicians that they refer patients to acupuncture before prescribing opioids (article). This is major!!

I cannot wait to see where this medicine is in 10 years. Right now, just about everyone has heard how effective acupuncture is for pain. I hope that in 10 years, people are not only turning to acupuncture and herbal medicine for pain, but for everything else that ails them. Traditional Chinese Medicine treats every form of dis-ease, including:

Orthopedics:

  • Arthritis
  • Back, Neck, Knee, and Elbow Pain
  • Muscle Pain, Cramping, and Weakness
  • Sciatica
  • Sports Medicine
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Fibromyalgia

Digestive Disorders:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Constipation / Diarrhea
  • IBS
  • IBD / Crohns / Colitis
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Indigestion / GERD

Women’s Health:

  • PMS
  • Menstrual Disorders
  • Menopause
  • Perimenopause
  • Infertility
  • Pregnancy
  • Post-Partum Recovery
  • PCOS / Endometriosis / Fibroids

Psycho-Emotional:

  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Stress
  • Excess Emotions: Anger, Worry, Fear, Sadness

Respiratory:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Common Colds / Flus

Neurological / Sensory:

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Vision
  • Hearing Loss
  • Tinnitus

Miscellaneous:

  • Fatigue
  • Immune System Regulation
  • Libido
  • Hypertension
  • Hepatitis
  • Weight Loss
  • Pre- and Post-Operative Pain and Recovery