Archives for posts with tag: Chinese medicine

I had my first acupuncture appointment today. The doctor was trained in both western and eastern medicine for 8 years in her native country of China.  She seemed bright and vivacious. Her touch was gentle but precise as she took my pulse, which was reassuring to me.

The needles were no big deal. I could barely feel her putting them in. They were left in for 30 minutes, during which I did relaxation breathing and occasionally reminded myself not to scratch my nose because my hands were full of needles that I couldn’t even feel. I was not even creeped out by the fact that she put one needle between my eye brows and another on the top of my head.

The 30 minutes passed fairly quickly. She skillfully and quickly plucked the needles from me like daisy petals. Then she ran her hands gently over my body to make sure that she’d removed all of them. I left feeling refreshed.

I am going to see her once a week for 6-8 weeks. We’ll see what happens!

In the meantime I have a couple of practical tips for those of you who might consider receiving acupuncture:

1) Use the restroom before your appointment. I ended up being fine but when she said, “30 minutes, you be okay?” after placing about 40 needles my first worry was that I would need to use the restroom. (Women, who have given birth and/or women of a certain age, you know what I am talking about.) In general, I am what I call an “opportunistic pee-er”. Just like I did with my daughter in the first few years after potty training, I often make sure that I at least “try” upon leaving the house or upon arriving at a new destination. Today, I didn’t because I came into the waiting room with a 20 ounce beverage. You might think that’s more reason to use the little girl’s room but although I’m not religious about it, I don’t like to bring food to the bathroom with me. I had planned to get settled in the waiting room and then scope out the facilities. But then I got absorbed in the paperwork and chatting with the fascinating woman who works in the waiting room. Although I did not make my usual potty stop, I ended up being just fine.

2) If the thought of needles creeps you out, I just want to remind a lot of you out there that you have endured much more invasive and creepy procedures in your medical treatments. This treatment was actually relaxing, pleasant, and blood free. And for bonus points, I didn’t even have to take off more than my shoes and socks! She just pulled up the legs of my yoga pants a little and pulled them down a bit at the waist.

3) Be prepared to talk about how you life, especially stress may have contributed to your disease and what methods you might use to reduce the stress in your life. I know that to some people, this approach feels like the patient is being blamed for their disease. I don’t take it that way myself but as a psychologist, I think of the brain (mind) as being part of the body, rather than being separate. So the idea that emotions, thoughts, or other “mind stuff” impact the way the rest of one’s body works is no news to me. To be clear, I don’t believe that disease is caused only be stress, attitude, etc.

It was pouring down rain this morning so I waited to take my walk. It’s beautiful so I’d better get going!

Okay, this post is not really about the versatility of the chia seed, although I can think of five uses for it off of the top of my head. Prior to becoming a cancer patient, I could only think of two, the original “Chia Pet” and the take off from Saturday Night Live, when they had Kevin Nealon plant chia seeds on his head to replace hair loss.

The I suspect not-so-cranky, Cranky of “Grandma Says” has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.


Thanks, Not-So-Cranky! Many of you out there are familiar with these nominations. The nomination is the award and the process works likes the kindest chain letter you will ever receive! The rules are to post the graphic of the award, for me to tell some random facts about myself, and to nominate 15 other blogs for the award.

As you may also know, I try to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law when it comes to these awards, though this time I actually posted the graphic. It’s very easy. I’m not sure why I haven’t done it previously.

As for the random facts, I did that once but at this point, how many more factoids can I really give you and have them be a surprise? I guess I will give it a try but just one fact. I need to save some material for future blog posts.

1) I love autobiographies and read about all kinds of people, from Malcom X, to gardeners, to chefs, to musicians, to world travelers, to actors, to comedians, to the understudy for Elphaba in Wicked, to RuPaul. People, I even read Andre Agassi’s autobiography and I’m not even a tennis fan. And by the way, it’s a pretty absorbing read.

Instead of nominating 15 bloggers, I am going to feature a blog, which is in line with my quest for health and healing. At the risk of appearing to be a creepy stalker, I am again highlighting my friend, Mike. (If you are reading this, Mike, I am not a creepy stalker.)

As you know, I changed my diet to improve my general health as well as to eat things that are linked to a reduced risk of cancer. I have also extended my health practices beyond traditional medicine. I like to use as many sources as I can. I see the usual suspects, onco surgeon, medical oncologist, internist, but I also see a licensed massage therapist, psychologist, and a naturopathic physician who is certified in cancer treatment.

I am about to embark on a journey to Chinese medicine. I am particularly interested in acupuncture. My most immediate concern is doing something about my stupid hot flashes. I also know that there are other potential positive applications of acupuncture to be explored.

Now some of you might be thinking, “Elizabeth, don’t you have a Ph.D.? Aren’t you always talking about how you were an academic researcher for so many years? Why have you been doing all of this alternative stuff?”

First, my own philosophy fits more into the “integrative” model than “alternative” model. Integrative healthcare is inclusive. Even mainstream Western medicine is getting increasingly integrated. At the Swedish Cancer Institute, there are naturopaths and licensed massage therapists. There are classes on mindfulness meditation and diet.

I am also glad that more non-traditional therapies are being researched using western research strategies. I very much respect that there are other ways of supporting the efficacy of a treatment. Practitioners of Chinese medicine, for example, often point to thousands of years of accumulated clinical evidence. However, the investigative tools that I have at my disposal for evaluating potential treatments are western based. In other words, I am in a better position to critically evaluate research articles than to evaluate evidence gleaned through other methods. I don’t think any reputable healthcare provider is going to discourage patients from being careful about how they treat their bodies, especially cancer patients. There are people who prey on cancer patients. There are also good hearted people who do not have the skills or expertise to responsibly provide healthcare advice but they do so, nonetheless. I am very leery of folks who think something is harmless just because it is “natural” or because it is delivered by a non-traditional provider, who must be superior to a traditional provider because the latter group are bad.

I would like to re-introduce you to my friend, Michael Ishii, of Stonewell Acupuncture. He practices Chinese medicine in New York City. He also writes an informative health blog. Some of his posts are recipes, one of which, I’ve cut and pasted below for a nutritious gluten-free chia dessert. See, I told you that the chia seed figured in this post. Chia is also used in some gluten-free bread recipes as an alternative dough binder to xanthum or guar gums. I have not yet tried this out but plan to once I used up my “economy” (“economy” being relative as gluten-free ingredients tend to be pricey) sized bag of xanthum gum.

Try it out!

Vegan Chia Pudding: Delicious Super Healthy Treat!

Vegan Chia Pudding

OK, remember the Chia Pet TV commericals?
Who would have thought that Chia seeds would be a superfood? Or so delicious!

Chia is a plant that is native to Mexico and Central America. It was cultivated by both the Aztecs and the Mayans who highly valued this food, and the word “Chia” actually means “strength” in Mayan.

Chia seeds are a source of complete proteins, they are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, are rich in calcium, are a terrific source of anti-oxidants and have a low glycemic sugar index.

The seeds, when soaked in a liquid, swell up and become like little miniature pearls of gelatin. They remind me of tapioca.
They are high in both soluble and non-soluble fibers and hence aid digestion.

Since this food contains no gluten, they make a good staple food for those with celiac or who have gluten sensitivity.

My colleague Anca Marinescu, L.Ac., shared with me this delicious recipe for Vegan Chia Pudding.
From a Chinese dietary viewpoint, this pudding is a great Blood builder and will nourish Yin. It contains food that will help you support your circulatory system, strengthen your digestion, regulate your bowels, and support immunity.  The spices warm and support the Spleen and will open and course the meridians while supporting the Kidneys.

Go ahead, try this delicious and healthy dessert!

 Ingredients for Vegan Chia Pudding

Vegan Chia Pudding

3 Tbsp of Chia seeds
2 cups of almond milk (or soy or rice, cashew, hemp etc)
1 cup raw cashews soaked in water for 2 hours and liquid discarded
5 dates roughly chopped
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp dried coconut flakes (optional)
1 pinch of pumpkin pie spice
1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Soak the Chia seeds in the almond milk for 2 hours or overnight.
Soak the raw cashews in water for 2 hours and discard liquid.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy.
Serve garnished with more coconut flakes and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice or try a garnish of fresh fruits or nuts..

makes 6 servings.

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