Allergy Season

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According to pollen.com, pollen levels in the Kalamazoo area are starting to climb this week. Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds can trigger allergic reactions, which affect the sinus and respiratory tract. Even though spring is usually called “allergy season”, it is not the only time of the year people experience pollen allergies. Many plants pollinate year round. For those who suffer pollen allergies, acupuncture can offer relief.

Allergies are hyper reactions by our immune systems to otherwise harmless substances. The symptoms can be the classic runny nose and itchy eyes, but they can also be intestinal cramping, hives or even anaphylaxis. It is estimated that one in every five people have some type of allergy and even if a person does not have a history of allergies, they can develop at any time. The good news is that a simple muscle testing procedure can help identify what your body reacts to and acupuncture can help give lasting relief. This combination is the essence of NAET.

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NAET, or Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique, is a rather ingenious diagnostic and treatment process. It starts with determining a baseline of strength and weakness within an isolated muscle group. A frequently used muscle group is the ring formed between the thumb and one of the fingers in the shape of an “O”.

Once a baseline is clearly established, any environmental substance like rye grass or tree pollen or any type of food (like dairy or wheat) can be evaluated for how the body responds to it. The patient simply holds the possible allergen in one hand and the NAET practitioner uses even strength to attempt to open the “O” ring. If the ring holds strong, this typically means that the substance tested has no negative effects on the body. If the ring is easily opened, this typically means that the substance tested does have a negative effect on the body. The beauty of this process is that the patient can easily feel the difference between a weak and strong indication and it can be validated before and after treatment.

The treatment is fairly straight forward as well. While holding the allergen, a patient is coached though a regimen of deep breathing exercises while the practitioner applies acupressure along the spine. This process is followed by a prescription of acupuncture points that “set” the clearing that takes place. If possible, the patient should avoid the item that has been cleared for the next 24 hours. The next session, the same muscle group can be used to recheck the previously cleared item. If it goes weak, the process is repeated. Depending on the level of allergic reaction, it may take a few sessions. This is definitely a process, but well worth the effort. People who are plagued with low energy, general achiness, dull headaches and stuffy sinuses should certainly consider Acupuncture and NAET.

Seasonal Allergies

According to pollen.com, pollen levels in the Kalamazoo area are at their seasonal peak this week. For those who suffer seasonal allergies, acupuncture can offer relief.

Allergies are hyper reactions by our immune systems to otherwise harmless substances. The symptoms can be the classic runny nose and itchy eyes, but they can also be intestinal cramping, hives or even anaphylaxis. It is estimated that one in every five people have some type of allergy and even if a person does not have a history of allergies, they can develop at any time. The good news is that a simple muscle testing procedure can help identify what your body reacts to and acupuncture can help give lasting relief. This combination is the essence of NAET.

NAET, or Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique, is a rather ingenious diagnostic and treatment process. It starts with determining a baseline of strength and weakness within an isolated muscle group. A frequently used muscle group is the ring formed between the thumb and one of the fingers in the shape of an “O”.

Once a baseline is clearly established, any environmental substance like rye grass or tree pollen or any type of food (like dairy or wheat) can be evaluated for how the body responds to it. The patient simply holds the possible allergen in one hand and the NAET practitioner uses even strength to attempt to open the “O” ring. If the ring holds strong, this typically means that the substance tested has no negative effects on the body. If the ring is easily opened, this typically means that the substance tested does have a negative effect on the body. The beauty of this process is that the patient can easily feel the difference between a weak and strong indication and it can be validated before and after treatment.

The treatment is fairly straight forward as well. While holding the allergen, a patient is coached though a regimen of deep breathing exercises while the practitioner applies acupressure along the spine. This process is followed by a prescription of acupuncture points that “set” the clearing that takes place. If possible, the patient should avoid the item that has been cleared for the next 24 hours. The next session, the same muscle group can be used to recheck the previously cleared item. If it goes weak, the process is repeated. Depending on the level of allergic reaction, it may take a few sessions. This is definitely a process, but well worth the effort. People who are plagued with low energy, general achiness, dull headaches and stuffy sinuses should certainly consider Acupuncture and NAET.

Maintaining Balance

Perhaps you may remember the “old man” character depicted by Tim Conway in the Carol Burnett Show.  Whatever the scene, he shuffles along unsteadily with his head jutting forward. Tim does this so well, that it is hard to keep from laughing; but in reality, being in this situation is anything but funny.  A person’s lifestyle changes dramatically when there is constant fear of falling and the effort of walking a short distance takes a great deal of energy.

This shuffling-along scenario does not typically happen overnight.  Once a person reaches a certain age (and year-by-year thereafter), stabilizing muscles can lose strength, joints can become painful and, as a result, range of motion and agility diminish. Not only is this a problem for getting around, but slipping and falling is more likely to occur - and if it happens, injuries can be more serious.

The balance of muscles and strength of ligaments, tendons and discs is an important part of maintaining structural balance. I'm often asked “How can acupuncture help? How does acupuncture work?” My answer offers both an Eastern and Western medicine perspective.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, inserting needles balances channels by moving blood flow and Qi (or Chi - a Chinese word meaning aliveness, life force energy). With Western Medicine’s diagnostic tools we can also say that where needles are inserted there is an increase of blood supply and naturally occurring endorphins (morphine-like chemicals produced by the body) are produced in the brain to reduce pain. Regardless of the explanation used, acupuncture is extraordinarily effective in releasing tightness and tension in the body.

And remember, acupuncture is both a preventative and a restorative medicine. To help someone address or avoid shuffling along, acupuncture can free up tightness in back muscles that in turn allow more space for intervertebral disks. When the discs aren’t happy, the nerves are often unhappy. When tension is released and discs and nerves are happy, more exercise is possible, weight can be better managed and sleep may also improve.

Time to Quit?

Today marks the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. Every November, they set aside the third Thursday to encourage smokers to go the distance, and to finally give up smoking. With the help of acupuncture, smokers have a greater chance of success!

As Diane Joswick, L.Ac. points out in her article for the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, "acupuncture is not a panacea or a magic cure in the treatment of any addiction, including smoking. But, acupuncture is effective in making it easier to quit and remain smoke-free. If you are highly motivated and ready to quit, acupuncture can empower you to take control and begin a healthy and smoke-free life!"

If you are thinking about quitting, you may want to know that there are documented benefits:

20 minutes: heart rate and blood pressure drop
12 hours: carbon monoxide levels in blood drop to normal
2 weeks to 3 months: circulation and lung function improve
1 year: excess coronary heart disease risk cut in half
5 years: risk of mouth, throat and bladder cancer cut in half
10 years: risk of dying of lung cancer cut in half
15 years: risk of coronary heart disease same as non-smokers'

Cliff Douglas, vice president for tobacco control, said in a cancer society news release "The most important step is the first one: making the decision to quit. We hope the Great American Smokeout gives smokers an opportunity to consider making a lifesaving change." Are you ready to take the first step?

The Start of a Good Day

How we start our day can have an impact on how the rest of our day goes.  Of course, beginning with a restful night of sleep also makes a difference.  So what can we do to both improve sleep and set the tone for a productive day?

Here are some healthy morning habits that won’t take very much time.  (The last thing any of us need is yet one more thing to work into an already over busy day.)  Please note, that any of these suggestions can be modified to allow for physical limitations, dietary restrictions, etc.  I personally begin with a cup of freshly brewed coffee* in bed while listening to the news for 30 minutes, and then I begin my morning routine:

Here is Surya Namaskara A - a flow to warm up your body and stretch your muscles gently before you continue with more intense postures. You can also follow this flow to bring your body, breath and mind in sync.

First, stretch. Your body has been prone for hours. Bounding out of bed — or even dragging yourself reluctantly out of bed — may be asking too much of your muscles. I find stretching and gentle breathing, like in this beginner’s Sun Salutation yoga sequence, is a way to get your body ready to greet the day.

Second, hydrate. You’ve been asleep for (hopefully) seven or eight hours, during which time you’ve ingested no liquid. Studies suggest drinking 16 ounces of water can combat muscle fatigue and keep your digestive system working … smoothly. Here too, I do things a little differently; namely, I run about 2 cups of water through my coffee machine and leave the plate on to keep it hot.  To the same mug I used for coffee, I squeeze a wedge of fresh lemon or lime, fill it about half full with hot water and top it off with just enough filtered water to make it drinkable.  Lemon and lime, in addition to adding flavor, help to regulate the body’s Ph level, which is a bonus.     

Third, exercise. If your schedule allows it, a 20-minute stroll or brisk walk can help ease stress during your workweek. One study, which followed overweight women aged 50-75, showed that walking four hours per week in the morning helped the women sleep better at night (Huffington Post January 2014).

Fourth, eat breakfast. A healthy breakfast with lean proteins — eggs are a good source — can help you feel more satisfied through the morning. Participants in a study who ate an egg for breakfast lost 18 pounds over the course of the study, and those who added a slice of lean protein such as Canadian bacon had more lean muscle than those who ate less protein (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013). 

I hope you find these tips useful. Let me know how it goes.

*NOTE:  Caffeinate in small doses. A large jolt of coffee will boost you for an hour before filtering out of your brain over the following three to four hours. A study published in the academic journal Sleep showed that hourly doses of caffeine — what you would find in a two-ounce shot of brewed coffee — were optimal in keeping the study subjects alert. Bonus: you can sip your coffee throughout your work morning, extending the caffeinated treat.