Kick your butts to the curb

Now is always the best time to quit smoking. Chinese medicine can help kick your butts to the curb and mitigate the oxidative damage that smoking causes.
With the five pillars of health, your acupuncture physician can help guide you through your journey to wean off nicotine.

There are many supportive lifestyle changes you can make to help ease the journey.

Diet

In Chinese medicine, the theory goes that smoking creates a dry type of heat in the lungs, which is not good for health. For current smokers and new quitters, I recommend they consume organic pears and apples, which replenishes the moisture the lungs need to function properly.

Some studies have found quitters who ate more servings of salads or fruits and vegetables in general had better quit rates. Either way, that’s not a bad diet recommendation.
Smoking depletes antioxidants, so current and former smokers need more than the average person.

When the jitters hit, have cough drops or hard candies handy to distract you and give your mouth something to do.

Staying hydrated also plays a big role in the quitting process. Lemon and lime water can help flush the body of the toxins inhaled during smoking, and it’s important to rid your body of that nicotine “taste” as soon as possible.

Remember, quitting smoking is a detox process. A good diet and plenty of fluids will help make that easier.

Exercise

Many patients worry that quitting smoking will lead to weight gain. It happens a lot, so talk with your health care team and develop a plan that will work for you.

Exercise is also a good distraction for when the cravings hit. Tai chi and yoga, which are meditative exercises, can help still the jittery mind.

Aerobic exercise helps you sweat, which is another way to excrete the chemicals from smoking.
Remember to check with your health care team before starting any new program and stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.

Bodywork

Quitting smoking is stressful, and there’s no sense denying that. Massage is a great way to reduce emotional and physical stress, plus it also helps improve circulation. Self-massage is also effective, according to a study published in 1999 that taught patients how to massage their hand or ear to help reduce cravings. (1) I’ll talk more about that in the acupuncture section.

Chiropractic focuses on maximizing the function of your nervous system, so it’s a great adjunct during the detox process while your nervous system adjusts to your new nicotine-free reality. Remember, your body has not only become accustomed to having nicotine, but now believes nicotine is necessary to function well, and it will take time to re-educate your nervous system.

Herbal medicine

There are quitting smoking teas you can get from Chinese import stores or your acupuncture physician. Personally, my patients report so-so results with the tea, so I just steer them in the direction of a good green tea, which has been shown to reduce oxidative damage in smoke-exposed rats. (2) Most stop smoking teas have a base of green tea anyway, so just pick one you like and learn to brew it correctly. You can drink it hot or iced, and it pairs nicely with honey and lemon. (Check out my previous article on green tea for tips).

If you are interested in herbal medicine, your acupuncture physician will most likely prescribe a formula that improves your constitution or addresses specific health problems, along with guiding you in the right direction for any nutritional supplements you may need.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help your body adjust to your new, smoke-free reality. There are several options to help you navigate this new reality: full-body acupuncture, NADA and ear seeds.

A full-body acupuncture session addresses constitutional complaints and acute problems. It takes longer because your acupuncture physician will talk to you before each session, check your tongue and/or pulse, and come up with a Chinese medicine differential diagnosis, before needling you. Needles are typically placed in the head, torso, arms and legs while you lay down on a treatment table. A full session typically takes around an hour.

NADA is a specific set of protocols for needling points in the ear based on whatever addictions need to be addressed — eating, smoking, alcohol, etc. Needles are placed in the ears only, based on the protocol needed, and there is no diagnosis involved, so it takes less time, too. You can read or sit in a chair during this type of treatment, to help distract you. This is a good treatment to get on your lunch break, for example.

Remember that bit about self-massage on the ear for reducing cravings? A treatment with ear seeds is a lot like a NADA protocol treatment, except you keep the seeds on your ears for about five days, and you press them and massage your ear during the day when you have cravings. You can do this treatment by itself, or with acupuncture or NADA treatments.

Last but not least, do not underestimate the power of personal support. It may not have its own pillar in Chinese medicine, but having your own cheer squad of family, friends and health care professionals is vital for your success. A study released this month found that a combination of counseling and exercise encouraged people to try quitting more often and also reduced the amount smoked, although it was the counseling that had the most effect. (3) So before you quit, ask for help and set up a reward system for yourself for every day you resist smoking. Every day you don’t smoke is a victory for your health, even if it takes you multiple tries. So don’t give up if it takes you a few tries to get it right.

You weren’t born a smoker, and with the help of Chinese medicine, you can kick those butts to the curbs — for good.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

1.) Smoking cravings are reduced by self-massage. Prev Med. 1999 Jan.
2.) Chinese green tea consumption reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and tissues damage in smoke exposed rats. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014 Oct.
3.) An exploratory analysis of the smoking and physical activity outcomes from a pilot randomized controlled trial of an exercise assisted reduction to stop (EARS) smoking intervention in disadvantaged groups. Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 May 11

Addressing pain with the five pillars of Chinese Medicine

Pain is usually an unwelcome visitor. Whether pain is a short- or long-term guest in your life, by addressing your health issues with the five pillars of Chinese medicine, you can make lifestyle adjustments that encourage your body’s ability to heal and cope.

First of all, keep in mind that pain is not the problem; it’s merely a signal that something in your body needs attention. We would be in trouble if we had no way to sense or respond to pain. It’s a survival mechanism. But that’s not much comfort when you have a sprained ankle or chronic back pain. That’s why it’s never a good idea to ignore your body’s pain signals; if your symptoms are severe with quick onset or do not improve within a reasonable amount of time, then it’s important to seek medical advice and help.

Chinese medicine addresses all health issues, including pain, according to the five pillars of diet, exercise, bodywork, herbal medicine and acupuncture. Each pillar has a contribution to make in strengthening the body’s ability to heal or deal with pain.

Diet
With every bite of food you eat, you are making a choice to either fight disease, or fuel it. So when it comes to eating to reduce pain, think inflammation.

A basic anti-inflammatory diet reduces intake of dairy, red meat, sugar, coffee, alcohol and soda and increases water intake and healthy, unprocessed foods. You don’t have to switch from carnivore to vegan overnight, but making smarter food choices that reduce inflammation helps your body heal faster and better.
Remember that everything you consume will end up being the building blocks of new cells and tissue, so build wisely by eating wisely. Your health care team can help you design an eating plan that fits your specialized needs.

Exercise
Most people who are in pain limit their motion, and, most of the time, this is a smart idea. But if you are dealing with chronic pain, you may need to slowly increase your range of motion and activity level under the supervision of your health care team.

Tai chi or qi gong are gentle forms of exercise that can be adapted to any activity level and can be good places to start increasing your activity level.
Yoga is also easily adapted to different levels of activity.

The main goals of exercise are to improve a person’s strength, overall conditioning, range of motion and flexibility.

It’s not a contest. Go slow, go smart and keep going. Inactivity can compound pain issues over the long term.

Bodywork
In Chinese medicine, bodywork, or tui na, is a combination of massage and chiropractic techniques. 
Here in the U.S., we leave chiropractic work to licensed DCs, but still use a variety of massage techniques to help relieve pain. This can include tui na, gua sha (a type of scraping of the skin), cupping or even Western-style energy or massage techniques for those of us who hold dual licensure.


Healthy, therapeutic touch has great potential to relieve emotional and physical discomfort and is an important tool in pain management.

Herbal medicine
When it comes to pain relief, there are more options than just aspirin. Your acupuncture physician may prescribe a Chinese herbal formula to help relieve pain, reduce inflammation and promote healing after doing a thorough intake of your current medications and supplements.

When it comes to using Chinese herbs, it’s important not to self-diagnose and buy off the Internet. For one, it may not be an appropriate choice for your individual needs.

Acupuncture physicians prescribe based on the individual’s pattern of expressing illness, not the illness itself. Second, some medications are not appropriate to combine with Chinese herbs. The quick no-go list of meds includes Warfarin, lithium and seizure-controlling medications or generic counterparts.

Acupuncture
Because acupuncture works with the nervous system, it can be an effective way to mitigate pain and retrain your brain how to deal with it. Acupuncture is used as an anesthetic in China in emergency situations or surgeries, but is more commonly used for non-emergency acute or chronic pain management here in the States.

Sometimes relief comes quickly with acupuncture. More often than not, it takes a series of sessions to make progress with pain management.

Acupuncture is not designed like a pill to be a quick fix; it’s more like going to the gym the way it stimulates the body to heal more efficiently over the long term.

If pain has overstayed its welcome in your body, Chinese medicine may give you some new tools to help.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

Chinese Medicine is more than just needles

Say the word acupuncture, and immediately many people conjure up an image of pincushion patients with needles sticking out of them from every direction. And don’t forget the pain. Acupuncture is supposed to be really painful, right?

Not so.

The reality is that acupuncture is just one branch of the Chinese Medicine umbrella, and it’s not even the most important branch. Needling a patient is the most visible form of Chinese Medicine, but there is much more going on behind the scenes. An acupuncture physician not only treats patients with acupuncture, but educates patients on the five pillars of Chinese Medicine in order of importance: Diet, exercise, bodywork, herbal medicine and acupuncture.

Diet: Your acupuncturist knows that food is medicine; that’s why it is top of the list of the five pillars. With every bite of food, a person is either fighting disease or fueling it. And people eat way more than they get acupuncture! Just because diet is the top pillar doesn’t mean a person has to convert to veganism or give up their favorite food to be healthy. If Chinese Medicine had one keyword, it would be balance. When it comes to diet, that means creating meals that look like a rainbow, with a variety of color and flavor, including meat as a garnish, not a main dish. That also means not feeling guilty about eating “sinful” foods once in while, either, because being healthy shouldn’t be a painful sacrifice. Hydration is also a part of the first pillar. It’s a rare person who couldn’t improve their intake of water. As part of your office visit, your acupuncture physician will sit down with you and offer nutritional suggestions, but not a diet, tailored to your health goals.

Exercise: The goal of Chinese Medicine is to keep “qi” moving. The basic definition of qi is energy and oxygen. You need both to stay healthy. Gentle movement improves energy and circulation, keeps the muscles toned and the joints well-lubricated. Your acupuncturist will need to know what your daily activity levels are, and may suggest incorporating more movement into your day. Tai chi and yoga are excellent ways to care for the whole body in low-impact ways, but your acupuncturist will make suggestions based on what’s best for you. It’s up to you to also talk with your other health care providers and develop an activity routine best suited for your needs. Remember, qi equals energy, movement and life. The more you move, the more you can maintain good health.

Bodywork: The third pillar of Chinese Medicine is bodywork, and that’s no surprise, because brains are hardwired to respond to touch. People thrive on healthy touch. Regular therapeutic massage and chiropractic helps the body respond to stress more efficiently and keeps the joints mobile. In America, acupuncturists do not practice the chiropractic aspects of Chinese bodywork unless they are dual licensed. However, other forms of bodywork are included in their scope, and that could be tui na (Chinese massage), cupping, acupressure, etc. Many acupuncturists are also dual licensed in massage as well.

Herbal Medicine: Here’s where people’s perception of Chinese Medicine starts meshing with the reality of the five pillars. Herbal medicine is a big part of Chinese Medicine, and it’s considered to be a less invasive form of treatment than acupuncture. Your acupuncture physician is trained to provide guidance on what herbs and supplements are appropriate for a patient’s needs, but it’s important that a patient be honest about everything they take, from pharmaceutical medicines, to herbs, supplements and over-the-counter-medications. All of these play a big part in creating the chemical landscape in a patient’s body, and not everyone should be taking herbs or extra supplements. Just because Dr. Oz thinks something is awesome does not mean it’s awesome for you. Seek guidance from your team of medical professionals, including your acupuncturist, before you try something new.

Acupuncture: Finally — the needles! This is what people envision when they think of Chinese Medicine. It’s not voodoo, you don’t have to change religions, or even believe the needles will work in order to have a good treatment. Acupuncture works on what are called channels, or meridians, which are lines of energy that are connected to specific physiological functions. These physiological functions are not grouped or named in western medical terms, but they do conform to specific patterns that your acupuncturist is trained to look for. These meridians cover the entire body, usually starting or ending in the face, hands or feet. After 5,000 years, we can finally see them by injecting radioactive dye or using ultrasound. These meridians travel in the spaces between fascia, or the connective tissue that covers all muscles and organs in a three-dimensional web. Nothing is wasted in the human body, not even the “spaces.” Acupuncture physicians use their knowledge of these channels to give specific instructions to a patient’s nervous system by placing hair-thin, solid and sterile needles in specific locations. Each time a patient gets an acupuncture treatment, they are getting an individually written “computer” health program written just for them. The brain picks up the instructions and then begins to “run” the program. Sometimes results show quickly; sometimes it takes several sessions, depending on how much “malware” a patient has. Acupuncture is a lot like going to the gym. A patient can’t work out once, lose 20 lbs. and never have to exercise again. Acupuncture is just one tool to help patients re-balance their physiological functions.

The bottom line is that there is no “magic cure” or one solution that fixes everything. It takes a good balance of the five pillars to create a solid foundation for good health. Like work and taxes, health is an investment that everyone spends time on sooner or later. Chinese Medicine is a proven map to good health, no matter what pillar a patient finds themselves on at any given time.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.