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

Slippery Elm Tea helps ease Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis symptoms

I inadvertently got diagnosed with Diverticulitis a couple of years ago, when I started back working at the office while I finished acupuncture school. Every night for the first two weeks back to work I woke up with a racing heart, anxiety and chest discomfort that wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. Finally I went to the ER, and my heart was just peachy keen, thank you very much.

So I expected to get diagnosed with panic attacks (which I’m pretty sure it was) but there was one puzzling symptom – my pain improved when I held my arms above my head for the MRI. (If I had figured that out earlier, I could have saved myself a middle-of-the-night trip to the ER!) The MRI comes back, and it turns out I had diverticulosis in my upper left quadrant. According to the ER doc, it was pushing up against my diaphragm and causing the chest discomfort.

Well, OK, I’m in my 40s, it’s certainly plausible, but I hadn’t had any abdominal distress. It took me awhile to piece together that the ongoing cramping, gas and discomfort was probably a sign something was amiss more than just lactose intolerance.

Along with this new diagnosis came a new sensitivity to foods, or a sensitivity I hadn’t noticed before. Popcorn and nuts were no longer my friends. After studying for my boards with a bag of kettle corn by my side, I spent the next three days in abdominal agony. Ditto with nuts. Or the bag of plantain chips that helped me get through a Saturday workday at home. Small, crunchy foods were the enemy – an enemy I loved and wanted more of.

Fortunately, slippery elm was my knight in shining armor.

Slippery elm is an unusual herb. It comes from a tree that grows in the north, and can be used as a food, much like you would eat oatmeal, but with a hint of maple under the blandness. It’s been said the battle of Valley Forge was won by Washington’s troops because they were able to live on this porridge through the winter. Back in the day, the bark was chewed on much like we chew gum today.

The mucilage properties of slippery elm improve conditions where coating mucous membranes is needed: sore throats, acid reflux, IBS, diverticulitis or bronchitis. As it coats, it also draws out toxins and reduces inflammation, giving those sensitive tissues time (and a barrier) to heal. It’s like putting a band-aid on the inside of the body. A poultice can also be made for exterior inflammation such as boils, skin diseases or infections.

The other important property of slippery elm is its ability to expand. The tea, when steeped, will swell like any other fiber. As the slippery elm absorbs water in the digestive tract, it expands and gently cleans out the intestines. So when I over-indulge in those foods I know I shouldn’t, out comes the slippery elm tea, and I’m feeling better within a day or so. Really, though, I should also be drinking this as a maintenance tea once or twice a week as well. And why not? It’s loaded with nutrition. Remember how I said slippery elm is a food? It can be a protein source for vegetarians, and contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K. It also contains minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, selenium, sodium, and zinc.

Some other random things I do to help my diverticulosis are:

  • Mixing nuts or chips with softer foods instead of eating them straight, or eating them in very small handfuls and small amounts.
  • Chewing food thoroughly is an often overlooked, but important lifestyle change. I’m usually a quick eater, which puts strain on the digestive system. If you don’t chew your food to a near-liquid, your digestive system has to work harder and your intestines are processing lumps of food, not the ideal near-liquid consistency it needs. Try to chew 50 times before swallowing. Whatever number you get to, it’s probably better than what you’ve been chewing. A little extra time in the mouth is worth less discomfort in the abdomen.
  • Aloe juice can also be a big help, but it’s not tasty. It coats the intestines much like slippery elm, although it does not have its fibrous qualities. If you do try aloe juice, remember more is NOT better. Start with an ounce or so. If you take too big of a serving it will clean you out in more ways than one!

Be kind to your belly, and if it’s having a rough time, soothe the savage pains with a dose of slippery elm. It’s a gentle and inexpensive way to get relief.

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.