Avoiding Getting Sick with the Change of Seasons

A cool shift has already started as early as this morning. Summer is almost over.
The body is really great at adapting to seasonal changes when you feel healthy. However, if you feel run down, stressed, exhausted or feel like you’ve been fighting off a cold for the last couple of weeks, the change of seasons can really upset it’s ability to adapt.

In Chinese medicine, you have this incredible type of energy called Wei Qi, translated as Defensive Qi, that circulates in the outermost layer of your body. It’s kind of like the security guard to pathogens entering your body.

When you are really healthy, this energy is thought to extend further than the skin, kind of like a protective shield around your body.

It is continuously fighting off pathogenic attacks but if it can’t match the strength of the pathogen, you unfortunately get sick.

The change of seasons is almost like the ‘shift change’ of one security guard to another. There’s a little gap of time where immunity is not as strong as the body adapts to changing environments.

However, you can strengthen this immunity by improving your general wellbeing. A balanced lifestyle and diet is the ideal way to improve your Wei Qi and protect your body against pathogens.

So over the next week or so, aim to do some of these things:

  • ensure you get 8-9 hours sleep each night and be asleep by 11pm (Wei Qi needs time to be nourished)
  • have a big glass of water first thing in the morning, before you doing anything else – with lemon if you can
  • ensure you are eating 5-7 serves of vegetables per day
  • avoid cold foods – especially for breakfast
  • drink peppermint tea and ginger tea – great for boosting immunity
  • enjoy low intensity aerobic exercise and yoga/tai chi or qi gong
  • practise mindfulness to help slow down your body, save energy for immunity instead of stress
  • keep with your regular acupuncture treatments – all acupuncture treatments strengthen qi, including Wei Qi. Many people notice they stop getting as many colds with their treatments, even if I’ve been treating their back pain!
Lastly, and most importantly, RUG UP – this is a big problem on the GC, going from summer to winter. Start getting out your closed in shoes, slippers, cardis, jackets and scarves. Start wearing singlets under your work shirts and keeping your slippers on around the house. Keep your neck, low back, low abdo and ankles warm as this is where pathogens enter your body. Let your clothes protect you first so your Wei Qi doesn’t have to work so hard.

If you do think you are starting to feel sick, pop in for a treatment. Acupuncture works so well in the very early stages of getting a cold. It actually supports your Wei Qi to push invading pathogens back out instead of just masking symptoms. Kind of like improving the strength and training of your ‘security guard’.

I can honestly say I do this. If I wake up with a sore throat, I make an appointment with my acupuncturist that day. This has happened twice in the last month as my exposure to people being sick is increasing. I haven’t taken a cold and flu tablet for at least 10 years now. They don’t help very much anyway.

Acupuncture, rest and nourishing foods is the best cure for a cold :)

Yin and Yang of the Menstrual Cycle Part 4 – Ovulation

Part 2 was focused on the Yin phase (or follicular phase), Part 3 was focused on the Yang Phase (or luteal phase) and now we can talk about how they interact…through ovulation.

Lara Briden recently said it perfectly…”ovulation is how women make hormones”. It is such a huge part of women’s health, yet so many women aren’t ovulating due to conditions such as PCOS, the most common anovulatory condition in women of reproductive age.

The pill also prevents women from ovulating as do many other chemicals, foods and medications.

In Chinese medicine, ovulation is the exact moment where Yin turns to Yang. The nourishing, blood moving, lining building, egg nourishing, feminine energetic state becomes the embryo growing, energy expanding, warming and masculine energetic state.

Without ovulation, you don’t get this perfect ebb and flow of hormone balance.

The primary energy that drives the balance between Yin and Yang is your Liver energy.

The easiest way to imagine how this works, is by understanding how night (Yin) turns into day (Yang)…through the movement of the earth.

The earth is in a constant state of energy movement. It is continuously and consistently moving at a pace that causes night to turn to day, over and over and over again. It barely wavers, at least not enough for us to notice.

If you imagine that something stops the earth from spinning in that consistent and constant pace (ie, the Liver energy becomes stuck), what effect we would have on the balance of day and night? We may get longer nights and shorter days or shorter nights and longer days. Or if it’s really bad…one really loooong night.

The same can happen with your menstrual cycle. Difficulty with ovulation can keep you in a very lengthy follicular phase.

Liver energy in Chinese medicine is responsible for keeping all the energy in your body moving freely, kind of like the energy that keeps the earth spinning.

Things that can cause Liver energy to ‘stick’ can be lack of exercise, constant stress, too much heating foods like alcohol and chocolate or not enough sleep.

If you have ‘stuck’ Liver energy, you may experience headaches, period pain, pain at ovulation, tight neck and shoulders, wake at 1 or 3am, irritability, easy to anger, red face, PMS symptoms or even digestive complaints.

When Liver energy is stuck, it cannot encourage the ebb and flow of a women’s menstrual cycle. Ovulation doesn’t occur or occurs very late or very early.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work to correct the Liver’s imbalances. We use points that keep the Liver moving smoothly so it can assist with making this transition as smooth as possible.

Things you can do at home
1. Exercise regularly – aerobics and stretching are ideal exercise options
2. Each clean foods
3. Drink plenty of water
4. Reduce stress

Of course, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help too.

Yin and Yang of the Menstrual Cycle Part 3 – Supporting the Yang Phase

Last week, I discussed the Yin phase of the menstrual cycle. I hope it made sense. This week I’ll spend some time talking about the Yang phase and what you can do to support the second part of the menstrual cycle.

If you remember, Yang is the opposing energy to Yin. It is warming, transforming, energising and expanding, which is similar to progesterone’s function in the body.

Yang is like the power supply for your body. A reduction in this power results in food taking longer to digest, body responses slowing, metabolism slowing, embryo growth being impaired, energy transformation being impaired, fluid metabolism slowing, cognition and memory slowing.

So while estrogen and Yin help grow your lining and deliver nutrients to your eggs in the first phase, progesterone and Yang help to hold your lining in place and help a fertilised embryo to continue to grow and also help it implant and stay implanted.

Interestingly, your body temperature noticeably (if you have a healthy amount of Yang energy) increases after ovulation. And keep in mind that heat in nature always rises. So this is also a function of Yang, ‘raising’ energy to hold a pregnancy in place and to supply clear energy to your head for clear thinking.

Women who have ‘breakthrough bleeding’ or spotting (an indication that Yang is not holding blood up) just before their period may have a type of Yang deficiency. These women are usually very tired just before their periods and can have a very low sex drive – not ideal when you’re trying to fall pregnant.

They may also have difficulty losing weight and problems with fluid metabolism – bloating and swelling.

A severe Yang deficiency can also contribute to recurrent miscarriages. The body doesn’t have enough warming energy to help an embryo develop, implant and remain implanted.

I actually find many women with ‘unexplained’ fertility fall into this Yang deficiency category. There is no blood test or scan to show that an embryo fertilises but doesn’t have enough ‘warm energy’ to transform, implant and hold.

So Yang energy is very important to your health and the health of your menstrual cycle regardless of whether you are trying to fall pregnant or not.

Things you can do to help Improve Yang

1. The first thing is to improve your Yin. Check back at last week’s newsletter to some ways to do this. Yang is always born out of Yin (and vice versa)
2. Keep your feet, low back and low abdomen warm
3. Eat warm, nourishing foods
4. Avoid icy cold foods and drink – (those Acai bowls are THE worst meal for women to eat regularly)
5. Get acupuncture and moxa (of course!) – to move cold out of your pelvis and start building warmth. I love the heat lamp to help with this too.
6. Take some prescribed Chinese herbs – there are some great herbs that can push out cold and warm the pelvis, Kidney and digestion to improve Yang energy

I hope this helps. I am always happy to hear from you if you have any questions.

Yin and Yang of the Menstrual Cycle Part 2 – Supporting the Yin Phase

An account on instagram I follow – @traditionalchinesemedicine posted a pic in response to a question – ‘what does the world need now?’ and her reply was “Yin”. I really couldn’t agree more.
Yin energy is something we are lacking in individually and it is continually being depleted from from a global perspective too. We are not short of faster technology, anger, stress, heat or exhaustion but we are short on love, understanding and patience and self care. This is Yin.

Yin is also the cooling, feminine, restorative, gentle, peaceful, quiet, reflective, creative, wise and imaginative energy.

Yin energy controls the first half of a female’s menstrual cycle, from the first day of your period until ovulation. It functions very similar to estrogen, the women’s reproductive hormone.

A deficiency in Yin is the most common pattern I see in women who have been diagnosed with poor egg quality.

At this time, your follicles are needing blood and nutrients and the lining of your womb needs warm, nourishing energy to help develop a healthy egg and a healthy endometrium lining – regardless of whether you are looking to fall pregnant or not.

Signs of depleted Yin can be vaginal dryness, reduced amount of cervical mucous before ovulation, night sweats, feeling warm in the afternoon, dry mouth, tired and sore low back or short menstrual cycles. It does present in many other ways, but these are the extreme symptoms.

The quality of your Yin helps determine the quality of your Yang. Remember, the two are a happy co-dependant little pair.

So not nourishing your Yin in the first half of your menstrual cycle can cause problems in the next phase which is associated with embryo implantation and growth.

So what to do to support your Yin.

  • look into the concept of ‘hugge’ – mentioned above and find what it means to you
  • eat warm, nutrient dense foods especially water based
  • avoid spicy, pungent or strong tasting foods
  • participate in restorative exercise like yoga, tai chi, qi gong
  • avoid high stresses
  • get enough sleep
  • avoid too much caffeine and alcohol
  • do more things that bring you joy :)
Foods that nourish Yin
  • Cooling foods – but not cold foods
  • Salty, bitter, sour foods
  • Tofu
  • Barley
  • Seaweed
  • Sweet potato
  • Water chestnut – great in San Choy Bow
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Apple
  • Lemon and lime
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Pomegranate
  • Mango
  • Avocado
  • Coconut Milk
  • Sesame seeds
  • Fish – especially oyster but all seafood is great for Yin building
  • Beef, duck, pork and kidney
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Cows milk – very Yin nourishing but in small amounts
  • Honey

The Yin and Yang Balance of the Menstrual Cycle Part 1

The easiest way to understand the menstrual cycle in terms of Yin and Yang, is to compare the body to day and night.

Yin is night time. The cooling, resting, nourishing part of the day.

Yang is day time. Energetic, warming, increased metabolic energy part of the day.

The menstrual cycle is the same, but over a longer period (no pun intended!) of time. From your period until ovulation or your follicular phase is your Yin time.

This is when an egg is being nourished, your lining is growing and your body is being nurtured to produce a good quality egg for possible fertilisation. 

Your body temperature is actually lower, your body needs more rest, increased nutrition, more meditation and less stress to nourish your Yin and fertile energy.

From ovulation to the end of your cycle, is your Yang phase or your luteal phase. This is where progesterone, your warming hormone takes over.

Your body temperature noticeably increases. This energy helps a fertilised egg expand and grow.

If no fertilisation occurs, you move back into your Yin phase, ready to start the Yin/Yang dance again.

The very cool thing about this ebb and flow of energy, is that each phase is dependent on each other.

If you don’t have enough Yin (high stress, poor diet, poor sleep, increased age), it is hard for the body to switch from Yin to Yang. Ovulation may not occur and your development of progesterone (or Yang) may be impaired.

You end up with a very long Yin phase while the body tries to nourish an egg. This can happen in women with PCOS.

Imagine having too much night and not enough daylight…plants don’t grow, we don’t warm up, we would lack nutrition from the sun and have less access to nutritious food. We’d be like a poorly nourished egg!

When something upsets this important Yin and Yang balance, women’s health can suffer and not just in regards to falling pregnant.

Yin is needed to nourish all of your organs, not just your uterus. Yin supports all of your body fluids, blood and mucous membranes.

Yang is needed to maintain your digestive metabolic energy as well as your progesterone. Yang drives your digestion and your elimination of wastes. It looks after your water metabolism in the body and your daily energy.

So it is important to balance this Yin and Yang energy. Every single women’s health complaint comes down to an imbalance in this cycle.

It is as simple and as complicated as that!