Diet, emotional health, exercise, food, health, mental health, motivational, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

A Chinese medicine guide to living well in Spring

I’m a bit slow on getting my spring living post out this year! Apologies to all of you who have been wondering what to do since the turn of the season, you can now relax with the information contained within this post.

Here’s a little song to get you out of winter and into the spring mood.

In Chinese medicine the season of spring is all about these:

  • Moving from the cold and slowness of winter into a warmer, more energetic state as our Yang Qi predominates.
  • There is an upward energy.
  • The mood picks up, life feels lighter.
  • And there is a need to move more and get active.
  • We need to stretch out and get flexible after the rigidity of winter.
  • Plants are sprouting fresh green shoots.
  • This is the time of the Wood element and the Liver and Gallbladder need care.
  • The wind picks up. This has been particularly noticeable in Brisbane in the afternoons especially earlier in the season.
  • There is more light and longer days giving us a good supply of vitamin D to support our yang Qi. Safe levels of sun exposure depend on where you live and are outlined here.
  • The colour is green in keeping with those fresh sprouts.
  • The flavour is sour which again brings a feeling of lightness and freshness.
Spring is a wonderful time to walk around the Jacaranda trees in blossom.
Spring is a wonderful time to walk around the Jacaranda trees in blossom.

If you don’t naturally feel this shift to spring or you want to maximise your spring energy to live in harmony with the seasons then here are some tips:

  • Go to bed a little later and wake a little earlier (just like the birds)
  • Get some outdoor exercise (eg. walking or qi gong) and sunlight in the morning before you start the serious stuff in your day.
  • Wear loose clothing and don’t tie your hair back tightly. Let everything flow.
  • Focus on relaxation and flexibility of your mind and body. Now is an excellent time to get into some meditation and/or yoga.
  • Sing, dance or do activities that lighten your mood.
  • Work within your limits so as to enjoy the movement and longer days but not to overtire yourself.
  • Be prepared for changes in the weather, so while most of your summer clothes are coming out, have a spare layer handy to protect yourself from a sneaky cold snap or some breezy conditions.
  • Do a spring clean. Get rid of the clutter and excess that might have been stored away during winter  (or the rest of the year). A spring clean can be in your house, body and/or mind. Make room for the new.
  • Open the windows. Get good ventilation in your space. Get some indoor plants.
  • Focus your attention to being positive, optimistic, open minded, tranquil, happy and friendly.
  • Enjoy nature. Go hiking, camping or anything you enjoy that takes you into the great outdoors.
  • Generally eat fresh, clean and crisp foods that are in season. Some Chinese medicine dietary tips include benefiting the:
    • yang qi through pungent foods (eg. onions, garlic, ginger, paprika, chives, mint and mustard)
    • liver through some sour foods – just enough to make you feel well but no need to over do it. A squeeze of lemon in your water or some natural yogurt can be beneficial.
    • wood element through green coloured foods eg. green tea, green leafy vegetables (kale, broccolini, baby spinach), peas, beans, asparagus, sprouts and celery.
    • Avoid very spicy and fatty foods at this time of year and don’t overdo the sour flavour.

For another post about spring health read here.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, health

How to eat more local, seasonal vegies each week: Food Connect

Today's vegie bounty from the Food Connect box.
Today’s vegie bounty from the Food Connect box: celery, potatoes (Dutch Cream), pumpkin (Jap), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, Chinese greens, broccoli, lettuce, baby spinach, dill and radishes.

As an acupuncturist who aims to improve the overall health of each and every one of my patients, if there is one general piece of lifestyle advice that I could give nearly everyone it would be:

Eat more whole foods, particularly vegetables.

How many serves of vegetables should you aim for in a day?

Five serves per day. “What is a serve?” I hear you ask. Check out these guidelines. Generally, a cup of raw or a 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables is 1 serve. You’ll most likely need to spread them over at least 2-3 meals. (It’s okay to exceed your vegie intake but don’t exceed your fruit intake of two serves/day due to the sugar content.)

Don’t forget that some fresh produce is best eaten organic or chemical free. What are the dirty dozen?

How can you eat this many chemical-free vegies easily?

Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was at a Mind Body Spirit Festival. A man walked around giving out organic carrots for people to taste. The carrot was deliciously sweet to taste. The man was Robert Pekin – the brains behind Food Connect. He gave me a brochure about his Community Supported Agriculture program he was about to start. I became a subscriber as soon as they opened and continued my subscription for years. Something happened and I got out of sync. I’m so glad that I am once again a subscriber and picked up my second box today.

Here’s why I love Food Connect:

  • You can purchase a vegie, fruit or fruit and veg box in different sizes from Food Connect.
  • If you don’t want a box, you can select your own foods from their extensive list. See here.
  • They also sell breads, flours (including brown rice flour), sauces, honey, eggs and lots more.
  • If you don’t want to order every week, you don’t have to. Or if you do, you can set up a standard order.
  • The produce is sourced locally within 400km of Brisbane and is either chemical free, bio-dynamic or organic.
  • The produce is in season, unlike many of the offerings in our big supermarkets.
  • You support local farmers and get to know a little about their farms. They are featured in the newsletter in each box and you can also do farm tours.
  • You choose which ‘City Cousin‘ you will pick your order up from. These wonderful people are found in every few suburbs.
  • It’s not that expensive. The box featured above and below cost $44. I’ve found this reduces my weekly food bill by not needing to visit the shops most days.
What a small vegie box might look like.
What a small vegie box might look like.

The produce in the box I picked up today had traveled only 184km. This would not be the case if I had bought the same items in a major supermarket.

Having a weekly order of vegies each week will increase your vegie intake easily. You will need to eat through them before the next order is due. It also saves you having to do day-to-day grocery shops. If your fridge and pantry are stocked with fresh vegetables already you will be more likely to eat them.

Tonight I turned my vegies into this delicious tofu and vegie curry:

Food connect curry

So make the commitment to increase your vegetable intake. If it’s not through a scheme like Food Connect, regularly visit farmers’ markets for your groceries or even grow your own fresh produce!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

 

 

Diet, emotional health, exercise, food, mental health, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Living well in Autumn

From the cartoon genius that is Michael Leunig. I thought this was incredibly cute.

Many people say that autumn is one of the most delightful times of year in Brisbane with beautiful clear skies and moderate temperatures. Autumn is the time when the heat and humidity from summer dissipates gradually and we begin to dry off and cool down in the transition towards winter. Here’s something to put you in the mood: Tchaikovsky’s Autumn (or October in the northern hemisphere) – the inspiration for Leunig’s ‘The Autumn Circle of Magpies and Ducks’ perhaps?

As a follow up to my summer livin‘ post I thought I should introduce you all to good living tips for autumn too. The following are a collection of ideas (in no particular order) associated with autumn:

  • Gathering
  • Harvest the mature
  • Build storage for winter
  • Yang Qi (energy) falls and Yin Qi (energy) rises gradually
  • Qi (energy) moves inward and downward
  • Bright and crisp
  • Cool and dry
  • Clarity and simplicity
  • Reflection and reconnection
  • Slowing down
  • Lungs, large intestine and your skin
  • Preserving a harmonious mood
  • Pungent flavours and aromas
  • The colour white
  • The metal element

Gradually add even just a few of these tips as the weather changes to maximise your health in the autumn:

  • Lifestyle:
    • Get more sleep. Go to bed earlier than in summer and rise a little later.
    • Don’t tire yourself out physically or sweat too much.
    • Feel the weather getting cooler but don’t feel the need to rug up to be ‘over’ warm until the weather gets colder. Layers are good! On the other hand, be prepared with some warm clothes and bedclothes in the case of a cold snap.
    • Exercise should be more about building strength than sweating it out in the autumn. This relates to gathering muscle and preserving body fluids. However, if you wish to lose weight, Chinese medicine considers autumn a good time to exercise more to prevent further ‘storage’ over the winter.
    • Look after your skin. Find yourself lovely aromatic, natural facial and body moisturisers/oils to keep your skin nourished in the drier climate. Don’t forget to moisturise after a bath too.
    • This is also an excellent time to pull out some books, cards and board games for a little bit of inside time with friends and family in the evenings.
  • Emotional health:
    • If you love summer then autumn can be a sad time. Make the most of bright and crisp autumn days, getting some safe exposure to sunlight. This could involve a walk in nature, exercise in a park, and sightseeing around mountains, rivers or lakes.
  • Foods:
    • More substantial meals than in summer, yet not as heavy as in winter – simple and sumptuous!
    • Savour the deep, complex flavours of autumn.
    • Moisten dryness with foods such as pears, spinach, nuts, seeds, avocado, milks (if they agree with you, including soy) and honey. Porridge with honey and banana can be very moistening.
    • Eat some pungent and warm foods (Eg. leeks, radishes, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, onion and chilli) but not until you sweat.
    • Also gradually include sour (preserve fluids) and bitter (descends to store) flavoured foods.
    • Make the most of: wild mushrooms, garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, swedes, beetroot, broccoli and borlotti beans. A lot of these foods are naturally white in colour which is synonymous with the metal element.
    • Avoid excessive cool/cold/icy foods and drinks.
    • Use cooking methods which will maximise food aromas such as baking (warming) and saute (preserving moisture content). Use your slow cooker to gently warm and keep the moisture in your food – plus you will come to the aroma of a home cooked dinner!

If you find that autumn brings out the worst in your health (eg. moodwise, asthma or respiratory symptoms, skin conditions, constipation or other digestive orders) talk to me about acupuncture, herbal medicine or other lifestyle methods which may benefit your condition.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Uncategorized

My new clinic

peony red webAs you will have seen in my last post I have been offered and have decided to accept a permanent Chinese Medicine lecturing position at the Endeavour College of Natural Health. I’m excited about embracing this new challenge but as a result I will be moving on from a position I have very much enjoyed at the HealthWise Clinic.

My last day at HealthWise Clinic will be Wednesday 6th November 2013. Call (07) 3839 1077 to make an appointment.

But I’m not giving up clinical practice altogether. I can’t. I love what I do too much.

Your future health care

As a Chinese Medicine Board Registered Acupuncturist, it is important to me that you are well looked after for your health care needs and I will do my best to make sure they are met for your individual situation.

For those of you who have been seeing me at the HealthWise Clinic over the last (almost) six years I’d like to recommend the acupuncture services of my HealthWise colleagues, David McLeod and Zam Martin.

If you are a massage patient please contact me and I can refer you to a massage therapist who is convenient to you.

Or if you prefer…

New clinic contact details

Although my appointment times will be limited due to accepting a permanent lecturing position, I will continue to practice acupuncture and massage from this clinic:

Acupuncture & Natural Therapies Centre
26 Thomas Street
West End  QLD  4101
Ph: (07) 3844 2217

My first day at this clinic will be Thursday 7th November 2013.

If you wish to contact me

Please feel free to contact me to discuss your future health care options. And please know that you are always welcome to stay in touch. You can:

  • ‘like’ my facebook page
  • ‘follow’ me on twitter
  • ‘follow’ this blog by email (link close to the top of the right hand column)
  • email me directly

Thank you for placing your trust in me to provide your health care. I am truly honoured to have shared your healing journey with you.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

New guest post for Alive Berry on eating well in winter

chai
Chili-choc-chai tea

I’ve had the good fortune of being asked to write for the brilliant online health magazine, Alive Berry.  Do check them out for all of your mind, body and soul needs.

Following on from my Wellness Ninja blog post from yesterday Three of my favourite spices for winter warming, my first Alive Berry post is A quick guide to eating well in winter. Enjoy it!

 

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, food, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Three of my favourite spices for winter warming

spices webI don’t like being cold and I’ll admit it, I spend most of winter looking forward to spring. Yes, even in the Brisbane winter. There are many ways we can keep warm in winter – and choosing the right foods is one of them. Here are three of my favourite flavours to spice up my life in winter. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we describe each substance by its temperature, flavour and action in the body – some foods have a warming or hot action on the body.

Enjoy this tantalising yet brief introduction to my top three favourite warming spices and how you can use them in your diet:

  • Cardamom: warming, pungent and slightly bitter. Cardamom is an excellent digestive stimulant. It is sometimes termed the “Queen of the Spices” and is probably best known for its use in curries but can also be added to cakes and biscuits. The pods can be chewed on as a breath sweetener. There is a restaurant I like to have breakfast at that makes a wonderful tomato relish with bursts of cardamom pods in it. Cardamom even pops up in gin and some liqueurs.
  • Cinnamon: hot and sweet. Again this spice is excellent for the digestive system and great for the common cold accompanied by runny noses and chills. Once again this is an excellent spice to be used in curries. It is also wonderful in porridge, pickles, chutneys and smoothies (adds some warm energy to a cold drink). It is a delicious addition to stewed fruits. In baking it teams well with apples and bananas in muffins, slices and cakes. There is a schnapps called Goldschläger based on cinnamon and several spirits and liqueurs that also take advantage of the wonderful flavour of cinnamon.
  • Ginger: warm (fresh) and hot (dried), pungent and slightly sweet. Ginger is one of the great digestive herbs. It is well known for calming a nauseous stomach. This spice is versatile – fresh, it can be used it in curries, stir fry, congee, dumplings, spring rolls or almost any Asian style dish. Pickled, it is an excellent accompaniment to sushi. I love to snack on crystallised (or nude) ginger in trail mix when I go hiking. It is also a lovely addition to biscuits and cakes, including as a decoration on icing. And for a real treat, I can’t go past dark chocolate coated ginger. Dried ginger can be added to baking and in curries. I occasionally add just a sprinkle to my rice porridge. Ginger is also made into wine, beer and ale.

These spices can be combined with black tea to make chai (spiced) tea which is a comforting hot drink for a cold day, although, each spice could be used on its own as a herbal tea. Mulled wine is another way to combine these spices to make a warming red wine beverage. Of course, it should only be consumed in moderation. I have a nice recipe for cardamom and ginger biscuits here.

What are your favourite winter warmers?

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

emotional health, health, massage, mental health

Five reasons why you should learn to massage for fun

  1. Everyone loves a massage.
  2. Massage has lots of health benefits:
      • Pain relief – For musculoskeletal injuries, tension headaches and back pain.
      • Detoxification – Massage stimulates the immune system by increasing blood flow and lymph drainage.
      • Muscle recovery – Massage helps clear muscles of lactic and uric acid that build up during exercise.
      • Muscle tone – Improving muscle tone and delaying muscle atrophy resulting from inactivity.
      • Prevent injury – Deep massage can separate fascial fibres, prevent adhesions and reduce inflammation and oedema.
      • Healing – Massage increases circulation and therefore improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
  3. Massage promotes a sense of wellbeing:
      • Mental alertness – After massage, EEG patterns indicate enhanced performance and alertness on mathematical computations.
      • Reduced anxiety and depression – Massage has been shown to reduce subclinical depression.
      • Relaxation – The release of endorphins and serotonin inducing a relaxed, ‘feel good’ state can improve sleep, reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
  4. Helping someone else to relax and feel good, also makes the giver of the massage feel good too.
  5. There’s a good chance if you give a massage, you might get one on return, which is always nice. ( To increase your odds of this, make sure to encourage your partner/friend/family member to learn to massage with you).

Fancy learning to massage just for fun?  I’ll be teaching a “Massage for Beginners” course through the lovely people at Bright Learning on Saturday, 19th November, 2011.  We’ll also be touching on some useful acupressure skills too.

For more details or to book – click here.

 

Diet, exercise, food, health, motivational, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Spring into good health!

Finally! It’s September and spring is here. You can feel it in the air – the sun feels warmer, the days are longer and even the water dragons have emerged from hibernation to sunbake around Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point cliffs.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes the change of season and its effect on your health quite seriously. We see the transition to be a time when your energy is shifting and if it is not managed well, can make you more susceptable to ill-health and picking up allergies, colds and flus, and generally not feeling at your tip-top best.

So in spring, like the water dragons, we emerge from the cold of winter.  Many of us find winter the hardest time to get motivated and active.  This is because it is natural for us to want to stay indoors wearing our ugg boots and eating casseroles to stay warm during the cold weather.  Cold contracts and has an inward nature, reflected in our winter behaviour.

But as the season changes, spring arrives and so the Yang, the aspect of our body that warms and gives us energy, rises letting us know that it’s time to get moving.  Like a seed that is sprouting we too need some sunshine (think of it as a vitamin D hit) and a clean environment with fresh air (hence the term ‘spring’ clean) to be invigorated.  Add to that some exercise and some lighter foods (think stir frys with lots of fresh seasonal vegetables).  You can even take the spring clean further and do a short detoxification diet. Spring is the best time of year for this and it may help you to shed a few extra kilos you added to keep you warm over the winter.

Spring is a great time to shift your exercise program outdoors.  Think about walking, hiking, jogging, cycling (here’s a great website for finding safe cycling routes around Brisbane), canoeing or even personal training in a park.  Research has shown that exercising outdoors and in amongst greenery is good for our mental health too.

A word of caution for spring, whilst the weather is warmer, the summer has not arrived yet, so be prepared with clothing to protect you from drafts or cold winds that may still be lurking around.

And by following this advice you should be radiant and full of vitality for enjoying the delights of summer.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

beauty, Diet, food, health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Nourish your dry winter skin

As I have been treating my patients this winter, I have noticed many of them have had very dry, often flakey, skin – some even to the point of having significant scratches from the itchiness that can accompany dryness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dryness is usually attached to the season autumn, however in Brisbane this year, we are experiencing the dryness right now.

According to TCM five element theory, dryness is characteristic of the metal element and is also matched up with the lungs and skin.  Our lungs are responsible for creating a mist of the (good, pure) fluids in our body and spreading them to our skin and mucous membranes, to keep them well-nourished.  When this function goes wrong, we might experience situations where we accumulate too much fluid in places that we don’t need it (such as a phlegmy cough and runny nose) and not enough moisture where we do need it, leading to dry, itchy skin.

So, how can we bring the moisture of our skin back into balance?

  • Inside out:
    • Choose foods to be used in nourishing meals that will moisten dryness such as soy-based foods, apples, pears, most nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil and honey.  Add a few pungent foods to these meals (such as onions and garlic) to aid in the dispersing of the fluids).
    • Make sure you are also consuming enough water – are you drinking two litres?
  • Outside in:
    DIY salt scrub
    • Choose a good natural moisturiser to apply to your body after showering. (Long hot showers in winter, whilst being lovely, tend to dry out your skin).  You may need to upgrade your facial moisturiser during the dry months (and even use a night cream or facial oil) – again look for a good one free of synthetic chemicals.
    • Use my favourite DIY salt scrub recipe when you have dry skin (it’s very versatile being great for sticky, congested skin in summer and dry, itchy skin in winter).  You may need to do this 2-3 times per week until your skin is soft and silky again.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

exercise, health, Uncategorized

5 reasons to switch to pedal power

Some of my favourite times of the day are the trip to work and the trip back. “In peak hour traffic? Surely not”, you say.  But my answer is still “Yes!”  That’s because I have found a way to avoid being stuck in a traffic jam, squished onto a crowded train or needing to allow extra time in the morning for the bus to turn up (after the first two buses didn’t show up).  For the last two or so years, I’ve chosen cycling as my preferred mode of transport to work.

Cycling to work (or uni, the shops or wherever you want to go) brings many benefits. Here’s my top five:

  • Avoid peak hour traffic.  Riding a push bike allows you a great sense of freedom.  Often, in peak times, you can move faster than the car traffic.  Not only that, for those who rely on public transport, riding a bike means the end of waiting for buses or trains that are late or don’t show up – no more timetables, you choose when to leave.  There are more cycle paths appearing all the time.  If you don’t have a safe route to ride to work you need to pressure your local council to provide one.
  • Get fit. Let’s face it, you have to make the trip to work anyway.  And lots of people I talk to say they don’t have time to exercise.  Why not kill ‘two birds with one stone’ and get your exercise on the way to and from work?  Cycling to work is an excellent way to get fit and healthy on a daily trip when you would have otherwise been sedentary.  Most cycle commuters will get their 30 minutes of daily exercise easily.  By switching to pedal power you will be burning around 300 calories for each 30 minutes you ride.
  • Save your hard-earned cash.  Fuel costs have escalated, car parking can be incredibly expensive and even the cost of public transport in Brisbane is on the rise.  A bike however, is a one-off investment (allow a minimum of $400 for a decent bike to get you around on a moderate commute).  Many workplaces now even offer facilities including showers so you can freshen up after your ride.  If yours doesn’t, end-of-trip cycling facilities such as King George Square Cycle Centre or Royal Brisbane Hospital Cycle Centre offer an alternative for less than the daily price of public transport.  Cycling to work may even allow you to cancel a costly gym membership.
  • Be happy.  We will never be short of studies that say exercise makes us happy.  Raising the heart rate, working up a sweat, breathing deeply and pumping the muscles aids the release of our body’s happy hormones, endorphins.  Not only that, exercise before work will wake you up and help your mind to be more alert for the day ahead.  Your ride home will give you an opportunity to forget the worries of the day so you are relaxed when you walk in your front door.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint.  For each kilometre you choose to cycle instead of drive a car you are reducing your CO2 emissions by approximately 0.3kg.

Obviously, cycling to work is not the answer for everyone.  However, many people do have a lot to gain by adopting this mode of transport.  It may take a little forward planning to find safe routes and organise clothing and toiletries to freshen up for your work day post-ride.  Once you have a system in place, the benefits of cycling will become crystal clear. And, if you can’t cycle to work, you can still jump on a bike on the weekend for a social ride.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.