acupuncture, fertility, herbal medicine, IVF, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The essence of my Master of Health Science (TCM) degree boiled down to 6 things you might not know about women’s health

2013: The original crew in our second year. We're all lecturers at Endeavour College of Natural Health now: Nicky Macdonald, Sarah George, Lori-Ellen Grant, David Schievenin
2013: The original crew in our second year. We’re all lecturers at Endeavour College of Natural Health now: Nicky Macdonald, Sarah George, Lori-Ellen Grant, David Schievenin

After four years of studying a Master of Health Science (Traditional Chinese Medicine) degree at the University of Western Sydney (UWS), balancing study with lecturing and clinical practice, I can say that I have finally finished! (It’s been such a long time the uni has even changed its name in that time to Western Sydney University – WSU!)

I am really glad I’ve had the opportunity to do this course. I have learnt so much, made great friends and studied under some of the great Chinese Medicine teachers in the world.

While I’m very grateful to have my Saturday nights back (no more late night researching and assignment writing) here’s a few things I am very happy to have learnt while reading everything I could on the following women’s health topics:

I studied a diverse range of topics in addition to women’s health (eg. osteoarthritis, anorgasmia and irritable bowel syndrome) which I’ll cover in subsequent blogs.

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, fertility, herbal medicine, IVF, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Can acupuncture enhance your fertility and support your pregnancy?

Pregnant belly kissHere’s a little guest piece I wrote for the Endeavour College of Natural Health Wellnation Clinics, How can Chinese Medicine enhance your fertility?

Helping men and women with fertility and those subsequent pregnancies is one of my favourite areas of practice, and one that I have studied intensively and had a lot of experience in treating with acupuncture and natural medicine treatment (whether it’s pre-conception care, assisting a patient with polycystic ovarian syndrome or low sperm count, or supporting a patient through IVF).

If you wish to have a baby, are having difficulty in conceiving or are looking for supportive care in pregnancy, please contact me. I’d be happy to assist you with your journey.

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, health, herbal medicine

Get your free Herbs, Health & Acupressure ebook

ebook cover HHAThe fabulous naturopath Kathleen Murphy and I co-authored a little gem of an e-book a short while ago. It followed on from a presentation that we gave at the packed Blue Lotus tent at the Woodford Folk Festival.

We wanted to teach some simple self care techniques we often talk about in our clinics for these common health complaints:

  • Digestive disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Pain

Kathleen covered the easy homemade herbal remedies and I taught some simple acupressure techniques.

To thank you for following or subscribing to my blog (you can subscribe using the link on the right side of the page) I wanted to offer you a free copy of the e-book: “An introduction to health, herbs & acupressure: simple tips and home remedies for good health.”

Click here to download the ebook – herbs health acupressure 2013 for free!

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, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Oh no! The acupuncturist is sick! What does she do?

Ekka 2013
The Ekka may look harmless but beware of the lurgy!

It’s Ekka time. Everyone in Brisbane knows that when the Brisbane Exhibition is on that the flu goes around. Regardless of whether I go to the Ekka or not (and I did go this year – and I took hand sanitiser), I come down with the lurgy on exactly the same day of the year, the Monday before the Brisbane Exhibition Show Day. Yes, even I get sick sometimes! Picking up a respiratory infection 1-2 times per year is quite healthy and normal. In saying that, being sick is no fun and we like to prevent these things dragging on any longer than they have to.

So, as an acupuncturist, what do I do when I get sick?

Firstly, I should explain that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we classify the common cold or flu generally into one of two types: hot or cold.

How do you know which one you have?

  • Hot signs and symptoms: fevers or feeling hot more predominant, excessive sweating, yellow & thick mucus, razor blade sore throat and a red face.
  • Cold signs: chills or feeling the cold more predominant, none/slight sweats, clear & runny mucus, sneezing and pale face.

Treatments for the two types have some similarities but also many differences. It’s important to nut out whether you have hot or cold symptoms, and exactly what those symptoms are, before proceeding to treatment. Your acupuncturist can help you to do this.

I was knocked down with the hot type – a hot-cold. This means that my treatment is based on clearing the heat as well as releasing the exterior (a TCM term which is badly translated as opening the pores to release the pathogen that has made you unwell). If you have the cold type, we can employ more warming methods and herbs in your treatment. Here’s a nice soup if you have a cold-cold.

So, what did I do:

  1. Acupuncture. Yes, that was my first stop. I had an acupuncture treatment to clear out my sinuses, dull my headache and release some heat that was contributing to that sore throat.
  2. Herbs. Being able to make up individualised herbal formulas means that I can match the herbs to the symptoms. I used herbs that ‘release the exterior’, dry up phlegm and cool the heat signs. The herbs usually taste quite awful however the upside to having a blocked nose is that it drastically reduces your sense of taste – awful tasting herbs go down easily. Win!
  3. Fluids. Keeping up your 2 litres of fluid per day is essential and if you are sweating well you’ll need even more. It’s okay to include some herbal tea into your total fluid intake. I combined some HealthWise Clinic Cold & Flu Tea in a pot with a squeeze of fresh lemon (picked from my parents’ lemon tree) and a spoon of honey mixed through it. The herbs were pungent and the lemon and honey were cooling and soothing for the sore throat.
  4. Inhalation. Clearing your head out when it’s blocked up with mucus is best done with a steam inhalation. Just like your grandmother recommended: tea towel over your head, breathing over a pot of gently steaming water. I usually would add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a blend of nose clearing oils to the water.
  5. Gargle. One of the simplest gargles that is also very effective is the salt water gargle. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water. Then gargle to your heart’s (or rather throat’s) content. Don’t swallow. Yuck. Salt is cooling for that hot, sore throat.
  6. Rest. Get as much sleep and rest as you can. Don’t go out if there is anyway to avoid it. No one wants your germs and rest will help you get better faster. I love this post on the importance of rest when you are ill – no one says it better than Kathleen, the naturopath! And here is how she manages a cold as a naturopath.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.

How do you prevent getting sick? Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago on getting your defenses (immune system) prepared for cold and flu season.

So if you aren’t sick, look after yourself. And if you are sick also look after yourself. Get better soon and seek help if the symptoms are severe or long-lasting.

And just in case you have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, I’m pleased to report that I will be back on deck after a good rest.

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, Diet, food, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Traditional Chinese Medicine word on GORD

yinyangfoodsLast semester I researched gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) for my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) masters program. Here’s a summary:

What causes GORD?

GORD affects around 25% of the adult population on a regular basis. The disease is characterised by heartburn and gastric acid reflux. Standard care for GORD includes medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and prokinetic drugs although their success rate is relative to the cause of the individual’s condition and these medications are often associated with complications from long term use.

GORD has been linked to a variety of genetic, dietary and lifestyle factors. An Iranian study identified that GORD was significantly more likely to occur in individuals who had:

  • a higher pickle consumption
  • psychological distress
  • dyspepsia
  • halitosis
  • nightmares
  • restlessness
  • took aspirin
  • a family history of GORD.
  • smoking caused an increase in the prevalence of GORD however this was not significant (p=0.055).
  • Other studies have shown that a high body mass index (BMI) can increase the risk of GORD.

Factors that significantly decreased an individual’s risk of GORD included having a higher fruit and vegetable (fibre) intake and interestingly, a higher fried food intake.

Descending the rebellious ‘reflux’ Qi

TCM places particular importance on eating meals at regular times, in moderate quantities and at a relaxed pace so as not to disturb the downward flow through organs of the digestive system, particularly the Stomach.

In TCM, it is the Stomach that is the first organ to receive the food to be digested. It is known as ‘the origin of fluids’ and is said to prefer foods which are moist to assist in the lubrication of the digestive system and a general function of providing moisture for the body. The energy (or Qi) that is extracted from the food strengthens the whole body but is particularly reflected in the limbs. The process of worrying or overthinking while eating will stagnate or drain the energy of the digestive system, disrupting good digestive processes.

Primarily GORD is classified as a disorder of the descending function of the Stomach Qi resulting in Rebellious Qi. The rebellious Qi moves in an upward direction causing the characteristic burning sensation in the epigastrium and acid regurgitation. There are various reasons why your gastric acid may move upwards rather than staying in your Stomach where it belongs.

How to put out the fire of heart burn

Discuss your condition with your practitioner. They will be able to assess your individual condition and offer an individualised treatment plan which may include:

  • Acupuncture: Several acupuncture studies have shown promising results and some acupuncture points have been studied to identify a mechanism of action for GORD treatment. Acupuncture has been shown to increase the effectiveness of PPIs when used concurrently in the treatment of GORD.
  • Herbal medicine: TCM and Kampo herbal formulae may offer relief for GORD. Meadowsweet and slippery elm powder are often the western herbalist’s herbs of choice for GORD.
  • Reduce your risk factors: decrease pickles in the diet, address psychological stress and dyspepsia, discuss your aspirin use with your doctor, stop smoking and maintain a healthy BMI. Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Mindful eating: eat regular meals in a relaxed manner until you are about 80% full.
  • Relaxation: Find ways to eliminate the causes of stress (where you can) in your life and learn to ways to unwind. This may include meditation, yoga, massage, acupuncture or seeking psychological counselling.

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, Diet, emotional health, food, food allergy, health, herbal medicine, massage, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Irritable bowel syndrome: feeling better with complementary medicine

I see many patients each week who have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The good news is that I often find that with some good questioning and an individualised treatment plan covering the multiple aspects of this condition, a patient’s abdominal pain and bowel habits often respond for the better.

IBS is the most common digestive condition that patients seek help for and, believe it or not, accounts for up to a third of visits to gastroenterologists.

IBS is diagnosed by eliminating other disorders through medical testing.  An IBS diagnosis is made when a patient has recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort for at least three days of the last three months and at least two symptoms from the following:

  • Improvement of pain with bowel movement
  • Onset associated with a change in the stool frequency
  • Onset associated with a change in the stool consistency

The causes of IBS are poorly understood and so this means that conventional treatment is targeted towards reducing the symptoms. Interestingly, it is antidepressant medications that seem to offer the most relief to IBS patients from the pharmaceutical model.  Additionally, antispasmodics and anti-diarrhoeal medications are often trialed.

There are many natural therapies that have been used traditionally for digestive conditions and some of these treatments have shown statistically significant results in clinical trials.

  • Herbal medicine and nutrition therapy do have plenty to offer a patient with IBS and this is backed by clinical trials. One of the most effective herbal remedies tested in double blind clinical trials is a herbal formula known as Iberogast. A study found that Iberogast significantly reduces abdominal pain and other IBS symptoms. I use a lot of Iberogast with my IBS patients when I feel that the formula fits their pattern and it usually brings excellent results.
  • Probiotics have also been the subject of several clinical trials and there is good evidence for their use in IBS.  They are particularly useful in patients who suffer from bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain. Probiotics enhance the gut barrier function and inhibit pathogen binding. Many probiotic strands are available, so you need to work with a practitioner to get the correct strands and dosing. In addition to supplementing with probiotics, increasing probiotic rich foods (such as yoghurt, keffir, miso, tempeh and sauerkraut) may be beneficial.
  • Fibre, particularly soluble fibre such as psyllium husks, is also supported by research for use in IBS, particularly where constipation is a predominant factor. Soluble fibres should be taken before meals for a greater impact on the lower digestive system.
  • Dietary causes play a part in IBS. It is worth having your diet assessed by your practitioner to identify if there are any foods that are aggravating your system. I often refer patients for food sensitivity testing which takes some of the guess work out of finding out which foods aggravate your symptoms and diets based on this testing have significantly reduce symptoms in clinical trials. Not all patients need to follow a dairy and gluten free diet – however this does work well for some – testing helps us to identify which foods are causing your problems.
  • One of the most important factors in treating IBS is managing stress and anxiety. Seek assistance in resolving ongoing life stresses or anxieties. Hypnosis is well supported in research for managing IBS. Additionally, choose counselling, meditation, yoga, massage and relaxation techniques to help you feel more relaxed. Acupuncture is excellent for enhancing relaxation and has been used for thousands of years for alleviating digestive pain and bowel disorders too.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has several diagnostic patterns for IBS. One of the most common is known as “Liver invading the Spleen”. Basically, this means that when feeling emotions such as frustration, resentment, irritability and anger your digestion system is weakened and your symptoms are worse. If you have this pattern you may suffer from alternating constipation and diarrhoea, and it is hard to pinpoint any foods that make your condition worse. (Here’s a little more on Liver Qi Stagnation, the precursor to Liver invading the Spleen.) It is no surprise then that it is the antidepressant medications that have shown the greatest improvement in this condition from a pharmaceutical point of view. There are many drug-free stress reduction options, and these are listed in the last bullet point above. This brain-gut connection highlights the importance of an holistic strategy in the management of IBS.

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.

herbal medicine

Ten things you might not know about herbal medicine

The exquisite saffron flower
The exquisite saffron flower

Last night I enjoyed an evening with Mills and Bone. You might be thinking it went a bit like this…

On truly seeing Charelle’s beauty shine in the candlelight Roger was so glad the middle eastern chef had laced the meal with the most expensive spice in the world, saffron. He knew that this would be a night when he would be grateful for his ginkgo herbal tonic…

Actually, it was nothing like that at all. Mills and Bone, not Mills and Boon. (And I think I’ll call it quits on the romance writing.) The great herbalists Simon Mills and Kerry Bone launched the latest edition of their brilliant text Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy to Brisbane’s herbalists. The launch involved a discussion of several key herbs ranging from their fascinating traditional uses to the latest research findings gained from high quality randomised controlled trials.

Here are ten herbal points of interest from the evening:

  1. Barberry, a classic bitter herb, has excellent properties for managing blood sugar in Diabetes Type II patients.
  2. Cinnamon is one of the great warming herbs and can easily be used in the diet for people who run cold. Grind the quills yourself as you need them to have fresh powder which will maintain its potency better than when you buy it already ground. Most studies are on the Chinese cinnamon, Cinnomomum cassia.
  3. Bitter receptors are found in more places than just on your tongue. Researchers have found them throughout the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs and even on the cells that produce sperm. The herb gentian stimulates seven of the twenty five bitter receptors that we know of, a great many more receptors than most other bitters.
  4. There is thought that ginkgo may be useful in mitigating the effects of radiation and some research supports this. There are some notable ginkgo trees in Japan (still alive today) which were in close proximity to and survived the Hiroshima nuclear blasts without any apparent decline in their health.
  5. Gotu kola is known as the healing herb particularly due to its ability to improve micro-circulation. Other at home remedies include high quality dark chocolate (85%), berries, garlic and green tea.
  6. Meadowsweet is a gentle bitter which combines well with slippery elm powder to reduce gastro-oesophageal reflux. The trick is the combination needs to be taken straight after meals and before bed for the best effect.
  7. For inflammation in the mouth and throat you can’t go past Myrrh. This resin can make a fast-acting gargle and mouth wash.
  8. There is a Arabic proverb for the highly prized tonic herb Nigella that describes it as “the medicine for every disease except death”. In the Middle East it is the number one herb used for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.
  9. If you need to improve your cognitive function (eg. memory response time, etc.) look no further than the culinary herb rosemary. Rosemary has been shown to improve cognitive function in research studies. It was also compared to cold tomato juice which had a negative impact on cognitive function – so no cold tomato juice at exam time!
  10. Like Roger told you at the top, saffron is the world’s most expensive spice due to the time intensive process of harvesting only the three crimson stigma from this flower. Interestingly, saffron has performed well in clinical trials on depression, and in contrast to St John’s wort, saffron appears not to have the same herb-drug interactions. The research has shown that it can improve sexual function in men and women taking SSRI anti-depressants, which may be a side effect of taking these medications.

Just remember that herbal preparations should be treated with respect like any other medicine. Seek advice from your health practitioner to get best results rather than self-prescribing.

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.