Diet, food, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

It’s time for a detox – Traditional Chinese Medicine style

detox dietEvery now and then, maybe once or twice each year, I put myself on a detox diet.

Now I’m not one who is big on following a particular diet trend, a detox diet for me is more about establishing good eating and living habits – bringing myself back into line – back to basics – that kind of thing. It’s about prioritising what’s important – and that’s doing what makes me feel well.

Usually I get this urge after an extremely busy few months when some of my good habits have slid and I’ve been running from the clinic to social event to karate training to professional education seminar to giving a lecture while surviving on food that is far more convenient than it is worth eating. That’s when I know, it’s time to set things straight.

So my detox diet usually runs for about two or three weeks, and since I respond well to structure and routine I spell it out like this:

None of these

  • Dairy
  • Gluten and refined grains
  • Animal protein
  • Processed foods (this includes chocolate)
  • Added sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee and black tea

And plenty of these, organic where possible

  • Fresh vegetables
  • A small amount of fruit
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Wholegrains (non-gluten)
  • Plenty of herbs and spices (eg. ginger, garlic, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, parsley and coriander).
  • Water
  • Herbal and green teas

I take a few herbs and supplements for:

  • liver support 
  • good digestive function
  • healthy gut flora

I like to consider this as more about what you can have, and that is spoiling your body with excellent quality food that you deserve (none of that cheap, nasty processed stuff)! For me, this means I can eat as many gluten-free porridges, curries, casseroles, stir frys and soups as I like. Which is great because I love these foods.

Now, you don’t have to go without gluten grains if you don’t have a problem with them, I just feel better when I do avoid them. I’m also already a vegetarian so the meat thing isn’t a problem.

The part I struggle with most is avoiding sugar.  I have a sweet tooth and I love dark chocolate. The rest of the diet makes me stick to a good routine for two weeks and that’s long enough for me to remember my good habits and stick to them most of the time after that. I also find that if you fill up your body with good food it is very satisfying and you tend not to want the processed or sweet foods you might otherwise crave. These cravings are usually gone after only a few days. There are a few other tricks I have up my sleeve for people who struggle with sugar cravings.

A good detox program should also include some exercise, again use this as a way to set your future exercise routine.  Do exercise that you enjoy – if it’s outdoors in a green space it’s even better! Be kind to yourself during your program and add in a massage or two and some epsom salts baths.

Detox diets and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Detox diets are not part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) so this post is a little controversial.  TCM supports the body back to a healthy function but does not traditionally use therapeutic methods as a ‘clean out’, unless of course you are blocked up.  Detox diets do form part of naturopathic and ayurvedic thought.

My personal idea of a detox is not huge on the cleaning out side of things, but more on re-establishing a healthy diet and lifestyle routine. In TCM terms it’s all about supporting the Earth element – the Spleen and Stomach (or digestive system in western terms). It’s a plan for a set period of time (2-3 weeks) to get yourself back on track. I also do not subscribe to the raw food clean-out idea. A little is ok, but it depends on your constitution and you’ll probably need to see a TCM practitioner to work that out. My detox doesn’t usually include any juicing (or at least not copious amounts). When your body is functioning well, it can eliminate easily what it doesn’t need.

Detox programs aren’t for everyone.  It depends on your constitution and your signs and symptoms. I design different types of programs for my patients as individuals. Different foods, herbs, supplements and time periods. The goal is to re-establish (or establish in the first place) a healthy diet and lifestyle for a period of time that you can then stick to maybe 80% of the time thereafter.

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, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Even your pet can benefit from acupuncture

dog acupunctureI spent today with a gorgeous friend, her incredibly clever and kind seven-year old daughter and their adorable devon rex cat.

Miss Seven was over the moon to be able to demonstrate her new vet kit to me.  The vet kit was a little basket of goodies she had put together to treat her animals. It included freshly pressed basil oil, some raw ginger, eucalyptus leaves, a sewing pin and her own written notes on pet medicine.

We started by treated the toy dog. He had a sore back and irritated eyes. With our combination of herbal rubs and sewing pin acupuncture we cured him.

But you know, pets (of the living, breathing variety) really can benefit from complementary medicines just as well as people can. Acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine, nutritional medicine (such as omega 3 fatty acids), homeopathics and aromatherapy can work a treat for our furry friends for their physical and mental ailments. Some good vets include these therapies in their practice – it’s always worth asking about.

Today’s work with the seven-year old complementary medicine veterinary doctor reminded me of this fabulous video showcasing the effect of acupuncture on the most adorable little pug puppy who suffered with paralysis from a car accident. Her recovery is remarkable.

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, exercise, food, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Drying the damp: feeling well in humid climates

This week in Brisbane the heat and humidity have picked up and it’s no surprise that summer is just around the corner.

Humidity has a tendency to make many of us feel:

  • Heavy
  • Lethargic
  • Fluidy
  • Sweaty and sticky (a skin nightmare!) – use this scrub recipe
  • Unmotivated
  • Irritable or melancholy
  • Foggy headed
  • Not hungry, and yet still craving comfort foods and drinks
  • Nauseous and/or prone to loose bowels

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we refer to this syndrome as ‘dampness’.  That is, humidity from the environment, our lifestyle and diet has accumulated in our body and become stagnant, making us feel… bleh.

So, if this sounds like you in humid weather, what can be done?

  1. Keep moving – keep up the exercise even when you feel heavy and unmotivated, it will help you feel better.  Don’t sit for too long, get up regularly.
  2. Stay dry – don’t sit around in sweaty clothes or wet swimsuits.  Towel off properly and get changed.  Also be aware of your living, working and playing environments – are they well ventilated and dry?
  3. Keep up your fluids – it may sound counterproductive to drink more water (2-3L) but we need to promote urination to pass the excess fluid from your system.  That is, clean fluids going in so we can wash away the stagnant ones.
  4. Eat small meals, regularly, and make your lightest meal in the evening.  Don’t overeat.
  5. Reduce sweet, oily, rich and dairy foods – An icy soft drink, creamy gelati or fresh mango may seem like just the treat to give you a refreshing pick up but it will probably have the opposite effect, making you feel heavier and more lethargic than you were before.  Steer clear of  soft drinks, fruit juices, milk shakes, smoothies, ice cream, excessive high-sugar tropical fruits (eg. mangoes and bananas), fatty meats and greasy fried foods.  Before you get upset that I have taken your mango away (because let’s face it, they are delicious), a slice or two after a meal with a slice or two of pawpaw or pineapple is fine for aiding your digestion, we just shouldn’t go crazy on them.  While we are at it, an excessive intake of grains (eg. pasta dishes) will add to the damp feeling.
  6. Eat more light, bitter and pungent foods – these are what you can eat and will help your body reduce excessive fluids that are being held.  Make sure to eat small, light meals that include some ginger, garlic, onions, chili, caraway seeds, aduki (red beans) beans, mung beans, bitter leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, celery and rye (if gluten is ok). A squeeze of lemon or lime in your food and water will be refreshing. Diuretic teas – nettle leaf,  dandelion, corn silk (here is a recipe on how to make it) and green teas are useful – drink them like they are water.  Barley water can also make for a refreshing diuretic drink, although not for the  gluten intolerant.
  7. Herbs and acupuncture – if the humidity is still knocking you around and the thought of doing anything on this list is beyond you, get some professional help from a herbalist or acupuncturist.  They will choose the right herbs (often bitters) and acupoints to kickstart moving the dampness so that you can then get back on track with the lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

If it’s more the heat than the humidity that is getting to you – here’s some ideas to help you feel cooler.

Eating a diet to resolve dampness isn’t fun.  But neither is feeling heavy, lethargic and unmotivated.  So, do what you can, keep moving and if you can make even just a few of the dietary recommendations you should feel lighter and brighter to enjoy this 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.

acupuncture, Diet, fertility, food, herbal medicine, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Nourishing the blood with TCM and whole foods

Blood deficiency (xue xu) is a diagnostic term we use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for someone who is showing signs and symptoms of inadequate nourishment of the blood to the body. It is not uncommon for the women I see for pre-conception care, fertility treatment and pregnancy support to have an element of blood deficiency as part of their diagnosis.  Although, blood deficiency is not limited to women in their reproductive years and can also be present in men.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • lightheaded
  • poor memory
  • mild anxiety
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • pale (face, lips, tongue, nails, eyelids)
  • weak nails
  • hair loss or premature greying
  • low energy
  • blurred vision or floaters in the vision
  • dry eyes, skin and hair
  • tics, tremors and numbness
  • women: light or absent periods (maybe after a history of heavy periods)

A lot of these symptoms are consistent with those of iron deficiency anaemia.  TCM blood deficiency is more than iron deficiency however.  It does describe a condition involving a lack of protein building blocks, vitamin B12, folic acid and other nutrients, but more so, blood deficiency, in its TCM sense, is to do with the whole substance that is blood – that is, there is not enough good quality blood in its entirety to nourish the body.

To correct a blood deficiency, we look for possible causes of the blood deficiency.  The three most common are:

  • excessive bleeding (often menstrual, but not limited to this)
  • poor digestive function (not absorbing nutrients)
  • poor diet which is lacking in nutrition (nothing worth absorbing)

Acupuncture alone cannot nourish the blood but it can improve digestive function to enhance absorption.  Blood is a substance and we need good foods ingested so that we have the building blocks to be absorbed by the body to manufacture it well.  The two best ways to build and nourish blood are:

  • Diet: Plant sources include dark green (purple/red) leafy vegetables, seaweeds, spirulina, sprouts, legumes and whole grains. Richly coloured foods (often red) are valued for building the blood including goji berries (Chinese wolf berries), dried apricots, dark grapes, blackberries, raspberries and black strap molasses.  Additionally, animal sources include organic meat, eggs and liver (although it is not healthy to exceed 300g/week in the long-term) and soups based on meat bone broth. Support your digestive system with lightly cooked and warm foods and add some spices to aid digestion such as ginger, cumin, fennel and cardamom.
  • Herbs & supplements:  To nourish the blood more efficiently an herbal formula may be developed for your individual situation.  This may include herbs such as dong quai (dang gui), rehmannia, withania and nettle leaf.  Supplements may include iron, vitamin B12, folic acid and to enhance iron absorption vitamin C may be also taken.

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

How herbal extracts are made: the factory tour

A short time ago I was lucky enough to be invited to join a lovely group of herbalists for a tour of the Mediherb production facility at Warwick.

The impressive herbal medicine headquarters is where hundreds of raw herbs are received in great big hessian bags from the best quality sources ranging the world over.  Each herb is tested as a sample, before the herb is ordered in bulk and on receipt of the final order is once again tested again to identify that it is the correct herb, to satisfy quality standards with chemical markers and to ensure over all safety. Mediherb’s commitment to testing ensures that they do reject herbs that do not meet quality standards or are substituted with cheaper (sometimes toxic) herbs.

The herbs are then milled and transferred to the factory building of the site.  Here the raw herbs are mixed with ethanol as a solvent to make the herbal extract that will be used in your herbal liquid formula.  The extraction room is filled with large canisters operating like coffee percolators as the solvent works its way through the raw herb to drip the finished product out underneath.  It is at this point, the herbal extract is tested again, to ensure that the correct therapeutic compounds have been extracted and in the right quantities.

If the laboratory approves the extract it is then ready for the bottling line to become a finished product.

The herbal testing occurs at a state of the art laboratory offsite.  Again, this facility is very impressive and the range of equipment used to identify the herbs, ensure quality and test expiry dates is both extensive and fascinating.  Testing is also done here to the same high level for several other Integria ranges including Sunspirit Oils.

The whole process to produce the liquid extract can take at least several weeks  with many stages and people involved to ensure that the herb is preserved and retains its natural therapeutic properties at a high level.

So, next time you are taking your herbal tonic (or ‘jungle juice’, ‘rocket fuel’, ‘goop’ or whatever your nickname is for it), you can be grateful for the remarkable journey the herbs have made to find their way into a little bottle to bring you good health.

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.

acupuncture, exercise, herbal medicine

The healing arts of the samurai

I have recently returned from my first (of many, I hope) trip to Japan.  It was my passion for karate that enticed me to visit this country, however I was fortunate to encounter some traditional medicine as I was taking a break from training in the dojo.

We visited the preserved samurai village, Kakunodate.  Here we were guided around one of the most impressive old samurai houses.  The house belongs to the Ishiguru family.  During the time of the samurai, this family obtained the first edition of Japan’s first anatomical text.  The family studied and practiced herbal medicine and acupuncture to treat illness and recover from injury.  The museum displayed their acupuncture needles, herbal medicine preparation tools and medicinal texts.

On returning to Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit the Nihondo Kampo College.  Kampo is medicine system predominantly focussed on herbs.  It has its basis in Traditional Chinese Medicine but has been adapted by the Japanese to become a unique style of medicine.  Kampo medicines are part of Japan’s national health system.  The Nihondo Kampo college included a small but beautiful herbal medicine museum and many Five Element Theory displays.  (I’ll discuss some of these theories in future blogs.)  Their little shop sold medicinal herbal teas and soup stocks.  I could observe the student practitioners (in their white clinic coats just like in Australia) consulting with their patients and herbal medicines being prepared in their immaculate dispensary.  The college also boasted a vegetarian restaurant with meals cooked for the health of the patient.  Needless to say I was in my element!

These were just two highlights from my trip to Japan.  I look very forward to visiting this wonderful country 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.

acupuncture, Diet, food, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine diet for menopausal hot flushes and insomnia

Here’s just a snippet of information from my latest research paper on menopause (the topic as voted by the HealthWise Clinic facebook fans).

Menopause brings with it a range of symptoms for many women and these symptoms vary in different parts of the world.  In Asian countries women are more likely to suffer from joint pains and body aches.  Over here in the west, women are more likely to feel the effects of hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness and anxiety.

There are a range of therapies that can be of assistance to women to transition through this time of change, which is convenient given that we are all unique and have our own individual symptoms and preferences.  Treatments range from Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to complementary medicine treatments such as herbal medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) techniques such as acupuncture.

Additionally, research is showing that when women are more relaxed their symptoms also decrease in severity and frequency.  Don’t sweat the small stuff – literally.  Easier said than done, I know, but worth incorporating into your lifestyle anyway.

Here are some dietary and lifestyle recommendations for women who fall into the menopausal category marked by hot flushes, night sweats, dryness, anxiety and insomnia.  You may notice these recommendations are all about ‘self nurturing’, in TCM we call that nourishing our Yin:

  • Partake in relaxing, low impact exercise such as yoga or tai chi and short walks most days per week.
  • Participate in ‘Yin’ activities (slow, quiet, cool, gentle, feminine) such as meditation, breathing exercises, reading for pleasure.  Have a massage or facial, particularly when feeling more anxious or stressed.
  • Refrain from stimulating activities before bedtime including TV and computer use, and instead use this time to ‘wind down’.
  • Avoid excessive spicy food, red meat, coffee and alcohol as well as minimising barbecued, roasted or fried foods.
  • Increase intake of oily and white fish, raw nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables, mung beans, celery, tomato, olive and flaxseed oil, and have up to two serves of fruit per day such as berries, citrus, melon or apples.  Goji berries and dates (Chinese red dates in particular) can be added to porridges for breakfast.
  • Use cooking methods such as steaming, stewing, stir-frying and making soups.
  • Make sure that the fluid intake is around 2L of water per day.  Adding a squeeze of lemon juice to this makes for a refreshing, cooling beverage.

For women who also have oedema and cold hands or feet, or other sensations of coldness, the information above may vary.  If you are struggling to manage menopausal symptoms you should seek assistance from a qualified health professional for personalised advice.

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.