acupuncture, fertility, pregnancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Can babies and children have acupuncture?

acu child
I saw this little guy in China having acupuncture everyday to improve the strength of his arm. His father controls the strength of the electro-acupuncture stimulation. As you can see he’s not overly bothered by the whole experience.

I’ve treated a lot of pregnant women with acupuncture. Acupuncture is well known (and even supported with some good research now) for a range of infertility and pregnancy related conditions.

But something that most people don’t know is that babies and children can also be treated with acupuncture. Yes, with needles. Very fine ones.

During my studies in China I observed the treatment of many children with acupuncture. In the hands of a well-trained acupuncturist this form of therapy can be beneficial to a child and her parents alike.

But doesn’t it hurt them?

For the most part babies and small children barely even notice the needle going in and rarely show signs of pain.

We use very fine needles on children and usually only up to about six insertions or points, although a ten year old who is comfortable with acupuncture may have more insertions if necessary.

Treatments on children are usually shorter than those on adults. We use a technique called ‘non-retention needling’. This means that we pop the needle in, give it a tiny twiddle and remove it immediately. The treatment time is therefore very short. Older children may have a lie down with the needles still inserted if this is comfortable for them and relevant to improving their treatment outcome.

Here’s what acupuncture looks like on babies:

The biggest factor for keeping children calm during an acupuncture treatment is having a relaxed parent come along to assist with familiarity, comfort and distraction methods. I’m happy to needle children while they are getting cuddles from their parents. We can easily get to the points that we need if we work together as a team.

If a child really does not want to have needles inserted then we can stimulate the acupuncture points with a laser or by applying pressure with massage techniques. There is always a plan B to ensure that the patient is comfortable with treatment.

Does acupuncture hurt for adults anyway? Here’s what I think.

Why would a baby or child get acupuncture?

Children may gain many of the same benefits from acupuncture as adults do. Often children are treated for digestive disorders (eg. colic, chronic diarrhoea or constipation, reflux), respiratory conditions (eg. coughs, recurrent colds, phlegmy chests) and symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness and poor concentration.

To ensure the best outcome for your child sometimes I may vary a child’s (or breastfeeding mum’s) diet, lifestyle or prescribe herbs or supplements in addition to the acupuncture if necessary.

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, food allergy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Dairy, Chinese medicine and your health

milkDairy is one of those things that polarises people. Just like daylight saving and which way the toilet roll should face on the holder.

What I like about Chinese medicine is that we don’t judge any naturally occurring food to be good or bad, but rather consider that the properties of a food are beneficial to certain individuals at times and maybe not at other times as their health situation changes. Some people, due to their constitution, may never tolerate a particular food well but that does not mean that the food is bad for all of us. No naturally occurring foods are…. evil. (By this, I don’t refer to animal rights issues, that’s a whole different kettle of fish, I’m talking about the physical effects of food on your health.)

Dairy is not considered in our classic Chinese medicine texts to represent the huge problem we have assigned it in the West today. This is described in this excellent post by Chinese Medicine scholar, Eric Brand. As Eric points out it’s likely that cow’s milk products were used in smaller amounts, less frequently and were prepared differently to how we do now in the West (eg. homogenised and pasteurised). For instance, the Chinese most likely did not regularly consume cafe latte, chocolate milkshakes, banana smoothies, pasta carbonara, creamy dips, full cream dairy milk chocolate, creme brulee and cookies & cream icecream, or even just a big glass of milk straight from the fridge, as part of an every day diet. The problem with most of the foods I’ve just listed is that they are also combined with more fat and sugar that the average Chinese probably consumed too, and this changes the properties of the dairy once again.

Eric points out that milk products have medicinal qualities when used with people who are in need of those properties. Cow’s milk is considered to be thermally neutral, sweet and benefits the Lung, Stomach and Heart, depending on the source that you read. It moistens dryness. It should be used with caution in people with loose bowels due to weakness and coldness, and phlegm-damp in the middle burner. Eric also describes the properties of other mammal and plant-based ‘milks’.

Dairy is often considered today to contribute to phlegm-damp. And there are many people who will share their story of this effect. I even have my own:

“When I was three years old I had been suffering from recurrent ear infections. This was treated with repeated courses of antibiotics. Next stop was to have grommets inserted into my ears. My mother heard a doctor on the radio discussing his experience with taking cow’s milk out of the diet of children with recurrent ear infections. Well, my mother gave it a go. (She also boosted my diet with non-dairy calcium foods.) The ear infections stopped, the grommets weren’t needed. I’ve stayed away from dairy, mostly strictly, ever since. I do get sinusy, phlegmy and partially blocked ears when I occasionally let it creep back in.”

There are equally as many people, or actually probably a lot more, who don’t have a story like this. So dairy is not bad for us all.

And dairy is not the only contributor to phlegm and dampness. You can read more about dampness and what to do about it here. Phlegm is not the same as dampness.

It really comes down to being aware of your own body regardless of what the theory says. For instance, there was a study published finding that cow’s milk made no difference to mucus production. There seems to be more factors to this picture.

So, in my humble opinion I’d say that the jury is out. The theory and the practice don’t quite match up for those whose symptoms (whether respiratory or digestive) seem to be definitely worse for the ingestion of cow’s milk. Or perhaps Chinese medicine is right and it is just good for some people and not others, and at different times in their lives.

It comes back to listening to your own body. If your symptoms are worse for dairy or any particular food, don’t consume it. If you suffer from digestive or respiratory symptoms seek help. You can also have allergy and sensitivity testing conducted. In my clinic I do some food sensitivity testing.

If you are removing dairy foods from your diet, you don’t have to give up everything you love, there are alternatives and often they are very good. And I have lots of experience with this. Also, if going dairy-free makes you feel better you won’t want to touch the foods you used to eat – you know it just isn’t worth it.

Here are some ways to substitute for dairy:

  • Cakes and baking. I often substitute plain water for milk. But sometimes soy, rice, almond or coconut milks are better.
  • Cheesecakes. Vegans have been making quite palatable cheesecakes based on cashews for a long time. The internet is full of recipes.
  • On cereal, smoothies, tea and coffee. Substitute again with soy, rice, almond or coconut milks. Many coffee shops now offer alternative milks.
  • Yoghurt and icecream. There are wonderful coconut milk based alternatives these days. However they can be fatty and sugary and not overly healthy in anything more than small, infrequent serves (particularly the icecream).
  • Cream. Cream can be made with coconut cream. you’ll find tonnes of recipes online.
  • Sour cream. A mix of a milk alternative with some lemon juice or vinegar usually does the trick. Again get a recipe online.
  • Cheese. Cheese can be tricky. Expecially for a tasty, meltable kind. You can experiment making a white sauce with the milk alternative of your choice thickened to your requirements for pizza or lasagne (grill the finished meal to firm and brown it on top). You can also buy cheese alternatives from vegan suppliers (shops or websites). Some are reported to be quite good but you may need to try a few.
  • Other substitutes. The recipe book and website godairyfree.org are laden with alternatives to dairy products that can be easily made at home.

Be aware that if milk does not agree with you then some of the substitutes may not either as you are looking for the same kind of texture and quality as the milk has in your substitutes – energetically they may be similar. Test them out for yourself. And also due to the different processing to make different kinds of dairy products you may find that some dairy agrees with you but not all of them. For instance, some people tolerate whey powder, butter and yoghurt. The way the dairy is prepared changes it thermal and energetic properties, so all dairy is not the same and may have subtle differences in how it affects you. So, test them for yourself.

What about calcium?

Everyone asks this question. There are many non-dairy sources of calcium. If you are avoiding dairy you need to actively include other calcium sources in your diet. Of particular note are sesame seeds (including tahini), fish with soft bones (salmon and sardines), tofu, nuts and green leafy vegetables.

Here are some links to calcium food sources and recommended dietary requirements:

Removing dairy from your diet is not the end of the world. If you feel better for it, then it may very well be the start of a new lease on life. And it may not be forever either.

If you feel as though dairy may aggravate your symptoms, please feel free to discuss your symptoms and your dairy consumption with me or your health practitioner at your next consultation.

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, herbal medicine, pregnancy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Preserved lemons: traditional Chinese use and a recipe

lemons preservedA couple of months ago I put on my very first batch of home made preserved lemons. I did a deal with my parents. They supplied the homegrown organic lemons and two big jars, and I’d do the hard work of slicing, juicing, salting and storing – we’d end up with a big jar of the finished product each.

Well, as it turns out they are as delicious as any I’ve ever bought and well worth the two month wait. I followed the Poh’s Kitchen recipe but I left my lemons in halves split down the middle (as if quartered) but still attached by the rind. I stuffed the salt into the split.

Preserved lemons are often associated with Moroccan cooking, in particular tagines. But they also have been used in parts of Asia.  When I was teaching Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dietetics class last semester our very traditional Chinese text mentioned the preserved lemon. This salty and sour delicacy was said to be useful for “vomiting and loss of appetite or threatened abortion.” Which makes it a good food for relieving morning sickness. In fact, many women find that lemon or lime juice added to water does ease nausea associated with pregnancy. As for preventing miscarriage, well there are no clinical trials to back up this claim (and if you suspected that your pregnancy was at risk I’d be recommending a medical check up). But this traditional use relates to the the sour flavour which has an astringent, constricting quality and the salty flavour which benefits the Kidneys (the organ in TCM responsible for reproduction and birth, among many other functions). Another text recommends them for Phlegm-Heat disorders including bronchitis and sinusitis and Liver Qi stagnation (if you don’t know what that is click here).

The other interesting thing about Chinese preserved lemons is that they are said to be a specialty of around the city of Nanning in Guangxi province, China. It was in this region that I completed my acupuncture internship at several teaching hospitals. The Zhuang people, an ethnic minority, used preserved lemons in their congee (Chinese rice porridge). Their preserved lemons are stored for far longer (eg. years) and look quite different. Here’s some more information and a recipe. Interestingly, during my studies in Nanning I also learned some traditional medicine techniques of the Zhuang people.

lemons lemons juiced lemons halved

I think they are simply delicious. If you want some recipes that feature preserved lemons as an ingredient, click 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.

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.