Diet, food, food allergy, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Uncategorized

Carrot cake goodie balls

I have resisted the goodie ball/bliss ball craze so far but recently at an Endeavour College of Natural Health open day I came across a recipe that was a must try: these Carrot Cake goodie balls (gluten and dairy free) designed by a former student of the college. And I have to say they were absolutely delicious and a better alternative to other snacks that have been hanging around since the holiday period. They’re great to fit into the lunch box too. I’m now a goodie ball convert.

I did put my own spin on them to Chinese Medicine them up a bit. Given that the ingredients were raw I wanted to add a little more warming spice to the mix to aid digestion (there is cinnamon in them already though) as the recipe is quite rich. That was the addition of some uncrystallised ginger (like the crystallised but without the sugar crust on the outside) and I replaced the sultanas with currants, just because I like them more. The nut base is made with walnuts which already have a warm energy too.

So this recipe has Earth element written all over it. Sweet, orange coloured and carrot flavoured with some nice spice. It’ll nourish your Spleen, Stomach, Qi and Yin.

What are your favourite goodie balls? Why not share the recipe in the comments below. Let’s have a goodie ball recipe swap!

Enjoy!

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, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Pumpkin scones: gluten and dairy free

pumpkin sconesI have fond memories of eating Mum’s pumpkin scones fresh from the oven when I was a child. Homemade pumpkin scones, rock cakes and ANZAC biscuits were our sweet snack staples.

I picked up a beautifully sweet piece of pumpkin on the weekend and it reminded me of those pumpkin scones Mum used to make. It inspired me to pull out her old recipe and modify it a little in terms of sugars, fats and flours.

From a Chinese medicine point of view, pumpkin is a highly valued Earth element food. It builds up our Spleen Qi (digestive energy) and helps to drain dampness. Food that are naturally occurring in shades of oranges and yellow are classed as Earth element foods. For this reason pumpkin soup is valued as one of the best meals for a struggling digestive system. Pumpkin is warm-neutral-cooling in thermal nature dependent on how its cooked and what its colour is: the paler or greener a pumpkin is the more cooling it will be.

I like to make these scones with dark yellow/orange pumpkin flesh. I’ve also used brown rice flour (more fibre) with ground cinnamon and ginger for flavouring which add a little warm energy to the recipe and to aid digestion. I’ve also substituted the butter 1:1 for coconut oil and used a stevia/sugar mix to reduce the level of sugar. This is also an incredibly quick and easy recipe to make.

Pumpkin Scones recipe

Ingredients:

  • 60g coconut oil (in a soft solid form)
  • 1/4 cup sugar stevia blend (or 1/2 cup regular sugar). This can be reduced if you have a particularly sweet pumpkin.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup steamed, mashed and cooled pumpkin
  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 230ºC.
  2. Grease two baking trays.
  3. Cream coconut oil and sugar.
  4. Add egg and beat in.
  5. Mix in pumpkin, flour and spices until well combined.
  6. Drop (or roll) rounded, heaped dessertspoon fulls of mixture onto prepared trays.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes of until golden.
  8. Best served warm with jam.

Makes 16.

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, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Warming, curried butter bean and vegetable soup for chilly nights

curried soupWhoa Brisbane! What’s with the suddenly freezing nights and mornings? I thought we were done with the chilly temperatures. (NB. Yes, I am soft. I live in Brisbane and anything below 10ºC is unbearably cold to me! And here is how I use spices to cope and here are some general ideas for staying warm.)

To survive winter’s last hurrah in the form of this recent cold snap I made this delightfully fragrant and delicious soup.

The root vegetables, beans and spices gently warm and nourish the body and digestive system (Spleen and Stomach) and boost energy according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Even the yellowy colour of the soup supports these organs and their corresponding Earth element.

Curried butter bean and vegetable soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 3 cups pumpkin, diced
  • 1/2 cauliflower, diced
  • 1 cup of cooked butter beans (or 400g canned)
  • 1 1/4 litre vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • handful of green beans, sliced
  • coriander, chopped, to garnish

Method:

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan. Fry onion, garlic, carrot, cumin seeds and mustard seeds until browned and crackling.
  2. Add turmeric and curry powders.  Fry for a minute.
  3. Add potato, pumpkin, cauliflower, butter beans, vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  4. Allow soup to cool a little, add half of soup to food processor and blend.
  5. Return blended soup to the pot. Add green beans stir over heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  6. Serve in bowls topped with coriander.

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, 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.

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, emotional health, health, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The acupuncturist and the broken heart

Today is the 16th February, just two days after Valentine’s Day.  It’s gorgeous to see that many people are wandering around still exhibiting the after-glow generated by gifts of flowers, chocolates, champagne and time with their loved one. (Although, shouldn’t it be like this most of the time?)

Valentine’s Day, even though it’s origins are in nothing more significant than a greeting card marketing exercise, has become symbolic to many as a day to celebrate romantic love.  This day has been responsible for igniting new love, but sadly, with the pressures it brings, has also been known to be a catalyst in the demise of relationships.

Recently, I have seen several patients in my clinic, looking for support in matters of the heart.  (Yes, who would have thought it?  Acupuncture can do more than just relieve physical pain!)  So, today it seems timely to discuss ‘the broken heart’ from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.

Break-ups are rarely ever easy, for either partner, and the emotions they conjure up can create undesired effects in our bodies.  The old saying “time heals all wounds” is applicable here as the broken-hearted embark on an emotional journey (often laced with mysterious physical symptoms like nausea or muscle tension) to mend.  When these issues do not resolve in a timely manner, professional counselling is highly recommended.

The five element theory that is deeply rooted within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) gives us some clues in treating matters of the heart.  This theory pairs the organs of the body with emotional states.  Whilst, the heart is seen as the organ that is tied to our ‘spirit’, many other organs are also tied to common emotions that may be experienced following a break up.  I should point out here, that in TCM each organ is given some additional ‘energetic’ functions in addition to their biomedical functions so you can have a TCM ‘liver disorder’ without having a physical liver problem.

So, simply and generally put, the five elements can explain some of the mental and physical symptoms of a broken heart as follows:

  • Fire Element – Heart and pericardium – the pericardium is the protector of the heart and emotionally characterised by feeling anxious or a lack of joy.  Physical symptoms may include insomnia, palpitations or inappropriate behaviour.
  • Wood Element – Liver – for feelings of anger, ‘stuckness’, resentment, irritation, frustration, depression and mood swings.  Physical symptoms may include neck and shoulder tension, chest tightness, nausea and digestive disorders that have a direct correlation to your emotional state.
  • Earth Element – Spleen & Stomach – for feelings of worry, obsessive thoughts and inability to concentrate.  Physical symptoms may include lack of appetite, low energy, digestive disorders and sweet cravings.
  • Metal Element – Lungs – when grief and sadness are the principal feelings surrounding the break-up.  Physical symptoms may include low energy, respiratory disorders, concave chest posture, weak voice and skin problems.
  • Water Element – Kidneys – when fear is a primary emotion.  Physical symptoms may include poor memory, urinary problems, reproductive system disorders and lower back ache.

Through discussing a person’s emotional and physical symptoms an individualised acupuncture treatment for supporting someone with ‘love sickness’ can be designed.  It would usually include some lifestyle advice so that the patient may begin to take control of their own situation and feel better, more quickly, between treatments.  I have seen many patients respond well to acupuncture treatment in gaining clarity of mind and renewed energy allowing them to face their new path with enthusiasm.

What to do now? Check out my five Chinese Medicine tips for mending a broken heart.

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.