Change is in the air, and has been for some time now and it’s been a long time since my last post. Unlike my previous posts, this has a little more personal flair to it. In the past 3 months, I have successfully graduated from my Acupuncture and Oriental Medical program in Portland, Or. I have passed all 4 of my National Oriental Medical Board exams, received my Diplomate status & Idaho state licensure. I have moved back to my home town of Ketchum, Idaho, gotten a great opportunity to work at Zenergy Health Club and Spa and traveled to Japan to work with a Master in Sports Acupuncture…. & well, the list goes on and on.
The point of my post is that in addition to all this change, I have also set up a new and improved version of my ‘blog’ and now have a fully working and beautiful website that you can visit. If you have signed up for email reminders please re-sign up on my website and you will continue to get e-mail updates from my blog and all other information about my blossoming business; deals, presentations, maybe even find out where you can get free mini treatments around town!
Please keep in touch! From now on I will no longer post on this page so please visit me at my new location!
Please be sure to bookmark me and let me know what you think, I anxiously await your arrival!!
These past few years have been a blur… somewhat of a dream and a wonderful journey for me. Thank you for sharing it with me and I only hope to continue to journey along with you!
You can still stay in touch through my Twitter feeds as well: @eresko
Till next time~
Erin Resko, L.Ac
One of the most useful modalities in Chinese Medicine is the herb known as Moxibustion. Otherwise known as Mugwort, Artemisia Vulgaris, or Ai Ye (chinese pinyin); it can be used in a number of different ways. It can be taken internally, decocted as a tea, applied as a tincture, burned directly on the skin or indirectly just off the skin.
For the purposes of this article we will primarily be discussing the use of Moxibustion directly on or indirectly above the skin. Generally moxibustion and Acupuncture go hand in hand, it is an extremely useful modality for a wide range of disorders, stages of trauma and disease as well as all ages, constitutional types and individual persons, all of which add to its intrigue. How can one simple herb be so beneficial to just about everyone?
Mugwort (the type that we ‘burn’) is cultivated from the underside of the mugwort leaf and is packaged up looking like a spongy cotton ball-like material. This type is generally used ‘directly’; i.e. on the skin, or placed upon the end of an acupuncture needle. Indirect moxibustion looks more like a large black piece of chalk. This type is much more functional in the sense that it is ‘smokeless’ and is held just off the skin to create heat and healing, and lowers the risk of getting burned.
So how does it work, and what can you expect from a Moxa treatment? I have been using moxa a lot lately, 1) because the weather is transitioning toward winter and moxa is a warming modality and 2) because it is extremely useful in reducing inflammation, promoting healthy tissue regeneration and lately I have been surrounded by chronic unhealed injuries lately.
Many people ask how it works, and my tried and true answer is that it’s like using infra-red radiation to mellow out inflammation. Unlike using heat just on the surface, Moxibustion, like infra-red, penetrates deep into the tissue, muscle or joint affected and though it’s warm to the feel, has the ability to flush out inflammation and essentially cool off the area. In addition to just treating inflammatory disorders, Moxa is used to:
- Reduce pain: acting somewhat like an analgesic
- Promotes healthy Immunity: when used at specific acupuncture points
- Promotes kidney Function
- Treat ulcers & other gastro-intestinal disorders
- Fertility and menstrual disorders
Following is a great article, written in Acupuncture Today describing in more detail the how’s, why’s & what’s of using Moxibustion. This article is especially great because there is some really good research to back it all up which is nice for all of us scientific brains out there who like to know how things work!
Article taken directly from Acupuncture Today:
How Does Moxibustion Work Scientifically?
By Yin Lo, PhD
Moxibustion and acupuncture have always gone together as one compound name in the Chinese classics on treatment of illness. We have explained in previous articles in Acupuncture Today how acupuncture works in terms of modern science.
Fudan University conducted an experiment on meridians and found the following: A high transparency (76 percent) at a wavelength of 2.66 microns has been measured along the axis direction of the collagenous fiber at the Gallbladder meridian on one lower limb in a human body. Along the fiber axis of the Stomach meridian, the transparency is 62 percent at wavelengths of 9-20 microns. The transparency vertical to the axis is 0.4 percent. There is a difference in transparency of more than 240 times between infrared light along the axis and infrared light vertical to the axis of the meridians.
The most interesting thing I have found out on moxibustion is that although it uses heat, it cools down the problem area, so the healing mechanism of moxibustion is the same as needle acupuncture. It is through qi that moxibustion does the work, not the direct incoherent heat that we associate with burning.
Moxibustion can also lower hot spots in painful areas. Please see the following infrared pictures. The color code for the images is as follows: the highest temperature is in white, followed by red, yellow, green, blue, and black.
Infrared image of back, before treatment. The validity of moxibustion has been confirmed by many recent scientific studies.* It has effects on the immune system, analgesia, the kidneys, colitis, ulcers, neurons, and gene expression. Let us briefly describe them.
The Immune System
Moxibustion at acupoints qi hai (Ren 6) and tian shu (ST 25) inhibited the expression of IL-1 (beta) and IL-a6m RNA in experiments on rats with ulcerative colitis.
Infrared image of back, immediately after moxibustion at BL 23, BL 25, BL 18, DU 3 and DU 4. The back warms up as shown. A. Moxibustion at acupoint guan yuan (Ren 4) on sarcoma S180 ascitic mice increases the decreased erythrocytic C3b receptor rosette-forming rate, decreases the raised immunocomplex rosette-forming rate, and increases activity of erythrocytic immunosuppressive factor in tumor-bearing mice. Hence, moxibustion strengthens erythrocytic immunity.
B. On tumor-bearing mice, there is an instant elevation of serum ACTH and beta-EP from moxibustion at guan yuan.
C. Moxibustion at guan yuan on tumor-bearing mice promotes hyperplasia of the pituitary and adrenal glands, stimulates the secretion of beta END from the pituitary and adrenal glands, and increases the level of serum beta-END significantly.
Two minutes after treatment, the heat due to the warming effect of moxibustion has gone and the back starts to cool off. D. In arthritic rats, moxibustion at acupoint shen shu (BL 23) could lighten local inflammatory reaction, eliminate swelling, prevent or reduce polyarthritises, maintain weight and shorten the course of the disease. It could help with recovery and promote the effects of concanavalin, inducing splenic lymphocyte proliferation in rates. It could also promote interleukin-2 production, and decrease IL-1 contents.
A. Moxibustion-induced analgesia was studied in rats, which were urethane-anesthetized. Single-unit extracellular recordings from neurons in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis were obtained from a micropipette. Suppression was observed on both wide dynamic range and nociceptive-specific, but not on low-threshold mechanoreceptive units. Moxibustion-induced moderate suppression with a long induction time. It suggested that noxious inhibitory controls may be involved in the analgesic mechanism.
B. The analgesic effect of moxibustion was measured by the latency of tail flinch threshold (LTH) in rats. When the surface temperature was modulated within 38-390 Celsius and 43-440 Celsius, LTH increased 17.7 +/- 2.1 percent and 22.2 +/-2.5 percent, respectively, after 5 minutes (p<0.05).
Renal Function, Colitis, Ulcers, Neurons and Gene Expression
A. The effects of moxibustion at acupoints BL 15 and BL 27 were studied on spontaneously hypertensive rats. Urinary volume was increased for BL 15, but decreased for BL 27. Urinary secretion of Na+ was decreased for BL 15 and BL 27. Systolic blood pressure was decreased for BL 15, but not for BL 27. Plasma levels of aldosterone and renin activity were increased, and atrial natriuretic peptide was decreased for BL 15. Plasma levels of aldosterone and atrial naturiuretic peptide were increased for BL 27.
B. The effect of moxibustion at acupoint Ren 4 on the function of MDR gene product P-glycoprotein P-170 in mice with S-180R adriamycin-resistant tumor cells was studied. A weak inhibition was found when moxibustion was performed at Ren 4 alone, and a very significant inhibition was observed in the presence of low dosage of verapamil, but not at high dosage.
C. Moxibustion at shen shu on experimentally induced gastric ulcerated rats was found to reduce the ulcer area significantly (p<0.05), and increase the zinc content in serum significantly. Pre-treatment by moxibustion had a protective effect on the gastric mucosa.
D. Stimulating acupoint zu san li (ST 36) on rats with a moxa stick can increase the activity of cholinesterase (p<0.05), and inhibit hyperactive gastrointestinal motility (p<0.05).
E. The effect of moxibustion on primary sensory neurons in the skin of rats was studied with immunocytochemistry combined with a fluorescent retrograde tracer dye. Moxibustion was found to induce galanin expression by primary sensory neurons containing substance P.
F. Pre-treatment with moxibustion at BL 23 significantly prevented the formation of gastric ulcer in rats.
It is quite clear from the above studies that the heat, or infrared radiation, from moxibustion preferentially transmits through meridians from acupoints to internal organs. Meridians act like a light pipe. This is consistent with our hypothesis that meridians are made up of water clusters (Lo, 2005).
Ask your Acupuncturist about using Moxibustion at your next visit; it is one of the most relaxing and comfortable experiences you will have in the treatment room!
If you’ve had Moxibustion in the past, what do you think of it? How has it helped you? Share your stories as they are usually the most helpful for people when understanding the elusive practice of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine!
Until next time ~
Lo, Y. (2005). How does moxibustion work scientifically. Acupuncture Today, 06(02), Retrieved from http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30023
How would you like to reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease? What about reduce your chances of cardiac death… by 90%? Well, unless you’ve got a serious death wish then you’ve probably answered yes to the questions above, and I’m going to tell you how you can do just that. Omega-3 fatty acids, and it doesn’t even have to feel like a chore. Supplementing with fish oils has never been so easy and more importantly, so delicious.
It wasn’t very long ago that health professionals, dietitians and medical organizations would scoff at the idea of using nutritional fats to improve cardiovascular health, but scoff no more people; we’re starting to come around, and there is plenty of research to back it up.
Omega-3, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s), DHA, EPA and fish oils; these are all words (or acronyms rather) that you’ve probably heard mentioned in health articles, on commercials or read about in some fitness magazine. They are beginning to be the buzz words of health and wellness across America and not only do these fatty acids talk the talk, but these nutritional supplements walk the walk as well. If you’ve taken fish oils before, then you know they aren’t always the ‘best’ tasting supplements… but what if I told you I found a product that defies everything you thought you knew about fish oils. What if I told you this product actually tasted good… not only good, but great! Well, look no further, Bjørn + Bach has created not only the best tasting fish oil on the market, but the most bio-available (meaning it is absorbed more readily into the body). Add to that list Organic and guaranteed free of mercury, lead and PCB’s… I mean, really folks; what more could you ask for?
I recently read an article in Whole Foods Magazine online about Omega-3 Fish Oils and their health benefits; it was part of a series on Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) and was written in interview form. The man they interviewed, Dr. Jorn Dyerberg, is a world-renowned professor and pioneer of the Omega-3 movement. It all started in 1970 when he, and a fellow physician, Dr. Olaf Bang traveled across Greenland to study the health of a small population of Inuit’s who consumed a diet rich in Omega-3’s; or rather a high fat diet ripe with fish, and developed little to no cardiovascular disease or death by cardiac arrest. No one expected the results that followed. After many months of blood tests, diet and lifestyle observation and tracking the overall health of the community; the two physicians walked away with a remarkable discovery… Eicosapentanoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA), two Omega-3 fatty acid chains that are very well known today. These Omega’s were found in rich supply in the bloodstreams of the healthy Inuit community. It was in 1971 that Olaf and Dyerberg published the first paper on the benefits of fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in the diet; and since then, the research has blossomed into thousands upon thousands of research studies and articles all pointing toward the same positive results. Omega-3 fatty acids, (including both EPA and DHA), which are found in rich supply in fish, have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, inflammatory conditions, Alzheimer’s and even the regulation of healthy blood sugars. Need I remind you of the statistics above… you can’t beat reducing your chances of sudden death by cardiac arrest by 90%!
With the vast number of research articles out there these days, how does one sift through them and get the right information? Well, by asking the right people (those who have spent years studying and researching), and this article did just that. Whole Foods Magazine writer, Richard A. Passwater sits down with Dyerberg to get all the juicy details on what we need to know, what the best research shows and how we can decrease our cardiovascular disease risk and effectively live a long and healthy life.
Did you know that some of us get close to zero of these beneficial fats in our diet?
Dyerberg: There are several conclusions, but to me the most obvious is that we are in a nutritional deficiency of long-chained omega-3 fatty acids. In the United States, the average daily intake of EPA plus DHA is 100–200 mg. In 20% of U.S. citizens, the intake is close to zero! The recommended intake is 400–600 mg/day, and in pregnancy and lactation, women should consume 300 mg of DHA/day.
Passwater: Wow! The intake of EPA and DHA is close to zero in 20% of U.S. citizens! Holy smoke! And, the U.S. Daily average is about 100–200 mg, instead of the recommended 400–600 mg! On average, U.S. citizens are getting only a third to a sixth of the recommended amounts, and I feel that the 600 mg recommendation should be higher. We seek optimal health, not average health. I personally lean more toward the 1,000-mg level for healthy persons and more for those with health problems. This is still far short of the 14,000 mg you found in the Eskimo diet (15) (Passover, 2010)
If that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. If anything, check out these graphs (taken from the article), they pretty much say it all.
Passwater uses the results of three different research studies looking at Omega-3 intake and cardiovascular risk, cardiac death and cardiac arrest. Each chart emphasizes the importance of adding these fats into your diet. So, I don’t know about you… but if it means feeling healthier, looking better and being able to do the things I want to do until a ripe old age, I’m going to enjoy my fats; Bjørn + Bach style.
To read the full article and get caught up on parts 1, 2, and 3 of the series, check out the article here, on Whole Foods Magazine online; Omega-3 Fish Oils: The Greatest Nutritional Discovery Since Vitamins, Part 4: The Major Studies.
For more information about Bjørn + Bach products and ordering information please visit the website here: Bjørn + Bach
Until next time ~ “Seek optimal health,” and add some Omega’s into your life; because according to Dyerberg and the other millions’ of researchers out there, your heart will surely thank you for it.
Passover, R.A. (2010, September). Omega-3 fish oils: the greatest nutritional health discovery since vitamins, part 4: the major studies. Whole Foods Magazine: Vitamin Connection, Retrieved from http://www.wholefoodsmagazineonline.com/columns/vitamin-connection/omega-3-fish-oils-greatest-nutritional-health-discovery-vitamins-part-4
*All figures are taken directly from the article*
Recently I have been reading a lot about blood types. Ever heard of the Blood Type Diet? Well, for some reason I have been a little infatuated with the idea of each of us following a certain blood type constitution and have been researching the idea. Through my ‘studies’ I came to the conclusion that I must be an O type for the following reasons: I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive as a vegetarian and feel best on a high protein diet, I am quite active and do much better with intense exercise and activity. In addition, over the past year, I have cut close to all grains out of my diet and ironically, my favorite supplement has been tyrosine (all things that go hand in hand with a Type O Blood Type from a personality and nutritional standpoint). Well, I splurged and finally tested my blood type (yes, I know I should probably already know this), & wouldn’t you know it… I was indeed Type O+. I am almost exactly what the blood type diet would classify me as, as far as personality, diet and lifestyle. Coincidence or not, it makes a lot of sense. For more information on the blood type diet, check out D’Adamo Personalized Nutrition, a website dedicated to providing nutritional support and guidance for those following a blood type diet.
On a similar note, recently a group of researchers observed that just like blood types are a defining aspect of who we are as individuals, so too are the ecosystems of our guts. Published in the most recent version of Nature, researchers from the Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) Consortium discovered that humans fall into 3 basic categories of gut flora, or Enterotypes. Researchers took fecal samples from a diverse group of people; ranging in age, body mass index, nationality and gender and tested the makeup of their gut flora. The results showed, that just like we all have a specific blood type, we too have a specific intestinal ecosystem; one of three observed in the study. There is much we still do not know about this bacteria & we are only beginning to understand and observe the relationship that our bodies have with different microbiota. As stated in the NYTimes Online, there are about 100 trillion microbes in the human body, and our bodies are made up of about 10 trillion cells (Zimmer, 2011). I don’t know about you, but 100 trillion is a pretty crazy number! It seems these microbes are going to tell much more of a story about our living bodies that we initially thought. They could unlock the key to truly understanding how our bodies react to different environments, lifestyles, emotions, foods and disease.
So what does this mean? Well, we aren’t really sure. Of the little we do know about our symbiotic relationship with gut bacteria it seems to be beneficial and supplementing with both pre and pro-biotics has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of many disorders. This new data opens up many new areas of research and discussion. In the future, we may just realize that our enterotype tells a lot about our individual tendency toward disease & how we treat it, as well as form a basis for certain constitutional types in general. Entero-typing could be the new geno-typing & hey, you never know, the next big thing may just be the ‘Enterotype Diet’… & what your gut flora says about you!
Till next time…
Arumugam, M., Batto, J.M., Bertalan, M., Borruel, N., & Casselas, F. (2011). Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome. Nature, 473, 174-180.
I recently read an article from mercola.com that inspired me to post on this subject. Exercise is always supposed to be beneficial right? Well in most cases, yes, most of us actually do need more exercise & it’s health benefits are not unlike a wonder drug. However, it seems that the growing trend these days is marketing high intensity, all out exercise all the time. As you’ll see as I continue, high intensity exercise is great and it serves its purpose… just not every time you exercise.
More isn’t necessarily better:
Somewhere along the way, we got it in our heads that more is better, and in order to get anywhere we have to go all out, all the time and if the results aren’t instant then we’ve failed. You’ve heard the sayings… “go big or go home”, “no pain, no gain” or even, the latest I recently heard, “if you aren’t puking or on the verge of it, then you’re not working hard enough”… right, well not if I can help it. I would like to think that I could actually enjoy the process and get some good results without feeling miserable the whole time or like a failure because I couldn’t quite push it hard enough to do a million plus one reps as fast as the next guy! This is supposed to be fun right?
Without proper recovery, you won’t get anywhere. You may notice that you have either experienced this before. Either you aren’t sleeping, you are too stressed or you are simply overtraining. You may notice that your body feels worse, you are constantly dealing with injuries and illness, you’re groggy and fatigued all the time and you may even be holding on to that abdominal weight some refer to as “the spare tire” or “muffin top” no matter how many crunches you do. And… what do you do? More exercise… to push through it. And what do you get? A stubborn extra layer of fat and adrenal fatigue.
Your recovery time is absolutely crucial, it is the period of time where your body reaps all the benefits of your exercise and training regimen. During exercise, your muscles are strained and stressed and broken down… it’s during your recovery where you are actually maximizing on your muscle growth, fat loss and increases in strength. Recovery accounts for a number of things, including the actual rest (sleep) you are getting; both quality and quantity, your nutrition as well as your lifestyle and relaxation levels. Sometimes it’s really “less is more”, but it’s finding the balance that always seems to be tricky.
Total Training Load:
In order to understand how much we individually need to train to create just the right balance of training vs. rest and recovery; it is important to understand Total Training Load (TTL). This is the amount of training “strain” on the body over time. The beauty of TTL, is that it can be manipulated to suit your own individual needs from workout to workout & day-to-day. Here are some of the things you can change within your workout regimen; whether you are running, spinning, swinging kettlebells or strength training with free weights.
- Number of repetitions
- The amount of resistance or weight
- Length of workout sets
- The speed
- Length of resting intervals
Depending on what you want out of your workout for that day, you can mix it up with this short list of things and get exactly what you need. The thing you want to remember is that if you overdo it (and you will overdo it from time to time), then you are essentially going backwards and breaking the body down, taxing the nervous system and will likely feel worse, experience more injuries, illnesses and eventually burnout.
It’s all about listening to and understanding your own body. For most of us, this may not be as easy as it sounds. It’s easy to say “listen to your body, and rest when you need it”, but how many of us actually know how to listen to our bodies? If we did, then I likely wouldn’t have a job.
In general you should cycle the intensity of your workouts between easy, moderate & hard. So how do you know what your intensity is and how often do you cycle through each? How do you know when you are actually participating in an easy workout as opposed to a moderate or hard one? The answer is relatively easy, how much can you talk during the actual workout.
- Easy: According to experts an easy workout is one in which you would be able to have a full conversation, speaking full sentences while working between 50 & 75% of your maximum. This would fall into the category of low-level aerobic activity below. In general you should be doing 2 easy workouts per each 1 hard workout.
- Moderate: This falls right around the 75% mark. This is where most people camp out. You are able to speak words but not engage in a full conversation or speak in full sentences. Your moderate workouts basically fill in the blanks as far as timing and scheduling workouts go.
- Hard: This is where you can no longer talk at all, you’re likely reaching your VO2 max. These workouts are great to supercharge. For a good balance and to achieve gains in whatever your goals are, 1-2 hard workouts a week, separated by 2 days (at least) is a good baseline to go off.
Types of training:
There are tons and tons of different training styles out there today… one could never get bored researching them… trust me, I’ve spent hours on the computer getting lost in blogs, YouTube videos and research studies on exercise and training. Your body is adaptable, it’s one of the things that makes us so resilient. As you can adapt to different climates, situations and even people, you will adapt to exercise if it’s not varied. Your body will figure out the most efficient way to preserve energy and nutritional stores, it’s a survival mechanism rooted in our DNA; this is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we are able to adapt to our surroundings and the curse; your body will hold onto fat like your life depends on it, because at one point, it did. Hence, the plateau. I know you’ve all experienced this at some point, you’ve gotten great gains at the beginning (built muscle mass, lost some body fat, gotten stronger and felt better) but then it just stops and no matter what you do… nothing changes and you may even notice you do go backwards. One of the worst things you could do is continue doing exactly what you’re doing, exactly how you’re doing it. Mostly people will exercise at about 75% of their max all the time, doing the exact same exercise (a good example is runners). Switch it up people! Go harder, go easier… refer to the list above and change-up your workout routine. What you need is to recharge your system (nervous and cardiovascular) in a different way and shock the body into having to recalibrate and adapt to a new set of criteria. Otherwise, you may just be stuck on that plateau whether you like it or not. In addition to the different ways in which you can change-up your intensity and total training load above, the following is just a quick and short list of options to add in to your training regimen.
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – Just like it sounds, HIIT is a high intensity short burst of exercise. Much like sprinting, and sometimes referred to as sprint interval training. In other words if you are feeling pretty confident with your fitness level and try doing some HIIT, prepare to be humbled. Sprinting would definitely fall into the category of HARD workouts. HIIT is not limited to sprinting however, you can use this concept with anything else… jumping, bounding, push ups, weights, spinning… you name it. The key with these, is they are usually short in duration, lasting anywhere from 9-20 minutes for your entire workout. The original protocol for HIIT training follows a 2:1 ratio; meaning for every 2 (units) of exercise, you recover for 1. This may sound familiar…
- Tabata – HIIT that is measured by doing intense bouts of exercise for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is great for sprinting and we use it a lot at the Gym with Kettlebells, ropes, boxes and other functional training modalities.
- Neural Charging – Still following a similar concept but is based on the idea that you can train more frequently without overtraining. In general, neural charging uses explosive movements for short amounts of time (stopping before you experience any muscle fatigue, a concept many of us are not used to). An example of this is doing explosive push ups. Pushing up off the ground or a box as fast and as explosively as you can for 1 – 5 reps (until you feel you may lose power) and taking out the eccentric part of the movement (the slow lowering of your body back to the floor). For a more in-depth description, check out Christian Thibadeau’s articles on Neural charging here.
- The benefits of all the above have been shown to increase your body’s ability to burn fat, improve insulin sensitivity, as well as increase your speed, agility and athleticism.
- Low-Level Aerobic Activity – Basically anything you do where you can talk with a friend at the same time. For some workouts, you may even count these as a gym workout, there are plenty of times I’ve been taking it easy at the gym, able to have a full conversation with somebody while I’m lightly swinging a kettlebell. However, more commonly these workouts are walks, hikes, biking into town, other daily activities outdoors or even indoors. You could probably count vacuuming as a low-level aerobic activity if you wanted.
Stress and your body:
Stress is a huge part of our lives, some experts say it’s the cause of 90% of disease, (though one could argue it may be high fructose corn syrup and stress causes about 99% of disease)! Your body can’t differentiate between physical stress and all the other mental and emotional stressors that you experience in a day. When we work out, our physical bodies are stressed in that we are putting strain on the muscles, the cardiovascular system & the nervous system. When we are emotionally stressed, our bodies are dealing with the windfall of adrenaline and cortisol spikes and valleys elicited by work, family responsibilities, finances, traffic, deadlines, not getting enough sleep etc… the list goes on and on (you are probably feeling a little bit of this stress right now, just after reading that short list).
For the most part, exercise reduces stress, increases the amount of endorphins your body produces, helps you lose weight, increase focus & improves sleep just to name a few. However, there is always a balance to be found. It depends on who you are, how you live and what you deem priority in life. For example, for some people it’s like pulling teeth just to get them to commit to going for a walk 20 minutes a day 3 days a week… then for others it’s more is always better. Pain is the name of the game right? “No pain, no gain”… well to some degree this is true, but in general not to the extreme that we American’s are used to.
First and foremost it is important to find your balance and as far as exercise is concerned. Here are a couple of notes from Dr. Jeff Spencer, named Sports Chiropractor of the Year, author, olympian and recent author of the article “Fail To Do This After a Workout and Your Whole Effort is Wasted” on Mercola.com.
- Should have quick and full recovery after each workout – After a workout you should rebound quickly from the effort and feel almost back to normal within 30-minutes. A prolonged rebound is a sign the workout was too difficult and you need to go easy for a couple of days.
- Ideal to feel better at end of workout than the beginning – Successful workouts will leave you feeling better at the end of your workout than the beginning. This is a sign of well-trained body.
- Slight soreness on occasion is OK, but regular soreness isn’t – Slight muscle soreness is normal after starting to exercise, when new exercises are implemented into your workouts or when an increase in exercise intensity is done.
- Should be able to raise heart rate – A cardinal sign of having the right training balance of effort to recovery is when your heart rate moves up and down nicely during a workout. If your heart rate fails to elevate during a workout you’re over-trained from training too hard too often, and you need time off.
- Also keep an eye on your resting heart rate first thing in the morning. If your heart rate is elevated while you are still lying in bed, then you are likely not recovery properly &/or overtrained. Take this as another indicator that you’ve pushed your threshold and just back off.
- Heart rate should drop immediately when workout completed – Fitness buffs having ideal intensity variety in their workouts have heart rates that drop down to slightly above normal within 5-minutes of finishing a workout then drop back to normal levels shortly thereafter.
- Perspiration should stop shortly after training complete– As a rule sweating associated with workouts should stop within a few minutes after exercise is stopped when workout intensity and overall fitness is within ideal range. If sweating continues 20-30 minutes after exercise it is the sign the workout was too hard, and requires a few easy days to recover from. If you feel sore then put two or more easy day’s into your program to let your body catch up with itself (Spencer, 2011).
As for the rest of your life, it’s up to you to start decreasing the amount of stressors in your life. There are many ways to do this and that could be a much longer post… so stay tuned we’ll get there. Diet is going to play a big part in your total stress too, in short you are better off eating as clean as possible, lots of vegetables, fruits and good clean proteins. But for now, get some acupuncture, do some yoga or meditation and get a massage!
There are a number of nutritional supplements that you can add to your regimen in order to better deal with stress (both physical and mental emotional), many of them are referred to as ‘adaptogens’ and I regularly cycle through them. A quick and short list includes: Rhodiola, Ashwaghanda, Maca, & Ginseng. Add to that B-vitamins (complex), Vitamin C (for tissue repair) and a daily multi-vitamin and you should be well on your way. (If you are currently on a list of a number of other medications please consult your physician before beginning any new supplements, this article is not intended to diagnose or cure & is for informational purposes only).
As an Acupuncturist & Master of OM, chinese herbal formulas can also do wonders to help with stress management and recovery. In addition to acupuncture treatments, a trained herbalist can put together a mixture of herbs (including some of those listed above) personalized just for you in order to help your body adapt to stressors and strains.
Overtraining & Cortisol Response:
It’s actually an easy thing to do. Life stressors are always changing and our ability and strength to stay resilient has its own personal ups and downs. I still struggle with keeping a good balance of how much is just enough in order to get the benefits without the break down. So what happens to our bodies when we overdo it? Your body is running on adrenaline all the time, and much like the insulin de-sensitivity that happens with Type II Diabetics, we become a little less sensitive to the constant influx of adrenaline-like substances coursing through our bodies and literally get sick and tired.
Just like we need to exercise, but not too much, we also need Cortisol… just not too much. It is a necessary hormone and in moderate amounts will regulate glucose, insulin, blood pressure, the immune system and our inflammatory response. Aptly referred to as the ‘stress hormone’ it is released as a means to improve mental acuity, kickstart your immune system and shuttle glucose to where it may be needed during acute episodes of stress. However, our bodies were never meant to experience stress all the time, especially at the levels we are accustomed to today. The fallout of having elevated levels of cortisol in the bloodstream for prolonged periods of time makes up a very long list of maladies including (and not limited to):
- a decrease in muscle tissue and bone
- decreased immunity
- increased blood pressure and likelihood of experiencing a cardiovascular accident
- blood sugar imbalances
- lowered thyroid function and
- an increase in abdominal fat (that stubborn muffin top that never seems to disappear no matter what you do).
Just like Goldilocks, you’ve got to find the right fit for you in order to achieve the maximal benefits from your exercise whether you are looking to gain size, increase strength and muscle, lose fat or just to reduce your stress level.
So… go on, get out there and enjoy your training regimen, switch it up and cycle your TTL’s & don’t forget how important your recovery time is. Get the benefits that exercise was meant to give you without the frustrations of never getting it right! Have fun and I’ll see you in the gym… or at the office.
Till next time ~ be well,
Erin (soon to be LAc., MAOM)
Spencer, J. (2011, May 13). Fail to do this after a workout and your whole effort is wasted. Mercola.com, Retrieved from http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2011/05/13/getting-fit-doesnt-mean-killing-yourself.aspx
It’s official! The DVD is complete and it’s shipping out as we speak! If you are new to my blog and me; I am currently a full-time graduate student at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine as well as a Kettlebell coach at Skogg Gym in downtown Portland.
Now, add to that list; kettlebell fitness ‘talent’ in the new DVD series by Michael Skogg; former Navy Seal and face of Weider PowerBells:
This project has been in the works for some time now and is finally complete and ready to buy. We’ve gotten it out there via the web; either on…
- Skogg Gym’s website: SKOGG Gym
- Or if you are in the Portland, OR area at our Gym (10th and Everett)!
Check it out and let me know what you think! It’s been a crazy past 3 years for me with school and work but good things come to those who work hard and I’ve been workin’ hard! Here’s a little teaser for you…
Need more proof? Burn more calories in less time and get the best workout of your life 🙂 Check out this article by ACE Fitness: Study Reveals Kettlebells Provide Powerful Workout in Short Amount of Time
Also, keep updated on the Skogg System DVD series, the gym and all things Kettlebell here on Sue Skogg’s (Michael’s other half; co-owner of the Skogg gym, and Executive Producer of the DVD) Blog: Skogg Sytem: Sue’s Journey
Till next time, keep swingin!
While Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV are not two diseases that we consider epidemic in industrialized countries (the US); they have reached epidemic proportions in other, less developed countries. In the US, we are fortunate enough to have access to health care, sanitary conditions, education, vaccines & nutrition; and due to our high stress lives we are much more likely to get completely preventable diseases like heart disease & type II diabetes. So, while we get carried away dealing with the stresses and strains of our busy, overworked lives, there is a huge contingent of people suffering & dying from diseases that can be treated & possibly prevented; but don’t have the means or access to any of it. Fortunately there are people out there using ‘new’, or in this case, very old treatment modalities to help those in impoverished areas to ease their suffering.
One modality we use in Chinese Medicine is Moxibustion; Moxa for short. It’s an herb by the name of Mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris, you may know of it or even see it growing in your yard. It is a particularly powerful herb and can be used in a number of different ways. You can take it internally, or topically as a plaster, salve or rub; but most commonly this herb is burned either directly on the skin, just above the skin or on an acupuncture needle. There are many different kinds of moxa as well, they are generally processed differently; some more pure than others, some more smoky than others. Like anything, it depends on where you get it, who you get it from and what your intention is for using the herb. Like most things in Chinese Medicine, I find myself talking about it and think to myself, this sounds a little crazy and weird and possibly barbaric. Yes, we do burn this herb on your skin, however, it isn’t a burning sensation you feel but a calming & very relaxing warmth over an area of the body or a specific point. It’s really quite nice and therapeutic in more ways than one. Some common uses include the treatment of digestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders (acute trauma and chronic pain), asthma & chronic immune compromising infections to name a few. In general it has a warming effect on the body and works very well to bring blood supply to the area, increase the healing capacity of the tissue, as well as emit a systemic improvement in your bodies natural immunity. The power of Moxa (or mugwort ) is much more than a sensation of warmth on the skin (which in itself is nice), it goes much deeper than that and causes a plethora of positive reactions deep to the tissue effecting the whole body and not just one area. For more information on Moxa and its different uses complete with pictures and video; check out this Facebook page: Moxibustion: The Power of Mugwort.
Moxa therapy has been shown to increase immune function, specifically increase white blood cell counts, anti-inflammatory cytokines & anti-body production. In addition to just improving your immunity and helping when you are simply feeling a bit down, it has proven to be particularly helpful in treating (you guessed it) TB and HIV. Ever wonder how we treated disease before there were vaccines and pharmaceuticals? When TB swept the country of Japan back in the 1930’s their primary treatment method was Moxa therapy. It proved especially helpful in improving life expectancy (of both the sick and the healthy), decreasing the symptoms associated with TB and raising the spirits of those who were afflicted by the disease as well as those who weren’t.
Presently moxa is still used in China & Japan as well as by Acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine practitioners across the United States and the world. In Japan it is so ‘popular’ that there are many who practice only Moxibustion therapy, (Moxibustionists) and there are many different levels of licensing for practicing Moxa. In addition to its therapeutic relevance, Moxa therapy is also cost-effective and easy to access; two very important aspects that a developing country, stricken by large numbers of TB and HIV could benefit from. One organization recognized the benefits of Moxa and is bringing this wealth of knowledge to Africa to help treat those suffering from both TB and HIV. The organization is called Moxafrica & originated in 2008:
It arose directly from a feasability and fact finding trip last December to Lyantonde, a truck stop town four hours from Kampala on the main route connecting Rwanda and the Eastern Congo to the whole of East Africa. Lyantonde has an unfortunate reputation as a focus for prostitution and HIV/AIDS, the town being home to the first ever officially recorded case of AIDS in Africa.
Our aim was to assess how they would feel about the idea of burning something on the skin, and whether they would consider it an acceptable therapy to try out in their own work places. Additionally we wanted to assess how easy it might be to teach African health workers basic moxa skills. We soon had them all rolling moxa, both making and burning tiny cones with impressive dexterity.
The following day we were invited to demonstrate moxa treatments on two patients, one of them a very sick man co-infected with TB and HIV. He was terribly wasted by the two diseases, cared for by his sister who was vainly trying to administer his daily medication. After we had finished treating him, using the minimum possible stimulation of moxa because of his dreadful condition, we used a trainee to help us explain to his sister how to use moxa and how to locate a treatment point, leaving her clear instructions on a simple protocol to follow every day, building up dosage if he strengthened.
What we suspect we witnessed at this moment was something we had not even considered previously – that teaching the carer of such a sick person a simple moxa protocol fundamentally offered her something meaningful to do for her brother, and was offering her something maybe even more important as well – hope. We’re not sure yet how significant this might turn out to be.
To our knowledge this was the first time that a moxa protocol for TB from the 1930’s has ever been used to treat anyone co-infected both with TB and AIDS anywhere in the world. Two weeks after we got back we got the following extraordinary feedback: “Frank’s response was truly fantastic. I wish you had seen the joy in his sister/attendant as she explained to us how he had improved. I think everyone was just so excited, as he seemed so ill.”
Two days after the treatment began, it transpired that Frank was out of bed, walking tentatively in the ward, and eating.
Cautiously, we found ourselves asking whether this simple treatment might really be able to make the sort of difference we hope it might (www.moxafrica.org, Feb. 6, 2011).
And thus, the project began and continues to inspire those afflicted by disease in an impoverished community. To continue reading about the program & additional studies regarding Moxa, please check out their website and if you feel so inclined, please donate to the cause.
In addition to this organization there are a number of others up and running in Africa as well as other countries including our own (the US) that I’ve written of in previous posts:
The Flying Needle: An organization also based in South Africa, helping those with HIV/AIDS
Acupuncturists Without Borders: An organization set up to help with traumatic events; i.e. Katrina and the 911 incidence
The Acupuncture Relief Project: A project stationed out of Nepal which was founded by a fellow OCOM graduate
Until next time, ask your Acupuncturist about Moxa treatment & as always…