Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Healthy Lungs

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac. on

Northampton Acupuncture for healthy lungs

I was diagnosed at age 4 with severe asthma. Unfortunately for me as I grew older my asthma grew worse. I was often hospitalized for not being able to breathe. It’s one of the worse feelings in the world not knowing if you are going to be able to breathe your next breath. I carried my fast acting inhaler with me everywhere and still do. I hate the feeling of having an asthma attack. Now that I have a child I hate it even more. It makes me feel like I can’t care for my daughter as well as I should because I just can’t breathe. I can’t imagine being the parent of an asthmatic. The fear of not knowing if your child is going to be able to breathe is unimaginable for me. There was a point that I went over 3 weeks without an asthma attack which is still a miracle for me. That was my first real experience with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

If you know me you know how passionate I am about what I do for work. I am an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. Very early in my career I realized that this was my true life purpose to be able to help people. To help people in a very real way. A natural way that works with their body, correcting what is wrong and supplementing what is weak. I not only have experienced myself the immediate change in acute lung symptoms of asthma but long term changes as well. I have seen allergies almost disappear and patients with COPD living healthy lives. According to research provided by the NIH (National Institute of Health) Acupuncture can reduce shortness of breath, chest tightness, cough and wheezing in patients with chronic obstructed pulmonary disorder. Acupuncture helps to relax the chest muscles and dilate the bronchioles allowing more air flow. Chinese medicine practitioners use acupuncture to “supplement” or “tonify” the lungs. It is believed that certain acupuncture points are needled in ordered to boost the “qi” (energy of the lungs). By supplementing the energy of lungs you can treat and prevent diseases. Chinese herbs and acupuncture together provides the most relief. There are certain formulas that treat shortness of breath, colds, sinus infections, bronchitis and many other conditions. Just like acupuncture there are also formulas that help to strengthen your immune system and lung “qi”. Adults and children of all ages can benefit from Chinese medicine.

If you or your child suffer from asthma or other chronic pulmonary conditions, please feel free to contact me.

To Health, Healing and Happiness!

October is Healthy Lung Month!

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac. on

Western Massachusetts AcupunctureNo one understands better than I do about how hard this time of year can be on your lungs. At age 4 I was diagnosed with asthma and have suffered almost every year around this time. Between allergies, the cold air and the onset of cold/flu season, I almost always have a flare up of asthma symptoms. Having said that there are a few things that I have found to be true lifesavers for me. 

1. Exercise/ Lifestyle changes: The lungs need to be expanded in order to be healthy. Cardio 3 times a week is ideal. This time of year it is not a good idea to exercise outside as the cold air can be harsh on anyone with asthma or a lung condition. It's time to take it to the gym or better yet take a Zumba or Salsa class. Stress Management is also key in maintaining healthy lungs. Stress and anxiety often make us take short, shallow breaths. Take a moment to check in with your body. Pull your shoulders down and make sure you are using your stomach muscles to take a deep breath rather than your chest. Go ahead take a couple deep breaths. 

2. Eat A Healthy Diet: For lung health specifically there are certain foods you should be avoiding. Dairy especially ice cream is very bad for asthmatics or anyone that tend to have an excessive amount of phlegm (wheezing). Also greasy foods like McDonalds or other fast food joints. Alcohol is also something you have to be careful with. You may even notice that after a couple of drinks wheezing can come on. ( I usually say all foods in moderation but if you are having signs and symptoms of lung issues, its best to avoid them all together until things calm down.)

3. Supplements: Taking certain supplements can help to break up mucus, improve your immune system and decrease inflammation which is part of the cause of asthma, allergies, sinus infections and other chronic lung ailments.  

4. Acupuncture/Chinese Herbs: Acupuncture is amazing for boosting your immune system as well as decreasing inflammation. I have personally experience life changing results with both acupuncture and Chinese herbs in managing my asthma and allergies. Chinese herbs can help prevent colds and other ailments as well as treat them. 

I hope it goes without saying that if you are experiencing severe shortness of breath or are using a fast acting inhaler multiple times a day it is best to see your doctor as soon as possible. 

To read more about my personal story with asthma and allergies and how acupuncture helped me, visit the "My Story" page. 

Chia Seed Pudding

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac. on

Let's try something new! While looking for a healthy "sweet" snack for my 1 year old daughter I came across this great recipe. 

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia Seed Pudding

1/4 cup of Chia Seeds
1 1/4 cup of milk (coconut or almond milk is my favorite to use)
1 tbsp of maple syrup (add more or less to your taste)
1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

Mix all together in a glass. (I use an old canning jar so I can keep a lid on it and shake it.) Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or over night.

*Shake it a couple of times in the beginning so the seeds don't all stick together and get clumpy. 

Now here is the fun part! To eat you can add berries or granola or both. I also have used chocolate flavored almond milk which is a great treat. The Chia seeds don't have a flavor so you need to add things you like. You can even blend fruit and add that to the mixture before it forms.

Why Should I Eat Chia Seeds?

  • They are very high in nutrients! Fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, protein and omega- 3s.
  • They are high in antioxidants. Which helps prevent aging and cancer. 
  • Very high in protein which is great for weight loss because it reduces appetite and cravings. 
  • Great for maintaining good blood sugar level and has been shown to help people with type II diabetes.
  • Helps cholesterol and heart health. 

Remember eating food isn't always about pleasure. Food is what gives our body energy and keeps us alive!

Getting Regular Acupuncture

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac. on

Getting regular acupuncture at whole body healing

" I go to acupuncture because it allows me to fully relax. I never know how stressed I am until I come here and notice how tense my body is." -MN

One of the things I find helpful about acupuncture is that it allows you to know your body and health better. At each visit I check in with my patients. This allows them to take a minute and actually feel how they are doing. We rush even push through our lives so quickly we hardly have a moment to take care of ourselves. Being a new mom, I now realize how easy it is to get stuck in bad habits to just get by. I find that acupuncture allows me to make healthy decisions. The less "in tuned" I am with my body the more likely I am to eat poorly, not exercise or take supplements etc. People that are looking to be overall more healthy and make serious lifestyle changes should have acupuncture and Chinese medicine in their health regimen. Acupuncture keeps your emotions balanced, which makes it easier to handle the stressors when they occur. Allowing your body to fully relax and shut down is almost like a reset button. Wouldn't it be great to have a reboot once a month? Patients that come in for regular acupuncture sessions (about once a month) get less colds, handle stress and change better, sleep more sound, have better memory function and have less aches and pain. Chinese herbs are also a great adjunctive treatment to help sustain the effects you get from acupuncture and to keep you healthy and happy! 

Conquering Anxiety the Natural Way!

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac. on

    Whole Body Healing treating anxiety naturally.      If you suffer from anxiety, then you know the feeling of dread, worry and the sensation in your chest and stomach, all too well. For me anxiety “attacks” can happen almost anywhere and at any moment whether I am in a stressful situation or just sitting watching TV. Sometimes it’s triggered by an action or thought I have, other times it seems completely random. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives,  but for some of  us, it becomes part of our daily lives. I don’t believe in taking antidepressants for anxiety because for me, I’m not depressed when I’m anxious ( I do realize that antidepressants are helpful for some people and I fully support that). I tried all different antidepressants and nothing came close to helping my anxiety. The only pill I ever took that “masked” my anxiety was Xanax; however it also masks all your emotions. When I entered into the alternative health care field, I made it my mission to conquer my anxiety naturally. That was quite a few years ago and I still occasionally get anxious but with some self discipline it is completely manageable.

     It starts with BALANCE!! Yes I said it. A “hippie” term that is thrown around every alternative medicine practitioner’s office. Creating  balance in your life takes effort and time, something which not many Americans are willing to do. Balance needs to be carried out in every aspect of your life, from the food you eat, to the job you do, to your own inner thoughts and pressures. I think the first and easiest things to address are lifestyle changes. For some this is a huge task, but it can be controlled so here is where I like to start. One very important etiology for anxiety in Chinese medicine is not having enough blood or “yin” in the body to nourish the “shen” or spirit. I myself see this as a cause of anxiety often. Our body makes blood from the foods we eat. Our whole system is run by the foods we put into our body on a daily basis. It is very important to eat a proper diet with clean, nutritious foods and plenty of water. Once you get your diet in order then you can move on to the next step, movement aka exercise. I don’t like using the word exercise for many reasons. One reason being that immediately you think gym or running on a treadmill. I mean taking a walk or doing something you love like dancing on a regular basis. I encourage you to try new things (while at first are scary and anxiety causing) can be very rewarding and bring a new dimension into your life. I recommend some form of exercise 3-4 times a week for about an hour each time. Exercise releases endorphins aka feel good chemicals in the brain. Also I feel exercise moves any excessive or stagnate qi or energy in the body. So get moving! Next it’s time to take a deeper look at where this anxiety comes from. Is it excessive guilt you feel or pressure? Where and who does this guilt or pressure come from? If the answer is you, which it most likely is, then ask yourself why? This is the hardest part because you need to look deeper within yourself and find those answers. I recommend doing short meditations on a daily basis. This can be as simple as taking 5 minutes before you go to bed. Close your eyes and just focus on your breathe, inhale, exhale. Another great idea to keep in mind whether you are currently experiencing anxiety or not is to remain in the present moment. Ask yourself “right now at this very moment, what is going on?” Often times when you do this during an anxiety attack you realize that nothing is going on. That you are worrying about the future or not letting go of the past, that is why you have to focus on the now. You can NOT change the past and you can’t control the future. Have faith that everything will work out if you stay calm. Plus what does getting anxious accomplish?
     There are also Chinese herbal formulas that can help to balance “qi” or energy, benefit your digestion and build blood. I also find that a small course of acupuncture treatments can stop anxiety and often allows you to feel well enough to implement the lifestyle changes mentioned above. 

If you have other questions or comments, please feel free to contact me! 

To Health, Healing and Happiness. 

Are you suffering from depression?

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac. on

Western Massachusetts Acupuncture BlogAfter hearing about the death of Robin Williams, an amazing actor and comedian, I started thinking about depression. Like many people I have had bouts of depression and anxiety. I know firsthand how hard that cycle can be to get out of. I am not a clinical psychologist but do work with many people who suffer from depression using acupuncture and Chinese herbs. I also use affirmations and other self-healing techniques that I have learn throughout my practice. The key to healing  all diseases is treating a persons mind, body and spirit.

The first thing I look at when treating depression and anxiety is your overall health. Are you eating healthy foods that are providing the nutrients your body needs. There are mineral deficiencies that can contribute to anxiety as well as depression. Every person is different but sometimes a good calcium/ magnesium powder is required. This helps to relax you and can help with sleep. There are numerous supplements that you can take depending on what is going on. There are also Chinese herbal formulas that are designed specifically for depression and anxiety.

Next are you getting a proper amount of exercise? This is different for everyone. If you don’t exercise regularly just taking a light short walk 3 times a week is a good starting point. You can also just put on some slow quiet music and stretch for 15 minutes. If strong cardio with fast beat music is what works for you then great use that. Movement of some sort is required for everyone. Our bodies crave movement and aren’t meant to be sedentary for long periods of time.

Lastly self-love or at least self-respect. This is the most important factor when working with depression. Like Robin Williams who everyone saw to be amazing, if you do not see yourself as amazing then you will never be happy. It does not matter how great everyone else thinks you are if you do not see it. How can you change this? A very basic technique that I suggest is affirmations. Once a day (first thing in the morning or before you go to bed is usually the easiest to remember), say to yourself;

"I am healthy"
"I am happy"
"I am loved"
"I love myself."

At first this is going to be hard and sound silly. You can say them quietly to yourself or better yet out loud to yourself in the mirror. Repeat this mantra 3 times. I don’t care if you do not believe them, say them every day for at least a week. You can make up your own that feels right to you, “I am a hard worker”, “I am a loving person”, “I am a successful business woman”, whatever resonates with you. 

These are only 3 very basic techniques that I use at my office. There are many more Chinese herbal remedies, acupuncture points and other healing modalities that can be used. Please if you are suffering from depression and feel like you can’t go on, seek help from a professional. Please call your doctor or someone you trust and speak to them about how you are feeling. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 

 To Health, Healing and Happiness! 

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Stop Putting a Band Aid on it!

by Elizabeth Girard, MS, L.Ac. on

Western Massachusetts Acupuncture Blog

Do you take Advil or Tylenol more than once a week?
Are you popping tums or taking a laxative more than once a week?
Do you take medication for blood pressure and or type II diabetes?

Taking medication can often be like just putting a band aid over the problem. A good example of this is when someone gets a headache and they take a Tylenol. Is that Tylenol actually fixing what was wrong or “out of balance” within our bodies? What caused the headache in the first place? Possible causes could be hunger, dehydration, neck and shoulder tension, not enough sleep, and or anxiety/stress. Taking that Tylenol alone does not fix any of those causes. I’m not saying medication is not  necessary or that you shouldn't take it. What I am saying is fix the cause and hopefully you will be able to decrease or stop the medication all together (with the supervision of your physician). What I commonly see is we want easy quick fixes and if taking a pill helps, we stop there. Over time if you keep masking the causes and not treating the root of the problem they will develop into something harder or more serious to treat.

That’s why I love acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and exercise. These are natural safe ways to treat the root of the problem. These modalities allow your body to be healthy and strong enough to fix imbalances which can prevent and treat disease. The best form of medicine is preventative. In China people don’t just use acupuncture when they are sick but get treatments regularly to prevent issues from even occurring. Remember our bodies are extremely intelligent and they let us know when something is off. Listen to your body and the clues it gives you, stop putting a band aid on it! 

If you have questions on this topic or would like some more information about Whole Body Healing, please feel free to contact me.

To Health, Healing and Happiness.

 

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