June 2009


    After a recent training with folks who have done Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing work, I’m excited to be learning new skills to pass on to patients to help people anchor treatments and get more out of them. The skills are based on the idea that our nervous systems can naturally heal from traumatic events given gentle attention to subtle, internal, felt sense. I love the emphasis on the incremental, gentle approach. The key piece is strengthening things that help us feel good inside, or at least neutral [in the worst of situations]. Of course, we’ve all heard that we need to focus on the positive, which isn’t so easy when we’re in pain. So a lot of time is spent on really building up one or more chosen good feeling[s], so it becomes a resource to go back to as needed, sort of like saving something to your hard drive. Any surgery would considered a “traumatic event” because we record it unconsciously in the reptilian, nonverbal part of our brains. Nonetheless, any pain condition can benefit from this approach. Certainly most of us have bravely coped with physical pain by learning to ignore it. By enhancing the relaxed, good feelings within, either with our attention, or the help of acupuncture, bodywork, or herbs, we develop the ability to pay a little more attention to the painful part. That in turn allows us to adjust our actions which keeps us from re-injuring a chronic limitation and notice what strengthens it. This usually includes more range of healthy motion with musculoskeletal concerns.

     The trainers of this “Trauma Resiliency”, who are long time therapists, have worked with vets, victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse, as well as abroad in the Congo, Sechuan, and Thailand with much success. They’ve honed their methods to make them quickly accessible to people regardless of their work or cultural background, by basing  them on new findings about brain and nervous system anatomy. I look forward to seeing how sharing these skills might help my patients.

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Just getting this off the ground with an article soon  to come out in the Summer issue of the Good Tern Coop newsletter. Soak up the sun when you can!

Summer Health with Chinese Medicine

Ah, sunshine, warm days, fresh local berries, and your favorite swim spot! This is the season we’ve all been waiting for! By the time this comes out, the first salad greens may be ready in your garden and the strawberries should be getting pink. Summer is a time to recharge our internal batteries in preparation for our long winter. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy making money for the long winter, and trying to enjoy the outdoors, that not much precious down time is left to recharge. Meals tend to be more on the run, and the long days don’t promote sleeping in.

       My aim in this short piece is to introduce a few basic concepts of Oriental eating habits and general practice that will assist your system in building strength and resilience to carry you through the whole year. The main theme is conservation of energy, such as the old maxim: it’s easier to keep warm than to get warm. Our bodies have an incredible ability to restore themselves given good food and rest. Acupuncture can provide the bit of reminder our system needs to reset this ability, but exercise, herbs, and diet are more important in the long run.

    Alas, even in the hottest weather, we may have chilly, and often quite damp climatic conditions that can be a drain on a tired system. Add some icy drinks or frozen food [ice cream!] and a summer cold can brew up. Iced drinks on a regular basis are generally not recommended, as they bring the temperature of the stomach down, which can lead to partial digestion. A more gentle way to cool the body is through cooling foods, which include most fruits, and especially blueberries and melons. Raw vegetables are quite cooling as well, but not so easily digested. A good way to balance the  [hopefully only occasional!] ice cream treat is to have some warm gingery or chai -like tea with it to rewarm the system.

   Proponents of raw food diets tout its high nutritional values, yet in practice, the abundance of vitamins is not readily available because of the work it takes to break down [or internally “cook”] something like a salad. With age, and heavy physical or mental work, our digestion becomes weaker and less able to glean the goodness from these “healthy” foods. Asparagus is a good example of a very cooling vegetable that is delicious cooked. As with any vegetable, a light steaming retains much of the vitamins but allows proper assimilation.

       Interestingly, both Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine use asparagus root as a nourishing tonic. Any kind of berry is very nourishing for our core energy or “Jing” as it is known in Chinese Medicine. Western Medicine recognizes the cancer fighting qualities of a number of berries as well. The Good Tern carries organic dried Goji berries, which are also extremely beneficial to the eyes.

     Chinese Medicine carefully tracks dampness within our body through tongue and pulse diagnosis, and acknowledges how climactic dampness can influence our body’s ability to cope. Many older people are aware of weather changes in their joints, and in Chinese Medicine, dampness is seen to have the potential to penetrate with windy and chilly conditions too. Sitting on a cold and/or damp surface such as concrete, rock, or even the ground can aggravate joint, urinary tracy, and even gynecologic problems. My elderly qigong teacher [91!] is even careful about going barefoot in southern California!

     Some foods that tend to create an excess of dampness in the body are dairy, any concentrated sweet, [even bananas!], beer, wheat, and any refined food. Some people notice they are sensitive to one of these foods. Perhaps their sinuses are stuffier, or joints ache more with them. Often with strengthening of the overall digestive system, people can once again enjoy foods that were previously problematic.

    In closing, take time to revel in the fresh local foods that abound this summer. Keep your feet warm and your head cool! See you at the summer solstice street fair, Main Street in Rockland, June 20th in the evening

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