Over the last few days, I've been wondering how I can best be of service in these uncertain times. Other medical professionals have been writing about how to stay safe and sane during the next few weeks and possibly months. I will share these resources with you at the end of this blog.
I can no longer offer my in-person treatments because of the risk of spreading infection. I did a load of laundry this morning filled with sheets that ordinarily would be put on my treatment table. As I neatly folded them and placed them in my laundry basket, I wondered when I would be able to do this again. Honestly, I don't know.
But I can share with you some of the wisdom of Chinese and Japanese medicine. The lessons that it teaches. The ways it might be helpful now. How I came to discover it at a time that was personally for me not so different than what we are collectively experiencing now. A time when I was forced to dramatically change my behavior and narrow my expectations of life.
You may know the story of how I became an acupuncturist. I was working in high tech in the 1980s when I came down with a mysterious and not well understood illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had to leave my job as a technical consultant at the Boston office of the Environmental Protection Agency. I felt enormous uncertainty about my work, my health and what the future might hold.
I grew up in a very achievement-oriented family. But at that moment in time, I could no longer do the work that my BA from Colgate and Certificate in Software Engineering from Harvard had trained me for.
The illness put me on an entirely different path. I needed a new model of life that wasn't based on doing more, earning more, and producing more. I found that model in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This was a model that talked about our connection to the natural world, with its natural rhythms and the importance of balance.
With this model, I could imagine a different way of looking at the world. This model was a relative model that explained that at different times in our lives, we have different goals, different amounts of energy, different focuses. And I knew that while I was dealing with a chronic illness, my life needed to be simpler, with most of my focus on healing. This completely changed a decade of my life. I focused on getting the care that I needed; doing my best to eat, if not completely healthy, at least real foods; taking walks in the few hours that I had sufficient energy.
If I couldn't do all the things that I wanted to, I would at least watch these activities. The television (this was in the days before the Internet) in some ways became my lifeline. I watched cooking shows and figure skating and ski competitions. I allowed my mind to go to places that my body couldn't get to.
I've always been a pretty active person, and I gave up a lot. I had fewer friends, I shopped less, and I found myself at home more. But I got to get to know myself better. I had more quiet time, read and studied a lot, and had less choices and decisions to make.
And at the end of the that decade, and after years spent living simply and studying acupuncture and Chinese and Japanese medicine, I emerged. I got a part time job, started my acupuncture practice, and became active in the synagogue that I belonged to.
Then when I needed a ride to a ski weekend in Maine, I met my husband, fell in love and a year and a half later, got married. And once again, my life changed forever -- also in ways I could not have imagined.
All this to say that as we go through the upheaval of the coronavirus, it's important to remember that life will go on. This is not to discount the reality of loss of lives, disruption, pain and heartache. That brings with it an enormous sadness.
But for most of us, this too shall pass and each of us has the opportunity to emerge a little stronger, a little more resilient, perhaps even a little healthier.
You have inner resources you may not have been aware of. Humans are resourceful creatures. It's why we're all here after wars, natural disasters, other pandemics. When faced with trauma and tragedy, we go on and rebuild and reconnect. It's in our DNA.
So at this time, remember to take care of yourself. Here are the basics:
1) Eat 3 meals a day filled with nutritious, real, whole foods.
Take a look at my blog on getting your kitchen filled with nutritious foods. There has not been a run on broccoli or kale. I often counsel people to make one new healthy dish a week that they can then incorporate into their diet.
Here are some links to my favorite cooks. (Note: I do recommend avoiding sugar, white flour and dairy. So choose your meals wisely.)
2) Incorporate movement into your day. Take walks, go to the woods, climb a mountain.
Here is a list of my favorite places in the area.
~Go to Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton for a beautiful walk in the words.
~Visit Mount Tom State Reservation for hiking and walking. I use the entrance off of Route 5 in Holyoke. Walk around the pond for a relaxed walk. Hike up the K.B. trail for a more intense exercise experience.
~Chesterfield Gorge is just beautiful. Walk along the Westfield River. On a nice day, sit out on the rocks.
~The Manhan, Northampton and Norwottuck rail trails, which go from Southampton through Northampton to Williamsburg or Amherst, are great for biking, walking, jogging or roller blading. It’s perfect for any degree of activity.
~Paradise Pond behind Smith College offers a lovely walk in the woods along the Mill River.
~Last but not least, the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke is a 3.3 mile loop on flat land.
3) Incorporate gentle stretching into your regular routine.
These are stretches that most people can do.
4) Keep your spirit strong.
Whatever your religious beliefs, whether you believe in a divine entity or not, this is a time that is reminding us that we are all connected. If you feel worried, take some time -- 5 minutes, 1/2 an hour -- to write down a prayer asking for what you and your loved ones need.
5) Here are additional resources written by medical doctors, chock full of good info and wisdom.
As you read this, know that my thoughts are with you, that I hold you in my prayers and that my wish for you is that this time allows you to see your strength and your resilience.
Sending healing energy…
Did you know that there is a unique style of acupuncture called Auricular Acupuncture or Ear Acupuncture? This is a style that I’m certified in. I incorporate ear points in my full body acupuncture treatments, and I also offer an Ear Acupuncture Clinic each month.
So what’s the difference between full-body and ear acupuncture?
The ear is a microsystem. The entire body is represented in the ear, and ear points directly correlate to the hips, back, neck, elbow, etc... We have studies that show that ear points correlate to the spine and are effective in reducing back pain and sciatica.
Ear points are also great at reducing stress. There is even an ear point named “shen men,” which translates from Chinese to “calm the spirit.” I've seen patients go into a completely relaxed state just by having this point needled.
Ear points are also helpful in reducing addictions to food, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. There is even a protocol called the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association protocol (NADA), which specifies needling several ear points as an adjunct therapy for substance abuse. Studies have been done that show that adding the NADA protocol to standard treatments improves outcomes for people struggling with substance abuse.
Ear acupuncture as it’s practiced today was developed in the 1950s by a physician in France. Read my earlier blog to find out the history of ear acupuncture and how points were mapped out and tested.
If you would like to try ear acupuncture, and experience it for yourself, come to my monthly clinic. Click here for all the information.
People often think that there is just one type of acupuncture. They are surprised to find out that Japanese acupuncture is a unique style that can elevate your sense of wellness and well-being.
Acupuncture originated in China over 3,000 years ago and in acupuncture school, we begin by studying the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both styles use the same theory of the five-element organ system -- kidney/water, liver/wood, heart/fire, spleen/earth, and lungs/metal. Both methods also use the same acupuncture points along the same energetic pathways or meridians. However, the way we practice is slightly different.
This is because before the 6th century Buddhist Monks brought acupuncture to Japan. Over time, acupuncture became one of the few career paths for people who were blind. It may seem a little unusual to think of blind people inserting needles, but let me explain.
When people can't see, their other senses become more enhanced. Blind acupuncturists became extremely skilled at feeling the pulse and areas of restriction in the body. Fortunately, they were able to pass this knowledge onto current day acupuncturists, including me. This kinesthetic sense helps Japanese acupuncturists treat more gently.
A few major Japanese acupuncture benefits include:
They say that Chinese acupuncturists treat from the brain and Japanese acupuncturists treat from the belly. Chinese practitioners come up with a diagnosis and a set of points. Japanese practitioners feel the body and use points that release restrictions while the patient is on the table, looking for reduction in pain and changes in the pulse as we treat.
If you have tried Chinese Acupuncture and felt it wasn't quite right for you, you might want to get in touch with me to find out how Japanese Acupuncture can help you.
Has cold and flu season been running rampant in your family? It seems like every day someone I know has come down with a bug. It happened to me a few weeks ago, giving me the opportunity to practice the kind of self-care I'm always talking about.
You see the body wants to heal. It's something each of us is doing all the time. We recover from cuts, scrapes, colds, broken bones, headaches, the flu all the time. And we don't always acknowledge it.
So even if you're feeling crappy at the moment, most likely a week from now that feeling will just be a distant memory. But probably you want to do something to feel better today.
I'm going to share with you my favorite at-home cold and flu remedies to help you and the ones you love to get healthy, naturally!
You may think you're not doing anything when you're in bed resting from a bug. Nothing can be further from the truth—in fact, rest is perhaps the most important at-home cold and flu remedy! Your immune system is hard at work getting rid of germs that have invaded your bodies. Your cells are building energy.
2) Drink Tea
Cold Season Tea is one of my favorite natural remedies for a cold. It contains herbs that warm the body and get rid of those pesky germs. As soon as I feel myself coming down with a cold, I start drinking cup after cup of this. I feel the bug moving out. It's kind of magical.
Ginger lemon tea is another favorite of mine if you're feeling down and out with a cold or flu. Simply buy fresh ginger root at the supermarket. Wash it and cut it into thin slices. Then put them in the freezer. When you're ready for a cup of tea, put a few of the frozen slices in a cup, then add boiling water and some lemon juice. Also, add a little honey if you have a sore throat.
2) Use a Saline Rinse
I do a nasal saline rinse every day, regardless of the season. I like the squeeze bottle by Neilmed. Fill it with distilled or boiling water (important) and a packet of saline. I microwave it for 22 seconds. The salt kills bacteria from infections in the nasal cavity.
3) Try Homeopathic Remedies.
Homeopathic remedies are made by taking minuscule amounts of something that brings on symptoms in a healthy person, diluting these, and treating an illness in a person with similar symptoms.
I like Oscillococcinum for colds and flus. You can purchase this at CVS or your local pharmacy.
4) Elderberry Syrup
This works great for coughs and can be purchased at Vitacost.
5) Eucalyptus oil in a pot of boiling water
Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a pot of boiling water and breathe in the steam.
These natural cold and flu remedies are all easy to buy and prepare, and they are all good for the body. Pick 2 or 3 of your favorites, and you'll be feeling healthy in no time. Your immune system just needs a little TLC to get rid of and keep you from catching colds and flus.
"Spring has sprung, the grass is ris," why can't I get rid of this annoying sniffle?
Spring is a welcome sight here in New England. Days are longer, warm weather leads to more time outside and a greater sense of ease. However, for hay fever sufferers, the immune system overreacts to pollen in the air causing some or all of these symptoms: a runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes and a scratchy throat.
Antihistamines and decongestants offer some relief, but come with the risk of side effects.
Here are some natural approaches to allergies:
You can find natural ways to get relief so that you can spend time in the beautiful outdoors.
Wishing all a happy spring!!
The more I treat people, the more I'm convinced that at least 50% of all illness in this country is completely preventable. When we take care of our bodies, our bodies takes care of us. How revolutionary is that?
The beginning of my work with each patient starts with a complete health history which includes an inventory of prior illnesses and surgeries, medications taken, foods eaten and exercise routines.
I find that simple life style changes lead to seemingly miraculous and lasting results. This is the beauty of East Asian medicine. Acupuncture looks at natural ways for treating diseases and has been used for thousands of years because of the body's innate ability to heal itself.
Think about it, how many things in life have the ability to repair themselves. Now think about how many times you, YES YOU, have recovered from colds, pain, sprained ankles, scraped knees. Seriously, count the many times that you have gotten ill and have rid yourself of that illness.
Personally, I've never met an illness that I could not treat. With time and intention, healing is always possible. This is the cornerstone of the work that I do.
From an acupuncturist's point of view pain is caused by either stagnation -- too much energy in a painful area of the body -- or deficiency -- too little energy. Another way to think about it is that there is a blockage either from stuck energy or lack of energy in one of the meridians that travel along the arms, legs, head and trunk of the body. Treatment consists of removing this energetic blockage or sending energy to a deficient area.
The great thing about this model is that it works with both acute and chronic pain. Even if an injured area has healed, acupuncture helps to restore movement to that area.
From a Western Medical perspective, chronic pain is often caused by a lack of movement. In a recent article from Harvard Health Publications, Dr. James Rainville, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School explains that "Movement seems to be the stimulus to normalize pain responses in the nervous system. Studies on animals with spinal injuries show faster pain resolution among those forced to exercise than among those allowed to move less."
He goes on to explain, "This is probably the result of a survival mechanism…If an animal in the wild doesn't get moving, it is eaten or starves to death. People who get moving — back to the gym, back to cleaning the house — do the best,"
If you've been struggling with chronic pain, acupuncture with its emphasis on restoring movement to the body may be for you.
About 80% of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, and I've had a lot of experience treating it in the 20 years that I've been practicing acupuncture. I've always been curious about what contributes to the pain. Is it a pulled muscle or ligament, a weak immune system, osteoarthritis, a bulging disc, tight muscles or some combination of these? Read more about this.
Over the past few years, I've been studying a manual therapy called Visceral Manipulation that offers an additional explanation for pain and restriction. Jean-Pierre Barral, a French Osteopath, teaches that restrictions in the connective tissue around and between the body's organs cause pain, particularly chronic pain that is difficult to treat.
Releasing these restrictions can be done by first feeling the actual pull of tissue in the body, testing to see which organ is causing the primary restriction and then gently treating the organ to restore its natural rhythm.
My work has always been based on releasing restrictions. Now in addition to feeling blockages in the acupuncture meridians, restrictions and pain in the muscles, bones and ligaments, I've been looking for restrictions in tissue around each organ. Also, I've been making sure each organ has its own intrinsic healthy rhythm.
It's been an amazing journey for me and has enhanced the work that I do. It's another component of helping my patients can get lasting pain relief and a body that truly functions at an optimal level.
I'm truly on a mission to help you live healthier. I keep sharing things that have worked in my own life. Some of you know how jazzed I've been about my "miracle breakfast." I started eating this when I realized that I wasn't getting enough fiber in my diet, even with eating whole grains and lots of veggies. (We should be getting between 30 to 50 grams of fiber a day. Average Americans only get 8-15 grams.)
I knew I had to make some changes. I realized that I was often leaving the house with a Kashi bar and not eating a full breakfast. So I switched to a really healthy bowl of oatmeal with lots of yummy stuff.
Why oatmeal? From a Chinese medicine perspective it's a food that strengthens the digestive and nervous systems, removes cholesterol from the body, and renews bone and connective tissue. From a sense of ease perspective, it's something that can be prepared in minutes and available wherever you are. (Just be sure that it's the kind with no added sugar.) I often bring packages of instant oatmeal and a mix of almonds, flaxseed and fiber when I'm traveling.
Here's my miracle breakfast with amounts of fiber.
1 package instant organic oatmeal 4 grams
1/4 cup almonds 3 grams
4 TBS ground flaxseed 6 grams
1/3 cup Trader Joes Frozen Berry Medley 3 grams
1 TBS Great Shape Natural Fiber Supplement* 5 grams
*You might want to add this slowly to avoid gas and bloating.
If I still haven't convinced you, take the challenge. Try starting everyday for 3 weeks with my miracle breakfast. Let me know how you feel.
Interested in learning more about how to live a healthy life with ease? Find out about my Roadmap to Health 6 Week Class.
Wishing you health and well-being,
We are approaching our national holiday of love. It's a whirlwind of buying flowers and chocolate. I happen to be a card person, and I'm having trouble resisting getting yet one more each time I walk into a store.
Lately I've been thinking about an aspect of love that often gets overlooked. This is self-care -- the act of putting time and attention to make sure that YOU are living a healthy and happy life. Self-care is one of the highest forms of love.
It took a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for me to wake up to the fact that I was not taking care of myself -- body or spirit. I was working long hours at a job that didn't fulfill me. I was in default mode, doing what I was told to do, not what I really wanted to do.
The illness was my body speaking to me, saying that the life I was living wasn't right for me. Because I had limited energy, I had to make choices about what was most important. I had to slow down and listen. In this process, I discovered acupuncture and the idea of living a life in balance. I changed what I was eating, who my friends were and my profession. I got out of a relationship that wasn't right for me.
But most of all I started a journey to become and stay healthy. The limited resources that I had went to doctor's visits, acupuncture treatments, psychotherapy and studying acupuncture -- one of the oldest and most widely used health modalities in the world.
I learned about these five aspects of health that correspond to the Five Element/Five Organ system that is part of the practice of acupuncture.
Using these principles my life changed in ways that I could only imagine.
All these things were acts of self-care. They are things that I continue to practice to this day. Even when I get off course, when things get busy and life gets stressful, these are things that I return to time and time again.
Out of this experience came a desire to help other people, possibly you, live healthier and happier lives. If this journey interests you, consider signing up for my Roadmap to Health 6 Week class. This is for you if:
This class begins on February 19th -- it's been postponed one week due to snow.
For more information and to sign-up at a special rate, simply visit me at www.bonniediamond.com/roadmaptohealthspecial
This Valentine's Day do something nice for yourself!
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist