Household Toxins

Household toxins create an unhealthy living environment

Household toxins can be very dangerous. In fact, the air quality inside your home might be worse than the air quality outside your home.

You may have heard that inside air is often more polluted than outside air. Air filtration companies love to cite this in their advertising. Creating a healthy environment at home is a critical step to creating vibrant health. Since helping you create vibrant health is what I’m all about at Balanced Being Acupuncture, I’m going to help you find ways to detoxify your house.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

  • Dry cleaning- avoid purchasing dry-clean-only clothing. Hang recently dry-cleaned clothes out in a well-ventilated area immediately, or outside in the shade.
  • Cleaning products- choose non-toxic products whenever possible. Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are great cleaning products that are healthy for your home environment. A self-cleaning oven can help you avoid toxic oven cleaners, but presents problems of its own. During the self-clean cycle all sorts of volatile organic chemicals are created and released by the high temperatures that are used. Vent your house and stay outside when operating the self-clean cycle of any self-cleaning oven.
  • New Carpets- Carpets are notorious for venting volatile organic chemicals in to your home. New carpets made of recycled fibers are now available. These present far less less off-gassing of these chemicals.
  • Air Fresheners- These unnecessary products are adding a chemical soup to your home. Chuck them immediately! If you must add fragrance to your home, consider natural potpourri, or use an oil burner to gently heat essential oils.
  • Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs- These are great for the environment, but they contain a small amount highly-toxic mercury. When the glass in these bulbs break in your home they are poisoning your home. This may be fine for out-of-the-way ceiling fixtures, but floor and table lamp bulbs are much more likely to get accidentally broken. This is especially true if you have pets and/or children. You may want to look into highly efficient LED lighting. While they are more expensive, LED lights do not contain mercury, are more energy efficient, and last longer than CFL light bulbs.

Have any more tips for reducing toxic chemicals in the home? I’d love to hear about them. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Acupuncture and Religion

Acupuncture and Religion

Acupuncture comes to us from the foundation of Taoist philosophy. Since Taoism is also a religion, this has led some people to ask me (and others) if acupuncture is compatible with their particular religious beliefs.

I am not a clergy member of any religion: I’m just an acupuncturist. As such I can not speak authoritatively for any particular religion. I can make some observations that I hope will put some people’s minds at ease, however.

The first observation is that while the foundation of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is Taoist philosophy, the foundation of “western medicine” is Greek philosophy. I have yet to hear of anyone concerned about going to a medical doctor and being asked to worship Zeus or other ancient Greek gods. Both the eastern and western systems of medicine have been secular for centuries. No particular belief systems are required.

The second observation is that acupuncture is practiced on billions of people around the world on people of many different faiths. Even in China people of diverse faiths receive acupuncture.

As for my practice, I don’t ask my patients about their religion. Still, I am fairly certain I have treated people who were Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religions. I even have treated a Christian minister. In the Durham area, many people have deep religious conviction which is a wonderful principal to live by. Acupuncture does not go against that ideology.

If you have doubts, ask your clergy member if acupuncture is okay. I think it is important that you feel comfortable with whatever health care you are receiving.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Examples of Yin and Yang

As I discussed in my last post, “What are Yin and Yang?”, the concepts of yin and yang are difficult to impossible to define. The best anyone has yet come up with to teach these concepts is to provide examples of each.

Here are some classic examples of yin and yang to help illustrate the distinctions:

Yin Yang
cold hot
female male
dark light
hard soft
low high
winter summer
matter energy
structure function
inner outer
descending ascending
accretion expansion

These are all complementary pairs. Each defines and contrasts the other. Without the one the other has no meaning.

It’s also important to realize what yin and yang are not. Not all pairs of concepts we generally hold to be opposites in our society are examples of yin and yang. For example, absent from this list are such pairs as “good” and “evil” or “right” and “wrong”. These concepts, while very important, are created by humans in order to establish order in our society. Nature has no need for concepts like right and wrong.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

What are “yin” and “yang”?

Sign displaying the Taijitu and Bagua

What are Yin and Yang?

If you let most any acupuncturist speak for long the words “yin” and “yang” are likely to come out of his or her mouth. What do these words really mean?

First, I hear lots of people pronounce “yang” as if it rhymed with “rang”. Instead pronounce “yang” like it rhymes with “gong”. (i.e. with an “ah” sound) With that out of the way, on to the origin of the words.

The terms come from Taoist philosophy. The ancient taoists were extremely adept at observing and describing the universe and its dynamics. The terms came from the observation of the differing characteristics of the shady (yin) and sunny (yang) sides of a hill. Taoists realized that this dichotomy and duality exists in everything in nature. Furthermore they realized that without yin yang would have no meaning, relevance, or existence and vice versa.

Chinese words tend to be dense with meaning. These two words are no exception. Yin and yang are especially tricky as they somewhat defy classification as a part of speech. I would call them “noun-adjectives”, as they are slightly more noun than adjective. In use I might say “the yin of the body” or “kidney yang”.

Since yin and yang can be used to describe everything in the universe it is difficult to apply a definition to them. Instead the words are best understood through example. In my next blog post I will provide some examples of yin and yang to help create understanding of the concepts.

Yin creates Yang and Yang activates Yin.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Sleep Helps Weight Loss

Night time is the time of day when our bodies regenerate. For millenia the Chinese have known the importance of quality sleep in the regeneration of the “yin”, or most substantive aspects of the body. Western medical research is starting to discover what Chinese Medicine has been telling us about the importance of sleep all along.

A recent study of 472 obese adults shows that well rested people loose more weight. This finding is completely unsurprising through the lens of Classical Chinese medical theory.

When the yin aspect of the body is not nourished with sleep the body naturally desires to balance the internal aspects of yin and yang. Sleep deprived people often turn to food as a source of yin in lieu of the yin regenerated through sleep. As you can imagine:

  1. food is a terribly poor substitute for sleep
  2. more food (particularly the high-carb, high-fat foods people crave) leads to more fat and weight gain

If you have not yet read my “tips for falling asleep” article, I encourage you to do so. Without proper sleep you are likely to find meeting your body weight goals to be more of a challenge. Acupuncture and effective sleep habits can make achieving quality sleep possible. Reaching your target weight is hard enough; why make it harder?

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Prevent Motion Sickness

Prevent Motion Sickness

Anyone who has ever experienced motion sickness knows it’s no fun.

Medications are available to prevent sea sickness and can be a big help, but they also can have side effects.

I like to SCUBA dive. Dive boats are notoriously small and can bob and roll in even relatively calm seas. Sea sickness is often a problem for divers while on-board the boat.

But diving requires a clear mind in order to stay safe underwater. You need to stay aware of your surroundings and make smart decisions. As a diver your life and your buddy’s life depend on this.

It’s because of that I find the grogginess I experience from medications for motion sickness intolerable when I’m diving; I never use them. Yet, I’m never the one getting sick over the side of the boat. (Knock on wood!)

How do I prevent motion sickness without drugs? I use acupressure.

Today I’m going to show you a point you and your buddy (or enemy- why not be nice and make friends?) can stimulate on each other to prevent or treat motion sickness.

Ear acupuncture point for prevention and treatment of motion sickness

Acupuncture Point for Prevention of Motion Sickness

The point I’m sharing with you today is located on the outside of the ear. I have marked the point on the ear diagram to the right. The point is small, so you will need to be precise. To find the point probe around a bit and try to find the most tender spot in the approximate area I have marked. It should be pretty close to where I have placed the red dot in the diagram.

I normally stimulate the point with an ear seed, which I consider the ideal method. Ear seeds are great because they can stay in place for days. In a pinch you could use anything small, hard, and blunt to stimulate the point. The tip of a retractable ball-point pen works fairly well as does the end of a wooden matchstick. The corner of a fingernail can also work when you have no other options.

To stimulate the point apply pressure on the point for about 30 seconds. You can repeat this as needed, such as when you feel nausea returning. I suggest doing it at least a few times every 30 minutes if you have started to feel sick. If you are using it strictly preventatively you can stimulate it maybe every hour or two at first, and then as you think of it during the day.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Navel Piercings – Bad Idea

Navel piercings inhibit the flow of qi and jing in the conception vessel.

Conception Vessel Blockage – Not a good thing

A navel piercing may seem like a benign adornment, but acupuncture theory strongly suggests that this is not a healthy or safe practice.

The problem is that the piercing is creating a semi-permanent obstruction in the flow of a very important energy channel known as the Conception Vessel (or Ren Mai in Chinese). The conception runs from between the legs up the front of the body, ending below the mouth. Here’s a diagram of the Conception Vessel, for the curious. If you do look at the diagram, notice that the navel is an acupuncture point on the Conception Vessel- CV-8. You may also notice CV-8 is a point that one is specifically forbidden to needle.

When an obstruction like a navel piercing is placed in a channel it creates a physical blockage to the flow of the channel. The piercing represents a constant interruption in the energetic field of the body. As you might gather from its name in English, the Conception Vessel is a very important channel in the energetics of the reproductive system.

Consequently the blockage created by the piercing can possibly lead to problems down the road, particularly with the reproductive system:

  • Infertility
  • Amenorrhea (no menstrual periods)
  • Cervical Dysplasia (abnormal cells of the cervix which may lead to cancer)
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis

When a woman comes to me for treatment with menstrual complaints or infertility it is very common for her to have either a navel piercing or surgical scar along or across the Conception Vessel. It is also pretty rare that I talk to someone who has had a navel piercing for more than five years who doesn’t have some sort of menstrual or cervical abnormality.

Some people can do okay with navel piercings for a few years, but problems may develop down the line. I’m sure it is possible that most people will never develop symptoms from a navel piercing. Is it worth the risk? You’ll need to decide for yourself.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Ginseng and Green Tea – Poor Combination

In last week’s blog post I wrote about how, despite is presence in so many products, ginseng is an inappropriate herb for many people. In fact it can cause problems. This is especially true for younger people on fatty western-style fast-food inclusive diets to whom these products are frequently marketed.

Today I want to look at one of the most popular products containing ginseng currently- sweet green tea with ginseng.

I would call these products a marketing triumph, but as a “supplement” a huge failure. The problem is that even if ginseng happens to be appropriate for the person consuming this product, they won’t see much if any benefit.

They way I see it there are are four reasons these products score a huge FAIL. These are:

  1. Green tea neutralizes the effects of ginseng.
  2. These products contain no herbs that harmonize or moderate the ginseng.
  3. They don’t taste like ginseng, so they can’t contain much of it.
  4. These products contain vast amounts of sugar.

The first point is that green tea neutralizes the effects of ginseng. You are supposed to avoid tea (as well as turnips and daikon radish) when taking herbal formulas containing ginseng. Fail one!

The second point is that ginseng is used alone in these drinks. In Chinese Medicine the ginseng is almost always combined with other herbs into an herbal formula designed to create a specific effect. These formulas often contain herbs to moderate the harsh side-effects of certain herbs (like ginseng). They also may be there to enhance or to focus the effects of the main herbs in the formula. Fail two!

I’ve tasted ginseng. I know what it tastes and smells like- it’s pretty yucky, like bitter dirt. I don’t taste or smell it in these drinks. They can’t contain much of it. Fail three!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these teas contain massive amounts of sugar! One very popular brand contains 54g of sugar per bottle. They even offer an “extra sweet” version with 69g of sugar! With the ginseng neutralized by the tea the primary effect of these drinks will be the result of the sugar they contain. Large amounts of sugar swamp the stomach and pancreas, causing large amounts of insulin to be dumped into your bloodstream. The result? A big energy crash and mental fatigue as soon as the caffeine wears off. Exactly the opposite effect being advertised! Fail four!

If you want more energy avoid sugar, exercise, and schedule an appointment with your friendly local acupuncturist.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

Dump the Ginseng!

Ginseng for energy or acupuncture?Dump the Ginseng!

Non-medicinal products containing ginseng abound in America. You can find:

  • Sweet iced green tea with ginseng
  • Multivitamins with ginseng
  • B Vitamin complex with ginseng
  • Energy drinks with ginseng

Ginseng comes to America from its use in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. In Chinese herbal formulas ginseng (红参 or “ren shen” in Chinese) is used as an energy booster. And it is a really powerful energy booster when used in these formulas.

The problem is that the inclusion of ginseng in all of these products is primarily for marketing purposes. Some brilliant marketing person probably figured out that their products would sell better if they were marketed as containing this amazing herb. So many of us are dragging ourselves through life with low-energy that the promise of a quick fix can be very appealing. The problem is this:

Ginseng is completely inappropriate for most of the people to whom it is being marketed!

Don’t self-medicate with ginseng. If you are not middle-aged or older with symptoms like low appetite and a cold body, ginseng is probably not for you. If you are experiencing low energy do your body a favor and skip the caffeine-loaded energy drinks, mega-size coffee or ginseng-containing products.

There are many different causes of low energy. A licensed acupuncturist can help you get to the source of your low energy. You shouldn’t need rocket fuel just to get through your day.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.

The Acupuncture Meridian Myth

The Acupuncture Meridian Myth

I am an acupuncturist who says that acupuncture “meridians” are a myth! Do I have your attention? Read on…

Acupuncture Defined

I often see acupuncture defined in terms similar to this:

Acupuncture is a system of healing using the insertion of thin needles at 365 specific points on the body to supposedly “balances the flow” of a kind of mystical bio-energy, called qi (pronounced chee), along invisible lines on the body called “meridians”.

To which, I say hogwash! This statement is just plain wrong! The statement contains multiple incorrect assertions about acupuncture. Here I’m going to focus on the part about “meridians”. The others will be addressed in future articles.

Meridians vs. Channels

Acupuncture chart of the xin bao luo "meridian"A meridian is infinitely thin imaginary line on the surface of a body. It is a term taken from geography and cartography. It is a good description of what the first westerners saw when they first observed an acupuncture chart. It looks like a map. Consider the chart on the right. But, as Alfred Korzybski famously noted, “the map is not the territory.”

The human body contains no meridians. What it contains are channels. Channels have width and are located at different depths in along their path through the body.

That the channels run deep to the surface of the skin is pretty obvious when you stop to think about how acupuncture is performed. If the acupuncture points and channels were on the surface there would be no reason to puncture the skin with a needle! You could just lightly touch the point to get the same effect.

So please, let’s use the word “channel” for paths of energy in the body. “Channel” provides a much more accurate and specific term for what actually runs beneath the surface of the skin in our bodies.

To see if acupuncture might be right for you, give us a call at our Durham location or you may call us at 919-228-8448. If you find it easier to make an appointment online, you can simply click here to use our online schedule to set up a free face-to-face consultation.