Yahoo News – Beauty Benefits of Acupuncture

Interested in learning more about the beauty benefits of acupuncture, such as wrinkle reduction through facial rejuvenation acupuncture, clearer skin, and weight loss? This Yahoo! News article has some good information.

To learn more about Affinity Acupuncture’s services in these areas, please visit or call us at 615-939-2787.

Funky or Fresh?

Is your house stale from windows being closed? As great as the cool air is, it can get stagnant. Avoid the chemicals in sprays and scented candles with the household must-haves: baking soda and vinegar. Sprinkle baking soda under mattresses or sofa pillows, and on carpets before you vacuum.  You can also put baking soda or dryer sheets in vacuum bags and cylinders.  Also, a small jar of vinegar near vents neutralizes odors (the pickle smell fades quickly). Put out a fresh jar once a week.

Is Your Immune System Ready for Cold and Flu Season?

The 2013/2014 school year has just begun in Nashville, and already we’re hearing from friends and neighbors that their children are getting sick and missing school.  Of course, kids love to share, and they’re sharing germs with siblings and their parents, who are sharing with their friends and colleagues.  The vicious cycle of cold and flu season is starting.

Unfortunately, the transition from playing outside in the summer to sharing space in a classroom with 20-30 other students can be a shock to the system.  How can you decrease your children’s vulnerability to illness, as well as your own?

1)      Visit your acupuncturist.  Acupuncture itself helps the body’s processes flow smoothly and work to its optimal potential.  Additional techniques such as Gua Sha and Cupping can offer relief from pain, stiffness, and congestion, and may shorten the period of illness or prevent illness from progressing.  Affinity Acupuncture in Brentwood, TN offers all of these modalities, as well as a variety of nutritional supplements to boost the body’s immune system.

2)      Wash your hands. Yes, we all know this one.  But did you know that hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap aren’t necessarily better than non-antibacterial soap?  In fact, they can sometimes sanitize too much, to the point that they kill GOOD bacteria and the body’s natural defenses and immunities are compromised.  Using a standard soap, when you have access to a sink, is sufficient with good washing habits (at least 20 seconds, getting soap in between fingers, etc.).

3)      Win the race against germs in your home.  If you want to avoid the chemicals found in many antibacterial wipes and sprays (such as formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, and phenylphenol), there are more natural versions available.  In fact, a spray or wipes made with a mixture of water, vinegar, and essential oils (orange, lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus all have anti-infectious, antiseptic, and antiviral properties) are highly effective cleaners.  Don’t forget doorknobs and faucet handles!  If you do prefer pre-made sprays and wipes, make sure you read the directions – some require wetting surfaces as much as 10 minutes in advance.  Also, the disinfectant sprays only work if you clean the surface areas of dirt/grease/grime in advance – otherwise, your disinfecting the dirt, grease, and grime.

4)      Chicken soup – it’s true! And not just for the nostalgia factor. Cooking chicken releases the amino acid cysteine, which appears to block the inflammatory white cells that often gather in the bronchial tubes with colds.

Looking for more preventative methods?

1)      Take your vitamins.  Your acupuncturist can recommend the best supplements for your body’s specific needs.  They are often more potent and readily digestible than the ones you can purchase at a drug or health food store.
–   Probiotics (which are naturally found in yogurt) help with immune support, maintaining blood sugar, decreasing depression and anxiety, weight management, and allergy relief.
–   Vitamin D decreases vulnerability to influenza and asthma attacks.
–   Elderberry Extract protects against strains of the flu and Strep.
–   Vitamin C increases white blood cells which fight off infection, cell surface antibodies that ward off viruses.  It decreases rates of colon, prostate, and breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
–   Vitamin E helps the body produce the cells that seek out and destroy bacteria, germs, and cancer cells.
–   Vitamin A acts as a barrier against germs in your skin, digestive system, and lungs.
–   Vitamin B6 increases white blood cell counts.
–   Vitamin B12, amino acids, linoleic acid, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium are all intrinsic to immune system health.

2)      Eat your garlic (AKA Russian penicillin). It stimulates production of white blood cells and may help the body get rid of carcinogens.

3)      Focus on whole grains like oats and barley.  They have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

4)       Have plenty of fish in your diet.  The selenium found in shellfish helps white blood cells flush out the flu virus, and Omega-3 fats decrease inflammation and protect the lungs from infection.

5)      Drink your tea.  Black and green teas contain L-theanine, an amino acid that stimulates development of virus-fighting interferon.

6)      Protect your skin – it’s your front-line organ against bacteria and viruses.  Eat plenty of foods with beta carotene (sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, and pumpkin), which your body will convert into Vitamin A.

7)      An apple a day – at least!  A diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables is also rich in antioxidants, which protect cells from free radicals in your system.  Kale, onions, spinach, artichokes, beans, leeks, and other foods also contain prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your digestive tract.


The Mess of Stress

Ever wonder why we migrate to mashed potato chips, fresh-baked bread, pastries, pasta, and other carbs when we’re stressed?  Carbohydrates increase the body’s serotonin levels, which are decreased by stress.

Stress eating is one of many minor reactions has to stress.  Other physical symptoms include increased heart rate, paling, blushing, indigestion, blood vessel constriction or dilation, dilation of pupils, impotence, allergies, asthma, depression, hearing loss, tunnel vision, shaking, muscle tension, headaches, chest pain, fatigue, altered libido, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and a suppressed immune system.  In extreme cases, it can lead to substance abuse, cancer, and heart attacks.  The average American cannot avoid stress, and likely experiences at least some physical responses every day.

Stress triggers an alarm in the body, which releases hormones such as cortisol into the bloodstream.  When the body is in proper balance, it should recover and return to its equilibrium in a relatively short period of time.  When this doesn’t happen, a stress-overload occurs: the body becomes exhausted, losing the ability to adapt.  Long-term stress can cause illness and damage to the cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems.  In extreme cases, it can lead to high blood pressure, substance abuse, heart attack and death.

The best way to relieve stress is to avoid it, but we all know that isn’t realistic, especially because most people report that work is their #1 stress trigger. We cannot let it run and ruin our lives, though.

How To Cope With Stress:
1) Change how you manage stress.
2) Identify the triggers that cause stress for you.
3) Figure out ways to deal with your stress triggers.
4) Try acupuncture.  It helps the body restore balance by regulating hormone levels, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and digestive function, decreasing tension, and much more.
5) Get regular massages.  They help loosen muscles, increase circulation, and allow for a peaceful and relaxing experience.
5) Incorporate self-guided stress relief techniques such as Tai Chi, yoga, meditation, and pranayama, the art of yoga breathing.

Types of Meditation
Guided Meditation
 – forming mental images of locations or situations you find relaxing.
Mantra Meditation – Silently repeating a calming word, though, or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
Mindfulness Meditation – Focusing on the experience of meditation itself, such as the flow of breath, and/or increasing acceptance and awareness of living in the present moment.
Transcendental Meditation – Silently repeating a mantra (a word, sound, or phrase), to eliminate other thoughts from your mind until you reach a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.

Meditation Techniques
Deep Breathing
 – Focus all of your attention on breathing.  Listen to your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale through your nose, and concentrate on the feeling of the air passing through your nostrils and into your lungs.

Body Scan – Focus your mind on how different parts of your body feel at the moment. Is there pain, tension, warmth, or relaxation? Imagine your breath touching different parts of your body and removing any negative sensations.

Walking Meditation – Focusing on the movement of walking itself, repeating the action words of walking (lifting, moving, placing) in your mind. This method usually has a slower pace of walking so you can increase focus on your movements.

Prayer – Most faith traditions have spoken and written prayers, which are some of the best known and most widely practiced forms of meditation.

Reflection – There are benefits to reading poetry or text, listening to music or spoken word that relaxes or inspires you, and then taking some time to reflect on the meaning of the piece.  You can journal or discuss your reflections with others.

Foods For Lowering Cortisol
Elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels can damage the body over the long term.  The following foods are beneficial in reducing cortisol levels.

Lean Proteins

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Low-Glycemic Foods
Whole wheat pastas
Rye bread
Raw apples
Raw pears

Refined grains
Refined starches
Refined sugars
Saturated Fat
Trans fats
Bovine dairy
Excess caffeinated beverages, such as coffee
Red meat
Processed meats (i.e. sausage)

Dark Chocolate

Phosphatidylserine Foods
White beans

Black Tea  –  A study at University College, London, showed lower cortisol levels in individuals who consumed black tea four times daily over a six week period.

The Real Problem with Sleeping Problems

Is How You (Don’t) Sleep Making You Sick?

We all know that there are short term problems with not getting a good night’s sleep – a lack of mental sharpness, irritability, falling asleep at inopportune times, etc.  Did you know there are potential long-term risks to your health also?  For instance, people who sleep less than 6 hours per night are twice as likely to have a heart attack, and four times more likely to have a stroke than those who sleep more than 6 hours.  They are also at greater risk of diabetes and obesity.  Extreme fatigue increases appetite and decreases metabolism, and individuals who regularly get less than 4 hours of sleep 4 nights or more a week may easily be in a pre-diabetic state. 

Half of adults 55+ have at least 1 symptom of insomnia at least 3 times per week including:
– Trouble falling asleep
– Waking during the night
– Waking to early and being unable to fall back to sleep
– Not feeling refreshed upon waking

Women suffer from insomnia more than men due to pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause.

Twenty million Americans take prescription sleep pills regularly. Over $100 million is spent in the US on over the counter sleep aids per year, and that number does not include prescriptions.  Drug oriented OTCs have been studied and found no more effective than a placebo.  Medications alter sleeping cycles, and suppress REM sleep. This can lead to light, restless sleep with nightmares once medications end, or “REM Withdrawl Sleep.”  Many individuals often return to these sleep aids, even the ones advertised as “non-habit forming,” and the cycle continues.  Medications can cause long-term harm to your body.  Additionally, they are expensive, and only treat the symptom of an underlying problem. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that the symptoms of insomnia are the branches of a disease.  An imbalance in the body, usually Chi, blood, Yin, Yan, Jing, or Shen, or a major organ system (lung, liver, heart, spleen, kidney, or liver) causes the imbalance or dysfunction, and acupuncture treatments help realign the body’s systems and help you find balance once more.  Additional methods in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as herbs, may also help your body better process energy and achieve restful sleep. 

The following may lead to a lack of restful sleep:

The Body
Physical tension
Overeating, especially protein
Irregular sleeping hours
Lack of physical exercise
Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
Sleep apnea (Associated with high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, emotional disturbances and even psychoses.) 

The Mind
Emotional or mental stress
Overstimulation to the nervous system
TV/video game excess

The Environment
Lack of adequate ventilation; oxygen debt
Allergies – an increased heart rate follows exposure. 
Lights left on at night (disrupts the pineal gland producing melatonin, a sleep hormone)
Temperature extremes in bed
Poor mattress

Restless Sleepers may have excessive amounts of the following in their diets: 
Heavy metals (such as mercury found in high fructose corn syrup, tuna, swordfish, and mackerel
Salt, which increases blood volume, heart output, and blood pressure. 
Food additives, preservatives, and colorings
Refined carbohydrates, sugar, soda, ice cream or other sweets

They may be deficient in:
Vitamin B  
Lycopene (found in red and orange foods such as tomatoes, bell peppers)
Total carbohydrates
Vitamin C
Selenium (found in nuts, mushrooms, meat, and shellfish).  Selenium helps with inflammation.
Lutein (found in green, leafy vegetables)

Iron or copper (found in shellfish, clams, lentils, nuts, and whole-grain foods).  Deficiency may make it take longer to fall asleep, and sleep may be less refreshing.

The body converts tryptophan into seratonin, which is then converted into melatonin.  Both make you feel relaxed and sleepy.  Foods with tryptophan include bananas yogurt, dates, figs, warm milk, dairy, and turkey.  These foods are metabolized best in combination with starches, which make the body release insulin.  This pushes the amino acids except for tryptophan into the muscle cells, leaving the tryptophan alone in the blood stream and ready to go to the brain.  Niacin, a B-vitamin, makes tryptophan work more effectively, and is found in lean meats such as canned tuna.  Melatonin naturally exists in oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, bananas, and barley.  

Magnesium rich foods can also help you relax and have restful sleep.  Low magnesium levels will stimulate brain-activation neurotransmitters, which leads to overstimulation of the brain. This is especially common in the elderly taking meds that may block magnesium absorption.  Dried beans such as pinto and navy beans, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, and almonds are all rich in magnesium.

Folic acid in spinach, especially if muscle cramping or restless leg syndrome keeps you awake, are good additions to your diet. Inosytol enhances REM sleep

Avoid red meat, chocolate, ham, bacon, sausages, cheese, tomatoes, which contain the CNS stimulant tyramine.

Alcohol does not, in fact, help you get a good night’s sleep.  You may fall asleep easily, because alcohol turns off the hypocretin neurons which keep you awake, but it has a rebound effect and can wake you quickly.