Middleway Medicine Blog

Rest and Digest

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Despite knowing that it’s winter; cold, dark and “normal” to slow down this time of year, I often fall into the trappings of the mind assuming my energy should be the same all year long. Unless you have seasonal work or are retired, most of us continue to work the same hours at our jobs, run the same errands, keep the same schedule with childcare and attempt to maintain the same routines.  Treating ourselves as if we are energetically the same in every season comes at the cost of our natural internal rhythm. When we do not cooperate with our internal rhythms its like swimming against the current and life gets very tiring.

So how do we slow down in the winter if we are required to keep the same schedule as if it was spring? For these kind of answers we can rely on our intuition and  wisdom traditions.  In the wisdom tradition of Traditional Chinese medicine(TCM) winter represent the most YIN aspect of the year. Yin is our  dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This can be compared to YANG energy which is upmost during Summer, light, warm, fast, outward energy.  Winter is the time for your diet and activities to nourish your yin energy.  In TCM, each organ is associated with a season and the Kidneys are associated with Winter. The Kidneys in TCM hold our most basic and fundamental energy(they are like your bodies battery). Rest is very important for charging your batteries, this is why we crave it more in the winter and why some animals hibernate. This is also the time to look inward, taking time to be reflective in a stillness practice such as meditation or journaling, . Allowing ourselves to rest and store our energy nourishes the kidneys and charges your energy battery. This can be likened to the trees and plants that send their energy down into their roots.

Translating this wisdom into our modern lives and daily practice is the challenge. I believe that giving yourself the  permission to go slower and expect less external work to be done is the first place to start with nourishing your Yin. This simple yet profound practice of participating with nature allows you to make smarter choices with your energy.  The next piece is minimizing extra commitments, this is the not the time of year to say yes to more things to do. Say yes to yourself, to doing less, sleeping more and being reflective.  Diet and exercise always plays a big part in our lives. Choose foods that are in season and cooked slowly for a long time.  Winter roots, soups, bone broth and herb tonics our food for the soul and kidneys. Be willing to change up your exercise routine on behalf of the season. Perhaps you do the same exercise but in a different way. Prioritize your sleep! If you miss sleep find a way to catch up the next night or over the weekend.

Taking the time during winter to rest and digest allows you to grow strong during the rest of the year and have plenty of energy.

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Health benefits of fermented Tea

 

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Fermented Foods and drinks are rich sources of probiotics…beneficial bacteria for humans.Our digestive tract’s ecological community contains more than 1,000 types of bacteria. Fermented foods help with nutrient and vitamin absorption, the breakdown of proteins, boosting immunity, detoxification, alkalizing our PH, and restoring balance to our homeostasis.

Consuming fermented foods is somewhat like consuming predigested food, our bodies do less work for more nutritional gain.  Familiar food ferments include; cheeses, yogurt, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut. In addition to fermented foods, we also have the medicinal category of fermented beverages: kombucha, vinegars(shrubs), wine, beer, cider, Jun, and many more.

Lets focus on the ever popular Kombucha(commonly fermented black tea and white sugar) and Jun(fermented green tea and raw honey). The perfect cold drink for a hot summer day in the Rogue Valley. Many people decide to try these fermented gems because they seek to alleviate various ailments.  However the way these drinks are able to help with ailments is not by curing diseases, but rather, by optimizing the bodies ability to run it’s immune system and physiological functions more efficiently.  Stress specifically is one of the most detrimental factors to our health and fermented teas can help us mitigate the effects of stress on our bodies.

These ferments are considered adaptogens. Adaptogens normalize the bodies ability to deal with stress. They are a good source of anti-oxidants, helping us to eliminate the free radicals generated by stress, while providing protection for our liver by reducing cravings for sugar and alcohol.  Kombucha and Jun support healthy digestion by increasing the acidity in the gut. Gut acidity eases digestion and absorption of nutrients, thus reducing symptoms of bloating and irritable bowel.

These ferments also contain bio-available  B and C vitamins…meaning the vitamins are in a form the the body can easily recognize and absorb(in contrast to many vitamin pills).The B vitamins help to stabilize the mood and improve concentration, while the C vitamin suppresses cortisol(stress hormone)levels, reducing the risk for hypertension and depression.

Kombucha is extremely popular,with good reason, for being such a healthy and tasty beverage. Finding locally made ferments is not hard in the Rogue Valley or you can try your hand at the “wall of Kombucha” in the grab and go sections of most groceries. For those of you who would like to try your hand at home-brew…..I can personally speak to the rewards of caring for these cultures and enjoying the benefits of home-brew. Whatever you relationship is with ferments, I encourage you to keep experimenting with adding a consistent variety of fermented goodies to your wellness plan.

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Cooling Foods for Summer

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

One of the best parts of summer is the food.  Backyard barbecues, abundant fruit, a summer garden and the ice cream truck all hold a special place in our lives.  There are more options as the garden, growers market and grocery store all overflow with a large variety of colors and flavors.  We all realize that food can bring us joy and improved health, but an often overlooked aspect of food is its effects on our body’s temperature.  In Chinese medicine as well as Ayurvedic medicine, a lot of emphasis is placed on the effect a particular food has on the overall temperature of the body and thus on our health and comfort level.  

We all know that when we are feeling hot, the last thing we want is to eat something that is hot.  Hot stew and summer heat do not go well together.  This is one of the reasons that we tend to crave salads or ice cream in the summer, and hot soups and stews in the winter.  Too much heat in the body can cause a variety of symptoms including headaches, fever, red eyes, flushed skin, rashes, constipation, acid reflux, burning bowel movements or urination and insomnia.  Since food is something we put into our body every day, it is often the most effective medicine. It is also typically the cheapest way to improve our health, and since we don’t need a prescription or an appointment to go to the market, it is also the easiest way to stay healthy.  So what are the healthiest food choices to beat the summer heat.  Here is a list of 10 great foods for the summer.

1) Leafy greens/ Lettuce:  Greens have a high percentage of water, which helps cool  you off by keeping you hydrated.  

2) Raw foods:  Raw foods take a bit more energy to digest, so they take some of the stomachs fire and put it to good use.

3) Berries:  Berries are alkaline and cooling.  You can also freeze berries and eat them as an extra cooling snack.

4) Melons:  Watermelon is especially cooling.  Ever try watermelon juice. Yum!

5) Cucumber:  Good in salads.

6) Avocado:  Cooling and full of healthy fats.

7) Coconut.  Coconut water is one of our family favorites.  They also make delicious coconut ice cream that is dairy free.

8) Bean sprouts.  Especially mung beans.  They are detoxifying, as well as cooling.

9) Yogurt:  If dairy doesn’t sit well, you can try a delicious coconut yogurt.

10) Herbal teas:  Such as mint, chrysanthemum or red peony.

Enjoy the heat.

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