Middleway Medicine Blog

Stress Reduction

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

STRESS REDUCTION
Most of us can attest to the fact that stress is reaching epidemic proportions in modern society. Balancing work, family, health, money, etc. is a challenge that many of us feel ill equipped to face. Eighty percent of the doctor visits in our country are stress related. Our quality of life and health is largely determined by how we adapt and relate to daily stressors. Excessive stress not only takes its toll on our bodies, but strips the joy out of life and suppresses our creative instincts. Dissolving stress is certainly possible, but takes a commitment to making lifestyle choices that create balance throughout our lives. Here are a few ancient techniques for eliminating stress, increasing energy, and creating emotional balance. These are some of the most powerful tools we have for achieving optimal health and preventing future disease.

1) Meditation: Practiced for thousands of years in many Asian cultures, meditation has long been recognized as one of the most powerful tools we have for cultivating peace of mind and balance. Numerous studies have proven the incredibly positive effect that meditation has on stress reduction. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques taught around the world. For beginners, the most helpful approach is to start with basic mindfulness techniques that develop both relaxation and alertness. Once a basic ground of awareness has been stabilized, then more advanced meditation practices can be undertaken. Meditation is a practice that helps us identify with stillness and silence. It cultivates intuition and surrender. It can deeply help just about anybody, but is truly a miraculous practice for reducing stress and anxiety.

2) Yoga: This ancient practice has also been utilized by millions of people throughout history. Yoga is typically considered a form of meditation that involves putting the body into a variety of poses in combination with deep breathing to induce mental clarity, increased energy, and physical strength and flexibility. The healing benefits of yoga have been repeatedly documented by a variety of clinical studies. There are many forms of yoga and it is best to experiment to determine which form feels the most suited for your needs. 

3) Acupuncture: One of the pillars of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. Perhaps one of the last truly holistic forms of healthcare remaining on the planet, acupuncture works with the Qi (life force ) of the body in order to induce a variety of therapeutic effects. The safety and efficacy of this practice are well documented which accounts for its incredible surge in popularity in the Western world. Acupuncture is considered one of the most powerful treatment options for stress reduction. 

4) Herbal medicine: There are a variety of both Chinese and Western herbal formulas that have been clinically proven to reduce stress and create emotional balance. Herbs are much less concentrated than pharmaceuticals, which is why they have far less side effects (but can still be as effective). If you are interested in using herbal medicine we recommend consulting an herbalist.  It can be quite overwhelming trying to self diagnose accurately in the supplement aisle.

5) Nutrition: Eating a diet high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and low glycemic carbohydrates can go a long way toward healing stress. The standard American diet (high in processed foods, saturated fat, sugar, and trans-fats) has been linked to anxiety, depression, and increased stress in numerous studies. Change your diet to an organic, whole foods approach and both your body and mind will reward you beyond measure. Poor adaptability to stress is often a sign that our brains are starving for nutrients that we aren’t getting from our standard American diets.

Making these lifestyle changes may not be easy in the initial phases. It is often helpful to seek out the support of a health care practitioner to guide you through these transitions. Once you start feeling the enormous payoff of making such changes, there truly is no turning back. Your stress will dissolve, your weight will decrease, and your energy will skyrocket, not to mention the preventative measures you are taking for heart health. Isn’t that enough to warrant making a few changes?

 
 
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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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Adrenal Fatigue

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

I am often asked what is the most common ailment or problem that I see practicing Chinese medicine in Talent, Oregon. Since starting the practice in 2005, my husband and I have treated thousands of patients. We would both say that about 50% of our patients are struggling with a pattern called adrenal exhaustion, or what we call Qi(energy) deficiency. This basically means that the bodies’ ability to rest and rejuvenate has been compromised or even lost. Instead of being able to rest properly, the nervous system is always ‘on’ and the general sense of well being has been replaced with incessant mental chatter, anxiety, worry, or stress.

The main symptoms of this pattern include: fatigue, irritability, restless sleep, low back pain, anxiety, depression, nervousness, feeling wiped out upon waking, many female hormonal problems, food cravings and various addictions, weight gain, sluggish metabolism, and so on.

The real question is, what is the cause of this pattern and, more importantly, what is the solution?

In our experience most people have adrenal weakness because they are using excessive amounts of will power to get through life. It is like they are constantly swimming upstream, fighting against life. They work too hard, rest too little, and have a ‘to do’ list a mile long. These are some of the outward causes. The real cause is more of an inner dynamic. In this day and age, many people are disconnected from their true purpose for being alive. Because of this, they don’t know themselves on a intimate level, which causes them to make decisions that lead to distress and distraction.

Generally speaking, adrenal weakness is as much of a spiritual issue as it is a physical one. If the root causes of are not addressed, then the person can take all the supplements in the world or get acupuncture 3 times a week and it will only have a minimal effect. This is why for most of our patients we have a conversation about how their current lifestyle is serving them, or not serving them.

So often small changes in daily life can have big effects on one’s sense of well-being and their energy level. When our energy increases we often feel inspiration and more sense of our clarity of purpose. Again and again, I have witnessed patients making simple changes to their attitude, daily routine, or diet that has completely shifted the way they feel. Suddenly the chronic pain goes away or they can finally sleep at night, etc.

I certainly agree that herbs, supplements, massage, and various forms of care can be helpful for adrenal weakness. I have used acupuncture alone to kickstart someone’s adrenal function in a way that is very powerful for certain patients. But by far, the patients who make the most progress are the ones who are willing to do the work of taking a look at the bigger picture of their life. They are motivated to make the lifestyle changes necessary to live in balance and awareness.

 

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