Middleway Medicine Blog

News Diet

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

I do a cleanse every spring. In addition to avoiding sugar, alcohol, coffee, dairy and gluten; I also up my water intake, exercise and meditation. I typically begin reluctantly, and become a little impatient and crabby until I get over the hump and start to feel energized and more alive. When I did my annual cleanse this year though, something was a little different.  I was avoiding all of the problematic foods as I normally do, and I was exercising and drinking plenty of water, but I couldn’t seem to get over the hump. I was still grouchy a week into the cleanse. Then my wife mentioned to me that she noticed that every time I read the news my mood would sour and I would become visibly distressed.  She suggested I go on a “news diet” which involved avoiding the news for one week, instead reading something inspiring or that would promote personal growth.  I reluctantly agreed and though it took some getting used to, something interesting happened.  My mood lightened, my sleep improved, my conversations changed.  I ended up taking a month away from reading the news and it seemed to have a greater impact on me than all of the dietary changes that I was making.  I then realized how much of an impact being so plugged into current events was having on my health.

People used to get their news from the newspaper or from word of mouth.  Then television came along, and now we have the many news feeds the internet, twitter and Facebook.  It seems that everywhere you look there is the news pushing into our lives.  It is one thing to be informed, it is another to be fixated. While we should be informed about the world we live in, we should also be careful not to become saturated and overwhelmed by the huge amount of information available.  

Many of us start our morning by checking some sort of news source, which tends to begin our day on a stressful note.  Then we check in throughout the day, constantly reminding ourselves of the conflict and anxiety that is part of being alive.  Unfortunately most news sources owe their existence to the reporting of the dramatic and terrible things that are going on in the world.  It is rare to read good news, because so often the good things that are happening in the world are underreported as they don’t garner as much interest from the readers.  Media companies are first and foremost businesses so they mostly report on things that make them the most money. Unfortunately this gives the impression that the world is more dangerous and depressing than it truly is. 

So how do we stay informed without becoming overwhelmed?  The answer to this question is different for everyone, but I would suggest asking yourself whether your news intake is helping you become a better, more helpful person, or is it creating excessive amounts of anxiety in your life.  One way to get some perspective is to do a news fast of some sort.  It may be a few days, weeks or months.  The trick is to give yourself enough time to create some room for perspective.  Try to find where your personal threshold is to be informed enough to a helpful participant in the world, without becoming numb or overwhelmed by all of the pain and suffering which is a part of life.  Another thing that I find helpful is to find sources of positive, solution based news to mix in with news of the worlds problems.  If we find inspiration from the news it can create more joy and hope in our life, which can help us stay healthy and engaged in the practice of making the world a better place.

 
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Exercise: the miracle drug

By Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

The second week of January is the busiest week of the year at most gyms. After a period of holiday gluttony a great many people decide it is time to do something about their health and they go in droves to a gym in hopes of finding some kernel of inspiration that will catapult them into better health. As the month drags on people find that the same old reality of too little time and even less dedication derail their efforts. So it goes with so many attempts at exercise. Exercise has almost become a four letter word in our culture. People either do it with an over-exuberant gusto, or a guilty reluctance. A new article in Time magazine, written by Mandy Oaklander shines some light on why exercise is so important to good health and offers some suggestions about how to make exercise work for your individual life.

Though it has long been believed that exercise can improve quality of life and longevity, scientists are discovering just how much and in what ways exercise works as a medicine.  It improves immunity, cognitive function, depression, anxiety, sleep, bone density and of coarse strength and endurance. It can also slow aging, improve wound healing, shrink fat cells, and stabilize blood sugar levels. So if it is this great why is it so hard to get moving? The two things that most people mention when they talk about a lack of exercise are finding the time to work out and finding a workout routine that works for their particular needs. Clinically I find that many patients often don’t work out because they have such busy lives. After working and taking care of the house and family, there really doesn’t seem to be the time or energy to get to a yoga class or jump on the bike. However, emerging science is beginning to show that the longer (think hour or more) workouts aren’t necessary to get most of the health benefits of exercise. As little as 15 minutes of vigorous exercise can give you the benefits of what a more moderate workout can give you in an hour. This seems perfect for so many people that are “too busy” to exercise.  Everyone can find 15 minutes every few days.  Many people also report that they have trouble finding a workout routine that they like or are physically able to do. Fortunately there are ever increasing variety of options that fit all ages and levels of fitness. The internet is also making it easier than ever to do a quality exercise routine from the comfort of your home, rather than taking the time to drive to a gym across town.  Some people really get more benefit out of making it to a class or gym in person, but others may prefer the ease of an internet directed workout.  Studies are also proving that yoga, tai qi, walking, and gardening can offer as much benefit as pumping iron, cycling, running or swimming. 

The trick seems to be to do some type of cardiovascular exercise that get the heart pumping, as well as some type of strength training.  Luckily for some of us, walking counts as a cardio workout, and gardening can give you similar benefits as lifting weights.  The important thing is to do some kind of exercise regularly, preferably every day or two.  It is nice to know that exercise can be quicker and easier than ever before.  With the health benefits rivaling the best health care available it should make us all want to find a way to squeeze a little more exercise into our busy lives.

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Grief: moving thru the pain

By Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

broken heart

A few years ago I suffered a huge loss: I was completely overwhelmed. Though I had always considered myself to be a optimist who could put a positive spin on difficult events, none of my tools were enough to pull me out of my profound grief. I found it nearly impossible to function. All of life’s regular activities, such as meals and work seemed so meaningless. Food lost its flavor, joy became a faint memory. I had been down before, but this time was different. It was my first real taste of deep grief. If given a choice, many of us would make joy our permanent abode. We live in a culture that loves joy.  We “smile for the camera,” or click the “like” button.   Life is not always joyful though.  Some cultures are much more attentive to grief:  They wear black, they have lengthy, culturally recognized periods for grieving a loss. We do our best to minimize the pain that accompanies grief, and we try to move through it as quickly and quietly as possible.

Grief doesn’t heal if we don’t help it to heal. In fact, pushing it away or minimizing a loss actually makes it worse. It can make us chronically sick or depressed; It can drive us to medicate with alcohol, drugs or food. According to Chinese Medicine, grief is one of the five emotions. Along with joy, anger, worry, and fear; grief is a powerful signal that our body’s give us to implore us to pay attention to a situation and work on healthy ways to acknowledge and express our feelings. According to Chinese medicine, grief is related to the lungs and the metal element. This is why so often we cry or even sob when we grieve. Moving the lungs is the bodies method of moving grief through the body. If we stifle this expression, we often develop lung related illness. I can’t tell you how many patients I have seen who have not properly grieved only to develop lung cancer or frequent bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis.  

So what can a person do if they are feeling grief? The first step is to grieve and do so without a care for how your grief appears to others. It is not your job to make others feel comfortable when you are in a state of grief. Secondly, seek out help. Find a good therapist, join a grief group, spend time with friends who can hold your grief and all its darkness. This doesn’t mean you should find someone who will help you cover up your grief or try to talk you out of it, but someone who can hold space for your process.  Third, get body work, including massage or acupuncture. We store emotion in our bodies and bodywork is a great way to address the somatization of our emotions.  Acupuncture in particular has very specific protocols that are remarkably helpful in clearing grief from the body. Fourth, consider herbs, supplements or essential oils to help the body manage the effects of grief.  Since grief can effect different people in different ways, it is helpful to speak with a professional who can recommend specific things to address your individual situation.   Lastly, breath work or singing also move the energy of the lungs and helps with the stagnation that can occur when we are grieving.

It is also important to realize that there is no time table to the grieving process.  It can take years to feel that something has healed. Often we carry a noticeable scar for the rest of our life.  These experiences of grief have so much to offer us as we move through them and integrate their lessons.  We can use our experience of suffering to develop more empathy and understanding, ultimately becoming more caring human beings.

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Practitioners

Clark Zimmerman, LAc, MAcOM
Ann Zimmerman, LAc, MAcOM
Ryan Baker, MAcOM, LAc, RPh

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