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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Cough and Chinese Medicine

healthy lungsThe cough that won’t go away

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

Winter can be tough.  After the lights of the holidays are put away and the family and friends all leave, we are often left with a few extra pounds, a few less dollars and some kind of cold.  The real new years hangover often isn’t due to too much alcohol, rather to that feeling of exhaustion that typically comes after the holiday marathon.  This is one of the most common times of the year when people develop the cough that won’t go away.  Coughing is annoying.  It can ruin a nights sleep, interrupt conversation, and make your entire body sore.   A cough can linger long after the other symptoms of a virus or bacterial infection.  In our clinical experience it is one of the aspects of a cold that doesn’t seem to go away easily.

Coughs can be caused by many different sources, such as viruses, bacteria, allergies or asthma.  They typically occur after a virus enters your upper respiratory system through your nose or mouth, and makes it down into your lungs.  Here a virus or bacteria can cause inflammation in the lungs (bronchitis) or a lung infection (pneumonia).  People typically become sick due to a viral infection that can weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to a bacterial infection.

Viruses are treated by supporting the immune system with rest, fluids, vitamins, herbs and patience.  Bacteria can be treated with these same things, but if a bacterial infection gets too severe antibiotics may also be used.  Sometimes even after a virus or bacteria is no longer present, a person may still be stuck with a nagging cough.  

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is one of the most effective ways to deal with this type of cough. TCM treats this sort of cough with a combination of acupuncture, herbs and diet that help the body reset after a cold.  TCM considers a lingering cough as a result of your body being too tired to “clean up” and to restore proper function after an illness. It classifies the cough as one of two types:  wet or dry.   

A dry cough is a one that produces little to no mucous.  It is the result of damage to the lungs “yin” and “qi” caused by the infection, or due to excessive coughing.  Yin is the aspect of the body that cools, moistens and calms, while qi is the body’s energy.  Without sufficient yin, you feel dry.  Without enough lung qi, you can feel tired and having breathing trouble, including a cough.  TCM addresses a dry cough by using yin building, moistening foods, including pears or apples, and a variety of herbs to build up the deficient yin and qi.  A wet cough is one which produces a seemingly unending amount of thin, watery mucous. The primary focus is on the treating the digestion, or the earth element.  TCM says that phlegm and mucous is produced in the digestive system, and then is stored in the lungs.  So even though the lungs appear the problem area, we primarily focus on supporting the digestive system.  One of the best ways to do this is with the proper dietary choices.  Dairy products, cold/frozen foods, raw foods and sweets should be avoided, as they create more mucous in the body.  The most supportive diet for a lingering cough focuses on warm and nourishing foods, such as soups and stews, and warm spices, such as ginger.  Acupuncture and herbs can also be remarkably helpful for addressing this sort of cough.

Regardless of the type of cough that you may have, sometimes “waiting it out” isn’t the best solution.  Coughs often can be overcome by the proper treatment approach and a little diligence.

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


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