Happy Lunar New Year
Welcome to our new monthly Community Room newsletter! In this month’s edition:
Welcome to the Year of the Yin Water Rabbit!
Did you feel that? A shift in the ambient energy, culminating in a sense of more ease and space? A few days ago, the wild year of the Yang Water Tiger ended, and- heralded by the appearance of that beautiful sliver of new moon in the western sky- we entered the new year of the Yin Water Rabbit.
I often see rabbits near my home. If I'm driving at night, my headlights will catch them darting rapidly this way and that, doing their best to distract me from the dens they have raced away from. If I'm walking along in the daytime, I'll often spot them motionless, watching me closely, having heard me coming- or rather, felt the vibrations of my footsteps through the earth- long before I got close enough to see them.
After an intense few years (wouldn’t you say?), it’s a great relief to announce that the energy is calming down for a spell. This year, which lasts through February 9th, 2024, will allow us a chance to rest, to reconnect with our intuition and creativity, and to adjust to the new reality of the ever-changing word that we inhabit.
Rabbits, in the Chinese astrological tradition, are considered to be wise, peaceful, adaptable, and strategic. If you were born in 1939, ’51, ’63, ’75, ’87, or ’99, you are a rabbit, and for those of you born in 1963 (Chinese astrology moves in sixty-year cycles), this is the first time the element of Yin Water has returned for you.
This year is giving us a chance at collective rest before another few years of intensity and change, as 2024 is a powerful Year of the Wood Dragon. To prepare, it’s highly encouraged to take every available opportunity to restore your energy, build practices that support grounding and intuition, and honor your need for security and community.
This year is a Water year, and we can observe and learn from the Water element in the natural world: as a river flowing easily around obstacles, and as the ability to shift as needed from fog to cloud to rain to ocean. As the ancient Roman poet Ovid taught, a drop of water, falling again and again over time, has the power to shape something as hard as stone through its persistence: we use this metaphor often in our medicine to illustrate the profoundly transformational power of a gentle practice like acupuncture given repeatedly over time.
Feng Shui practitioner Gaela Morrison, writing for The Power Path, reminds us: “Kidneys need extra rest with all the forward growth movement. Lying down is medicine for the kidneys so cultivate napping!…Inner work, meditation, particularly breathing exercises, spiritual practices, acupuncture, Chi Gong and other healing modalities will all contribute to health and staying in balance.”
We couldn’t agree more! Now more than ever, we can benefit from the power of healing in community, of resting together. We hope to see you often in this year. Take advantage of the chance to catch up and fill your cup before the fire of the dragon flares up in 2024!
Thank you for reading! As always, we gladly welcome your feedback; tell us what is working for you, and please let us know what we can do better!
Take good care,
Demetra Markis, L.Ac., Community Room Director
Cotati Community Acupuncture
Want to share with a friend? Please feel free to forward this email, or the next time you’re in, pick up a card for a friend to give them a discounted First Visit to the Community Room.
What is Integrative Orthopedic Acupuncture?
I consider myself very fortunate to be doing the work I do. It provides a great combination of intriguing puzzles and positive impact. It also cultivates what I consider to be a useful perspective on the world and an increased capacity to understand complex situations. One of the ways I think it does this is that it forces me to consider a patient’s single problem as it manifests through different planes of influence. Specifically, we evaluate problems to find the pattern of dysfunction threading through their person on three different levels:
I’ll briefly walk through a new patient evaluation and how these three levels can show up simultaneously in the same set of symptoms for a patient. This patient, Nancy (not her real name) came to my office seeking assistance with chronic muscle tension, aching pain and fatigue. Nancy was a woman in her 40s, an office worker, spending long hours at a desk at work and giving entirely too much of herself to her family as she simultaneously manages the home, does all the cooking and cleaning, and works a full time job. At work she’s an emotional dumping ground for her coworkers, providing a supportive ear for them. At home she’s still providing emotional support to those around her and worrying over them all day but failing to support her own emotional nourishment. She’s understandably tired, and her emotional and relationship habits are manifesting in her health at deeper levels. She finds herself craving unhealthy foods, seeking emotional nourishment through food when she feels emptied by her life. Her poor diet impacts her digestion, resulting in poor absorption, the accumulation of inflammation and poor production of energy. The heaviness we feel when we fail to eat properly Chinese Medicine recognizes as “dampness”. The transformation and elimination of that dampness is what a healthy functioning digestive energetic accomplishes. In the absence of healthy strong digestive energy “dampness” accumulates resulting in a sensation of heaviness, fatigue and lack of motivation.
We’ll look closer at each of these levels in her and how they interact and influence each other.
Orthopedic: The Physical Level
Her most severe pain was on the outside of her thighs and across her low back, but she also experiences dull, aching pain through her shoulders, arms, neck, and upper back.
Nancy works at a desk for the majority of her working hours, and her extended sitting has altered the correct orientation of her pelvis, shortening of the muscles on the front of the hips and thighs. In turn the glutes and the IT Band are stretched to their limit as the back of the pelvis has tilted upwards. The pain down the sides of her legs feels like tension in the IT Band to her and she is drawn to stretching the glutes and IT band area, but in fact they are tight because they are already stretched to their limit. Stretching these predictably gives her temporary relief as she frees up more room in them, but of course the pain returns because this is the opposite of what is actually needed. In treatment different approaches were applied to the front aspect vs the back aspect of her legs and hips. On the front the muscles (Psoas and Rectus Femoris (the main Quad Muscle)) were locked into a shortened position and needed to shift to a longer, more relaxed state. This was accomplished through acupuncture and a specific needling technique for releasing the muscles. Needles were inserted into the motor points (locations where the nerves enter the muscle) and stimulated gently until they elicited a small twitch. Like a computer reseting to the factory settings after a shut-down, the twitch normalizes the tension in the muscles. Massage to lengthen these muscles was also applied and rehabilitation exercises and stretches targeting the psoas and quads were prescribed. In contrast, the back of the legs and hips were too relaxed. The muscles needed to be strengthened, or more specifically they needed to be “woken up”. Typically, it isn’t an issue with the muscle being too weak, but more that the muscle gets lazy and simply doesn’t fire when it should. These muscles are needled more gently and electrical stimulation is applied at a low level to cause small, repeated, and involuntary contractions in the muscle. These contractions remind the muscle to fire and lower the threshold needed to elicit muscular contractions in these muscles in the future. It’s analogous to taping someone on the shoulder and reminding them to stand up straight; it’s a gentle reminder for the body to do more of what it was designed to do. She was also prescribed exercises for these muscles, including short 1 minute posture correction exercises to be repeated throughout her work day to ensure that the long hours at her desk don’t continue to alter her proper alignment.
Nancy’s internal medicine picture is one of poor energy production and increased systemic inflammation stemming from the digestive system. (In this article I’m trying to use language that can be easy understood by our readers, but in fact, in the course of treatment these are concepts that are far better understood and much more thoroughly explained with the language of Chinese Medicine. In her case she’s experiencing what Chinese Medicine would call Spleen Qi Deficiency failing to generate Qi and Blood, with the accumulation of dampness and Damp Bi Obstruction.) In order to resolve that dynamic we included acupuncture points to wake up the digestive system, resolve and transform dampness and reduce the inflammation. She was presenting with the signs of lymphatic congestion as well which is a common manifestation of inflammation stemming from digestion. Points addressing this and helping to circulate the lymph were added and lymphatic self massage was added to her exercise prescription. I also prescribed a custom granule formulation of Chinese Herbs using the formula Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This formula, originally designed in the 11th century, resolves the dampness that has accumulated as a result of poor digestion, resets the digestive energy and with additional herbs added, helps to resolve swelling in the joints and muscles to reduce the pain she’s experiencing. In the first few weeks of treatment she also took part in a comprehensive nutritional consultation where we went through her current diet, time and lifestyle constraints. Then we reviewed education on proper food choices for her based on her energetic picture, troubleshot her schedule and timing difficulties around food to find some practical solutions for her, established a new shopping list, and sent her out with a new food list and set of recipes. Without addressing the real life obstacles to diet change (time, routines, cooking ability and flavor) making dietary change can be very difficult.
Chinese Medicine has a powerful system of understanding personalities and how they are expressions of, and interact with, our bodies as a whole called the Five Element system. The Five Elements are a set of five phases of transformation that occur throughout nature. All phenomena can be categorized as belonging to one primary phase of this system. In her case, she operates from and in turn manifests imbalances within the Earth element. It’s common that our strongest element is also the source of our illnesses. Earth embodies the nurturing energy of fertile soil beneath our feet, the archetypal character of a mother, and the late summer seasonal energy. It’s an energy that absorbs, easily wraps you up in a hug, that feels non-threatening and supportive. Earth energy people are lovely and certainly do a lot of good for the world, but when they express this energy in an unbalanced way, excessively and without sufficient boundaries they erode their own energy. Imagine how poorly managed soil erodes away, without sufficient structure and boundaries our love for others can look more like enabling or self-destructive. Earth element people tend to present with patterns of disfunction characterized by dampness and a deficiency of energy. The Five Elements interact with one another in a complex dynamic. A deep explanation isn’t necessary to understand her case. So briefly, the Five Elements are Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. Earth encompasses the digestive organs, the emotion of worry and nurturance, the season of late summer and the tissue of muscles. As seen above, when it is out of balance dampness accumulates. Wood encompasses the Liver and Gall Bladder organs, the emotions of anger and courage, the season of spring, and the tissue of tendons. Just like the roots of plants holding the soil together and preventing erosion, increasing the activity of the wood energetic in a patient helps to hold healthy boundaries within their Earth expression. Her imbalance can be seen as either an excess in the Earth element or a deficiency of the wood element failing to properly restrain and hold the Earth element. Ideally each of the elements is able to manifest sufficiently to maintain a balanced and healthy psyche and the capacity to meet each situation with an appropriate and healthy response. In her case, specific acupuncture points along the Earth and Wood meridians were used to balance those energies, inviting the Wood dynamic to play a bigger role in restraining her Earth energy.
Often simply discussing the Five Elements with patients is helpful in itself, as having a language to build a framework around your interaction with the world makes it possible to initiate changes that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to envision. Indeed, giving her an understanding of the the Five Elements and her place within it made it easier for her to express and manifest more Wood energy with clearer boundaries and a better preservation of her personal energy. In her case there are events in her history, upbringing and family dynamic that established or solidified the imbalances she manifests. Fortunately, uncovering and addressing the historical reasons for the imbalance isn’t necessary to make significant changes in the imbalance that they created. In fact finding a healthier balance in the here and now creates a more solid foundation to then go back and dismantle the damage that their history created.
Nancy’s Response to Treatment
Nancy is a great example of how ripples move through our entire system when we consider the whole person. Her primary complaint was regarding her joint pains which resolved relatively quickly. With a combination of treatments twice weekly and prescribed exercises her pains resolved to the point that she was able to manage her discomfort on her own with regular exercises over the course of 3 weeks. But the deeper work was also important, and successfully addressing her voiced complaints would not have been possible without working on the other aspects she was presenting with. Following through on exercise prescriptions and dietary change are daunting already, doing that when you’re encumbered by a general sensation of heaviness and fatigue are nearly impossible. Freeing up her energy was crucial in being able to more her to the next step. Over the course of several weeks Nancy’s pulses shifted. The “slippery” sensation, characteristic of excessive “dampness”, was improved and the positions of her pulses that reflect the wood and earth aspects of the Five Elements became more balanced. She also began establishing routines where she set aside restoration time for herself which she defended with healthy boundaries. Her demeanor shifted as she held herself straighter both physically and metaphorically. She seemed to have a more solid frame underneath her. She still returns from time to time, weekend activities might give cause her pain to return or she’ll come in for occasional tune-ups. But her experience of her life, her power over it, are significantly improved.
This is a really uncomfortable condition for a lot of patients. It can be caused by diabetes, chemotherapy treatment, or sometimes from nerve damage affecting the low back. Fortunately, it responds really well to treatment with a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Functional Medicine. Read on to find out what you can do at home, and what we do for this condition in the office.
Symptoms and concerns associated withPeripheral Neuropathy include:
Chinese Medicine Diagnosis and Treatment
In Chinese Medicine the proper function of our body is dependent on the circulation of Qi and Blood. Distributed along the pathways of our nervous, circulatory, and physical anatomy are special locations where this circulation can be altered and improved. Those locations, the acupuncture points, create changes in the available nutrients, blood, energy, and nervous function in that area the treatment is targeting. It has even been found that acupuncture points have an effect inside the brain, where they increase resources, attention and healing to a specific location or structure in the body. By choosing the proper points we can alter the potency of the nerve impulses, the available Qi and the circulation of blood to the areas of the hands or feet affected by Peripheral Neuropathy. Other points target the underlying cause for the neuropathy (these might be points support detoxification of the chemo drugs, reduction of the chronically elevated blood sugars and support of the metabolic function of glycemic control, or nerve compression in the spine.)
Most of our patients being treated for Peripheral Neuropathy will also use a combination of Nutritional Supplements and Nutritional Counseling. Supplements that we often use for Peripheral Neuropathy include:
Our Nutritional Counseling sessions draw on a combination of Functional Medicine based practices, Traditional Chinese dietary theory and accountability support. We begin with templates designed by the Institute for Functional Medicine and modify them to meet our patients’ commitment level and unique presentation. We support your learning with videos, recipes, handouts, and periodic check-ins to keep you on track.
Do you know someone who has been struggling with numbness or tingling in their hands or feet? Forward this newsletter, we’d love the chance to help them.
Subject: A note from Demetra: Welcoming Dena Ito, L.Ac. to our community room!
Hello everyone, and happy November. I'm excited to share that Dena Ito, L.Ac., Rohnert Park native and seasoned community acupuncturist, is going to join us here in the community room starting this week!
Dena will be here on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, as well as splitting some Monday afternoon shifts with me, so come on in and get to know her- she is fantastic!
Here's Dena's welcome note to all of you:
I graduated from American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco in 2012. I consider Chinese Medicine to be truly affordable, holistic and sustainable healthcare. I admire how acupuncture works with the innate ability of the body to heal and am often reminded of the power of the human body and the human spirit. WE are amazing!
I like offering acupuncture in a community setting as a way for more patients to come in for treatment and to come in as often as their treatment plan may call for. I'm excited to contribute to this community and look forward to seeing you.
Outside of work I enjoy eating yummy food, taking my son to amusement parks and spending time with family.
Sonoma County Flyer
Weight Loss Part One
Why is it so hard for some people to lose weight?
Sometimes, there is more to weight loss than simply cutting calories. For some, despite all their efforts (following a diet and exercising consistently) progress is fleeting and painfully slow. This is a familiar story for many and they know the problem isn’t a lack of willpower. There's often more going on than a matter of simply exercising more and eating less. In this three part article series we look at the underlying causes of the difficulty in weight loss that so many run into.
The problem can be an imbalance in one or more of the underlying systems of the body, making weight loss difficult if not impossible. The good news is that there are ways to remove these obstacles. Identifying these imbalances and resolving them should be the first step in your weight loss plan.
Obesity is all too common in our culture. While the availability of empty calories and our sedentary lifestyles are largely to blame, there is more going on here than just sloth and gluttony. For many there is a hidden problem in the body that is locking their metabolism in a fat storing mode. In the first part of this series we’ll cover three common obstacles getting in the way of successful weight loss. In a following article we’ll give you the basic steps for addressing each of these. Our third article will cover the steps for successful weight loss once you have these first three obstacles addressed. Following these steps will result in significant changes in most people seeking weight loss.
After pain, the second most common complaint we hear from our patients is that they have difficulty losing weight. While obviously exercise and proper diet are essential to weight loss, in some that won’t be enough to reach their weight loss goals. Without addressing the underlying imbalances, progress will be painfully slow and difficult. The three main obstacles that we see are:
1. Excessive burden of environmental toxins
2. Hormonal imbalance
3. Latent inflammation
Any one, or all of these, could be shackling you to your extra pounds and these three issues are surprising common in Americans. Let’s look closer at each.
Excessive burden of Toxins
We live in an environment that is increasingly laden with chemical pollutants. Many of these compounds have entered our environments within the past few decades. Unfortunately, despite all your efforts to minimize exposure, it is unlikely that anyone is able to truly avoid these chemicals. Studies have shown the presence of more than 200 chemical pollutants in the umbilical cord blood supplying newborn babies. Even in this most precious of places, at the deepest recesses in the body, and filtered by the placenta, these chemicals are still able to find their way. Just imagine what is running through your blood! These toxins burden the liver, interfere with hormone signaling and trigger inflammation. All of these can indirectly cause weight gain by interfering with fundamental processes in the body. But, some of these compounds can also directly cause weight gain. Called "obesogens", these compounds include Bisphenyl A, polybrominated flame retardants, pthalates, many pesticides and even many medications, including the popular SSRIs, used to treat depression. These compounds directly alter your physiology, resulting in weight gain. They compounds bind to receptors in the body that regulate metabolism or appetite and directly cause increased weight gain and make weight loss more difficult.
Many of these compounds are fat soluble. Because they dissolve in fats, they become stored in fat tissue. This makes losing weight increasingly difficult. As soon as you make progress in weight loss you liberate more of these compounds into your blood stream, making future progress even more difficult. In order to make weight loss possible in the presence of these toxins, you need to support your body’s natural detoxification processes, so that as these toxins are liberated they are effectively flushed from the body, allowing your weight loss to continue unfettered.
Identifying if you have an excessive toxic burden can be done through a combination of blood work, reviewing your occupational history, and discussing your personal medical history. One blood test called GGT, or gamma glutamyl transpeptidase, measures the activity of an enzyme that becomes elevated when the requirement for the body’s natural anti-oxidant, glutathione, is increased. This increased demand can indicate that there is an increased toxin burden on the body, requiring targeted treatment and dietary interventions.
The HPA axis is a term used to describe the triad of endocrine glands: hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal. These three glands interact and influence each other and a great many other hormones and glands in the body. When dietary, emotional, lifestyle, and environmental factors cause a disruption in any of these glands there can be a cascading influence on the body. Weight gain is one of many possible symptoms when these hormones are out of balance. Improperly converted, produced, or binding thyroid hormone, for example, can result in difficulty losing weight. Impact on the hormone leptin can result in difficulty regulating appetite properly. Excessive, or deficient adrenal output of the hormone cortisol can result in elevated blood sugars, insulin resistance, and weight gain. Simultaneous fatigue and anxiety can also make weight lose much more difficult. If you experience certain symptoms including unexplained fatigue, a history of extreme or prolonged stress, anxiety, short temper, or difficulty regulating temperature these symptoms may indicate that a closer look at your hormones is warranted. Identifying if there is an underlying hormonal imbalance can often be done through simple saliva testing, and herbal, lifestyle, and dietary interventions are often sufficient to restore balance.
When most people hear the word inflammation, they think of something red, swollen and painful like a sprained joint or an infected cut. But inflammation doesn’t always have to be so obvious. Sometimes inflammation can be more like a smoldering fire hidden within the body, quietly eroding your health. This type of latent inflammation may be occurring anywhere in the body. Common locations include the digestive system, a dental abscess, or the blood vessels. This constant inflammation causes weight gain by driving up the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn drives up blood sugars. It also reduces the body’s sensitivity to insulin, making your body store more energy as fat. The longer the inflammation is present the more damage is done to your metabolism. Identifying and treating the underlying inflammation is essential to losing weight and restoring a healthy metabolism.
How do you know if you have a smoldering fire hampering your weight loss efforts?
Often, current symptoms or clues in your health history can raise suspicion, which is further investigated by looking at some specific blood tests. The specific test will depend on the organ system that is suspected. Tests such as C reactive protein, homocysteine, adiponectin, and an essential fatty acid profile can all help to identify locations and causes of latent inflammation.
Identifying the systems in your body that are imbalanced is the first step in restoring a healthy metabolism.
Once you know how your metabolism is going wrong, that paves the way to determine your specific interventions. Even though the goal weight loss is the same, the interventions for you may be very different from someone else with a different set of metabolic challenges. This is one of the reasons that no weight loss program works for everyone. If you've tried many different approaches without seeing results, it is likely that there is something going on beneath the surface that needs to be addressed before weight loss can proceed. You may have a suspicion that one of the above issues applies to you, and fortunately, there are many interventions that you can do yourself that are both effective and safe to try at home. We'll cover strategies to resolve each of these issues in the next article.
Before I share why Chimmichuri sauce is brilliant and delicious, a bit of bad news for you…
Grilling meat generates not one, but two different classes of cancer causing compounds: Heterocyclic Amines and Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons.
Consumption of these compounds can lead to cancer by causing mutations to occur in genes. Indeed, one of the risk factors for colon cancer is frequent consumption of charred or grilled meats (1, 2, 3). And if that’s not enough, grilling meat also creates another unhealthy compound called an Advanced Glycation End product (AGE). AGEs accumulate in the body aging us prematurely and increasing the risk of diabetes, metabolic disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and Alzheimers disease. (4, 5, 6, 7)
But there’s good news…
The good news is that there are a lot of steps you can take to mitigate this risk and improve your health when consuming these foods. I was struck, not for the first time, by the incredible wisdom of traditional cuisine last night when I realized how perfectly suited our chimmichuri sauce was in mitigating the health risks associated with grilled meat.
Finely mince the garlic and shallots and leave out for 10 minutes
A potent phyto-nutrient found in garlic, Allicin, is formed by an enzyme (also found in garlic) but can only be formed in the presence of air. And that enzyme is damaged by exposure to heat. Letting your garlic sit for several minutes prior to cooking increases the content of the active constituent responsible for a lot of the healing effects of garlic (8). Meanwhile, combining garlic and onions (or in this case shallots), as has been done for ages in culinary traditions around the world, creates a synergistic combination that mitigates the negative effects of consuming fatty foods. (9).
Mince the jalapeño finely
The compounds in jalapeños protect LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation. It’s the oxidized LDL particles that represent the most significant risk to our arteries because when they deposit in the layers of our blood vessels they attract an immune cell response that swells the plaques and makes them unstable. Smoked Jalapeños were found to be particularly effective in this regard. I’ll have to try that next time…(10)
Mince the parsley, cilantro, and oregano or pulse in a food processor.
All of these herbs are powerfully anti-microbial. They are also packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients with a variety of useful properties in the body. Cilantro has been found to be protective for the same type of cancer that the compounds formed by grilling meat, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons and Heterocyclic Amines, increase the risk of (11). Meanwhile, parsley specifically reduces the formation of Advanced Glycation End products (12).
Combine all ingredients together and add the vinegar and olive oil to create a thick sauce. Season with salt and add the lime juice. Adjust the flavor and consistency by adding more of any of the above.
Acidic preparations, when applied to meat prior to grilling also reduce the formation of Advanced Glycation End products. No wonder marinades are a common practice in culinary traditions around the world (13).
Use the chimmichuri both to coat meat prior to cooking and as a condiment eaten with your grilled meat. It offers a fresh, bright counterpoint to the filling umami of grilled meat. The flavors work so well, no wonder it’s good for you.
So, in short, try to respect the specific ingredient combinations and preparation techniques long held in our world’s culinary traditions. They are consistently reflective of a deep wisdom about optimizing health through food. That they arrived at these nuanced, protective, and synergistic pairings prior to our relatively recent understandings about the biological processes underlying their interactions with our health, offers a convincing bit of evidence to the premise that there are other ways to discover and know truth besides the reductionist view of modern western science.
By the way…
We offer nutritional consultations for our patients where we combine traditional culinary wisdom with modern research to create food plans that are science based, authentic, tasty and sustainable. Set up a free consultation to see if we can be of assistance to you.
Autoimmune conditions such as MS, Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and others are increasing rapidly in the developed world. Recent studies show the incidence of autoimmunity is increasing by 5-10% per year. The immunology community blames this increase on various factors that come with living in an industrialized society including higher stress, exposure to certain chemicals, and poor sleep.
Autoimmune processes require three things:
1. A genetic predisposition. In most cases you must have the underlying genes specifically substitutions in the genes that relate to immune function. Most of these substitutions are found on the HLA (human lymphocyte Antigen) gene and the MHC (major histocompatibility complex). These are genes that determine the shape of the proteins used in the interaction of the immune cells with our own tissue and with invading pathogens. A little like a key can sometimes work on more than one lock, these substitutions allow for the immune system to mistakenly bind to and attack self tissue.
2. A trigger. Many people with the genetic predisposition may never go on to develop an autoimmune condition. It's a complex process and while we don't understand everything, we do know that most autoimmune conditions require a trigger. In celiac patients this trigger comes in the form of gluten. In some cases, the trigger might be a pathogen such as Yersinia or Klebselia that tricks the immune system through a process called Molecular Mimicry into attacking itself (more on this in the video below).
3. But even with a trigger and the genetic predisposition, autoimmunity is not a sure thing. You have a lot more influence over this process than you think. The immune system works actively to prevent this by maintaining a process called self-tolerance. When things go awry and the immune system loses this protection, damage begins to accumulate. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms begin to show the process has been building for quite some time. The immune system can be pushed out of balance by the presence of certain toxins such as aluminum, mercury, cadmium, lead, and organic pollutants such as pesticides and plasticizers. The immune system also requires the presence of specific nutrients. A lack of selenium makes Hashimoto's more likely to occur. A lack of silica leads to accumulation of aluminum and more more immune system activation. Sufficient fiber intake is necessary for proper detoxification of potentially damaging chemicals and so on. Lifestyle also plays a bigger part than is often realized. It is very common for a patient to have the initial onset of their autoimmune condition following a period of severe emotional stress. Attention to sleep, diet, stress regulation, and community all play a vital part in prevention and treatment of auto-immune conditions.
Another often overlooked area of focus in auto-immunity is the health of the health of the digestive system and more specifically the integrity of the intestinal membrane. The overwhelming majority of the immune tissue is located at the border of the intestines. When the lining, the membrane at the intestinal border, is compromised larger proteins can leak into the blood stream and lymphatic circulation causing an upregulation in immune activity. This leads in turn to more exposure to proteins capable of driving molecular mimicry, and as a result an increased risk of developing or exacerbating auto-immune conditions. The immune system as a whole is also more active, causing the differentiation of new immune cells into highly reactive cells called Th17 cells rather than the peace-keeper T regulatory cells that support self-tolerance.
The important take home is that if you're worried about auto-immune conditions then you have more power over the situation than you think. Just because it's in your family doesn't mean you have to get it, and if you have an autoimmune condition there are probably quite a few actionable steps left to reduce your symptoms and improve your long term quality of life.
For a comprehensive deep dive into this material, watch our video below.
Covid Support Through Vitamin D Testing and What Chinese Philosophy says about our divided society.
It's been a ride, now what?Covid: where we go from here.
Covid has redefined how we live, how we interact, and how we raise our kids. But at the same time, even though the way we connected has changed, the content of those interactions has stayed the same. The fundamentals about what our society, our culture, and our community means has remained and in the process of conveying that meaning through new channels, we have solidified the core truths about our oneness.
We thrive on love. The more connections we make, the more people we hold in our hearts, the richer our lives are. We’ve felt the missing connections and the skipped visits. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, our absence from one another’s physical space has reminded us of the value of closeness.
We talk with so much more than our voices. The mass masking of society has revealed the importance of those random smiles as we’re out and about. We’ve all been dialing in our eye smiles and experiencing the vast amounts of important information our expressions pass out into the world. So many people realize now that they have worked silently to soothe the world around them by simply smiling at it. They look forward to being able to share that again.
What Can Chinese Medicine tell us about Our Divided Culture?We are divided. In Chinese Medicine we talk a great deal about the interaction of opposing forces. The belief that everything, at its core, can be viewed as an interaction of yin and yang is the central truth that allows the complexity and nuance of Chinese Medicine to exist. With an elegance and a subtly that can comprehend and address symptoms from the psyche to the psoas, Chinese Medicine starts at this simple truth. At its most basic, yang represents fire/heat/dynamic movement while yin represents cold/ice/stability/stillness. Our natural world, our bodies and even our society consists of myriad interactions, exchanges and transformations between these two forces. The Taoist philosophers that laid the foundations for this medicine observed these two forces at work in all things and established basic rules for how they interact. Certain general observations can be made. For example, when a yang or yin nature pushes to an extreme, it turns into its opposite. When yang burns too bright and hot it turns cold (for example when a fire exhausts all the available fuel). Yin can consume yang and vice versa. In a medical sense this is represented by someone driven by stress and anxiety to movement and action (yang) that depletes their hormone synthesis capacity (yin) leading to the tell tale symptoms of HPA axis disruption (insomnia, fatigue, irritability, systemic symptoms of disfunction). Yin/yang is one way to talk about the self regulating systems that are present in all biological systems and in all complex metasystems. The interaction and depletion of yin and yang cause changes in a complex system that ultimately results in a correction of the imbalance. The sticking point though is that yin and yang need to interact for this self-correction to occur. When yin and yang no longer interact and work to self correct that is known as “separation of yin and yang”. It means the dynamic principles of life are no longer active. It means death.
Considering our society and the division that exists within us now, that’s the concern. As division and separation increases, the capacity for the self-correcting interplay of opposing ideas and forces gets less traction. Dialogue and the exchange of ideas is what allows for the interplay of yin and yang. The interaction doesn’t have to be about the issues that are dividing us. Simple exchange is a place to start. It’s up to all of us to keep the conversations going.
What’s New at Cotati Community Acupuncture?
We’re comfortably established in our new location right next to La Plaza park in downtown Cotati. There have been countless woodworking projects to make it our own and more still to come. It’s a beautiful, peaceful and healing space with dedicated space for community acupuncture, private treatments, massage, consultations, and our custom herbal pharmacy.
50% off Vitamin D Testing.Studies have been fairly consistent that Vitamin D status is an important factor in Covid response. Studies show the severity of a covid infection is influenced by the patients’ covid status:
This may be related to the function vitamin D performs as a messaging hormone regulating immune response. In one study vitamin D was found to regulate the rampant inflammation and damage the immune system inflicts on the lung tissue in a covid infection:
In another study vitamin D eliminated the risk of death from covid and nearly eliminated the chances of being sent to the ICU:
Like all nutrients in the body, more isn’t always better. In patients with sufficient levels of vitamin D or even above the target levels, supplementation with vitamin D is NOT ADVISED. In order to identify your vitamin D status we are offering half off vitamin D testing from today through February 14th. Stop in or call to set yourself up.
8099 La Plaza Suite H Cotati, CA 94931
What is Functional Medicine
When something is off about your health, what does your doctor do? Most doctors (thankfully not all), will prescribe a medication based on the symptoms you are having: lisinipril for your blood pressure, a statin for your cholesterol, maxalt to prevent your monthly migraines, metformin for your elevating blood sugars, ambien for your sleep and, just for good measure, some prozac for your depression and fatigue. That’s an awful lot, but surprisingly, it’s not uncommon.
This system of medicine doesn’t view you as a person with a complex physiology. You’re a list of symptoms. It isn’t healthcare because that would be focussed on improving your health. This is management of your illness. It should be called sick-care.
Functional Medicine approaches it differently. It doesn’t look to treat your symptoms. It looks for an underlying common root that connects your symptoms. This takes careful investigation. Your practitioner needs to untie the knots that have been formed from poor diet, genetics, emotions, exposure to toxins, and other factors. We may order additional blood tests beyond what your doctor orders so we can identify not just what’s wrong, but why. The myriad symptoms can usually be traced back to a few basic root causes.
A situation like that described above can occur when poor diet and lack of exercise cause sugars to accumulate in the body. The biological systems within our bodies are interrelated and delicate. Everything’s connected. When one system is damaged that spreads dysfunction into other systems. The rising sugars damage the machinery of energy production. Cholesterol and triglycerides also increase as the body looks for places to store all the extra energy. As enzymatic function is impacted by excessive blood sugars, inflammation starts increasing too. Nutritional deficiencies from poor diet drive inflammation even higher. As your blood sugars are driven up and down throughout the day by sugar rich snacks, your stress hormones are pushed up and down too. You start to experience alternating cranky periods followed by energy crashes. The rest of the hormones get thrown off by this roller coaster of stress hormones. As a result you feel exhausted all day, but can’t sleep at night. Menstrual cycles can be affected, causing menstrual migraines. Even though these are all different symptoms, you can see that they all can be traced back to a few issues in the fundamental functioning of your body.
Your Functional Medicine practitioner will get you eating foods that will supply steady energy through the day so your metabolism can stabilize. A relaxation program and an adrenal support supplement can help to bring your wild stress hormone swings back to normal. Adding a high quality multi-vitamin will replace the nutrients that have been lost through poor diet. Lifestyle support such as relaxation techniques and refining your sleep habits would round out a successful functional medicine program for a patient like this.
All of your body’s systems are interrelated. If you don’t address these root causes of illness and disease then you are just covering up symptoms while the underlying health continues to erode.
Kieran Jones MTCM L.Ac.
I'm Kieran, clinician and owner of Cotati Community Acupuncture. I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist, and functional medicine practitioner for the past 14 years. I have a deep curiosity in health, biology, culture, medicine, history, and a healthy obsession with the pursuit of the perfect state of health.