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Acupuncture and Heart Health
Researchers from the Tianjin University of Chinese Medicine tested the efficacy of acupuncture, herbs and drug therapy for heart health, and what they found was incredible. The addition of Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies increased patient outcomes by 28 percent, with regards to arrhythmias, palpitations and tachycardia. The researchers tested prescription medications alone and with the addition of acupuncture and herbs. In this study, the addition of acupuncture and herbs increased the positive effect and decreasing the symptoms the patients were experiencing. The researchers used the exact same protocol for all patients involved in the study. The same acupuncture points, herbal formula and pharmaceuticals were used on all participants. For the treatment group, the effective rate was 92 percent overall.
This is an outstanding article, click here to read: Acupuncture Plus Herbs Regulate Heart Arrhythmias
Traditional Chinese Medicine, just like Western medicine, believes the heart is responsible for the circulation of blood. When the heart is strong, circulation will be sufficient, the body will be well-nourished and the pulse will reflect that by being full and regular. Both medical systems agree that a weak heart can manifest as palpitations, chest pain and even heart disease or a heart attack. Where the two medical systems differ is this: TCM also acknowledges the heart “houses the mind”.
In TCM, the heart and the mind are virtually inseparable. The heart governs the ability to think clearly, sleep soundly and maintain a good memory. Our emotional state is strongly influenced by how healthy or unhealthy our heart may be. A weak and deficient heart may create feelings of anxiety and mania, while also contributing to insomnia, forgetfulness and lack of concentration.
Heart health can be reflected in the facial complexion also. A nice rosy complexion indicates a strong healthy heart, while a pale or sallow complexion is indicative of a deficient, weak heart. If the heart blood becomes stagnant, the complexion may have a purplish tint. When the complexion is reddish, this may indicate heart heat.
Acupuncture and TCM have been managing heart health for centuries. Regular acupuncture treatments have been found to be very helpful in lowering blood pressure. The needles stimulate the release of opioids, which then decrease the heart’s activity and its need for oxygen. This in turn, helps lower blood pressure.
Stress is another factor that can greatly affect the health of the heart. Unmanaged, chronic stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and even heart attacks. Numerous studies have shown stress can be easily managed through the use of acupuncture. TCM offers more than just acupuncture to treat stress though. Herbal formulas and exercises like tai chi and qi gong are all wonderful tools for managing stress and keeping the heart healthy.
Poor sleep and insomnia has been linked to heart failure, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity. And yet again, TCM can help treat a wide array of sleep problems without the harsh side effects of many pharmaceuticals.
Without a healthy heart, the body cannot function properly and the mind may be clouded and disconnected. Contact a licensed acupuncturist in your area for a consultation to see how TCM can assist you with all of your heart health needs.
How’s Your Digestion?
The small intestine is part of the gastrointestinal tract. Up to 90 percent of the digestion and absorption of food occurs in the small intestine and its main function is the absorption of minerals and nutrients from the food we ingest. It is comprised of three separate parts, the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. The small intestine measures upwards of six to seven meters long and it has a surface area of over 200 meters. But in the Traditional Chinese Medical system, the small intestine is much more than just its physical traits.
TCM pairs energetic meridians so that they form a complete circuit. There is always a yang meridian and a yin meridian. The small intestine meridian is paired with the heart meridian. Imbalances in the small intestine meridian can lead to problems such as abdominal pain, digestion issues and also appetite problems like overeating or poor appetite. The small intestine meridian starts at the outer tip of the pinky finger and runs up the arm, over the scapula of the shoulder, up the neck and ends in front of the ear. The meridian pathway allows for it to be useful in treating not just intestinal and abdominal issues, but also things like earaches, TMJ, shoulder pain and neck pain.
The small intestine is the controller of the reception, transformation and separation of solids and fluids. It receives food and fluids from the stomach and then transforms them by separating the pure from the impure. The pure essence is dispersed throughout the body and the impurities are flushed into the large intestine for eventual removal from the body.
Since the small intestine is paired with the heart, it should be noted both meridians belong to the movement of fire. The heart meridian expresses movement upwards, while the small intestine meridian expresses movement downwards. And when considering this pairing logically, it makes sense. When we are experiencing heartache or stress (associated with the heart meridian), most of us then have an upset gastrointestinal tract, pain in the abdomen, vomiting, nausea or even a lack of appetite.
The small intestine meridian is particularly sensitive to cold. Therefore eating lots of cold, raw foods can actually lead to problems in the small intestine. When excess cold invades the small intestine, there may be pain around the navel, watery diarrhea or loose stools, frequent clear urination and loud gurgling sounds in the abdomen.
In TCM, the small intestine plays both a physical and a mental role. The mental role of the small intestine is to separate the clear thoughts from the turbid ones. This is another way the small intestine is connected to the heart in TCM. The heart houses the mind and is in charge of all of our mental health. Clear judgement depends on the ability of the small intestine to separate the pure from the impure. When there is dysfunction in the small intestine, then there may also be dysfunction in the mind.
While the small intestine may not seem as important as the heart or the kidneys, it is still an integral part of our body and as such, it should be taken care of equally as well. If you experience any abdominal or emotional issues, turning to a licensed acupuncturist may be a good start. But most of all, take good care of your gastrointestinal health and your body will respond favorably.
Foods to Increase Intestinal Absorption
The intestines are an extremely important organ and they should never be overlooked. You should make sure to feed your intestines with food that will increase intestinal absorption, by doing so you will help out your whole body. Foods that increase intestinal absorption range from fermented foods to pre-biotic containing foods.
Let’s start with the fermented foods. Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles can work together to help keep that gut balanced. If you are in-taking foods such as these you are guaranteed to see an increase in intestinal absorption. The bacteria in fermented foods work together with your gut to help break down foods.
Pre-biotic foods are also important to the digestive tract. Keep your intestines happy by making sure to load up on pre-biotic foods such as seeds, flax, oats and potatoes. All of these foods encourage the growth of necessary and healthy microbes within your digestive tract.
The heart is an energetic system we often treat in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to Chinese Medicine theory, there are many systems of energy within the body. Each of these systems corresponds to certain physiological and psychological functions. So when we talk about the heart, the lungs, the liver. However, when we are speaking about Chinese Medicine organs, we are not talking about the physical organ sitting in your body, but rather the energetic manifestations of a particular system in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms.
The heart is an incredibly important energy system in Chinese medicine, often said to be the emperor of all the other energy systems. It is related to the fire element, which is the universal energy of summer.
On a physical level, the heart is responsible for pumping blood through our body, just as it is in allopathic medicine. It controls the health and vitality of the blood vessels, and also controls sweating, the tongue and speech. But perhaps the most important role of the heart in Chinese medicine is that it houses the Shen, or spirit.
The Shen in Chinese Medicine is referred to as one of the three treasures of the body, and it encompasses consciousness, the emotions, mental acuity and thought, as well as the ability to process incoming sensory information. Each organ system in Chinese medicine is related to one aspect of the spirit (such as intellect, willpower or instinct) – but the Shen is the most important, as it governs all the other aspects. Prolonged emotional upheaval, mental illness, personality disorders, emotional imbalance, processing disorders and sensory disorders all are manifestations of a disturbed, ungrounded or weakened Shen.
The emotion associated with the heart is joy. This means that joy nourishes the heart, but excessive joy (ie, mania) is a symptom of an imbalance in this system.
The heart is all about the very act of being alive – from the physical heart beating in our chest, to the flow of blood through our veins, to our mental ability to stay present and focused, and our emotional selves being whole and complete. It is the energy of summertime – abundant, hot and lively.
Nourish the Heart through Food
The color associated with the heart is red, and the heart is nourished through red foods, such as cherries, strawberries and kidney beans. Being closely associated with the blood, it is also nourished by blood-tonifying foods such as organ meats, lean red meat and dark leafy greens. The heart is closely tied to appreciation of beauty and aesthetics, so the heart system is also nourished by food for which care has been given to present artfully, with beauty and grace, and a wide array of colors on one plate. Again, the heart is associated with summertime, so think of the abundance of fruits and vegetables available that time of year, and try to reflect that energy in your food choices.
Nourish the Heart through your habits
The heart is nourished through activities that bring you cheer and joy. Nourishing the heart is about celebrating that which you love in the world – people, places and ideals. As the heart governs our relationships with other human beings, it is nurtured by feeling connected to those that we love. Reach out to friends and family, forge new bridges and strengthen lasting bonds. The heart is also nourished through beauty – take time to appreciate the beauty of your natural surroundings, as well as music, poetry, art and dance. Lastly, the heart is nurtured by ritual. This can be a long-standing religious or cultural ritual, or one that you create for yourself. Some examples of heart-healthy rituals include writing down five things you are grateful for each night, incorporating some sort of gentle exercise during each morning, practicing 10 minutes of sitting meditation each day, or grab a coloring book and start coloring!
Foods to Improve Heart Health
Wonder how you can help your heart stay in balance? Well, what you put into your body goes a long way in determining how balanced you are. Check out some of these foods you should consume in order to promote good heart health.
Red foods have been shown to help the heart biochemically; foods such as hawthorn berries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and goji berries keep your heart happy with lycopene and anthocyanin, antioxidants and beneficial vitamins.
Other helpful foods include garlic, cayenne, cilantro, basil, magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts and soy) and green tea. Also try ginseng, jujube dates, reishi mushrooms, dong quai, seaweed and schizandra berries.
Orange vegetables like carrots have carotenoids and lutein, powerful phytonutrients. And oranges, the fruit, can help decrease your risk of heart disease.
The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include not only their physiological function, but also their mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons. Let’s explore the heart.
The heart season is summer, and heart is considered the most yang: hot, bountiful and abundant. Yang is what is bright, moving, outward, hot and loud. Yin is what is more inward, still, dark and cooler. The color of the heart is associated with red, the climate is heat, the flavor is bitter and it’s paired organ is the small intestine (many urinary issues are due to “heart fire” heat descending). The sense aligned with heart is the tongue, and the vessels associated with heart are the tissues. The heart sound is laughing, and the emotion is joy. The heart houses what is known as the shen, which is the mind and spirit. You can see a person’s shen in a healthy complexion and radiant eyes that are clear and bright. The heart is in charge of circulation and keeps the tissues well nourished. It is also associated with mental clarity, memory and strength. The motion of this fire element is upward, like a flame. Many who have this element dominant in their personality have red hair that is curly or spikes upward. The heart is also connected to speech. An imbalance in heart energy can result in stuttering, speaking excitedly or talking excessively.
A healthy heart energy exudes a sense of joy, fun, enthusiasm, action, warmth, and charisma. These people are the “life of the party,” and love to have a good time with friends and to be the center of attention. When the heart is balanced, sleep is sound and one is well rested.
On the other hand, when there is an overabundance of fire this can result in restlessness, anxiety, sweating, excitability and symptoms such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, disturbing dreams, mouth sores, thirst, red face, constipation and dryness. This person might shrink if not in the limelight and would constantly seek attention and need activities that produce a lot of excitement. He or she might have trouble being introspective and could not be alone. “Overjoy” is an imbalance of heart energy and is likened to manic behavior. A dominant fire may also be extremely sensitive to heat. A lack of the fire element, on the other hand, can result in a lusterless complexion, low energy, inertia, depression, feeling cold, low libido and the personality may lack warmth. This type may seem cold, frigid, lack drive and may be prone to addictions.
How to help your heart stay in balance? Red foods have been shown to help the heart biochemically; foods such as hawthorn berries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers and goji berries keep your heart happy with lycopene and anthocyanin, antioxidants and beneficial vitamins. Other helpful foods include garlic, cayenne, cilantro, basil, magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts and soy) and green tea. Also try ginseng, jujube dates, reishi mushrooms, dong quai, seaweed and schizandra berries. Calming activities such as walking, tai qi, or qi gong help calm the shen.
It is best not to self-diagnose, so see your healthcare provider to see if those foods are right for you. You don’t want to assume you have too much of one element and end up eating the wrong foods. A Chinese medical specialist can give you a proper diagnosis as far as the Five Element theory goes to see which element is dominant in you, and they can treat your condition with acupuncture, herbs and offer advice for beneficial changes in diet and lifestyle.