Free Report – How Does Acupuncture Work

Thanks for requesting my free report on acupuncture and how it works.  Please download the document by clicking below:

 

How Does Acupuncture Work?

 

May You Be Happy and Well,

Craig Swogger, L.Ac.

http://www.wilshireacupuncture.com

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Fight Off Fall Colds and Flu with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Fight Off Fall Colds and Flu With Acupuncture

Ever feel like you get sick nearly every season?  Or that when the weather changes you suffer somehow?  Ever have depression in the Winter, neck aches or allergies in the Spring, an awful flu in the Summer, and a dry cough in the Fall?  You aren’t alone.  Many people suffer when the seasons change.  Why?  Because their bodies aren’t prepared.  Chances are, yours isn’t either.

Prepared for what, you ask?  Prepared for the changes in both climactic forces and in the deeper energies of life that we call Yin and Yang.  Without giving you a lecture on Chinese Medicine, let me just say that there are more forces at work in the world than we can currently measure.  And whether you know about them or not, they act on your body and spirit.  So how can you prepare for the changes that come in the Fall?  By following these simple recommendations so that you better harmonize with the season we are moving into:

  • Go see an acupuncturist.  A practitioner of Chinese Medicine can not only help shift your body into harmony with the coming seasonal changes, but can guide your food choices, offer lifestyle adjustments, or even an herbal formulation to help you maintain or improve your health.
  • According to Chinese Medicine, the Lungs are the most important organ to look after during the Fall.  The Lungs are said to be subject to cold and dryness, and that we are therefore at risk for mild colds with a dry cough during the Autumn.  Protect your Lungs from the cool, dry air by eating moistening foods now.  Honey, seeds and nuts are great for this.
  • We also say the Lungs are subject to grief and sadness, and that grief dissolves the energy of the Lungs.  Deal with these emotions directly and with awareness.
  • Carry a jacket, sweater or scarf so that you aren’t caught off guard by the cold.
  • Wear something on your neck when you feel any draft at all.  The back of the neck is said by Chinese Medicine to be where pathogens attack our system.  Covering this area is a very strong defense.
  • Eat foods that are in season.  When you eat seasonal, local food (from the same state or region) your energy becomes one with the climate and geography around you, and you become less susceptible to changes, because you change with the seasons.  You also boost the immune system with the plentiful micro-nutrients founds in these foods.
  • Follow the light!  Meaning, as the light of day and night change in length, let this influence when you sleep, get up, get active, and retreat for the day.  Everyone’s life is different, so you’ll have to experiment with this to see what fits with yours.

May you be happy, well, and cold free this coming Fall,

Craig Swogger, L.Ac, Dipl. O.M.
310-425-8082
Santa Monica Acupuncture
1150 Yale St. Ste. 8
Santa Monica, CA
90403

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Mindfulness of Eating

In the past few weeks I’ve said that you should eat your greens, take in some probiotics, and eat whole, organic foods whenever possible, but I haven’t talked much about something almost as important as what you eat:  how you eat.

Mindfulness of eating is the simple practice of bringing awareness to the entire process of eating, from the moment you desire to eat through choice, preparation, and the act of eating itself.  Mindfulness of eating allows you to get to know, with greater clarity than before, when you are motivated to eat, why, when your food choices are made (and it’s often not when you think it is), and how you eat.  It also allows you to gain true pleasure from food; giving you the space to truly enjoy what you are doing.  As well, when we are mindful of what we eat, processed foods begin to lose their luster.  Their simplified flavors and textures just don’t stack up to the complexities of natural foods.  Even our sense of taste can become deeper, allowing us to experience flavors in foods that we never knew were there.  Finally, it supports good health, as mindful eating allows for more time to appropriately chew your food, and gives you time to feel satisfied by smaller portions.

How Is It Done?

Although there are many websites and articles listing steps as varied as eating alone, setting your fork down between bites, and somewhat structuring your meals to support mindful eating, I’m of a different mind on this subject.  In my opinion, to truly learn about ourselves, and to really have a chance of developing mindfulness that is integrated into our lives, we need to bring mindfulness to our eating process just as it is.

To begin is very simple then:  just become aware of yourself.  Simply gather information about the entire eating process by deeply feeling and seeing yourself during each step.  Start at the moment you have the desire to eat.  Feel your body, and become aware of the state of your mind.  Are you actually hungry?  Are you procrastinating something?  Are you just needing a hit of pleasure or a reward?  Are you stressed and needing to feel better?  Are you being swayed by the choices of people around you?  You might be surprised by how rare it is that you wait for physical hunger to motivate you to eat.

Next, get to know the choosing process.  Perhaps your first awareness of wanting to eat began with a choice to eat something specific.  But even if it did not, often we have already made the choice to eat something even if we feel we still have a choice.  For many people, by the time they are fighting the desire to eat something, they have in fact already chosen to eat it.  Become aware of the fight within yourself, and acknowledge the truth about what you actually crave.  Or if you have already decided to eat something, or can’t decide, become aware of that too.  The point is to be aware of the choosing process, and to come with a mind open to discovery.  After some weeks or months of watching the choosing process, you may be surprised by what you find out about yourself.

Now move to the preparation process, or the process of purchase if you’re grabbing fast food.  The important thing to be aware of here is the state of the mind and its effect on the body.  Notice changes in craving, in feelings of agitation, peace, frustration, boredom, or if your choice has changed.  You can also be mindful of the actual preparation process, and the movements and feelings in the physical body.

Many people choose to begin once their food is actually in front of them.  Whether or not you have been aware of the prior steps, once you are ready to eat, turn to awareness of the body and mind together.  Feel the motivation to pick up the fork or food.  Feel the body move the food toward your mouth, the salivation, the anticipation.  Feel the process of chewing.  Taste the food and feel the mouth.  Really bury yourself in the sensations of eating.  Notice if you crave the next bite even though you currently have a bite of food in your mouth.  Notice the pace at which you desire to eat, and any associated mental/physical feelings around that.  When the mind wanders, notice that, see if what you are thinking about has changed the way you feel, and then bring your mind back to the meal until your are finished.

Finally, be aware of how the meal left you feeling.  Full?  Wanting more?  Did the meal trigger any physical reactions, like phlegm, a cough, hiccups, distention, or feelings of nourishment and satisfaction?  Notice if your mind is already planning the next meal.

Where Does This All Lead?

Mindfulness of eating gives us a deepened awareness, and an incredible amount of information about ourselves.  Over time, it reveals the truth about our eating habits.  This newfound awareness then offers us the freedom to make choices.  It allows us to find pleasure in eating.  As well, many of us will undoubtedly experience the subtle pain in certain aspects of the eating process:  the pain of craving, the pain of needing a reward, or needing an escape, or needing to avoid, or needing to medicate.  When we become aware of pain, even if it’s subtle, we are more likely to spontaneously let it go.  More important, we become aware of pleasure, and we can begin to see how we can increase that pleasure by bringing more mindfulness to each bite, each flavor, each sound while eating.

I hope you will take the time to practice mindfulness of eating during at least a couple of meals this week.  So that you can bring both freedom and pleasure to one of the most important activities for the health and quality of your life.

May All Beings Be Happy and Well,

Craig Swogger, L.Ac.

Santa Monica Acupuncture

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Breathe In A Way That Feels Good

The benefits of meditation are well known, but in case you haven’t heard you can read about some of those benefits here and here.  So how can you incorporate more meditation into your life, and reap some of the rewards it has to offer?  It’s actually quite simple:  breathe in a way that feels good.

The breath is always with us.  It’s portable.  It’s free.  Yet we mostly ignore it unless it’s causing us pain.  But what if we took control of this powerful tool for relaxation, and simply decided to breathe in a way that felt good?

Breathing in a way that feels good is as easy as it sounds.  No matter what position you are in (standing, sitting, lying down), no matter what your circumstances, just ask yourself “how do I want to breathe right now?” and your body will respond.  Usually, it will take in a couple of deep breaths and begin to breathe slowly and rhythmically.  But whatever it decides to do, just go with it, and keep asking that question every few breaths.  “How can I breathe so that it feels good?”  You can also ask “can I breathe in a way that will relax me?”  “can I breathe in a way that will relax this tension in my back?”, etc.  Then just roll with whatever your body and breath gives you.

The power of this technique is that you can do it anywhere.  You don’t need to be meditating (although, this will improve almost every meditation I can think of). You can be at work, in a meeting, arguing with a family member, driving in rush hour traffic, and still get the benefits of breathing in a way that feels good.  You’ll be taking the edge off your stress, reducing the damage it’s doing to you, increasing the positive effects that come from relaxation, and maybe… just maybe… you’ll even feel good because of it.

So please, if nothing else, take several opportunities each day to breathe in a way that feels good.  It’ll go a long way to helping with your long term health and happiness.

To get started with meditation, you can try my short guided meditation on Youtube.

May All Beings Be Well And Happy,

Craig Swogger, L.Ac.

Santa Monica Acupuncture

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Probiotic Foods for Health

We’ve heard a lot about probiotics in the last few years, and I would like to throw my opinion into the mix, and answer a few questions.  I’ll also explain why some of your food cravings are coming from your gut, and how probiotics can change what you crave.

What are probiotic foods?

Probiotic foods are foods that host colonies of bacteria and fungi that are beneficial to our digestion and overall health.  When we eat probiotics, we colonize our gut with these organisms.

Why do we need them?

They aid in digestion, and are involved in keeping harmful, and often inflammatory substances out of our bloodstream; substances that many believe are behind auto-immune diseases.  They also produce several of the B vitamins, and vitamin K, which are essential to energy production, blood formation and function.  Probiotics also suppress harmful bacteria in the gut, often responsible for diarrhea and other issues.  Finally, probiotics help reduce sugar cravings and boost your craving for healthy foods (see the last point in this article).

Which foods are probiotic?

There are many probiotic foods:  organic yogurt, kefir, kambucha (a drink containing fermented fungus), miso (which comes in different types: soy, brown rice, barley, and garbanzo), sauerkraut, kimchi, natto (fermented soy), tempeh (fermented soy), and fermented vegetables.  The beauty of these foods is that they are both a vehicle for beneficial bacteria, and are altered by the bacteria they contain, making them even healthier than they were before fermenting.

How should they be used?

I recommend eating a small portion of one to three probiotic foods a day.  A little organic yogurt at breakfast perhaps, followed by a few bites of kimchi with dinner.  You can also use probiotics to help you digest specific foods better.  For instance, if you have a trouble digesting broccoli, then eat sauerkraut or kimchi (made of cabbage, from the same family as broccoli) for a month, and see if your digestion improves.  If you have trouble with beans, then try eating miso (soy and/or garbanzo) every day for about a month.

My final, and most important point:

Whatever you eat is feeding the bacteria already in your gut.  Your food choices are cultivating colonies of bacteria that prefer those foods, and starving colonies that need other foods.  And, research has shown that your gut bacteria can make you crave the foods they need.  In a nutshell: eating donuts grows the bacteria that eat them, leading you to crave donuts.  Or, eating whole plant foods leads to craving whole plant foods.  Seeding your gut with healthy bacteria can jump start the process of suppressing the unhealthy colonies, and reduce your cravings for sugar.

So, eat your probiotics.  And, while you’re at it eat healthy, whole, organic foods whenever possible.

May All Beings Be Happy and Well,

Craig Swogger, L.Ac.

Santa Monica Acupuncture

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Eat Your Greens!

Kale

Kale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d like to make a simple recommendation that can go a long way toward improving your health: eat your greens. There are very few things health practitioners agree on more than this simple tip.  Why? Because no other foods, or supplements, contain the vitamins and minerals (and the substances you need to USE them) at the high concentrations that greens do.

Take kale for instance. Kale is a super-food. It contains more nutrients per ounce than any other common vegetable, fruit, or green. It’s been found to contain dietary fiber, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and to be a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. In fact, one cup of chopped raw kale has 1.5 times the vitamin C, and 2 times the vitamin A that your body needs for the day! And, steamed kale contains fiber that helps lower cholesterol (so eating some of your greens steamed is a good idea!).

Greens like kale are involved in detoxification, creation and function of healthy blood cells, and a host of other necessary bodily functions. And these other greens aren’t far behind kale: collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and the multitude of lettuce and cabbage varieties available to us.

Need I say more? Eat your greens!

I’m a fan of eating foods in their whole state. While you can certainly juice greens, I recommend that you eat whole greens every day, and that any juice be in addition to that. My friend Amy Glin (chef and creator of Amy’s Nuts granola), shares this wonderful kale salad recipe that has quickly become my favorite raw green dish of all time.

Wishing you Health and Happiness,

Craig Swogger, L.Ac.

Santa Monica Acupuncture

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Ginger – An Amazing And Versatile Medicinal Herb

English: Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae, G...

English: Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae, Ginger, rhizome. Deutsch: Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae, Ingwer, Rhizom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) a relative of turmeric, is an incredibly versatile and powerful medicinal herb.  This spicy yellow root, commonly used to cleanse the palate between bites of sushi, has also been used as medicine for over a thousand years.  Due to its ability to reduce the toxicity of other herbs, and because of its adaptogenic and additive effects, it is used by practitioners of Asian medicine to “harmonize” herbal formulas, making them more effective and easier to digest.

The list of things ginger is said to treat is manifold, therefore I’ll focus on some of what I consider to be the more important aspects (and may expand this article to cover more in the future as time allows).

  • Cancer – Ginger has been shown to inhibit cell growth and modulate angiogenic[1],[2] factors in several types of cancer, including ovarian[3], breast[4], colon[5], prostate[6], and others.[7]
  • Type II Diabetes and Prevention – Studies show that ginger may be preventative of type II diabetes, and may also protect against the degenerative effects of high blood sugar on organ systems in the body.  One study states “The mechanisms underlying these actions are associated with insulin release and action, and improved carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. The most active ingredients in ginger are the pungent principles, gingerols, and shogaol. Ginger has shown prominent protective effects on diabetic liver, kidney, eye, and neural system complications.”[8]
  • Ulcers – Ginger can help prevent or treat ulcers due to its antibacterial activity.  It has been shown to significantly reduce H. Pylori load (the bacteria that causes ulcers), and to reduce inflammation via the COX-2 pathway by up to 50%, and to stop erosion of the epithelial lining of the digestive tract.[9]
  • Nausea (Morning Sickness, Motion Sickness, Chemotherapy Induced Nausea) – Ginger has been shown to reduce nausea from a host of causes.  Chemotherapy induced nausea[10], morning sickness[11],[12] and motion sickness among them (although there are mixed studies on its efficacy for motion sickness)[13],[14].  The mechanisms behind this effect aren’t yet known, but it is suspected that the antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger may be involved.
  • Arthritis/Inflammation – Ginger reduces cytokines as well as western pharmaceuticals[15], and inhibits COX-2[16] and PGE2 (prostaglandins)[17].  It is thought that compounds in ginger have multiple, and synergistic effects on reducing inflammation and pain for both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.  Ginger has also been shown to be effective for pain in primary dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain).[18]
  • Antibiotic – For hundreds of years ginger has been used to treat, and prevent seafood poisoning, and digestive complaints that may have had bacterial infections at their root.  Now studies prove that ginger destroys E. Coli, H. Pylori, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and many other bacteria.[19],[20],[21]
  • Improves Digestion – Besides the already listed benefits of ginger for nausea, and for ulcers, it appears that ginger also speeds gastric emptying[22], and acts as a carminative, breaking up intestinal gas and expelling it.[23]  The symptoms of slow gastric emptying are nausea, vomiting, and abdominal fullness after eating.

Dosage

Ginger is safe to use as a food, and shows very little toxicity.  When used medicinally, taking 3-9gms of fresh ginger a day is the standard dosage in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Dried ginger can be taken in smaller doses of about 3gms.

You can purchase organic ginger products directly from Mountain Rose Herbs by searching their shop at http://goo.gl/vBkpV

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Precautions

Ginger has an additive effect on many medications; meaning it increases their activity in the human body.  Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor or licensed acupuncturist about any medications you are taking before you use ginger.  In particular, it may increase the effects of blood thinners and lead to serious complications.  If you are taking any of the following medications, be particularly careful to speak to your doctor before taking ginger:  NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, Motrin, etc.), blood thinners (Warfarin/Coumadin, Heparin), heart medications, diabetes medications or other medications that control blood sugar (Glucophage/Metformin, Glucotrol, etc.).

NOTE

The information provided above is educational only and is not meant to act as, or substitute for, medical advice.  Seek advice from a licensed acupuncturist or herbalist when considering using herbal medicine.

Warmest and Best,

Craig Swogger, L.Ac

Santa Monica Acupuncture


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