Allergies Making You Miserable?

If you're a chronic sufferer of allergies you know that almost nothing is more miserable than allergy symptoms!  And if you've been dealing with the runny nose, congested sinuses, and itchy eyes for several years it might seem like there is no relief in sight.

You've probably tried all the antihistamines and conventional medicines, but did you know that acupuncture and herbs can relieve your symptoms as well?  They can, and they do it well!

A study done in 2013 published by the Annals in Internal Medicine, tested over 400 people to gauge their reaction to acupuncture and antihistamines. At the conclusion of their study they found that the participants who received acupuncture did see considerable improvements in their symptoms. http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/1583578/acupuncture-patients-seasonal-allergic-rhinitis-randomized-trial

Herbal formulas are also super helpful to calm down your body's reaction to allergens.  They are focused on relieving the immediate symptoms, opening the nose, clearing the mucous, stopping the itching, etc., but on top of that they ALSO treat the underlying organ imbalances which are the root cause of the allergies.  In this way they are superior to antihistamines which only treat symptoms.  And did you know that long term usage of antihistamines can lead to a substantial increased risk of dementia?  That should be something to seriously consider especially if you are taking antihistamines daily.

There is a better way.  You can stop suffering and improve your overall health while you do it.  Try acupuncture and herbs for your allergies today.  Your future allergy free self will thank you!

 

How to Save your Aching Neck

If you're like the majority of people in modern day America you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, most likely the major part of your day. It's no wonder that one of the most common issues that we see in our clinic is "computer neck."  This can lead to issues ranging from mild discomfort to severe disc issues.  

Unfortunately our bodies are not designed to be in computer posture for several hours a day, day in and day out.  And it's not likely that most of us will be spending much less time in front of our screens so how can we both, keep on working, AND keep our necks, and back healthy?  

First, it's really helpful to have a mental picture of what is happening to your neck and back when you are in computer posture.  This encourages you to work towards better posture daily. 

If you have chronic neck and back pain, worse after a day at work then it is very likely that you are sitting the wrong way at your computer.  For most people what this looks like, is a keyboard that's too far away, causing you to reach for it, which in turn rounds the back, and cranes your neck forward.  And if your screen is too low that makes your neck crane forward and down.  This is the perfect recipe for neck and back pain!  

If you want to understand why this posture causes pain, imagine holding a bowling ball away from your body.  The further you hold the ball away from your center the more difficult it would be to hold up.  If you held the ball out with your hand as far away as you could, pretty soon your arm would be tight, painful, and shaky.  You couldn't hold the ball there for more than a minute or two because you are loading the weight onto your arm muscles.

In the same way, most people who work at computers load their trapezius muscle when they hold their heads away from their bodies.  The trapezius is the broad muscle that makes up the back of your neck and covers your upper back.  When your head is craned forward for several hours a day, your poor trapezius is screaming for mercy!  It gets tighter throughout the day, which puts compression pressure on the inter-vertebral discs in your spine.  Over time this pressure leads to these jelly like pads losing their "fluffiness" and the discs deteriorate causing even more neck pain.  Not fun!  

So what do we do about this?  Let's think back to the bowling ball example again.  If you were trying to hold up the bowling ball with the least amount of pain and fatigue, you could do it if you held the ball close to your center.  That's because when you hold the ball closer to you, your frame is holding most of the weight, not your muscles.

In the same way we have to think about centering the weight of our heads on our frames.  Keeping your head up and squared over your shoulders, not angled downwards, or jutted out forwards is the most relaxed way for your head to be positioned.  Make sure that your computer screen, is at eye level, even if that means getting a stand for it.  And be really aware of your head position while using your cellphone too!  We are on those sometimes as much as we are on our computers.  Do not put your cellphone down on a table or in your lap to look at it. Put it up to your eyes, don't bring your eyes down to it! 

At your work station make sure to check your distance to your keyboard.  It shouldn't be so far away that your back has to curve forwards in order to reach it.  This makes your back muscles overwork to stabilize you in that position, just like your trapezius.  

Lastly, find some way to let your body go in the opposite direction for a few minutes a day.  When you sit at your computer your body is bending forwards into a "C" shape.  In order to let your trapezius and back muscles relax you have to bend the "C" in the opposite direction.  

You can use an exercise ball, or a foam roller, or yoga, whichever is your favorite method is fine, as long as you are letting your neck and back, go backwards for a few minutes a day.  Try it.  It feels great, and doing it regularly will keep your neck and back healthier for years to come!

If you have stubborn knots, chronic neck and shoulder pain that has been your constant companion for years and years by all means come on in and see us.  Other than posture there could be other factors at play, such as circulation issues, chronic inflammation, trapped nerves etc.  Acupuncture, cupping, and herbs can break the cycle giving you long lasting neck pain relief.

 

Our Top 7 Tips on How to Protect Against Colds and Flus

1. Limit sugar, including alcohol, which is also a type of sugar. Sugar, and alcohol depress your immune system for up to 5 hours after consumption. They limit your white blood cell's ability to eat bacteria by up to 40%. So though it might be tempting to have some sweets or a few glasses of wine when you're out at your holiday parties, that's actually the worst time to have them. Pass on the booze and the sugar during flu season and you'll be happy you did!

2. Rest up. Make sure you are getting at least 7- 8 hours of sleep each night, and reducing your stress levels as much as you can. When you're sleep deprived and stressed out your body's cortisol levels go up up up! Sustained cortisol levels weaken your immune system leaving you vulnerable to viral or bacterial infections.

3. Eat garlic. Garlic contains allicin which is a powerful immune booster, and anti-microbial. For a stronger effect try to eat it less cooked vs more cooked. Raw garlic is actually pretty edible if you chop it up fine and put it in olive oil or mashed avocado. Eating 2 cloves a day during flu season can really keep the germs away.

4. Chase that garlic with a cup of tea. Black and green tea contain L-theanine which helps your immune system make a stronger attack on viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

5. Have your elderberry syrup on hand! Elderberry syrup is a potent anti viral remedy. You can take one teaspoon per day to prevent colds and flus. If you suspect you might have already caught something take two teaspoons three times a day. And don't forget, once you first start feeling symptoms, the clock starts ticking! Your chances of getting rid of the cold or flu before it sinks into you are always better if you take your elderberry syrup sooner vs later. Ideally you want to take your first dose within 18 hours of first feeling symptoms.

6. Take Vitamin D supplements. If you are not deficient in Vitamin D, taking extra supplementation won't help much, but if you are deficient, if you don't get out in the sun much, or don't eat many dairy foods, then taking this supplement will drastically reduce your chance of getting colds and flus.

7. Heal your gut! This is the one that often surprises people. But did you know that 70% of your immune cells live in your gut walls? It's true. So if you have digestion issues, you will most likely have compromised immunity. Come talk to our acupuncture physicians about improving your gut health. We can put together a plan for you to heal your gut and your immunity.

Progesterone, The Infertility Hormone Q&A

Though it’s true that all of your body’s hormones are at play in fertility, progesterone deficiency occupies a top position as a leading cause of infertility.  Especially as women age past 35, progesterone levels naturally drop, resulting in fewer successful pregnancies.

Q: Why is progesterone is necessary for fertility?

A:  Because it is your warming hormone.  It raises your body temperature after you ovulate to warm and nourish the egg.  Just like when a chicken lays an egg, the chicken’s job is not done. It now has to sit on the egg and keep it warm so that it will hatch. Humans also need to warm our eggs, but we do it internally with progesterone!

Q: How can I tell if I’m progesterone deficient?

A: Common signs are feeling cold, especially in the hands and feet, bloating before your period, pms, mood swings, breast tenderness, and weight gain.

Q: How can I increase my progesterone? 

A: There are a number of ways, but one of the best ways is by getting acupuncture, and taking Chinese herbal formulas.

Q: Why is doing acupuncture and taking herbs better than taking progesterone as pills or creams?

A: Progesterone is called a “mother hormone” because your body can take it and use it to make other hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol.  So what this means is that if your body wants to prioritize making another hormone it will steal progesterone and turn it into something else!   You can take progesterone from a pill or a cream, but if your hormones are out of balance that progesterone can be rerouted, and that doesn’t improve your fertility.  Acupuncture and herbs encourage your body to make its own natural progesterone, balancing your hormones so you can more easily get pregnant, and sustain that pregnancy.

Q: Are there other ways to increase progesterone ?

Yes, absolutely.  There are a multitude of diet and lifestyle adjustments that can be made to promote progesterone balance.  These make a big difference in your fertility journey.  We customize a plan for each and every one of our clients to promote fertility, as well as overall health and balance.  So even before our clients get pregnant they notice that they aren’t getting the symptoms they are used to getting around their periods.  They feel more balanced, and energetic, because promoting fertility automatically means promoting health!

 

Don't Waste Your Insurance Benefits!

Happy October Everyone!

Besides pulling your sweaters out of storage, and getting your pumpkin spiced lattes October is also a great month to get ahead on taking care of any health issues you’re dealing with.  

Most health insurances are on yearly plans which roll over on Dec. 31.  That means if you’ve already met your deductible, you would have to start all over again by Jan. 1 2018 to use your insurance coverage. 

So if you’ve met all or most of your deductible per year, why not get the most out of your insurance coverage and use your visits now while they are covered?

Also, many insurance companies limit the number of acupuncture visits you get coverage for per year.   And unfortunately you don’t get to roll them over into the next year if you don’t use them!  If you use your unused visits now you can have those visits PLUS all the other ones you will have coverage for next year.

You have 3 months left of 2017.  And there’s still time between now and the busy holiday season to do the things you need to do for yourself.  So give us a call today to set up your appointments!

The Best Way to Wear Backpacks

It's that time again, time for your kids to go back to school!  So help them get back to school in a healthy way.  Wearing backpacks the wrong way can cause joint pain, muscle pain and skeletal mis-alignments. Since your kids are still growing it's important that they develop good habits that will keep their musculo-skeletal systems in balance, and save them some pain down the road!

Getting the right backpack is a great place to start.  Remember that your child will likely be carrying the same pack for the whole school year and likely longer so make sure you get one that will be comfortable for your child's frame.  First make sure that they get an actual backpack, not a messenger bag, briefcase or a large purse. Though those types of bags might be trendy, carrying a load on one shoulder causes uneven pressures on your child's muscles and spine. Second, make sure that the straps are thicker rather than thinner.  Thinner straps can dig into the nerves on top of your kid's shoulders and cut off circulation, causing pain. 

Backpack loads should never be more than 15% of your child's weight.  Less than 10% is ideal. Carrying too much weight can cause compression of the spinal discs. So actually weigh that thing!  Check it out and see if your child's backpack is too heavy.  And if it is, see if there is anything that can be left at home.   

Lastly, make sure that your child is wearing their backpack high on their back, and using both straps.  Wearing the backpack low, where the bulk of the weight is hovered over the low back or butt usually leads to your kid leaning forward while walking.  This puts extra strain on the shoulder and the lower back.  Also walking while leaning forwards increases the chance of tripping.  So make sure that the load is being carried towards the top of the back not the bottom.  

 

Kicking Runner's Knee

Got knee pain?  Do you run, or do a sport that puts a lot of pressure on your knees, like bicycling, skiing, basketball, etc?  Then you likely have Runner’s Knee.  Also called, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, it’s the most common diagnosis of knee pain that people get when they go to the doctor.  It’s actually a broad umbrella term used to describe a few different problems that could be going on with your knee. 

Those include 1. chondromalacia patella, which is a condition in which the cartilage on the underside of your knee cap is deteriorating, 2. Iliotibial band syndrome, which is when your IT band becomes tight or inflamed and rubs along the bones on the outside of your knee, 3. patellafemoral malalignment, which means that your patella, the knee cap, is not aligned in the groove of the femur, your thigh bone.  Often these issues occur at the same time and for the same reasons, which is why they are lumped together in the same term. 

In Pasadena, we have a lot of runners!  So we see this syndrome quite often.  And from what we’ve seen from our patients we know that runners are some of the most dedicated athletes out there.  You want as little down time as you can have before getting back to running. 

So if you have this syndrome, what is the best way to get back to running?  First it’s always good to know how this problem developed so that you can prevent it from happening again.

For most people, muscle imbalances compounded with the repetitive motion of running cause this knee pain.  Weak or tight hamstrings, weak gluteus medius, and other hip abductors, and weak inner quad muscle, the vastus medialis, are usually the culprit.  These stabilizing muscles need to be strong to keep the knee cap in the right place. 

Running on graded roads, or running downhill also put a lot of pressure on the IT band leading to runner’s knee.  And running on harder surfaces, like concrete, and running with worn shoes can increase shock damage and inflammation on your knees. So be good to your knees!  Run on softer surfaces, inspect your shoes often for wear, and be aware of running on uneven surfaces. 

Come visit us at Blue Jean Acupuncture and we can show you stretches and exercises to balance your muscles.  These home exercises combined with acupuncture treat Runner’s knee beautifully.  Acupuncture calms down inflammation and pushes blood flow to nourish and heal the tendons in and around your knees.  We’ve had great results treating Runner’s knee over the years.  So if you want to get back to running give us a call and we can help you get your knees back in running condition! 

Top 9 Tips for Healthy Flying

Vacation season is officially here.  If you’re flying out to the destination of your dreams you will absolutely want to make sure you arrive feeling your best!  Read ahead for Blue Jean Acupuncture’s top 9 tips for healthy and happy air travel.

1.      Give your vacation a head start, by making sure you’re eating as healthy as possible at least a week before flying.  That means eating whole real foods, non processed, low sugar, and low grease.  This will give your body an energy, and immunity boost!

2.      Drink water before and during your flight.  Keeping your nasal passages, and lungs hydrated helps create a barrier for germs, helping to keep you from getting sick.  Also keeping hydrated reduces jet lag.

3.      Take a teaspoon of elderberry syrup before getting on your flight.  Elderberry syrup powerfully protects your body against viruses.  So keep a bottle at home, and put taking a teaspoon on your pre-flight check list!

4.      Don’t have that cocktail while waiting to board.  Alcohol depresses your immune system, and dehydrates you.  And pass on the booze when you’re on the plane too.  Alcohol can aggravate motion sickness and altitude sickness.  That’s no fun!  Save the party for when you land.

5.      Get an acupuncture treatment before you go to knock out any aches, pains, immune system deficiencies or any other issues that might stop you from enjoying your vacation. Also, an acupuncturist can provide you with herbal remedies for common traveling maladies like food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea. These can be a lifesaver if you end up needing them!

6.      Stretch before your flight.  It’s hard to stretch properly on a plane without looking like a crazy person.  So make sure you stretch out well before leaving for the airport. You will be a lot more comfortable on the flight and this will help keep your circulation moving. Also, don't forget to get up every few hours to prevent blood clots.

7.      Board well rested.  Though this might sound counter intuitive for long flights, just think of what would happen if you were sleep deprived and then for whatever reason weren’t able to sleep on the plane.  You would arrive twice as exhausted as you would have otherwise! Bottom line is it’s always healthiest to listen to your body.  Rest when your body wants rest.

8.      Bring a lumbar support pillow or small towel to roll up to put behind your lower back.  Not only does this reduce lower back pain, but also keeps your spine in alignment which reduces neck pain also.

9.      Wear light weight, loose, but long sleeved layered clothing.  Airlines are not providing blankets these days, so you want to be able to prevent a chill, but also allow for good blood circulation. 

Got Heel Pain? It Might be Plantar Fasciitis

The word plantar refers to the bottom of your foot.  Fascia is fibrous connective tissue found all over your body, and the suffix “itis” means inflammation of.  So “plantar fasciitis” is the fancy medical way of saying inflammation at the bottom of your foot. 

It’s the most common cause of heel pain, and many of us get it at some point in our lives.  It’s caused by irritation to the fascia in our feet, which can happen in a number of different ways. 

Your calves have bands of connective tissue that run all the way to the bottom of your feet.  If your calves are tight then that connective tissue is being pulled taut.  This creates more friction at the bottom of your feet as the tissue slides back and forth.  Then that friction causes pain.

Also, any exercise which involves running or jumping can cause micro tears to form in the plantar fascia, and so can doing work that requires you to be on your feet all day. If you’re standing or walking for several hours a day, especially if you’re walking on a hard floor, or in shoes with worn soles you could definitely be doing damage to your feet.

If you were born with high arches or flat feet then you have to be even more careful to prevent plantar fasciitis.  Abnormalities in your foot arch can put extra strain on the plantar fascia, making injury and inflammation much more likely.

The bottom line is you need your feet to get you places!  So take care of them by being aware of plantar fasciitis and taking prevention measures.  If you have high arches or flat feet, talk to your podiatrist about getting customized shoe inserts that will help distribute your weight on your feet the right way.  Always stretch your calves and feet after exercising.  Don’t walk on hard surfaces with your bare feet.  Make sure that your shoes have good heel cushioning.  And if you’re holding onto a few extra pounds, lose that weight to take pressure off your feet. 

If you already have plantar fasciitis, then there are a couple of different things you can do to treat it.  Stretch your calves daily.  Stretch the bottom of your feet by rolling them on a tennis or golf ball.  And aim to reduce or even eliminate inflammation causing foods, like sugar, white flour, and trans-fats. 

Acupuncture powerfully treats any kind of pain and plantar fasciitis is no exception. By directing blood flow and pain relieving endorphins to your heels, acupuncture treatments can give you relief.  The needles don’t even go in your heels!  But they direct the flow of healing elements right where they need to go.   

Leaky Gut, the Syndrome You Didn't Know You Have

 

You may not know it, but your intestinal health is central to your health at large because it houses the majority of your immune system.  That’s why it’s so important to protect and keep your gut healthy. But unless you're living in a log cabin in the woods, working in the sunshine every day, growing and eating your own organic food, then chances are you probably have some level of Leaky Gut Syndrome.

According to some doctors, up to 80% of us have Leaky Gut.  How did we get this way? Most of us are abusing our gut health daily. We stress out, take medications, eat processed foods, eat too much gluten, drink too much alcohol.  These things degrade the lining of our intestines, leading to what we call Leaky Gut Syndrome,  which means that your guts have become more permeable than they should be.

You can think of your gut lining as the wall around a castle.  It’s there to protect you from things that are not supposed to be breeching the perimeter, such as undigested foods, allergens, and toxins.  Once your gut lining is compromised, all kinds of mayhem can ensue. 

80% of your immune cells live in and around your gut lining.  When “invaders” jump through the holes in your intestinal lining your immune system goes into red alert mode! It can go into over drive and begin even attacking itself, which is what happens in auto-immune conditions. 

You may not notice the changes in your health all at once, since these things happen over time, but little by little exposure to things that are not friendly to your gut will lead to different health issues.  Not everyone will have the same symptoms, but common ones for Leaky Gut, are bloating after eating, diarrhea, new food sensitivities or allergies, rashes, eczema, foggy brain, fatigue, joint pain, auto-immune issues, anxiety and others.

None of that sounds, fun, but the good news is that Leaky Gut is treatable.  It all starts with recognizing that your gut health is the keystone to your overall health. Changes can be made to your diet to stop the progression of Leaky Gut.  Then supplements, nutrition therapy, and acupuncture can help you rebuild your gut lining.  As a result you will reach a state of vitality that you didn’t know it was possible to have.  Heal your gut and you will heal your health!