A healthy lifestyle means making small choices each day that add up to big benefits. When you invest the time, the payoff is huge!
Feeling good is what we all want. Some days are easier than others in achieving our goals and enjoying the life we want. We are all working hard to stay healthy and protect our loved ones as well. Good health can easily be taken for granted. I have a newfound gratitude and appreciation for health.
Cultivating a healthy lifestyle is all about the basics:
Get good quality restful sleep
Sleep is vital for good health. While you are sleeping, your body is working hard to regenerate and heal itself and your liver is working to cleanse your body of toxins. The release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is greatly enhanced during sleep, especially early in the night (1). HGH plays a key role in growth, body composition, cell repair, and metabolism. Quality sleep benefits your immune system, your energy, and your mood. Have you ever worked late into the night, gotten up early, and found yourself cranky and irritable? Lack of sleep can make it difficult to handle stressful situations as well. If you struggle with sleep, creating a nighttime routine and good sleep hygiene can help. It’s important to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, decrease screen time before bed, and don’t bring work into the bedroom with you. Meditation (try Waking Up app, Headspace, or Calm) or deep breathing can also help you fall asleep quicker. Once a nighttime ritual becomes a habit, it will signal to your body that it’s time to start winding down. Are you experiencing insomnia? There are many patterns in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that contribute to lack of sleep. While you being your sessions and find your balance, try these acupressure points. You can do them anytime, anywhere.
Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
You are what you eat. If you will buy premium gas for a nice car, consider doing the same for your body! Your body is the only one you have got. Fill it with premium foods. Eat whole foods and avoid processed foods whenever possible. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables and try to make your meals colorful. Aim for five to seven fruits and vegetables per day, the colors of the rainbow. Avoid the Dirty Dozen and aim for the Clean 15. Pay attention to which foods make you feel poorly such as tired, anxious, or bloated and avoid eating them. Some common food sensitivities are dairy, gluten, corn, peanuts, and eggs. If you struggle with digestion, adding a probiotic is very beneficial. We carry several different types of probiotics, Probiomax 100 Billion and Probiomax Complete are two of our most popular. They can be ordered online or can be purchased in our clinic. During an acupuncture consultation, we may also recommend prebiotics or immunoglobulins. We work with digestive concerns such as SIBO, Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS), Colitis, and reflux.
Stress is a huge contributor to health issues and can manifest in both physical and emotional ways. The sympathetic, fight or fight mechanism in our body is a response to perceived threat or danger. During this reaction, certain hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are released, speeding the heart rate, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups, and changing various other autonomic nervous functions, giving the body a burst of energy and strength. Originally named for its ability to enable us to physically fight or run away when faced with danger, it is now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate, like in traffic or during a stressful day at work. When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response, but in our times of chronic stress, this often doesn’t happen enough, causing damage to the body. (2) We live in a world that values a full schedule. Sometimes it feels as though if you’re not working hard you are not doing it right. Teaching our bodies what it means to be calm reduces the sympathetic response and teaches us “Rest and Digest”. We need to allow ourselves time to relax and regenerate. Find time to play and laugh. What makes you happy? What helps you let go of your daily stress? Make a list of these hobbies and write them down so they are accessible to you during pressure cooker times. If you can practice these daily, they become habits, and may keep your baseline stress levels, and cortisol levels decrease. Appreciate the little things and let go of perfectionism. Although focusing on the positives will not remove stress, it can change what you are focusing. Breathing exercises are something you can add throughout your day. Just one or two minutes per day can shift your body into a more calm state.
Exercise and move your body daily
We all know movement and exercise are important to our health. In our current COVID times, many of us are working from home and spending long hours behind our computers. Sometimes the only exercise we end up getting is walking to and from our car or back and forth to the kitchen. Adding exercise to your routine does not have to feel overwhelming. Even a short amount of exercise can be beneficial. Exercise draws on reserve sugar stored in your muscles and liver. As your body rebuilds these stores, it takes sugar from your blood. The more strenuous your workout, the longer your blood sugar will be affected. Low blood sugar is possible even four to eight hours after exercise (3). All exercise adds up. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot instead of the front spot, take a short walk on your work break. Adding exercise to your calendar can help both accountability, and the feeling of accomplishment. Make exercise an important meeting that cannot be rescheduled. Have a workout bag ready to go so it is easy to grab in the morning. If exercise is planned, you are much more likely to follow through with it.
How Acupuncture can help
Acupuncture brings the body back to a parasympathetic, “Rest and Digest” state. This helps improve how the body functions as a whole and leads to improved, restorative sleep, enhanced digestion, and the ability to manage daily stressors better. Not only does acupuncture support how the body works physically, but it also improves our emotional wellbeing. I often see patients walk through the door feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and walk out feeling regenerated and ready to take on the day. “…acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic NPY pathway.” These findings, which support acupuncture as a useful tool in combating stress, are encouraging for the improvement of healthcare through the integration of effective Eastern medical practices. (4)
It is important to discuss a treatment plan with your acupuncturist. Your plan is based on your individual health goals. The number of treatments and frequency of treatments based on the severity of the issue, the length of time you have had the issue, and how quickly your body responds to the treatments. Even after the original issue has been resolved, you may find you enjoy regular “tune-up” treatments to maintain your health. When people make lifestyle changes, their challenges are likely to resolve. If acupuncture is the only aspect of you healthcare regime that changes, tune-ups will encourage continual good health and wellness.
If cultivating a healthy lifestyle is a goal for 2021, including regular acupuncture treatments in your wellness routine is an ideal addition.
1. Van Cauter E, Kerkhofs M, Caufriez A, et al. A quantitative estimation of growth hormone secretion in normal man: reproducibility and relation to sleep and time of day. J Clin Endocr Metab 1992; 74: 1441–1450.
Written by Autumn Jensen, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.
Edited by Erin Pass, L.Ac., Dipl. C.H.