“Love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing… I am not aware of any other factor in medicine - not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery - that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death from all causes.”
~ Dr. Dean Ornish
This statement stopped me in my tracks. As I continue to gain experience as a practitioner, working with more and more people, my beliefs and ideas about health continue to evolve. This particular statement struck a cord. I have always said, “if I just treat all my patients for stress, then everyone will get better, no matter what they come into my office for”. Stress tears us up. It can be the culprit for digestive issues, chronic diseases, autoimmune disease, insomnia, skin issues, etc. Its potential for destructiveness is infinite. I speak with my patients about having outlets to manage their stressors, such as meditating, deep breathing, working out, proper food and adequate sleep. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a constant battle. Nothing is certain to cure one of stress. That is, until I read Dr. Ornish’s statement and realized that there IS a cure-all for stress. And that cure-all is Love.
When I say ‘love’, I do not mean immature, manipulating, urgent, self-compromising-type love. This is unhealthy love. It’s selfish, addicting, and leaves one drained and for the worse. I’m referring to healthy love. This raises you up. It’s communication, responsibility, trust, faith and growth. It makes you feel empowered and leaves you feeling independent. This is the love that can conquer all. This is the love that could cure cancers, stop heart attacks and end depression. Unfortunately though, this powerful anecdote is a rarity.
We live in a society that’s becoming more and more isolated and shut off from one another. A touch, eye contact, hugs, and sense of community … these human connections are being replaced by instant messages, sunglasses, head nods, and fearfulness. We focus on disease, unwanted pregnancies, and guarding our hearts … instead of romance, unabashedly letting our emotions flow, and inviting intimacy into our lives. What has become of us? And what will become of us?
The next time you are feeling sick, exhausted, depressed and such, take a moment to think … when is the last time someone genuinely expressed their love for you? When did you last have sex? When is the last time you took the time to have lunch with your best friend? How many times have you hugged, or been hugged in the last week? Have you looked deep into anyone’s eyes lately, caressed their cheek, and told them you love them? Perhaps then the answer truly is … all you need is love.
Although the jingle bells are jingling and halls are decked with holly, the holidays can be a particularly challenging time of year for a lot of people. If you're feeling a bit down, try out these three tips to beat those holiday blues:
1. Eat Well - Christmas cookies, spiced eggnog, candy canes and more! The holidays are chock full of, well, crap. Eating crap, or overeating anything, literally feeds the depression cycle. Every time you eat crap, you feel bad, and then it just gets that much harder to pull yourself out.
2. Get Active - Don't sit in the house all day. Get out and get moving! Go sledding, go hiking, have a snowball fight, or get your bum to the gym. Not getting enough physical exercise can actually worsen depression. Exercise rejuvenates a person and increases blood flow to all the major organs of body.
3. Start Laughing- Studies have shown that laughter does really make you feel better. Watch some silly Christmas movies! Pop in A Christmas Story or National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and you just try to stay depressed!
Despite the fact that antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed class of medication in the U.S., recent published medical research has demonstrated that prescription antidepressants work best for those who have severe depression but for mild to moderate depression, antidepressants do not seem to be any more effective than a "sugar pill” or placebo. Depression is believed to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain, especially low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. What this evidence suggests is that there are many factors that contribute to depression, not just changes in brain neurotransmitters.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, depression may be caused by a number of various imbalances within the organ and bio-mechanical systems. The root cause varies from person to person and must be established case to case. There is no "one size fits all". So it makes sense that a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry states that acupuncture may be quite effective for mild to moderate depression. Other medical research has also demonstrated that simple approaches such as exercise, stress reduction, meditation and yoga can be beneficial in mild to moderate depression too. And guess what? None of the previous mentioned methods contain harmful side effects, something certainly not true of antidepressant drugs.
So before accepting a prescription for an antidepressant, first try visiting an acupuncturist for treatments and lifestyle coaching.
My current obsession is the fascinating Dr. John E. Sarno - easily the most brilliant doctor in America, and sadly the most overlooked. Since the 1970s, Dr. Sarno has been curing thousands of chronic pain patients that the medical community has misdiagnosed and been unable to relieve. Sarno does this not through the help of medications, exercises or surgery, but merely by educating his patients on what's really going on, Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). Despite the wide range of diagnoses his patients come into the office with (herniated discs, slipped disc, osteoarthritis, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, bursitis, pinched nerves, scoliosis, etc.), Dr. Sarno shows them why tension and unexpressed emotions are the actual cause of their chronic pain, and how awareness and understanding are the first steps to doing something about it. Sounds a little out there? Well don't knock it till you try it because his track record is astounding!
The physiology of TMS begins in the brain. Here repressed emotions like anxiety and anger set in motion a process in which the autonomic nervous system causes a reduction in blood flow to certain muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments, resulting in pain. Your pain is real! It's just not the result of a structural abnormality. The autonomic nervous system responds this way to deflect the person's attention away from very unpleasant, often painful emotions that the mind is trying to keep repressed. It is as though the mind had decided that a physical pain is preferable to an emotional one. Crazy right? I suppose if I wasn't an acupuncturist I might think it's a little more wacky, but as an acupuncturist I see stress and emotions reek havoc on the human body. I always say that if I treat all of my patients merely for stress alone, everyone will get better.
The cure for TMS can be as simple as hearing a lecture, watching a video or reading a book on the subject. Knowledge is the cure. Once awareness is brought to the fact that the pain is a distraction from the repressed emotions, your body can't be fooled any more, and the pain disappears. Tension Myositis Syndrome, or TMS, affects millions of people and they don't even know it. I'm sure it's affecting some of you reading this right now! Dr. Sarno is approaching ninety and it seems few other doctors are poised to continue his groundbreaking work. I for one, will not let this die. I could write a whole newsletter on TMS! You will surely be hearing more about it from me. In the meantime watch this 20/20 video on TMS
, read Dr. Sarno's book "Healing Back Pain"
and/or come into the office to discuss this and your own personal pain case more in depth with me.
One of the most interesting aspects of Chinese Medicine, is the ability to effect the emotional being. Each organ is associated with a healthy emotion, along with a pathological one. The lungs are containers of our grief and sadness. A healthy set of lungs will allow us to let go of things easier. Taking deep breaths is always helpful when one is upset and crying. Our stomach can be full of worry, over-thinking and anxiety. Anyone ever have a stomach ache before an important event? I think so! Relaxation and trust will make your stomach feel better. Our kidneys are full of courage and confidence. This is why when one is scared or fearful, they may accidentally pee their pants. But not you of course, that other guy! The liver can be destructive as it houses anger and depression. One wants to work hard at keeping their liver healthy and full of compassion and kindness. And finally our heart is the ruler of them all. Good heart health will bring a sense of calm and peace to the whole being. The opposite brings nervousness, excitement and mania. Hence a racing heart rate when one is all worked up. Next time you're feeling less than happy, think about how it may be affecting your body. Our emotions are not all in our heads, they dominate the state of our physical being. For where the mind goes, the body will always follow.