Thoughts From Our Practitioners

Lifestyle Choices and Our Health

Lifestyle choices are influential in achieving and maintaining optimal health.

According to acupuncture theory, we derive our basic life energy from two sources. The first is called "pre-natal qi." We are born with it. It is a gift, basically, from our parents. The second source is called post-natal qi and this is what we make for ourselves on a daily basis from our food, water and air. The choices we make in each of these areas contribute to our peace of mind and our good health.

Evidence from every direction suggests that a Low Glycemic Diet (a diet that encourages a slow release of insulin which keeps the blood sugar very stable) is a good choice for most people. This works out to be a diet based on whole grains, vegetables, protein, not too many fruits or sweets, and a minimum of processed sugary foods.

Interestingly, this pattern forms the basis of most traditional diets, which tend to revolve around a grain, such as couscous, rice, or wheat, accompanied by vegetables and small amounts of protein. This is also where most diet programs end up. It is nourishing, filling, promotes proper weight maintenance, a calm feeling, better sleep, and better elimination.

Water. Our bodies are made of mostly water (!) and good hydration contributes to maintaining a healthy weight, good digestion, nice skin, high energy level and clear thinking. A simple recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. Coffee and soda don't count.

Air. Good deep breaths of air fill up the chest where the lungs and heart live. These two organs have a great deal to do with our energy production. That's where the blood and breath come together, after all. Many people develop habits of shallow breathing or holding the breath when tense. We can consciously remember to enjoy big, slow breaths, bringing good oxygen into our whole being.

Other contributors to good health are sleep, some sort of mind-quieting practice, gentle exercise and nutritional supplements.

Sleep. It's important to get both enough sleep and enough sleep at the right times. The body, with its own innate intelligence, is orchestrating a staggering number of biological processes throughout the day, most of which proceed totally outside of our awareness. From the energetic standpoint, every two hours the complicated machinery of the body shifts a bit to perform a slightly different function. For example, the "stomach and spleen meridians" are in their prime between 7am and 11am. This is a great time to eat and nourish our selves for the day ahead. Twelve hours later the same meridians go into a resting phase. Eating late in the evening, after 7pm, can lead to stomach problems, weight gain and disturbed sleep. After 9pm and especially after 11pm, our bodies are designed to build up their reserves. This is done during sleep. Too many late nights can contribute to breathing and bowel problems, fatigue, irritability and more. Many people think that because they slept for 6-8 hours sometime in the day that they have rested. It's actually better, whenever possible, to be in bed before 10 or 11pm and get up early.

Quieting the mind. Our busy minds can distract us, confuse us, send us into emotional turmoil and keep us up at night. Learning to quiet the mind can lead to a calmer state of being, better learning and decision making, more relaxed emotional responses, and better sleep. There are many ways to do this, although it does take work!!! Disciplining the mind is no easy task! You might want to explore yoga and the breathing exercises called pranayama, tai chi or qi gong, breath awareness or mindfulness meditation, to find an approach that works for you.

Exercise. Some people love it and some people avoid it. If life gets too busy it's hard to fit it in, but exercise of some kind keeps our muscles limber, our blood flowing, encourages the release of hormones that make us feel good, and takes our mind off other things. It's great to have some sort of physical activity built into your life. Some people prefer good hard workouts at the gym, others favor a sport, walking the dog, dancing, working out at home with videotapes, hiking with friends, yoga, tai chi, swimming, climbing or riding a bike. Exercise doesn't have to take hours and doesn't have to be every day, but it's well worth building into your week.

And finally, nutritional supplements. In a perfect world where we all ate organic, freshly grown food in peaceful loving environments, we might get all the nutrients we need from our food. Most of us, however, don't have such a life, and supplements come in handy. There are many wonderful supplements on the market, offering us a way to support our health with little, if any unwanted "side effects."