One of the challenges of practicing Chinese medicine within the context of a Western culture is that in the west we have become accustomed to expecting immediate results (often delivered in pill form). We are willing to put up with the side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs because - for the moment at least - we seem better. Chinese Medicine has a much more subtle approach of fine tuning and gently coaxing the body back to homeostasis and thereby health and is based on the idea that the root of the problem must be treated for lasting results. Compared to western medicine, this process requires a little more time, so I've been reflecting on all the things that can be done to speed up the healing process.
Many of you have heard me using the analogy of a sprinkler system that supports the health and vitality of your lawn. When one of the sprinkler heads becomes damaged or blocked we often only notice the problem once the corresponding area of the lawn starts turning brown. In simplified terms, health in our bodies, too, is based on optimal circulation reaching all of our organs, glands, tissues and nerves. When symptoms appear this indicates that somewhere there is a problem with circulation; that there is an obstruction to the flow of Qi and Blood. For health to return - be it for the brown lawn or the symptom-burdened body - we have to make sure the supply of life giving water, Qi and blood are restored. Just as the lawn will take several rounds of watering to return to its healthy green state, so the body will require assistance for a while to be able to heal itself to the point of being symptom-free and in homeostasis.
Committing to a series of acupuncture treatments is a great way of supporting the body back to health and there are many things that you, as the patient, can do to support and speed up the process:
Drink plenty of water: Being well hydrated is essential to optimal health! Not only will water flush out harmful toxins and waste material, it is also key in maintaining health of joints and muscle tissue. The synovial fluid that allows for smooth and frictionless movement of our joints is dependent on water, as is the connective tissue that surrounds all of our muscles and organs.
Get enough sleep: When we sleep we heal. Making sure that you get enough rest, gives the body the opportunity to repair and restore.
Take your Chinese herbs: Supplementing your acupuncture visits with Chinese herbal medicine is thought to speed up the healing process by 30%! Chinese herbal formulas are powerful and unique because they are matched to the exact imbalance that is at the root of your symptoms. Taking them between treatments will not only support what is being done with needles during each session, but will also gently heal the bio-chemical imbalances that are contributing to the health problem being treated.
Make gentle exercise a priority: While your body is healing it may be beneficial to avoid high-intensity workouts in favor of more gentle activities such as yoga, walking or Tai Qi. Healing requires a lot of energy and intense workouts can rob the body of some of the energy needed to regain health.
Eat well: Eat nutrient dense foods and a diet based on whole foods. Avoid dieting focused on weight loss during recovery time and rather think about eating a healthy diet with lots of veggies as well as meat, chicken, fish and healthy fats. This type of diet will provide the building blocks required for repair and healing. Definitely avoid process foods during this time and try to keep sugar intake at a minimum.
Avoid high stress: Whether it is work stress or emotional stress, try to avoid situations that raise your stress level because stress is so damaging to our bodies and will slow down the healing process.
Find time for quiet and reflection: More and more studies are showing the health benefits of meditation. Whatever your spiritual practice is, it is important to take the time each day to slow down your mind and body and be present to the moment and to yourself. I heard a very interesting interview on the radio recently that talked about the need to disconnect from all of our 'connected devices' each day and that this would help us think clearer and feel more focused. Meditating our enjoying the silence is easier to achieve when you aren't distracted by the buzzing, chirping or beeping of your device notifying you of the latest email, tweet or text.
Making a commitment to holistic care is a powerful step in taking ownership of our lives and our health, and this process becomes even more empowering when treatments are combined with healthy habits at home. There is no doubt in my mind that incorporating these ideas will accelerate your path to health.