When Kyndl decided to write about her experience treating stroke, it made me pause and reflect on my own history. In my mid-30s, I had a stroke that profoundly affected my life. My stroke was caused by a dissected vertebral artery that sent a series of small blood clots into the back of my brain (primarily the cerebellum.) Early on I was exhausted and struggled to function, even though most of my symptoms weren’t visible. It has been a long and winding journey. As I work with patients who are recovering from stroke and head injuries, I draw on that experience, encouraging them to expand their toolkit. Here is the most common advice I give.
1. Rest, Rest, Rest. The brain needs a lot of rest to recover. This is “next level” rest that you may never have experienced before. Nap, move slowly, find ways to increase the restfulness of your life. Think of it as a yin practice of reducing stimulation and enjoying quiet. Find things that calm your nervous system and put you in a state of healing. Things I’ve found helpful include laying on the earth, being in nature, using a weighted blanket and listening to guided meditations. [The caveat here is that there is also a need for movement. If you have lost mobility or have paralyzing vertigo, it is essential that you find ways to move as well. The brain needs to be challenged.]
2. Focus on Nutrition. Eat a diet rich in antioxidants, i.e. lots of fresh fruits and veggies and minimal processed foods. You may become more sensitive to caffeine, alcohol, sugar or common allergens in your diet. Be willing to eliminate things that are hard on your body. Explore brain-supporting supplements like Omega 3s or fish oil, amino acids like L-Theanine and GABA (to name a few). Also, the brain is more prone to anxiety and depression after an injury. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, medication can be helpful - this is a great time to consider all your options.
3. Assemble Your Team. You may benefit from acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, neurofeedback, biofeedback and more. Look for practitioners who have experience treating stroke or brain injuries. You’ll need a variety of support in different stages of the healing process. When you hit a plateau, it may be time to take a break from a therapy or try something new.
4. Cultivate Patience. The recovery process will take longer than you think. Sometimes this is frustrating, as you face unexpected plateaus, but know that improvements will continue to come. If you get discouraged, investigate neuroplasticity - the brain and nervous system are continuously adapting in amazing ways! Laugh about it. Celebrate improvements you notice rather than focusing on when you’ll “get back to normal.” Make sure the people around you understand this too. Seek out the support of others who have made this journey before you. Remember, you are being transformed in the healing process, not reaching back to a previous state of health.
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor
The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing, by Norman Doidge
The Antianxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott
Anything by Dr Dan Seigel, who also has great meditations on his website: https://www.mindsightinstitute.com
Let us know what resources you've found helpful! Please comment below.
- Hannah Beachy, L.Ac.
June is National Stroke Awareness Month, which seems like the perfect time to share my experience treating stroke patients a few years ago when I volunteered with the Acupuncture Relief Project, a small non-profit organization that worked to provide healthcare to rural areas of Nepal.
One of the biggest health risks we watched out for in our patients at the clinic were precursors to stroke. The main health concerns were high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol, all of which were on the rise throughout Nepal. This stemmed from a diet high in salt and starch and easier access to processed foods high in sugars and sodium. Combining improper diet with a sedentary lifestyle poses serious health risks. Aside from manual labor working the fields or walking up and down the steep hills from village to village or to temple for puja (prayer), any sort of exercise was practically unheard of and we saw a lot of folks come through the clinic who benefited from the guidance we had to offer them. Prevention is a key component to healthy living.
When a stroke occurs, there are key signs that confirm what is going on and, if identified and treated quickly, can dramatically improve the outcome. This includes numbness in the arm, face, or leg (usually on one side of the body), severe headache, slurred speech and confusion or difficulty using the right words, loss of balance, dizziness or vertigo, and visionary trouble. When someone is experiencing a stroke, seeking medical attention as soon as possible and acting F.A.S.T. (Face droop? Arm weakness? Slurred speech? Time to call 911) is vital in order to prevent permanent damage to the brain.
In rural Nepal, it can be difficult to access immediate medical attention, so many people are dealing with long-term post-stroke symptoms. It was a common patient profile in the little clinic in Bajra Barahi where I volunteered. So in my time there, I worked closely with many post-stroke patients and saw first hand what consistent acupuncture can do for them.
One was a man I’ll call Rajesh, who would travel to the clinic by foot from a village about three hours walk away. He and his wife would come slowly down the dirt road towards the clinic each morning (see photos below). I saw them from the window while finishing up my spicy split pea porridge (dhaal bhat) and tea. It was an admirable sight, as his stroke left the right side of his body about 80% immobile. His pride allowed for the use of a walking stick but never any help from his wife who we’ll call Sita. Every day we would do combined therapies of routine range of motion exercises, Chinese massage called Tui Na, and scalp acupuncture with electro-stimulation. By the end of my couple of months working in the clinic, we saw his mobility and motor function improve by a margin of 30%, a huge success considering his prior state. His wife also had started getting treatment for her high blood pressure and stress.
In China, doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine have done extensive research on treating stroke. Acupuncture has proven to be a highly effective therapy during recovery. The brain is stimulated by the needles to increase communication with the nervous system, rebuilding deadened nerve pathways and helping to smooth the circulation of blood throughout the body. In Rajesh’s case, his stroke had occurred fourteen months prior but he didn’t seek treatment until 9 months later. However, he was persistent with his treatment and even in his chronic state, was able to see how acupuncture could help him regain the functions his body had lost from his stroke.
- Kyndl Mueller, L.Ac.
Pregnancy is a process that is both beautiful and exciting! Conceiving and preparing for a little one to come into this world is a transformative time in any parent’s life, and a proper support system can make all the difference. At Springs Community Acupuncture, we’re fortunate to have established a strong connection with Beginnings Birth Center here in Colorado Springs. The amazing midwives there have a holistic approach to women's health in all stages of pregnancy, including postpartum care. We fully support this approach, which makes for happier, healthier mothers and babies, and love collaboration.
Acupuncture can offer great support during pregnancy. It is safe, non-invasive and surprisingly effective at addressing common concerns that can arise. In the first trimester, we can help control nausea and morning sickness. Acupuncture can help with a variety of digestive issues throughout pregnancy, like heartburn and constipation as well.
In mid to late pregnancy, blood pressure can start to spike. We have had great results controlling gestational hypertension with regular acupuncture. This can go a long way to increase well-being and decrease stress, especially for expectant moms who are hoping to avoid a hospital birth.
Later in pregnancy we also treat for breech position of the baby. Certain points encourage baby to reposition and can be very effective. We needle these points at the clinic and show patients how to use moxibustion to stimulate the points at home with heat.
Acupuncture is also a powerful tool to prepare for and induce labor. There are certain points we avoid during pregnancy that are powerful Qi movers. Once the pregnancy is full-term, we can start adding these points in, to prepare for labor. As the due date approaches, we often add e-stim (a small electric current) to certain points to increase the intensity of treatments, boost blood flow to the uterus, and trigger contractions.
After baby is born, acupuncture can help with rest, recovery, rebalancing hormones and boosting mood. This time is a big reset for the body, that can be transformative for overall health. In addition, acupuncture can help with nursing, by increasing milk production or even alleviating mastitis.
Our pregnant patients love coming in for an acu-nap in our comfy recliners, and best of all, the babies love it too! They start kicking and dancing as soon as the needles are in. What a joyful way to support the journey into motherhood!
- Kyndl and Hannah
We are here for you. We hope to provide concise COVID19 information when there is a lot of conflicting news about how to safeguard ourselves. To limit confusion, here are some guidelines and links that will keep you protected as we collectively attempt to transition back to a sense of normality. These aren’t necessarily new guidelines, yet are worth remembering as we restore our economy and workforce.
We aren’t out of danger yet
Areas that loosened restrictions are starting to see a resurgence in COVID19 cases.
Clusters of new outbreaks are threatening countries like South Korea, China, and even Germany, a country that was touted as doing an exceptional job at containing the spread of the virus. The US will not be an exception and it is important to continue to safeguard yourself and your home.
Diligently practice exceptional hygiene
Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more and turn off the water using a paper towel. Make it a habit to do so often and upon entering/leaving your home, office, or shared communal areas. Use sanitizer often, especially in areas with high-touch surfaces such as grocery carts, gas pump stations, and doors. Keep frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, counter tops, car keys and credit cards clean. Sanitize these items/areas after going into public places upon returning home.
Continue to wear a mask!
Numerous studies demonstrate that masks are incredibly effective at limiting the spread of COVID19, by inhibiting aerosolized particles and respiratory droplets. This BBC article discusses the history of news coverage for and effectiveness of different masks from N95 to homemade versions. This article details the viral concentration that occurs with talking, exercising, sneezing, and how likely it is to spread; key areas of concentration are public bathrooms and one-on-one, extended conversations without masks.
Continue to practice social distancing
Yes, we miss hanging out with friends and colleagues, yet there is still substantial risk for group get-togethers. Keep a minimum of 6 feet between persons, meet outdoors with plenty of natural air flow, and keep groups to smaller sizes. As restrictions relax, we can find ourselves more often in crowded situations when shopping for supplies. Try to shop at the beginning of the day or use Google to determine what times are less busy for a business. Call ahead or purchase online to get your shopping list filled for you so that you can do curbside pickups. If you’re older, some stores have times that are specific for seniors to avoid diverse age groups.
Avoid complacency, adhere to consistency for protection
“COVID19 fatigue” or feeling sick and tired of the conditions of limitation due to COVID19, is common and can be irritating, overwhelming, or annoying for some individuals. Focus on personal safeguarding and think positively and remember that by following the guidelines above you protect not only yourself, but others as well.
Here’s an article by Sanford Health about the power of positive thinking during the COVID19 crisis.
- Kimberly Ann Brown, L.Ac.
Life changed course in many unexpected ways with COVID-19. Maintaining balance on social, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical levels has been a challenge. New concerns now undergird our daily lives, redirecting our attention to family, mortality, uncertainty, and extreme economic hardships - and this is a shortened list! Finding a clear path towards a sense of balance during this time isn’t easy and requires a consistent commitment to safeguard our wellbeing.
At SCA, we value you as a whole person and understand that having a sense of control and balance enables you to more comfortably surf through COVID-19 and its unknown course. We’ve compiled a quick reference guide to safeguard your wellbeing and sanity during the COVID-19 epidemic so that you can bolster your health and maintain a sense of mental fitness in these challenging times.
Feeling emotional drained? How exactly can one maintain a sense of normalcy when things just don’t feel normal anymore?
Experiencing unexplained sadness, frustration, melancholy, boredom, or anger is quite normal right now. Allow yourself to have these feelings, acknowledge them, maybe journal or talk out these feelings with a trusted friend. You aren’t alone. Finding a way to express difficult emotions by sharing or writing them down can give a sense of release.
Harvard published a series of webinars entitled Coping with Coronavirus: Dealing with daily stress, anxiety, and a range of other emotions, which is a comprehensive resource for understanding emotions proactively and productively.
Routines can help establish a sense of control and comfort
Try to focus on these areas to add structure to your day: adequate sleep, quality mealtime, personal development, moderate exercise, outdoor time, and meaningful connections with others. Also be vigilant with self-care, like stretching, yoga, or meditation and engage your mind with useful, productive exercises such as Sudoku, daily crossword puzzles, or learning a new skill. Focus on routines that support you and your personal development. Here is an article that talks about maintaining productiveness through set routines and discipline.
Studies indicate that utilizing a routine can help create a sense of normalcy and this author offers ways to avoid the “procrastination vortex”.
Having difficulty working from home?
Safer-at-home measures, the closure of schools and childcare facilities, as well as the new and fashionable pajama dress code, have hindered our abilities to work in environments most conducive for getting the job done. The workplace typically offers a readily defined area to get your tasks completed in an efficient manner. Our homes are designed more for relaxation, social interactions with family members and roommates, and can simply be distracting. This article helps to reorganize your mindset and space to optimize your work environment.
Got some extra time on your hands?
Try channeling your extra energy into a creative pursuit. Select a new or favorite hobby to devote time and practice to in order to achieve a sense of mastery. Scroll through Pinterest to see if there’s anything of interest, and upscale the look and feel of your home or add a better sense of organization to your closets or kitchen spaces.
Ivy League schools are offering classes for free online where you can indulge your brain power and develop a new skill; you may not get an official degree from one of these schools, yet you can wow your friends with your extensive knowledge.
Want to give back, but want to do so safely?
With the invisible threat of COVID-19, for some of us, our hearts are swelling and our compassion levels are at an all-time high. We want to help, but can we do so without endangering ourselves or others? Here is a great resource for where you can plug-in your compassionate spirit and assist those most in need for Colorado Springs.
Got some tips for improving balance for your wellbeing? We’d love hearing from you and how you’re coping with the challenges of COVID-19. And remember: have patience with yourself and others, give yourself a little time and space to reorganize around new routines and self-care; expect yourself to wobble in the right direction towards optimum health, and when normalcy can be the norm again, we can all bump elbows again.
-Kimberly Ann Brown, L.Ac.
Cytokines are valuable immune cells that naturally cause inflammation like a histamine reaction: swelling and a heightened body temperature. Our immune system, or our wei qi, sends these guys out when the time comes to fight off infections from external pathogenic factors.
The immune boosting supplements you take on a daily business feed the immune system's defense against pathogens, which is a good thing. Astragalus, elderberry, echinacea and goldenseal are natural fever inducers or prompts for a cytokine release and help to ramp up the body to prevent infection; this makes them excellent for use in the preventative/initial onset stages of a sickness. Cytokines are naturally released during an initial response to a pathogenic agent, especially when still being fed good immunity tonics like echinacea and astragalus.
A cytokine storm is when the body’s immune system gets out of control and has an exaggerated and powerful systemic reaction and inadvertently causes the body harm. This NPR article explains further why these herbs should be limited after the initial onset in order to prevent a cytokine storm from erupting. A cytokine storm can over time exhaust the body and cause multiple organ system dysfunction. This is why a pathogenic agent like COVID-19 can wreak havoc on the respiratory system.
With the COVID-19 virus, we generally see symptoms starting in the throat and moving deeper into the lungs as it progresses. As with this case, the infection causes immune cells to activate in the lungs leading to difficulties in respiration (shortness of breath, tight/heavy feeling in chest), inflammation (that cough you just can't kick after a bout of being sick) and then a build up of fluid in the lungs (chronic bronchitis) the long term effect resulting in pneumonia and all around system failure.
The most proactive steps in protecting yourself would be to focus on throat protection (hence the importance of wearing a mask when out and about). The COVID-19 virus is not able to thrive in high temperatures so frequently sipping on hot teas or hot water can not only be throat soothing but pathogen clearing especially if you add honey (to coat the throat) and lemon (for a good kick of vitamin C).
Symptoms of an acute cytokine storm are much like those of a common cold/flu: fever, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, no appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fast breathing, rapid heartbeat, and/or rash … and tend to be re-occurring long after the initial illness has passed.
Maintaining a strong immune system means providing your body with a strong defense, immunity supplements should be taken regularly but then stopped once an infection has set in, at this point the best thing to do is let the body kick into gear and clear it on its own or with the help of pathogen fighting formulas. These formulas specifically clear the surface, as in venting the pores and inducing sweat, and should be used in place of the immune tonics in the first stages of becoming ill and used until the sickness has run its course. Tonic immune support can be resumed as soon as sick symptoms have vacated the premises.
Check out our previous post ‘Powerful natural herbal formulas to help combat COVID-19’ to learn about some great infection fighting formulas as prevention and then formulas for ousting a pathogenic agent such as COVID-19. If you’d like further information regarding herbs and immune support give us a call or send us an email and we can set up an herbal consultation.
--Kyndl Mueller, L.Ac.
Here are some common questions that we’ve been fielding recently:
We've all heard about the shortages of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and personal protective equipment. You may have noticed similar issues with vitamins and supplements that boost immunity. We're experiencing shortages of Chinese herbs and supplements at the clinic as well. This shortage of wellness products is part of a more widespread trend in mainstream consumer markets.
We'd like to offer some direct-buying options that are still flying under the radar to safeguard you and your family during the COVID-19 epidemic. It is best to think proactively and order sufficient supply, knowing that these supplements will be good for at least a year and can be kept for future use.
Preventative forms that are still available, that we recommend for protecting your immune system include:
The following formulations go beyond basic preventative measures like Vitamin C and Echinacea and are designed to bolster immunity in a balanced way after an initial exposure or when you get the feeling that your body has been compromised. It's best to purchase and save the following suggestions for when you really need it. These are specifically designed to oust a pathogenic agent, such as COVID-19, and are not designed to be taken long term (note that larger sizes, child safe, as well as purchasing in bulk may be available for these items).
These formulas are over-the-counter options that you can purchase online or in local stores, just remember to be mindful and think proactively. Be wary of knock-off brands. Not all supplements are created equal and brand reputation is important. Be mindful of price and compare multiple references to ensure that you're not paying an unreasonable amount for each item, exploitation is an unfortunate by-product of crises. For example: if you are part of a 2-person household, consider buying 2-3 of each of these options in the event that one or both of you become sick.
Short on gloves for protection while gathering your essentials? Consider these food handlers gloves, inexpensive and disposable.
Also note that you can support our clinic when you shop on Amazon. Simply designate Springs Community Acupuncture as your non-profit, log in to Amazon Smile and they will make a donation each time you shop!
Have additional questions? Feel free to reach out to me directly.
- Kimberly Ann Brown, L.Ac.
The new corona virus, COVID-19, is causing a lot of concern worldwide. With the first confirmed cases in Colorado just last week, we've been fielding a lot of questions from patients about how to be prepared and how the clinic is handling this threat. Please start by reading our previous blog post, "5 Tried & True Ways to Protect Yourself During Cold & Flu Season" for a firm foundation. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of self-care and utilizing basic immune boosting strategies.
Prevent exposure to pathogens. This is an addendum to the previous post: the 6th tried & true practice. Protect yourself by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water (20 seconds recommended). We've heard it all before, and yet it bears repeating. Especially when out in public, frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer and avoiding touching your face are your best defense. We suggest keeping hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in the car or at your desk at work, for easy use. Eco-friendly options are available, although supplies may be limited.
Understand your risks and manage your stress. This can be a tricky balance. Stay informed and monitor your risk. Check out these sources we look to for updates:
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
US Department of State travel advisories
State of Colorado
El Paso County Health Department
And an article we like on quarantine preparation:
We need to be able to assess our risk level in order to feel prepared and make good decisions about travel or attending events. We should all stay tuned for updates and follow the latest public health guidelines.
Keep in mind that following the news can be stressful and stress suppresses the immune system. We must balance the need to understand our risks with healthy practices that minimize our stress and keep our immune systems strong. With so many factors beyond our control, let's focus on what we can control: eating well, getting plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, good sleep and maintaining a positive mindset. (See our previous post for more details.)
What else can we do? There are two more items that I'd like to address, based on our experience and the best research we have available.
1. Managing Allergies. Spring allergy season is upon us. Tree pollen counts have been high since February and many of our patients are feeling the effects. Take care to address these symptoms early, to keep prevent inflammation in your airways. Consider running an air filter at night at home. Change your furnace filters regularly and pay a little extra for a high quality HEPA filter that will trap pollen, dust and mold spores. Take herbs, supplements and/or medications necessary to manage your symptoms. We have lots of recommendations on this front - schedule an herbal or nutrition consult to learn more.
2. Chinese Herbs to boost immunity. Here at the clinic, we are following the latest research and recommendations in Chinese medicine. One study during the SARS outbreak (another strand of coronavirus) showed that two Chinese herbal formulas were very effective in preventing the disease. While we do not have any studies available yet in regards to COVID-19, we believe these formulas may also be effective.
The recommended formulas are Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen Powder) and Sang Ju Yin (Mulberry Leaf & Chrysanthemum Decoction). Many of our patients take Yu Ping Feng San for allergies or to boost immunity, and we recommend they continue doing so. We have ordered a supply of Sang Ju Yin, which we hope will be helpful to many of our patients who are concerned about COVID-19. If you have questions about the availability of these formulas or which herbs and supplements to take to boost your immune system, please give us a call or schedule an herb consult so we can determine the support that is best for you.
We will continue to post updates as the epidemic unfolds. Until then, stay informed, manage your stress and take good care!
-Hannah Beachy, L.Ac.
2. Gua Sha -- Traditional Chinese skin brushing.
This technique is great for the early stage of illness, as well as cough or asthma. Common areas to brush include the upper chest, upper back and lung channels. The scraping method helps to vent pathogens by opening the pores and releasing heat and toxins before they get deeper in the body. Look for videos on YouTube to better understand this practice. Gua Sha tools and liniments are available at the clinic or online.
3. Chinese Herbs --
There are many different patterns that can distinguish how to treat the common cold and many different herbal formulas that can help with prevention and help stop the pathogen in its tracks. You can schedule an herbal consult to know which formulas are best for you to keep handy in the medicine cabinet.
4. Dress for the Weather --
Stay bundled up and follow grandmotherly, common sense advice. Keep your head, neck, and feet warm during the winter season. These are the areas where pathogens like to creep in. A scarf, hat, and gloves go a long way to protect the body. Try layering with wool and avoiding cotton in order to wick away moisture and keep the body warm. Traditionally, keeping the kidney area warm is also recommended.
5. Take Your Vitamins --
- Kimberly Brown, L.Ac.
The classic cast-iron skillet has been a staple tool in home cooking for ages and can even be a beneficial way to get a small daily dose of iron in the diet. However, as with most everything, there is an appropriate time and a place for using it. Cast iron, when heated at high temperatures, leaches out iron which then is readily available for our digestive systems to absorb in the meals we cook.
That being said, be wary of how much iron you naturally obtain from your diet. There are many foods already rich in the mineral and adding more through cast-iron cooking can give your system an iron-overload. Excessive iron in the body becomes a "pro-oxidant" meaning it increases the free radical formation in the bloodstream which is exactly the opposite and possibly harmful effect of the beneficial anti-oxidants we should be seeking out.
You may not realize that a multitude of foods already contain adequate levels of iron: red meat, dark leafy greens, molasses, beans, lentils, dried fruits (peaches and apricots), pumpkin and sunflower seeds, nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds). If any of these are a big staple in your diet, odds are you are getting enough daily intake of iron. Cooking with cast-iron is most ideal for vegetarians/vegans, those with anemia, women (especially pre-menopausal) and kids.
Proper seasoning is essential for getting the most out of your cast-iron. While word on the street is that it's a high-maintenance piece of equipment, it is really very easy to care for. "Seasoning" is really just a fancy term for oiling a pan. Start by coating the skillet with vegetable oil and then let it sit in a warm oven for about an hour. Do this a few times with brand new cast-iron and then seasonally afterwards. When cleaning, do not use soap or scouring pads with cleanser. After each use, simply rinse with warm water, heat it on the stove to dry and apply a thin coat of oil to protect the seasoning. Over time, it will uphold a nice, natural, non-stick surface.
- Kyndl Mueller, L.Ac.
Photo credit: Simone Ritter Art