Vitamin D Deficiency, Treat Back Pain: Natural Qi Spring Newsletter

Natural Qi spring 2015 Newsletter
Jumping into the Sunshine!

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Hello Friends,
How wonderful it is to be enjoying longer days and warmer weather!

This newsletter contains articles about Vitamin D and alleviating back pain. There’s also a great recipe for making your own kombucha.

…and don’t forget to check out Cooper’s Tip about composting in your home!

As always, please contact me if you have any questions. I look forward to speaking with you or seeing you at your next appointment!

MelSig

 

 

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

Over 100 million people in the USA have a vitamin D deficiency. Being that Vitamin D maintains blood calcium levels and is essential for strong bones, this deficiency is alarming!  Vitamin D has also been linked to fighting diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, muscle weakness, autoimmune diseases, depression and several forms of cancer.

Did you know — the best source of Vitamin D is the sun? That’s right, our bodies actually make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight! The Vitamin D that your body makes from sun exposure lasts twice as long as D that’s absorbed through food or supplements. It’s also impossible to overdose on sun-derived D, because your body automatically regulates these D levels.

Many Americans are deficient in D because they don’t get enough sun exposure. In the northern two-thirds of the country (like New York), we are further from the equator and less exposed to beneficial UV rays. This is especially true during the winter. Combine geography with the fact that, when we do go outside, we often cover up in sunscreen.

Where does that leave us? While it’s important to protect your skin from harmful UV exposure, it is actually beneficial to spend some time in the sun. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine what kind of sun exposure might work for you.

For fair-skinned people, it’s recommended to receive approximately 15 minutes of time in the sun three times a week. Those with very dark complexions may need closer to an hour of sun exposure. If you are older, or are overweight, you may also need a bit more sun exposure. Older skin has a more difficult time creating D. Vitamin D is also fat soluble, so if you are carrying extra fat on your body, it can absorb the vitamin before it has a chance to nourish the body.

Try to be in the sun during peak hours (10am-3pm), and let your arms and legs be exposed to the beneficial rays. Remember, you want direct sun exposure without sunblock.

If you cannot get enough D from sun exposure, food and supplements can help you make up for a deficiency. Milk is fortified with vitamin D, but it is vitamin D2, and your body will have to work to convert it to vitamin D3, the necessary vitamin for your health. Fish and other foods have D as well, but you’ll have to eat a lot to get sufficient D levels.

If you’d like to take supplements, daily doses of cod liver oil are an excellent, if not always pleasant, way to increase D levels. Vitamin pills are also a source. If you want to take vitamin pills for D, it’s best to check with your doctor about what works best for you. Most multi-vitamins don’t have enough D to boost blood levels high enough. And if you take too much D, your body can suffer from D toxicity. Your doctor should be able to help you determine your D levels and how you can best help yourself if your D levels are low.

I encourage you, now that it’s getting warmer, to get your D from the sun. What a perfect excuse to stroll outside and enjoy the beautiful weather! If you’d like more information, please call 917.533.2097 to make an appointment, or make an appointment online.  I’d love to discuss how Chinese medicine can help you embrace better health!

Back Pain Be Gone!

Most people will experience acute back pain at least once in their lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work and doctor’s visits in our country.

Acupuncture is an extremely effective modality for treating back pain and back injuries. Acupuncture triggers a natural endorphin release that helps patients manage pain while healing. Needling also increases blood and energy flow to injured and stiff areas, restoring flexibility and accelerating health to the affected tissues. Acupuncture is also particularly effective for pregnant women experiencing back pain because it is all-natural and drug-free.

In addition to acupuncture treatments, there are several things you can do to alleviate or prevent back pain on your own. Here are some simple techniques that can help you enjoy a healthy back:

Practice good posture while both standing and sitting.  When you are standing in the subway, make sure your feet are about shoulder length apart. Weight should be distributed evenly between your feet and your feet should feel grounded into the floor. Try to wear good shoes with arch supports. Shoulders should be rolled back and relaxed, knees unlocked, and, your pelvis should be slightly tucked (so you aren’t standing with a swayback). If you tend to slouch, make sure your chest is high and open.

If it helps, imagine that you are suspended from a cord that runs the length of your spine and holds you up from the crown of your head. You should feel loose and flexible, free and easy. Breath should drop into the body easily.

Another visualization that may help (especially if you are a sloucher!) is to imagine that you have huge angel wings growing out of your shoulder blades. Check your posture in a mirror if needed.

Sitting posture is also important. Humans are not designed to sit for long periods of time, so if your lifestyle requires a lot of sitting, be sure to take breaks for stretching or walking. It is incredibly important to invest in ergonomic office chairs/equipment. Proper positioning of keyboards, mousepads and monitors will help you avoid repetitive stress. When sitting, there should be a lumbar curve in your lower back. You can purchase lumbar support cushions for your chair if you have to sit for prolonged periods of time.  I also find a core ball behind my back particularly effective.

When sitting, make sure your feet are flat on the floor with knees level with hips. Feel your “sits bones” on the seat of your chair, your shoulders should be relaxed and rolled back. Again, you can imagine a string running up your spine holding your torso upright like a puppet.

Stretch! Stretching your back can go a long way towards better back health. Here are some good back stretches to practice:

Lying on the floor, bring one of your knees to your chest, and hug it in place. Do this with each leg, then try both at the same time.

Lying on the floor, raise your knees up with feet planted solidly on the floor. Imagine your pelvis is like a clock. Your upper pelvis is 12, tailbone is 6, and hips are 3 and 9. Now slowly press each “hour” into the floor, rotating through a whole clock cycle.

Lying on the floor, bring your knees up with feet planted on the floor. Slowly rotate your knees left to right, reaching for your knees to touch each side of the floor. Knees may not stay together as you swivel. Be sure to stop before you feel any strain.

On hands and knees, begin with a flat back, so your body is like a table. Then, arch your back like a cat followed by allowing your torso to hang down like a cow.

While sitting or standing, gently allow your head to hang forward, and slowly rotate your neck forward from shoulder to shoulder. Be sure to stop before you feel any strain.

While sitting or standing, roll your shoulders back and forward, and one arm at a time, swing your arm in a large circle, windmilling from front to back, then reverse.

If you need visual cues, try this excellent yoga stretch series, that incorporates all of the aforementioned stretches, from Yoga with Adrienne.

Practice good sleeping. Sleeping positions can drastically affect back health. Try to avoid sleeping on your back, as it can strain your back and neck. Always make sure your pillow is under your head but not shoulders, and your pillow should be not too thick. If you sleep on your back, you may want to place a pillow under your knees. If you sleep on your side, try to make sure your knees are slightly bent and you may want to place a pillow between them. Body pillows that you “spoon” may also help side sleepers get a good night’s rest.

Exercise regularly. A strong body is less likely to experience strain and injury. All exercise is helpful, but yoga, pilates, and tai chi may be particularly beneficial for those who experience back pain. Always consult a health care provider and your exercise instructor before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Always lift properly. It’s the season for moving and for summer sports–two activities that may involve lifting. New mothers also lift a great deal, because little ones love to be picked up! If you have to lift anything (or anyone!), make sure you bend at your knees and not at your waist.

If you want to learn more about back health and recovering from back injuries with Chinese Medicine, please contact me at melani@naturalqi.com

Cooper’s Tip

As someone who walks close to the ground, I have noticed that there’s a lot of garbage in New York City. One way you can help cut down on garbage is to compost. “Compost?” you say, “In New York City?!”

Yes! Composting–even in an apartment–is now easier than ever!

Modern composters are designed for apartment use and can be kept anywhere from a balcony to under the kitchen skin. Composters yield rich fertilizer that you can use for any of your gardening needs. If you don’t have a garden, you can drop off your compost at the Union Square Green Market or any number of community gardens in Manhattan and the boroughs.

My favorite composter is made by Nature Mill. It’s small, sanitary, and doesn’t smell! The Nature Mill composter is about the size of a kitchen garbage can and it’s easy to use. Just add your garbage (like apple cores or coffee grounds), and the composter will mix and aerate your waste. Two weeks later, you’ll have nutrient-rich fertilizer. You can find the Nature Mill composter at Target or check the Nature Mill website for other local retailers.

If you are interested in worm composting, check out www.nyccompost.org. The site offers tips and resources for your worm composting questions.

We can all pitch in to keep New York green. Like I always say, “Don’t go boasting unless you’re composting!

Kombucha Tea Recipe

Kombucha tea has become quite popular in recent years. Kombucha is a type of fermented tea used in ancient China that is known for its detoxifying properties. Here’s a quick recipe for anyone interested in making their own kombucha at home!

Things You’ll Need:

Kombucha culture

Green tea (loose leaf or tea bags)

Sugar

Water

2 to 4 qt glass jar

Rubber band or string

Cheesecloth or a large coffee filter

Funnel

Glass bottles with lids or cork stoppers

Steps:

Clean the glass jar and bottles thoroughly to sanitize them.

Prepare a location where the Green Tea Kombucha can be placed during the fermentation process. The area should not have direct sunlight, and allow for no movement of the jar. Ideal temperature of the tea is between 74°F to 85°F and should not fall below 68°F.

Prepare the green tea with boiling water. Use 2 tsp. of loose leaf tea or 1 teabag per quart of water used. Pour boiling water over tea, and allow it to steep for at least 15 minutes. When making your first batch of Green Tea Kombucha, start with 2 quarts of water. When time is up, strain the tea leaves or remove the used tea bags.

While the tea is still warm, add 3 to 5 tablespoons of sugar per quart oftea. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Coverand allow the tea to cool down to room temperature (68° to 77°). The Kombucha culture will die if placed in hot liquids. Use a kitchen thermometer if you are uncertain about the temperature.

Add the Kombucha culture and the liquid that it was packaged in to the green tea. Do not stir.

Cover the mouth of the jar with cheese cloth, a coffee filter or other tightly woven cloth and secure it with a rubber band or string. The cloth’s weave must be tight enough to prevent dust, plant spores and fruit flies from getting in to the tea. However, it must allow for circulation so that the Kombucha culture can breathe.

Storethe mixture undisturbed for at least 8 to 12 days to allow the fermentation process to fully develop. Higher temperatures speed up the fermentation process. However, remember not to exceed 85°F.

Remove the Kombucha culture from the tea and place it in a new jar if you wish to make more. Use a clean funnel to dispense the tea into individual bottles which can be corked or lidded. After bottling, allow the Green Tea Kombucha to age for at least five days.

This recipe was found on ehow.com.

If you have questions, or would like to discuss anything you read here, please feel free to contact me.

Take Care and Be Well!

email: melani@naturalqi.com
phone: 917-533-2097