Paying For Your Healthcare Expenses

April 22nd, 2013

The following is a guest blog article by Ferdinand Milan CFP, CGA, FMA, FCSI, Certified Financial Planner

In British Columbia, our BC provincial Medical Service Plan (MSP) provides a great foundation for healthcare coverage, but we generally underestimate the high cost of health and dental expenses.

If you own your own business (incorporated or sole proprietor) there are 3 ways to pay your healthcare expenses.

banknotes and coin1 Paying For Your Healthcare Expenses

The first way is through traditional extended health insurance plans. You and/or your employer pay a monthly premium which covers a defined list of medical and dental expenses for you and your family. The coverage is limited, and you probably will pay for items like braces for the children, eyeglasses, or acupuncture treatments. If you claim far less than the premiums you pay, it’s your loss and the plan is designed in favour of the insurance company.

The second and simplest way is to pay with cash, but it is also an expensive way to pay for your health expenses. It will actually cost you up to 77.6% more than you think! You need to earn the money and pay tax on it before you pay the bill and the highest marginal tax rate in this province is 43.7%. To pay $1,000 in medical or dental expenses, you will need to earn up to $1,776. Ouch!

An excellent third way is the use of a Private Health Services Plan (PHSP).

In 1988, CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) stated that if your medical and dental benefits are administered through an independent administrator, they can be 100% tax deductible to your company without being a taxable benefit to you or employees of the company.

How does it work you say?

1. You pay your health or dental expenses directly.

2. Your company sends the PHSP provider a claim form with the receipts and a cheque to cover the expenses plus an administrative fee (usually around 10%).

3. The PHSP provider provides you with a tax-free reimbursement of the expense.

4. The company gets a tax-deductible receipt for the full expense and the administrative fee.

What’s covered? Any product, procedure or service you may receive from a health care professional who is authorized to practice in the province and certified to the practitioners’ governing body. The list of covered expenses is extensive (including acupuncture) and you only pay for what you use.

The downside. . . catastrophic medical events are not covered in a PHSP. You need to make sure that you have “stop-loss” insurance that covers long-term disability, critical illness, and out of province medical expenses.

A PHSP is worth looking into if you’re self-employed. They require a bit of planning and you should consult with a financial advisor experienced in setting these up.

The opinions expressed above are those of Ferdinand Milan CFP, CGA, FMA, FCSI, a Certified Financial Planner in Richmond, BC.

Asthma, Allergies, and Your Food

March 14th, 2013

As part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), a recent study found a significant increase in asthma and allergy symptoms among children who ate fast food meals several times per week.

Although a link between respiratory problems and food may be surprising to some, this is a relationship that has already been recognized in Eastern Medicine for thousands of years.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the digestive system (which relates to the Earth phase) helps to support the functioning of the respiratory system (Metal phase), as previously seen in the Generating Cycle of the Five Phase theory.

This is especially true when the respiratory symptoms involve excess production of phlegm and mucous, such as wheezing and rattling of the lungs in the case of asthma, or a stuffy or runny nose associated with rhinitis.

In TCM, excess mucous is regarded as a by-product of the digestive system, so asthma and allergy treatment often focuses on strengthening the Lung and Spleen-Pancreas systems.

In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine can also make recommendations to assist a person in reducing their intake of phlegm and mucous-producing foods. Some of the most common trigger foods to avoid include:

  • highly refined or processed foods
  • dairy products
  • greasy or fried foods
  • sugar
  • cold-temperature products, including ice-cold beverages or frozen drinks

As we enter into the spring season, often a time of increased asthma, allergies, and other related issues, paying some extra attention to our diet can be an important step in helping our respiratory system stay healthy.

Pathway to Health

January 15th, 2013

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Lao Tzu

Most of us begin the New Year with best of intentions for our health – just ask anyone who works at a fitness gym and they will probably tell you that January is one of their busiest months as people attempt to follow their New Year’s resolutions and get into shape. Unfortunately, after a month or two the gym usually clears out and it’s back to just the regulars training again.

It can be difficult to set goals or resolutions and see them through to completion. However, the Eastern approach to things can be useful in helping us along the way.

For instance, it is insightful to note that many of the names for traditional Japanese arts end with the suffix “do”, e.g. Bu-do (martial arts), Cha-do (tea ceremony), or Sho-do (calligraphy).

Do Kanji Pathway to Health

Japanese Kanji for "Do" - Pathway

This word “Do” (Dao in Chinese) represents a pathway or journey and typifies the attitude and approach taken when training in these arts – rather than just learning simple acts of self-defense, making tea, or beautiful writing, these practices are a lifelong journey of development and refinement for the practitioner.

Some of these ideas can be useful when applied to our own journey towards improving our health.

  1. The small steps are important – although drastic action or big changes are sometimes needed along our journey, most of the time it’s usually just about putting one foot in front of the other. It’s all of the small seemingly insignificant choices and actions that we make day-to-day that add up over the years. Starting with small but consistent actions can create lasting changes for improving our health.
  2. Progress is not steady – when training in traditional arts, as in life, sometimes it feels like we’re making good progress and reaching our goals, other times it can seem like we’ve reached a plateau or even going downhill. This is to be expected, since life is about constant change, but if we keep moving forward one small step at a time, progress is being made whether it feels like it or not.
  3. The journey is for life – in contrast to some sports where full intensity is always applied, leading to frequent injuries, long recovery times, and decreased performance with ageing, training in traditional martial arts such as KoKoDo JuJutsu is conducted at a certain intensity level so that practice can be done every day for life, injuries are minimized, and practitioners can keep training and improving well into their senior years. In a similar manner, positive changes, no matter how small, should be a lifelong daily discipline. For example, crash or fad diets usually don’t work in the long run, since diets by their very nature tend to be temporary. However, by committing to simple lifestyle changes such as more whole foods and minimizing processed foods, better and long lasting results can often be obtained.

As we continue our journey along the pathway to good health, wishing you the best as we step into the New Year!

No Mind

November 5th, 2012

“Like the calm still surface water that reflects the moon and a flying bird, true living calmness is the condition of our mind that reflects all things clearly.”

Tohei Koichi – Ki Sayings

A frequently heard comment from people coming in for acupuncture and shiatsu treatment is that they struggle with “over-thinking”, finding it difficult to quiet the mind as a thousand thoughts constantly race through their head.

This problem seems to be common for most people in our modern society and not just in cases such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia.

How does one quiet the mind? In traditional martial arts training is a concept known as mushin. Literally translated as “no mind” or “empty mind”, mushin is sometimes compared to the calm surface of a lake which provides a clear reflection of its surroundings.

For example, in the martial art of KoKoDo JuJutsu, powerful yet effortless technique is developed in part by the cultivation of mushin – learning how to abandon one’s physical and mental tension and stress while at the same time being able to relax and properly focus the mind and body.

Learning how to calm our minds takes a lifetime of practice. However, some useful daily habits to help people begin to develop a mental state of calmness include:

  1. Be in the moment – regular physical exercise can be helpful in calming the mind. Whether it’s participating in a fitness class, going for a bicycle ride, or just walking in the neighbourhood park, physical activity can be a simple way of engaging in the present moment and helping a person leave the day’s worries and thoughts behind them.
  2. Quiet time – turning off the tv, radio, cellphone, and countless other distractions and spending time just sitting and doing nothing alone in silence, even just 10 minutes, can be a good start. It may be difficult when first beginning, but with continued practice becomes more comfortable as we are able to remain in a state of relaxed silence for longer periods of time and with less distraction.
  3. Breathe – in Eastern thought, there is no separation between the mind and body – stress and tension in one can affect the other. Many people tend to subconsciously hold their breath when under stress. By becoming self-aware of this and relearning how to relax and breathe, both the body and mind are able to become more calm.

Causes of Disease – Part 1: Emotions and Environment

August 15th, 2012

“So what caused the health problem?” This is a common question asked by patients in my acupuncture clinic.

For Western minds, we’re used to explaining and understanding things in a direct linear cause-and-effect manner. However, Eastern medicine has observed that natural phenomena in the real world, including our own health, is not always simple or black and white; many factors can contribute and interact with each other to create imbalance and disease pathology in our lives.

Because of this, Traditional Chinese Medicine groups the etiology, or causes of disease, into several main categories.

1) Internal causes – Eastern medicine recognizes that emotions, especially when they are prolonged, have a significant impact on our health, with each emotional state corresponding to a particular internal organ:

  • anger
  • excessive joy
  • pensiveness
  • grief
  • sorrow
  • fear
  • fright

It is interesting to note that even Western medicine is discovering and acknowledging the role of emotions on our health through certain modern fields of medical research such as psychoneuroimmunology.

2) External causes – Traditional Chinese Medicine also recognizes that our environment, including changes in temperature, air pressure, and humidity (classically described as Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Dryness), can have an impact on our health.

For example, many people who live here in the cold and damp temperate rain forest climate of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada notice that their rheumatic joint pain improves when they travel down south to a warm and dry climate and returns when they come back home. For others, a fluctuation of symptoms that they experience may also be related to certain times of the year or changes in the seasons.

3) Other causes – the third and final category is wide ranging and includes many other factors such as:

  • diet
  • overwork
  • fatigue
  • trauma
  • pathogen infections

All of these causes can create specific patterns of signs and symptoms in a person’s health. By recognizing and addressing the causes and patterns of imbalance, the healing ability of the body can be nurtured to help regain a healthier state of balance.

Five Phases of Transformation – Part 3: Feedback Inhibition

May 10th, 2012

As mentioned in previous articles, one of the most important theories in Traditional Japanese acupuncture and shiatsu massage is that of the “Five Phases of Transformation”. Part 1 described how these five phases known as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water are used to categorize a wide variety of natural phenomena. Part 2 explained the Generating Cycle, the first of several relationships which describe how the various phases inter-relate to each other in Nature.

The second of these inter-relationships is called the Restraining Cycle (sometimes also referred to as the Control Cycle). In a healthy system, the Restraining Cycle helps to maintain order and balance

5PhasesRestrainingCycle 257x300 Five Phases of Transformation   Part 3: Feedback Inhibition

By observing Nature

  • Wood restrains Earth by providing a healthy covering of plant life to prevent soil erosion
  • Earth restrains Water by forming embankments to keep the rivers and irrigation ditches from overflowing and flooding
  • Water restrains Fire by preventing overheating
  • Fire restrains Metal by purifying and refining during metalworking
  • Metal restrains Wood by using farming implements and other tools to keep overgrowth in proper check, and the entire cycle repeats

However, when one phase begins to dominate, the system can become unhealthy and out of balance and the Restraining Cycle gives way to Destruction

  • Wood destroys Earth by degrading the soil with over-intensive farming and not letting the land properly fallow with rotating crops
  • Earth destroys Water by blocking and damming up the waterways
  • Water destroys Fire by completely extinguishing the flames
  • Fire destroys Metal by over-tempering during metalworking
  • Metal destroys Wood by using farming implements and other tools to clearcut the forests and overwork the farmland, and the entire cycle repeats

The inter-relationships in Nature that are metaphorically described by the Restraining Cycle have clinical value when applied to the human body, much like the similar Western scientific idea of a feedback inhibition loop, often referred to as homeostasis in biological terminology.

An example of this would be seen when dealing with digestive health conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, various stressors, including unresolved anger and other emotional issues, can cause the Liver system to become overactive and domineering. This then has an unbalancing and destructive effect on the digestive system (known as the Spleen-Pancreas system in TCM), explained by the Restraining Cycle as Wood overacting on Earth.

In this case, treatment would be focused on regulating and calming down the Liver system to reduce its negative controlling effect on the Spleen-Pancreas system, and the digestion is then better able to strengthen and recover.

The 24 Hour Clock

March 12th, 2012

Love it or hate it, Daylight Savings Time (DST) is here upon us. However, as critics point out, there seems to be some evidence that this sudden change in time can create various health problems associated with a disruption and stress to our natural circadian rhythm, including fatigue, sleeping difficulties, mood changes, and even an increase in traffic accidents.

Long before the western scientific discovery of circadian rhythm, did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine also described a 24-hour cycle in the human body?

The following table lists the windows of time in which the various organs and their corresponding meridian pathways are the most active according to time acupuncture theory:

  • 3 am – 5 am Lung
  • 5 am – 7 am Large Intestine
  • 7 am – 9 am Stomach
  • 9 am – 11 am Spleen-Pancreas
  • 11 am – 1 pm Heart
  • 1 pm – 3 pm Small Intestine
  • 3 pm – 5 pm Bladder
  • 5 pm – 7 pm Kidney
  • 7 pm – 9 pm Pericardium
  • 9 pm – 11 pm Triple Burner
  • 11 pm – 1 am Gallbladder
  • 1 am – 3 am Liver

This information can be clinically valuable. For example, if someone is suffering from insomnia and tends to wake up at 3am every morning, often acupuncture points related to the Lung and Liver meridians can be useful for treatment.

For others, sometimes they experience an aggravation of symptoms at a specific time of day, such as always getting a headache late in the afternoon. Again, acupuncture points on the corresponding meridian pathways associated with that particular time of day can be used during acupuncture treatment to help the body regain balance and experience an improvement in symptoms.

Western medicine is becoming more aware of the influence that time of day has on various biological processes, something that Traditional Chinese Medicine has recognized for thousands of years.

New Beginnings

January 1st, 2012
DesertFathersNewBeginning 229x300 New Beginnings

Desert Wisdom: Sayings From The Desert Fathers - Translation & Art by Yushi Nomura

Health, like life in general, is a journey, a process of constant change. Sometimes we have ups, sometimes downs, sometimes moving forwards, sometimes backwards.

Many of us start out the New Year with good intentions for making positive changes in our lives. Unfortunately, all too often this does not last for long. Establishing healthy habits takes practice and effort, and usually involves some failures along the way.

However, one of the important success factors for staying on track is to focus on the present moment. Yesterday is over and done with, tomorrow is just another excuse to procrastinate - only today are we able to take action.

Each new day, we’re given another chance to start over again; every day is an opportunity to make a fresh beginning.

Five Phases of Transformation – Part 2: Positive Feedback

November 15th, 2011

One of the most important theories in Traditional Japanese acupuncture and shiatsu is that of the “Five Phases of Transformation”, sometimes also referred to as the Five Elements. As described in Part 1, these five phases are known as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water and are used to categorize a wide range of dynamic processes of transformation and change within Nature.

Besides being used to classify and categorize various natural phenomena, Five Phase theory also makes use of several relationships which describe how these phases influence and interact with one another.

The first of these relationships is called the Generating Cycle (sometimes also referred to as the Creation Cycle)

5PhasesGeneratingCycle 257x300 Five Phases of Transformation   Part 2: Positive Feedback

By observing Nature

  • Wood generates Fire by providing the fuel to be burned
  • Fire generates Earth by producing wood ash which then enriches the soil
  • Earth generates Metal by supplying the raw ore to be further refined
  • Metal generates Water by attracting surface condensation of moisture
  • Water generates Wood by nourishing the tree roots, and the entire cycle repeats

Although intended to be taken more symbolic than literal, the inter-relationships in Nature that are described by the Generating Cycle have much clinical value when applied to the human body.

For example, when dealing with health conditions such as asthma, allergies, or sinus problems, Traditional Chinese Medicine often focuses on the Lung system. However, treatment may also include working on the digestive system (known as the Spleen-Pancreas system in TCM), particularly in cases involving a buildup of mucous and phlegm, which is regarded as a byproduct of weak digestion.

This clinically useful approach can be explained by the Generating Cycle. Strengthening the Spleen-Pancreas to have a beneficial effect on the Lungs is applying the principle of Earth generating Metal.

The concept of the Generating Cycle is not unique to Eastern science; in Western science, this idea can be thought of as a positive-feedback loop. A common example of this would be the high-pitched squeal of feedback from a PA system where a microphone picks up sound from a speaker, amplifies it back into the sound system, out through the speaker again, and back into the microphone in a continuously repeating cycle.

In Western medicine, the positive-feedback loop is responsible for many biological processes. However, these types of systems tend to become unstable and escalate out of control without a feedback inhibition mechanism; in Five Phase theory this is called the Restraining Cycle and will be discussed in Part 3.

The Other Side Of Healing

September 12th, 2011

What do martial arts have in common with the healing arts? In the traditional Japanese practice of KoKoDo (roughly translated as “Royal Pathway of Light”), they are in fact regarded as opposite sides of the same coin.

KoKoDo Shiatsu (“finger pressure”) massage deals with sickness, often regarded as a type of violence occurring inside the body, while KoKoDo JuJutsu (“gentle, yielding technique”) is a self-defense art to protect against violence and aggression, which is viewed as a type of sickness on the outside.

Many of the concepts and training methods used in KoKoDo are similar for both Shiatsu and JuJutsu, including:


In KoKoDo JuJutsu, the aim is to neutralize an assailant’s strength and aggression while at the same time avoid causing any unnecessary harm or injury. This is not accomplished through brute force against force, but rather by the efficient use of proper technique and non-resistance in order to cancel and neutralize the attack.

Restoring health is similar, in that a person’s body often tends to react negatively and fight against aggressive forces and stresses encountered in life, whether it be physical, emotional, or environmental. Shiatsu, along with other forms of Eastern medicine such as acupuncture and moxibustion, work to gently nurture and guide a person back into a healthier state of balance.


KoKoDo JuJutsu requires the complete abandonment of physical strength, relying instead on relaxation and the proper use and focus of the mind and body. On the other hand, these techniques actually create tension, fear, and stress in the assailant through the application of joint manipulations, throws, and pressure points, essentially “short circuiting” their body and neutralizing the attack.

In a similar but opposite way, KoKoDo Shiatsu identifies areas of tension and stress stored up within a person. By treating and releasing these areas of blockages of the meridian system, blood and energy circulation is improved and the natural healing process is enhanced, helping a person return to a state of calmness and wellbeing.


Cultivating an awareness of one’s surroundings is an important aspect of training in KoKoDo JuJutsu; by recognizing potential threats or dangers before they escalate, appropriate action can be taken and conflict can often be avoided.

KoKoDo Shiatsu can also create an increased state of awareness for a person and allow them to become more in touch with their own body and surrounding environment. By recognizing early signs of imbalance, more positive changes in health can be made.

For more information about the art of KoKoDo, please visit Hombu Jikimon Sadohana Dojo

Five Phases of Transformation – Part 1: Interacting with Nature

June 19th, 2011

All the principles of heaven and earth are living inside you. Life itself is the truth, and this will never change. Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together.“

Ueshiba Morihei – The Art of Peace

One of the unique aspects of Traditional Oriental Medicine is the concept that human beings are a microcosm of the universe. By careful observation of the relationships and interactions occurring in Nature, this knowledge can then be applied to the human body for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of health problems.

Based on this Eastern approach of observing natural phenomena, one of the most important theories in Traditional Japanese acupuncture and shiatsu is that of the “Five Phases of Transformation”, sometimes also referred to as the Five Elements.

Like the theory of Yin – Yang, or polar opposites, Five Phase theory was originally taken from ancient Chinese science and philosophy and was important in everyday life, from farming and agriculture to military strategy and the martial arts.

Five Phase theory demonstrates dynamic processes of transformation and change within Nature, with these phases being traditionally classified as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.

For example, the Wood phase relates to centrifugal movement, similar to the sprouting new growth of plant life in the springtime. In addition, during this time of year the wind comes from the eastern part of China and the green and unripe fruits growing in the region have a sour taste. In Eastern medicine, the Liver corresponds to the Wood phase because of its quality of helping the blood circulation spread outwards throughout the body, especially that of supplying nourishment to the tendons and ligaments which control the movements of the muscles. Finally, a severe windstorm can cause massive destruction, similar to how the Liver’s associated emotion of anger and rage can easily become unrestrained.

Fire, with its image of flickering flames, is associated with the southern part of China and its hot tropical summer climate. In addition, extreme heat burns and scorches food, producing bitter flavours. The Heart corresponds to the Fire phase, as it regulates the circulation throughout the blood vessels and its associated emotion is mania and overexcitement, resembling a fire burning out of control.

The Earth phase has a stable quality to it and describes the central agricultural regions of China with their damp paddy fields, filled with rich and nourishing yellow mud, being harvested in the late summertime. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the digestive system of the Spleen-Pancreas is a central foundation to good health, and the sweet flavour of rice and other whole grains are nourishing for the muscles. A healthy and stable Earth phase results in someone who is “grounded” whereas an imbalance produces worry and overthinking.

Metal ore is found in the arid desert mountains of western China, with the autumn season being especially dry in the region. The Lungs are associated with this phase, the actions of inhalation and exhalation resembling that of bellows used in forging and metalwork. The skin is regarded as being a “third lung” supporting the respiratory system and the corresponding emotion is that of sadness and grief.

Water, the fifth and final phase, has the characteristics of dissolving and sinking and is associated with the cold, dark, ocean waters to the north, especially in the wintertime. In the body, the Water phase is regulated and kept in balance by the Kidneys, and the mineral-rich salty flavour of seaweed helps to nourish and strengthen the bones.

Phase Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Season Spring Summer Late summer Autumn Winter
Direction East South Centre West North
Climate Wind Heat Dampness Dryness Cold
Colour Green Red Yellow White Black
Flavour Sour Bitter Sweet Pungent Salty
Organ Liver Heart Spleen-Pancreas Lung Kidney
Body tissue Tendons/ligaments Blood vessels Muscles Skin Bones
Emotion Anger Joy Worry Grief Fear

The above table summarizes some of the qualities associated with the Five Phases and demonstrates how a wide range of natural phenomena can be categorized.

However, the true value and purpose of the Five Phase theory is in observing how these systems influence and interact with each other throughout all of Nature. In turn, this knowledge can then be applied to the human body and is discussed in more detail in Part 2.

Acupuncture & Stress

February 8th, 2011

Acupuncture can be a valuable treatment for helping to deal with stress… unless you’re this guy and having a REALLY bad day!

Losing Touch

January 24th, 2011

With an ever increasing reliance on diagnostic technology for medical imaging and testing, some Western medical doctors are realizing that an important part of their medicine is missing: human touch.

Fortunately, these practitioners are promoting a return to a more hands on approach for diagnosis and treatment, skills that have long been valued in the Eastern systems of healthcare.

Palpation, or examining by touch, is still 1 of the 4 main methods of diagnosis used in Traditional Japanese acupuncture (particularly the styles collectively known as Keiraku Chiryo, or Meridian Therapy).

As part of palpation diagnosis, areas of the body, especially the abdomen, back, and extremities, are examined during acupuncture and shiatsu treatment for various changes including:

  • tenderness and pain
  • tension and areas of hardness
  • slackness and areas of weakness
  • temperature differences
  • skin moisture or dryness
  • other palpatory findings

These changes often correspond to specific acupuncture points or meridian pathways, and provide guidance to the acupuncturist during treatments.

It is interesting to note that even for health conditions that are primarily emotional, such as anxiety or depression, the body will still manifest specific patterns that can be physically observed through the sense of touch.

As our society becomes more and more technologically based, Traditional Oriental Medicine wisely reminds us of the importance and value of human touch in our lives.

Yin Yang – Part 3: Constant change

November 23rd, 2010

The theory of Yin – Yang is the most important concept in Traditional Oriental Medicine, as all of its more complex medical knowledge derives from this basic foundation.

In Part 1, it was seen how all natural phenomena can be classified into opposite pairs of Yin & Yang, and Part 2 described how these opposite pairs can influence each other in sickness or health.

Another aspect of Yin – Yang is that of constant change – nothing in nature is truly static and unchanging but instead is always in a state of transformation from one extreme towards the other. When these changes occur within set boundaries, it produces stability and order rather than instability and chaos.

YinYangChange Yin Yang   Part 3: Constant change

A common example of this would be the regulation of your body temperature. Although it normally appears to be stable, the temperature is in fact constantly increasing and decreasing within a small range, similar to how a thermostat controls a heater.

In Western medicine, this concept is known as homeostasis and is responsible for keeping all of your body’s systems in healthy balance between extremes, ranging from the oxygen – carbon dioxide levels of the respiratory system to the acid – base pH of the blood.

Read the rest of this entry »

And A Side Order Of Heart Attack Please

September 15th, 2010

In a recent news article on heart disease, medical researchers suggested perhaps handing out statin drugs at fast food restaurants to help offset the negative effects of these foods.

Although this is one possible approach to preventive medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine tends to take a different view. In TCM, high cholesterol generally falls under the broad disease category known as “Phlegm” and is considered to be a type of toxin buildup in the body. This is usually a result of a poorly functioning digestive system along with improper diet.

Some of the most common foods that increase Phlegm include highly processed items such as white flour and refined sugar, along with animal products in general, and eggs and dairy in particular.

It is interesting to note that in people with allergies, these common trigger foods will often create “visible phlegm” that collects in the respiratory system and manifests as nasal congestion or even coughing up of phlegm and mucous. However, in the case of high cholesterol, TCM views this as a form of “invisible phlegm” which becomes trapped in the body and collects inside the blood vessels.

By minimizing these types of Phlegm-producing foods in our diet, significant changes can often be seen in cholesterol levels. In addition, by taking steps to strengthen the digestive system, further improvements to our health can be made.

Improving Your Blood Circulation: Part 2 – An Eastern Perspective

August 3rd, 2010

In a previous article, we looked at an Eastern Medicine health condition known as Blood Deficiency. Somewhat similar to the Western diagnosis of anemia, Blood Deficiency is a weakness and inability of the Blood to properly perform its job of bringing nourishment to the rest of the body.

Its opposite condition is known as “Blood Stagnation” (or “Blood Stasis”) and is a concept unique to Traditional Oriental Medicine with no direct equivalent in Western Medicine. Blood Stagnation can be thought of as Blood that is no longer able to function as Blood. It is not circulating properly within the body and instead will actually create problems and disease.

One simple example of this would be the case of trauma suffered from a sports injury. The purple discoloration from the bruising that occurs is blood that has leaked out from the blood vessels, and is no longer available for use by the body.

Blood Stagnation is commonly associated with an extremely wide range of symptoms, including:

  • heart problems such as arteriosclerosis & hypertension
  • pressure sensation in the chest
  • shoulder & upper/mid back stiffness
  • dry mouth
  • rough & dry skin
  • liver disease such as hepatitis
  • chronic constipation
  • sciatica & lower back pain
  • varicose veins
  • cold sensation in the body, especially the lower back, legs, & feet, sometimes accompanied by heat sensation in the upper part of the body & face

Many gynecological health problems are also often seen in cases of Blood Stasis, including:

  • irregular menstrual periods
  • painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
  • ovarian cysts
  • uterine fibroids
  • infertility or miscarriage
  • other hormone imbalances

Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming More Aware Of Your Health

June 23rd, 2010

In the traditional martial arts is a concept known as zanshin. Literally translated as “remaining mind”, zanshin refers in part to a state of calmness and complete awareness of one’s surroundings, even when there appears to be no immediate threat or danger.

A keen awareness of our environment, both internal and external, is also an important concept in Traditional Oriental Medicine. Because symptoms are viewed as being the result of imbalances in the body, becoming more aware of ourselves and what creates these imbalances in our lives can be useful for improving our health.

Various factors can affect our health, such as:

  • type of work we do
  • location & climate we live in
  • seasonal weather changes throughout the year
  • thoughts & emotions, especially those that tend to be repressed
  • daily eating habits
  • exercise type and frequency
  • trauma & accidents

One suggestion for people suffering from chronic health problems is to keep a health journal. By tracking changes on a day to day basis, patterns can often be discovered, such as certain trigger factors that tend to make symptoms better or worse.

Read the rest of this entry »

Medicine in the Kitchen – Dates

April 27th, 2010

The Jujube Date, or Da Zao as it’s known in Chinese, is equally at home in both the kitchen and the herbal pharmacy.

The main use of Dates in Traditional Oriental Medicine is to strengthen and support the digestive system. Some of the symptoms commonly associated with weak digestion include fatigue & general weakness, poor absorption of nutrients, a reduced appetite, and a tendency towards loose bowels & diarrhea.

Adding Dates as part of one’s regular diet can help to improve digestion and increase the body’s ability to make better use of the other foods and nutrients that one eats.

Because some herbs can be difficult to digest, many of the herbal formulas used in Chinese Medicine contain Dates to assist with absorption of the medicinal ingredients while also helping to prevent any stomach upsets or other similar side effects.

When eating Dates on their own, a typical dosage would be about 3 – 10 per day. They may also be added to soups & stews.

If Chinese Dates are unavailable, other types of dates such as the Mediterranean varieties may be used instead. However, because these tend to be much sweeter than the Chinese ones, the dosage should be reduced accordingly.

Improving Your Blood Circulation: Part 1 – An Eastern Perspective

March 25th, 2010

A strong blood circulatory system, in both Western and Eastern Medicine, is vital to maintaining our good health.

Blood Deficiency” is a concept unique to Traditional Chinese Medicine and can be thought of as a decreased ability of the Blood to provide the proper nourishment to the rest of the body.

Although somewhat similar in idea to anemia, Blood Deficiency encompasses a much broader range of symptoms, and Eastern Medicine relies on its own methods of diagnosis rather than blood tests to evaluate and treat this condition.

Some of the more common symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency include:

  • fatigue & chronic tiredness
  • pale complexion
  • dry hair & skin
  • brittle nails
  • blurred vision & “floaters” in the eyes
  • poor memory
  • depression
  • insomnia, especially difficulty in falling asleep

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Healthy Habits

January 19th, 2010

As a New Year begins, many of us tend to make resolutions for ourselves, whether it’s losing weight, getting in better shape, or improving our overall health.

Unfortunately, most resolutions – however good-intentioned they may begin – don’t seem to last for very long. Our modern society, with a focus on quick fixes, immediate results, and instant gratification, makes it easy to fall back into old habits and patterns.

In the East, a different approach to self-improvement is taken. In fact, much could actually be learned from the Japanese manufacturing field where they used a concept known as kaizen to become world leaders in the automotive and electronics industries. Read the rest of this entry »