- Marianne Benforado L.Ac. Dipl.OM
Acupuncture Services630 Frederick Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
This is an article I wrote for the last issue of The Road Runner, the newsletter of the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club. I thought it could be of benefit to a wider audience so here ya go!
Our modern health care system is mostly an illness care system. Complementary medicine on the other hand focuses on prevention and supports our wellness. In ancient China, people used to pay their doctor to keep them well. And if they got sick then the doctor didn’t get paid. Quite a reverse of how things are now! Wellness is more than being free from illness. It is a dynamic process of making daily choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.
As a licensed acupuncturist I would define a healthy person as an individual living in harmony with their environment and with their “Qi” flowing freely through the meridians. They feel vital and energized and are calm with even emotions. For most of us, the last few months have taken it’s toll and it can be a challenge to stay calm and grounded.
The situation with COVID-19 continues to shift and as we are faced with an ever changing environment a low level of anxiety is a reality for many. Given the circumstances, it would bestrange NOT to have strong emotions at least sometimes. For some the stress is minimal and is humming along in the background. For others it is manifesting as a general feeling ranging from mild despair and depression to a strong overwhelment.
I’d like to offer you a few suggestions to uplift your body, mind and spirit. (** This is not intended to be medical advice so if any of your symptoms are prounounced or prolonged it’s important to go to your doctor.)
Gotta move that Qi! We are lucky that as cyclists we are already active. Even a short ride is beneficial for the body and can clear your mind. I also encourage you to maximize circulation by moving naturally throughout the day. The ancient Chinese medical classics talked about the dangers of the five taxations — excessive use of eyes, lying down too long, sitting too long, standing too long, or prolonged exercise. And these are still true today thousands of years later. The way to undo that damage is by walking more in short spurts, taking frequent mini stretch breaks and taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
Stop doom scrolling! It’s good to stay informed but honestly how much news do you really need to be aware of current events? Turn off the TV and put away your phone for a few hours. You will be amazed at what a difference this makes!
It’s really important to support your nervous system on an ongoing basis. An easy way to do that is Chamomile Tea. You can brew 2-3 bags at a time and then dilute it and sip it all day at room temperature. Aaaahhhh…calming and soothing. It’s one of Mother Nature’s gifts to us.(There is a whole category of herbs, nervines and adaptogens, that supports the nervous system. If you’re feeling anxious or having trouble sleeping I’m happy to do a quick consult with you and drop ship you some herbs that will help take the edge off of stress. An ongoing high stress level is not sustainable!)
I know for many of us the regular SCCCC weekly rides (wise move by the board to put them on hold for the time being) were a way to connect with our friends, meet new people and be part of a community.The pandemic complicates social gatherings. So we turn to Facebook or Zoom and that might help in one regard but thereare interesting statistics about the more time one spends online the more isolated they report feeling.
One way to lessen the intensity of loneliness is to make an effort to reach out to others. It could be a call to a neighbor to check in or a kind hello and a smile (behind a mask of course!) to someone on a hiking trail. It’s a practice of expanding your energy outwards and extending a bit beyond your comfort zone. By offering a kindness to others, they will feel better and we benefit as well. Try it!
Recent studies show that people who pay attention to their spiritual side (you get to define what this means to you!) have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, and their immune systems function at a higher level. We are surrounded by beauty so try to get out into nature every single day. Go to church. Learn how to meditate. Read something inspirational. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. The important thing is to open your awareness beyond the status quo.
Self Care is absolutely essential during times like these. I hope some you will be able to implement some of these ideas. And if you’d like extra support from me via an Online Wellness Session, please just reach out. I’m here to help!
Basically we are animals. We are part of nature and our lives should be in harmony with the turning of the seasons. We can learn a lot by observing what is happening outside. Think about the inherent wisdom of animals and how they build up their reserves in the fall to get through the winter – the squirrel stock piling nuts or the bear making sure she has enough body fat to hibernate for the winter. Maybe your grandparents used to put up food and do canning.
How are your own personal energy reserves? Do you have enough reserved energy that your body’s immune system can respond if it is challenged? Most of us are out in the world and exposed to germs: some of us catch colds or get the flu and others don’t. There are habits you can adopt that will help you optimize your health so you don’t get sick or are able to move things through quickly. The best time to build your immune system is when you’re NOT sick. You simply can’t do it when you’re ill. So let’s talk about Wellness Care.
Here are some simple ideas for prevention:
Wash your hands often! The best way to wash your hands is with running water and soap. Rub your hands together to make alather and continue scrubbing them for 20 seconds. Hint: if you don’t have a clock nearby you can sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice from beginning to end.
- Dress appropriately -When it gets cold outside, our bodies have to compensate to keep our temperature even. It is better to dress in layers (including socks and a hat) and keep some of that heat in. Otherwise it is like turning the furnace on and having the windows open – it’s a waste of energy.
- Wear a scarf or hood especially on cold or windy days – in Chinese medicine there are many important immune system acupuncture points on the back of your neck and upper shoulders, and you want to protect them and not let the wind or cold move in.
- Eat vegetables that are in season. The basic message of seasonal eating is to balance your body’s internal climate with the external climate. That’s why when it’s colder outside we’re drawn to warming soup and when it’s hot outside we love to eat melons and salads. Right now there’s beautiful produce at the farmers market….squash, potatoes, other root vegetables, kale, leeks, onions, and garlic.
Start making soups, eat cooked vegetables and cut back on salads. This is a hard one for many people, as they equate salad with being healthy. Your body uses energy to process cold food. Eating salad when it is cold outside is like putting wet wood into your wood stove.
Slow down, reduce your activities, and try to go to bed a little earlier. Daylight is reduced so it’s natural that our bodies want to slow down and get a little extra sleep.
Take medicinal mushrooms on a daily basis to keep your “fortress” strong. My favorite brand is Host Defense. I usually recommend Stamets 7 for prevention and Mycommunity if you’re fighting something off. We stock capsules and tinctures in the office or you can pick them up in the online store.
What to do if you feel like you are fighting something off:
Pay attention to how are you feeling. Many of you already do this everyday. Others are not so in touch. Common WARNING signals prior to getting sick include:
- Tight shoulders
- Sore throat
- Feel cold
- Dislike being in wind or a draft
If the warning light in your car comes on, you pull over and find out what’s going on. It’s the same principle at work here. If you get a signal like a headache, or you wake up and feel “off,” be ready to respond, by taking action and doing something restorative. Here are a few ideas?
- Change plans and stay home instead of going out. Often times you are most contagious before you even realize you are sick! Stay home and don’t share your germs. Your friends and family will thank you! 🙂
- Take a nap. Rest. Got to bed early. Sleep is the best medicine.
- Sweat it out with a really hot shower or do some moderate exercise. Consider a short jog or riding the stationary bike for 20 minutes to ward it off. Once you break the sweat, it’s important that you bundle up and stay warm.
A good first line of defense is homemade ginger and scallion tea. It’s very easy to make. Take 2 pieces of ginger about the size of your thumb and slice them into chunks. Chop up a bundle of scallions including the white and green and even the roots. Add 3-4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Then turn it down and simmer for around 15-20 minutes. Strain and then drink it while it’s hot. You may start to sweat and this is considered beneficial. Keep yourself warm and try to get some rest.
Come in and get an acupuncture treatment! An acupuncture treatment can give your immune system a boost and help you NOT get sick, or if you’re already sick it can help reduce the symptoms or move it through your system faster.
Love Your Liver: Take Milk Thistle
According to the Center for Disease Control, roughly 70% of diseases in the U.S. are chronic and lifestyle driven. Read that AGAIN and hopefully it might motivate you to make some changes. So much of our health lies in our own choices.
That is good news! Lifestyle-driven health can also be a positive influence.
One powerful way to affect your health is to love your liver by doing a gentle cleanse.
WAIT! Before you stop reading because you think I’m going to tell you to drink only celery juice for 3 days and that you’re going to be exhausted and headache-y, that is not my way. Probably not a surprise to those who know me. I don’t jump on fads and am moderate in my suggestions. I believe efforts like this should be gentle, doable, and sustainable over the long-term.
I’m going to give you what I call my “back to basics” regime. It’s not a severe cleanse but more of a cleanup and reminder of good dietary habits. It’s a targeted suggestion for liver health, which is a key to healthy aging.
Why the focus on the liver? The liver filters out the toxins we’re exposed to every day in our food, water, air, beauty products, and cleaning supplies. It processes virtually everything we eat, drink, breathe, and even put on our skin. The liver’s primary purpose is to cleanse the blood of impurities by converting toxins into nontoxic waste, which then is eliminated through the body’s stool, urine, and sweat.
My number one suggestion for a happy liver is to take milk thistle.
Many people think of milk thistle as a weed, which always makes me chuckle, because my father always called weeds “misunderstood flowers.” See it in the photo above and I think you’ll agree that totally applies here!
Milk thistle is a powerful detoxifying herb that has a big job. It aids liver function to support better cholesterol and blood glucose levels. It has strong anti-viral properties as well, which can give your immune system a boost. And there are current studies focusing on its anti-inflammatory properties to prevent the decline in brain function we experience as we age.
(Please note: milk thistle may interact with some prescription medications, so I recommend you first talk to your doctor if that is a concern.)
My Favorite Herbal Milk Thistle: Liver Health from Herb Pharm
My favorite way to take milk thistle is as an organic herbal tincture called Liver Health made by Herb Pharm. It contains the whole milk thistle seed (Silybum marianum) plus other liver-friendly herbs like dandelion, artichoke leaf, and fennel seed. I hold Herb Pharm in high regard because of their high-quality products (almost all organic!) and ethical farming practices.
To order a bottle of Liver Health or get more info, visit my Fullscript store. Enter your email and then you can navigate to the product in the catalog. If the alcohol in the tincture is an issue or if you just prefer another form, milk thistle is also available in capsule form. My favorite brand is Designs for Health. In this day and age of HUGE conglomerates, they are still family owned! And their products are top notch. It’s what I use.
The link is from my health dispensary at Fullscript, which is an online retailer that focuses solely on supplements and vitamins. They have a good reputation in the industry for their service and quality of brands, so you know you’re getting a good product when you order from my Fullscript store. I’d much rather have you buy here from a trustworthy source than from Amazon. Counterfeit brands and changed expiration dates have been reported there, so you never know what you’re getting or how long it has been sitting somewhere!
When you order from my online store, you are assured of a quality product—no fillers or additives like artificial colors. And, I’m happy to answer any questions regarding products you’re ordering from my online health dispensary. Feel free to give me a call at 831-212-3090.
The very good news is that I get to offer you a 20% discount everytime you order from Fullscript! You can get daily supplements for yourself and your family, including turmeric, probiotics, fish oil, multi vitamins, and lots of other goodies. Plus, shipping is always FREE for orders over $50.
Or, if would like to have me place an order for you, that is an option. If interested, please let me know the items you’d like to order, and I can take care of that for you. I’ll process your invoice and drop you a note when it’s ready to pick up. We can arrange a curbside pickup.
If you have any questions about any of this, please just let me know.
Your Extra Credit Suggestions
Here are three more extra credit suggestions for your “back-to-basics” cleanse:
1) Other supplements to add for your benefit are a good probiotic and digestive enzymes. Again my favorites are from Designs for Health. Supplementing in this way can benefit your digestion in many ways. First and foremost it could help you absorb more of the nutrients from your food. More nutrients = Better Health!
2) Eat More Veggies!!
Aim to eat at least 4-5 cups of veggies daily. Yep, you read that right. 4-5 cups a day. And sorry to break it to you but salad doesn’t really count. It doesn’t have the dense nutrition of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.
Long term, eating your daily veggies has benefits with no limit! It can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Short term you will feel better. Your poop will be better. You’ll eat less crap, because you will fill up on the good stuff. Try it, you’ll like it!
For me, the best way to do this is to prepare them ahead of time. Every few days I steam a HUGE pot of broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, and purple cabbage. Colorful! Nutritious!! Then I put them in everything. Scrambled eggs for breakfast? Add a cup or two of veggies. Rice and beans for lunch? Yep, more veggies. When I’m hungry and need a quick snack, I drizzle a little olive oil over them and a dash or two of salt. It’s delish.
2) Drink Half Your Weight in Water
Water, water, water! Drink it. Coffee doesn’t count. Neither does wine. Ideally, you should drink half your weight in water daily. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, try to drink 80 ounces of water. Hydration of the tissues is key. This helps the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia all glide over and around each other, which can help a lot with general aches and pains.
Hydration helps cells move nutrients in and toxins out, which is a KEY PILLAR for short-term and long-term health.
One lovely routine to start your day is by drinking a 16-ounce glass of water with 1 full squeeze of the Healthy Liver Tincture. That’s already 20% of your hydration goal for the day and a wonderful way to LOVE your Liver.
Are you wondering why as an acupuncturist I am talking about FOOD and herbs and water? Nutrition is one of the “branches” of Chinese Medicine. I talk to patients about food choices all the time. There’s no one size fits all diet, and you need to consider your constitution, goals, lifestyle, and all that jazz. But there are some habits almost everyone would benefit from hence this newsletter.
The world needs healthy people right now (!!), and I’m so grateful to serve and support your mind, body, and health. If you have any quick questions about the milk thistle tincture or the other suggestions I made, feel free to email me. If you want to delve more into this, make an appointment and we can discuss your specifics. One way or another, I’m always happy to help!
Spring into Life
Jumpstart your Body, Mind, and Energy
* Still feeling a bit sluggish after the holidays?
* Want to revitalize your energy?
* Want to feel less anger, worry, impatience, & frustration?
Come and learn how Chinese medicine and Reiki can help alleviate many of these symptoms and come away Springing into your Life!
Workshop includes a guided meditation, mini-acupuncture treatments, Reiki healings, and practical suggestions for balancing your energy and living fully this Spring. Come get your Qi fluffed! 🙂
Date: Sunday, March 13th
Time: 2 pm – 4 pm
Location: In the “Studio” at the Pacific Cultural Center
1307 Seabright Av, Santa Cruz
Cost: Sliding Scale $15-$30
For more information or to register, contact Marianne at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 831-212-3090.
This educational, experiential and fun workshop will be facilitated by Marianne Benforado, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Joyce Leonard, Reiki Master Teacher/Practitioner, both with passions for helping people feel better in their bodies, minds, and spirits. Come and join us!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who suffer from high LDL cholesterol are twice as likely to develop heart disease – the number one cause of death in both men and women (source). High levels of LDL cholesterol is a serious health condition that affects approximately 71 million adults in the U.S. (1 out 3). But an ancient Chinese herb is turning heads in the medical community due to its surprisingly powerful effects on cholesterol levels.