Yin Tang (emotional balancing, anxiety, sinus issues)

Yin Tang (pronounced “Yin Tong”) is located directly between the inner borders of your eyebrows. It’s useful for treating sinus problems and frontal headaches, but it’s most often called upon to calm the Shen (spirit). If you are anxious or dealing with stress, you’ll know why it’s also referred to as “The Valium Point.”

Yin TangOther cultures have recognized the importance of this point. It’s close to (below) the “Third Eye” and the 6th Chakra of Indian traditions. In the short-lived TV show Eli Stone, the title character experienced visions when his acupuncturist needled him on the forehead … a little too high, unfortunately (I’m sure I’m not the only acupuncturist who wrote to them – after a while they obscured the actual insertion location with the actor’s hands). Anyway, I wouldn’t expect to start seeing visions, but it will definitely help you find some inner peace.

To use Yin Tang, simply press with a fingertip for about 10 seconds. Take a deep breath, be grateful you’ve backed up your computer, and smile. Don’t you feel better already?

 

Fibromyalgia & how to beat it

The FIRST thing to know about Fibromyalgia is that it’s real.

The SECOND thing to know about Fibromyalgia is that it doesn’t have to be forever.

So many people, when they are finally diagnosed, have a bittersweet reaction. At last, they know what is wrong. They might feel vindicated, having endured the eye-rolls and boredom of family members who didn’t believe anything was really wrong. On the other hand, some patients take the diagnosis as a death sentence. They’ve heard nothing but a negative prognosis. They think they are stuck with the pain for the rest of their lives. Some people, exhausted and depressed, can even take on the disease as an identity. DO NOT do this. You are a beautiful person dealing with a temporary disease. There’s a Southern saying “If you’re going through Hell, don’t pitch a tent!” This is perfect advice. Resist the urge to wallow. Focus on the things you CAN do to make yourself better, and keep moving!

I am here to tell you that you CAN reduce or even eliminate Fibromyalgia symptoms. I used to be in a lot of pain… Now, as long as I am reasonable with my diet and exercise, I am symptom-free! Your experience may vary, of course, but let’s see how much progress we can make.

I see FM as a kind of physical Post-Traumatic Stress. Generally it can be traced back to a physical or emotional trauma. The body’s pain system becomes oversensitive. It reads any little insult as a major injury. To stop this over-reaction, we have to decrease inflammation, reduce stagnation, and decrease stress.

Sleep: See my article on Sleep. Letting your body restore itself overnight is very important!

Exercise: Light, frequent exercise is key to reducing pain. In severe cases, you may need to start with a 5-10 minute walk once a day. That’s fine… just gradually increase the duration. Get up and move a little every few hours instead of sitting still all day. Try to keep your activity levels about the same day to day. Doing too much or being too sedentary will hurt – listen to your body!

Nutrition: Making a few changes in your diet can drastically reduce your pain. Avoid the inflammatory nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, tobacco) as most people with FM tend to be sensitive to their natural alkaloids. This article contains full details and some recipes. Sugar is the other big offender. Some people are more sensitive to dairy products, commercial red meat, alcohol, and caffeine than others. It’s worth experimenting a little to find out how your body reacts. Go two weeks without the item in question, then have a big dose. See how you feel that day and especially the next. The answer is usually pretty obvious. If you’re ready/able to make big changes in your diet, you may find that eliminating starches (pasta, bread, rice, etc) can be surprisingly helpful.

Try to eliminate fried and processed foods from your diet as much as possible. Anti-inflammatory foods like dark leafy greens and good fats are important to include.

Relaxation: Being happy is important, too. Pamper yourself by allowing time to read or pursue your other hobbies. Have fun! Enjoy a funny movie, hang out with your friends, pet a cat. Pay attention to the beautiful things in your everyday life.

Good touch: The hypersensitivity of fibromyalgia means that the wrong kind of pressure, even well-intentioned, can be very painful. Deep-tissue work and hard hugs are not appropriate. Instead, I use a gentle touch. Careful medical massage techniques, including myofascial release, use a large contact (palm of the hand) instead of a pokey one (fingertips), and are wonderful for helping disperse blood and lymphatic stagnation. If there’s a partner in your life, I can teach them how to work on you. I am also conservative in my needling for FM patients. I use the skinniest possible (42 gauge) and not many of them… too many can wipe out your energy.

Address the cause: Most FM seems to stem from a past trauma, either physical or emotional. Many patients report a history of abuse. Find a good therapist or some other way to address any hidden grief. Some patients find it useful to write letters to people involved in these emotional injuries. Say it all. You can even write one to yourself (current you or younger you). It doesn’t matter if the person is still part of your life or if they are still alive – it’s about expressing yourself. Afterwards, burn the letter as a symbol of letting go of those emotions.

I can’t overstate the importance of this step. You may feel like you’ve dealt with whatever trauma kicked your FM off, but stop and think. Those land mines can be buried deep. In my case, I had to dig back to my sister’s death when I was 18, as well as the obvious car accident. Once I re-addressed my grief, the majority of my symptoms melted away. Take some time to find the splinters in your soul.

Keeping a daily diary that tracks your food, activity, and symptoms will help you identify patterns.  

Keeping your identity as separate from a disease, and focusing on the actions you can take, is important for everything herpes to HIV. Some people with long-term managed illnesses, like diabetes or fibromyalgia, actually wind up healthier because they get serious about their diet and exercise. This life is what we make of it. Go make something awesome! 

Common Typical TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Patterns for Fibromyalgia

One person may exhibit more than one pattern.

Liver* Qi Stagnation – anxiety, emotional upset, headaches (including migraine headache), being easily angered, muscle stiffness in neck and shoulders, insomnia, waking frequently and having difficulty falling back to sleep, irritable bowel syndrome. All symptoms may be triggered by emotional stress.

Qi and Blood Deficiency – specifically spleen Qi deficiency and heart blood/liver blood deficiency, with such symptoms as chronic fatigue, exhaustion, dull headache, muscle weakness and numbness, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep and waking up tired, palpitations and depression.

Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis – aches and pains in the whole body, burning or gnawing pain with tingling sensations in extremities, headaches.

Kidney* Deficiency (either Yin, Yang, Qi or Essence Deficiency) – there will be impotence or lack of libido for males and infertility issues for both males and females. Other symptoms: sore lower back with restless leg syndrome, irritable bladder, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, hot flashes and night sweats.

* Please note that the Chinese organs are energetic concepts and may or may not relate to the physical organs!

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine provide relief of symptoms by balancing Yin and Yang, and adjusting the circulation of Qi and the blood. Local measures such as heat, gentle therapeutic massage, and moxibustion* in specific regions also help to reduce the pain. A regular plan, with long-term, consistent integrative treatment is necessary in patients with fibromyalgia.

* I prefer myofacial release and moxa as methods to break up stagnation rather than cupping for people with fibromyalgia. Cupping, especially if done too harshly, creates bruising / bleeding under the skin and contributes to excess inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory Diet & Nightshades

If you have osteo-arthritis or an inflammatory disease (Fibromyalgia, IBS, etc), listen up: There are ways to alter your diet that will help decrease your pain! It’s also very helpful when you want to reduce inflammation after an injury.

1) Avoid sugar. This includes soda* and high-glycemic foods that will break down quickly into sugars. White bread, pasta, and starches will all contribute to inflammation.
2) Avoid fried foods. Enough said.
3) Grain-fed red meat is a problem for some people. Grass-fed meat is less inflammatory, since the fat structure is different.
4) You can counteract pain by eating ANTI-inflammatory foods. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach will help a lot. Berries (except for goji and blueberries), turmeric, garlic, celery, pineapple, cocoa, ginger, and foods containing good fats (extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts) are great, too. If you are sensitive to oxalates, however, be careful not to overdose on the dark leafy greens.

5) Foods your body doesn’t like. Some people are sensitive to dairy or wheat, for example. If you know you react badly to something, avoid it when you are in pain.

6) The Nightshade (Solanaceae) plants contain a small amount of an alkaloid toxin called solanine. Some people aren’t bothered by it. Other people, especially those with auto-immune issues & arthritis, tend to be sensitive to this family of plants. Most are unaware of the pain they are causing themselves, because they eat them so often, and because the inflammation & ache are delayed up to 24 hrs.

Tomatoes
Potatoes (Sweet potatoes and yams are ok)
Peppers, including spicy, chili, and bell peppers, and paprika (Black, white, and green pepper is ok- it’s actually a peppercorn. Long pepper is ok, too.)
Eggplant
Tobacco

Although less well known, Goji berries are nightshades, too.

Note: Blueberries, huckleberries, artichokes, and okra are not in the Nightshade family, but they also contain solanine.

The good news: It’s very easy to find out if you are Nightshade sensitive. Simply remove all of them from your diet for two weeks (Note: You’ll have to read labels carefully. “Spices” may contain paprika, and lots of prepared foods like shredded cheese can contain potato flour). Then have a big dose of tomatoes, potatoes, or drink a V8. See how you feel that evening and the next day. If within 24 hrs your pain is worse, you are Nightshade-sensitive. Wherever you have inflammation, that’s where it will show up. If not, congrats – you can go back to all the tomatoes you want.

The alkaloid is degraded by heat. Raw Nightshades are more toxic than cooked, and the extreme heat of deep-frying is even better … but fried foods are inflammatory for other reasons, so don’t get too excited. I will eat a small amount of potato chips on a special occasion because they are fried all the way through, but not french fries, since they are still squishy in the middle.

The combination of Nightshades and sugar is a doozy. I can get away with a small amount of tomato paste, but even a tiny squirt of ketchup will make my hands ache the next day.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet is a relatively simple way to decrease your pain and make a real difference in your quality of life. Some people have inflammatory reactions to dairy or wheat, and that may be worth testing the same way as the Nightshades. You don’t have to be perfect all the time – just pick your battles, okay?

Spicy food junkies: Fear not! You can still enjoy horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger, and all the peppercorns, including long pepper.

Here’s a nightshade-free curry recipe and one for NonNightshade Mexican. Substitute either cauliflower or sweet potatoes for regular potatoes. Pizza and pasta are great with pesto sauce. There’s even a “No-Mato” marinara sauce I found online (OMG SO GOOD!!!! I used the higher levels of spice for everything and loved it! If you use all regular beets it’s purple. If you use 50% regular beets and 50% golden beets, you’ll get a red sauce with a less “beety” taste. Freezes well, too!).

Like to eat out? Free restaurant cards are here. 

UPDATE 4/29/16: Now that I’ve been Nightshade-free for a decade, I’ve found that I can get away with cheating once in a while. There seems to be a cumulative effect. By staying away 99% of the time, and preventing a build-up of inflammation, I can enjoy the occasional indiscretion. 

*Diet soda isn’t a good solution. While it doesn’t contain sugar, the artificial sweeteners cause their own problems, including triggering the body to start storing more calories as fat.

Note: Biodegradable drinking straws are becoming popular here in Portland, and some are made with potato. It’s a small enough amount it may not be a factor for you, but if you are highly sensitive, start carrying your own collapsible straw for eating out.