Happy Chinese New Year: Welcome Earth Pig!

February 5th marks a new year in Chinese astrology and welcomes the last animal of a 12 year cycle; the gentle earth Pig. Whether or not you subscribe to astrology, it can be fun to look at the centuries old art for its wisdom and insight. According to the experts, we can wave goodbye to a couple of intense years with the border-watching dog and coop-stalking fire rooster. The pig is associated with being welcoming and friendly, and has buddies of all varieties. Despite a rep for being dull witted, scientists now know pigs have complex communication and social skills much like primates. Hopefully, this year we can find some common ground with our neighbors and enjoy friends from all around the barnyard.

Also known to be filthy, the truth is that pigs are quite clean animals, however they roll around in the mud to cool off. In the year ahead, we might actually find ourselves making our live and work spaces more neat. No coincidence that organizing expert Marie Kondo is taking the world by storm with her Netflix series “Tidying Up”. Check it out!

The pig has its lazy days and is known for overindulgence. This year (and let’s be honest, we suggest this EVERY year) it’s advised we pay attention to diet, mind our alcohol consumption and keep up moderate exercise like hiking and swimming. Sleep should be honored and protected as an important time to renew and restore (read our blog on sleep here) . Because owning pigs has brought abundance to families historically, the pig year is thought to be lucky. The pig brings slow steady financial gains through a solid work ethic, will power and patience. While pig doesn’t mind a nice title, he’s not the most ambitious of animals. This is a year for seeking that balance of work and life. Take some time out to be with friends and enjoy the simple pleasures.

How to you find balance in your life? If you need help with your stress, finding a diet that works for you or any other aspect of health and wellness. The team at DHH is here to help. We wish you all great health, happiness and prosperity 2019! Gung Hay Fat Choy!

7 Tips For Morning Sickness

Congratulations! You’re pregnant!

The incredible joy and excitement of becoming pregnant often comes with a series of symptoms that can make a pregnancy pretty memorable, for better or worse :) One of the most common side effects of early pregnancy is morning sickness, which can for some women, manifest as mild nausea due to certain aromas or flavors, while in more extreme cases can lead to dry heaving and/or vomiting. And, as most pregnant women soon realize, the name of “morning sickness” is a bit of a misnomer as it can arrive at any point of the day or night.

Morning sickness is a common occurrence for many women in their early pregnancy. For most women it will subside by the end of their first trimester. But still for some it may last through the second trimester, or in extreme cases, throughout the entire pregnancy. In Chinese medicine, morning sickness is seen as being caused by a number of potential factors that your Chinese medicine practitioner will be able to decipher based on how your symptoms manifest. When Stomach Qi is healthy, it naturally flows downward to the small intestine for further separation before final elimination through the large intestine. When it is awry, Stomach Qi will move upward, leading to belching, hiccups, nausea, heartburn, acid reflux and/or vomiting.

Here are a few natural remedies that can help manage, reduce and possibly eliminate your morning sickness without side effects:

  1. Acupuncture - Regular acupuncture is proven to be effective in taming rebellious Qi!  As mentioned previously, when Stomach Qi is healthy, it moves downward. When a woman becomes pregnant, it is believed that the Conception vessel and the Penetrating vessel, which in non-pregnant circumstances support a healthy menses flow (downward), redirects Qi to support a growing fetus. This can interrupt the natural flow of stomach Qi into what we term “rebellious Qi”. Regular acupuncture treatments work to redirect Qi back to the proper direction to help nausea subside.

  2. Hydration - Adequate hydration is especially important during and after pregnancy to help meet the physiological changes that occur during these important phases of the life cycle as well as to mitigate morning sickness. Drink at least 10 8 oz glasses of water per day, more if possible throughout your pregnancy. Signs of not being adequately hydrated include darker urine, dry/itchy skin, headaches, dry mouth and/or dry/cracked lips. Infusing fresh lemon or ginger to your water can also be effective in calming nausea (see below).  

  3. Tea - Properties of certain herbs and teas are known to soothe the Liver or calm Stomach Qi, which in turn helps mitigate morning sickness. Particularly peppermint, ginger, chamomile and shiso leaf tea, whether bagged, loose leaf or diffused, can be very calming to an upset stomach. Add lemon or honey for added effects.

  4. Flavors - Similar to what’s mentioned above, sucking on certain flavors may have the same effects as calming the Liver or Stomach by way of aiding digestion and saliva flow. Ginger chews or peppermint can help calm the stomach, while a lemon lozenge or sour food, like umeboshi plums, has an astringent quality which helps keep rebellious Liver Qi in check.  

  5. Aromatherapy - Just as flavors can induce or reduce nausea in a pregnant woman, certain scents can be equally beneficial. When inhaled, the molecules from essential oils move from the nose or mouth to the lungs, brain and other parts of the body induce a calming effect. Scents such as lavender, chamomile, peppermint, citrus and ginger can be extremely helpful - sniff them directly from the bottle, or sniff a cotton ball, tissue or handkerchief treated with a drop or two.

  6. Small meals throughout the day - When morning sickness strikes, gone are the days of reasonably maintaining three square meals. Often in pregnancy, a meal with essential nutrients seems impossible to attain due to the unpredictability of food cravings and aversions. Instead of forcing full meals, I encourage patients to eat small meals or snacks throughout the day to keep the stomach satiated. In particular, I suggest protein-rich snacks during the day and before bed to prevent rebellious Qi from rising - if you can’t stomach lean animal proteins at this stage, think of keeping nuts, seeds, nut butters, full-fat yogurt in stock.

  7. Fresh air - While morning sickness can leave you far from feeling like a stroll outside, often you’re experiencing “stagnant Qi” that can benefit from a simple walk outside. Even stepping outside to take deeper breaths of fresh air without exercise can be often be beneficial to move stagnant Qi more freely through the lungs and throughout the rest of the body.


Cultivating Joy in the New Year

Happy New Year, friends! In this time of reflection and transformation, many of us are wondering:  what is the best and most effective way to feel/look/do/be… better?

 For some, this is a season to look within. To shine a little light on what we most value and desire so we can honor these things with fresh intentions. Others of us are just tired and bloated from all the fruitcake and alcohol consumption over the holidaze. Whatever side of the spectrum you fall, January so generously gives us all the chance to dust ourselves off and start again.

 As you begin to shed old habits and cultivate new ones, I’d like to offer a proposal. What if, instead of creating a long list of things you SHOULD do to BE better this year, you gently consider what you WANT to do to FEEL better.

 Crazy idea, right?

 We get so caught up in the narrative that we have to be or look a certain way that we end up creating empty resolutions that make us feel pressured instead of inspired. This is likely because we are taught from a very young age (especially as women) to prioritize the needs and expectations of others before our own. Prioritizing our joy is seen as self-indulgent and luxurious but I fiercely believe the opposite: prioritizing our joy is as important to our wellbeing as the food we eat and air we breathe. When our spirit is fed our reserves replenish and we are therefore able to give of ourselves more freely.

 What you desire matters. When you turn your back on what lights you up – you, and those around you, suffer. Your health deteriorates, relationships falter and everything feels like a chore. Step back into alignment with joy and things start to improve. So, instead of shoulding on yourself this season, what if you were to honor the pull of your heart’s desire?

 The easiest way to do this is to find what you love and do more of that. Maybe it’s cooking a nourishing meal, climbing mountains or snuggling on the couch with your cat. It could be swinging on a trapeze, watching a sunset or volunteering at a homeless shelter. It doesn’t have to be grand or take up loads of time – it can be as simple as creating a playlist of all your favorite songs and dancing to one of them when you get out of bed each morning. (I did this “Joy Jig” every day for a year during a difficult time in my life. It was both darn fun and profoundly healing).

 Don’t know what you love? Consider what you did as a child that kept you occupied for hours on end. Or ask yourself how you would spend your time if you had no other obligations or responsibilities. If you’re still stuck it’s possible that you’re simply experiencing a very human response to fear. Think about what scares you the most and you might have your answer. Doing what we love can be a very tender and vulnerable experience – even if it’s for just a few moments each day. Check out one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, for more insight on this. (Her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, is a great place to start).

 The rewards of nourishing ourselves with joy are plentiful. Breath deepens, muscles relax, circulation improves and stress melts away. Modern neuroscience tells us that when we are fully present while doing something pleasurable, we experience a cascade of positive effects on all the different systems in our bodies. This can result in a strengthened immune system, balanced hormones, improved digestion and restful sleep. We know these things to be true, yet our emotional wellbeing is the first thing to take a back seat when we are in pain or dis-ease. This is completely understandable and oh-so-human, but what if we tried something different this year? How about, in times of difficulty, we gently remind ourselves to turn towards what lights us up and make that our North Star.

 For those of you interested in giving it a try, you may find these resources useful:

 ·      The Greater Good Magazine – Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, put out by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, is full of fantastic information and inspiring ideas. These fine folks also create a wonderful Podcast called The Science of Happiness

 ·      Another equally effective way to unlock joy is to start with gratitude. Watch this or this to get you started.

5 Tips For Honoring Yin-Time Winter Solstice

5 Tips For Honoring Yin-Time Winter Solstice

This longest night of the year is a celebration of light and rebirth of the sun, as the days will now start to lengthen. In Chinese Medical theory, winter is a YIN time of year. Yin is cold, wet, and marked by stillness, introspection and rest. Winter solstice occurs this week on Friday 12/21; the point where Yin is at its peak and yang is just beginning with it’s tiny light. Ironically in our culture it is the typically time when we are called to be most YANG; outward, frenetic and social.

Restorative Yoga- Cultivate Stillness this Winter

Feeling a bit more tired or run-down this time of year?

Listen...That's your body trying to get in-synch with Mother Nature. Look around...winter is a time of hibernation, introspection and slowing down. While we are coming into cooler days and longer periods of darkness, this is also a signal to naturally shift toward and nurture your glowing, internal, guiding light.

A great way to practice this is through restorative yoga - a complementary ritual for the winter months! A restorative yoga practice allows us to slow down and stay in presence despite any compulsion that may arise to change what we are feeling, thinking or experiencing. This generates emotional flexibility and resilience. In cultivating stillness, we are able to breathe more space into the body which allows both physical and emotional tension to unravel naturally, rather than trying to create a particular result through force or control.

I often suggest restorative yoga, not only this time of year, but also to patients who struggle with stress, anxiety or sleep disorders in any season. This is because incorporating gentle movement regularly like restorative yoga helps calm an overactive nervous system while teaching us to open up to the present with tenderness, empathy and curiosity.

This season, make time for relaxation and deeper introspection, releasing your physical, mental or emotional tensions layer by layer. It is the right time to reflect on the last year, to process what you learned and in which areas you grew, so that you may integrate these changes in the coming New Year.

My favorite sources for restorative yoga:

In person: Britt Fohrman at Yoga Tree Valencia

At home: YogaGlo


Postpartum Prep: Ten Tips for The Golden Month

  1. Yes to Birth- A wonderful audio relaxation program by SF birthing expert Rachel Yellin for birth and postpartum prep. 

  2. Read about the concept of "The Golden Month" in "The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother"  I love the book so much , we have it in our waiting room. Chock full of wisdom, recipes and ideas to help you restore during your postpartum recovery. Although the Golden Month is a tradition of 30-40 days of rest and nutrition, even two weeks dedicated to rest at home can help your body restore blood and Qi lost in birth. Your third week should be partial bed rest, gently returning to activity.

  3. TLC for your vagina- Real talk here, your vagina may need care post-birth. Several conditions can arise such as hemorrhoids or pelvic pain. Postpartum "padsicles"- Perfect to soothe a sore perineum for the first 24-48 hours after delivery. You will need Witch Hazel (preferbly alcohol -free), aloe vera gel and optional lavender oil.  For the pads, you can use anything you've got handy:, cloth or disposable menstrual pads, postpartum pads, or panty liners, generic wash cloths purchased in packs can also work well. Mix half witch hazel and half aloe vera gel in a bowl, adding 4-5 drops of lavender oil if you'd like. Spray or spread the liquid onto the pads. Wrap individually in aluminum foil and freeze. Some women create a curved shape to fit your pelvis by placing the pads in a bowl (edges will curve up) in order to freeze. Then seal the pads in a ziplock bag in the freezer for later use. 

    Besides the aforementioned padsicles, you may want to use an herbal sitz bath after the first 24-48 hours- find the recipe here and hang out in it for 15-20 minutes per day post-birth.

  4. Also we recommend you consider a pelvic floor PT. The women at Pelvic Health and Rehab Center are wonderful and can help you recover from pelvic floor trauma. Plan to see them about 4-6 weeks post-birth.

  5. Mama Tong soup- is a great resource postpartum. Teaming with vitamins, minerals and collagen, bone broth is one of the most nutrient dense, restorative foods possible. I especially recommend the herbal chicken soup or the ginger chicken bone broth. Order online http://mamatongsoup.com/recipes/. or through Good Eggs.

  6. Be sure to hydrate in general post-birth and especially if breastfeeding! Drink 80 ounces or 10 eight ounce glasses per day.

  7. Lactation cookies purchased at the store are often filled with junk. Here is a recipe for homemade lactation cookies that can help if your breastmilk supply is low. You might make some of the dough ahead and freeze the raw cookies, take them out to bake as needed.

  8. Mother Roasting- is a warming treatment done at Double Happiness Health about two weeks postpartum. It utilizes moxibustion to promote deep healing and recovery by vitalizing energy and warming blood flow in the abdomen.

  9. Allow your family and friends to help you. This is a great time to practice saying yes to those offering to help cook for you, run errands or do a load of your laundry. Have some projects for your parents or in-laws to do while they are in-town. Gives them a feeling of value as well as bragging rights and helps give you both space and support.

  10. Let go of doing and being productive during this time. You will be in a special hormonal and experiential period that supports you just being with your baby and partner. Be sure to be loving to yourself and know you’ve just done something incredible. Remember to be patient; you are on the very first steps of your new adventure.

Seed Cycling to Balance Your Hormones

What is it?

Seed cycling, is a simple method for natural hormone balancing using fresh seeds in your diet at different phases of your female hormone cycle. It is also known as “seed rotation” and can be beneficial whether you are looking to optimize your fertility, improve menstruation, are peri-menopausal or menopausal. The seeds we describe below have nutrients that are proven to influence specific hormone pathways. Trying to conceive? Chinese Medicine views seeds as containing Jing, or reproductive essence. Eating seeds with more pronounced yin or yang qualities during that corresponding phase helps to balance your cycle and is thought to promote fertility.

How does it work?

Certain seeds have nutrients that influence your healthy forms of estrogen or progesterone. Eating combinations of seeds at the right time of your cycle will support your hormonal balance. Add 1 TBSP of the appropriate combo in your smoothies, plain water, coconut yogurt or atop salads, soups or cooked veggies. Great for those women depleted in minerals and iron, or for those with an imbalance of estrogen or progesterone. Seed cycling reduces PMS, acne, hot flashes, regulates the menstrual cycle and can restore libido. All that said, seed cycling cannot overcome a crappy diet; it works best when you have a baseline healthy diet and lifestyle. For most women looking to balance hormones and reduce inflammation, that means getting rid of sugar, refined carbs, cow dairy and caffeine.

If you are menstruating:

  • A typical follicular phase goes from day 1 of your menses until mid-cycle (or ovulation). In a 28 day cycle your follicular phase will be cycle days 1-14. Use 1 TBSP of freshly ground flaxseed and pumpkin seeds. This is the “yin” time you want to build up good estrogen . Flaxseed and pumpkin seed boost the estrogen needed to build endometrial lining. Flaxseed provides phytoestrogens, and pumpkin seed boosts iron as well as estrogen. Worried about too much estrogen? These seeds gently direct your estrogen into a protective metabolic pathway rather than a dangerous one.

  • The luteal phase starts at ovulation and continues until menstruation begins. For a 28 day cycle this will be cycle days 15 until your flow starts, (day 1 of menstruation). During this “yang” phase you will combine 1 TBSP of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Sesame seeds add zinc and improve antioxidant status while sunflower seeds contribute Vit E, important for progesterone production. Adequate progesterone supports your mood, sleep and reduces hormonal headaches.

If your cycles are irregular or you are menopausal:

Seed cycling improves some menopausal and irregular cycle symptoms. How? They tame your diva hormone, estrogen. Estrogen is a “diva” because she needs to be just right….or else. Your symptoms can be caused by estrogen dominance or estrogen depletion. Estrogen dominance in this case results from one of two situations: either estrogen is not properly eliminated from your system, causing an unhealthy form of it to build up and be recycled. As we mentioned earlier, seed cycling helps push estrogen to the healthy metabolic pathway, so it can get packaged up and excreted after it is used, rather than having unhealthy forms of estrogen recycling in your system. The second scenario is that you have too little progesterone, resulting in unopposed estrogen, aka “estrogen dominance”. Sesame and sunflower seeds will help your body make more progesterone, creating more balance to estrogen. If you simply have low estrogen, we’ve got good data for you. Flaxseed and Pumpkin seeds are particularly high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens, like certain selective estrogen receptor modulators, are structurally similar to estrogen and mimic it, decreasing risks associated with low estrogen such as osteoporosis and heart disease. They have an antiproliferative effect on the breast, and positive effects on the lipoprotein profile. They can also help stop hot flashes, mood swings and insomnia. Score!

  • If you are not menstruating or menopausal, start whenever you like with one seed combo and switch every one or two weeks.

  • If your cycle is irregular, start at any point with one combination for two weeks, then switch to the other for two weeks.

Hot Tips:

  • Use whole seeds that you grind freshly; flax crackers don’t count!

  • You will want to find a good source for seeds, avoiding seeds that may be old or oxidized. The best place to buy whole seeds is a grocery store that has a lot of turnover, especially in their bulk department. Rainbow grocery is a great choice in San Francisco.

  • Look for “sprouted” seeds which are easier to digest and absorb. If you can’t find the sprouted version, regular organic seeds are just fine.

  • Be sure you have a dedicated coffee grinder just for grinding seeds so it doesn’t mix with coffee or vice versa.

  • Grind enough seeds for 5-7 days so that they stay fresh, but are easy to use with a busy lifestyle.

You may notice that seed cycling increases your energy and overall sense of wellness. If you are sensitive to one of these seeds or are on special diet that excludes some, skip those and stick to the seeds that work for you. Do seed cycling at least until your symptoms feel better, and if you’d like, you can do this long term as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Resources:

Sesame Ingestion Affects Sex Hormones, Antioxidant Status, and Blood Lipids in Postmenopausal Women.The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 5, 1 May 2006. Pages 1270–1275,

Effect of dietary components, including lignans and phytoestrogens, on enterohepatic circulation and liver metabolism of estrogens and on sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). J Steroid Biochem. 1987;27(4-6):1135-44.

Phytoestrogens: the “natural” selective estrogen receptor modulators?

Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy.
Am J Clin Nutr.
 2004 Feb;79(2):318-25.

Effects of Phytoestrogen Extracts Isolated from Pumpkin Seeds on Estradiol Production.inNutrition and Cancer 65(5):739-45 · July 2013 with 847 Reads