Growing up my Italian grandfather always impressed upon me that education was paramount to life. He likely had this notion because of his schooling being cut short when he was needed to work at his family’s olive orchards in Italy to support his mother and younger siblings. Regardless of this obstacle, you would never think otherwise, as my grandfather was constantly found reading, spoke of many topics, and was bi-lingual, having taught himself English when he came to this country. My grandfather was a man of great pride, apparent in every aspect of his life particularly his fruitful summer garden, meticulous organization, and in the way in which he cared for his family. I was his first grand daughter and from the sounds of it, the one who softened his intense at times nature. He was my second father and chauffeured me to and from school and extra-curriculars from the time I started elementary school thru high school. He and my grandmother were at every band concert, every dance performance, and every milestone of my young life. Next to my parents, he was one of the dearest constants in my life. Early on, he led by example and would sit and read next to me while I was completing my homework in the wooden desk he purchased for me and kept at his home. I remember how organized my desk was, just like his! In retrospect, it was in those quiet moments with him that my love of learning was ignited. Over the past year and a half, I immersed myself in the Doctoral program of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Health and Sciences and was quickly brought back to the joy and passion that I have for learning.
With the support of my family and the understanding from current patients, I was able to pull back from some daily responsibilities and fully give myself permission to expand and strengthen my point of view and evolve as a practitioner and a person. Staying true to myself and passions, I took a very deep dive into the mechanisms of action of both acupuncture and Pilates as an integrative treatment strategy for musculoskeletal conditions, the pharmacology of Chinese herbal medicine to treat infectious diseases, current public health struggles that could improve greatly with the integration of acupuncture, and the functional approach to lab testing using nutraceuticals, herbs, and acupuncture in treatment. As I sit here on the eve of my coursework completion, I feel transported back in time sitting next to my grandfather while doing my homework, fully supported without hearing any words. Funny how it feels totally familiar- a mere small shadow in my grandfather’s huge presence. This time however, pride is now radiating from every pore in my body, his unrelenting pride is now mine. As I close out the day, my prayer tonight is that my boys get to experience this feeling in their lives someday.
As I look back on 2020, many emotions flood into my mind. I think it’s safe to say that we have all experienced just about every emotion on a fairly consistent basis since March. Fear, sadness, anger, frustration, grief, worry, anxiety and thank God, even joy became a daily emotion. With each passing day simulating that of a rollercoaster, it was hard to find joy until I began implementing a gratitude journal. Gratitude is an immensely powerful concept when discussing its ability to have a favorable impact on a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing which we all so desperately need after this whirlwind of a year.
At minimum, I have been writing two things I am grateful for along with an interesting thing that happened that day, this brief pause created a sense of calm and the emotional rollercoaster began to slow. At the end of the day, or sometimes even beginning the day my mind and body focused on the so many things I am grateful for. Some days, the gratitude would lie in sunshine or a hug from my son, more recently I was grateful for clean water! This daily exercise began reshaping my perspective and pointed out the all too evident fact that in today’s world many things are far beyond my control. As a type A individual, that is a hard pill to swallow but with gratitude journaling it became something I was willing to sit with.
A study done by Dr. Mills et al from University of San Diego Medicine provides us with an insight showing the effectiveness that gratitude has on the human body. Increased spirituality, decreased depression, better sleep, less fatigue, more self-efficacy, higher Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and decreased bio-inflammatory markers are all seen when practicing gratitude. Interestingly, Heart Rate Variability could be a helpful measure that reflects heart wave activity and overall autonomic health, essentially showing that stressors causing more sympathetic nervous system activity. Under the presence of stress, a patient’s HRV is seen to be low. Conversely, when we are in a relaxed, calm state, our HRV is high with our parasympathetic nervous system to be high functioning. This is when the natural happy neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, are being released into our blood stream.
Exploring this idea of the autonomic nervous system and its relationship with positivity is one that I feel deserves a lot of attention, because ultimately, the virtue of gratitude can not exist without coming from a place of positive thought. [5,6] It's important to note that we feel positive, increased levels of dopamine and serotonin are always present. The studies on gratitude and positivity are game changers for me in practice as most of my patients like research behind my suggestions. Quite honestly, I like it as well! Our work as acupuncturists act on the autonomic nervous system as well, decreasing sympathetic nervous system activation (increasing parasympathetic nervous system activation) and may also affect the level of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine in the limbic system. [2,3]
After weeks of personally implementing a gratitude journal, I shared the success with some of my patients and asked them to try as well. To somewhat of a surprise, chief complaints started improving. Why? As of late most patients come in with concern of stress, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, or panic. The mechanism of acupuncture is down regulating the sympathetic nervous system and the mechanism of this action is made stronger when including a gratitude journal. In my opinion, the ability of acupuncture to improve our patient’s mental wellbeing goes hand in hand with the effects of gratitude on the body. Ultimately, I would love to see a study combining gratitude journaling with acupuncture.
To our friends, patients, vendors, and colleagues alike we are so grateful for you. This year has been incredibly challenging with many dark moments, but with gratitude we can always remember the blue skies that lie beyond the clouds. I would implore all of us, each and everyday to find something to be grateful for. We are grateful for your endless support, and the abundance of opportunities to help our wonderful community of patients. May you find (or continue to find) gratitude in simple parts of life, may you find comfort and above all may you find peace in the new year!
Here are some tools we recommend:
The Five Minute Gratitude Journal
Heart Rate Variability Monitor
Dfarhud, D., Malmir, M., & Khanahmadi, M. (2014). Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors- Systematic Review Article. Iranian journal of public health, 43(11), 1468–1477.Retrieved from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449495/
Kim, H. G., Cheon, E. J., Bai, D. S., Lee, Y. H., & Koo, B. H. (2018). Stress and Heart Rate Variability: A Meta-Analysis and Review of the Literature. Psychiatry investigation, 15(3), 235–245. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.30773/pi.2017.08.17
Kwokming James Cheng. (2014). Neurobiological Mechanisms of Acupuncture for Some Common Illnesses: A Clinician's Perspective. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 7 (3), 105-114. Retrieved from:
Mills, P. J., Redwine, L., Wilson, K., Pung, M. A., Chinh, K., Greenberg, B. H., Lunde, O., Maisel, A., Raisinghani, A., Wood, A., & Chopra, D. (2015). The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients. Spirituality in clinical practice (Washington, D.C.), 2(1), 5–17. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507265/
Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 7(11), 18–22.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/
Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: a review and theoretical integration. Clinical psychology review, 30(7), 890–905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005
I’ve always said that if you are a smart shopper, it is completely possible to eat healthy without breaking the bank. According to the U.S.. Department of Agriculture July 2020 cost of food at home report, there are 4 ranges given to determine weekly and monthly food costs. Of the four ranges referenced, I used the liberal range for a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) to create my budget which allocates for $320 spend in groceries per month. Using that budget, I was able to think about the budget in terms of daily budget of $12 per person. Yikes! If you think about the cost of a meal when going out to eat, I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to stay under this budget. I’m always up for a good challenge, so I channeled my inner domestic goddess and set off to our local health food store. (Our grocery shopping is done locally, at Rollin Oats on N Macdill whenever possible) could say something like this if someone truly wanted to follow it like a recipe
Ok, here we go: my plan is to see if I can stay under the $12 per person a day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just for simplistic sake of not making this blog too long, I am just going to post a days worth of meals for all of us:
Per person for the three of us (my husband doesn’t eat breakfast): $2.72
Adjusted per person: $ 1.52
What we ate:
Bob’s red mill organic oatmeal pod. $2.49 each ( boys share one).. used 2.
Organic strawberries $1.24 ($4.99 .. used 1/4),
Organic blueberries $.74 ($2.99.. used 1/4),
1 Organic apples $.55 ($4.43 for 8 )
Organic soy-free eggs $.67 for two ($7.99 for 12 eggs)
Water to drink -room temperature :)
Family total for three of us: $8.18
Per person $1.89
Adjusted person $1.73
What we ate: Healthy Chicken Sandwiches
GF sourdough bread $2.52 ($ .63 each sandwich $4.99 for a loaf.. to make 8 sandwiches)
Organic chicken breasts $2.49 ($9.99 for three breasts in a pack )
Veganaise vegan mayo:$1.52 for 4 servings ($11.99- 1tbsp in a serving.. 32 servings per container.. $.38 per serving.. we probably don’t use a full tablespoon per sandwich, but we use more than a teaspoon probably)
Organic dill pickles $1.04 ($3.99 for the jar- 15 servings- so $.26 per serving)
Water to drink
Family total for 4: $7.57
Dinner: Alaskan Cod Power Bowls
per person: $7.80
Wild Alaskan Cod: $23.96 ($5.99 each piece- purchased 4)
organic sprouted quinoa $2.71 ($5.43- Servings per pack is 2 )
Organic mango - $1.39 each
Organic avocado $1.79 each
Organic arugula $1.33 ($3.99- used 1/3 )
Water to drink
Family total: $31.18 assuming you used one mango / one avocado
Per person: $7.80
Results: one day per person: $11.62
I am so proud!
BUT.. my boys eat OFTEN during the day and this amount did not include any snacks.. now what?
Well, in doing some additional research, I found that on average, per a 2018 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Survey, Americans not only spend $372 in monthly groceries, but also $288 on monthly restaurants and other meals on the road. This definitely helped my cause and since we are not eating out these days, will give me the extra money to include snacks for the boys.
All in all, this was a very successful exercise and one that proves these very important hypotheses:
'Every single day when I’m with patients I talk about the immune system to at least one if not everyone I see that day, including the boys in my household. My boys understand that too many raisins and dates (yes, “healthy” sugar) is still sugar and they are only allowed a small amount of them and not every day. Why? Because studies show that about 2 hours after consumption of sugar, the white blood cells decrease slightly in number. And this directly affects our ability to fight viruses. I talk to them about our bodies natural defenses and how what they put in their mouth directly affects this. They know this because I have been talking about this since they can remember. I firmly believe that children truly can understand a lot more that we give them credit.. you just have to talk to them about it.
My greatest legacy are my boys. If they can explain why they take the supplements they do and eat like they do, then I have done my job well. It is not an easy job so please don't think I am suggesting that it is all unicorns and rainbows committing to this lifestyle. A flashback of the day my older son insisted on eating from the preschool holiday party turned into a run to the bathroom is playing in my mind. He learned at a very young age what MSG, Red dye and additives do to his stomach. It wasn’t a pretty site let me tell you.
Back to the point..you have to start somewhere and so I am going to tell where to start:
I often think about what my greatest message could be to the masses, one that I am most passionate about. Hands down it is the idea that Food is Medicine, that we should eat for our immune support, and that by looking at the 5,000 + year old philosophy of Chinese Medicine and implementing parts of it in our daily life, then we are much healthier for it.
80 percent of our immune system resides in the gut, which is comprised of: mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, gall bladder, liver, colon, and rectum. When speaking of Leaky gut, we are referring to the permeability of the large and small intestines and when the lining is thin and weak, bacteria, and toxins escape and enter the blood stream where they are regarded as foreign particles and in turn stimulate our bodies natural defenses to clean up the mess. Helping to strengthen the integrity of the intestines will in the long run protect us from viruses, auto-immune issues, diabetes, and give us a fighting chance to protect us from Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, this list can go on and on. It is very important to also pay attention to your oral health. Taking good care of your teeth, removing any old metal fillings, flossing daily and seeing your dentist for regular cleanings is paramount to digestive health as well.
I'd like to put on my rosy colored glasses and believe that maybe the new normal will be one of more kindness, more compassion, and better care of our health, in particular, our immune health via our digestive system. Here at the office, my new norm has been expanding my practice to include telehealth sessions where I talk a lot about this very topic, which supplements to choose and why, and the beneficial herbal formulas in our current landscape. I've even started offering virtual pilates sessions!
I want anyone who has taken the time to read this post to feel empowered because gut health CAN be improved. It is completely attainable and I believe that anyone can do this, on any budget...And if you need some guidance, reach out to me. I will gladly offer support and solid insights, wherever you are in your process.
To my Best Friend,
Lately I have been thinking about that adorable picture of us when we were 5 years old at your birthday party. You know the one where my mom thought your uncle was your grandmother’s husband, not quite sure where your grandfather was for her to think that! Oh how your grandmother howled in laughter when we would reminisce about that. I can still her laugh. It was infectious, just like yours is. You remind me of her when I hear you laugh. Actually, so many of your attributes are from her: joyous, proud, strong, beautiful and kind.
I know that you are affected by what the world looks like today, and I also know that the grace and compassion you continue to show is a true testament to what your family taught you from a very young age.
You and I have shared so much. Remember when we would write letters to one another over summer break from school, when we would ride bikes all afternoon when we were old enough (in matching bikes nonetheless)? I can remember celebrating so many joys together, and also will never forget how we supported each other through heartbreaking sorrows. If there could be a photo next to the term BFF, I would want it to be ours. Best Friend Forever. That is us!
You are a woman of God with a faith so strong, a heart bigger than the tallest mountain, a devoted wife, mother, and colleague to your profession. Honestly, you are more to me than my best friend. You are part of my family, like my sister, right down to my mother worrying about us equally the same way that only a mother can do.
It’s hard to remember exactly what drew you and I together in that kindergarten classroom so long ago, but I’m fairly certain that it was our spirits and the way our hearts felt when we were with each other. It’s funny, because I’m fairly certain it’s exactly the same as it is today. The foundation of our relationship remains true to its inception: respect, generosity, love, and kindness. I thank both of our families for mirroring that to us.
We can laugh at just about anything, have serious conversations, sometimes super quick check in chats, but after every one, I leave the conversation so much better than when I started it... grateful that I have this strong bond with you, who at times knows me better than I know myself.
Our conversations currently are heavier than usual and my heart feels pensive. Above all, I care deeply about how you are feeling right now and how your family feels because everything about you MATTERS to me; your thoughts, fears, joys, and wellbeing MATTER to me. It always has. And now, even though I know your heart is also pensive, you show me that everything about my life also MATTERS to you; my thoughts, fears, joys, wellbeing MATTER to you. It always has.
Always has and Always will... our relationship will never, ever change. I will have your back and you will have mine. We will stand together in the foundations that we were raised upon: kindness, compassion, generosity, and love....and that is how I vow to continue to raise my children.
Your #1 BFF
I took this picture on our last day skiing in France this holiday season. The sun was just peeking over the crest of one of the magnificent mountains. There was a small stream to the right of me, that had a perfect flow of water. It felt so calm and peaceful. It’s curious to me how nature can evoke these feelings and also how it gently nudges you to be more introspective.
I started thinking about our last two weeks of 2019 and now our first two weeks in 2020, the things that worked for me last year and the things that I want to improve upon this year.
Last year, I thought a lot about self care and became really good at finding the balance between my family, personal, and professional life. Without a doubt, I will continue that through 2020. However, as in true fashion for me I am always reaching for more.
Then it hit me as I was standing there listening to the water flow, what if more was actually less?
Let me clarify: What if simplifying life with less “stuff” could actually bring more to our general wellbeing? Of course, it is easy to think about “stuff” in a material sense, and who doesn’t love a good closet or junk drawer clean out?! Being able to see the clutter leave and have more organized space results. It’s a good place to start for sure; however, what I am hoping for is a carry over to more important aspects of life. Getting rid of the “stuff” that holds you from making a much needed decision/change/or dream from taking shape. The “stuff” that keeps you from true happiness and feeling light and free. The idea being to live more simply with less. Letting situations and conversations go after thinking them through, not dwelling, finding the positive more than the negative, becoming the glass is half full kind of person. I feel these are good examples of cultivating a less cluttered mind. Easier said than done at times I know, but if the intention is there than the battle is half won, I once read.
I was always drawn to the complexity yet subtlety of Chinese Medicine for its treatment of ones physical and emotional health. On a daily basis I help patients to move the stuck “stuff” that manifests as physical pain, digestive buildup, and emotional frustration. After all of my years as an acupuncturist, I truly believe that the most rewarding part of my work is seeing a complete change in a person’s physical and emotional state. Of course, this doesn’t happen with one treatment, and it certainly doesn’t happen just from acupuncture alone. It’s the work that the patient does at home that makes the difference. Chinese Medicine is just the catalyst.
And so, this is my focus for the New Year and what I am going to be practicing in 2020: Living more than well with less and cleaning the clutter from my mind (as well as my closet)!
Im really excited about this one!
Wishing you the Happiest of New Years!
Natalie Maddox Rougié, DOM, AP
Happy Summer! Even though we are thoroughly enjoying ours, my forward thinking mind goes to the start of a new school year. It’s coming up fast and I want to be prepared for the special gift that it always brings to everyone... the Crud. If you are a parent to a young child, you will know what I am talking about. This pesky villain likes to make his visit fall, winter, and spring and when he does we will be ready with our armor tightly strapped! Think Captain America and Spider Man meet the Crud, episode 1. Hehe
In all seriousness now, a lot of my patients ask me what I give to my boys to help their immune systems. So here is my basic checklist: (I may add a few other Chinese herbs based on symptoms, but in general this is the base. Of course, be mindful to follow dosage guidelines recommended based on the weight of your child as I did not include dosage in the list below.)
Vitamin C: helps to increase the anti microbial effect our immune system has on pathogens by increasing the phagocytosis activity. Think old school Pac Man game!
Zinc: shown to inhibit rhinovirus (otherwise known as the common cold) replication and shorten the duration of the cold on your body.
A good multivitamin with Methyl folate: methyl folate is the more absorbable form of folic acid. Many of us have a mutation in one or sometimes two of our genes, that predispose us to have absorption issues with folic acid.
Probiotics with its prebiotic food: A very large majority of our immune system resides in our gut wall/ intestines. It helps to fight off infections with its ability to secrete beneficial Immunoglobulins, T cells, and B cells. Having a good probiotic on board daily decreases our susceptibility to upper respiratory infections and certain viruses. Plus it helps regulate digestion and reduce bloating. If your probiotic doesn't contain a prebiotic, just make sure to include some fermented foods in the diet.
Jade Windscreen: Yu Ping Feng San is comprised of three herbs, huang qi (astragulus), fang feng (ledebouriella root), and bai zhu (atractylodes). This formula has been shown to increase the release of cytokines, which in turn send signals to use macrophages and natural killer cells to attack the infectious microbes.
In clinical trials, this formula has shown to decrease the incidences of upper respiratory infections in children more susceptible to these frequent infections.
Note - it's important to change this formula to one with more anti-viral, anti-bacterial action at the first signs of sickness. I typically replace this formula with either Yin Qiao, Gan Mao Ling, or Chuan Xin Lian (Andrographis) depending on symptoms.
Elderberry liquid: my secret weapon for making Chinese herbal formulas taste good plus a bonus of this deep purple berry is that it's loaded with anthocyanins that increase the production of cytokines.
Let's help prepare our little hero's for battle!
True confession: I. am. a. Perfectionist. This trait comes straight down from my father. He is an artist, a gunsmith, has rebuilt antique cars, can fix just about anything perfectly of course, and built my childhood home. My mom tells me that he, when building our home, ripped out the stairwell three times before it was to his liking. Suffice it to say that at a very young age, he instilled this strong desire for me to hold myself and others around me to a very high standard. Some other pretty great things that I saw growing up from my father: he takes his time analyzing a situation, he always reads the directions, he inconveniences himself before affecting someone else, he cares for his mother, and he loves my Mom with all his heart.
Knowing what I do from Chinese Philosophy, Fathers have this innate yang energy. When pertaining to personality, it is expansive, active, and energetic. It is the perfect compliment to a Mother's Yin energy, which is soft, docile, and nurturing. I absolutely can not imagine who I would be without the imprint of their two extremes. Particularly the Yang aspect of my Father.
It’s been said that daughters likely marry someone similar in nature to their fathers and I can attest that the saying is true. Crazy true! The impression that my father made on me truly came full circle. Now my two little boys have not only one magnificent man to look up to (in my husband) but another one (in my father). These two men are the most important ones in my life, the ones that I most admire and love so dearly. And now they are the most important men in my sons’ lives.
It is my hope that my sons become just like them!
Wishing all the Father’s a very special day of celebrating!
These are my mother’s hands. Through these hands I have learned the most important thing about being a mother...
Until being blessed with my two crazy little boys, I used to think the ease at which my parents and grandparents raised me was just second nature. My maternal grandmother and my mother are largely the reason that I wanted to have my own children. At a very young age, I learned that the most important thing in life is FAMILY. Fast forward 30 something years and here I am, wondering how the heck they did it with such grace. My grandmother has since passed on, but I know she would say Laughter. LAUGHTER is how she did it with grace. She was always laughing and to this day can still remember the sound of it. My mother on the other hand, would say Wine.. and lot of it! (This actually was her answer to me about a year ago when I asked how she managed when I left home to attend college). My gosh she is funny and honest and...funny! Many of my friends and patients know my mom and every single one of them loves her! She is simply the best. The perfect dichotomy of traits: strong but gentle, kind but fair, considerate but fiercely honest, confident but vulnerable.
If I had to pick one beloved piece of advise from her to help me in motherhood, it would be what she has spent her entire life as a mother showing me: SELFLESSNESS.
My goal is for my boys to see what I saw from my mother; that they are my number one priority, that no matter what I care about what they are thinking, and that my greatest passion in life is them.
As a practitioner, I think it's important to remind mothers that being selfless doesn't mean loosing yourself. Making sure that you are still you is key. I still enjoy the things that make me who I am, just in smaller doses. I know that when I am my best, my boys are their best.
In the spirit of my grandmother, don't forget to throw in some laughter too. Laugh at yourself, don’t get too serious, and remember that your children will learn more about watching you then you could ever tell them!
Wishing all the mothers a very heartfelt and happy Mother’s Day!
I think people genuinely wonder two things about acupuncture. First, does it really work? Second, would it be something helpful to themselves and to what capacity?
Quite often I find myself responding to these types of inquiries with a trip down memory lane. Truth be told, I love scrolling through my mind thinking about all the people that have come into my life looking for improved health using Chinese Medicine. I’d be lying if I said that I help everyone that comes into my office. I’d also be lying if I said that everyone loves acupuncture, because some can’t stand to lay there with acupuncture needles sticking out of their skin.
I can honestly, state that the majority find improved health using Chinese Medicine and that the majority fall asleep to the point of snoring during a treatment.
Currently in a typical week this is what I’m treating: a lot of seasonal allergies ( the pollen count has been very high as of late), digestive disturbances, improving blood flow to the uterus in the exciting hope to become pregnant, post surgical knee pain, calming a stressed mind, neck pain and upper back tension from computer use, once a month maintenance treatment, a pregnant patient in her last trimester with lower back and leg pain, a brand new mom who is exhausted, a woman going through in vitro fertilization, another woman who is going through menopause, a cancer patient going through chemotherapy, and an athlete whose body is banged up and sore from overexertion.
As a mother I have found Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine to be very helpful when wanting to be prophylactic against issues, particularly ones that involve helping the boys’ immune systems. My boys let me do cupping to them when they have a cough, acupuncture and acupressure when they have a fever, and they take Chinese Herbs every day preventatively. It’s important to note that the companies that I use for my herbals are highly reputable, adhering to strict quality testing and manufacturing.
Most days I am astounded at the progress patients are making. Through the teachings of Chinese medicine and each patient's dedication to actively incorporate good lifestyle choices , health is improved and goals are attained! This is truly the best part of the work that I do, and of course meeting those beautiful babies!
Blog postings by Natalie Maddox Rougie, DOM, AP owner of Palm Wellness in Tampa, FL.