'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!
Hippocrates said let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. That has rung true to me since I was little. My Italian grandfather used to joke that when I made dinner, grass was on the menu! I have always been fascinated and quite honestly empowered with the idea that food can indeed be as Hippocrates stated thousands of years ago, medicinal.
Kirlian photography of foods captures light/electromagnetic energy not visible to the naked eye. The images of raw fruits and vegetables show more of these light strands than the same cooked vegetables. The raw food movement is definitely a strong one. While I do think there is some real and supportive research behind it, it is not a supported premise of Chinese Medicine. It is especially not supported if there is a weakness in your Spleen and Stomach meridians/ digestive function.
There are so many ways to categorize eating now: Alkaline, Paleo, Vegetarian, Pescetarian, Carnivore (haha) etc, you get the picture.
As an acupuncturist, a person who loves to cook, and a mother; I find the most healthy choice for myself and my family is to follow a mostly plant based diet with limited amounts of specific animal protein. At the end of day, I refer back to my food therapy training in school and take into consideration the lifestyle and habits of my patients when offering suggestions.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relies heavily on the idea of the yin and yang energies of food, when supplementing the treatments given in the office. The yang being sweet, spicy, dry, orange and red colored food in nature. The opposing Yin being the bitter, salty, high moisture content, green or cool toned color foods in nature.
If you think about how many times you eat in a day, it shouldn’t seem that farfetched that we can do a lot of good for our bodies if we are mindful and purposeful when doing so.
When I treat patients, we always talk food. ALWAYS!
I typically give patients a food energetics chart that lists if a food is natured hot/warm/drying(yang), cool/cold/moistening(yin), or neutral. In a perfect setting, the idea is to have a balanced plate of food in front of you being more neutral than anything. However, we all have slight imbalances and it is important knowing what your body constitution tends toward. This information is essential to knowing how to eat in terms of a Chinese Medicine point of view.
Here is an example of a dinner from last week:
Here is the breakdown of the plate in terms of a thermal nature TCM point of view:
Radish Micro greens: cool
Cauliflower purée: neutral
Coconut oil: warm
Leggett, Daverick, Helping Ourselves: Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics. Meridian Press, 1994
Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books, 2002
Pilates is such an important part of my practice. Interesting fact is that more than half of my acupuncture patients also do Pilates with me. Why? Right off the bat, Pilates is an integral way to get a patient who is coming for pain due to dysfunction, back to being more functional. Ultimately, It allows me to help strengthen the area of weakness. That’s the obvious example. Then there are the more subtle reasons why Pilates is so beneficial. Very often than not, I’ll hear statements like these at the end of the session: “I feel less anxious, more balanced”, “ I can breathe differently”, “I feel happier”. It is in these subtleties that the magic of Pilates truly exists. Why? I truly believe Joseph Pilates was very much ahead of his time. Yes, he knew that using diaphragmatic breathing, he was able to improve the lung capacity and assist the client into getting out of the “flight or fight” of one’s sympathetic nervous system. And yes, he believed that strengthening the abdominal, core, and smaller intrinsic muscles brought a greater health to the cells of the body and muscle.
What I don’t think he realized (or maybe he did and just never qualified it by name) was that a lot of the movements, coupled with the breath work, works on something called primitive reflexes. When diving into how a Pilates session is able to produce these outcomes, I see so many similarities between movements to integrate primitive reflexes throughout the body and Pilates’s original mat-work of 1934. In Bonnie Brandes’ book, The Symphony of Reflexes, she explains this topic beautifully. Primitive reflexes develop when we are in utero, assist the body during the birth process and are integral to our development. These reflexes are complex signals that go from our nervous system/brain to specific areas of our body to perform a specific movement/processing/behavior. A block in this communication blocks the reflex from integrating thru the body and quite possibly may cause cognitive and learning challenges. When we invite particular movements (flexion, extension, rotation, unilateral, oppositional) into our body, those physical and emotional symptoms of imbalance improve. Anxiety, lack of focus/poor mental acuity, and obsessive compulsive type behaviors to name a few decrease with regular movement therapy. There are even some examples of how reflex movement therapy is useful for Parkinson's patients.
There is an old adage that you don't have to reinvent the wheel when developing a concept or business plan and I definitely adhered to such an adage. While I may put a modern approach to my Pilates instruction, it is still very much based on classical theories and science. Over the years, I have witnessed why the many benefits of Pilates is so important to my practice. It is so much more than getting washboard abs (although that is nice too). Pilates is healing, restorative and an integral part of brain health. I feel extremely committed and humbled that I get to be a vessel in this special discipline. A very heartfelt thank you to Mr. Joseph Pilates!
I love the holiday season, but I love the start to a new year even more.
These are my Top 9 to welcome in 2019:
Wishing you a Happy and Healthy 2019!
Blog postings by Natalie Maddox Rougie, DOM, AP owner of Palm Wellness in Tampa, FL.