<![CDATA[Bridge Acupuncture - Gentle and effective acupuncture in Doylestown, Bucks County PA - Blog]]>Sun, 03 Mar 2024 13:25:42 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Attention and Intention]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2024 16:22:05 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/attention-and-intentionPicture
(By Suzie Lee Tran, MS, LAc) “Honey, can you please call my phone? I lost it… again…”

Thankfully, it wasn’t on silent mode and I was able to find my phone… again. I was just so tired of losing my phone every single day. Our phones connect us to the outside world. They have become these 10-in-1 handheld devices; they’re our computer, phone, notepad, messaging center, memory keeper of photos and videos, etc. We carry them with us everywhere. Anyone can reach us at any time if we allow them to.

“You just need to pay attention to where you put things,” my husband reminded me. It wasn’t so much as an “I told you so,” and it didn’t irritate me; but that word “attention” stuck with me. The last time it stuck with me was when I was in acupuncture school and one of my mentors did an entire lecture on “attention and intention.”

“Attention and intention are the most powerful tools you can use as an acupuncturist. The attention you give your clients and the intention you set when you practice can take you to a higher level of consciousness than following a point prescription. You will learn a lot here- point location, theory, how to use needles and cups and all the other modalities we use. But it’s up to you to develop yourself so that you can give the attention your clients deserve and practice setting intentions every time you treat someone.”

Whoa, that was heavy. Not only did I have to study and practice for over 3.5 years, but I had to work on myself? So, on top of reading, writing, and needling, I had to practice tai chi or Qigong or yoga or meditation or all of the above so I could learn how to focus, stay in the present, protect my energy and set intentions for healing sessions? I was already tired just thinking about it.

Fast forward to losing my phone-- I had lost sight of what I needed to do. 

How do I do this? I can start by only doing one thing at a time. What does that look like?

When I’m driving, my phone is away from me even if it is charging and connecting to Google Maps so I can get to where I’m going. I’m focused on the road, looking at the cars in front of me, next to me, behind me. I’m listening for any sirens or unusual noises. I’m listening to my five-year-old daughter telling me about something funny that happened at school that day. I’m using all my senses so that I can get us from point A to point B safely. 

When I’m having dinner, again, my phone is on the kitchen counter or my nightstand in my bedroom. I smell, taste and enjoy the food in front of me. I enjoy the company of my husband and daughter as we talk about our day and what we are looking forward to. I chew, chew, chew before I swallow putting my fork down between bites. I eat dinner not distracted, but focused on the people I love most while nourishing my body with the food I made earlier that day.

When I’m at work, I work. When I’m at yoga, I leave everything on the mat. When I’m going to bed, my phone is 10 feet away from me on my bureau playing binaural beats on YouTube as I fall asleep. When I wake up, I get ready for the day before I even look at my phone. 

It’s these small things that add up. It’s hard enough to be human. It’s hard enough to live in this world that is changing faster than we can keep up with it. We might as well try to do whatever we can to make our lives easier and less stressful.

Speaking of which, our phones are amazing. Our great-great-grandparents would have never even dreamed that we could carry something so small and so powerful in our pockets. However, we sometimes have to remind ourselves that these phones are a tool for us to use when we need them. They are tools, not security blankets that we carry like Linus, Charlie Brown's wise friend, does. 

As we enter the Year of the Dragon, I ask you to try paying more attention to the task at hand or the people in front of you and set intentions for everything you do. It doesn’t have to be a mantra or chant of any sort. It can be as simple as, “I put my phone on the coffee table,” so you can go one day without having your husband call your phone to locate it. 😉
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<![CDATA[Why Acupuncture is one of the best non-drug treatments for pain]]>Fri, 02 Feb 2024 23:20:17 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/why-acupuncture-is-one-of-the-best-non-drug-treatments-for-painPicture
(By Dr. Grace Rollins, DAc) Due to its robust evidence base, acupuncture is recommended by the American College of Physicians as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain.

Acupuncture is one of the best non-drug treatments for pain available-- but why?

Short answer: Acupuncture harnesses your body's own multi-leveled ability to regulate pain.

At the local level, acupuncture stimulation directly modulates nociceptors-- sensory nerve endings that are specialized for pain.

Needling acupuncture points also causes the body to release a chemical array both locally and systemically, with neuro-modulatory, immunomodulatory and analgesic effects: endogenous opioids, substance P, CGRP, VIP, cytokines, adenosine and more.

Acupuncture needling also stimulates the local release of histamine and nitric oxide, which increase bloodflow and relax tissues.

What’s more, acupoints can help promote the top-down modulation of pain-- helping relax the mind and assist your brain in turning down the volume on the pain it is experiencing.

If you have pain, don't wait. Find the best place to get some acupuncture, and make it a part of your life right away!
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<![CDATA[8 tips to keep mental equilibrium during the Holidays]]>Tue, 12 Dec 2023 01:06:12 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/8-tips-to-keep-mental-equilibrium-during-the-holidaysPicture
In addition to being the uniquely stressful holiday season, the next few weeks mark the darkest, most Yin time of year. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known to be closely associated with reduced exposure to daylight, so as we near winter solstice on Dec 21, it's really time to keep an eye on how you're feeling. Here are a few of our favorite tips to elevate your mood and fend off the SAD--while also keeping your sanity during the holidays!

1. Get outside, daily

No indoor light can come close to the intensity of lumens you are exposed to when outdoors, even on an overcast day. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day of outside time during the daylight hours. It's fine to break this up in to a few short walks, doing exercise or chores outside. If 30 minutes feels too hard to fit in your day, start with a few minutes, and see if you can increase from there. Any light exposure you can get will help fend off the SAD. Cold out? Just pile on those mittens and earmuffs, and embrace the season!

2. Shed the shades
Unless in a situation where sunglasses are needed for safety (skiing, driving, etc) or a medical condition, this is the time of year to peel off those shades and let more light get absorbed through your eyes, where it directly helps to regulate yourpineal gland, melatonin and serotonin levels.
3. Be savvy with sugarWe know that many of our friends, family and co-workers will be decking the halls with baked goods, pies and sweets. Try to moderate your "dosage" of these foods, and also choose whole and healthy foods to keep it balanced. Avoiding an excess of sugar and processed food will lower inflammation levels throughout the body, including in the brain, where inflammation can strongly impact your mood for the worse.

4. Consume "holiday cheer" wisely
Alcohol also drives brain inflammation and deregulates melatonin and serotonin levels. Disrupted, poor-quality sleep, in turn, results in major mood destabilization. Save your drinking for social time with others (avoiding mid-week drinks), limit the quantity of alcohol consumed, and try to start and end your drinking earlier in the evening, as (contrary to popular belief) drinks close to bedtime will have the worst affect your sleep quality.

5. Keep a regular sleep schedule
Many of us get some extra days off during the holidays, but try to avoid deregulating your sleep schedule with too much caroling and popcorn stringing (or binging TV shows late into the night). Keeping consistent bedtimes and wake times dramatically improves the quality of sleep, as well as your mood!

6. Don't drop the exercise
Normal routines often get shaken up during the holidays, but don't abandon the essentials of self-care when you need them the most. Exercise is one of the most reliable, scientifically validated ways to elevate your mood. If you don't have time to make it to the gym or a class, you can always walk outside-- a perfect solution since it helps you get that necessary light exposure!

7. Get a breath of fresh air
This time of year the air in our homes and offices stays sealed up, causing an accumulation of volatile toxins. It's all the more reason to get some regular time outside. Also, when milder days come up, help your air exchange by throwing open a window for a few minutes and putting on the kitchen or bathroom vent to pull in some fresh air. Avoid bringing toxins into the home by using all-natural, low-VOC products, and pick up some of the top houseplants for cleaning indoor air.

8. Power up with acupuncture
Acupuncture naturally releases various endorphins, promoting a relaxed, elevated mood, while also reducing pain levels, lowering inflammation and promoting high quality sleep. If you know you're prone to SAD, this is a great time of year to come in preventatively and get an all-natural mood lift.

We look forward to supporting you this winter. Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season!
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<![CDATA[Cast all your votes for dancing]]>Mon, 25 Sep 2023 23:26:43 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/cast-all-your-votes-for-dancingPicture"The Little Tin Man," 2021, by Coderch & Malavia
(By Paolo Propato, LAc) In the clinic lately, I have been seeing more and more patients with depression. This is an issue that many people I love suffer from while those around them never even know.  Everyone feels sadness from time to time. It is a natural and useful emotion when needed. But sometimes sadness or a low mood may linger and begin to interfere with our daily lives. Some become accustomed, and believe this is just the way it has to be. Symptoms include: loss of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable; problems falling asleep, disrupted sleep, or sleeping too much; eating too little or eating too much; feeling tired or fatigued; inability to focus; feeling easily agitated or irritated; feelings of guilt or worthlessness; thoughts of suicide, or thinking more about death

Patients suffering from symptoms of depression many times will also come in with digestive issues, headaches and vague pains. Sometimes these symptoms are the motivation for the acupuncture visits, but during treatment we find that these symptoms are a part of “masked” depression. This is a state of depression that usually has physical symptoms, while the component of emotions and mood is hidden.
Eastern medicine examines the health of the physical and mental body from the quality and movement of the blood and qi. In Chinese, depression is called yu zheng which also translates as “constraint.” Internal “constraint” may stem from emotional factors. Many patients can link a specific experience or stressor in their lives, like a stressful relationship or death of a loved one, to the pathology of yu zheng.


In Eastern medicine certain emotions can also relate to imbalances in certain organ systems. Anger, resentment, frustration will constrain Liver Qi. Grief and sadness are normal when appropriate, but when they go on for too long or are left unresolved they can constrain the Heart and Lung Qi. Worry will not only constrain the Spleen and Stomach Qi but even weaken it over time, giving rise to a multitude of problems. Fear and shock will deplete the kidneys, causing a type of depression often accompanied by chronic anxiety. 

Aside from the emotional body, there are other factors that we often see in depression patients. The first is the habit of looking at screens at night at the expense of the regenerative power of sleep, which causes a depletion of our Yin energy. Nature designed us to follow the cycles of Yin and Yang, which extend to circadian rest and activity, night and day. The blue light that is emitted from our phones, computers and TVs can reduce the production of melatonin, an important hormone needed for sleep and that also has antioxidant effects on our brains. While widely popular as a supplement, it is already naturally produced in the body if we just turn off the phones, computers and TVs and keep them out of the bedroom.

Modern work practices that cause us to be sedentary are, in my opinion, the biggest driver of Qi constraint. Even if we have the resources and energy, without movement, our Qi will just sit, stagnate and go to waste. Where sleep deprivation caused a decline in Yin, a lack of movement causes a decline in Yang.

On top of failing to move, we work long hours at our desks constantly in meetings, answering emails and so on. This overuse of our mental focus will knot the Spleen and Stomach much like the emotion of worry, and can also tax the Kidneys. We see this type of depression in post-partum mothers, when the mother has worked so long on nourishing the fetus and has lost lots of blood, and typically has had inadequate rest after delivery. 

Another factor that can tax the Spleen and Stomach is diet. A diet rich in sugar and carbs, or even too much cold, raw or processed food, will tax and slow our digestion. The issue of improving the diet tends to become a problem once depression has already manifested. Due to loss of interest and motivation, poor diet choices tend to keep driving the pathology.
Depression needs to be treated with not just one modality alone. If the depression stems from constrained Qi, acupuncture will be very helpful as well as a course of herbal treatment. When there is trauma or an emotional constraint, talk therapy is a modality that may be helpful. Yoga or Qi Gong is great to help keep the body moving, spark the Yang, and keep the mind in the present moment. Walking in the early morning light is another way of moving the body as well as regulating hormones to set yourself up for better sleep and Yin regeneration. Using these techniques we have helped many patients decrease their antidepressants.

The following poem by Daniel Ladinsky rings too true:

I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.
I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.
But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.
You can stay that way
And even bloom!
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter. 
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved
And, my dear, 
From the most insignificant movements 
Of your own holy body.
Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure, 
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.
You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him,
What actions of yours bring freedom
And Love.
Whenever you say God's name, dear pilgrim,
My ears wish my head was missing 
So they could finally kiss each other
And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!
O keep squeezing drops of the Sun 
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter
And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.
Now, sweet one,
Be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!
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<![CDATA[Spotlight on Cupping Therapy]]>Mon, 14 Aug 2023 12:34:23 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/spotlight-on-cupping-therapyPicture
(By Geordan Kania, LMT) You may have heard the words "cupping therapy," and perhaps even seen the marks that are left behind after a session, but what is cupping therapy really?

Cupping is an ancient technique that has been used by many different cultures around the globe for thousands of years. In history, animal horns, bamboo, clay, glass, and metal have all been used to create some form of what we call a cup. (Today we use glass or plastic.)

Cups are applied to the skin and suction is created inside of the cup, using a variety of methods such as oral suction (in ancient times), fire, or a manual pump. This suction forms a vacuum inside of the cup drawing the skin and underlying tissues upward.

This vacuum encourages the separation of tissue that is "stuck," fused, or otherwise tense. While the tissues are separated from the suction, vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) occurs offering hydration and nutrients to these areas that would otherwise usually be restricted.

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Cupping's other great benefit lies in its ability to promote an increase in circulation of blood and lymph and promote the exchange of fluids throughout the body. Stagnant, unwanted debris (old blood, medications, waste substances), and toxins are drawn out from the soft tissue, and fresh oxygen and nutrients are allowed in.

The marks that appear from cupping are a result of this fluid exchange and can often tell us about what is going on in the tissue below. Darker marks can be indicative of very chronic stagnation, while pale marks can suggest poor circulation.

With this exchange of fluids happening, your body takes water and fluids from surrounding areas to hydrate the tissue that cupping was applied to. That’s why hydration is very important when receiving cupping treatments. We must replenish the internal source of water for our tissues and cells!

As versatile and beneficial as it is, cupping is not for everyone, and there are a few contraindications for health professionals to be aware of. Communication, properly filling out your intake, and updating your practitioner of any new conditions is key to getting the most out of your visit.

Click here to book cupping or massage with Geordan.

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<![CDATA[TO YOU WITH MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL SUFFERING]]>Sun, 25 Jun 2023 16:08:08 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/to-you-with-mental-and-emotional-sufferingPicture
(By Misook Lee, LAc.)  A big difference between Eastern medicine and Western medicine is how to view the mind. In modern Western medicine, the mental and emotional ailments are treated by focusing mostly on the brain. However, traditional Eastern medicine uses a more holistic approach in treating mental and emotional ailments. In traditional Eastern Medicine theory, there are three basic elements in our life, which are Jing (精), Qi (氣) and Shen (神). Jing is the essence of the body and a very refined material; Qi can be the flow of energy; and Shen is corresponding to the spirit or mind. If I compare life to a candle, Jing is the substance of the candle, Qi is the flame and Shen is the light coming out of the flame of the candle. Because Jing, Qi and Shen are closely integrated, we need to view and treat all three aspects of our life.

I experienced the connection between the three elements through the struggles of my life. When I was a young mother. I could not adjust well to the sudden changes of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Some people take to their roles as mother and housewives very naturally. In my case, it was not so. I was depressed and sick all the time. It was hard for me to live day by day and I felt lost at that time. I never thought it was depression, though.

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One day, I came across Kouksundo, the traditional Korean abdominal breathing and Qi training practice, and I started practicing Kouksundo every morning. I learned how to concentrate on my abdomen while breathing. Through daily repeated stretching movements and breathing practice, my body became more flexible, and I felt refreshed. When I inhaled, I felt fresh air purifying my body and as I exhaled, I thought I was expelling all waste from my body.

The concept of Qi became clearer as I practiced and meditated. I learned the basic meridian theory and some important acupressure points from Kouksundo training. After six months, I felt healthy again. It was when my body got better that I realized how mentally and emotionally unstable I had been before. Since then, I realized the value of traditional holistic Qi practice and especially the integration of Jing, Qi and Shen. Through those experiences, I gradually became interested in the Qi dynamics of the body.

Acupuncture is one of the great modalities to affect the Qi movement of our body. It enhances natural healing power by releasing what is blocked and stagnant in our system. In the clinic, I sometimes see patients whose main complaint is mental and emotional issues. Patients usually have their own family dynamics and long or short history of taking antidepressants or other medications. Patients who suffer from mental and emotional issues usually have some physical issues too. It might be some digestive problems such as low appetite or bowel movement problems. Some patients feel disturbances on their chest and uncomfortable feelings in their throat. Others have tight necks, headache or sleep issues. I try to balance the Qi mechanism of patients to resolve patients’ mental and emotional issues and physical discomforts at the same time. Because they are all connected.

 I want to give some tips to those of you who struggle with mental and emotional issues. I do not want to say life is easy because everyone has their own difficult times in their life. Sometimes all bad things happen at the same time. However, we have the right to pursue our own happiness in spite of those difficult situations. In the meantime, I can give gratitude to small things such as the clear blue sky, the yellow dandelion blooming on the roadside. We all take it for granted but my life has been the greatest gift I have ever received. Enjoy the present moment because it is a precious gift that will never come again. It will be the starting point of true change that you realize how precious you are. If you become the best supporter for yourself, I can be one of your supporters as an acupuncturist. Make sure of the integration of Jing, Qi and Shen. A healthy mind makes a healthy body.

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<![CDATA[mending our Microbiome]]>Mon, 17 Apr 2023 17:32:01 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/growing-up-on-a-diet-of-antibiotics-and-what-to-do-about-itPictureThe author on a recent trip to Japan
(By Grace Rollins, MS, LAc) Antibiotics may have saved my life as an infant, when I had an infection in my neck that necessitated surgery. After that, probably much like many of you, I was on antibiotics as a kid every year, if not multiple times, for strep throat or bronchitis. And in a way that had nothing to do with fighting infections or saving my life, I also consumed antibiotics as part of my conventional American, fast-food diet, since approximately 70% of our antibiotics are used to accelerate growth in livestock and end up contaminating our meat and farmed fish. 

Sadly, the unnecessary antibiotic saga continued: while in college, I contracted a serious gastrointestinal infection while traveling abroad, and underwent a course of a powerful antibiotic called Cipro (part of a class known for major side effects and now partially banned in Europe). After it didn’t help my infection symptoms at all, the doctor decided to run a simple stool test that determined I had a parasitic protozoan called Giardia, not a bacterium susceptible to antibiotics (a proper, if belated, diagnosis that finally led to a proper treatment). 

As with many young people who grow up on a diet of antibiotics (and are exposed to innumerable other microbiome disruptors, like pesticides, herbicides and processed food additives), I was plagued with allergies and acne from the time of puberty well into adulthood. Becoming a vegan in those college years opened my eyes to a lot of new foods, but since I was still also eating a lot of junk, including artificial sweeteners, sugar and conventional grains laced with pesticides, my symptoms stayed pretty much the same. The allergies and congestion were just a way of life for me. But eventually, sick of drenching my face with benzoyl peroxide every night, after I got out of college I finally saw a dermatologist about the acne. The doctor immediately prescribed an oral and a topical antibiotic for me to use daily... indefinitely. ​

PictureMy breakfast at a budget hotel in Tokyo
Looking back, I’m just happy I didn’t get taken to a dermatologist when I was younger, which would have started me on that regimen even earlier in life. I stayed on those antibiotics for at least a year. It made me UV-light sensitive (I was supposed to stay out of the sun) and gave me dry eyes. It wasn’t until I started going to an acupuncturist and he dropped a couple of gentle hints about the harm it might be doing me, that I decided to get off the stuff. That was actually the last antibiotic I took, over 20 years ago.  

Those childhood and young adult experiences with antibiotics are all too common, as were the health issues I experienced of allergies, asthma, skin issues, struggles with weight, and susceptibility to upper respiratory infections. I also had immediate family members with fibromyalgia, obesity, alcoholism, depression, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple food sensitivities, asthma, environmental allergies and more. What I know now is that all of these issues have one glaring thing in common: disruptions in the body’s microbiome.

I went to high school and started college in the 90s when microbiome research was just a tiny blip on the radar. What was really hot at the time was genetics. In high school I was very interested in molecular biology and had a job for a few months at the Human Genome Project office in Boston. The trending idea in those days was that mapping the genome completely would lead to huge breakthroughs in medical science. It turned out to be a little anticlimactic, though. As soon as we learned more about the genome, we began to realize that it’s largely about how the environment interacts with the existing genes that turns their functions on and off– that is, epi-genetics. This, in a way, put everything back at square one, implicating the things we already knew were effective ways of lowering risk factors for all major diseases– adequate sleep, regular exercise, managing stress, curtailing pollution, and healthy food choices. Sorry, no silver bullet there.

However, the expansion of the field of molecular biology also opened up a new frontier of research into the human microbiome. This is where things have actually become pretty hot and exciting since the early 2000s. Researchers are finding it’s not just about how your habits and food interact with your genes, but also about how they interact with your germs. And how those germs interact with your genes. And so forth. 

Based on the emerging science, we now know the status of the microbiome to be influential, if not pivotal, to many common health conditions. This includes nuisances like acne, eczema and allergies, for sure, but also includes obesity, cardiovascular disease, IBS and GERD, autoimmune diseases, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Virtually all of the prevalent, stubborn, treatment-resistant health conditions in our day and age seem to have at least some sort of tie-in to the health of the microbiome. Which makes sense, in a way, because the human microbiome has never been so disrupted, so topsy-turvy, as it has become in our current age, thanks to the ubiquity of antibiotics, chemical disruptors, refined and processed food, and many other factors that have changed our evolutionary, ancestral microbiome into an utter wildcard. 

PictureAnother budget hotel breakfast in Japan
Around the time I began to study acupuncture and nutrition in the early 2000s, I started to pay more attention to this concept and what we could do to repair my disrupted microbiome. Focusing in on natural, traditional foods, dialing in my lifestyle practices (and getting regular acupuncture) eventually cleared up my skin, regulated my weight and minimized my seasonal allergies. After that I even stopped catching the flu and rarely caught anything beyond a mild cold, let alone a more serious infection. Fun fact about me: the only sick day I’ve had to take in my 15+ years as an acupuncturist was the time I caught COVID last summer, from which I fully recovered after four days, without complication. 

Researchers are even finding that the susceptibility to COVID infection, and the ability to recover afterwards, is highly linked to the health of the individual’s microbiome. COVID, in turn, may stimulate pathological changes in the microbiome that can later complicate matters. (See a few recent research citations below.) Another fun fact about me: in spite of working in close quarters with patients throughout the pandemic, the only time I caught COVID was while on vacation in Mexico, when I was already suffering from bacterial food poisoning and my gut biome had been unbalanced for a few days (I was at a dinner party with someone who the next day tested positive). I could just be lucky, of course, but given my track record over the past decades and what the latest research is saying, it’s also highly likely that my current microbiome confers me some protection against viral infection. COVID just happened to catch my gut on a bad day, after the classic bozo move of eating contaminated street food.

I’m not saying all of this to boast– I don’t take my current health for granted, and we never know what’s around the corner for us. I also know my current microbes are far from perfection, which may be but a pipe dream after the abuse they went through (and who knows what they suffered in the generations before I was born and innoculated). However I do know what a contrast my current state of disease resistance is to what many people I know go through on a regular basis. And I also know how different my diet and lifestyle practices are from those of many other Americans. 

There is a great deal that still remains a mystery about the microbiome. It’s hugely intricate and complex in and of itself– when we try to understand how it interacts with the substances we consume, the gut lining and the rest of the systems in the human body, it becomes infinitely more complex. Mending our microbiome is not always a simple process, but we do know a lot about what can be done to promote better balance. My own experience, even after my antibiotic-enriched early life, holds out hope that this is possible for others to achieve in a way that has a meaningful impact on health.

PictureHoliday Inn breakfast buffet in the US
As an afterword, I’ll mention that while the microbiome of just about everyone outside of remote hunter-gatherer villagers is a complete departure from that of our ancestors, the microbiome of the average American scores even a few ticks worse, and it's likely related to our country's high rates of obesity and chronic disease. I recently got back from Japan, where I snapped pictures of a couple of the typical breakfasts I received in the hotels I stayed in (see the photos above). This was nothing unusual compared to my past experiences in Japan.

There, even at a low-budget business hotel, the breakfast buffets usually offer hand-made dishes that include a wide variety of fresh, cooked and pickled vegetables, multiple types of seaweed, fermented soy like miso soup and natto, fresh fish, fresh eggs, rice and fruit, in addition to the common Western food options like toast, pastries, sweets and processed meat. I'm not saying all Japanese folks eat like monks, but please compare and contrast these everyday offerings to what you might find available at a budget hotel in the US, or even a higher end one.


Some of what we have to do as Americans to repair our public health is really no mystery, but it takes wresting our awareness back from commercial interests that have trained us to harbor certain attitudes towards food, leisure activity and life's priorities. Opening our eyes to the practices of our ancestors, and to traditional practices in other cultures, is a great place to start.  

Join me for more discussion on this topic in my class Mending the Microbiome, live or on Zoom, on April 26, 2023 (or sign up by that date to receive the recording link). 

Sarkar, A., Harty, S., Moeller, A. H., Klein, S. L., Erdman, S. E., Friston, K. J., & Carmody, R. N. (2021). The gut microbiome as a biomarker of differential susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. Trends in molecular medicine27(12), 1115–1134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molmed.2021.09.009 

De, R., & Dutta, S. (2022). Role of the Microbiome in the Pathogenesis of COVID-19. Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology12, 736397. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2022.736397

Yamamoto, S., Saito, M., Tamura, A., Prawisuda, D., Mizutani, T., & Yotsuyanagi, H. (2021). The human microbiome and COVID-19: A systematic review. PloS one16(6), e0253293. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0253293

Haran, J. P., Bradley, E., Zeamer, A. L., Cincotta, L., Salive, M. C., Dutta, P., Mutaawe, S., Anya, O., Meza-Segura, M., Moormann, A. M., Ward, D. V., McCormick, B. A., & Bucci, V. (2021). Inflammation-type dysbiosis of the oral microbiome associates with the duration of COVID-19 symptoms and long COVID. JCI insight6(20), e152346. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.152346

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<![CDATA[Metabolic Health As Counterculture]]>Fri, 30 Dec 2022 18:07:53 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/metabolic-health-as-counterculturePictureAge 12 in Jakarta.
(By Grace Rollins, MS, LAc) ​It's hard to just blurt it out there, for reasons I'll explain. But here goes. I was once significantly overweight. 

The backstory is an all-too-common one. In short, I grew up in the American food milieu. In the 80s, this meant sweet boxed cereal and skim milk, packaged and frozen meals loaded with sugar, starch and preservatives, refined and processed bread, chips and snacks, candy and cookies, and tons of soda. Not to mention fast food. Those all too potent sensory memories abound from McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Domino’s Pizza, Little Ceaser’s, KFC, Dairy Queen. Wendy’s. Chuck-E-Cheese. (Thinking back, we sure ate a lot of crap pizza.)

Out of nowhere, my family moved to Southeast Asia for a year when I should have been in sixth grade.

It was an awesome, formative year in many ways. In this environment I probably ate more nutritious, whole food than I did any time prior, because we had a hired cook and housekeeper (a relatively inexpensive luxury in Jakarta, which my mother took advantage of). I remember consuming variations of traditional Indonesian curries and stews, rice and noodles adorned with coconut and novel spices, seafood and cooked vegetables, and an abundance of local fresh fruits I had never even heard of before. No doubt we had plenty of soda and junk food within reach as well, but it didn’t predominate to the same extent as back home. 

Upon our return to the US, my financially strained single parent returned to the usual inexpensive, convenient fast-food and processed-food staples to keep us fed: pizza upon pizza, McDonald’s, mac n’ cheese (with that unholy orange color), sugary boxed cereals, frozen pot pies, quick pasta with sauce, canned soup. 

When I started getting pocket money from babysitting, I used to go to the corner store every day after school to buy the “now with 20% more” packs of peanut M&Ms, which I washed down with a 20 oz Coke. During my freshman year of high school, I felt like a boss because I could buy a frozen Snickers for dessert right inside of the school cafeteria. This is amidst a lifeless public school cafeteria diet of things like tater tots, powdered mashed potatoes, fish sticks, processed meats, and pasta-- who wouldn't want a frozen Snickers?

As cheap entertainment, when hanging out with my teenybopper friends, we’d buy bags of candy, Snapple or soda, ice cream, and yes, slices of pizza. It was a bit early in the gourmet coffee trend, but I remember sampling my first frappucino in one of the rare establishments that offered this delicacy. My diet was further “supplemented” by the frequent sweets and snack foods available at home– cookies, chips, sweetened drinks, ice cream. 
 

Unlike some kids from unstable backgrounds, I also had access to whole foods cooked from scratch. I remember learning how to make things like hamburgers, oatmeal, eggs, and steamed broccoli at a young age and feeling quite proud of it. I remember enjoying roasted chickens, beef stew, pork chops, artichokes, potatoes, peas and carrots, whole fruit and salads. I also wouldn't call my lifestyle sedentary-- not close by today's standards. I played sports, walked and biked around the city of Boston, rollerbladed, ice skated. Though we watched plenty of TV and played some video games, we didn't have computers or the internet in the early 90s, so we probably stayed at home a lot less than kids do today. But the endless processed foods, sweets and fast foods, juggernauts that they are, took sway over my metabolism. 
PictureFrom about age 13, the most revealing photo I could find from my early teens. Out of embarrassment I had destroyed most of them.
Unsurprisingly, as puberty set in during that first year back in the States, I started to gain significant weight. By eighth grade I was almost as tall as I am now, but thirty pounds heavier. I also developed inflamed, embarrassing cystic acne. Given the tender age and my family difficulties, my self-esteem was in the pits. 

​My early teen years gave me a window into how anyone could be crushed into utter hopelessness and self-defeating behavior under the mental strain of body image issues. It probably made all the difference that my academics were strong, keeping my self-esteem above water. I made it on scholarship into a prestigious boarding school for the remainder of high school, and eventually landed at an Ivy League college. In these environments I had access to an unparalleled education, top athletic facilities and quality food, and an increasingly diverse group of peers that modeled other ways to eat and live.

Even then, it was no Shangrila-- I also witnessed at close hand peers with serious eating disorders, or those making desperate attempts to "eat healthy" according to the certain norms and finding their mental or physical health falling apart. I had a few misfires myself and had to course-correct various times. ​Gradually, through my late teens and early twenties, I honed my diet, shifting myself away from processed foods and sugar, widening my palate to include a more diverse array of foods, normalizing my weight, improving my skin.

Though I was in pretty good shape by the time I made it through college, it was only later, when I dove deeper into studying acupuncture and natural medicine, that it really clicked into place and I started to restore my metabolic health--and overall health--on a deeper plane. I began to shape my diet increasingly around not just avoiding the junk, but incorporating the array of nutrient-dense foods our ancestors would have prized. 
To better help my patients since beginning clinical practice, I furthered my education, diving deep into literature and post-grad trainings which helped me to gain mastery over the hormonal characteristics of macronutrients, the broad arsenal of micronutrients, and ways to rehabilitate the gut and the microbiome. Over the years I’ve further expanded on this knowledge base to include the metabolic effects of lifestyle patterning concerning types of exercise, sleep quality, circadian rhythms, stress management and more. 

Though I’ve taught nutrition classes to my patients before, it only recently occurred to me to share my own story of healthy weight loss, because to be honest, I still have a raw vulnerability about it. That teenager, afraid of judgment, is still inside of me begging to keep it a secret. I told this story to a patient the other day and looking at me, she didn’t believe it. By cloaking my own vulnerability perhaps I do my patients a disservice, because they think that health is something you’re born with, or not. 

PictureStill loving food. Just differently.
The truth is that in our current age, to be healthy is to go against all the odds. A research report issued this year from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy found that only 7% of American adults are metabolically healthy, as measured by blood pressure, blood sugar and lipids, degree of overweight and obesity, and presence of cardiovascular disease (such as heart attack and stroke). 

​Furthermore, matters have been growing steadily worse since the 90s, when I was in the throes of my own struggle with weight. In 1999, one out of three US adults had “optimal adiposity,” meaning two-thirds were overweight or obese. Two in five adults were diabetic or pre-diabetic. This was already a lot, no? 


But check it out– in 2018, only one out of four US adults had “optimal adiposity”– meaning 75% of us are overweight or obese. And six out of ten were diabetic or pre-diabetic. That’s a solid majority of people in our country either with metabolic syndrome, or well on their way. And metabolic syndrome sets you up for much higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, liver disease, various types of cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and just way too many other degradations of health and quality of life. It basically paves the way to poor health outcomes across the board. Need we mention significantly higher mortality COVID? Yes indeed– it’s not mentioned enough.

The Tufts research also found vast disparities between demographic groups with different educational backgrounds, ethnicities and geographic distributions. If you’re from a poorer background, and/or a minority group, you’re even less likely to be metabolically healthy. I’m without delusion that my access to education, a healthier-than-average peer group, quality food and in adulthood, a middle-class income, made a huge difference in my ability to shift my diet for the better. If the only environment you know is the one that normalizes a hyper-processed diet, and there are no other role models in your circle, and if you either can’t afford good food or it’s not even available in your actual neighborhood, than you’re up against some pretty serious odds. 

This is all to hammer home the point that metabolic health in today’s society is before anything, a product of our food environment. To be healthy is quite often to be counter-culture, a standout, an exception. I look around me and see the tremendous suffering that many others are going through because they never made it out of the woods, the way I did– those woods being the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the havoc it wreaks on our bodies and minds. 

As a busy clinician who works with dozens of individuals each and every week, I know that there is complexity to everyone’s personal struggle to regain metabolic health. There is no one-size-fits-all approach or silver bullet. But there are certain broad truths and one of them is that we have to go against the grain of our contemporary food culture. It’s making most of us sick. 

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<![CDATA[Rituals]]>Fri, 11 Nov 2022 15:16:27 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/ritualsPicture
(By Paolo Propato, LAc) A few weeks ago I attended a wedding in the Hudson Valley. The groom was of Jewish descent and the bride was of Iranian descent. The couple stood under the chuppah (a Jewish wedding canopy) as the officiant spoke about the union that was taking place. The couple then walked over to the sofreh (Iranian altar) as a few women grinded sticks of sugar over the couple. Each of the culturally diverse rituals had the same elements: respect and acknowledgment of their ancestors, the union of the present, and sending energy of love and abundance for their future.

Everyone watched the rituals quietly until the couple kissed and was pronounced husband and wife. At that point, conversation and laughter began, which turned into dancing, smiles and more laughter. The sun and earth went through their own ritual as the light began to fade. The color that was created from the leaves pulled me away from the party to an empty spot under a tree. The sound of fun and artificial lights became the background. I began to think of the faces of excitement on the bride and groom as they were pronounced a married couple for the first time. It made me question: are the rituals I engage in effective, or have they just become habits? 

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The energy of rituals can change in time. Every year my family has the ritual of making sausage.  Once upon a time it was done out of necessity and survival, but now it is done out of the love of being together and remembering our family’s past through the actions that were done year after year. Same actions, different intentions.

It is the same with a meditative practice of sitting daily. It previously was about taming my jumping mind; now it is about just being. Again, it looks the same but its essence is totally different. 

As I sat with this I realized it was a sense of love that drove all of the rituals. Love of family--to survive--has become a ritual of love of family--as just being. I can see that in a similar way, as an acupuncturist, the love of wanting to be of help to my patients has turned into seeing them as already whole, a form of love engaging with their state of pure being.


As a teen I was moved by Rumi's poems. The ecstatic Sufis words can open my heart with just a few lines. Carrying a poem in my pocket made me feel I had a friend close by, because it was the closest that I could find to someone that understood the inner workings of my heart. Now in my forties, Rumi and other Sufi poets are still a big part of my life, from books, stories and songs that are shared by my Iranian wife Leyla and her family. Many times I will listen to a song and the feeling elevates my heart, letting it take its rightful place as king in the body. The ecstasy drives me to tears.

On more than one occasion someone in her family would look at me and say, “If only you could understand what is being said in Farsi-- it's even more beautiful.”  Immediately, I'd Google the lines in English to see what beauty I was missing. The ecstasy stops and the mind takes over again. How foolish of me to look up the lyrics--the song already did its job by bringing me into the heart! 

It reminds me of the story of the man that discovered fire, and went around tribe to tribe teaching the  people how to make fire. He was humble in his nature and wasn’t looking for accolades, so he would show them fire and move on. One day the heads of a tribe became jealous and killed the man in secret. The people complained and wanted to know what happened to the “man that makes fire.” The killers, fearful of being discovered and losing influence over the tribe, drew a depiction of the man with an altar that contained the instruments needed to make fire, but without his knowledge on how to use them. Over time rituals were created and veneration for the “man that makes fire,” but there was no fire.

We must bring the fire into our daily rituals, and if there is no fire perhaps create new ones or create new intentions into your existing rituals. We must be the bride marrying with our own life, daily, with a kiss and a celebration.

Enjoy this beautiful Rumi poem... it has subtitles but you can always close your eyes.  https://youtu.be/NQQIEUDe6Qo

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<![CDATA[Acupuncture and Yin-Yang Theory]]>Mon, 26 Sep 2022 15:12:47 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/acupuncture-and-yin-yang-theoryPicture
(By Misook Lee, LAc) When I was a young mother of two sons, I always struggled with some illness. One day, I read a book titled What is Yin Yang? written by traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors. It was an eye-opening moment for me and I think it was when my medicine studies first began.

The word Yin-Yang consists of the two Chinese characters Yin 陰 and Yang 陽. The character Yin represents the shade of a hill which is a hidden, dark and cool condition. The other character Yang indicates the sunny side of a hill which is an open, bright, and warm space. However, the concept of the Yin and Yang is not about static and opposite contrasts, but it is focused on the dynamics of a changing condition as time passes. In the morning, the sun rises in the East and the sunny side of the hill is the East side. However, in the evening, the East side of the hill becomes shady and the sun shines on the West side. As a result, the Yin and Yang side of the hill is constantly changing over time. The hill is always there, but the phases of the hill can be changeable. This is the basis of the traditional East Asian viewpoint of the world: everything is constantly changing.


According to another traditional East Asian perspective, Human beings are in between Heaven and Earth and the sun stays above in the heaven, continuously moving and giving intangible Yang energy to all living things in the world. On the other hand, the flat earth always stays still and provides tangible Yin material sources to life.

There is a saying “Every flow has its ebb.” Every month, the moon changes from full moon to a new moon. When there is a full moon, it is the brightest condition of the moon, but it is also the beginning of the moon phase’s decline, too. In the same manner, we can say a single day consists of dark night and bright day time but since the change of the brightness is like a smooth sine curve, we usually do not notice the dynamics.

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The famous image of Tai Chi shows the relationship between Yin and Yang very well. Yin (black) and Yang (white) lean against each other and make a smooth S curve. Inside of the Yin (black) there is a Yang (white) component, and vice versa. Therefore, Yin and Yang look like opposite sides, but they are interdependent, inter-transformative and also mutually consuming.

After learning Yin-Yang theory, I saw the world in a different manner. I tried to see everything in a Yin-Yang way. I thought about the possibility of change when everything looked stagnant. I happily persevered when bad things happened. I could find how to be calm even when good news came to me.

According to TCM theory, disease is a condition that occurs when our body is out of balance. Acupuncture is a great modality to help to regain our balance. When we treat patients, we treat them according to Yin-Yang methods: we treat the front side and back side of the body. We treat using both moxa (heat, light, superficial) and needles (cool, substantial, deep). We use tonification and sedation methods as needed. The effect of acupuncture appears right away or sometimes gradually with more treatments.

However, when I see patients who suffer from physical pain or mental stress, I want to help them regain their balance. I want to support and offer solace to them that comes with the knowledge of life’s ability to transform. I want to say to them: “You can make a change, and let us do it together!”

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<![CDATA[Looking Back: A Message from Bridge Founder Grace Rollins]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2022 18:11:18 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/looking-back-a-message-from-bridge-founder-grace-rollinsPicture
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the milestone we have hit this year as a practice, and remark on its significance to me personally. I have a natural inclination to keep my cards close to my chest, but I have come to realize that in my current role, to share a little of my own trajectory can sometimes serve as a source of inspiration.

To put it bluntly, I come out of a difficult, unhealthy family background. My parents had a bitter divorce when I was six, and my siblings and I suffered from extensive psychological abuse as small children. My father voluntarily ceased to be part of my life from the time I was eleven. From that time on, I grew up amid financial instability, substance abuse, and increasingly, the mental and physical illness of my family members. Eventually, those closest to me were all in significant distress and either self-medicating or on medication. The wave of un-wellness threatened to pull me under, too.

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The key thread right now is that of looking back on how far I’ve come. I don’t identify myself by my traumas and struggles, but rather, by the ways I’ve overcome them. Though I take nothing for granted, I can in this moment say with confidence that at age 43, I’m the healthiest and fittest I’ve been in my life, and the most emotionally centered. I’ve financed myself through graduate-level education, I’ve grown a small business that supports my own livelihood and those of several employees, and last year, I was able to buy and renovate a dream space for the practice. These would all be fine accomplishments no matter what, but I feel proud given the circumstances I emerged from.

No doubt, I’ve had many lucky breaks and many privileges, some of them stories for another time. One of the key privileges I will name has been the support of this community. I feel immensely grateful, a little tearful, to bring it up. This goes out to all of you, from those first “legacy” patients who came over ten years ago to my first Doylestown office (Broad Street, anyone?), to those who braved the pandemic to continue receiving care, to those who mustered the trust to come out for a first treatment just last week. And everyone in between!

I’ll also name one of the lucky breaks—the day I got a call from a guy named Paolo, who was trying to find an unpaid acupuncture internship. Some of you already know the story… Paolo ended up working at my side the entire three years he was in graduate school, and then came on as an acupuncturist at Bridge. This summer marks ten years of our working together! After so many years, Paolo remains my brother, my accomplice, and for all of his unique qualities, my teacher. Without a doubt he has made the spirit of Bridge what it is today, and I’m so grateful.

There are many others for me to thank. My partner Eric of nearly fifteen years, my incredible acupuncture teachers and mentors, our awesome support staff members, the contractors who helped rebuild our amazing space, and now, the talented new acupuncturists we added during our expansion, Misook Lee and Brian Yang. How lucky I feel to have the support of these people in my life, and to have come this far.

I see our mission here at Bridge Acupuncture as helping others overcome their perceived limitations. This can mean helping someone find new hope in healing from a difficult, perhaps "incurable" situation. This could also mean helping someone find a path to changing their supposed genetic destiny (whether physical, psychological or spiritual).

​We all have the power to transform ourselves, to heal, to change our karma. It’s amazing what we can do when our true nature is allowed to thrive.

With much love and appreciation,
Grace Rollins, MS, LAc

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<![CDATA[Honeysuckle & Chamomile]]>Mon, 22 Aug 2022 15:34:28 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/honeysuckle-chamomilePicture
(By Paolo Propato, LAc) Those who read my blog posts know that they are mostly about self reflection. During the past couple of years I have been immersed in training for my certification in Chinese herbology, which has given me lots to reflect on.

A few years ago I planted a honeysuckle vine in my back yard. People told me it was a stupid idea due to its invasive nature but there is something about honeysuckles that makes me smile. Especially on a clear night with a bright moon, with the window open, when out of nowhere her fragrance fills the kitchen and everyone instantly smiles and someone says, “Did you smell that?” It's like a friend that shows up at your front door and you're grateful that they took the time to stop by.

I don't pick the honeysuckle, although it is a very useful medicinal in East Asian medicine that is great for viral infections, fevers, skin problems and other issues. Below the honeysuckle, my wife planted chamomile, which this year finally started to take. My son and I often go out and pick the tender blossoms in the mornings.

As I sit out there at night to look up at the stars and catch a whiff of the flowers, I think about the relationship between the honeysuckle above, and the chamomile below.

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I imagine the chamomile looking up at the honeysuckle and wondering, “How is she going up so fast and so high, opening herself to the moonlight, attracting the world with her scent, and here I am low and in the dirt.” Or the honeysuckle saying, “Here I am, climbing up so high I can reach the door, giving my scent, and yet this family does not pick me for medicine. Instead they walk down the steps and pick the chamomile to bring inside.”

The truth is, they are both without the burden of losing who they are. They react to what is around them-- water, soil quality, etc-- but no matter what, they never lose their essence of moving towards flowering and allowing life to fully express itself through them.

We are no different. Our families and environmental conditions are the soil and air qualities, but you still always hold the essence of who you are.

We see in herbal medicine that a particular herb may be used in a specific way in East Asia but a different way in Europe and even another in Native American medicine. That hints to the complexity of layers that a single herb may have, much as the same woman may be known as a beacon of safety to her young child, as a klutz to her friend and as a leader to her coworkers. Same person, different layers.

We are all on our own path, and all we must do is be, according to who we are, just like the honeysuckle and chamomile. This is what the art of medicine is at its core-- to help and assist fully who we are.

The gift of the acupuncture profession is seeing the patient flourish-- physically, mentally, spiritually.


As we approach the end of summer, please take a moment to smell the honeysuckles or whatever nature has in bloom at the moment. Take a moment to say thank you not only for the fragrance but also your body's ability to smell this gift. Then take a moment and follow the fragrance inside and say thank you to your body, your personality, your family, friends, even your enemies for providing the opportunity for life to manifest through you. See that you are a gift. Or maybe sit down with a cup of chamomile tea and reflect on your own observation about life. I would love to hear them.

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<![CDATA[Next Level Injury Care: Alternatives to Ice and "Vitamin I"]]>Fri, 24 Jun 2022 14:44:00 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/next-level-injury-care-alternatives-to-ice-and-vitamin-iPicture
Summer is a time of increased activity-- and we really hope you're getting out there and making the most of it! Being active is the best way to stay healthy, young and happy.

With increased activity comes the occasional trauma or repetitive strain. Many are familiar with the classic RICE protocol for injuries-- "rest, ice, compression and elevation." Often we observe patients instead practicing the "Double I" protocol-- "ice and ibuprofin." But is this truly the fastest way to get back in gear?

You may have heard us gently preach about ibuprofin and other NSAIDs once or twice before. The side effects of this class of drugs are not to be accepted casually: bleeding ulcers, tinnitus and hearing loss, and kidney damage are only the major ones. Some 100,000 people are hospitalized annually for NSAID-provoked GI issues alone, and some 16,500 of these patients actually die. On a sub-clinical level, these drugs have been shown to cause micro-lesions in the GI tract, contributing to such disorders as leaky gut, IBS and systemic inflammation.

Even worse, NSAIDs may not speed the healing of your injury at all. By interrupting your natural inflammatory response to tissue damage, which plays an important role in the early phases of healing, they may actually impede the normal arc of injury recovery.

You may have heard us gently preach about ibuprofin and other NSAIDs once or twice before. The side effects of this class of drugs are not to be accepted casually: bleeding ulcers, tinnitus and hearing loss, and kidney damage are only the major ones. Some 100,000 people are hospitalized annually for NSAID-provoked GI issues alone, and some 16,500 of these patients actually die. On a sub-clinical level, these drugs have been shown to cause micro-lesions in the GI tract, contributing to such disorders as leaky gut, IBS and systemic inflammation.

Even worse, NSAIDs may not speed the healing of your injury at all. By interrupting your natural inflammatory response to tissue damage, which plays an important role in the early phases of healing, they may actually impede the normal arc of injury recovery.

​Moving on to icing... this practice is so deeply embedded in today's culture that it's almost heresy to cast doubt on it, in spite of the abundant scientific evidence showing icing after injury can be detrimental to tissue healing. (See a pattern developing here?) In the East Asian tradition, cold is considered an impediment, and healthy blood flow something to promote in nearly all circumstances, including a fresh injury. Icing mainly has a use for helping to control conditions of severe swelling and where it's necessary to numb nerve endings to abate severe pain. (Cold exposure has a range of applications as a hormetic therapy, but this is different from the concept of icing acute injury.)
Instead of icing, as acupuncturists we are trained to use time-tested herbal formulas, some of them dating back many centuries to the early days of Shaolin martial artists. The herbs are selected to work synergistically and come in a wide variety of topical preparations-- soaks, poultices, salves and liniments. Formula actions include promoting natural blood and lymphatic flow, breaking up stagnant blood, calming pain, and stimulating tissue repair.

One of our most most-used products in this category is an artisan-produced version of one of the most popular sports medicine herbal formulas in the world, Zheng Gu Shui (translated as Evil Bone Water by our producer). This stuff is like "tiger balm" on steroids. The version we used is made using the highest grade herbs in a small-batch facility, and we just love the potency of it! We keep a bottle in all of our treatment rooms since it's a useful application for a wide variety of muscle, tendon and ligament pains and injuries of both "hot" and "cold nature"-- even arthritis. This formula has analgesic (pain reducing) properties but also blood moving and tissue regenerative herbs.

​In addition to herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping, gua sha and moxibustion are brilliant for sports injury recovery. Whether you are a backyard frisbee thrower or a triathlete, consider us part of your first line of care if you get banged up this summer. We love being in your corner!
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<![CDATA[Put your mind in your feet]]>Sat, 30 Apr 2022 16:31:46 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/put-your-mind-in-your-feetPictureThe author on a recent hike
(By Grace Rollins, MS, LAc) As I write this it's the last day of April, but I only just learned this month is considered National Foot Health Awareness Month. Well, there are a few hours left in the month so it's not too late to draw attention to the importance of foot health. 

Why do foot issues impact us so much? First off, they impact our mobility. If your foot hurts, it can be really hard to exercise or do the daily walking we know is vital for our health. Since so much about our health depends upon physical activity, a foot injury or repetitive strain can create snowball effects. 

Secondly, the health of our feet impacts our entire musculoskeletal system. The key word here is system. Our bones, joints and muscles work together in a coordinated fashion, and no one part is separate from the movement and functioning of the whole. In particular, the way we use the many joints and muscles of our feet (or the way we don't use them) has ramifications all the way up your anatomy chains. Your feet alone have 33 joints, 26 bones, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments. Why would nature design us with so many tiny joints and muscles in the foot? If you guessed to serve as an active, intelligent interface between the body and the terrain, you win! (The prize is a barefoot walk across the yard.) When such a complex structure loses mobility, strength, sensory input, tissue integrity, or becomes inhibited by pain and deformity, it changes the way we interact with the terrain and impacts the body from toe to head. 

A third reason foot health impacts us so much is that feet are 
sensitive, yo! 

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They are full of nerve endings that relate to pain, temperature, pressure and proprioception (the sense of how we are oriented in space). The body relies heavily on sensory input from the feet for its sense of balance and feedback on its position in space.

Just think of the athlete, or the average person trying to avoid a trip and fall. The more sensory input from the feet, the more information about the terrain and environment is reaching the brain so it can make the best possible decisions about how to move.

Furthermore, our brain suffers disproportionately from any pain that strikes us in the feet. That nagging pain in your shoulder, you might be able to ignore. That nagging pain in your heel? It reminds you with every single step. 

A tale of two feet

Our hero starts off in this world with a perfect, foot-shaped foot and all they want to do is play and run around barefoot. Soon however they are seduced by the shoes their parents buy with the sparkles and dinosaurs. Not to mention it's what all the big kids are wearing. 

All the grown-ups seem to be in agreement that the foot needs to be protected and supported (in spite of a long history of humans surviving indeed, colonizing the entire globe, in minimal footwear-- sandals, moccasins and au natural). Following the trends of the time, our hero's two feet come of age inside of padded, restrictive and slightly heeled shoes. As such they rarely get to bend and flex through all their 33 joints, so they start to get stiff. The muscles fail to develop within a full range of motion so never strengthen to their full potential. The tendons lay down less collagen as a result. The toes start to crowd together into the shape of the shoe. The heel of the shoe throws off the weight distribution into the forefoot, causing the toes to curl and bend. 

As the years go on, our hero's encased feet grow ever weaker. The atrophied arches grow painful with exertion and micro-tears form in the plantar tendon (leading to a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis). Bunions start to form as poorly distributed weight and dysfunctional gait patterns cause gradual micro-trauma to the joints.

To "protect" the foot, perhaps thinking they are addressing the root issue of all this pain, our hero follows widespread advice to use arch supports, ever more padding, and customized orthotics. They opt for "orthopedic," "healthy" shoe brands that put the foot in a stiff, cushioned mold. Unfortunately, all of this "protection" further immobilizes and therefore perpetually weakens the foot, never allowing it to rebuild muscular strength, tissue integrity and the ability to absorb its own shocks. It also further dampens the remaining sensory input from the environment and impedes blood flow, yet again weakening the tissues.

Our hero starts to opt for flatter, easier terrain to reduce the strain, and sometimes has to avoid more extensive walking and weight-bearing exercise, again failing to expose the foot (and the entire body) to strengthening opportunities. Between all of the shock-absorbing padding and the disinclination to walking, our hero's entire skeleton lacks the kind of normal weight-bearing stress so important for preventing future osteoporosis.

Even with all of the above weakness, atrophy and sensory impediment going on, our hero is tragically of the fashion-oriented persuasion and indulges regularly in the masochistic thrill of footwear with elevated heels, pointed toes, slides and platforms. After a recent bender in these shoes they are down for the count and begging the podiatrist for a steroid shot (which again, weakens the tissues), or even worse, a bunionectomy surgery, which forever renders their great toe inflexible.

Our hero starts to suffer from chronic, one-sided muscular pain in the hip and sacroiliac joint, poor circulation, neck tension and headaches. They go to see an acupuncturist to see if they can get some relief. To their great surprise the acupuncturist asks, "Have you ever considered strengthening your feet?" 

PictureTocantins, Brazil
Solid steps toward foot health
Hopefully the above story illustrates the road many people have traveled, and why foot problems are common and challenging. In addition to all of those foot-weakening trends, there's the occasional acute trauma to the foot that can be hard to heal. This is actually what landed foot health more squarely on my own radar.

​With naturally slender, high-arched feet I was prone to arch pain from a young age. I instinctually eschewed "heels" and felt more comfortable in shoes like Tevas, Birkenstocks, Adidas, New Balance, Tims, and eventually Merrills, Chaco sandals, and the fancier Naot and Naturalista shoes-- all shoes with somewhat wider toe boxes but that are still quite stiff, padded, heavy, and feature a heel rise and arch support. Even with a closet full of these "healthier" shoes I often suffered from sore feet and arch pain. 

Then, several years ago I broke the sesamoid bone on my left foot while practicing martial arts. This is kind of like breaking your kneecap, but on the underside of the ball of your foot. Now I had a crisis. The podiatrist told me the only thing I could do was have the bone fragments surgically removed. 

Unsatisfied with this advice, I continued to research and experiment, while treating the foot with acupuncture and moxa to control the pain and swelling. At a certain point I came across the work of Katy Bowman, in the form of one of her earliest books on foot health which is no longer in print (she has a great revised version called Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief-- check it out!). I also found out about Correct Toes (a type of toe spreader I love for stretching the foot bones back into a better alignment), and, minimalist shoes.

PictureCatskills mountain range, NY (hiked in Luna sandals)
The key attributes of foot-strengthening footwear:

FLEXIBLE.
The more flexibility it has, the more movement it allows to the 33 joints and all the adjoining muscles, tendons and ligaments. If you have foot joints that are too weak for now, opt for a stiffer shoe-- otherwise go for mobility!

FOOT-SHAPED LAST AND TOEBOX. This means widest over the tips of the toes, not just at the ball of the foot then tapering to a midline point (as most shoes do). If you stand over the insole, do your toes flop out over the edges or do they actually fit?

FLAT. Any amount of heel elevation, even less than a centimeter, throws extra weight into the forefoot, shortens the calf muscles, and contributes to a variety of unnecessary stresses throughout the foot and body. If your feet feel uncomfortable or weird in flat shoes, it means you need a daily calf-stretching regimen. (We have half-moons for sale in the apothecary, or you can use a rolled-up yoga mat or towel.)

LIGHTWEIGHT AND HEEL-STRAPPED. If your footwear is heavy or you need to clench your toes constantly to keep it from sliding off, it changes the way your foot muscles work so you can't have a normal biomechanically healthy walking pattern. (This rules out slides and flip-flops except for short distances.)

As I transitioned to minimalist footwear I wasn't instantly doing barefoot trail running, but this combination of footwear features enabled me to gradually strengthen and realign my foot in order to take excessive strain off of the ball of the foot and allow it to heal. I was able to resume my active life without needing surgery.


Soon, as my feet grew stronger and better adapted to the environment, I found I could no longer tolerate restrictive, conventional footwear. To wear them would send me back into pain pretty quickly! Ironically, the less supportive the shoe, the less pain I seemed to have. It required some gradual conditioning, but about ten years later I'm now at the point that I can hike or trail run for several miles in extremely minimal sandals and it feels way better to me than a padded running shoe or protective boot. 

These days I opt whenever possible for minimalist sandals like BedrockLuna or Earthrunners, and for just about everything else I wear VivobarefootMagical Shoes, or Wildling shoes. (No affiliate links here folks, just sharing what I love). There are many other great brands out there, and more each year. See our Resources page for more links.

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<![CDATA[Awareness means awareness]]>Tue, 19 Apr 2022 07:00:00 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/awareness-means-awarenessPicture
(By Paolo Propato, LAc) My son likes to call the body the “meat suit” that just takes cues from the brain, helping it get from point A to point B. Instead, I like to think of the body as the most highly sophisticated antenna in existence, transmitting and receiving all types of information that connects us to the world. Our unconscious mind listens to this all the time, but sometimes we need to fine-tune the conscious mind to listen better. 

For instance, take the very ground you walk on. Whether you are walking on soft moss, asphalt, tiles, pebbles… these all have a different effect on your joint angles and motor function, your vestibular sense, even your emotions. The body even senses electron exchange with the earth, if we permit it to have direct contact through our skin to conductive surfaces like soil and water. The sound and vibration of our foot falls, the temperature of the ground, the pain or pleasure of certain pressures and stretches on the foot, different types of footwear… it’s a never-ending exchange of information with your entire body, if you tune in and listen, and your body can learn and adapt from this information. I was told by one of my acupuncture teachers that in Japan, stroke patients are sometimes told to walk barefoot on a rocky beach as part of their rehabilitation. 

To take another example: our emotional environment. Our very thoughts affect the functioning of the body, and just think of all the things that influence our thoughts on a daily basis! 

Depending on whom you’re spending time with, you may feel more joyous, more stiff, relaxed, guarded… all with different impacts on your physiology. Maybe that news program or violent, suspenseful show affected the quality of your sleep, which the next day affected your hormones, your exercise and eating choices, and even your self-esteem. This principle extends even to the habits of your inner monologue. We all know if you are anxious, your entire body feels different than when you are excited, or when you are in love. It’s all information you can pick up on, if you can be mindful of it. 

One of the beauties of acupuncture is that it doesn’t add anything– it just communicates with the body’s own intelligence, helping it find a better way to organize by giving a hint here and there. The same thing goes with other “suggestions” one can receive from the environment. What is your contact with the ground, or your emotional environment, or any other information telling you right now? Are you giving too much of yourself? Are you not moving your body enough, or in some cases too much? Are you relaxing? Having time in nature or with activities you enjoy? Are you eating what your body truly needs? These are not questions of judgment, but questions sometimes your body already knows the answer to, if you can find a way to tune in and listen. 

Once I heard a story of a traveler who journeyed to meet a master that lived as a hermit on a mountaintop. When the traveler finally arrived he found the master sitting under the shade of a tree. The man humbly walked over and said, “Master, I have traveled a long way to be here. Can you give me any guidance for my life?” The master looked up at the man and with his finger wrote in the dirt: “Awareness.” 

The traveler reads the word and a bit puzzled asks, “What does that mean?” The master just wrote, “Awareness means awareness.” 

The traveler was frustrated to have come all this way for such a simple message. “I came a long way. Surely you can elaborate a bit more than that!” The master looked again at the man and wrote in the dirt, “Awareness means awareness means awareness.”

The other day my son and I were talking with a few people around a table, at one point he whispered in my ear, ”Daddy, relax your shoulders, they're all the way up to your ears.” Later I told him I was proud of him that he was aware of my posture and even how I was feeling emotionally about the situation around the table. I felt like that traveler in the story– my whole life I had been journeying up that mountain to find wisdom, but all the advice I needed was a kid saying, “Awareness.”    
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