Weeknight Winter Soup with Chicken Bone Broth & Vegetables

wintersoupfinished

We’re having an actual winter in Los Angeles: kind that requires coats, boots and sweaters. The ground has frozen several times in the past month, I’ve had to defrost my windshield before leaving for work at 6:30am. We even had a hailstorm last week, evidenced by the Tupperware of hail stones in my freezer. (Thanks, kids…)

This week has been all about rain! Along with the rain and older weather comes the desire to stay in bed all day with a hot cup of tea and a good book. Alas…I have a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old, I’m a busy acupuncturist, and staying in bed is rarely a choice.

But oh, how LA drivers in the rain stress me out! All I want is to eat is soup.

At 4:45pm tonight, after I got home from work and realized the meal I had carefully planned (on paper) had somehow not made itself, I opened the fridge for inspiration. The brown paper bag of Shitake Mushrooms that I’d picked up at the Pasadena Saturday farmer’s market were calling to me. I had made chicken bone broth over the weekend and still hadn’t frozen all of it in jars yet. “SOUP CAN STILL HAPPEN!” I thought, rummaging in the fridge’s vegetable drawer.

This is a 1-pot meal, an Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Soup, using what I had on hand, very forgiving. I have rarely used baby bok choy and string beans (Blue Lake!) in a soup (typically I stir-fry or steam them) but I found that as long as you don’t overcook those greens, they blend nicely into this warming soup. (NOTE: Baby bok choy tends to be less bitter than bok choy, so use the former for this recipe if you can.)

The seasonal vegetables included are all in season right now here in in Southern California, and the bone broth boosts immunity by nourishing the kidney system. If you don’t have bone broth, it’s OK to use store-bought organic chicken broth. (I’ll share my bone broth recipe in another post soon!)

Follow my recipe here or adapt it and make it your own – then tell us what you did in the comments section.

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Weeknight Winter Soup

with Chicken Bone Broth,

Shitake Mushrooms & Vegetables

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves 4-6

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INGREDIENTS:

3 Green Onions, finely diced (discard the outer layer)

5 cloves garlic, peeled & diced

1/4 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)

1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley

10-12 Shitake mushrooms, sliced (cremini or button mushrooms can be substituted, but really there’s nothing like fresh shitakes!)

3 heads of baby bok choy (white & green parts), chopped into ribbons

2 large handfuls (about 1/4 pound) of Blue Lake string beans, ends trimmed, chopped (sub regular green beans if Blue Lake beans aren’t available – the season is ending soon!)

2.5 cups chicken bone broth

2 c. water

1 sprig (about 3 inches long) of fresh rosemary

2 T pastured butter or Ghee or coconut oil

1 c. cooked organic basmati rice (cook separately according to package directions, or use leftover rice like I did)

1 c. cooked pastured chicken, chopped into small pieces (I had leftover on hand; you can skip this step if you prefer not to add chicken)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 tsp. Salt

Freshly ground pepper (to taste)

1/4 tsp of dried cumin, chili powder or organic chicken seasoning

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DIRECTIONS:

1.) Melt 2 T. butter (or ghee or coconut oil) in a large pot or Dutch Oven.

2.) Add chopped green onions, garlic and ginger (if using), saute until fragrant (a few minutes)

3.) Stir in mushrooms, saute about 3-5 minutes

4.) Add baby bok choy, parsley, green beans along w/ a splash of olive oil; saute another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally

5.) Add chicken bone broth & water, stir, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

6.) Add sprig of fresh rosemary; add cumin and/or chili powder/chicken seasoning along with another splash of olive oil.

7.) Simmer for 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

6.) Stir in cooked rice & chopped chicken.

7.) Add salt and pepper (to taste).

8.) Simmer another few minutes, taste the soup for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Some pics…

Here’s what I started with (I ended up not using the carrots, but you could easily add those after sauteeing the green onions):

ingredientswintersoup

Here’s the soup with all veggies & herbs added, before adding broth & water:

veggiessauteed

Serve with fresh sourdough bread and some dill pickles!

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3 Healthy Summertime Mocktails – Guest Post by Jacqueline from Sweet Beet & Green Bean

3 Healthy Sumertime Mocktails Recipes

Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac.Today’s guest post was written by our Associate Acupuncturist Jacqueline Gabardy, L.Ac. who blogs about health, nutrition and recipes at Sweet Beet & Green Bean.
 

 Whether you don’t drink at all or you are just trying to cut back, mocktails are an alcohol-free, refreshing way to enjoy a drink with friends on a warm summer day.  These incorporate ingredients like aloe juice, raw apple cider vinegar, and coconut water, which all have important health benefits.  They’re super easy to make, too!

Are you a tired pregnant or nursing mom?   Trying to conceive?  Suffering from digestive problems or chronic pain?  Alcoholic drinks may be off limits for you, but these mocktails can actually help you feel bright and shiny without any side effects.

 

The Aloe-jito

Recipe
3-4 sprigs of fresh mint
1/2 a lime
1-2 tbsp sugar, honey, maple syrup or agave (to your taste)
2 oz aloe juice
Sparkling water

 

A take on the classic mojito, the aloe-jito uses aloe juice in place of rum.  Aloe Vera juice is a healing and soothing tonic in small amounts.  It can detoxify, moisten and cool the body, clear skin, and soothe the digestive tract.

Drinking aloe can relieve constipation because it has a mild laxative effect, so don’t overdo it on the dosage.  1-2 ounces per day is a enough for most people; you may want to start with a smaller dose if you are prone to loose stools.

To make this mocktail, use a tall glass and add the lime (cut into smaller pieces) and mint leaves into the bottom and muddle them well.  If you don’t have a muddler,  you can use the handle of a wooden spoon.  Once muddled well, add the sugar and mix well.  I have used raw honey for this before, but it doesn’t mix in quite that well; I find maple or agave syrup work better.  How much sugar you use will depend on your taste, I found 1 tablespoon to be plenty.  Then add a few ice cubes and pour over the aloe juice, top with sparkling water and garnish with a lime wedge and another sprig of mint.

You can also make this recipe without the aloe and it is still quite refreshing.

 

Strawberry Shrub Soda Recipe

Recipe
2-3 tbsp homemade strawberry shrub (see below)
About 8 oz sparkling water
 
Basic Shrub
1 part fruit
1 part vinegar
1 part sugar

 

Shrub is a traditional vinegar-based syrup that is often used to make soda.  In Chinese Medicine, small amounts of sour foods like vinegar are beneficial to the Liver system.  Especially healthy are the naturally fermented vinegars like raw apple cider vinegar which contains probiotics that support digestive health.  When added into the diet in small amounts, apple cider vinegar can support digestive and immune health.

By making shrub with apple cider vinegar it becomes much more palatable because of the hint of fruit flavor and sweetness.  Also, by mixing up a big batch of shrub it makes it much easier to incorporate into your daily diet or to serve to a big group of people.

The fruit for the shrub should be finely chopped up first and added in after the vinegar and sugars are mixed well; I find a mason jar is best for this.  Once mixed together, the shrub needs to sit in the fridge for at least 1 day but up to 1 week, the fruit flavor will intensify the longer it sits.  After a week, strain the mixture to remove the fruit.  You can use the fruit in a smoothie if you don’t want to waste it, but it’s a little sour to eat on its own and you can’t leave it in the shrub indefinitely.

I used local raw honey as the sugar in this recipe, and the apple cider vinegar dissolves it well, but granulated cane sugar, maple syrup or agave syrup would all work.  You can also try different variations of fruits and vinegars to see what you like the best!

I like to serve the shrub soda over a large ice cube and I find about 2-3 tablespoons of shrub per cup of sparkling water is the right balance.  Obviously you can play around with it and find what ratio works best for you.

 

Pina Colada Cooler Recipe

Recipe
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 banana
1/2 cup coconut water
1/4 cup coconut cream
ice cubes (optional)

 

While we usually don’t recommend too many cold foods to our patients, an icy beverage is sometimes the only thing that feels refreshing when the weather gets really hot.

This recipe is more or less a traditional Piña Colada without the rum.  Most traditional colada recipes just use coconut cream, which is a great source of healthy saturated fats and has anti-fungal properties, plus it serves as a delicious creamy alternative for those who are dairy sensitive.  I’ve also included some coconut water in this recipe because it’s so high in electrolytes that it works well to keep us hydrated during those hot summer days.  In addition to the usually pineapple and coconut ingredients, I’ve added in half a banana for a little extra sweetness and creaminess.

Preparation of this drink is as simple as blending all the ingredients together, and topping with a tropical drink umbrella if you have one on hand!  You can add a few ice cubes to the mix if you want it to be thicker and colder, but I didn’t find it needed them.

Try these and let us know what you think in the comments section!

The Lunch Break: Parenthood’s Most Underrated Hour

IMG_0764 When I became a mother, I had no idea how many things I had previously taken for granted. Like my lunch break. That simple hour in the middle of the day during which you sit, eat, talk, read a magazine, catch up on phone calls…maybe you even DO LUNCH with friends once in a while. That hour which, before becoming a parent, did not require you to wear noise-canceling headphones to preserve what hearing you still have left. Five and a half years into motherhood (a month or so ago), I realized I had not taken a proper lunch break in over half a decade. WTF? How could things get this bad? Don’t get me wrong-  it’s not that I don’t eat lunch.  It’s not that I don’t take breaks.  I eat.  I take breaks.  Just not in the middle of the day.  Not when I’m at work or at home with my kids.  That midday break is darn near impossible to make happen when you have young children.  It gets last place.  Well, last place right before Mom herself. The lunch break of the typical working parent I know goes like this: grab a sandwich.  Eat it while returning 6 text messages about carpools, permission slips, groceries, the strep outbreak at preschool, and maybe, if you’re nursing, while also balancing the flanges attached to bottles into which you are pumping fresh milk.  Errands to run?  Totally out of pull-ups back at home?  Don’t wanna hit Target at 5pm with two toddlers?  Most working moms and dads I know will choose to squeeze this errand into the “lunch break” whenever possible, if they are lucky enough to get one. The lunch break of the Stay-At-Home-Parent?  What lunch break? At work or at home, where is the “break” in this Lunch Break of the modern American parent? There isn’t one. Why have we all forgotten how important it is? I love my kids, and I love my work.  I feel fortunate to have healthy, loving, fascinating children (who sometimes give each other massages), and work that is fulfilling and exciting. GnLmassage Really, I shouldn’t be complaining.  But I know I’m not alone as a parent in feeling overwhelmed and wishing I had a Pause button. Right? Two books I’ve read and loved recently, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink” by Katrina Alcorn and “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” speak to this core issue. Our culture does not support parents well enough. Whether a parent is working for pay or not (we all know parenting is hard work!), most American moms and dads feel stretched thin. Time that is BOTH kid-free and work-free is hard to come by.  Sure, there is the blessed 90 minutes (2 hours on a good night!) after they’re asleep before my own bedtime, but I have found that kid-free time when I’m brain-dead from a long day is just not the same as when I’m sharp and the sun is still shining. In an effort to make positive change in my own life, I’ve decided to start taking a lunch break every single day. I’m trying to emphasize the “break” part. Whether I’m home with my kids or at my place of work, I am trying (*trying*) to protect one hour a day during which I’m not doing work and also not doing mundane household or child-related tasks. When I am home with my children for lunch, I look at the lunch break as a time to eat together and then have Quiet Time.  My daughter still naps, and my son loves having sister-free time with me and/or his Dad.  We eat.  We talk.  We play Footsie. When I’m at work, I try to spend an hour taking an actual break from work. It’s amazing how the simple act of putting my feet up on the couch or desk tells my brain We’re Resting Now. Also amazing is how hard it is to stop myself from puttering around the house picking up stray toys, dirty socks, bills, or from starting to prep dinner, fold laundry, note how dirty the bathroom floor is and choose to be irritated by it yet also ignore it…Daughter napping, son happy crafting?  House quiet?  Hurry, go balance the checkbook! This is what I’m trying to resist. It’s been shockingly hard to break out of my pattern of rushing to Get Shit Done during the one hour a day when I’m not treating patients, running my clinic on an administrative level, or home with my kids. But I know it’s important for my mental, emotional and physical health to take that lunch break.  It’s also important for my children to see me taking that break, and to share it with me, when we’re home together. If I’m at the office, my new “lunch break” might include any of the following: Walk around the block of my office building.  The jacarandas are blooming, and birds never fail to take their lunch hour loudly, which is lovely to hear during a solo walk. Visit the farmer’s market, which is a mere one mile from my office building, every Thursday. IMG_0919 Sit and meditate for 20 minutes, then write in my journal. Catch up on one of the books I’m reading.  (I feel like an overachiever if I get to read more than two pages a day before being interrupted or falling asleep.) Sit down and eat my lunch with both feet on the floor.  Resist the urge to do something else simultaneously. Once I took a hike.  Not rest, per se, but a different, invigorating kind of break. If I’m at home for my lunch break, that usually means there’s kids with me.  Sometimes we take our lunch break at one of the local gardens. IMG_0943 Sometimes we all sit around the table and light candles and for about 3 minutes, it’s nice and quiet. IMG_0461 According to the classical texts in Chinese Medicine, it is said that when eating, you should not do anything else. Just eat; chew your food well.  Don’t watch TV, read, check your phone, Facebook, catch up on patient charts (who, me?), or drive a car. That’s a tall order for most Westerners.  Just eat?  How boring! Let me explain. In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and Stomach organ systems are the center of our digestive system, and the Liver organ system helps out with digestion in its role as Traffic Cop of Qi (maintaining the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body).  When we are thinking too much (reading, staring at a screen), the Stomach Qi goes up instead of down (leading to heartburn, acid regurgitation, after-meal headaches).  If we are stressed out while eating, the Liver can’t keep the Qi in check – in addition to being the Traffic Cop of Qi Flow, the Liver is also in charge of metabolizing Stress – and so digestion goes haywire. I have understood this intellectually for about 14 years, but the New Yorker in me, who is used to doing 143 things at once, has always found it hard to JUST EAT.  Until now, when I am forcing myself to take a one hour lunch break, every single day, for the sake of my sanity. I will admit to you: it doesn’t happen every day.  There are days when I’m home with my kids and we all just bicker and screech until we collapse into bed. Or someone throws an entire container of raw milk down the steps to the backyard.  Followed by a water balloon. IMG_0802 You know those days, right? There are days at work when I am so behind on paperwork that I plow right through my lunch break, catching up on patient emails, phone calls, charts, pausing only to heat up my leftovers in the toaster oven and grab a fork. But I’m getting better. More days than not, I’m taking that break, even if it involves cranky children demanding water/milk/spoons/a pickle/more napkins every time I sit down. On those days, I take a deep breath, send it down to my Stomach/Spleen, and plant both feet on the floor.  I remind myself that I am modeling the value of slowing down, honoring mealtime, making a ritual out of taking a break. Eventually, it will become habit, and I’ll forget I ever went half a decade without a proper lunch break. (Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, acupuncturist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  Photo Credits: all photographs by Abigail Morgan, all rights reserved.)

Acupressure for Labor & Birth: A Couples’ Workshop, 9/26 6:30-9:30pm

Event: Acupressure for Labor & Birth, Prenatal Acupuncture

Acupressure for Labor & Birth: A Couples’ Workshop
Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist and mother of two, will lead a workshop on 9/26/13 from 6:30-9:30pm, on how to support your partner during labor and birth using simple acupressure techniques. Learn how to use your hands to give physical support to your partner during the birth process. What points can help reduce pain, soothe anxiety, bring baby down, make contractions stronger? We will go over good body mechanics for the partner, and do lots of hands-on work to help each couple find ways to use this ancient method to enhance the labor process. Becca Gordon, doula/childbirth educator/yoga instructor, will co-teach this class and bring a fresh perspective to supporting the birth process. You will leave with a detailed handout of the techniques we learned in class, as well as questions to discuss with your partner during the rest of your pregnancy.
This class is designed for couples, but we define “couple” loosely; if you’d like to bring your sister/mother/friend/doula instead of a partner, that’s fine with us. Please be informed that this is not a professional-development class for birth professionals – Abigail offers that workshop at other times – but we do welcome doulas if they are accompanying a pregnant client.
When: Thursday, 9/26/13; 6:30-9:30pm

Location: FLOAT, 800 S. Central Avenue (at Windsor), Suite 302, Glendale, CA 91204. Parking is free in the garage under our building, but be sure to arrive no later than 6:45 pm.

Cost: $100 per couple (we accept all credit cards, checks and cash; payment in advance is required by 9/25)

Sign Up / More Info: 818-392-8797 or frontdesk@floatchinesemedicalarts.com – Call or email us today!

We hope to see you there!

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.

Upcoming Events for New Moms, Pregnant Moms and Women Trying to Conceive

 

Prenatal Events, Prenatal Acupuncture

September is a busy month for us at FLOAT!

Abigail will be guest-teaching a support group, participating in a panel on Prenatal Wellness, and leading an acupressure workshop for couples here at our office.  Read on, and please send any questions to frontdesk@floatchinesemedicalarts.com.

9/9: HOLISTIC SELF-CARE FOR THE POSTPARTUM PERIOD at BINI BIRTH

FirstOutingMamaGnL

Abigail in 2010 with her kids, 2 weeks and 2 years old

 

Abigail will be the special guest at Bini Birth’s New Moms and Pregnant Moms’ Support Group (led by Rachel Myers) on Monday 9/9/13, 12:30-1:45pm.  This group is open to anyone who is pregnant, recently gave birth, or is supporting moms in any way at all!  Babies are welcome.

The Talk: Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist and mother of two, will speak about holistic ways to take care of yourself during the postpartum period (birth-12 months), and offer a variety of techniques to bring balance to the crazy-insane-overwhelming time that characterizes the first year of a child’s life.  Whether you are pregnant with your first child, just a few months postpartum, or getting used to being outnumbered, putting Mom’s health first is crucial for keeping the whole family happy – not to mention avoiding postpartum depression, baby blues, adrenal fatigue and Depleted Mother Syndrome.  Come learn tips for what to eat, rhythms to incorporate, and home remedies for boosting Self-Care in the postpartum period.  Abigail will also discuss ways you can prepare for a smoother recovery from childbirth while still pregnant.

Location: Bini Birth, 13743 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks, CA, 91423

Cost: $20 cash or check (made out to Bini Birth), same-day, or $110 for a series of 6 classes (every Monday, 12:30-1:45)

More info: binibirth.com or 818-286-3944

 

 9/21: PRENATAL WELLNESS ROUNDTABLE

Event: Prenatal Wellness Roundtable, Prenatal Acupuncture, Fertility Acupuncture

 

I’m so excited to have been asked by Fit for Expecting and The Institute for Girls’ Development to participate in this Prenatal Wellness Roundtable, on Sat. 9/21, 10-11:30am.  (Click on the flyer above to see details and ticket information.)  I’ll be talking about how Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help with conception, pregnancy, labor and birth.  There will be several other prenatal care providers on the panel – hope to see you there!

 

9/26: ACUPRESSURE FOR LABOR & BIRTH: A COUPLES’ WORKSHOP

Event: Acupressure for Labor & Birth, Prenatal Acupuncture
Acupressure for Labor & Birth: A Couples’ Workshop
Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist and mother of two, will lead a workshop on 9/26/13 from 6:30-9:30pm, on how to support your partner during labor and birth using simple acupressure techniques.  Learn how to use your hands to give physical support to your partner during the birth process.  What points can help reduce pain, soothe anxiety, bring baby down, make contractions stronger?  We will go over good body mechanics for the partner, and do lots of hands-on work to help each couple find ways to use this ancient method to enhance the labor process.  Becca Gordon, doula/childbirth educator/yoga instructor, will co-teach this class and bring a fresh perspective to supporting the birth process.  You will leave with a detailed handout of the techniques we learned in class, as well as questions to discuss with your partner during the rest of your pregnancy.
This class is designed for couples, but we define “couple” loosely; if you’d like to bring your sister/mother/friend/doula instead of a partner, that’s fine with us.  Please be informed that this is not a professional-development class for birth professionals – Abigail offers that workshop at other times – but we do welcome doulas if they are accompanying a pregnant client.

When: Thursday, 9/26/13; 6:30-9:30pm

Location: FLOAT, 800 S. Central Avenue (at Windsor), Suite 302, Glendale, CA 91204.  Parking is free in the garage under our building, but be sure to arrive no later than 6:45 pm.

Cost: $100 per couple (we accept all credit cards, checks and cash; payment in advance is required by 9/19)

Sign Up / More Info: 818-392-8797 or frontdesk@floatchinesemedicalarts.com

We hope to see you there!

 

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac. of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.

Bringing Sexy Back to Fertility

kiss2012

A kiss in wine country

With apologies to Justin Timberlake for hijacking his term, we’re bringing sexy back to fertility.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we’re bringing sexy back to the Lower Jiao.

What is the Lower Jiao?  In Chinese Medicine, the Lower Jiao refers to the organ systems below the belly button, including the reproductive organs, the kidneys and the urinary bladder.  It is one of three Jiaos, each of which comprises specific organ systems.

The Lower Jiao can also be compared to the Second Chakra.

In Chinese Medicine, an imbalance in the Lower Jiao can lead to all kinds of problems with Reproductive Health, whether the person is male or female, straight, gay or bisexual.

Acupuncturists treat a lot of infertility.

I specialize in Chinese Medicine for reproductive health and the childbearing cycle -I see teenagers with painful periods, pregnant women, new grandmothers going through menopause, and everything in between – but in recent years, my practice has seen more and more patients seeking answers for primary infertility, secondary infertility, sub-fertility and sterility.

In the USA, 1 in 10 couples is diagnosed with infertility.

Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after having unprotected sex for 6 months to a year, depending on the woman’s age.  This does not mean these women will never be able to get pregnant, but it can put a lot of stress on a relationship.

No matter their age, anyone who has tried to get pregnant and found it is a little (or a lot) harder than they thought, tends to suffer from Fertility Fatigue.

Trying to Conceive (“TTC”), with or without fertility problems, can be exhausting.  For many couples, baby-making sex becomes a chore, without any of the spice that sex had when they were trying not to get pregnant.

The Lower Jiao suffers from an identity crisis, as it was ignored for decades and now is suddenly being called on to Make a Baby Already!

Getting pregnant can be (not always) even more challenging for women and men who have experienced early childhood trauma, which gets imprinted in the Lower Brain and has a strong effect on the Lower Jiao.  I will address this in another post, later this month.

Many women who have spent cycle after cycle actively trying to conceive a baby complain of losing their mojo. They feel depleted, fat and ugly. Sex has become rote and boring, just a means to an end, with no end in sight. They want to be pregnant yesterday, and they’re not accustomed to finding something so hard to control: successful, intelligent, clear-thinking women who are accustomed to putting their mind to something and making it happen can be particularly triggered by how hard it is to get pregnant.  They have spent their whole fertile life trying NOT to get pregnant, and now suddenly getting pregnant isn’t so easy.  This can make her feel helpless, anxious and out of control.

Some women whose mojo is doing fine (no libido problems) become distressed when their partner suddenly can’t keep it up.  Or he keeps it up for a few days and then as soon as she reaches her fertile window, he can’t ejaculate.  (He’s not used to having this problem.)  Quite a few men have told me they feel their wife only wants them for their sperm; they start feeling helpless and that makes Performance even more difficult.  It’s too much pressure.

After a year or more of actively TTC without a BFP (Big Fat Positive), couples will often start to argue more.  One partner loses interest.  Maybe he doesn’t want kids after all.  She starts to worry it’s never going to happen.  They forget about Dan Savage’s Fuck First rule (always do it BEFORE dinner/movie/wedding ceremony!), and only have sex with the intention of getting pregnant.  That gets old real quick.

One lesbian mom I know who conceived via in-home self-insemination (i.e. the Turkey Baster Option) has advised some of her straight friends to just get the guy to hand her his sperm sample in a cup so she can save him the stress of having to perform at the same time every month.  She said it’s pretty nice to be able to separate the Getting Pregnant Part from the Making Love part.  I think this is really cool.

Clearly, there are a lot of Lower Jiaos that need re-tuning.

So, how do we bring sexy back to the Lower Jiao?

Here are 9 things you can do to bring sexy back to your Lower Jiao.  (9 is a magic number in Taoist thought.  I like 9.)

 

1. GET ACUPUNCTURE & TAKE HERBS

 

Room 3 at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts

Room 3 at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts; Photo by Samuel Morgan Photography

 

Of course I’m an acupuncture junkie: I’m an acupuncturist.  I love getting it, I love giving it.  There’s nothing quite like an Acu-High.

For so many reasons, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are very effective at enhancing fertility and preventing miscarriage.  Among other functions, acupuncture relieves blockages of Qi and Blood in the uterus and ovaries, increases follicle count, boosts the uterine lining, makes IUI and IVF work better (increases the rate of take-home babies), reduces drug side effects, and combats stress.

Acupuncture is also great for helping women and men reconnect with the sexual, reproductive energy located in the Lower Jiao (and in the body in general).

There are many, many points that acupuncturists use to treat infertility patterns, but I’ll give examples here of just a few points I use frequently:

Ren 4 / Conception Vessel 4 (Guan Yuan): this point is translated as “Gateway to Original Qi,” or “Gate of Origin.”  It’s located between the navel and the pubic symphysis, on the midline of the body.

DU4 / Governing Vessel 4 (Ming Men): this point is translated as “Life Gate.”  It’s located below the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebra.  It is the #1 point to nourish the Kidney Yang, and it’s also great for lower back pain.

ZiGongXue, or “Palace of the Child.”  This is my favorite point location name.  This point is used to treat any type of problem in the uterus, including painful periods (dysmenorrhea), infertility and uterine prolapse.  I also find it helps to regulate ovulation.

Give yourself a belly massage.  Gentle massage in clockwise circles on your lower abdomen can help to circulate energy in the Ming Men (also known as the Dan Tien), and stimulate many of the acupuncture points in that region.  This is something you can do by yourself or with your partner.  It’s best to do in the proliferative phase of your cycle, not in the luteal phase (when you may be pregnant).  Use a nice organic massage oil and maybe some of my favorite lavender essential oil.

Qi Gong is also a terrific practice for removing blockages in the Ming Men and the Lower Jiao in general.

 

2. AVOID FERTILITY FATIGUE.

 

Don’t, for goodness sake, have sex every day all month, or even every day for two weeks.  This drains your Kidney Qi and Jing, and that of your partner.

The Kidney system is one third of the three main organs of female reproduction: Kidney, Spleen and Liver.  We need the energy of the Kidney, Spleen and Liver Organ systems to be flowing freely in order for conception to occur.  Too much sex with the pressure to get pregnant can end up backfiring by exhausting your partner’s sperm and depleting your receptivity to said sperm.

It’s also not so effective to have sex only once per cycle and expect to get pregnant.  Although this is certainly how a lot of Bonus Babies are made (oops!).

So when should you do it? The Fertility Awareness Method (charting your cycle) can help you and your partner figure out when to do the Baby Dance.

Become familiar with how to understand your cervical fluid.  The days that really count are the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.  Printing your chart and showing it to your fertility acupuncturist is helpful in allowing him/her to see patterns according to Chinese Medicine, and time your treatments and herbal regimen accordingly. But I do have some patients for whom charting the cycle causes a lot of stress.  Listen to your intuition and follow it.

 

3. EXERCISE.

 

Find something that works for you and stick with it on a regular basis.

Qi Gong, Tai Qi and Yoga are great ways to circulate Qi between acupuncture treatments, or if you’re unable to find an acupuncturist in your area.

Exercise increases blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, boosts serotonin levels, helps you shed unwanted extra pounds, and just makes you feel good.

I know it’s really hard for moms with one or more kids at home (who are struggling to conceive again) to find time to exercise.  Barter babysitting with other moms, or bring the kids to a gym that has free childcare. Just make it happen.

 

4. GO ON VACATION.

FamilySquaw

My family on vacation in Lake Tahoe

 

How many couples do you know who were struggling to conceive and as soon as they finally “took a break” and went to Cabo, they got pregnant?

The reason for this is often because when we detach from outcome –when we stop wanting it so much – we get out of Fight-or-Flight mode (Sympathetic Nervous System) and get into Rest-and-Digest mode (Parasympathetic Nervous System).

If you can’t afford a vacation, take a Staycation.  Even one day off work at the end of a weekend can allow you and your partner time to shut off the phones, email, social media and catch up on sleep and conversation.  Imagine that!

When the hormones of stress stop surging in your bloodstream, it allows the hypothalamic/pituitary/ovarian axis to work better, improving your chances of getting pregnant.

 

5. ADDRESS THE SHAME.

 

We all have shame.  Brene Brown, the brilliant researcher and storyteller, defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”  (Watch her ground-breaking TED talk, “Shame and Vulnerability,” here.)

Brene Brown also says that “shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

I think this can be applied to the fertility journey.

The transition of going from being an independent woman (married or not) to a mother involves the most massive change you will undergo since you were born.

Becoming a mother again – if you have other children – is also an enormous change.  Trauma from a previous birth (surgical or vaginal) can affect fertility.  The challenges of caring for young children and simply trying to find time to have sex with your partner, let alone deal with fertility issues, can be a major trigger for anxiety and stress.  It can also trigger PTSD and bring up what I clinically refer to as Shit From the Past.

It is crucial that we trust we are capable of the change involved in getting pregnant and becoming a parent.  (Note: there are of course many ways of becoming a parent- becoming pregnant is only one of them – but the biological parenting part is what I’m discussing here.)

Many women have sublimated shame from the past, which may be lodged energetically in the Lower Jiao.

Talking about it, writing about it, praying or meditating about it, seeing a therapist, getting acupuncture, are just a few of the ways we can address shame.

To borrow the words of John Bradshaw, let’s start the process of healing the shame that binds us (in this case, binds our Lower Jiao) in order to open ourselves up to conception, a healthy pregnancy and ecstatic birth.

LucyBirth

Me, my second child, Lucy, and my husband, about 1 minute after Lucy was born at home.

This is not to say that you must have totally recovered from shame or trauma in order to conceive.  Not true.  But it can be helpful to bring these issues to your awareness so you can let go of some of it.

Ask yourself what works for you?

 

6. PRACTICE DETACHMENT.

 

Stop trying so hard. Really. You’re having sex in your fertile window, eating well, exercising, resting at the end of the day, refusing to work on the weekend (you’re doing that, right?), taking your herbs, getting acupuncture and charting your cycle, meditating…

Whew!

Just writing that list is exhausting.

“What more can I be doing?” is a common question my patients ask.

“Detach,” I say.

It will happen when it happens, and you truly have no control over when that will be.

Even if you’re doing IVF, there is no way to select the cycle during which you will get pregnant.

Detach, while still encouraging your body to be a garden ready for the new plantings.

Use mindfulness techniques, meditate, try self-hypnosis.

Take Chinese tonic herbs to calm your Shen (ask your acupuncturist).

Detach.

 

7. EAT REAL FOOD.

Stew

This is a blog post for another day – if you’ve met me, you know I have a lot to say about food! – but for now I’ll leave it at this:

Eat local and organic whenever possible, and prepare your own food.

Food is love.

Two excellent books on eating well are “Real Food for Mother and Baby” by Nina Planck and “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.

 

8. SLEEP!

 

Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, whenever possible.

If you have a toddler and/or older children at home, this is a tough one.

I can relate: my kids are 2 years apart and I’ve been breastfeeding for 5 years straight.

As my friend and fellow acupuncturist Luke says, “Sleep is my drug of choice.”

Whatever it takes, prioritize a good night’s sleep.

 

9. FIND YOURSELF SEXY.

This may seem silly, but find ways to enjoy yourself – not only so you feel sexy to your partner (if you have one) but so you seem sexy to yourself.

Enjoy the process of opening the Palace of the Child.

So go do it already.

Get your sexy back.

 

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  Photos by Abigail Morgan, Dave Clark Photography, Samuel Morgan Photography, and Sara Pereira.   All rights reserved.

Honey-Sesame Chicken with Vegetables (Slow-Cooker Recipe)

ChickenHoneySesameBefore

As a busy working mom committed to serving my family real food at every meal, avoiding processed foods and eating organically with the seasons, I often rely on the slow-cooker for dinners.

When I plan ahead, I can usually come up with a quick-prep meal that will cook slowly at home while my kids are in preschool and my husband and I are at work. (Or when I’m home with the kids too busy breaking up sibling squabbles to watch a pot on the stove!)

There’s nothing quite like realizing it’s 5:00 pm, we’re all cranky and hungry, and dinner is already ready. It’s much easier to make a side of brown rice or quinoa and steam or saute a side of veggies, and serve it along with a slow-cooker meal, than it is to plan a meal from scratch at 4:50pm.

Here’s a slow-cooker dish I came up with on the fly yesterday morning, when I realized it was 7:00am, I had no plan for dinner, and we all had to be out of the house for the day.  I picked some fresh herbs from our garden (while still in my PJ’s), and chose organic chicken thighs because that’s what I had fresh in the fridge.  You could easily substitute chicken breasts if you prefer.

Serves 4, with leftovers
Prep Time: About 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 hours in a large slow-cooker

Ingredients:
6-8 Organic Chicken thighs (boneless)
4 organic Russet potatoes, sliced into small pieces
6 organic carrots, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 organic red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic (whole & peeled)

For marinade:ChickenHoneySesame
1/2 c Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (cold-pressed)
2 T. Shoyu or Tamari
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T. raw Apple cider vinegar
3 T Really good local raw honey
1/2 cup water
1 sprig fresh thyme (cut into pieces)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (cut into pieces)
8-10 leaves of fresh sage
6-8 generous pats of organic grass-fed/pastured butter
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Directions:
1) Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a glass bowl.
2) Place the potatoes, onions and carrots at the bottom of the slow-cooker.
3) Put the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables.
4) Pour the marinade over the chicken and vegetables.
5) Sprinkle the sesame seeds & sea salt over everything.
6) Tuck the fresh herbs between and on top of the chicken thighs and vegetables.
7) Place one pat of butter on top of each chicken thigh.
8) Turn the slow-cooker on LOW for 5 hours.
9) Serve over brown rice or another grain of your choice. I also served with a side of sauteed fresh zucchini, which is what was ready for picking in our garden.

Try making this for your family, and let us know what you think!

Summer & Fall Free Lecture Series

We are pleased to announce the kick-off of the FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts Summer & Fall Free Lecture Series with the following event:

WHEN:

Saturday August 11, 10-11:30AM

My baby is here. Why am I not happy?

Dr. Aimee Wheeler, PsyD

Founder, Parenting Discovery Center

Dr. Wheeler will speak about the postpartum period and share valuable and useful tools for understanding this much-misunderstood phase of the childbearing cycle.  All are welcome to attend this free event: new moms, seasoned moms, pregnant women and their partners, birth professionals, grandparents and caregivers.  Please share widely with your networks and feel free to bring a guest!

THE TALK:

Many parents experience a wide range of emotions after the birth of a child.  Some of us are elated, some have mixed feelings and others can’t seem to shake a nagging sense of anxiety, sadness or dread.  Maybe you aren’t even aware of having any feelings of sadness or anxiety but are having a hard time sleeping or are feeling compulsive about certain things.  It can go by many names.  The baby blues, post-partum depression, post-partum anxiety.  For some women it is a result of a hormonal imbalance after birth and can be treated with medication and/or holistic approaches (such as herbs, homeopathics, acupuncture, meditation, etc).  For some it is the beginning of an emotional grief cycle or access to unresolved trauma that if left unattended can further bury the parts of them that are ready to be examined and healed.  Come and learn more about how to take the first steps on this journey of exploration and healing!  Snacks will be provided.

WHERE:

FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts

610 N. Central Avenue, Suite 109 (@Doran)

Glendale, CA 91203

FREE PARKING

http://www.floatchinesemedicalarts.com/

WHO:

Dr. Aimee Wheeler is passionate about helping parents strengthen their bonds with their children and develop greater understanding of the ways in which their personal histories impact the relationships they forge.  As the mother of two young children, Aimee utilizes her personal experience and education to approach her work with compassion and understanding.  Aimee received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and her Doctorate in Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.  She is the founder of Parenting Discovery Center ( http://www.parentingdiscoverycenter.com).  The Parenting Discovery Center works with individuals, families, caregivers and groups of parents to enhance their self understanding and build healthy and resilient relationships.

We hope to see you on Saturday, August 11 from 10-11:30 am!  Space is limited.  PLEASE RSVP to abigail@floatchinesemedicalarts.com or 818-392-8797.

Other Upcoming Free Lectures at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts – please Save the Date!

Sat 9/15/12, 10am-12pm: Having a VBAC: A Holistic Approach to Preparing for a VBAC – Workshop with Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., featuring several VBAC moms sharing their stories

Sat 10/13/12, 10-11:30am: Why your Baby Doesn’t Want a Perfect Mommy – Lecture w/ Aimee Wheeler, PsyD

Again, PLEASE RSVP to abigail@floatchinesemedicalarts.com or 818-392-8797.

See you soon!

How Does Acupuncture Help Fertility?

Perhaps you’ve noticed an increase in the number of baby shower invites you’ve received lately.   You’re having trouble jogging around the reservoir without bumping into double strollers.  And friends who were on the Career Track have made the shift to the Baby Track.  It’s no secret there’s a baby boom going on in the United States – and it seems to be magnified in our major cities.

A recent Los Angeles Magazine article by Monica Corcoran Harel subtitled “One Woman’s Window Into L.A’s Booming Fertility Industry” profiles Ms. Harel’s journey to conceive – the happy ending (spoiler alert!) involves Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.  Harel’s piece cites, “the number of women over 40 in California giving birth increased by 300 percent in the 1990s.”

When I started specializing in Women’s Health and the Childbearing Cycle, I knew I’d be getting referrals from existing patients, obstetricians, midwives and doulas, but I never expected to get patients sent directly to me by their Reproductive Endocrinologists (fertility doctors).  When you help a woman who’s been trying to conceive for 4 years finally get pregnant, they don’t hesitate to tell all their friends (and doctors).

I treat many women over 40 who are using various forms of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), but I also treat a lot of women (and some men) who have been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”  – in other words, “you still have plenty of eggs and your hormone levels are normal (even over 40), so we don’t know why you’re not getting pregnant.”  This is one area where Oriental Medicine really shines.

But how, exactly, can needles and herbs help you get – and stay – pregnant?  Let me explain the basics.

Acupuncture is one technique of Traditional Oriental Medicine.  It involves the insertion of sterile, stainless steel needles at specific points on the channels through which Qi (or energy) flows.  Stimulating these points helps restore the normal flow of Qi in the body so the internal organs and body systems can work together in harmony.  Restoring Qi flow helps to regulate the female hormones, can lower FSH levels, and break up masses (such as cysts, polyps or fibroids).  Acupuncture does this without any drugs or side effects.

In Oriental Medicine, herbal formulas are used to facilitate the body’s own restorative processes.  Acupuncturists in California are highly trained in the science of herbal medicine and a pharmacopeia that consists of about 500 Chinese herbs.  Chinese herbal formulas contain combinations of roots, seeds, grains, flowers, berries, fruit, bark, leaves, stems, shells, nuts, resin, or seaweed.  The goal of Chinese herbal medicine is to treat the root of a problem, rather than simply medicating its symptoms.  In so doing, the patient’s body is stimulated to heal itself.

  • Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine nourish and moves the blood; increasing blood flow to the uterus can enhance implantation of an embryo in the endometrium (uterine lining).
  • Acupuncture helps reduce stress – and if you’ve ever struggled to get pregnant or know someone who has, you know how stressful it can be.
  • Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine help improve egg quality (this takes at least 90 days), which is important for women of “advanced maternal age” (35 and over).  We’re born with all the eggs we’ll ever have, and unfortunately, these eggs don’t get any younger.
  • Acupuncture, herbal medicine, good nutrition and moxibustion are excellent for helping women enhance their fertility in the months leading up to a couples’ attempt to get pregnant – whether there are known fertility problems or not.
  • Acupuncture helps IVF (in vitro fertilization) work better.  A well-known study showed that “clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group.”  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11937123)
  • Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine help reduce the nasty side effects of the fertility drugs that are sometimes necessary to help women get pregnant, especially the cocktail of drugs used with IVF.

Sometimes, in the desire to get pregnant and have a baby, it’s easy to lose track of oneself.  I often see women becoming hyper-focused on those lines on the pee sticks, the fertile signs, and the image of a baby, baby, baby.  It’s easy to lose track of the fact that as childbearing women, we are our child’s house: everything we put into our bodies, the state of our emotional, physical and mental health affects not only our ability to conceive but also the way we grow the child inside us.  The beauty of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it takes the whole person into consideration; we do not only treat the disease or problem (i.e. infertility, endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), we treat the person’s whole ecosystem.

Learn more about using Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine to boost fertility here.

(Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.)

Boost Qi and Blood with a Slow-Cooked Winter Stew

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the ancient yet Modern approach to treating the whole person with acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition and bodywork, is about 5,000 years old.  It is a system of internal medicine that uses tongue and pulse diagnosis, along with attentive listening and looking at the person, to address a wide range of issues including but not limited to pain, stress, depression, anxiety, digestive problems, infertility, general health and longevity.

The Ancient Chinese considered food and herbs to be medicine; Modern Nutrition that is inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine uses food and herbs to nourish Qi and Blood.  It looks at the effect a particular food has on the body, rather than how many grams of iron it contains in a laboratory; does it warm us up or cool us down?  Does it move Qi or help us make more yin or yang?  Raw lettuce eaten by one individual in the summer might make her feel energetic, yet when eaten in February, it might make her bloated, tired, and gassy.

The average American today is deficient in Qi (a.k.a. energy or Life Force), which can show up as fatigue, depression, sluggish digestion, bloating, and loose stools, among other things.  Many Americans are also deficient in Blood (they may be anemic, pale, prone to irregular periods, light-headedness, insomnia, have difficulty concentrating or poor memory), as is anyone who has lost blood via menstruation, childbirth, or trauma.

The good thing is that we can make more Qi and Blood by eating the right foods, herbs, doing regular exercise, getting acupuncture, and reducing stress.  In Winter, we should eat warming foods such as organic grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and chicken, sweet potatoes, dark leafy green vegetables, barley and brown rice.  We should avoid cold and raw foods.  In the Summer, it’s best to eat more cooling foods, including brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish.

I like to think that the best medicine is located within us; we are all our own greatest healers.  We are what we eat, of course, and the importance of eating locally grown, seasonal and organic food is even more important in this day and age of genetically modified foods and packaged everything.

In my opinion, there’s nothing more healing than cooking a meal with ingredients I bought at the Pasadena farmer’s market (while wearing my 6-month-old in a sling and pushing my 2-and-a-half-year-old in a jogging stroller), washing the veggies with help from the kids, chopping them mindfully, picking a few herbs from the garden, and putting everything together into a yummy winter stew.  (Find your own SoCal farmer’s market here).

The slow-cooker (a.k.a Crock Pot), while a modern invention, is quite suited to Chinese Nutrition (not to mention the Slow Food Movement) because it heats food at low temperatures (180-280 degrees) over a long period of time (6-9 hours).  It’s incredibly useful for those of us who are big on good intentions but short on time; we want to prepare healthy and delicious meals for our families but are overwhelmed by the demands of work and family.  A good 6-quart slow-cooker is a busy parent’s best friend.  You can get a nice one at Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, or a perfectly good one (perhaps from the 1970’s) at a yard sale.

Here, I share with you a recipe I’ve developed for the slow-cooker; it is just as good cooked in my favorite stoneware Dutch oven, but that involves more preparation and oven-watching time (which can be nice and meditative, if there’s extra hands around my house to keep an eye on the kids).  The great thing about this slow-cooker version is you can prep it in the morning, turn on the slow-cooker, completely forget about it, and dinner will be ready 8 hours later.  Slow Food for a Fast-Paced Life.

Abigail’s Winter Stew

Serves 6-8, or a family of 4 with leftovers

(Inspired by a recipe from my grandmother, Jeanne O’Sullivan Sachs, along with inspiration from “Not Your Mother’s Slow-Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and “Feeding The Whole Family” by Cynthia Lair.  These are two excellent, highly-recommended cookbooks.)

All vegetables should be organic and preferably bought locally

2 lb boneless chuck grass-fed beef (ideally organic and locally grown)

2 medium red onions, chopped

4 lg. carrots, chopped

2 parsnips, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

8-12 small boiling potatoes (fingerling, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold)

1 28-oz can organic whole peeled tomatoes

1 T. cumin

1 Bay Leaf

Pinch cayenne

Sea Salt (to taste)

Black pepper

1 T. Olive Oil

2 c. beef broth (make your own or use store-bought)

1 c. good red wine (Syrah or Zinfandel work well)

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Coat slow-cooker with olive oil, using a cloth napkin to distribute it around the stoneware insert.

2. Saute onions and celery in a pan until translucent.  Add garlic and a pinch of sea salt.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

3. In a bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper.  Toss the beef in the mixture, shaking off excess flour, and place on a plate.

4. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the meat in batches, gently stirring, making sure all sides get browned.  Add more olive oil to the skillet when necessary.

5.  Place the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and celery on the bottom of the slow-cooker.

6. Place the browned meat on a plate covered with a muslin cloth or paper towel, blotting up excess oil, and then transfer the meat to the slow-cooker.

7. Add the onion, celery and garlic mixture to the slow-cooker, stirring gently to make sure they are distributed throughout the dish.

8. In a bowl, mix together the red wine, beef broth, cumin, and pinch of salt.  Pour into the slow-cooker.  Add the bay leaf.

9. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours.  (Check after 7 hours for doneness, and season w/ sea salt to taste at that point.)

10.  Discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the parsley, and serve the stew over brown rice.  I do believe this stew is best the next day.

(Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.)