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No Pain Never Again!

It’s lucky for the human race that we have a very short memory when it comes to pain and stress.  If we remembered these sensations acutely, I doubt very much anything worth doing would be repeated.  Everyone would be a single child, no one would change job or partner, and we would all still be living in caves huddled around a stick wondering what that stuff is that is hot but hurts when you touch it.  The mantra No Pain No Gain would instead be No Pain Never Again!

Stress and pain are, of course, both an essential part of life.  How, for instance, could there be love without these two vital ingredients? In health, we actually thrive under these conditions.  But it’s all relative I guess; what I consider pain is pleasure for another person.  Actually, I can relate to that; in what seems another life time ago, I used to run marathons…for pleasure!

Routine versus Stress

We all prefer routine over chaos, don’t we?  I’m currently in the process of moving house.  Being surrounded by boxes, all my precious things gathered up into one or two rooms, has given me some insight into the mind of a hoarder.  They must feel rotten all the time, but I suppose that is why it’s considered a mental illness; it wouldn’t be called an illness if wasn’t a bad state to be in.

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It probably isn’t the best way of doing it, packing everything up before even having a move date, but I haven’t had a lot of practice; I think this is only the fourth time I’ve moved in the last 35 years, and every time before now I’ve only had a few things.  Since the time I moved from my parents’ home in 1993 I seem to have accumulated a lot more stuff.  People who move a lot must have it down to a fine art.  Perhaps the trick is to not have a lot of stuff.  I imagine minimalists have a secret second house where they stash all their stuff.

Chaos Junkies

But no one craves chaos, surely?  Although it does appear to follow some people around.  In actual fact, a little bit of chaos, an adrenaline rush, can be quite good for you.  As I’ve mentioned previously in my blogs, when your Qi is low, it sometimes requires a little bit of a nudge, that’s why we feel better after exercising or eating a little sugar.

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It can be quite a thrill to experience a bit of a rush every now and then; the adrenaline rush of a rollercoaster ride or jumping out of a plane.   Some people deliberately seek out this type of rush, and constantly crave increasingly greater extremes, such as base-jumping, or even body modifications.  In TCM we attribute this to a Heart-Qi inbalance.  Qi must move, but as it becomes weaker it takes more to move it.  This can lead to all sorts of problems, most notably addictions: gambling, eating, alcohol, drugs, even running.

Control is an illusion

The body loves routine and regularity.  Each of the body’s organs has it’s own flow and rhythm.  The most obvious is the heart of course; second by second, minute by minute, year by year, the heart beats on, but it is only when that pattern is disrupted that we really notice it.  It might rush when we are excited, or miss a beat when we are shocked.

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We all like to think we are in control, and maybe we are in the West to some extent, but none of us truly are.  Nobody involved in a terror-attack, especially in cities like London, expected it to happen to them.   And even in less settled places such as Kabul, the rapid Taliban takeover still came as a bit of a shock to most people there.  Just imagine waking up one day to find out you have to leave your home immediately with just the clothes you stand in and the few knick-knacks you can grab. Or even worse, the suede-denim secret police are knocking at your door.

It is important that we look after our Qi, as none of us knows when their live might be really shook up.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be called a shock, just a surprise, which sounds infinitely more pleasant.

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Yul Grinner

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.


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Cancer: the ‘Western’ Disease?

One in two people will develop cancer at one point in their lifetime.  That sounds pretty terrifying, doesn’t it?  Before I begin then, let’s get some perspective; not everyone who gets cancer dies of cancer.  Cancer treatments have come a long way in recent years, especially if they are identified early.    It is now possible to identify a cancer in its very early stages and remove it completely, therefore curing it.  Today you are likely to live nearly 6 times longer after a cancer diagnosis than you were 40 years ago.   You are 95% more likely to survive bowel cancer than you were only 15 years ago.

Is Cancer becoming more common?

The simple answer is yes, cancer is more common today.  This is mainly because we are living longer, but also because we live in a very different world now.  Traditionally we lived as part of the land, in harmony, taking what we needed and not destroying it.  Now we are far removed from the lands where are foods are grown.  Being separate from the world is like separating Yin from Yang; one cannot exist without the other.  However, is seems that the more advanced we become, the further we seem to move away from nature.

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Ill health of the planet can only result in ill health of its inhabitants, which ultimately means disease and extinction.  What happens in the macrocosm is also happening in the microcosm, including the human body.

No longer simply a disease of aging.

Breast cancer is now much more common in younger women, even in their 20s.  Childhood leukemias are occurring more frequently.  Testicular cancer, a disease of younger men, wasn’t even mentioned in the 1960s because it was so rare.

Our environment is now awash with carcinogenic chemicals.  Solvents, plasticizers, cosmetics, fire retardants, fertilizers, medicines, herbicides, and pesticides, are in our food, what we wear and what we sit on.  It’s everywhere.  Today there are over 100,000 new chemicals on the earth, never before seen by living beings.  Approximately 33,000 of them are in daily use and, of those, only about 1500 have been studied for human health effects.  No time at all for the complicated human immune system to evolve and adapt to cope.

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Even if a chemical is banned it doesn’t make much of a difference, as once in the earth, their effects can persist for thousands of years.  DDT, (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) for instance, was banned in many countries in the early 1970s, but it is still found in the environment and in the breast tissue of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  And even today, it isn’t banned in all countries.  In fact, it is being actively promoted by the World Health Organisation to fight malaria in Africa.  (It’s complicated, of course; killing the mosquitos that spread malaria saves the lifes of millions, but at a cost.  It’s a toss-up between which one kills the least).

Cancer and Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medical theory is holistic, whereas the modern western world is predominantly reductionist.  Reductionism breaks everything down to explain it in the simplest terms, separating the many from the whole.  This is all well and good, but when it comes to explaining very complicated things like nature or the human body, it is woefully inadequate.  Holism, on the other hand, takes into consideration how one thing (or many things) affects everything else.

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Greenhouses covering 64,000 acres in Almeria, Spain.

Reductionism is a way of thinking that separates us from our world.  The Heart and the Mind are no longer connected, that is why we can so easily allow damaging industrial practices to continue.  We no longer live in our bodies except from the head up.  What gets our attention is usually some sort of dysfunction, and the resulting symptoms are usually an indication that a long-term process has been in place.

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Factory farming abomination

Western Disease

In Chinese Medicine we believe that the root of all illness is from an external factor or an internal factor, or both.  External factors include the weather, the environment and pollution, what we eat and put into our bodies, and trauma.   Internal factors are our emotions, such as anger, fear and worry.  And of course, external factors will also cause or aggravate internal factors; ever felt angry on a windy day?

The Causes of Disease

Climatic: Wind, Cold, Summer-Heat, Dampness, Dryness, Fire

Other: Weak Constitution, Over-Exertion, Excessive Sexual Activity, Bad Diet, Trauma, Parasites and   Poisons, Wrong Treatment.

Emotional: Anger, Joy, Worry, Pensiveness, Sadness, Fear, Shock.

You will recall from my earlier blogs that each organ has an associated emotion.  For example, grieving and sadness not expressed and resolved will affect the Lung.  This may lead to shallow breathing and the suppression of breathing, which can lead to a lower level of oxygenation and can contribute to the oppression and stasis of Qi in the chest and then in the body overall.

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Yul Grinner

A healthy Liver allows for the free-flow of Qi and blood, and so is affected by suppressed emotions, such as anger.  Liver energy can be stifled or frustrated by life itself, for instance unlived dreams and unfulfillment.

A healthy Spleen enables us to nourish and parent ourselves adequately, so a Spleen out of balance can lead to choosing improper relationships, eating the wrong foods, and not knowing how to love oneselve without feeling selfish.  The central isles in the supermarket are full of the expression of this imbalance.

Bearing all this in mind then, I don’t think it is implausible to suggest that suppressed emotions, unhappiness, and lack of fulfilment are the true underlying causes of ‘Western diseases’.  We call it ‘stress’ and ‘depression’.

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.


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Springtime and Emerging from Lockdown

What does Spring mean to you?  Traditionally it is a time of new beginnings, a time when we burst forth with renewed vigour after a long winter of rest and recovery.  As we slowly emerge from Lockdown (again), this all sounds quite relevant.

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Gulag COVID 19

One of the things I’ve been hearing my patients complain of lately, especially over the last few months, is  a feeling of oppression (and depression).  While we’ve all been staying at home, nature has been quietly stirring, readying itself for the Spring.  And we’ve obviously been very aware of that, if not consciously, certainly subconsciously.  Afterall, locking people up is a punishment; that’s why prisons exist. So we’re all gagging to get out in the open again, see friends and family, eat out and just be outdoors in general.  But why does it feel like we’re out on parole?

The Liver and Accepting Change

To me, Spring is not only about new growth and expansion, but it’s also about flexibility and the ability to make changes.  Those of us who were unable to adapt and change direction in a short space of time, were hit the hardest by the Lockdown.

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The damage is done when nature is suppressed.  In the West we have this obsession with covering everything with concrete and tarmac.  If you walk down the road it is difficult to spot anywhere that hasn’t been covered.  Every garden, every park, is trimmed back and cosmetically altered to within an inch of its life, just like a member of TOWIE.  But you’ve only got to look at somewhere like Chernobyl to see what happens when man’s intervention is taken away; nature returns quickly, and in abundance (even though it’s still so radioactive that man cannot return there for hundreds of years).  If you’ve ever had vine weed in your garden, you know that there is no holding it back.

You only have to look at your own health to see what happens when your true nature is suppressed; it makes you ill.  If you are in a job you hate or in a relationship where you can’t be yourself, you will soon start to feel the effects of suppressing your emotions.  This might be an extreme reaction like going ‘postal’, or more subdued like simply becoming depressed.  A study in the USA showed that people with anxiety/depression died 7.9 years earlier than other persons.

The gall(bladder) of it!

In Chinese medicine it is the Wood element that is associated with the Springtime.  But that doesn’t mean that the Wood is only important in Spring (or even the Springtime of life, which is childhood).  We need the flexibility and resilience of the Wood element to not only move forward in life, but also to withstand life’s rigours.  In Chinese Medicine the Liver and Gallbladder are the Wood organs, and it is the health of these organs that enables us to cope with life’s twists and turns.  This applies to our emotional and spiritual states, as well as the physical.  The Liver is the warrior: it enables you to make plans, expand and strive forward.  The Gallbladder is the decision maker: it supports the Liver in its military endeavours.

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You only have to look at an old or dying tree to see what happens when the Wood element is unhealthy.  It will snap or be uprooted by even the lightest of winds.  Another good example is the Marijuana smoker.  Energetically, Marijuana is a Wood herb which invigorates the Liver but suppresses the Gallbladder.  That’s why spliff-heads have amazing ideas but lack the drive to actually do anything!

Liver Qi Stagnation

On the other hand, when the Liver is stagnant, it constrains the qi.  This can mean heat and pain in the chest and ribs, distention (which in the west we call bloating), constipation and IBS, headaches or emotional problems (usually related to anger, frustration and resentment).  And if there is any pain, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be Liver involvement.  For instance, Liver qi stagnation can stop periods or cause period pain.

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Yul Grinner

Liver qi stagnation is caused by stress, emotional tension and disruption of internal cycles and circadian rhythms by shift work, all the things that have been part of Lockdown and the COVID pandemic.   And to top it all off, any Liver disharmony also has a significant likelihood of causing knots in the muscles of the upper back and neck due to the muscle tightness and spasm characteristic of qi constraint.

Become a tree-hugger

Now the weather is changing and we are filled with renewed vigour after the Lockdown, get outside and allow your Liver qi to move and expand.  If you live near the sea, take a walk along the shoreline and take in the expanse; nourish your lungs and your eyes.  If you live more inland, get out of the town and into the countryside; hug a tree and become the Wood element!

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If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.