Posted by: corneliadavies | August 10, 2018

Why I love it when patients doze off during acupuncture treatment

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The fact that people regularly doze during acupuncture might surprise you, but it’s true and it’s great. It’s a bit of relaxing time out for the person on the couch, and it’s good for other reasons, too.

Research scientists know that when we sleep, doze or relax with our minds in a comfortable “neutral” state we actually make cellular repair and create new cells more effectively. On the other hand, when we stay super-alert the mind-body is more involved with awake, “thinky” things, and we make fewer new cells, so bodily repair is slowed down.

This is all fine, as the body is a wonderfully complex piece of equipment with priorities shifting by the second. It’s not unlike how we use and look after machinery. When a machine is in full use we don’t do routine maintenance. Instead, we take our cars to the garage or do “house-keeping” on our computers when we’re not using them for other things.

Most people feel a surprising level of relaxation during treatment. This is because the needles activate microscopic parts of our nervous systems that quieten down conscious activity and step up repair levels. I always think that when this happens people are getting the “nuts and bolts” benefit of the acupuncture, plus the extra bonus of the body shifting gear into automatic maintenance at the same time. This is a win-win situation.

Of course, some people are on high alert all the time, and it’s less likely that they will go “down” into a more relaxed state during treatment. For individual reasons, their body-minds find it necessary to stay vigilant.

This is not a problem, as the nuts and bolts part of treatment will still be active, but the extra bonus will be absent.

I deliberately try to let people have some time alone in the treatment room while the needles are doing their work, so that they have a better chance of going “down” into this lovely level of extra relaxation. However, quite frequently I when I return to the room a patient will say to me, “I nearly dozed off then.” That tells me that the person has forced themselves to stay awake and alert because they think that they should. At times like this I take the opportunity to encourage them to let go next time this happens, and I explain that when they do this they will get the extra bonus of more cellular repair and renewal.

 

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I’m “borrowing” an American colleague’s blog today because I think she has written very well about scar removal and improvement and why you might want or not want to go that route. I quite often “find” scars on patients because they flag an area of pain or impeded movement and when I examine it I find an old scar. People often don’t realise that a scar might have a lot of hard, dead scar tissue below or around it that pulls on or deadens nearby tissue. In many cases acupuncture can help to soften the area to a degree, even with a scar that may be decades old. It’s worth a try, and your acupuncturist will often do this as a “side issue” while they’re treating you for something else.

TwoHeartsWellness

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Scars are a natural expression of the healing process.  Injuries that produce them develop in three steps at wound site: inflammation, then proliferation, and then remodeling.  Sometimes this works out nicely and other times, depending on circumstances, the scar can be debilitating or genuinely unsightly.  What, then, to do about your scar tissue?

I wrote about blog post about what traditional Chinese medicine can do for your scars.  Primarily, the approach we take it to either treat with acupuncture or by lightly scraping the area with a jade instrument in a technique known as gua sha.  (To read that post, go here).  What I didn’t cover were reasons to remove the scar and reasons to keep them.

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MetaScreen shot of a Facebook post

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What to do about scar tissue is somewhat of a personal issue.  If the injury is severe enough, you may have to wait…

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Posted by: corneliadavies | July 3, 2018

Acupuncture training in China diary. Part 2. Settling in.

flautist-(2)_ed_webApril 14th
I had to write my ‘speech’ for tomorrow’s opening ceremony. Wang Yue, the helpful organiser and translator in the office, asked me to do this, as an incoming student. I went to the office and typed it on her computer, as she wanted to be sure she could print it and translate it ahead. But she was out. Doris, who works at the next desk, told me to go ahead and type it into Wang Yue’s computer, anyway. So I started to, except that the machine was set up for Chinese, so everything I wrote emerged in Chinese characters after a couple of key strokes… interesting, but strange. Amidst laughter, Doris sorted it: As most of the instruction icons are in Chinese, I was a bit stuck for sorting it myself!

This afternoon I took Dobbin (the bike) out for his first proper spin. I wanted to visit the Temple of the White Cloud the other side of Beijing, which caused Doris and the others in the office to grin at me and say: “we want you back for tomorrow” (a comment on Beijing traffic, apparently). Well, the traffic was fine. OK, it was slightly challenging at the intersections of major roads, of which there are many (capital city, 12 million inhabitants… ), but I stayed with the cycle pack, and we all crossed together.

The temple is beautiful and peaceful, and was a very appropriate place for me to centre myself before the course. It’s a temple compound, with many small. Daoist shrines within, so is a very suitable place for an acupuncturist. I spent two gloriously peaceful hours there, and realised just how much it’s OK being here on my own.

Later, most of the other students were going out on a bonding exercise to a ‘special bar’. I guess I didn’t look too impressed, because the Swiss woman, Tamara, who was sort of insisting I go, said: “yes, I don’t like smoky pubs either, so we’ll just spend a short time and come home”. So I agreed. And it was smoky, and noisy and bizarre: why would a Western European band go to Beijing and play cover versions of Dire Straits and Santana numbers in a large, Western style pub???? Yep… it was an experience, and yep: we went home early (phew!).

April 15th
It was time for the much-awaited opening ceremony for the course.

These things are done according to a certain formula, with prestige being very important. The doctors and professors made speeches, welcoming us and extolling our virtues and their virtues. All very correct. And then I was called on to make my speech. (Sorry? Just me? I thought all the students were making speeches.) Yes, apparently my opening introduction that I’d written for Wang Yue to translate was not just one of the student introductions; it was the speech from the representative student. Ah! Of course! In China everyone must have their say in the right place, so as all the directors and doctors etc. had made speeches, it was only correct that one of the students should, too.

So I made my speech, in bite-sized pieces, and Wang Yue translated each section. Then everyone politely applauded. Then we went to the restaurant attached to the Institute and had the welcome banquet. All very friendly, with the professors and translators scattered amongst us. Talking to Dr Huo, the deputy director who had given the main welcoming speech, Tamara said in surprise: “Oh, so you speak English. Then why didn’t you give your speech in English?” “Because we are in China, so some things must be done in Chinese”, said his translator, quick as a flash. “Ah!” we all said, understanding the importance of this…

I like China. This is most definitely not a third world country, something I think we tend to forget. Things are certainly different here, and everything isn’t ‘bling’, as it sometimes is in the West, but I don’t have a problem with that. Actually, if it were ‘bling’, it would have to be continually cleaned or replaced, as one thing that seems certain here is the dust. It blows in from the Gobi Dessert, which is pretty inescapable. In my first diary entry, I teasingly mentioned the sweeping, and sweeping is, indeed, a big issue here: an unending issue. It’s DUSTY!

Today contained many delightful moments: some very simple pieces of human interaction: like the Chinese girl who unwisely tried to cross a busy intersection, against the traffic at the same moment that I tried to do the same, from the opposite side of the road. We both stopped in our tracks and simultaneously noticed each other as a mirror, and joyfully laughed at each other as a big lorry passed. We’re all the same really, when it comes to it…

Posted by: corneliadavies | June 13, 2018

A UK Acupuncturist’s experience of Chinese hospital acupuncture

 

post-4_ed_webThis time 12 years ago I was in China.

Having qualified as an acupuncturist in the UK in 1983, in 2006 I decided to go to China and expand my knowledge of Chinese medicine “at source” in an acupuncture college in Beijing. It was a time crammed with hectically busy mornings in hospital acupuncture departments and afternoons in the classroom. I learned so much and my acupuncture practice has never looked back.

Every day I wrote about my experiences, and I’m going to share some of those diary entries in this blog for a few sessions.

April 11th

Well, I expected to see plenty of bicycles in Beijing, but I wasn’t ready to encounter one in the departure hall at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4. I loved it though: all dolled up in yellow fluorescent vinyl, with yellow panniers front and back and an operator in matching jacket. ‘London Bicycle Ambulance’, it proudly declared on the crossbars. Yes, Terminal 4’s departure paramedic ready to cycle into action at a moment’s notice. And I thought it was a great idea… but how did they get it past health and safety?

Flying to China was about as interesting as these long haul flights ever are, except that when I wasn’t sleeping in the early hours, dawn tinged the tops of a the massive Sayan mountain range north east of Urumqi. Quite staggering in size, these mountains seem to spread over an enormous area, which just slips by, silently, under the aeroplane. To my awareness, so used to comfortable, green, accessible England, I couldn’t really grasp the concept of what I was seeing: except its barren beauty, like a relief map. While the sun lit up the southern faces, the backs were thrown into shadowy relief.

… And glaciers, and long, winding rivers, and then a huge, frozen lake around Ulan-Ude.

Now I’m experiencing my first, jet-lagged day in Beijing, fresh off the plane, as they say. I’m settled into the accommodation attached to the Acupuncture Institute. It’s rather like stepping into an oriental version of the 1950’s: no frills, no recent decoration, but most things work, mostly. And tomorrow, they promise me, I’ll have Internet connection. We’ll see.

The part of Beijing I’m in seems to be ‘acupuncture supplies district’. The two nearest streets are bristling with shops and warehouses advertising acupuncture needles, guasha equipment, moxa etc. I guess it’s to do with the proximity of the acupuncture training centre and hospital campus, but I’ll find out when I move around out of the immediate district a bit more.

My favourite window items are plastic display point location models of a Friesian cow, with exposed muscles on one side and acupuncture channels on the other. I’m quite used to acupuncture models of people, ears, hands, feet and even horses, but the cow takes the biscuit. I think my reaction is partly due to having been brought up surrounded by Jerseys, Guernseys and Ayreshires, with the nearest Friesians 2 miles away: I think we always saw them as the “townie upstart cows,” but maybe that should suit Beijing…

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13th April

I woke surprisingly early, and went to the piece of grass a minute away to do my QiGong and some yoga. While I was there, several people stopped for varying amounts of time and did a few minutes’ exercise. Even though I am still awake at odd times of night, due to jet lag, I have to get back into some sort of exercise habit.

Today my bicycle turned up: old, but not hugely shabby. It arrived in a sleek black VW with a VIP notice in the front: wonderfully incongruous. My friend Pat (or perhaps ‘ex-Pat’, as she’s been here a while?) borrows the driver and car when her flat mate is out of town on business.

Later I took Dobbin (the bike now has a name) to see Bicycle Repair Man, literally round the corner from the Institute. Pat had told me he would recognise it, as he had sold it again and again, to a succession of students, at a tidy profit, until an Iranian acupuncture student took it out of the loop by leaving it in Pat’s care. He did. ‘I know’, I said in English (damn, I wish I could speak Mandarin!). A few minutes later it squeaked a lot less (brake adjusted) and was easier for me to ride (saddle moved to its lowest position).

This evening I took it for a local area spin – not too far: I need to get used to the combination of bike, traffic and local driving customs. Within minutes of setting off from higgledy-piggledy high-rise modern Beijing I had turned down a street just over a busy junction and I was suddenly in old China. The street was narrow, with slow people, slow, slow cars and meandering bicycles. All the buildings were one story, and, curiously, all painted a uniform battleship grey.

As I neared the end of this street, where, once again 21st centaury life awaited, I smelled the unmistakable aroma of lamb kebabs: souvlakia, and immediately I was back in Crete – except for one small detail: apart from me, every single person was Chinese. I felt perfectly, utterly safe. In fact, very few people even showed that they noticed me, the only foreigner in their midst.

Before I left for China, a colleague told me that when he was in Nanjing, however crowded it was, the energy of the people was always very peaceful and quiet. I am beginning to notice that, too. When I observed it last night, I wondered if it is because most Chinese people at some time do some centring martial art: probably QiGong or tai chi. It must have a long term effect on the centeredness of their energy that also has a collective result. Which makes you wonder how the harmony of the whole world would be if everyone took some time for these things… or their own version.

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Posted by: corneliadavies | May 19, 2018

“Ne’er Cast A Clout Till May Be Out”

“Ne’er Cast A Clout Till May Be Out”

Old English proverb or Chinese wisdom?

Translation: “Don’t discard any clothing until June.”

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(Or it might relate to May blossom, otherwise known as hawthorn flowers, which come out in late April or early May.)

This last couple of weeks I’ve noticed a rash of people coming into the clinic with unexpected May colds and stiff necks. In Chinese medicine this makes complete sense, as spring is traditionally known as a time when we are vulnerable to illness, and should therefore take extra care.

We take this care during the inclement winter months, and then we discard clothing with gay abandon (or is it relief?) as soon as the temperature soars beyond 15 degrees.

This is all very understandable, and I am as quick as the next person to reach for my shorts with utter joy, as winter seems finally to have left.

But later during a warm day, or the next day, when temperatures plummet along with the arrival of a stiff easterly breeze are you reluctant to dress warmly enough? Once the T-shirt is on the top of the clothing pile will you willingly reach for your snuggly fleece?

In Chinese medicine “language” we talk in such archaic-sounding terms as wind-cold invasion when we’re diagnosing a cold that came on after someone literally got cold. Understandably, this infuriates and bemuses Western scientists, as they ask us, “Don’t you people know that colds are caused by viruses?” Yes, of course we do! As a profession, we communicate better when we explain that we do, indeed, understand things from a modern medical perspective, and that when we say someone has wind-cold invasion this is shorthand, which may mean that a person got unexpectedly cold, and that their already compromised immune system allowed a virus to penetrate the body’s defences.

In the case of someone with excruciating neck pain that came on after turning it suddenly I would ask diagnostic questions, examine the area of pain and surrounding areas, and examine the pulses and tongue. As an acupuncturist, my conclusion will always be specific to the individual and the circumstances surrounding their injury.

Yesterday, when treating someone with exactly this issue I concluded, from palpation of her upper back and neck that she already carried a lot of tension and consequent knotting of the muscles in this area. Added to that we’d had hot days, followed by colder evenings and then a return of much colder days, during which time her body probably struggled to find an appropriate warm/cold equilibrium. Then she had put some extra stress on her neck and “ping” it made a clicking sound, followed by restriction of movement and pain. In addition to all this, she’s a cold person. That’s “Chinese medicine speak” again. It means she has a long-term tendency to feel colder that the average person, though if you took her temperature it would be normal. This is another subject in acupuncture, so I won’t go into it here.

At this time of year I am delighted that we all have the chance to get our bodies out in the sunshine and start making Vitamin D, which has become so depleted during the winter months. However, I do encourage people to carry extra clothing in their cars and bags for when the sun disappears. Scarves, leggings, socks, an extra jumper or coat: all or any of these might save you the hassle of a spring cold or neck ache.

But keep your acupuncturist’s phone number at hand, in case you need help to resolve things.

If we make the old English proverb, “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” into a pearl of Chinese wisdom perhaps we could say something like, “Keep your fur-collared robe at hand until the spring winds have died a thousand deaths.”

© Cornelia Davies May 2018

 

Posted by: corneliadavies | February 13, 2016

Spirulina

DSC02640_edited and borderDSC02607_edited_webHappy Chinese New Year 2016!

Spirulina – blue-green algae

Spirulina is a dried blue-green algae. It’s a super food.

Rich in nutrients

It contains an astonishing number of nutrients, including significant amounts of protein.

Here are some of the vitamins it contains: vitamin B complex, vitamin A, beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamin E.

And minerals: zinc, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium and phosphorus.

It also contains amino acids, including 8 essential ones, and 2,000 enzymes.

Spirulina doesn’t necessarily contain iodine, but it is an algae, so you should avoid it if you have an iodine or seafood allergy.

Spirulina is a particularly significant food for vegetarians because of the protein and iron it contains, both of which can be deficient in people who don’t eat meat. It’s great, nutritious food for omnivores, too.

You should also take advice about ingesting spirulina if you’re pregnant.

How to use spirulina

Spirulina is great in stews or soups, or stirred into porridge (be prepared to watch your porridge turn a strong green, though!) It’s also great stirred into yoghurt. If you’re a smoothie person it makes any smoothie into a green one. Some people even have it with pasta and pesto.

Sprinkle it onto food and stir in well.

Cornelia Davies, Acupuncture Kingsbridge

Tel: 01548 550251

Email: info@acupuncturekingsbridge.co.uk

Web: http://www.acupuncturekingsbridge.co.uk

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Posted by: corneliadavies | December 28, 2015

Do I have to do anything to “help” acupuncture treatment work?

blog lifestyle changes

 

Q. If I have acupuncture do I have to do anything different in my life?

A. No, you don’t have to do anything, except show up in relaxed, comfortable clothes. You don’t even have to believe in acupuncture, because it works on a physiological level, via microscopic neural pathways that send messages to your brain. Your brain, in turn, sends messages to your body in order to kick off positive chemical, and often anti-inflammatory reactions. This means that by just lying on a treatment couch and having tiny needles inserted your health should begin to improve.

Q. That sounds great, but are there things I could do to help treatment work even better?

A. Yes, there are, but first let me explain how we get to that self-help place. When I work I consider myself to be part of a team with each patient.

Many people come to acupuncture seriously unwell, and pretty desperate to be “fixed”. In that case, I would simply ask quite a few questions, examine the tongue and pulses, and start treatment.

Frequently, acupuncture “newbies” are not just unwell, but also unfit and quite possibly eating inadvisably, too. However, at that beginning stage I actually prefer not to ask them to adjust exercise or diet. For the first few treatments I want to see what differences acupuncture, alone, makes.

However, once someone’s firmly on the road to better health we might decide it’s time to make some lifestyle changes. Those changes will be discussed by them and me in partnership. I will never “make” someone make changes: they need to want to be part of that process.

When that time comes we’ll discuss their needs, and work out, together, what their initial goals might be. This means that no one feels bullied or coerced.

For instance, some people who are overweight or unfit may decide to stay that way, rather than make changes, particularly if they are unwell enough that they’re struggling to get through the day as it is. This will become clear when we’ve had one or two discussions about eating habits or exercise. They may say, “Acupuncture is helping me to feel better as time goes on, but I really don’t think I can cope with doing stretching exercises as well as everything else.” If that’s really how they feel I’ll respect that, though I may revisit the question a few weeks later, to see whether things have changed. Sometimes they have, sometimes not.

Other people are (sometimes surprisingly) ready to make changes after a few weeks of acupuncture treatment. This is because as acupuncture has been “rewiring” them they feel fitter and more able to tackle lifestyle changes that previously felt out of reach.

In that case it might be time to talk to them about their diet and how it might be adjusted to suit their body type. Chinese medicine is clear that slightly different types of food suit and nourish different people. Some people are fine with wheat: others aren’t. Some people can cope with and even benefit from eating a lot of salads, even in a cold, damp climate: most can’t, but women’s magazines have been very unhelpful on that one! There are all sorts of dietary issues we can discuss, individually.

Exercise needs to be addressed personally, too. When a tired person with depleted energy tells me that they’ve started training for a marathon my heart sinks. But if they tell me they’ve stated yoga, tai chi, walking or swimming I’ll ask them some questions to see how their chosen exercise is suiting them. For some people the marathon option might be perfect, but it’s important to understand that different sorts of bodies, in different stages of health need different levels and types of exercise. Sometimes I’ll teach people suitable stretches for their needs. Sometimes I’ll recommend them to an expert in a certain field, or to the local gym.

For some people the issue might be around drinking too much, or smoking. Once again, I don’t ask people to change this at the start of treatment. After all, if someone could easily change a smoking or drinking habit they’d have succeeded already, wouldn’t they? They need to be feeling a bit healthier first.

But when someone who is drinking, say, a bottle of wine a day feels that now is the time to address it we address it. If someone flags smoking as an issue at the first consultation it might be several weeks into treatment that I start using acupuncture points known to help with kicking an addiction. This is because once I start using those points I want the person’s co-operation to gain extra benefit. Sometimes people simply aren’t well enough to make those sorts of changes immediately, and they need treatment on other levels first. I’m not there to “make” people do stuff. I’m there to help support them in their decisions, using acupuncture points that have been shown, over centuries, to help change chemical messaging in the brain.

For some people lifestyle changes might include the introduction of meditation or relaxation techniques. Some might start taking supplements. Others might take up a new hobby. Some of this will happen spontaneously, i.e. the person will come in and say, “I’ve been to a mindfulness day,” or “I’ve joined a life drawing class. I’ve wanted to do that for years, but now I finally feel ready to do it”. Other times I will feel it’s time to ask questions, and maybe suggest something new.

Once we’ve progressed to this self-help phase, part of my consultation will include questions about how someone is getting on with whatever it is that they’re working on. Are they happy with their diet or exercise? Are they following up? Have they given up? (In which case we need to work out why and revisit/adjust what it is they need to be doing.)

This means that some people will get the “How much coffee are you drinking?” question, or “What time are you managing to get to bed?” Or “How’s your exercise going?”

If the answer is something like, “Mumble, mumble” we need to talk! Bullying a patient to do something is not an option. Walking beside someone and encouraging them with one’s words as well as carefully-chosen acupuncture points most definitely is an option and a jolly good idea.

In acupuncture every single patient is an individual, so everyone has a personally worked out treatment “package”. This might be just those clever acupuncture points, or it might be acupuncture points along with some good work from the patient him/herself.

Whichever is right for you, your acupuncturist will support you in that choice.

© Cornelia Davies December 2015

 

Posted by: corneliadavies | October 19, 2015

My other office doesn’t need windows

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People frequently demonise the mobile phone and its intrusion in our lives. Sometimes I disagree. Without my mobile I would have missed out on some fresh air and exercise towards the end of an admin day today. With a couple more calls still to come in I appreciated having the choice to go outside and pick them up wherever.

The photo shows where I was around the time a colleague returned my call. This has to be better than hanging around indoors waiting for the phone to ring!

The outside world is not just my part-time second office. It’s also my open-air gym. Long, sloping pathways and uneven steps are a great way of exercising, and I’m constantly grateful to the lovely outdoors for providing this.

How would you like to use your environment, wherever that may be, to enrich your life?

© Cornelia Davies October 2015

Posted by: corneliadavies | October 11, 2015

Jenny’s Here to Stay! Acupuncture Kingsbridge Practice News

Jenny photoMany of you will have met or been treated by my acupuncturist colleague, Jenny Sercombe, who provides locum cover for me from time to time.

We’ve now come to the happy conclusion that she should work here for more hours, with her own patients. This means that if you or someone you know books a first acupuncture appointment you’ll have a choice of who you see.

During her years practising in Manchester Jenny treated people with the extraordinarily wide range of problems that most acupuncturists are presented with. Additionally, because of the particular clinic she worked in she saw more women undergoing IVF fertility treatment than some of us do. I’m extremely glad to welcome Jenny more fully into the clinic with this particular area of expertise. Most acupuncturists see some women with fertility issues (and many with gynae problems) but it’s great to have someone with Jenny’s special interest on board.

Jenny and I have wide and varied acupuncture experience. Jenny is probably 20 years younger than me, which I think is a great plus. While I hope I have some of the wisdom that comes with age, Jenny has a wisdom that comes with a more youthful approach to life! I think both are really relevant qualities in a practitioner. We’ve trained in similar but slightly different ways, and at different times. Working closely together gives us opportunities to pool our acupuncture knowledge, which is of benefit to everyone who comes to the clinic.

All acupuncturists bring other skills and life experience to our professional practises. One particular area of expertise that I always welcome here in the clinic is Jenny’s work as an aromatherapy masseuse. I speak from personal experience when I say that she is excellent at that part of her work! So if you want a delicious and therapeutic massage you can call to arrange that, too.

Apart from her time spent training in London and working in Manchester, Jenny is very much a local girl, from a local family. Not only did she attend KCC, but her primary schooling was here in Loddiswell.

As always, anyone is welcome to book a free, no commitment chat with either of us, to find out whether acupuncture is for you.

Here’s to this new, exciting chapter for the clinic!

And by the way, NO, I am NOT planning to retire! I’ll still be here, too.

Cornelia Davies October 2015

For appointments please ring 01548 550251

Yesterday two patients initiated conversations about what they’re eating, mainly at lunchtime.

Both pretty much know what they should be eating, and both were very aware that they were struggling to achieve this.

Talking around the subject with each of them we arrived at two conclusions:

  • They didn’t have adequate time to think about or prepare what they knew to be good food for themselves at lunchtime.
  • They hadn’t taken on board how the change from summer to autumn had changed their appetite desires as well as the food that was available around them, and this was contributing to their lunchtime choices being unsatisfactory, leading to them eating “wrong” food for them or to snacking.

So, how can we address these issues?

I think that part of the problem is that we carry on headlong into autumn without giving much thought to the fact that things are changing food-wise as well as weather-wise. We also have to deal with a lot of other changes at this time: end of holiday season, beginning of term, new projects, new evening classes and activities, different family commitments, and more. So the simple question, “Do I need to re-think my lunch options to suit the season?” doesn’t get much, if any head space.

Salads: if you’ve had acupuncture you’re probably aware that Chinese medicine doesn’t particularly endorse eating lots of salads. But you can get away with it or even thrive on some salads in summer, because your body has extra outside help with keeping warm. Salads are cooling to the system, so if we carry on eating them after summer our digestive systems have to heat up our stomach contents more in order to metabolise successfully, and this uses up more energy that we could do with using elsewhere in the body. This can lead to tiredness and possibly even weight problems when it leads to a sluggish system.

But wait, this is not the standard Chinese medicine “don’t eat salads” conversation. It’s quite likely that you’ve been eating, enjoying and benefitting from the freshly-available nutrients in salads during the summer. But now autumn is here your body will be trying to tell you that it wants something slightly different. The question is, have you had time to listen to your body and have you given yourself time to remember/assess what delicious things are available with the turning of the seasons?

Personally, I slightly regret the passing of the time of plentiful bowls of strawberries. But the truth is, even if good-tasting strawberries were available throughout the cooler months I don’t think I’d want them so much. Now I find myself wanting warmer, more deeply nourishing foods; foods which feel as though they’re upgrading the building blocks deep inside me, ready to withstand the cold of winter. Now that I’ve given my head the space to think about what I need in my larder, and to actually go out to get it, it’s full of winter nourishing vegetables and I have a chicken casserole on the go, which I relish. And I’ll be brewing up chicken stock and baking some squash soon. And eating all the green vegetables I can get my hands on (no change there, then!)

Sometimes getting out of sync with you eating can be a case of needing a seasonal change in shopping habits. Rewind your mental clock and remember what you enjoyed eating last autumn or winter. It may simply be that you’ve forgotten you need some of those things in your kitchen. At this end of the growing season wonderful fresh, locally grown food is appearing in the green grocers’ shops: parsnips, squash, sweet potatoes, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, seasonal cabbages, leeks, and there are still things like carrots, green beans and courgettes around.

Now is a good time to make a deeply nourishing 3-day pot of soup or a casserole, particularly if it’s just you in for lunch, and you may not have the time or inclination to make something new every day. Or if that sounds like too much hassle, you could buy a couple of cartons of chilled soup to keep ready in the fridge, but make sure they’re ones without added sugar: Covent Garden and, I think, Waitrose chilled soups are sugar-free, and you may find other brands. Or make some chicken stock and freeze it in small pots. Then you can defrost one and add it to yesterday evening’s left over veg and potatoes; incredibly quick, and particularly yummy if you’ve managed to rescue some of the potatoes or parsnips that went with a roast dinner. Keep miso in the fridge for a quick and nourishing soup wherever you are. Be brazen and buy tinned organic lentils or beans (no, not baked beans!) all ready to make stews.

If you’re not home at lunchtime and you can’t afford to pick up a takeaway soup or eat out you still might want to take some food with you. If you’d still prefer to take a salad in a box, or perhaps some cold (but not chilled) roast veg or chicken with a salad on the side, try to include some “warm” salad ingredients, such as watercress or rocket, or add some fresh grated ginger. This will give your digestive system a helping hand. A handful or two of nuts goes a long way to providing a protein boost; perhaps some unsalted almonds, cashews or a few brazils to add to what you have, instead of those tempting crisps or chocolate.

Above all, do what you want to do and eat what feels right for your body. We’re all gloriously individual and our needs change all the time. We just need time to listen to our bodies and take a few minutes to process that conversation.

© Cornelia Davies September 2015

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