It’s the coldest winter New York has seen for a while a very dry and trying time of year for our skin. Many of us have to deal with itchy, dry, cracked, and chaffing skin through the cold seasons, and this year is no exception! And for those with chronic skin issue such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and dermatitis it is during these winter months that things can get worse. (more…)
In my treatment rooms at the YinOva Center, there is a resounding answer of “Blah” from my patients when I ask how they are feeling. The typical complaints I hear of include fatigue, low mood, lack of motivation, and feeling repeatedly like they’re coming down with a cold.
If you’re also feeling these symptoms, don’t dismay as warmth and sunshine will eventually come. In the meantime, here are five things you can do to help combat those “Blahs.”
1. Sleep more
Allow yourself to hit that snooze and get a few more minutes in bed. Better yet, go to bed earlier! If you’re feeling tired and worn down by winter it’s not unlikely that you’re also a bit overworked and over stressed. Sleep helps restore energy and blood in the body, so let it do it’s job without cutting corners. How do you feel when your boss cuts those deadlines shorter? Exactly!
2. Get enough vitamin D
There is an abundance of growing research in the past years showing how vitamin D plays a pivotal role in immune health and protects us against upper respiratory infections. A deficiency of this sunshine vitamin is incredibly common in our modern age because we spend very little time outdoors, especially in the winter. Other studies also link depression and low mood to depleted vitamin D levels, so there is yet another reason to up your reserves. Since laying in the sun on a warm beach may not be an option for most of us, other dietary sources of vitamin D are out there and include oysters, fish roe, fermented cod liver oil, and a Vitamin D3 supplement. We carry an excellent liquid dropper version by Klaire Labs at the YinOva Center. If you’re wondering whether the vitamin D in your multi is enough, most likely its not. The Vitamin D Council recommends at least 6,000 IU per day for healthy adults.
3. Work out
Its easy to feel sluggish and stuck right now. I hear my patients complaints of being too tired and unmotivated to exercise. Unfortunately, energy gets stuck easily in the body when we don’t make time to move and shake it. Get stuck enough and you’ll feel tired too. It’s a negative feedback loop. The best thing you can do is force yourself to get to that yoga class you’ve been neglecting or back on the treadmill/spin bike/elliptical and move your energy. Wouldn’t that exercise high feel great right now?
4. Laugh out loud
Laughter is a an excellent mood lifter and stress reliever. Gelotology, or the scientific study of how laughter affects the brain, has through decades of research shown how laughter can stimulate the brain’s regulation of stress, mood, blood pressure, and immunity. Laughter is good medicine so find something that tickles your humor!
You knew that one was coming didn’t you? Your acupuncturist can diagnose what underlying issues there may that’s keeping your energy levels and immune system low, and prescribe Chinese herbs to help you get your vitality back. Sometimes just a simple acupuncture tune-up can beat those Blahs!
5. Get acupuncture
We’ve been talking about sex quite a bit lately at the YinOva Center, with our director Jill Blakeway’s recent release of her second book Sex Again. In her comprehensive look at libido, Jill writes about how to rebuild the connection with our sexuality and desire from within ourselves and our relationship.
Since this week brings the big day for celebrating love and sex, I think it is an opportune time to share some recommendations for some specific libido boosting foods.
In Chinese medicine we always look to the internal organs when something is lacking. Sexual drive is connected to the energy of our kidneys, and the balance of yin and yang energies. Though generally lack of yang is focused on for sexual vitality, it is both the yin and yang that must be in equilibrium for one to have the motivation to pursue sex (yang) plus the ability to receive it (yin). However, this equilibrium is not meant to be rigid. As Jill writes, “ You’re aiming for a dynamic balance, not a fixed point and not a precisely even split. For most people, the sweet spot is where either yin or yang is predominant – but only slightly.”
To help nourish both the yin and yang aspect, here are a few suggestions for aphrodisiac foods and spices, whether for this Valentine’s Day or any day really!
Oysters – As the most highly prized of aphrodisiacs, these succulent yin nourishing creatures (they do come from the sea after all) are also high in vitamin B12 and protein.
Walnuts – Likely due to their kidney yang enhancing ability, an old Chinese folk remedy for impotence was to eat 20 walnuts a day for a month.
Chives – Their warm and pungent flavor is tonifying to the kidneys and specifically to sexual function. They also improve qi circulation, which is a huge benefit to your nether regions.
Apples – The legendary symbols of temptation, apples are cooling and moistening thus contribute to kidney yin.
Chestnuts – This deliciously meaty nut is both nourishing to the energy of the kidneys and helps stimulate the liver out of stagnation (because we all have stuck energy in there).
Lamb – Typically raised with far fewer antibiotics and allowed to graze on grass, this is an excellent choice for red meat lovers, especially for its kidney warming qualities.
Cucumber – This suggestive yin nourishing vegetable boasts the ability to cleanse the blood and purify skin.
Shrimp – Tasty, decorative and easy to prepare, shrimp has a warming and yang enhancing nature (inquire about allergies before offering this crustacean to any new lover).
Eggs – As a blood and yin tonic, eggs are also ascending in nature and have been used in the prevention of miscarriage.
Lentil – This little legume increases the vitality of the kidneys and is stimulating to the adrenal system.
Ginger – Dried ginger is said to direct the properties of foods and herbs to the lower region and sexual organs, making it an excellent spice accompaniment to your amorous meal.
String bean – This sweet flavored yin nourishing vegetable has known uses in the treatment of involuntary seminal emission.
Some delicious and sinful recipes utilizing the above ingredients can be found on Epicurious.com. One in particular caught my eye and may find its way to my table and my love’s lips soon…
Did you know January is Apple and Apricot month? I personally am a big fan of devoting each month to the celebration of food. Coming off of a holiday season filled with indulgences of all kinds, it’s a good opportunity to highlight some delicious fruits that will benefit your healthy New Year’s eating habits.
Apples have long held the title of a super healthy food. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?! This is likely due to the fact that apples strongly support digestion and are very cleansing for the liver. The pectin contained in apples can remove residues of mercury, lead, radiation, and cholesterol.
Now in eastern nutrition we look beyond the level of vitamins and minerals, to the energetic properties of foods. It’s the same approach we have with Chinese Herbal medicine, as food is essentially the greatest medicine.
Both apples and apricots are very moistening by nature. They benefit dryness by nourishing the Yin fluids of the body, particularly of the lungs. How appropriate for this time of year! I’ve been seeing so many of my patients suffering from the dryness of winter lately, with symptoms of dry cough, scratchy throat, inflamed sinuses, constant thirst, nosebleeds, and itchy skin. All of these issues are related to the lungs, and can benefit from the hydrating and moistening qualities that both apples and apricots offer.
Since it is winter, I tend to recommend against consuming too much fruit, as it’s energetically cold by nature. My previous blog post talks about what the best foods are to eat during the cold months. Because of that, I like to have my fruits cooked or baked. Here is a recipe for a pie that I like to make with these two super moistening fruits. It’s so delicious! I made it for my grandmother, whom I consider the greatest baker, and she loved it.
That’s a good gauge I’d say!
Whole Wheat Apricot and Apple Pie
For pastry dough :
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
7 tbsp chilled butter cut into cubes
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
a few drops of vanilla extract
10 fresh apricots, pitted, and halved or quartered
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp superfine sugar
- For the pastry dough combine flour, sugar, and butter in a bowl and work it together with your fingers till the mixture is sandy. Add egg plus extra egg yolk and vanilla and keep mixing till you have a smooth ball of dough. Flatten and wrap in plastic wrap to refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks. Add 1.5 Tbsp of the butter to a pan with the apples, brown sugar and water. Cover the pan with a lid and cook at medium heat for 15-20 minutes. The apples should looked a bit golden and collapse. Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon, squishing the apples into a puree with your spoon.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a little extra flour, roll out your pastry dough onto a sheet of parchment paper to a 12-13 inch circle. With the parchment paper flip the dough into a ungreased 9 ½ inch springform or pie pan. Carefully peel the parchment off the dough and press the pastry onto the bottom of the pan.
- Spread the apple puree over the bottom and add the apricots on top. Sprinkle with the superfine sugar and dot with broken up pieces of the rest of the butter. Fold the pastry dough edge in over some of the filling so its wrapped in. Bake for 40 minutes or until the apricots look a bit brown and the pastry looks crisp. Enjoy!
* Recipe is adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
We are coming into the time of winter and today marks the change with the Winter Solstice. The days feel very short, and the darkness of night is arriving so soon. It’s a time of slowing down and going inward, in order to preserve energy and seek warmth.
In Chinese medicine winter is associated with the element of Water, which relates to the kidneys and bladder. It is not uncommon that at this time weaknesses in those organs manifest. For instance, adrenal function will be tested this time of year and for many working long stressful days energy reserves will feel diminished. Here are some other typical manifestations of kidney qi depletion: asthma, weakness in the low back or knees, loose stools, increased urination, water retention, and lowered libido.
What we eat during the winter can offer deep nourishment. Since the kidneys are seen as the storehouse of energy and vitality of the body, the foods we eat during winter should emphasis salty and bitter flavors because of their ability to help sink and center, therefore increasing our capacity for storage. Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods, also talks about how such foods can cool the surface of the body by driving warmth into a deeper level so we the feel cold less. Bitter foods such as quinoa, watercress, endive, celery, turnip, escarole, rye, and alfalfa should be included regularly in meals.
With salty foods there is caution of not overindulging as that begins to deplete the kidneys more. The typical American diet is heavily salty, though not from the beneficial sources of salt such as seaweeds, miso, sardines, millet and barley.
Warming foods overall are best to focus on, while stepping back from the many overly cold foods not as appropriate this time of year. I always recommend for my patients to cut back on salads, sushi, iced drinks, and dairy in general, as they are all energetically cold and use up too much energy to metabolize.
Here are some beneficial warming foods and spices appropriate for nourishment in the winter:
- Cinnamon bark
- Black beans
- Sweet potato
- Royal Jelly & Bee Pollen
- Micro algae – Spirulina, Chlorella, Wild Blue Green Algae
- Brown rice
Focus on simple, well cooked meals to encourage easy digestion, such as soups and stews. It’s natural to want to hibernate so spend more time cooking at home rather than eating out. That’s also the best way to ensure that good things go into your body. If you’re a carnivore like I am, remember that only organic hormone free meat is worth eating, anything else isn’t nourishing but can be rather toxic.
One of my favorite winter meals is a good old fashion shepherds pie. It’s both hardy and warming, and also simple to prepare. Looking to get started with a recipe? Here is my go-to recipe from epicurious.com.
Taking a journey along your partner’s errogenous zones means to bring the focus to the body and all its wonderful sensitivities, as well as the mind by building intimacy and connection. In her forthcoming book “Sex Again“, Jill Blakeway talks about the importance of foreplay as a way to get Qi to rise, increasing sexual energy and desire, thus making for a deeper and richer sexual experience for both partners. “The key is to involve the whole body in foreplay, and to use all your senses.” The path and all the stops on this channel can generate sexual pleasure from the powerful connection of the kidneys. You both may find that areas you hadn’t thought to bring focus provide a delightful feeling. Using the method of your choice, fingertips or lips or tongue, start at the bottom working your way up – which goes with the natural upward flow of energy in the kidney meridian.
Behind the knee – Take a moment to give attention behind the knee, as this area is very sensitive with many nerve endings, so you can kiss and lick this delicate crevice.
Lower abdomen – The channel passes the groin, and up along the sides of the abdomen. (you can make a quick stop toacknowledge the groin but for now don’t linger – or you’ll never make up to the final destination!) The abdomen is a very special area with vulnerability and sensitive to enticement. Lips and tongue are most welcome here but you can also spend a little time doing some circular massage strokes below the the umbilicus or using the pads of your fingers to trail strokes upward form the public bone.
Collarbone – Trailing further up along the chest we come to the collarbone. This is a beautiful spot on the body and where the last points of the kidney channel lie. Try gentle strokes with your fingertips, or brush with your lips, just below the bones ridge moving inward or out.
The Throat – Kisses along the throat or brushing with the lips is bound to elect pleasure with this area being very delicate and vulnerable. And it’s on the way to the mouth, we’re we are headed, as the kidney meridian has a divergence that connects to the tongue.
The Tongue – I can’t express enough the endless benefits of kissing so to quote Jill, “Kissing creates closeness both physically and emotionally…Kissing, especially tongue kissing, produces not only pleasure but a sense of attachment..The lips and tongue are exquisitely sensitive.” The tongue has an energetic connection to the heart as well and so it’s clear to see how feelings of love and warmth can bloom from a kiss.
Stir-fries have become a favorite dish of mine since they are not only quick and easy, which works well with a busy schedule, but provide a multitude of variations in ingredients. This recipe came together one day as a result of using leftover veggies found in my fridge and some additions I thought would be yummy. Now I must add that I was a bit of a latecomer to the Quinoa craze and this dish was my first real attempt at cooking and incorporating it into a meal.
I was inspired to finally try quinoa because of the many wonderful health benefits I’d been hearing and reading about it. Likewise, I’d gotten a bit weary of using rice as the go-to grain, mainly due to the inflated feeling it left after consumption. Out of curiosity, I did some research on the nutritional content of quinoa compared to brown rice and found that quinoa doubles the protein and mineral content of rice. It also excels as a super food by providing a source of complete protein (all 9 amino acids needed by the body) and a gluten-free, low calorie grain (though its actually a seed!).
Knowing that my boyfriend will not willingly eat something “super healthy” I had to make sure the quinoa stir-fry was deliciously deceptive. Well the plan worked because since that night I first cooked it, we both fell in love with this delicious and versatile seed! I’ve since made several variations of the recipe, but this original one is my favorite as it is both light & filling, and provides a wide variety of flavors and nutrients from the various veggies. The cherry tomatoes added at the very end gives a fresh burst of sweetness!
This recipe can be modified to suit any vegetables you like, and can be made vegetarian/vegan by removing the chicken.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup snow peas
1 medium size skinless chicken breast (about 4-6 ounces)
salt and pepper to taste
Place the quinoa into a small pot with 1 1/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt if desired. I use my favorite Eastern European seasoning, Vegeta. Bring to a boil then cover, reducing the heat to a low simmer. Allow to cook for 15 minutes then remove from heat and let stand with cover on for another 5. Fluff with a fork.
In the meantime, slice chicken breast into strips and season with some salt and pepper. Add to large skillet over medium high heat with 1tbsp olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes till cooked through and a little bit browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add chopped onions to the pan and cook until softened, about 3-4 min. Add mushrooms, squash, and zucchini with additional 1tbsp olive oil. Cook, stirring often till veggies have soften slightly, about 8 minutes. I like to cover the skillet with a lid and the veggies sweat for a few minutes as well to speed up softening.
Add snow peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes till they turn a very bright green.
Reduce heat to medium low and add chicken back to the pan. Stir.
Take the cooked quinoa and carefully add it into your chicken veggie mix, (your skillet may be very full like mine) stir together well, until heated through, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add the halved cherry tomatoes and give everything one more good stir.
Serve warm and enjoy!
I like to top off my plate with another favorite seasoning, Seaweed Gomasio by Eden Organics, which adds a lovely bit of crunch and saltiness from toasted sesame seeds, sea salt and sea vegetables.
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