Dr Niemeyer gives 5 easy tips to help get rid of Menstrual Cramping
Gut health is a HOT topic lately, as it should be! Keeping your gut healthy is incredibly important to not only how you feel everyday but also protecting you from developing major illness later in life. I love to write about things that matter most to me, and so this is the first in a series of blogposts on my personal journey to heal my gut! In this post I'm going to talk about how my gut got so out of balance and my first steps towards healing. I know many of you will be able to relate, and I'm really excited about this! So lets start from the beginning . . .
So when I look back, the destruction of my micro biome wasn't that hard to find. When I was in high school I struggled with acne, as many kids do. Looking back it wasn't that bad, but when you're in high school it's the worst thing that could ever happen to you! So my mom brought me to a dermatologist and she put me on Doxycycline, which if you don't know, is an antibiotic. Back then there was no such thing as probiotics and the knowledge around gut health was not as talked about as it is today. So I took these antibiotics daily for TWO years!!! TWO YEARS! If I knew then what I know now, I could have saved myself so much heartache or tummyache as it may be. (The sad thing is, this is still a common way to treat acne . . . Don't do it! Acupuncture can help!)
When I started my search to see how long it would take to recover the gut flora after a round of antibiotics the answer wasn't so clear, some say a month and others say upwards of 20 years. I'm hoping it's a little less than 20 years! However, I know that it's been 16 years since I started that initial dose and I'm not recovered yet. As you can imagine, after two years on antibiotics I started to develop health problems. Fatigue, bloating, IBS symptoms that were worse with some foods, cystic acne, anxiety, and weight gain. From a biomedical perspective the antibiotics created an imbalance in bacteria creating an environment that is susceptible to things like candida and other SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), as well as Leaky Gut syndrome. Leaky gut is where your Small Intestine becomes increasingly permeable, when this happens undigested food particles enter the blood stream. This triggers your body to think that these foods are foreign invaders, so your body creates anti-bodies against these harmless foods. This is essentially how a food intolerance is created, an IgG response. IgG allergies or intolerances are delayed response allergies, this means that you can eat a food and have a reaction up to 72 hours later. This makes food intolerances hard to identify, and if you continue to eat these foods you will not only suffer with different "unexplainable" symptoms but you are also creating lots of inflammation in your gut and your body in general.
So here I am 16 years after I first started the antibiotic treatment, still struggling with many of the same issues. As all healing journeys are, it has been years of ups and downs. At this point I have pinpointed my gut problems as something that needs more time and energy in order to be where I want to be. I've helped others with this journey, but now it's my turn.
So what is the first step? The first step is decreasing inflammation by cutting out all my food intolerances. I have been tested three years ago for IgG intolerances and the list was long about 22 different foods. But since these can change overtime, I decided recently to re-test my food intolerances so that I know I'm working with a current list. I've been gluten, soy, corn free for about 8 years and will continue to avoid these foods along with my new list of 19 different foods. I tested my IgG intolerances by ordering a self test kit off of everlywell.com. It's a blood spot test that you do by pricking your finger and sending it into the lab. They give a great breakdown of the 96 foods that they test and rate them High, Moderate, Mild and Low.
So that's where my new journey to get my gut health back is beginning. I will do another blog in about a month. I'll be letting you know other herbs and supplements that I've decided to use as a part of Part 2. In the mean time I will also be getting weekly Acupuncture treatments! Stay tuned . . .
Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac.
The Root Wellness
Perfectionism is a nasty monster. If you personally identify yourself as "Type A" or a perfectionist you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's that unreachable expectation that is placed on you by yourself or others . . . from my experience it's usually our own unrealistic vision of what we should be. It can manifest as that negative voice in your head constantly reminding you on how you fell short, or could have done better. The monster never takes a vacation and never misses an opportunity to be a jerk. Its presence never makes for a happy inner dialogue and we often just get used to the fact that it will always be there. The problem with this is, whether you are aware or not, this is most likely affecting your health. The worst part about having this problem is that, NEWS FLASH: you are NOT and will NEVER be PERFECT! So the fact that we are compromising our health for something that is unattainable is just plain silly.
Here are some common ways that I see my patients manifesting the perfectionism Monster:
1. Insomnia: My patients who I would consider perfectionists can have problems falling asleep. They tend to be overthinking different problems that happened during their day and possibly doing "playbacks" of what they could have done differently. I don't think I have to tell you why getting adequate and quality sleep will help with any health concern.
2. Neck and Shoulder tension: When patients complain of neck and upper trapezius tension and their traps feel like rocks, I can usually associate this with the stress that comes from being a perfectionist. When I ask about it, these people normally admit to holding their "stress in their shoulders." You are quite literally carrying a weight on your shoulders that you shouldn't be. It's too heavy, put it down!
3. Inability to relax: This kind of goes back to the insomnia thing, however, this can carry over during the day and also even into vacation. Sometimes these people will be off work and in a social setting and realizing that they are clenching their fists for no reason or holding their shoulders up to their ears. Your body is likely having a hard time switching to parasympathetic mode which is "rest and digest." You need to be able to be in this state to heal.
4. Frequent sighing and/or feeling of a lump in your throat: In Chinese Medicine we call these signs an indicator of Liver Qi Stagnation. Liver Qi stagnation can lead to all different types of dysfunctions in the body. We want our Liver Qi to move smoothly otherwise it can lead to things like hypertension or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
5. Holding your breath: Do you find yourself holding your breath? Breathing is necessary . . . When we hold our breath unintentionally it can be a sign of not being present which means you're too in your head.
These are just a few of the indicators of how being a perfectionist can manifest in your body. None of these things listed seem like the end of the world, but it's more about where these small things can lead, which should make you look at your own habits. At the end of the day being a perfectionist is like banging your head against a wall; you're only hurting yourself and you aren't getting anywhere.
If you want to know how to break the cycle stay tuned for my next blog . . . In the mean time reflect on how your perfectionism is manifesting in your own body. The first step is seeing that it's a problem.
-Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac.
Are you neglecting the messages your body is sending to you? You may not realize that your body talks to you . . . not in words, but in symptoms. Often we are so busy going through our lives that when our body sends us a message, like a headache for example, we ignore it as an annoyance or something else that needs to be dealt with.
These messages are a gift in my opinion, it's not fun to feel bad, but there is some type of imbalance that needs to be addressed and you're getting a subtle signal to deal with it.
So what do most people do when they are given this symptom of a headache? We pop some type of pain killer and go on with our day.
What's the problem with this scenario? Now, I'm not saying you should never use pain killers if you need them, but use this as an opportunity to explore what message your body is trying to send you.
Are you dehydrated? Are you overworked? Do you need to eat something? Did you eat something that you are intolerant to? Have you spend too much time with your head down looking at the computer? Are your hormones out of balance? The messages can vary from person to person and you will have to be your own health detective, but it's worth the trouble trying to figure out what the cause was.
Why? I believe if you continue to cover up these symptoms by taking drugs and suppressing them, then you are missing opportunities to allow your body to heal before it manifests in something more serious. If your body feels like you aren't getting the signals it's sending then I believe it can manifest in different symptoms. The key is to listen, and figure out what's going on, and adjust your behavior.
Our body is what graciously carries us through life, be kind to it . . . you only get one!
-Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac. Sign up for our Wellness Newsletter
The Root Wellness
The holiday season is upon us, and with it brings up many questions about believing. Many people have asked me if they need to believe in Acupuncture for it to work, so I decided to address that today.
The answer is NO, but it helps! (Let me explain . . . )
Acupuncture has a reputation with some people as being mystical and magical. In Oriental Medicine we learn to use words like Qi and describe patterns like Liver Qi Stagnation. It definitely has its own language and this may seem odd. However, Oriental medicine has been around for thousands of years, way before any type of diagnostic tests like blood, ultrasound, or CT scans. It is because of this they learned to diagnose based on observation. They also looked to nature and their environment in order to describe things going on in the body. For example there are multiple diagnosis that include the word 'Wind', this term is referring to how wind acts in nature and relates it to symptoms that occur in the body.
In our Western culture we aren't used to hearing about Wind in the body, therefore it may be easy to write Oriental Medicine off as cooky or unscientific. This is far from the truth. The language we use to diagnose aside, there is nothing that we do in Oriental medicine that doesn't affect the body's physiology. When we insert a needle into the body, the body reacts. The body increases blood circulation to the area, endorphins are released, natural anti-inflammatory properties are released and many more actions take place in the local area. Depending on where the needle is placed it may stimulate nerves in the body, which send signals to the brain and the body takes action. Just because thousands of years ago we didn't have this specific knowledge or these words to explain what was happening doesn't mean that it's unscientific.
So this leads me to my point. If we agree that Acupuncture works physiologically on the body and is related to science the same way that any other medical procedure is. Then normal placebo rules apply. If you're not familiar with the word placebo here is the definition as taken from the dictionary:
a harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect.
Placebo applies to any medication or procedure. There is a percentage of people that will improve based on the suggestion that they will and their own belief. This is an amazing testiment to the power of our brains over our bodies. According to cancer.org the placebo effect can take place in up to 1 in 3 people.
So, yes! Belief is important, just believing something will help can absolutely make a difference in treatment. However, you don't have to believe Acupuncture will work in order for it to. I've had many patients who come to me and immediately tell me they don't believe in what I do. That's ok, I find it to be a fun challenge. I've had the privilege of turning some of these same patients into believers. Some of these patients haven't had the results that they desired with Acupuncture, but I don't think that it's only because they don't believe. There are many factors to consider in why Acupuncture works and why, just like any medical drug or procedure, sometimes it doesn't.
Choosing to believe in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is choosing to believe in the power of your body to heal itself! I think that is such a beautiful thing.
Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac. Sign Up for our Monthly Wellness Newsletter
The Root Wellness
I am an Artist . . . Did you know? Maybe its not evident in my job title, "Licensed Acupuncturist," but I am and it's one of the reasons I love my job and THE reason I fell in love with Oriental Medicine.
The first question I ask all of my patients is, "Have you had Acupuncture before?" Some say no, but the ones that say, "Yes." I always follow up by saying, "Just so you know, all Acupuncturists are different. There are different styles and ways to practice Acupuncture. If I am different than your previous practitioner, that doesn't make either of us wrong . . . or right. We are just different, and that's ok."
It's an odd thought, that medicine doesn't have to be practiced only one way. Medicine is so closely related to science, and we often associate that with proving or disproving theories. Growing up with Western Medicine, we get used to hearing there is only one correct medical diagnosis and for that one or maybe two correct treatments. This isn't the case for Oriental Medicine.
My degree is in Oriental medicine and not Traditional Chinese medicine because we learned a few different traditions of the medicine in school. Not only did we learn Chinese style Acupuncture, but we learned Korean and Japanese styles as well. Each of which have slightly different techniques and ways to practice. Get this, they all work!
It's not just this, but theory can be applied differently as well. In Oriental medicine we diagnose based on signs and symptoms of the patient and these point to a pattern of diagnosis. Seems straight forward at first, but patients are complex people and almost always have more than one pattern of disharmony. This is where it gets tricky, it is the practitioners job to determine the most important pattern to focus on: treat one pattern, treat both patterns, use herbs, use supplements, use acupuncture, use all of it! It's a fun exercise in problem solving!
The hardest part in school was putting all of this decision making into motion on real patients. Part of Acupuncture school is to work in a school clinic, I worked in my school clinic for two years. There you have to work under the supervision of Acupuncture Doctors, usually you work under quite a few different ones throughout your time there. You soon find out that if you had one patient and sent them to five different supervisors, each would most likely come up with a different diagnosis, way of treating, acupuncture prescription, and herbal treatment. The thing that is crazy is that it is possible to get results treating each way! It's mind boggling trying to learn, but so fun to know that it's hard to mess up this amazing medicine.
Each practitioner takes their knowledge and puts their own artistic twist on it. At the end of the day I'm using my creative problem solving skills and trying to make my patients lives better! I'm inviting you to come see me work my art :)
-Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac. Subscribe to our Wellness Newsletter
The Root Wellness
That's right, you heard me correctly . . . I will NEVER tell you to use ICE!!!!!!!!!
I'm sure most of us are familiar with the old acronym R.I.C.E. for an acute injury. Meaning Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. While I agree with three of the four, the one I don't agree with is to ever put ice on an injury. Chinese medicine has some pretty strong views on why you shouldn't ice.
Let me explain.
When you initially injure tissue there are physiological responses that are going to happen to the area. Initially, you will get a pain sensation up to and including, sharp, shooting, dull, boring pain. Then swelling usually starts in the area, the swelling and inflammation serves a purpose.
"Redness and heat are caused by increased blood flow. Swelling is the result of the increased movement of fluid and white blood cells into the area of inflammation. ... The pain and swelling can keep the athlete from using the injured part, serving to protect it from further injury."
The body needs the swelling to happen for a few reasons. 1. Let the person know something is wrong. Pain and swelling are an indication to protect the area from further damage. 2. Swelling brings blood (nutrition), oxygen, and White blood cells to the area.
So why do people normally ice? You have been told to ice the area in order to move the swelling out of the area. Cold constricts the blood vessels, which in turn stops bleeding and restricts blood flow in the area. You need blood flow in the area in order to repair the tissue, because as I stated above, blood is nutrition. In other words, by putting ice on the area you are assuming that swelling and inflammation aren't serving a correct physiological purpose. Your body is innately intelligent, swelling is a necessary part of the healing process.
Not only that, but at a certain degree of coldness biological function stops. This is why we freeze food, in order to stop biological decomposition. The same rules apply when you think about icing an injury. What do you want when you injure your body? You want and need your body to repair the tissues that were damaged. This cannot happen when the tissue temperature is being lowered. It decreases blood flow, increased coagulation! New blood is essential to tissue repair, stopping circulation is not in your best interest. Stop fighting your body!
I had a professor, Z'ev Rosenberg, who recently taught a class for my Doctorate program. He said, "Cold is death and Heat is life." This is the truth! What is one of the first things that happens when you die? You become Cold!
If you still need more reasons to listen to me, here they are:
1. There is a thing in Chinese Medicine called cold damage. Cold damage is pretty much like is sounds. Damage caused by cold. Adding cold to an area of injury, in Chinese theory, can actually lead to arthritis in the local joints. The inflammation that is caused by arthritis is actually the body using heat to drive out the cold damage.
2. The Dr that recommended and coined the term R.I.C.E. no longer recommends it . . . for some of the reasons I listed above and some others. Read his article here . . .
I tell my patients to stop icing and apply heat. Heat increases circulation of the blood and nutrition that you body needs to heal itself. Often, this one small recommendation can give way to BIG results. I love it, my patients love it, so next time you go to reach for the ice think twice!
-Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac. Subscribe to my Wellness Newsletter
The Root Wellness
So you already know why Adrenal Health is so important and why you need it. Now I'm going to give you my top 5 tips for keeping your Adrenals happy and healthy. These are things I tell most of my patients to do.
1. TAKE WHOLE FOOD VITAMIN C
We all know vitamin C is so important for immune health, it's also incredibly important for adrenal health. Did you know that the greatest storage of vitamin C in the body is in the adrenal glands? When you are under an increased amount of stress you body produces more cortisol. Vitamin C is needed to produce cortisol and if you don't have an adequate amount it's adds more stress to the little glands. I usually suggest my patients add 1000mg of a whole food vitamin C supplement to their diet if they are looking to increase adrenal health. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, that means that if you get too much in your diet you will just urinate it out. If you are taking too much vitamin C it can cause some loose stool, if you have this reaction you can back off to 500mg per day. An added benefit, your immune system will be happy too!
2. TAKE WHOLE FOOD B VITAMIN COMPLEX
Surprise, Surprise, my first two suggestions are nutrition related! With the common American diet, we aren't getting all the nutrients our bodies require. In addition, soil quality and manufacturing processes can also equate to food not being as nutrient dense. Add increased stress to this and that is a perfect storm of not getting all the stuff you need to function at an optimal level. B vitamins, like vitamin C, are required for many of the different hormones produced by the adrenals and used up in common stress responses. I love whole food vitamins, rather than synthetic, because your body uses them just like food and they assimilate easier to your body. Here are the ones I like and are easy to get online or at Sprouts Farmers Market.
3. LAY OFF THE CAFFEINE
This may be the suggestion you like the least but I need you to wrap your mind around this. Caffeine is a stimulant, every time you drink caffeine your adrenal glands secrete epinephrine. Think about that. Your adrenal glands are working every time you drink coffee! That means that over years of drinking a cup (or two!) a day, this can be depleting and exhausting to your adrenal glands. When my patients are trying to repair their abused adrenals I always suggest to give up caffeine. It doesn't have to be a permanent thing, but you aren't doing yourself any favors if you follow all my other tips but still drink coffee, energy drinks, or even black tea daily.
4. BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
Like we talked about in my last blog, your adrenals produce cortisol and cortisol raises your blood sugar. So . . . tips to balance your blood sugar include: eat within a half an hour of waking daily, eat meals at the same time every day, make sure you're getting enough protein in your diet in order to be a source of energy that sustains your blood sugar. Also, in addition to too much caffeine, too much sugar is a burden on the adrenals too. In Chinese medicine we were always taught to eat like a king in the morning, eat like a working man at lunch, and eat like a peasant for dinner (or something along those lines). In other words, eat the most in the beginning of the day and eat less and less as the day goes on.
5. GET ADEQUATE REST
A sign of adrenal fatigue is that you are exhausted in the morning but have tons of energy at night, when you should be sleeping. This is an indication that your cortisol production is not happening at the right times of day. So, trying to get to sleep around the same time every night and getting at least 8 hours of sleep is so important! In addition, night time is when your body does the best restoration and healing. If you aren't getting deep or an adequate amount of sleep you aren't able to repair and heal your tissues the way that you were meant to (If you have a hard time sleeping . . . Acupuncture is amazing for regulating this).
That's it folks! Most of these are easy things that you can start doing immediately in order to get your adrenal health back on track. If you become one of my patients I would also consider putting you on a Chinese herbal formula or some western herbal adaptogens to help accelerate healing, along with Acupuncture . . . Of Course! I'm passionate about adrenal health and you should be too!
-Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac. Sign up for my Wellness Newsletter