Features

Treat Yourself Right – Like You Do Your Own Pet

Best friends boy&dogFew of us would often forget to feed our cat, or repeatedly fail to take the dog out for a walk – yet we often do this to ourselves. If you think is isn’t a big deal, in my opinion, think again!

We are made up of mind, body and spirit, and our body has “physical needs.” It needs to be properly fed, exercised, groomed and cared for in illness … just like we do for our pets!

In treating people over the years, I have found that for myself and many others, it is often a challenge to complete our
daily work and obligations – and then do the things we need to for ourselves after, if we have the time and energy. But as you get sick and depleted, are devoid of energy and drag yourself around, consider what this does to your health and wellbeing, especially over time. Not to mention the message you are sending if you are a role model, such as a parent or a teacher.

Acknowledging that our physical body needs care and maintenance also allows us to have a positive attitude about taking care of ourselves. One that more accurately reflects reality in that we will be able to better care for our families and be a better worker if we are healthy than if we are sick or worn out. We are not shirking responsibility here, but rather taking it. Nor is this an excuse for laziness or procrastination, I’m not talking about idleness but rather about doing your self care.

So give yourself a pat on the back, literally, and take care of your dog and it will take good care of you. By the way, this also works well for the mind and spirit as well. So take care of yourself!

Springtime Colds: What Grandma knew!

Springtime days are awesome, the sun is out, it’s warm, the birds and the animals are all doing their thing. So you put on just a T-shirt and go out for a long walk. That evening you get a sore throat and by the next morning it’s a full blown cold – what happened??
Tissue

Certainly an opportunistic virus is obviously having a good time at your expense, but why now? The understanding that we constantly live together with a host of common microbes is becoming more accepted, hence the trigger must be something other than just infection. In Oriental medicine it has long been understood that this happens when you let down the guard of your external defences. In the West it’s called the immune system, in Eastern medicine it is called it your “wei qi”.

The “wei qi” controls the physical aspects of your outermost protective layer and includes your skin, body hair, the pores and the tiny dermal muscles that control them.  When you sweat, it opens them up as it should, but this also creates opportunity for a chill.  In Oriental medicine this opportunity is used by the metaphoric “pathogenic influence” to enter, such a wind or cold, or it creates a temporary decrease in your immune response from a Western view. A weak wei qi can also leave your system open even if you don’t sweat.

The weaker we are or the lower our energy levels, the easier this happens.  So, for the old or the very young, for those under high stress or just finished final exams, you must be careful not to catch chills, especially after sweating. The best choice to help this situation is by improving lifestyle where possible; eating right, getting enough sleep, reducing stress and so on.  In the meantime, dressing in layers to better regulate your temperature is a great help.  Also be careful of sitting or sleeping by open windows for extended time, especially when it is windy or if you are in a car.

What’s in a fingernail?

The common fingernail can reveal a lot of information about the health of your internal organs and especially about the health of your blood and fluids. If your nails are pale, Oriental medicine sees this as a sign of deficiency in blood quality, in Western medicine this is linked to a lack of iron and/or folic acid.  Blood issues also show up numerous other signs and symptoms on the body such as dry skin and brittle hair.  It is very important to keep your blood healthy, especially for women. Blood is nourished by many foods, but eating more of your green veggies is best!
Fingers
If your nails are dry and  ridged, from the cuticle towards the tip (vertical ridges), then your fluids are possibly a little low, this also happens more with age. Make sure you hydrate enough during the day and eat foods that nourish your yin such as grains or eggs to name a few, just water alone won’t do it.

This is also true for nails that are dry or brittle. In Oriental medicine the growth and health of nails may also have to with the health of the kidneys. Horizontal grooves that run from side to side may indicate more serious conditions such a thyroid issues, circulatory issues or even diabetes.

Fingernails are indeed a very helpful tool in determining what is going on internally to the body, but keep in mind that it is only one sign and that a diagnosis or conclusions should never be drawn from just a single source. For more information contact Kurt at kurtjurek@acufeelgood.ca or call 604-365-3655

Kurt Jurek is a practitioner of Oriental Medicine in private practice in Vancouver, Canada

 

The body “CORE” – What is it, Why should we train it and How? …

In training or any physical activity, one often hears about the importance of the body’s core. The following briefly addresses the What, Why and How of the core …

The “core” refers to the torso of your body including the internal organs. But for movement and health purposes, it is useful to look primarily at the muscles and connective tissue, and to view them from an INNER and an OUTER perspective.

WHAT IS THE CORE? – INNER v.s. OUTER
It is generally agreed that the INNER aspect comprises of the pelvic floor, the transverse abdominus (front), the multifidus (back) and the diaphram above. From a health perspective, it would also be useful to add to this the facia that hold the viscera in place such as the mesentery and various related internal structures such as the suspensory muscles and ligaments.

The OUTER aspect involves muscles that are primarily used to move the torso such as your six-pack (rectus abdominus) to flex the front or the obliques that are used for twisting.

WHY SHOULD WE TRAIN THE CORE?
The function of the INNER aspect is to stabilize your body for movement and also against gravity, much like the foundation of a house does this for the structure built on top of it. It also provides physical protection for your organs and nervous system. With regular and proper movement, the internal organs are massaged and fluids moved. From a health perspective this goes a long way to avoiding stagnation and physical issues such as visceral adhesions. Movement also significantly promotes circulation and improves organ function..

Training of the OUTER aspect is more beneficial towards direct movement and strength performance, especially towards enhancement of actions from the periphery (limbs). The outer core also provides a physical barrier to protect the internal organs.

HOW TO TRAIN THE CORE?
Gentle exercises done every day are the best way to a healthy INNER core. In particular Qi Gong, Tai Qi, Pilates, Yoga and specific “inner core strengthening” exercises as recommended by your personal trainer or health practitioner. Secondly and often neglected; the inner core is strongly influenced by the daily behaviours of sitting and standing and in fact any movement. Proper useage and awareness of the inner core can not only prevent injury and weakening but may also actually strengthen it. “Active sitting” as well as yoga breathing can do this for example.

The OUTER core muscles can be trained in more traditional means such as weights, isometric exercises, sports or dance. Free weights are best used however as machines tend to over restrict the movement leaving stabilizing muscles underdeveloped.

This article is but a brief introduction to an interesting aspect of the body we call the core. If you have questions or want more information please feel free to contact Kurt Jurek by email or telephone.

Make the Most out of Your Active Summer: Avoid Injury

Nobody likes to be sidelined by injury, especially when we’ve been waiting for the good weather and now it’s here!   Here are a few tips to help avoid injury while keeping yourself in great shape.  They are common sense but a little reminder once in a while doesn’t hurt…

1. Don’t go from 0 to 60:  If you’ve been sedentary for the last few weeks or months, take it easy at first, spend more time stretching – both before and after activity.

2. Stretching: It is better to stretch more frequently for a short time than stretch rarely but for a long time.  If it’s been a while, then stretch to first awareness (when you feel the muscle activate), do not over stretch.  Also remember that not only does stretching avoid injury but it also helps to improve your performance. Before a sport, warm up with exercises that simulate the range of motion but with less vigour, after the game, stretch it out.

3. Beware the “twinge & tightness:” If you’re playing a sport or doing any activity and you feel your back or any area tighten or feel a twinge of pain – this is a message that you’ve gone too far. The tight or twinging area is what I call an “area of vulnerability” and is a likely candidate for serious injury such as a slipped disk.  It is best to get this looked at by a professional, especially if it happens repeatedly or you can’t seem to stretch it out.

4. Wear the right gear: I’m not just talking cleats during soccer here (although that’s very important too), remember that getting sick can also put a damper on your fun. So, when it’s cold and raining or if it’s hot and sunstroke weather make sure you dress appropriately.  Finally, remember the importance of proper hydration during vigorous activity and heat.

If you have any questions or have injured yourself, please feel free to contact kurt jurek for some helpful advice or treatment, and enjoy your summer.

Spring has Sprung …

Everyone knows that spring is a time for renewal, days are longer, the seeds are sprouting and the birds and the bees get busy. Just as nature comes alive, it’s also a time for us to make some diet and lifestyle changes.

In Oriental Medicine, spring is the time for us to come out of hibernation and become active again. This is the ideal time to do a cleanse for the body, when it is active again and ready purge any toxins that we have accumulated over the sedentary winter. It is time for us to put away the hearty soups and stews that have nourished us over the fall and winter and replace them with smaller and lighter meals. As the temperature rises, consider less sweet root vegetables like yams, potatoes and squashes, and more leafy greens, like parsley, lettuce, arugula or spinach, more salads and fruits, and incorporating poultry and fish instead of red meat. As we move towards summer, think “mediteranean” food – light and fresh.

Likewise, if you haven’t already, springtime is definitely the time to become more physically active, especially outdoors. Do those hikes you’ve been looking forward to, bike to work instead of driving and spend the weekends outdoors with the sunshine and fresh air (yes, even some Vancouver liquid sunshine if need be). This increased activity will not only drive away the winter blues, but get you in shape for the summer.

If you are interested in more information about cleanses, diet as medicine and how to live in harmony with the seasons and what you can do for the springtime, feel free to contact Kurt at kurtjurek@acufeelgood.ca or call 604-365-3655 and book a consultation.

Kurt Jurek is a practitioner of Oriental Medicine in private practice in Vancouver, Canada

Weight Loss and Smoking Cessation; for Real and for Good!

The beginning of the New Year is here and many of us suffer from the indulgence hangover. There is nothing wrong with using regret to make resolutions for change, but when this becomes a yearly cycle without any real progress, how do you really use this as an opportunity?

Real change for issues like weight, health, and smoking for example are often not reflective of our cognitive desires, so just changing our mind isn’t going to be enough.  These are habits that are deeply engrained, some are impulses directed from our brainstem, others are marbled into our lifestyles and often even linked to our self-esteem and our deeper consciousness. Despite this, making real change isn’t as difficult as one would expect; in fact we change ourselves all the time and aren’t even aware of it.

Get to know yourself – the longest journey doesn’t start with a step, it starts with the thought of a step, so getting to know how you work inside is the first real step.  What are your thoughts and feelings around a particular behavior or habit that you want to change?   Exactly what are you getting out of it?  even smoking has benefits people fail to recognize; it gives you a break, it gives you reward for your work, it can help to alleviate stress.  It is important to recognize these before moving on to how to satisfy these needs in another way.

Make a plan – while a holistic view of your life is more balanced overall, breaking up your resolution into smaller manageable goals and tasks is an important part of the process.  It is at this stage where most practitioners or products start. Do your research and as needed get the advice of professionals, you are unlikely the first person to ever want to lose weight or stop smoking, so let the experience of those who went before you help you.  It may even re-define your goals altogether, for example there have been many who have done nothing more than eat healthier but ended up losing weight and having better health as well without even expecting it.

Have Patience – Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Who you are today is the culmination of your whole life’s journey, it is rare to actually change your life permanently with just one thought or action.  Except in the case of accidents, if you look more closely at anyone’s seemingly “extreme” actions, there are usually early signs that this was going to happen.  So be good to yourself by not adding extra stress with tight timelines or unreachable goals.   Real change happens organically, not when you are watching it.  Bamboo can grow up to 3 inches a day, but I bet you’d never see it move once.  Follow your plan and the good advice you get along the way and before you know it … you’ll be 5 pounds lighter.

For more information, check out these links on smoking cessation and weight loss, or contact Kurt at kurtjurek@acufeelgood.ca or call 604-365-3655.

Kurt Jurek is a practitioner of Oriental Medicine in private practice in Vancouver, Canada

Fall : The Season of Harvest & Comfort Food

In nature and in traditional communities, the fall season is the time to harvest and store, just take note of what our squirrel friends are doing and you’ll get the idea.

In modern society we are more sheltered from the effects of the seasonal changes, but we are hardly isolated. In the fall it is normal to see a calming of the frenetic summer energy, an increase in flu and colds, and a general inward focus more towards family and home, thanksgiving for example. However, people with a tendency to easily feel cold or catch seasonal bugs and feel low in energy may begin to feel uncomfortable. Making some simple diet and lifestyle changes can often help significantly.

It is easy to start by eating less spring and summer foods like salads and citrus fruits, move more towards fall fruits and veggies like pears, apples and squashes. It is time for hearty soups and stews. Consider wonderful root vegetables that are sweet like yams, potatoes, and onions as well as ginger and warming spices (not hot spices). Add cruciferous leafy greens like kales, chards or broccoli, and whole grains. For non-vegetarians who don’t eat much meat, consider incorporating a bit more into the diet if you are feeling low in energy. For vegetarians consider more legumes, black and kidney beans, adzuki beans, less tofu and less cold veggies like cucumbers.

As our inner metabolism slows down in the fall, likewise it is natural for our physical activity to change. This is not an endorsement for you to avoid the gym, but it is a call to a balanced approach, especially regarding extreme sports and vigorous activities. Consider walking, bicycling, tai chi or dancing as healthy movement activities. There’s nothing wrong with continuing your regular morning jog, but remember that it’s not July anymore, dress appropriately for the temperature, wind and rain and consider doing a little less if you get a cough or sniffle.

For more information about how to live in harmony with the seasons and what you can do to prepare for the fall, feel free to contact Kurt.