Tuesday, April 3, 2007

continuing education

In order to maintain your license current as an acupuncturist in the state of California, you need to complete 50 units of continuing education every two years. Living here in the Bay Area, we are lucky to have a large selection of great seminars we can attend nearby without travelling. Acupuncturists living in more remote parts of the country are offset not only the costs of the seminars, but need to spend large amounts of time and money on travel, as well. I consider myself very spoiled to be living in an area that has so much to offer in terms of workshops, lectures and cultural events - not only in my field of study, but in so many other areas of interest!

I realized a week or two ago that I was still short about a dozen of CEUs for my license renewal deadline at the end of April. Because my weekends over the next month were already pretty booked up and there was no particular seminar nearby that struck my fancy, I decided to order a distance learning course from Blue Poppy Institute. These are live seminars that were recorded on CD and come complete with all the handouts and notes. I chose a course on Treating Chronic Digestive Disorders with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Given my own background with digestive issues, treating digestive disorders has always been of particular interest to me. Although a fair amount of the information presented in the course was a repetition of material I have already learned, I learned a lot more by listening to it. Some information was new to me, and some was old information that I just needed to be reminded of. Several passages caused little light bulbs to go on in my head and left me with the feeling of an a-ha effect. One section in particular struck a chord with me. Bob Flaws, the presentor of the course, was discussing abdominal distention and bloating. These symptoms indicate a deficiency of "Spleen and Stomach Qi." The Spleen and Stomach, in TCM, are of primary importance for a smooth and healthy digestion. When the Spleen and Stomach systems are out of balance, digestion becomes impaired.

What causes an imbalance in the Spleen and Stomach systems? Let's back up for a moment and talk a bit about the "Liver system." The Liver, in TCM, is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, or energy, in the body. When the Liver is disharmonious, energy isn't flowing freely and things get "stuck." We call this pattern "Liver Qi stagnation." Signs of Liver Qi stagnation include depression, irritability, anger, frustration, flank pain (pain in the ribcage), distending pain, headaches, and PMS.

When the Liver is stagnant and in excess, it has a tendency to "overact on" or "invade" the Spleen and Stomach, causing the latter to become "disharmonious."

In Chinese Medicine, every organ's Qi has a direction in which it is supposed to flow. Spleen Qi is supposed to go up, bringing clear energy to the head. Stomach Qi should descend and lead turbidity downwards. When Spleen Qi fails to ascend, symptoms such as loose stools, diarrhea, water retention in the legs, fatigue, and foggy thinking result. When Stomach Qi rebels upward, one will experience hiccup, belching, acid reflux, nausea or vomiting. Additionally, the Stomach may fail to empty its contents properly, causing food to just 'sit there.' This is when we experience a feeling of bloating and distention. Appetite will likely be poor, and eating anything at all will make us feel worse, as the Stomach can't handle what's in it already, let alone anything we may be adding to it.

Liver Qi stagnation is the main cause of a Spleen and Stomach disharmony, and - here's what really struck me, as I hadn't heard it put this way before - according to Bob Flaws, the #1 cause of Liver Qi stagnation is unfulfilled desire! Wow!! Looking back at times in my life when my digestion was it its worst, yes, I would definitely say I was experiencing some unfulfilled desire!

When you get sick or experience physical discomfort, do you stop to think of the psycho-somatic connection? Do you see a correlation between what you are going through emotionally and what's showing up in your body?

Bob Flaws brought up another very interesting point in this course. He spoke about the importance of compassion and bedside manner. Those elements play such an integral part in the healing process. According to Bob, 40% of all healing is placebo! He remarked to his audience of acupuncturists that, if they weren't seeing at least 40% improvement in their patients, they might want to consider a different profession! I strongly believe in the importance of compassion in the healing process! I also believe it is crucial to find a pracitioner you connect with on an energetic level in order to obtain the greatest possible benefit from your treatments. Interestingly, oftentimes, seeing the most experienced or distinguished practitioner won't necessarily yield the best results. I believe the best results are achieved when you find a person you feel a healing connection with - whether it be a seasoned practitioner or a novice in her field.

To find the right practitioner for you, let your intuition guide you. Listen to your gut when you are considering a new healthcare practitioner. Talk to the person and feel them out. Sense whether their energy and their way of relating to you makes you feel comfortable and at ease. If you feel an uneasiness in your gut about that person, keep looking (just be sure you aren't confusing it with your own reluctance to take control of your health and seek out help!). If you feel a sense of calm around that person, explore how they might be able to help you further!

In health & happiness,