Sick Care vs. Wellness Care: A Shift in How We Understand Health Care

Image result for wellnessThe mainstream medical system tends to support the idea that you only need to go to the doctor when you’re already sick. Think of this as a sick care model of treatment. It’s a good thing modern medicine has given us powerful treatments for sickness, but you don’t need to wait until you’re sick to receive care. Wellness care, on the other hand, is the model of medicine that promotes well-being through preventative care and on-going maintenance check-ups. Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are paradigmatic examples of the wellness care philosophy.

When I treat patients with Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, they often ask how quickly they will feel better. The number of treatments will depend on how chronic or acute the case may be and how quickly the body reacts to the treatments. Most people tend to see positive results within three or four treatments. What I also like to encourage patients to consider, however, is coming in to see me before they start feeling sick, or before the symptoms become burdensome.

Shifting our perspective to a wellness model encourages us to play the long game. You should invest in your wellness before you get sick in order to prevent sickness. Some ways to invest in your health include:

  • eating a whole foods and, as much as possible, plant-based diet,
  • moving your body regularly (whether that means going to the gym, a yoga class, or for a walk around the block– it doesn’t matter, just move!)
  • visiting your acupuncturist for maintenance check-ups one to two times per season to help ward off imbalances that lead to illness.Value your health before sickness comes!

Love Your Liver

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season corresponds to an organ and emotion. To ensure the best organ function, start eating for the season 3-5 weeks before the seasons change.

It’s time to start preparing for spring which means it’s time to start loving your Liver!

liver-supportWhat do you think of when you think of spring? Green! Growth! New Life bursting from the earth! This is how Traditional Chinese Medicine views the Liver’s energy. It’s in charge of storing and circulating blood throughout the entire body and is responsible for the smooth circulation of qi throughout the body.  If your qi is not flowing smoothly, it stagnates which can cause us to become irritable or angry, feel pain, or experience cramping during menstrual cycles. From a Western perspective, the liver plays an important role in detoxifying, digesting, and processing proteins, fat, sugar, as well as toxins, heavy metals, drugs or alcohol. Love your liver with acupuncture, and a nutritional and emotional spring cleaning!

Signs and symptoms that your Liver function might be out of balance:

  • you are easily angered or irritable,
  • you have hypochondriac pain (wandering or localized),
  • you feel like you have a lump stuck in your throat,
  • you have dry eyes, blurred vision, brittle nails,
  • you wake between the hours of 1-3AM,
  • you experience IBS symptoms or constipation,
  • and ladies, you experience painful menstrual cycles (clotting, cramping, sore breasts).

Nutrition is the best way to help your Liver function at its optimum. TCM tells us to eat green for the spring. Add (preferably cooked or lightly steamed) green vegetables and sour foods to your diet. Acupuncture will work even more effectively if you have the basic nutritional building blocks in place.

Foods to start adding to your diet:

  • warm lemon water first thing in the morning or right before meals
  • mint tea and honey
  • beets, carrots, watercress, mustard greens, onions, seaweeds, radish, dandelions
  • green smoothies (with non dairy milk) or green juices

Get in touch with your anger and express yourself!
Believe it or not, not expressing your feelings can actually make you sick (even if you’re eating the right foods and exercising)!  Each organ has its own emotion. Anger is the emotion associated with the Liver. Being too angry can be just as detrimental to your health as swallowing your anger and pretending everything is fine. Set the intention this season: learn to compassionately speak your mind!  Your voice deserves to be heard. It’s okay to compassionately confront someone if you feel hurt or angry. Help your liver by expressing yourself!

Here’s the quick test. Do you need to cleanse?

On a regular basis do you:

  • feel tired?
  • feel dizzy, trouble concentrating or foggy thinking?
  • eat fast, fatty, fried, oily, processed foods?
  • use stimulants, coffee, cigarettes, sugar to boost yourself each day?
  • move your bowels less than twice a day?
  • have intestinal gas, bloating or constipation?
  • experience headaches?
  • eat fish more than twice a week?
  • have food allergies or skin problems?
  • have sinus problems or often have lower back pain or weakness?
  • feel sluggish or overweight?

If you answered yes to more than three of these questions, you might want to consider adjusting your diet and adding in some acupuncture to help your Liver Qi flow more smoothly!


First off, let me start by saying, I have a needle phobia and I mean a bona-fide sweaty palms, heart racing out of my chest, kind of phobia. As a child, I used to cling to the undersides of chairs before I let a nurse or doctor pry me off and stick a needle in me. As an adult, I find myself still fighting the fear of needles, often fainting at blood draws, etc. Believe me when I say that acupuncture, a therapy using needles, was the LAST treatment on my radar.

So, how did I get in the treatment chair (and not hide under it)?   About up six years ago, I found myself in a doctoral program, stressed and exhausted with migraines, insomnia, and some serious anxiety (not to mention many other symptoms that I didn’t even realize were related until I began to get treatments).  I visited doctors. I tried medication. I worked out. Nothing gave me relief, and no one had the answers because “nothing was wrong” with me. So, I decided to take my studies of meditation and embodiment into my own hands and become my own research experiment. I found a wonderful acupuncturist who was extra caring.After a lot of talking, calming, and deep breaths, the needles went in (about 12 in total). To be clear: the needles are needles…don’t let anyone tell you different, but they are not hollow like the ones used to draw blood.

acupuncture needles

They are as thin as a whisker and don’t suck anything (e.g. blood) out of you! If you’ve never had an acupuncture treatment this might sound strange, but after a few moments with the needles, I could actually feel a heavy energy traveling along lines (what I now understand to be meridians) from my head to my toes. It was a divine experience feeling cocooned in a warm blanket of qi (or energy), and, best of all, my anxiety (the anxiety I walked in with prior to thinking about needles and the anxiety I had about the needles) disappeared. I was able to breathe, my headache stopped, I relaxed…in short it was incredible. If that’s not enough to at least get you to try a treatment or two, then I don’t know what is!

The “magic” behind acupuncture is that the needles tap into your body’s own healing capacities. The needles simply remind the body to “wake up” and “reboot” what needs attention (i.e., what’s become stuck, or tired, or overworked). That’s why when you go in for a treatment to address anxiety (e.g.), you might also get a better night’s sleep, your digestion might improve, and your overall energy might increase. Repeat: This all happens naturally! (I’ll discuss the Western scientific understanding of how this works in my next post.)

I didn’t decide to start pursuing a career as an acupuncturist for another couple of years after this initial experience, but did continue to receive treatments. The truth is, I still don’t love the needles per-say, but I fell in love with the philosophy of this medicine and what the needles could do. I knew I had to learn more! I left my graduate program, enrolled in school for Oriental Medicine, and now I want to share all of the knowledge I’ve gathered up in the nine years I’ve been a graduate student (yes nine, phew!) as a philosopher and as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner.  If you’re curious about acupuncture or looking to try something natural to get back into balance, I’d love to work with you! Schedule your appointment with me today!