The Kidneys have a very special role in Chinese Medicine, far beyond the physical function we understand from a Western medicine perspective. Imagine your two kidneys as a personal jetpack on your back; our stamina, our endurance, our ability to keep going when we are tired or need to find the juice for that extra mile comes from these bad boys.
Our kidneys are said to house Jing, one of the three treasures of Chinese Medicine. This essence is our energetic stock cube, the concentrated good stuff, THE JETPACK.
This is what our body draws on when we are highly stressed, in danger, running on empty - the kind most of us are using at the moment!
There are some simple things we can do to look after our Kidneys, especially at this time of the year. Why in Winter? The Kidneys and Bladder are the manifestation of the Water Element, associated with Winter, the time of the year when nature is taking a rest in order to replenish herself for the year ahead. It's a good idea to take her lead!
Sleep Well or Take a Break at 5pm.
One of the best ways we have to counteract the effects of using our jetpack is to sleep well. It allows our nervous system to rest properly, balances our hormones, supports the health of our immune system, and so much more.
But if - like me - you are finding this kind of sleep harder to come by at the moment then my 'go to tip' is to meditate or do a Yoga Nidra practise.
This is 'Kidney' time according to the Chinese Clock, so if you are low on jetpack reserves this is the time when you are most likely to feel it. This is said to be equivalent to 2 hours of deep sleep. So, you can give the jetpack a rest and show your Kidneys a little love with this low-key but powerful yoga practice.
Stay Warm In the Winter.
The Kidney meridian begins on the sole of the foot, it's the only meridian to have contact with the earth in this way, but it does mean it's basically a direct line to conduct cold directly to the Kidneys.
So if you have wooden floors or tiles, get yourself some socks that you love a decent pair of baffies (that's slippers if you're English) and keep Kidney 1 covered.
The lower back should also stay warm, and if you are prone to feeling the cold you could do worse than invest in a haramaki, which is basically a Japanese boob tube for the waist. You will thank me for it.
This message is EVEN MORE important if you are trying to conceive. You remember I mentioned Jing the essence, the treasure that we inherit? Well, strong Jing helps with conception. Freezing your jings off ain't gonna help.
Also if your feet are always cold see an acupuncturist - that's not a normal thing, even if its normal for you. And do all of the above.
Listen To Your Ears!
In Chinese Medicine the ears are the sense organ associated with the Kidney Official, the link between tinnitus and deficient Kidney Qi well established in this modality.
When the Kidneys are healthy then our hearing is sharp. Kidneys, Jing essence, depletes with age (or as the Kidney essence depletes), so it makes sense to us practitioners that getting harder of hearing as you get older happens.
And whaddya know Western medicine is finally at the party, whoop!!
Recent research has shown that tinnitus is 3-fold more likely to develop in patients with versus without chronic kidney disease.
Essentially the tissue in the kidney is the same as the tissue in the inner ear, so this all adds up. But you know what is mind blowing? The Chinese knew this thousands of years ago. A system of medicine developed then is still more than fit for purpose. Hell yeah!
Drink More Water.
The message is simple. Drink enough water. Quite simply, everything that happens in our body requires being properly hydrated for that to happen. Water powers us. Without it, nothing else happens. We all know this.
But when it's cold the last thing we feel like doing is gubbing a large glass of water. So have a pint glass by the bed and take that on board first thing. Your bowels will show their appreciation.
Then fill a carafe of water as you stick the kettle on for your morning brew. By the time you are showered or have worked out or whatever it is you do first thing, it will get to room temperature and you can fill and refill your glass from that. It's much easier to drink, I promise!
If you are working from home have it next to you, as it is a rule of life that it is even harder to remember to drink enough water when it's not an excuse to have a gossip by the communal waterfilter or in the kitchen.
That is all. If your pee is yellow, drink water. If your pee smells, drink water. If you are tired, drink water. If you are thirsty, drink even more water. If you're a bit bored, drink water. If your skin is dry, drink water.
Look after your Jetpack!
In numerology 2021 is said to be a year of the universal 5, resonating with the energies of freedom and change. According to numerologist Felicia Bender "Overall, the 5 Universal Year is a time demanding change on a radical level."
You can read more about what this means on her page here but what this means for most of us on personal level is that the blanket is being shaken. Our comfort zone hasn't been comfortable for a while now, the global pandemic one major factor affecting all our lives. Instability, unpredictability, disruption are a given, but all create opportunities for evolution, expansion and transformation.
One of my favourite astrologers Alchemise offers that 'the power of 5 will be a vibrational reminder of the power of creativity and your own creative life force.'
Five Element acupuncture is at its very essence a transformative medicine. It can transform dis-ease and imbalance into health and harmony. Not only that but one of the fundamentals of this system of medicine is the Creative Cycle, or the five phases that tell of the never-ceasing transformation of yin to yang and yang to yin. The cycle of the seasons ever-creative but also ever-destructive; both healthy, both necessary.
This Creative Cycle - and its counterpart, the Destructive Cycle - are also at work, or at play, within all of us. We are microcosms of the macrocosm after all, so it would be arrogant to assume we are above the laws of nature! But, being human, we resist both of these things at times. Man has become accustomed to feeling he has mastery over nature. Change and transformation can be uncomfortable, demanding. Destruction or letting go of that which no longer serves us can make us feel fearful of what we are losing rather than curious about what we are making room for.
So could Five Element acupuncture be the ultimate medicine for this time? At its very heart is the teaching that we are offering a way to allow people to return to their true, authentic self and inviting them to live in a way that is a true, healthy expression of that self. Living in this way gives us incredible strength as well as a trust in the process of life that helps us embrace the full, messy, human experience.
It helps us live with courage, creativity, love, security, humility, strength, a deep knowing that whatever life brings we can be ok. It allow us to be fully inside our own 'creative life force'.
So yes. The perfect medicine for our time. The time is now.
One of the teachings that Five Element acupuncture gives us is that we have everything we need within us. We are connected to the Mother Earth and the Heavenly Father, living and breathing in between both, a unique manifestation of Qi.
It is so easy in life to lose this perspective, which is why being out in nature is so important for our mental, physical and emotional health. To be in nature, under the sky above, is to essentially spend time with our parents. It reminds us we are part of something greater that ourselves; that we always have the earth beneath our feet and the sky above our heads; and that whatever else happens that is unchanging.
Of course we also have real world parents, who may not be so silent and accepting, whose love may not be unchanging or unconditional, who may not be so reliable. Sometimes we look to our partners to provide this for us, or our friends.
But here's the wonderful thing that we learn. When we become adults, in full maturity, we realise we are responsible for ourselves and our own mental and emotional health. We can become our own parents.
Today, in the grip of a pandemic in the UK, another long lockdown in the middle of Winter, I invite you to be your own Mother if you need reminding that you are loved, supported, held, wonderful, trying your best, finding your way.
Whether you are struggling with providing for yourself, your family, homeschooling, trying to conceive, trying to find work, trying to cope in a living situation that is challenging, you can turn to yourself for some comfort in a conscious way.
Here are some ideas for engaging with your inner Mother:
Write yourself a letter, telling yourself all the things a mother would tell her child when she sees it struggling or needing encouragement and love. Be the mother you need, not necessarily the mother you have!
Recognise how hard you are trying, how hard it is, how well you are doing, what you are trying to overcome, that there is no perfect way to handle life, that mistakes are OK. Talk to yourself with compassion, with love, with encouragement and reassurance.
Give yourself an actual hug. You know the ones you used to do at school, when you made your mates laugh because you were pretending you were necking? Same as that.
Spend some time lovingly massaging your lower abdomen, your womb, where you are connected to the generations before you and the potential for life (not just children), using a sweet essential oil - Coriander Seed, Geranium, Rose (if you can afford a good quality one), Jasmine, Bergamot, Neroli, Ylang Ylang are some of my favourites. You can use one, or blend two or three together.
Buy yourself a little something. A book, a bunch of flowers, a cream cake - something just for you, that you don't need but that you'd like, just for you.
Being kind and loving to ourselves doesn't always come easy, especially if we have lots of other people to look after. So here's your reminder. You are important enough to be taken care of. And you can take care of yourself.
Talk about tough, right? We are ALL feeling a bit less resilient than usual this Winter. Indeed some of us are truly struggling, with issues around our mental and emotional health, the realities of our lives under lockdown and the impact of the astonishing twists and turns of global political and environmental factors.
So my main message as we kick off this New Year is to Go Easy. Winter is a time for deep rest, when the edict of nature is to rest and restore.
We have a cultural expectation in the West that we should start the year strong, with resolutions to change our lives, our lifestyles, our health, whatever it is we feel like we need to 'fix', but in reality - if we are working in harmony with nature and the energy of the seasons - this is a time to be still, go deep and spend some time considering where and on what we want to spend our energy over the coming year.
Taking some time for reflection now means we can focus our intention and prioritise what will make us feel more fulfilled or happier in the coming months with clarity. A pause in the year to catch your breath and assess where you are and where you want to go allows you to be proactive rather than reactive in terms of how the year ahead might look. Energy flows where intention goes after all!
Equally important is taking the time to live more quietly and replenish our energy (go to bed earlier, eat warm foods, nourish, nourish, nourish) in order to ensure that when Spring comes and the sap rises we are able to meet the powerful energy of the new season with a renewed sense of purpose and the power to bring our plans to fruition.
Within each season is the harvest of the next. When we recognise the seasonal cycle and the gifts each brings then we can live in a more powerful way.
So for now? Go easy.
One the areas of my practice that is incredibly busy - and incredibly rewarding - is working with my clients once they are actually pregnant and offering them support through to the fourth trimester. When it comes to supporting conception my practise has a purely Five Element approach, in the Worsley tradition as taught to me by Gerad Kite. But the more women who I worked with who became pregnant the more apparent it became to me that I needed a little more in my arsenal. I hadn't had a baby myself by this point so was woefully ignorant about the nitty gritty of the changes our bodies go through, the ways our body tries to accommodate the new life growing inside us - and the discomfort, anxiety and full on medical conditions that can come with this change in our state.
So I undertook postgrad pregnancy training with Jani White and Debra Betts, joined the Acupuncture Childbirth Team for London (ACT London) where I met the most incredible group of passionate, experienced practitioners and focussed on really understanding how acupuncture could help women experience the most comfortable, healthy and happy pregnancy possible for them.
At around this time I also met the powerhouse that is Hollie de Cruz (aka theyesmum) and joined her team at London Hypnobirthing. My knowledge and passion grew, and then, hallelujah, after my own 8 year struggle to conceive I finally became pregnant through IVF with my son Frank.
Well, given carte blanche to now submit to the magic hands of the London Hypnobirthing Team - yes that means you Nancy Nunn, MaryAnne Shiozawa and Hannah Adams - I experienced first hand the ways in which alternative therapies can ease physical discomfort and musculoskeletal issues, help prepare the body for birth by supporting alignment and balance, and help create a sense of calm and relaxation.
My colleague Tracey Goulding at The Little Escape was my acupuncturist for weekly sessions ahead of the birth so I could also experience for myself the benefits of committing to the idea of pre-birth acupuncture to help ripen the cervix for a spontaneous labour.
I woke myself up snoring more than once, learnt first hand what a miracle the body is capable of, and committed to sharing what I have learned with the women I work with.
In the years following Frank's birth I have continued with training; attending a Spinning Babies workshop, taking part in regular CPD sessions, continuing to create a network of amazing practitioners I work with and over the coming weeks will be going deep into this topic, about which I am so passionate. Come with me by following #QiForTwo on instagram, tell your pregnant friends about this series if they are interested in how to enjoy a comfortable 9 months, and feel free to send questions, topics or conditions you want to know more about. If acupuncture hasn't been shown to help, or I haven't experienced it helping clinically, I will be honest about that and point you to those who can help.
The London Acupuncturist
Picture this - you’ve recently given birth to your gorgeous baby. Your mother, sisters, aunts and friends have come together to look after you, treating you to massages, cooking you delicious nourishing food and take care of everything so all you need to do is rest and fall in love with your baby.
All across the world cultures practice the tradition of ‘lying in’ where a new mother is looked after for between ten to forty days after the birth. She is relieved of household responsibilities, fed nourishing foods, massaged and expected to do nothing but rest and get to know her baby. It’s a far cry from this bouncing back and getting on with it that has become normalised in our culture.
In Japan there is the custom that a woman stays with her family for the month after giving birth and may also stay in bed for 21 days so she can focus on bonding with her baby.
In Mexico it is tradition for a woman’s female relatives to look after her for the first forty days helping with cleaning, cooking, and looking after older children for example so that the only thing a new mother needs to focus on is looking after her baby.
China and Malaysian have the tradition of lying in where mother and baby stay at home for the first forty days.
These are just a few of the cultural traditions around the postnatal period from a round the world but at the centre of all of them is the idea of putting the mother first and her only job being to rest and look after her baby.
I know it might feel unrealistic and indulgent to say that you're going to stay home and not pick up the hoover for several weeks. There's too much to do, life goes on. There are messages to respond to, meals to cook, laundry to do, bills to pay and perhaps even older children that need you.
Your body undergoes an incredible transformation over the nine months that you grow and sustain your baby. Once you’ve done the amazing work of birthing your baby, your body will change once again and deserves rest and nourishment so it can recover.
We also live in an increasingly isolated society, but new mothers do not thrive in isolation. You need a village. That village might be made up of your partner, your family and friends. It might mean investing in a postnatal doula so that you have the support you need so that you have the start to motherhood that you deserve.
It is crucial that a new mother focus on looking after herself during this time. I’ve come up with the term ‘mothermoon’ to draw attention to this.
Research has found that in cultures that have ritual and customs that support new mothers are:
In order to be able to think about what your mothermoon might look like, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what life after birth might be like. This is why I’ve developed The Mothermoon Workshop.
The workshop explores what to expect physically and emotionally in the days and weeks after giving birth, your baby’s experience of transitioning from the womb to the world and what you need nutritionally to help you make sure you’re filling your body with nourishment to help support your recovery. It also covers how to write your postnatal plan.
No two women or babies experience the postnatal period in the same way. However, by having an idea of what to expect, you can begin to think about what support you might need. Some things can be planned for while others are unknown until after your baby arrives. Having a plan will help you feel more prepared and give you the best chance of having the start to motherhood that you deserve.
My next south east London Workshop is taking place on Sunday 22 April at Space@61 and it’s the last one until the autumn.
For more info and to book your spot: https://billetto.co.uk/e/mothermoon-workshop-tickets-271684
To find out more about Sarah - https://www.sarahtessier.com or follow her on Instagram
I’ve only gone and done it! Having spent several years in my practice advising women on how they can speed their recovery post-birth I can finally announce the official launch of The London Acupuncturist’s Mother Roasting Kit. This beautifully packaged gift box crystallises all of that advice and contains everything needed for a traditional post-partum treatment to energise, nourish and restore new mums.
You can buy it here The London Acupuncturist's Mother Roasting Kit
Promoting recovery after giving birth, mother roasting closes the gateways that have been opened, repelling wind and cold from the uterus and preserving the health of the mother. This is said to address the depletion post-birth that Chinese medicine believes can be a factor in low milk supply, post-partum depression, prolapse, fatigue, insomnia and anxiety.
Deeply nourishing, relaxing, quick and easy to do, a moxa stick is used to warm the abdomen and the lower back (if a support person is available to help with that area) for five to ten minutes to tonify the Qi in that area post birth. Helping the uterus to contract and replenishing the blood and Qi it’s a post partum power up!
Mother roasting should be done around four or five days after birth (as long as no signs of fever are evident) and the gift box – which was illustrated by the supremely talented Marion Rhoades - contains a moxa stick, information about mother roasting, full instructions for use and a recipe for Junie’s Chicken Broth, a tried and tested traditional Scottish broth that is renowned for its blood building properties. (My mum Junie made this for me when I had my son and having a giant pot of soup to heat up for a quick meal was invaluable in that first week, when hangry hit a new shade of rage).
Why did I create the Mother Roasting Kit? I treat lots of pregnant women - sometimes right up until the last hours before birth - but rarely see them once their babies arrive. Understandably. But the fourth trimester is supremely challenging even if the birth has been ‘textbook’ and I know this treatment can do so much to help body, mind and spirit recover from childbirth.
This is a lovely baby shower gift, as well as a brilliant gift to you buy yourself and ensure you take a bit of time out for yourself in those crucial days after birth.
Just as last year you couldn’t move without hearing about hygge, there’s been A LOT written about Ikigai over the last few months, with another book on published recently (Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life). I came across this concept just this summer, while on a yoga and transformational breath retreat with the wonderful folk at East of Eden and it resonated immediately with what I do in the treatment room.
So what is it? And how the frick can acupuncture help find it? Neatly translated from Japanese as ‘reason for being’, it’s the point at which passion, vocation, profession and mission meet - and finding your own Ikigai can be transformative in the way you experience this life. Waking up every day knowing you will get to do something that feeds you on the deepest level? SIGN ME UP, YO. A life with purpose can transform our existence, and gives things like money, status and power their proper perspective.
At the heart of Classical Five Element Acupuncture (CFEA) theory is the idea that if we live as an authentic expression of our true selves then we live in harmony and balance and thus in health. So if you are struggling to identify your Ikigai, or you would like to live a life that is a truer external expression of your deepest self, then perhaps a Five Element Acupuncturist could help you figure that out. How?
Working out what really ticks your tock, finding the courage to make big life changes, or even quieting the external and mental noise that our lives generate can all be factors that hold us back from our Ikigai. Acupuncture can help turn up that inner voice, the one which is your true north. And that's when the magic happens.
Sleeping well is the cornerstone of health. Our bodies do all sorts of amazing things when we sleep that we aren't aware of. Unless you are that unlucky woman I read about last week whose sleepwalking was so bad she went down a flight of stairs and broke her back. (She's recovering, don't worry, I'm not that ghoulish.) Anyway, one of the things that happens when we are asleep is that our hormonal system gets to work in a major way. So sleep, or lack of, can have a huge impact on our hormonal system - and if you are a woman and know even a tiny bit about how your body works, then you know that the menstrual cycle and fertility are part of this picture. But how? And why is sleep a factor?
Well, hello endocrine system. The endocrine system is the collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things. These glands include the pituitary gland, the thyroid and parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, and ovaries and testicles. So, you know, kind of crucial. And it has a complex response to sleep.
While sleeping, the secretion of some hormones increases, while some are inhibited. Fertility hormones affected by sleep include progesterone, oestrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). One key hormone affected is leptin, which affects ovulation, and women need adequate sleep for optimal leptin production.
Now of course there can be many reasons you find it hard to sleep, or to sleep well. Stress in our daily lives - whether external (e.g. work or family life) or internal (i.e. drinking a bucketload of coffee, an ice-bucketload of wine, or eating too much sugar) - can wreak havoc, as can things like taking our smartphones to bed.
The British Acupuncture Council have done the hard work for me and you can see a factsheet here which highlights the research that shows acupuncture can be effective in treating sleep disorders. But to quote: "On the evidence that we have, given that acupuncture appears to be at least as effective as existing conventional drugs, without their level of side effects, it could be considered as one of the therapeutic options for insomnia."
There you have it. As effective as drugs. Less side effects. So if you are worried that the quality of your sleep is affecting your ability to get pregnant, or you are embarking on IVF and are not a great sleeper, think about seeing an acupuncturist.
What do I mean, are you ready? Of course you’re ready, you want a baby and you want one NOW. You’ve been patient, you’ve been trying really hard, you’ve been really good and brave and now you want to see a positive result on a pregnancy test stick. The blue line, the PREGNANT sign.
I see many patients who are in the process of undertaking IVF but who aren't really mentally or emotionally ready for it. Panicked by their age, or the staff at the clinic they are using who have told them they must start IMMEDIATELY (let us not forget, are also running a business) or the crushing monthly feeling that takes over when a period makes its unwelcome appearance. The momentum carries them through from the panic at being told their AMH levels are low, or polycystic ovaries, or they are just a bit past their sell by date and if they don’t do it NOW they will have left it too late, to the point where they are booking in for treatment without taking stock.
Yes, time is a factor. Egg reserves are a factor. But not the only factor. Panic, fear, stress can all contribute to creating the wrong conditions for a positive result and you only have to look at the statistics to know that they are also against you.
To quote the quite wonderful Zita West, fertility is a whole body event. It is not something that takes place independent of your brain, your emotions, or your physical state.
So please, please, please, make sure you are feeling kind of ok. That you have come to terms with the IVF option. That you aren't railing against your fate, crying in toilets a lot, and feeling angry / resentful / depressed that you are going to have to try and conceive in an expensive, intrusive way. Some questions you can ask yourself (and be honest about the answers, you are only lying to yourself, after all.)
How healthy are you? You should be exercising regularly. This doesn’t mean embarking on some crazy regime but you need to be getting your heart pumping a few times a week whether you swim, run, walk, practice yoga or love Zumba.
If you don’t exercise habitually then start walking every day. This is important for bringing oxygen into your body, promoting healthy blood flow and circulation, which will help your mental state as well as your physical state. Exercise reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep and increased your overall wellbeing – all of which are beneficial for anyone on the IVF train, which can be a huge strain. So not only will you improve your odds but you will also feel better.
BMI: If your BMI (body mass index) is over 30 then you are categorized as obese and studies show this can affect your response to IVF and a successful outcome. If you are an NHS patient they may not fund a round of IVF until your BMI is lower, and if you are paying for a round then unless you have money to burn and an emotional equilibrium like Teflon you need to address this.
If your BMI is under 20 then a risk of miscarriage is higher.
To calculate your BMI divide your weight in Kg by your height in Metres, then divide the answer by your height again. Or go online and find an easy online calculator to do it for you.
Have you been eating right? You know that too much coffee, skipping meals and drinking too much are not going to help. So make sure you are getting omega 3s, leafy green veg, lots of protein and just a little bit of whatever you really love so you don't feel like you are being punished twice. You honestly can have the odd cream cake or glass (glass, I said) of wine.
Are you (both) prepared for a bit of a rollercoaster? IVF can be bruising, no doubt about it, so you need to be going into it holding hands, a team. From the initial tests, to the drug stimulation, egg collection, fertilisation and embryo transfer you can go from hope to disappointment, so brace and try to rise above it all. These are all things you can't really control.
Could you deal with a multiple pregnancy? The chances of a multiple pregnancy are 1 in 5 with IVF, vs. a national average of 1 in 80, according to the HFEA. If you are undergoing IVF then on the one hand a multiple pregnancy would seem the answer to a ready made family. Two for the price of one, so to speak. That's true, but carrying twins (or triplets) carries far greater risks for you and your babies. If you are doing this alone, can you truly afford / cope with two? Or even three? If you don’t think you can then perhaps you should talk to your clinic about the number of embyros they transfer per round.
Are you strong enough to cope with any disappointments? If you think failing a round of IVF will pull you under then please just wait. It's unlikely to work if you are that fragile anyway. Have some counselling. Try acupuncture, CBT, or hypnotherapy, or anything else that can improve your state of mind and help you feel a bit more robust. The statistics don't lie and IVF can be a bit of a long game.
So if you need a month or two to get your head in the game, take it. It's important for you, your partner and for the months to come. And I absolutely promise it will help.
Passionate about the pins.
Please contact me if you would like to book a free telephone consultation. You can also follow me on social media via the links below.
Tues: 3pm-9pm HOLBORN (PAUSED)
Weds: 2pm-9pm CRYSTAL PALACE
Friday: 9am-2pm CRYSTAL PALACE
Saturday: 9am-2pm BRIXTON
+44 (0) 7958 916722