Zen“Those who act with bravery and courage will overcome diseases.” ~ Inner Classic of TCM

On my recent annual trip to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, I was so thoroughly enjoying the perfect peacefulness of the early evening and the pure bounty of nature, when there was a mishap. Somehow, while walking towards my cabin, the end of a branch jammed itself into my big toe, underneath the cuticle. OwOwwOwww!!! You might not know this about me, but I’m such a baby when it comes to these things! I really don’t like pain (that’s why I’m such a good acupuncturist). I immediately started thinking the worst: I’m going to lose my nail, I’m going to be in pain, I’m going to develop an infection out here in the wilderness.

Of course, none of that happened. It was indeed an act of bravery on my part as I dislodged all the foreign matter from underneath my big toe nail (you have no idea!). My immune system took over (with a little help from soap & water, peroxide and neosporin; and later, the hot mineral baths and coconut oil). The initial pain told me that there was an invader that broke through the skin. Then the blood pushed out any bacteria from the site of the wound. The slight swelling revealed my body’s inflammatory response to the intrusion. Clotting factor quickly closed up the wound. White blood cells and fibrin went to the area and created a scab.

In the long run, all is well. Being at Tassajara helped me to be very zen about it, and the wound healed rather quickly. In fact, the branch punctured a couple of very applicable acupuncture points (Yin Bai/Spleen 1 & Da Dun/Liver 1) which helped me to chill out even more. Needless to say, I very much enjoyed my time away – as usual!

So after that long introduction, let’s look at your amazing immune system. The immune system is made up of several components, comprising your body’s natural defense system. Those components are:

  1. White blood cells
  2. The entire digestive system, including the intestines
  3. The lymphatic system
  4. Certain organs, such as the lungs, liver and spleen
  5. The endocrine system, including the pituitary, thyroid and adrenals
  6. The skin

Sometimes we think the immune system is limited to warding off colds and flu. In reality, your immune system works in a variety of scenarios:

  1. Any kind of pathogenic factor that may invade the body, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, molds, etc. In Asian medicine, these pathogenic factors include wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness and fire.
  2. Any injury, for example surgery, accidentally slicing your finger instead of the zucchini, or getting bruised during kick-boxing class.
  3. Allergies, including environmental sensitivities – pollen, ragweed, alfalfa, dust, cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust fumes – the list is very long.
  4. Diet and poor nutrition – sensitivities to certain foods, chemicals and food colorings, preservatives, excito-toxins, packaged-fast-convenience (non)foods.
  5. Emotions and stress – anything that causes undue stress and/or unbalanced emotions can activate the immune system.

Generally, the immune system becomes “activated” or stimulated by detecting some sort of invader in the body, whether from the external or internal environment, and immediately going to work to rid the body of the offending substance. White blood cells are considered the body’s first line of defense, including granulocytes, lymphocytes, and monocytes. It is in this collection of white blood cells that normally all types of invaders are neutralized and/or destroyed. Of course, this explanation is a gross simplification of the process that the body and its immune system go through to keep the body alive and maintain balance; it’s much too complicated to go into further detail here. The idea is that the immune system makes sure the body stays healthy and maintains homeostasis.

The immune system is very sensitive in detecting detrimental invaders. In fact, it can, in some cases, go into attack mode when it seems there is nothing to attack. This is when diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can develop.

These and many others are known as auto-immune diseases, where the body’s immune system “attacks itself.” Auto-immune diseases are often caused by a combination of factors, including (but not limited to) allergies, viral infections, dietary imbalances, exposure to toxins, stress, and endocrine imbalances. Know that this is not a default of the immune system; your body is indeed very intelligent. Once you give your body what it needs (and take away what it doesn’t need), the inflammation often abates and the imbalance goes into remission.

How can you best care for your immune system as naturally as possible?

  1. Eat good food. Nutritious food, made from wholesome ingredients and balanced for your body, will help ensure a healthy immune system.
  2. Get good rest. This is critical, as your body repairs itself during periods of rest and sleep.
  3. Exercise. This circulates not only the blood and cardiovascular system, but aids the lymphatic and other waste systems to eliminate wastes from the body.
  4. Get Acupuncture treatments. This is a great therapy to balance the immune system. Because acupuncture breaks the skin in very specific sites, the body will go into self-healing mode, targeting the organs and/or meridians accessed by the acupuncture needles. Also, herbs and supplements may be prescribed at this juncture to enhance the acupuncture treatments.
  5. Detoxify Regularly. Cleansing and detoxifying your body once or twice a year not only jumpstarts weight loss and balances the body overall, this practice also keeps inflammation at a minimum and ensures a more balanced, strong immune system.
  6. Manage stress. Deep breathing, meditation, Tai Chi, and Yoga are all helpful. Notice other ways to find and/or create happiness & joy in your life.

Spoonful of SugarIn 1900, the average American consumed the equivalent of 4 pounds of sugar per year. Today, that number is 150 pounds per person per year, or about 3 pounds per week – and is steadily climbing! In 1900, incidences of type 2 Diabetes were rare. Today, just over 100 years later, type 2 Diabetes has inundated the world in record-breaking numbers and in epidemic proportions. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2030, about 8% of the adult population will be Diabetic, and the mortality rate of those with type 2 Diabetes will have doubled from that of the year 2005.

Originally a disease of the affluent, people around the world and of all walks of life are developing this illness – an illness that is largely preventable.

It is my intention and a primary goal of mine to do whatever I can to eradicate type 2 Diabetes. I want to let you know how this has happened, and what we can each do to reverse this crazy disease that is wreaking havoc in our societies.

Type 2 Diabetes is an illness that represents what I call a “mosaic” of several disharmonies. This article will outline those various disharmonies.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body has trouble processing sugar in the blood. Normally, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that serves as a catalyst to remove sugar from the bloodstream, and places the sugar into the tissues, which is in turn used by the body for energy (or stored as fat if the energy is not used).

But when too much sugar and starch (which also turns into sugar) is consumed, the pancreas and digestive system can’t process it all. The tissues become resistant to allow the insulin to process the sugar. This is what is known as insulin resistance. Therefore, the sugar remains in the blood, sending blood glucose levels higher and higher. Type 2 Diabetes occurs mostly in adults and seniors, but is increasingly occurring in children as well.

When there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, all of the body’s main organ systems may be affected. Let’s take a look at each system:

  1. Cardiovascular – glucose in the bloodstream causes inflammation of the vessels, causing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Over time, continued high blood sugar readings will affect the blood circulation in the extremities, causing numbness, tingling and eventual necrosis in the feet and hands, as well as erectile dysfunction, impotence and blindness.
  2. Gastro-intestinal – aside from gas, bloating, and elimination problems, the most obvious thing that relates to type 2 Diabetes is weight gain. Sugar turns into fat when not used as energy – and so weight gain occurs in 85-90% of type 2 Diabetics, with the bulk of the weight gain occurring around the waistline.
  3. Kidneys – these react by trying to filter the sugar out of the body, so people with high blood sugar will find themselves urinating more often. The body becomes dehydrated, so then the person will become thirsty. On top of that, the average Diabetic will not crave water, but rather something sugary and/or dehydrating, like soda, lemonade, juice or beer.
  4. Lungs – in Chinese medicine, the lungs regulate the releasing of fluids via perspiration. Diabetics will tend to have more spontaneous sweating, day and night. This will further deplete the body of vital fluids.
  5. Endocrine – when there is an excess of glucose in the bloodstream, all aspects of the endocrine system are out of balance. The endocrine system comprises glands like the pituitary, hypothalamus, adrenals and thyroid, releasing hormones that regulate every day bodily functions. The pancreas and liver are also integral parts of the endocrine system. They communicate closely with the other parts of the endocrine system as well as the brain. For instance, insulin, released by the pancreas, is a hormone of the endocrine system. Other hormone imbalances occur when there is an imbalance with blood sugar. The symptoms of these can be many, for example, insomnia, undue fatigue, the inability to lose weight, or cravings for sweet foods.

Many people have imbalances in one or more of these vital body systems, but never stop to think that it may have something to do with high blood sugar. It is wonderful to know that by normalizing blood sugar, many of those other symptoms may recede, allowing the body to become balanced once again.

I am excited to bring this leading edge information to you about blood sugar and type 2 Diabetes, and how to avoid it, control it – and yes – possibly reverse it!

This article is the first of a series on type 2 Diabetes. The next article will offer information on the causes of type 2 Diabetes. Part 3 will examine what to do to treat and possibly reverse Type 2 Diabetes.