The “Healing Crisis”

It's going to get worse before it gets better.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

I found out the hard way that healthy healing hurts. And it’s supposed to. After my first acupuncture session I experienced what I later learned was a very common thing, a “healing crisis.” The blog Healthy Life has a great article on it titled “Healing Crisis: When It’s Good to Feel Bad” which describes this “crisis” as “a temporary worsening of symptoms that occurs when the body is going through the process of healing itself through the elimination of toxins. It occurs when the body ‘retraces’ old injuries, wounds, infections or other imbalances from its past.” Journalist and blogger Jennifer Chaussee also posted about her experience with a healing crisis in “Why Acupuncture Made Me Sick.”

For all the research I did on acupuncture, how it can cure Colitis (among many other illnesses and injuries) and what to expect during a session, I somehow never came across this until I started Googling “feeling sad after acupuncture” and other phrases. Then I found a plethora of information on this phenomenon. For one, symptoms range from a worsening of actual physical symptoms (blood and cramps for me) to emotional symptoms such as sadness, irritability, or feeling “down.” After reading more than a dozen articles, I also learned that a healing crisis isn’t just the result of acupuncture. Even things as seemingly benign as a new diet can bring one on, and they’re equally common with meditation, chiropractic treatments, biofeedback, intense massage and–as one might expect–psychotherapy. Why?

In Chaussee’s words: “apparently, your body holds grudges better than your relatives. as it stores layers of fat over the years, that fat stores trace amounts of the various viruses and toxins and whathaveyou that have visited your body at one time or another. so all the colds you’ve had, the flu’s, the hangovers, the emotional crap you put yourself through in the past is literally stored inside of you in remnants and when you detox the idea is to release all that built-up crud. . .but during the release, those toxins are released into your blood stream from the fat they’ve been hiding in. if you don’t have enough water in your system or you just have a lot of crud built up in your body over time, you can essentially re-live all those toxins all over again. that flu will come back. you’ll be hungover. you’ll be thinking of that fight you had, those things you said, revisiting that memory you’d thought you’d seen off long ago.” [sic] Ah-ha!

When I returned for my second round of acupuncture, I was prepared. Instead of being blind-sided by overwhelming emotion (or fatigue) I was alert for it, welcomed it, and found that it was definitely not as intense this time as it was the first time. Instead of lingering for 2 days it was gone by this morning (and I went at 6:30pm last night). I read elsewhere that if the condition you’re primarily trying to address is more acute, such as my 6-month bout with this first flare, your healing crisis will be intense but brief, and likely won’t affect you as severely after 2-3 treatments. That is the case here. So, acupuncturees take heart – the needles aren’t painful and the fallout from your first treatment or two is normal and actually desired. If you’re not experiencing any kind of “healing crisis” then likely you either need more frequent treatments, or what you’re trying–whatever it is–isn’t working. No pain, no gain.

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My 1st Acupuncture Experience

acupuncture2

So in follow-up to my earlier acupuncture post, I had my actual appointment today. (This was after the first place I’d wanted to go “lost” their acupuncturist, and I needed to look around for another reputable site.) The minor delay was totally worth it. I walked in not knowing what to expect, but with an open mind. I walked out with my mind blown, in the best, most relaxed calm of my entire life. This “peace” makes all the relaxation I’ve felt with various massages feel negligible in comparison. The needle insertion was slightly uncomfortable – while certain needles went in entirely without me feeling a thing, some did “pinch” a little, or were accompanied by odd sensations. She warned me about each one if they were going to feel a little weird, and the sensation passed almost immediately. (And at no time was it like receiving a shot at the doctor’s office, or giving blood. Those actually hurt, this does not.)

She also cautioned that a “heavy” feeling, or minor “dull aches” and sensations along those lines were entirely normal while lying there. I relaxed for about an hour, during which time I was transformed. I experienced a highly meditative state, and also a lot of strange, fascinating sensations, particularly in my lower abdomen. At times it felt excessively warm, at other times I felt dull cramps – things I either haven’t felt at all or haven’t felt in quite awhile, thanks to the Remicade. I also experienced bizarre muscle twitches and sensations in other parts of my body, which is also apparently very normal, as acupuncture treats the whole body, not just whatever you’re trying to address.

When she removed the needles my limbs felt like jelly, and I felt like I’d just come off a two-week vacation on some tropical island paradise. It was an incredible 180 from the way I’d walked in. Throughout the rest of today I’ve had some unusual cramping, but I was also warned that a return of symptoms is normal, and actually indicates the process is working. And, even though I went in to begin “curing” my Ulcerative Colitis, other ailments would inadvertently be “cured” as well, such as any muscle pains I might be experiencing, anxiety, fatigue, et cetera. Typically patients report easier digestion and longer, deeper sleep following a session. Fingers crossed that’s the case, and that this finally gets a handle on my IBD so I can get off the mouse poison!

Red Wine (Yes, Wine) Kills Cancer Cells

Cab Franc, you're my hero.

Cab Franc, you’re my hero.

Raise your glass and rejoice! Red wine–and yes, actually wine this time, not just its properties, like resveratrol–kills cancer cells! In the article from Wine Spectator, “Wine Kills Lung Cancer Cells in Lab Tests,” Canadian researchers discovered that “red wine possesses anti-cancer properties.” For the test, “the team decided to measure red and white wines’ impact on non small-cell carcinoma lung cancer cells. They exposed samples of lung cancer cells to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Riesling . . .They found that both red and white wines halted the spread of lung cancer, but the reds were more effective. Red wine effectively stopped the spread of cancer cells, when compared to the control group, at 2 percent concentration. For white wine, similar results didn’t happen until 5 percent.” The article goes on to say that the “next step is to use doses of wine that correspond to moderate wine consumption in humans, one to two glasses per day, and examine the effect on tumor growth in mice. . .if we see a significant reduction in tumor growth with wine then we will have strong evidence that will justify the need of a clinical trial, a study in cancer patients.” Read more here. So the next time someone tells you that all that hype about red wine is nonsense, refer them back to this article and tell them to show a little respect.

Winter (and/or Flare?) Lackluster-Skin Fixers

Nude ProGenius Treatment Oil

Extreme cold, dry air and of course, months of being sick have wreaked havoc with my skin. I’m reviewing 3 products, one that actually repairs dry, uneven, sallow skin (Nude ProGenius Treatment Oil) and two that help “fake” that healthy look (Clinique Superprimer Face Primer and Benefit “That Gal” Brightening Face Primer, respectively) while the first is doing its job.

I received a tiny vial of Nude as a sample and when my go-to moisturizers started to fail, gave it a try. I found it a bit oily at first, but given five minutes it absorbed quite nicely. I’m sensitive to break-outs and despite its oily nature, it actually helped heal up some zits, and no new ones took their place. The product is formulated without all the nasties (parabens, phthalates, sulfates, dyes, etc.) and is designed to deliver “deep and long lasting skin cell nourishment, revealing skin that appears lit from within.” Does it? After a week I’ve seen a huge improvement in my skin. It’s more even, moisturized with fewer fine lines, and does look nourished and healthy. I use it under my regular moisturizer for an added boost.

Clinique Superprimer Face Primer to Correct Sallowness

While I was waiting for the oil to take effect I tried two different primers to “fake” the healthy glow. No amount of foundation or glittery, shimmery powders was giving my skin a realistic “luminous” effect; I merely looked like I’d been attacked by a fairy. The above comes in a range of shades to address a host of issues, from redness to overall discolorations. It’s oil-free and glides on almost invisibly, but leaves you a nice smooth canvas for your foundation or powders. Overall I wasn’t incredibly impressed. No break-outs and as a primer it worked great, but the effect was more subtle than I wanted. I think this is better suited for individuals whose “sallowness” is slight and their skin needs a only gentle nudge towards the glow, and you’re primarily after…well, a primer.

Benefit “That Gal” Brightening Primer

The holy grail of brightening face primers has to be, in my book, Benefit’s “That Gal.” It does a terrific job as a primer but does an even better job of creating the touted “lit-from-within” healthy glow that most everyone needs in winter, and anyone whose been sick or injured needs an extra dose of. No break-outs, no glitter, just a luminous sheen that manages to find its way through both foundation and powder to create that I-just-came-in-from-a-run (or perhaps was-just-kissing-my-sweetie) flush. Best part, I can see it working great in the summer beneath some bronzer for a more realistic sun-kissed look.

Boston Wine Expo 2014 Review

bwe2014

After everything I’ve been through for the past six months, there was no way I was missing the Boston Wine Expo. My guts owed me some normalcy and some fun, big time! This was our third year, but the first year attending the actual tastings, not just seminars. To try the best of both worlds, we opted for the Vintner’s Reserve Lounge. It was pricey, but the tickets enabled you to attend both that and the Grand Tasting. It was described as “the ideal setting for serious wine enthusiasts looking to sample rare and expensive vintages before they purchase a bottle. Located in a private room away from the Grand Tasting, the Vintner’s Reserve Lounge is the perfect way to spend an afternoon sampling fine wine and tasting delectable treats from the top restaurants in the city. Most wines poured in the Vintner’s Reserve Lounge retail for $75 and up while enjoying live entertainment.” Our vote? In a nutshell: Skip the Grand Tasting, even if you’re new to wine, and do the seminars. If you’re a wine pro…skip the Reserve Lounge and do the seminars too. They span the wine-experience spectrum, from Kevin Zraly’s “The One Hour Wine Expert” (which was a fantastic class) to more advanced sessions on  very specific topics such as elevage or the “Terroir of the Sherry Bodega.” You still end up tasting a lot of wine (assuming you do more than one seminar) and you learn far more than you do elbowing your fellow oenophiles out of the way for a tasting pour. PLUS, there are always a few non-wine seminars, such as Scotch 101 or this year, Rum 101.

And let me get a general concern out of the way – anyone with IBD worried about restroom availability need not fear, both the Seaport Hotel and the World Trade Center have bathrooms galore. Like, around every corner. Outside every room, practically. You might find lines at the massive Grand Tasting, but if you opt for seminars (which I highly recommend) they are in smaller conference rooms situated next door to the facilities, so you shouldn’t have a problem.

As for snacks? Bring your own (we even brought our own water bottles though water was available) or partake of what’s offered. We didn’t see much of what was being passed around in the Grand Tasting, but the Reserve Lounge was handing out grass-fed aged beef on quinoa, oysters on the half-shell and slices of filet mignon, as well as meatballs and cheese-and-cracker buffets. I’m still low-gluten, so I avoided the crackers, ate the meat off the crostinis and gave that to my husband. He was happy, my guts were happy too. I believe some seminars that involve wine-food pairings offer some eats, like cheeses, but I’ve never done one of those so don’t take my word for it.

The highlights for this year? We got to try some truly amazing wines (and some not-so-amazing wines). The stand-outs? 2008 Darioush Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, 1987, 1989, 1990 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (though we both thought that ultimately the 2011 Caymus cabs were better, as in, more drinkable). Also Bonny Doon’s very own leader, Randall Grahm, poured us his Le Cigare Blancs and explained the difference in elevage (he also conducted a Sunday seminar but unfortunately we could only make it to the Expo on Saturday) as well as his Le Cigare Volant reds (yum!). We also received a terrific education in Spanish wine and loved the Teixar, the “only single varietal Garnacha Peluda wine made in Spain.” Rare and delicious.

The let-downs? None were a major disappointment, however seeing Chalone chardonnay in the Reserve Lounge did raise my eyebrows. I consider that a daily-drinker, and while good, it felt out of place among its fellow grapes from Grgich Hills and Far Niente. Seeing Ravenswood was also a “?” moment. Nothing against these wines, but the way the Reserve Lounge was marketed–most wines retailing for $75+–I didn’t expect to see the wines I see every time I wander into Rapid Liquors to restock my wine rack.

And as for the Grand Tasting…well you know the saying. If you don’t have anything nice to say… In all fairness, there were good wines there, but they were hidden in the labyrinth of gimmicky mass-market juice calling itself wine and a host of non-wine-related products, like Infiniti. Walking through was overwhelming. I can’t imagine wanting to learn more about wine and trying to do so in such a boisterous crowd. It was hard enough to have a brief discussion in the relative calm of the Reserve Lounge! Thus, if you’re serious about learning more about wine, or just serious about wine, the seminars are the real gem of the Boston Wine Expo. One thumb for the Reserve Lounge, two thumbs up for the seminars.

Red Wine + Colitis = No Colitis?

Get your lifetime supply today!

Get your lifetime supply today!

My friend mentioned that she read an article about how resveratrol, found in red wine, suppresses Ulcerative Colitis. “Red wine may be the silver lining here!” she wrote. I want to believe that, but is it too good to be true? It’s the real deal, according to the article “Resveratrol suppresses colitis and colon cancer associated with colitis” from the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Now, they’re not saying to guzzle bottles of red wine–you’d have to drink about “1,000 a day” to receive the necessary concentration–but they are saying that resveratrol supplements are a good addition to an IBD-sufferers diet: “Resveratrol. . .is a naturally occurring compound, often derived from the Japanese (bushy) knotweed, but is also found in the skin of red grapes and is a constituent of red wine…Resveratrol has been shown to suppress several autoimmune diseases, including experimental encephalomyelitis, arthritis, myocarditis, and diabetes. The capability of resveratrol to suppress chronic inflammatory diseases associated with a high cancer risk, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), has only been explored in rats by one other group…[in this study] resveratrol administered in the basal diet suppresses DSS-induced colitis and colon cancer associated with colitis in mice.” Read more here. In the meantime, if you can stomach it, pour yourself a nice glass of pinot noir. Studies show it has the highest concentration of resveratrol of all the red wines (white wines are not made with the grape skin, thus they have little to no concentrations of resveratrol). And for those of you following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you’ll be pleased to know that dry red wine is permitted!

Surf Sweets Sour Berry Bears…

Who needs chocolate?

Happy Valentine’s Day! While everyone else is filling up on chocolates and those conversation hearts, or perhaps nursing a broken heart while drowning in a bottle of Jack, I’ve found a new (and gluten-free) candy addiction. These Surf Sweets are little bear and heart-shaped flavor bombs packed with Vitamin C and come without corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. They’re also teddy bear-friendly, being vegetarian and vegan. What more can you ask for on the one day of the year that you’re officially allowed to express your love for someone? Or in this case, something?