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by Jennifer Keith, R.Ac Acupuncturist

As the days become shorter, the temperature drops and the pressure of the holidays begins to weigh you down, you may find your mind isn’t as sharp and you’re not thinking as clearly as you normally would.

What you might not know is there could be an explanation for why you’re feeling this way and acupuncture could be the answer you’re looking for.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the ability to concentrate relies heavily on having an abundance of vital energy (Qi) in your body. In order to cultivate this vital energy, we need to ensure our digestion is in good working order. If not you may end up with excessive dampness, phlegm or mucus build-up. These factors will prevent energy from rising to our heads, thus leading to a lack of nourishment required for clear mental activity.

The most common disrupters of our digestion come from a poor diet and/or over consumption of foods, especially those which are sweet, greasy or dairy-based. Even healthy foods such as nuts or raw vegetables can wreak havoc on our systems if over-consumed. Signs of poor digestion can be exhibited by bloating, loose stools, poor appetite or fatigue. Those with dampness or phlegm may additionally notice symptoms of heaviness, sinus problems, cloudy urine or be expelling visible phlegm. You may also notice symptoms are worse during rainy or damp weather.

Furthermore, the energy needed to fuel your body comes from the air we breathe and the foods we consume. So, if the foods we’re eating are creating poor digestion, your body will need to work harder to digest and take away from energy going elsewhere in the body, including the brain.  We also use the food we eat to replenish energy and essence we lose in everyday activities. We use this energy to manufacture “marrow” which nourishes the brain. Again if the brain is not being nourished it will not function at full capacity.

Another important factor in brain health is a smooth and unobstructed flow of blood to the brain. If your blood is not as abundant as it should be or circulating through the body effectively it will not be as successful at reaching and nourishing the brain. Deficient blood can be brought on by trauma, chronic illness, over-exertion or a poor diet. Sufferers may appear pale, experience dizziness, or present with dry skin, hair and nails. Obstruction of blood flow can be brought on by stress or emotions, trauma, poor flow of energy or blood, environmental factors like excessive heat or cold, diet or lifestyle habits. Signs of obstructed flow might include darkness of skin, sharp/stabbing pain in a fixed location, purple lips, nails or tongue or hard masses.

As mentioned above, stress and emotions can take a toll on our bodies and cause the energy in our body to stagnate. If there is a stagnation in the body blood won’t be able to circulate as it should and won’t reach the brain for nourishment.

Finally, overstrain, stress and of lack of physical exercise may also contribute to brain fog and mental fatigue. Overstrain and stress consume the vital energy of the body. If the body does not restore the Qi (energy) lost during overexertion of mental, physical or sexual activity and fails to be restored by rest, nutrition or air, it may lead to dysfunction of the body or disease. For those not getting enough physical activity, it can impair the circulation of Qi and blood, thus making it difficult to reach and nourish the brain, impairing its function.

Successful treatment would require a combination of acupuncture focused on your specific dysfunction/issue as well as modification of the diet to remove those foods that are disrupting the balance within your body, as well as adding foods to nourish those organs and get them back in working order. Other treatments could include meditation or Qi Gong to get the energy flowing properly again.

5 Tips for Improved Mental Function

  1. Cut down or eliminate: greasy foods, sweet foods, and dairy products
  2. Exercise regularly: at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day
  3. Increase beneficial foods: cooked vegetables, fish, poultry, beans and legumes
  4. If stress is a problem, find a way to manage it: write in a journal, meditate, do yoga, get a relaxing massage, try painting or another activity helps you relax.
  5. Breathe breath in deeply for a count of 4 seconds making sure to fill the lungs and right into the stomach. Exhale for 6 seconds making sure to exhale completely. You can always rest your hands on your stomach and make sure you see them rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. If your stomach isn’t moving up and down you’re not breathing in deeply enough.

If you would like to experience how acupuncture could help you with fatigue and enhance your well-being you can arrange your appointment with Jennifer Keith, R.Ac at Pacific Wellness at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request.  The acupuncture treatments are covered by most employee benefits.