Pointspace’s March roundup | Is meat bad for you and one easy step to improve your posture



Can you believe March is almost over? This year does seem to be flying by at an incredible rate. With the spring like weather, I have rediscovered the joys of Greek yogurt: with smoked salmon and avocado for a refreshing breakfast, or drizzled with honey and sprinkled with almonds and hazelnuts for a yummy snack. Later on in the year it will be delicious with some juicy blueberries or succulent sharon fruit. 


1.  A new study has shown that those who eat red meat (especially processed meat) have a higher risk of getting heart disease and cancer. While the debate continues on whether we humans were meant to eat meat, I do know that there are those who incorporate meat into a healthy diet and others who shun meat but exist on pizzas and fries. The important thing is to try to eat less smoked and cured meats and enjoy your food, whatever your preferences.


2.  Those of you who know me may have heard my traffic jam analogy when explaining how acupuncture works. I often tell my patients that the body is like the M25. Dr Zhen Zheng from RMIT University uses the same concept here in her short video.


3. Symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome include fatigue, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, difficulty concentrating and emotional problems. There is no cure for Gulf War Syndrome but one doctor believes traditional acupuncture may provide relief.


4.  Feel yourself slouching more and more lately? Here’s a really simple way to improve your posture with almost minimal effort.


5. Finally, does birth order determine your personality? Do you think the order you were born influences who you are?

Photo credit: chris bartnik photography via Flickr

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Pointspace’s February roundup | Acupuncture Awareness Week and top sleep-deprived occupations



Snow in London two weekends in a row was a lovely impromptu present. It brought out some creative folk who deemed snowmen terribly passé: instead there were creations like a “Snowasaurus” and a giant turtle. Then as if being a leap year wasn’t enough, February this year decided to give us early sightings of spring with daffodils in bloom. 


1.  What do you think has more of an influence on our health and longterm happiness: conditions under which we were born with or decisions we make in mid life? Happily, a study had shown that we may indeed have more say in destiny.

The study of normal adult development at Harvard, one of the longest studies at 74 years, has shown some surprising and obvious answers. It turns out that having a difficult childhood matters a lot in early adulthood but less so as the years go by. Education is more important in determing life success than income or social status. The big revelation to have come out of the study so far is that your situation at 50 is a bigger indicator of your health and happiness at 70 than the earlier years.

2.  I once saw a documentary on Pixar, the animation company that made some of my all time favourite movies including Toy Story (1, 2 and 3) and Up. From great fun, open spaces to employees using kick scooters to get from one department to the other, it seems like a wonderful place to work. Silicon Valley has always had a long tradition of being geekily cool, which is probably what keeps their creative juices going. Therefore it should come as no surprise that companies like Google and Twitter offer their employees acupuncture  as “antidote to staring at computers all day” and to benefit wellness.

3.  This week (27 Feb – 4 March) is the UK’s first ever Acupuncture Awareness Week. TV presenter Clare Nasir talks about having acupuncture to support her IVF treatments (video).

4.  A chain of restaurants in the States has come up with a limited edition milkshakebacon-flavoured. Yes, it left me speechless as well.


5.  Finally, do you get enough sleep? A look at the most sleep-deprived and well-rested occupations in the US shows that there isn’t much much difference between the most rested and the most sleep-deprived: they still get less than the recommended 7-9 hours).


Photo credit: Mark Hillary via flickr

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Pointspace’s January roundup | Rudeness, yoga and acupuncture for migraine



1.  Did you set yourself some resolutions this year? Apparently around the third week of January was when most people broke theirs, and it appears that’s because they ran out of willpower. Studies of past resolutions suggest that it’s much more effective to play offense and to fend off temptations before they occur, rather than try to exert willpower which is definitely not limitless.


2.  Like the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings on one continent and cause a hurricane on another, small things we deem insignificant can have quite an effect on us. We all know that having one or two extra cookie with our tea is naughty but having one or two packets a day would be a health luxury few of us can afford. Or we may snap at an unfortunate person unlucky enough to be the last straw in an incredibly trying day. That was a bit rude but hopefully you did remember to apologize quite soon after the fact. 

A new study has shown that workplace rudeness can have a ripple effect. An unpleasant colleague’s behaviour can travel with you to affect your personal life too.


3.  A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines. 480 patients with migraine were randomly assigned to have “true” acupuncture or sham acupuncture. While both types of acupuncture seemed to have an effect on the patients, the “real” acupuncture groups reported doing slightly better. More studies will be needed to make the finding conclusive but it’s heartening to see clinical studies being trialled.


4.  Quite a bit of furore was caused this month when the New York Times published an article stating that yoga can damage your body. Although I believe it was a bit sensationalist it does raise awareness that not all holistic therapies and practices are equal. The most important message here is, as with ALL things, to find a properly trained and qualified professional who is skilled in their chosen field and can provide you with a safe environment. This says it all really: “In an industry where there is cursory certification and no official licensing, yoga teachers can become “qualified” with a 200-hour online course.


5. The brain is a delightful organ, and my brain delights in the unexpected. This Youtube clip is a wonderful example of combining two familiar things, you’ll never think of Old MacDonald’s farm in the same way.


Photo credit: CJ Schmit via flickr 

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | December



1.  The past few weeks may have seen you dashing around town trying to fit friends and office parties around your diary. Often it will involve drinks and most probably food as well. Then there’s also the cakes and pies scattered everywhere, in the workplace, at the supermarkets, sometimes in the queue when you’re lining up to pay for presents. So why is there so much more of an eating aspect in the winter?


2.  In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the kidney is most susceptible to the cold and injury in the winter. Amazing as it may seem, winter has just started (December 22 was the winter solstice) so here are some tips from acupuncturist Boynn McIntire on maintaining kidney health in the winter.


3.  A cancer diagnosis can be completely devastating and with the pounding the body takes both from the illness and the treatment, it’s not surprising that fatigue is by far the most common symptom affecting cancer patients. For many cancer-related fatigue is the most distressing factor as it drains the person relentlessly so that they are unable to enjoy simple daily activities that we take for granted. As such, acupuncture has been researched as an option to help provide relief for cancer patients.


4.  Are you planning on having some health resolutions for the New Year? Some of you may know that I advocate having implementing lifestyle changes in September where the days aren’t as short and we haven’t just been bombarded by all the rush of the festive season, but any positive change is better than none at all so take a look at these nutrition and fitness resolutions for 2012.


5. Take a look at this brilliantly relaxing video and I dare you not to have a silly giggle. 


Have a peaceful and happy New Year!!


Photo credit: zenera via flickr

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | November



Bonfire Night, pointspace turns one, mild weather, the turning on of Christmas lights all around London. It has been a particularly delightful November this year.


1.  In case you need even more reason to avoid sugary beverages, a new study has found that women who drank two or more sweet drinks (sweet tea, soft drinks, coffee drinks that look like desserts) were at an increased risk of heart disease even if they did not gain weight. Even more reason to kick that caramel frappuccino habit.


2.  Saunas always evoke that lovely feeling of calmness and maturity for me (there was no way you could get my 15-year-old self to sit there and just be for more than five minutes). It turns out that saunas really can improve your mood and your heart by improving your heart function by increasing the heart’s ability to pump blood (and boosting the amount of exercise you can do) as well as allowing the body to release more serotonin (the happiness molecule).

3.  What is your view on the nature or nurture discussion? Well when it comes to your health, it may appear that your living conditions as a child does have an impact on your biological being, more specifically your DNA.


4.  Stress has been in the top three of health concerns I’ve seen amongst my clients this year, regardless of what their actual main health reason was when coming to see me. How does traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture approach stress? At its simplest, as with a lot of disease and disorders, it’s down to an imbalance. This easy to understand article, by acupuncturist Janis Egan, gives quite a good explanation of the concept.


5.  Video: Work out like a Hong Kong action hero. I came across this set of exercise routines from Michael Nevermind (that’s his name, not because I couldn’t be bothered to write it up). It seems like a great fun way to work up the heart rate in your living room, shades optional. 


6. And finally, something truly inspiring: watch this video of what a simple bottle can do.

Photo credit: mendhak via flickr

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Pointspace’s October round-up



October was a wonderful month of purpleness: I had my fill of lovely figs before the season ended, yummy grilled aubergines topped with feta cheese, tomatoes and finely diced onions, and the London sky was painted a gorgeous purple-pink during quite a few twilights.


1.  A civil society needs the kindness of strangers and acquaintances. The quality of tiny interactions in shops and streets seriously affects our daily wellbeing. No wonder we’re anxious about it.

An interesting study published in the Archive of Internal Medicine found that older women who used common dietary supplements died at slightly higher rates than women who did not rely on supplements. Other studies have not shown such a dramatic result and the authors note that other factors could have been affected the outcome. However it does raise the question whether one should concentrate more on having a healthy diet instead of taking supplements.


3.  Botox is no longer limited to celebrities or those who have a particularly rugged “lived-in” look. It’s no longer age or gender that determines whether someone considers using Botox, it’s a simple principle of whether or not you want to inject yourself with chemicals for a “perfect” face. Just recently I met a 22 year female who told me she had had Botox on her forehead and around her eyes(!).

However, could Botox suddenly stop working after a few years of treatments? According to dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, “Studies have indicated that if people are injected with dosages of 100 units of Botox or more, the body will start to react against the product and increase antibody production. This means that after subsequent injections, the Botox will stop working. Muscles will start to recover rapidly, and the muscles that you injected won’t react the way they did the first time.” 


4.  Brrr it’s cold and the door draught excluder is out! Perfect time to make a pumpkin spice latte, mmm.


5.  And finally, from Fauja Singh who completed a full marathon in Toronto this month, aged 100: “The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. If there’s something you can’t change then why worry about it? Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running.”

Happy Halloween everyone!


Photo credit: Helena Price via flickr

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | September



After the calm of the summer, London sprang back into life. I settled into my new neighbourhoods of Marylebone and Regent’s Park and explored quiet side streets with my kick-scooter (which has now become quite famous at The Hale Clinic). London Fashion Week and the impossibly fashionable crowd came and went. Autumn made an appearance with crisp mornings but much more favourable afternoons than we’ve had all summer.


What else caught my eye this month?


Growing up, September was always a time of anticipation. After having devoured all eight books that I had borrowed from the school library (that was the maximum allowed over the summer holidays and I was meant to ration them) within the first week, it wouldn’t be long before I yearned to be back in school.


I was a model student and I relished learning. Aside from PE and French III, there was probably not a single subject I didn’t enjoy, and I never encountered the stereotypical attitude of humanities versus science. The rarity of having not just one but quite a few great teachers probably had something to do with my love of books and knowledge.

I also spent my entire education from grades 1 – 12 walking through the same corridors and eating from the same canteen; and if that wasn’t enough, it was a small school with the entire student population in my final year never topping 130. I don’t think I fully appreciated the nurturing atmosphere of such a small-knit community (after all my first grade teacher was still there when I graduated high school) but I am certain that experience has played a large part in shaping the person that I am today.

I can clearly remember the time we painted Mr Men characters onto panes of glass in the windows of our classroom and also five years later when Mike and I accidentally broke the window of another classroom with a misjudged catch of the volleyball. I remember my father teaching me the multiplication table when we waited at the airport during a particularly heavy snowfall and then reciting them to an amazed Mrs Kalamboukas a year later.

I remember first learning about recessive and dominant genes of hamsters in the sixth grade and then rediscovering them (and fruitflies) in more detail in the eighth grade and again in the tenth grade. I remember how we never managed to squeeze much World History into one academic year but 250 years of American History seemed to drag on and on. I remember jamming my finger during volleyball practice and having the most peculiar handwriting for an entire month. I remember loving the language of algebra and trigonometry and then the dismay at the gibberish (to me) of pre-calculus. I remember giving the speech as valedictorian of my graduating class and the sense of excitement at a decidedly close of one chapter and the beginning of another narrative.

1.  Imagine then if I forgot everything. Not just the memories and smells and laughter, but all the knowledge. Imagine not remembering how to tie your shoelaces or tell time, not being able to use a protractor or use a computer. Su Meck, now an undergraduate at Smith College in Massachusetts USA, recounts in this New York Times artilce how a freak accident wiped away her entire memory of the past 23 years of her life.


2.  Those of you who know me would know I am not entirely pleased with the overuse of antibiotics and the growing resistance of superbugs to antibiotics is a very true and alarming fact. Now research is also showing that antibiotics is permanently altering the state of our gut, which in turn may lead to an increase in allergies,  asthma and weight gain.


3.  I came across this really well explained exercise that can help if you experience back pain. It’s also a good reminder that staying active and moving is never a bad thing for your body.

4.  We are often told that beauty is skin deep and is only in the eye of the beholder, but research is showing that the beauty routines (whether it’s a lovely eye cream or having a facial acupuncture treatment) are an important part of our daily “self-care”. Self-care, as defined by Michelle Segar PhD, a behavioural psychologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, is “any activity that nurtures, restores and truly feeds the self.” This is why something as simple as a pedicure or a new shade of lipstick can make you feel good. She argues that taking care of yourself (whether through facial treatments or exercise) will make you look better and therefore make you feel better.

5.  Sara Calabro is an acupuncturist based in Oregon, USA. Here she writes a lovely article describing the importance and effects of autumn on our bodies from Chinese medicine’s point of view.


6.  In our busy lives trying to fit in work, family, friends it is so easy to forget to stop and enjoy the simple things. I discovered this short video, Industrial Revolutions, showcasing Danny MacAskill’s amazing talents and it is an absolute delight. Watch it, let your eyes soak in the colours and tap your foot to the music, you can’t not feel better afterwards.


Photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr

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Wellness Tips for September


September is like the second wind you may feel after lagging a bit during a (physical or mental) marathon. Traditionally many people start resolutions in January but I don’t find that very conducive to change. The cold grey days are harsh enough, why put more pressure on yourself?

September is a much better time to bring add some health changes if your lifestyle is slightly lacking. There’s still light in the evenings but the crisper weather makes it easier to add some physical activity than in the sluggish mugginess. It’s also quite a while yet till Christmas so you can concentrate on just getting it into your stride before the hectic festivities. Here are some things I do at the start of every autumn

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) autumn is characterized by dryness, much like the crinkling of fallen red and brown leaves under your feet. The Lung is most susceptible to dryness, characterised by dry, sore throats, nosebleeds and the common cold.

This is the time to for moistening foods; plenty of salads (not too cold, remember the Spleen!) and vegetables. Pears, although available year-round nowadays, is in season now and are wonderfully moistening. There’s a variety of pear called li (available in Chinese supermarkets) which are very crunchy. Some people remark how they have less flavour and more water than the normal “green” pears but I love how refreshing they feel around this time of year.

Have your fill of tomatoes before the winter, and include tofu, pine nuts, peanuts and pork. The picture above has pan-fried lemon sole on a bed of stir-fried greens, cabbage and mushrooms with steamed asparagus. Tomatoes were quickly tossed in the pan to warm them up but not over-cooked and all this was served with a nice juicy beetroot salad (which I have prepared and sitting on the counter while the rest of dinner is being made so that it’s not fridge cold). A dollop of Greek yogurt can be added if you want.

Photo credit: K Leoungk

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