Acupuncture, herbal medicine and holistic healthcare for El Segundo, LAX, Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles acupuncture residents since 2002.
Thank you for choosing L.A Wellness in El Segundo as your holistic healthcare provider. At L.A Wellness, we use a holistic approach to help you achieve both radiant health as well as balance and peace in your life. Our experienced and knowledgeable acupuncturists, massage therapists, energy healers and Chinese herbalists achieve this aim by employing a gentle yet effective treatment style that stimulates your body's innate healing capacity. We provide holistic lifestyle counseling in nutrition, exercise, and awareness practices, empowering you with the resources required to accelerate and sustain optimum health. Our friendly welcoming staff, serene environment, and highest quality Chinese herbs, supplements, and health care products further support you on your journey to radiant health.
A while back, I wrote an article entitled “I don’t mind what happens.” Since creating this piece, I have been faced with a number of unexpected and difficult life situations, as if the universe has been saying to me, “Oh yeah, tough guy? Let’s see if you mind this!” During this time, I have been struggling with the question, “What is the lesson in all of this?” with the operative word being STRUGGLING!
Then, this morning, I likened my current situation to swimming in the ocean among big waves. Waves tend to come in sets… sometimes just a couple waves, and sometimes wave after wave after wave. I have been amidst a long and strong set of big waves of late. Those of you who swim in the ocean or surf know that the best thing to do when a wave pulls you under is to relax and let the powerful currents take you where they will, saving your energy for when you are back on the surface. Then, once oriented above water, you can use your energy constructively; because, it is only upon surfacing that you can see the shore as well as any approaching waves. Struggling underwater wastes precious energy that must be conserved for time above water.
However, to be immersed in the dark and tempestuous sea with no guarantees of where or when she will spew you out can be terrifying. And when you do surface, will it be to have only a moment to gasp for air before another wave pummels you into the depths? Will there even be time to get air? There is no way to know. This is the way life moves. Sometimes the sea is placid and caresses you. At other times she rages and crashes upon you… and eventually, one way or another, she kills you. LOL.
How do we face those times when we are in the dark and don’t know which way is up? What do we do when we don’t know where to turn? Yesterday, when experiencing strong emotional upheaval about my life situation, I found myself reaching out via phone for support. After two calls that were greeted with two voicemail messages, I came to realize that I was running away from my pain. I was running from feeling the depth of the fear that dwelled within me, seeking desperately for someone to offer a soothing salve to heal my wounds. But, the more I ran, the more I fed the fear. The more I resisted, the deeper the cut went. The more I looked outside, the more lost I grew.
So, I stopped. I allowed the pain to be as it was and for the flurry of thoughts to blow through my mind. But, these thoughts and feelings were no longer the focal point. I became still and I observed the flow of breath moving in and out of me. I watched how the air surrounding me became a part of me as I inhaled and how I became a part of everything around me as I exhaled breath into the world. Suddenly, without any effort or grasping, a sense of well-being and peace emerged. At that moment, I realized that all of the reaching outside of myself in a desperate search for comfort and safety had simply been a rehearsal of my fear. I saw how repeatedly sharing my story with others about how each of the waves had enveloped me and how future waves might strike gave a sense of permanence to something that in reality was simply moving water continuously reshaping itself in a never-ending flow.
When I perceive myself as an isolated fragment being tossed about by forces beyond my control, I suffer deeply. However, when I recognize myself to be a part of the One Life that breathes breath into all of creation, I find peace. I find connection. I find love. I am the sea.
Ironically, oftentimes, the journey to find this sense of connection, love and peace is one that we must take alone in silence, with no fanfare, encouragement or reassurance. However, what gives us the strength to survive the time alone in the dark depths of the ocean, is the love, wisdom and guidance of our friends, family and teachers.
You are a source for my strength. By allowing me to share with you through words my journey, you act as a mirror that serves to clarify my own path. Thank you for witnessing my dives into the depths of my own internal sea of thoughts and feelings so that I may resurface to share the treasures discovered while below. I am grateful for you.
Yours in wellness and love,
The journey to motherhood is so personal, so familiar… a coupling of lives, another human body made with pieces of you, virtually contiguous with your own body. The connection between mother and baby is unmatched in its intimacy.
Or is it?
It is just the two of you (unless you happen to be carrying multiples), right? Right? RIGHT?? Um, actually, no. You are not alone. In fact, very much not alone. So as not to be creepy, I’ll let you in on the dirty little secret if you haven’t guessed it already. No, it isn’t about computer chips or peeping Toms. It’s about bacteria- and it’s all over you. Stop freaking out. Put the hand sanitizer down. Actually, let’s have a moment of silence to honor all that those little critters do for us…. Because, as it turns out, we need them as much as they need us. Maybe even more.
Ok. That’s good. Now, let’s begin.
One of the fastest growing areas of medical research right now is on what is known as the “microbiome”. That’s a fancy term for all-the-stuff-that-lives-in-you-but-isn’t-you. They live on our skin, in our gut, and in our vaginas (Sorry if you don’t have one. I don’t mean to be exclusionist.). In fact, our own human cells are outnumbered by bacteria 10:1. And if you look at it from a DNA perspective (because there are a LOT of bacteria and they each have their own DNA), we are outnumbered by 100:1. While you’re sitting on your tush reading this, there are some amazing projects happening, with large numbers of really smart people combing through data, trying to sort out what it all means. There’s this one, funded by the National Institutes of Health. And then there’s The American Gut Project, my personal favorite, founded by a scientist named Jeff Leach. More on that later.
I’m not going to get into the implications of our gut microbiomes and general health. There is much to be said about that, but it is for another day. Today, what’s on my mind is what our “bacterial health” has to do with our ability to grow and give birth to healthy babies.
From the moment a woman conceives, the types of bacteria present in her gut and birth canal begin to change. They continue to shift throughout the pregnancy, transitioning to be dominated by bacterial strains associated with weight gain and inflammation. This helps the body to maximize calories to the growing baby. And, while inflammation may not seem like a positive thing, it’s actually what throws us into labor. If you want to stay pregnant forever, that’s your bag. I think I’m gonna have my baby.
Further, the general line of thought has always been that the uterus is a sterile environment… that a baby’s first exposure to bacteria is on that arduous journey through the birth canal. That, however, is being proven wrong. A study out earlier this year found bacteria present IN THE PLACENTA. That is a big deal. The really mind boggling thing was the particular mixture of bacteria present- Did it resemble that of the gut? Nope. The vagina? Guess again. It was the mouth. Imagine that. Bacteria grows in our mouths,it gets absorbed through the capillaries in our gums or we swallow it and then It ends up in our blood streams and circulates through our systems until it winds up in the placenta. But wait- It gets even better than that. The bacteria found in the placenta (and mother’s mouth) most closely resemble the stuff found in the meconium, that first dark, sticky stool… more closely than any other maternal surface, including the exit route! So much for the womb being sterile.
Generally speaking, much of the bacteria found in the placenta were the kind that produce vitamins (like B’s and K) and other cofactors. What? They do that? Yep. We feed them. They feed us. Except when we don’t feed them the right things. Like getting a Mogwai wet and ending up with bazillions of nasty gremlins, the wrong kinds of food encourage the growth of nasty bacteria all throughout the digestive tract, mouth included. When these bacteria end up in the placenta, the vagina, cervix, and eventually, the uterus- membranes rupture, babies get born- regardless of how old they are (remember that inflammation thing?). 38 weeks, 32 weeks, 26 weeks… Bacteria do not discriminate.
So, does gut flora start to be yesterday’s news as soon as the baby is born?
Though we’re not quite smart enough yet to know exactly how it happens, we do know that the proper balance of intestinal bacteria are critical for normal brain, nervous, and immune system development. That’s nothing to sneeze at. And for mom, when we have placentas that malfunction, we’re at a higher risk later in life for things like insulin resistance or even heart disease. This isn’t necessarily to say that your bum placenta is to blame… Much more likely that the same bacterial imbalances that caused your bum placenta are also causing your other ailments.
Getting down to brass tacks.
How can we make things go right? It’s really not that difficult. Our bacteria want to be good. They really do. Just follow a few basic rules and your chances of having a perfect baby at the perfect time go way, way up.
- Balance your gut flora before that baby is even a twinkle in your eye. A diet full of a wide variety of vegetable matter (starchy and nonstarchy), low in grains (they encourage growth of a bacteria associated with a multitude of disease processes), sugar, and processed foods will earn you a blue ribbon at the bacterial fair.
- Include some bacteria in your diet. This could be in the form of fermented foods, though you can get just as far by not washing your vegetables that well and eating some of the parts that we’re not really “supposed” to eat (like the woody ends of asparagus or the whites of scallions). Many of the bacteria that we’re missing are found in the soil!
- Eliminate dietary allergens. The stress, the inflammation, the tissue damage, the nutrient deficiencies associated with immune responses to dietary allergens all make for a difficult environment for a healthy little bacteria to thrive in.
- Minimize life stresses or find healthy ways to deal with them. Read a book. Do yoga. Got outside. Meditate. Laugh. Find some friends and go outside again. Stress directly impacts our gut flora in ugly ways.
- Avoid antimicrobial products, pharmaceutical drugs, and antibiotics. The best defense against pathogenic bacteria is a good offense. Period. Follow good nutrition principles to let that microbiome blossom. It’ll crowd the weeds right out.
- Have a vaginal birth. Because you’ve been on that super-diet for quite some time now, your vaginal bacteria is in tip-top shape. Drink up, little baby. Here’s to a lifetime of good health. Cesarean sections are associated with all array of allergic conditions, from eczema, to asthma, to celiac disease. That said, if a vaginal birth is just not possible, don’t beat yourself up. There are measures that can be taken to get your little guy started on the right foot… Administering early probiotics to mom and baby, for sure- like, within hours, then even continuing them for a few months. Research is currently even being done to assess the effect of wiping down the skin and mouths of babies delivered by c-section with gauze that has been saturated with the mother’s vaginal secretions.
- Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed. Not only does the baby get a dose of bacteria from your skin, but your milk is chock full of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. That’ll set your baby’s day up straight.
One last little cheerleading note… The Jeff Leach study that I mentioned earlier, The American Gut Project, is asking all the right questions where our microbiome is concerned and is crowd-sourced. They are currently collecting data so that we may inch our way closer to figuring making sense out of this stuff. You could be a part of a new wave in medicine that revolutionizes the way we view our health. Go to this site, contribute $99, and find out what is living in your guts. Not sure you qualify? Do you poop? Then, yes. You qualify. C’mon. Michael Pollan did it.
Now get out there, fix your guts up, and make a really healthy baby!
To stay connected to Meredith please visit her at nourishedtable.com
I recently spoke with a close friend about a conflict I am facing and asked for his guidance. He said, "The only way through is love." I immediately knew in my heart that he was right. Why is love the only way? Because love is real. Love is the unique capacity of living beings to express through being the unity of all of creation.
Conversely, fear and hatred result from the illusion of separateness. Once we perceive a person or situation that we judge to be creating pain in our lives as separate from us, we manufacture a duality that gives rise to opposition and resistance. We then feel vulnerable, threatened and weak, as we have disconnected from our true nature. The only responses available to us from this level of consciousness are fight, flight or freeze.
However, as Nisargadatta points out, “The real does not die, the unreal never lived.” In any given moment, we have the opportunity to align ourselves with reality or with illusion. That upon which we focus the light of our consciousness and attention grows, just as a plant grows when it receives energy from sunlight. Today, I choose to illuminate everything I see with the light oflove from my heart. For me, this is the only way through.
Yours in wellness and love,