March News ‘n Views

Trauma Training Tip!

Many trauma survivors suffer from digestive symptoms.  They may feel bloated and gassy or may become obese or have trouble with metabolizing certain nutrients.

There is a powerful dynamic in the middle Jiao of trauma survivors.

Our mobilization response to threat, which is guided by the Liver and Gall Bladder officials, includes a message to the Spleen, Stomach and all the fu to shut-down.  In a moment of danger, we needed all our qi in our muscles and joints to power an escape.  Our long-term vitality depends on nourishment, but our immediate survival is rooted in successful fight or flight.  This shut down is designed to be short-term.

If our mobilization response is repeatedly thwarted or unsuccessful, this short-term message of shut down becomes a long-term freeze.  Fu-freeze occurs with repeated and overwhelming trauma as adults, or in pre or peri-natal trauma.

These patients have lost their ability to digest the gristle, transform the experiences, or harvest the lessons from their life experiences.  Moving the stagnation in the Liver and Gall Bladder will direct their powerful Qi into the Fire element, out of unresolvable anger and into relationship and consciousness.

Helping to restore our patient’s capacity to successfully mobilize in the face of life threats, without re-enacting digestive shut-down is the key to supporting peace in the middle Jiao.

Alaine Two Cents!

We, and many of our patients may be experiencing increased levels of stress in the presence of language and actions taking place on the US national stage.  In addition to, and perhaps exacerbating challenges that pre-existed the presidential election, many might find themselves more anxious, forgetful, brittle, or sleepless.

Perhaps the most important tool we bring to helping clients re-set their signaling center for threat is our own regulated, centered presence.  Self-care is a critical part of your practice!
These thoughtful folks have some great resources for us:

Knowing when our sympathetic nervous systems are aroused, and cultivating resource states that help us manage our activation is critical for our patient’s experience of safety and co-regulation.  Some resource states might be:

  • The tree outside your window

  • A spiritual being who is important to you

  • The imaginary presence of an intimate friend, partner or animal – past, present or future

  • Your feet on the ground, your breath or your heartbeat.

Check This Out!

A pioneer in the field of medicine, Dr. Burke Harris is a pediatrician, mom and the founder/CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness.  She is a leader in the movement to transform how we respond to early childhood adversity and the resulting toxic stress that dramatically impacts health and longevity. Revealing the science behind childhood adversity, she offers a new way to understand the adverse events that affect all of us throughout our lifetimes.

 Clinical Curiosity

Q. My patient is morbidly obese.  She wants to know if acupuncture can help her.

A.  The short answer is yes – but not in a “quick fix” magical thinking kind of way.  The roots of her excess weight may be in her distant past.

The Director of Kaiser Permanente’s obesity clinic in California, Dr. Vincent Felitti, was puzzled by the fact that so many people re-gained the weight they had worked so hard to lose.  He began interviewing these patients and discovered childhood trauma, and especially sexual trauma, in overwhelming numbers of them.  He went on to undertake a rigorous study of the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on adult morbidity and mortality.  Read more here.

Here’s my take on Chinese Medicine and high Adverse Childhood Events scores:

As children, we are developmentally or socially unable to mount a mobilization response to threats.  We may be too young to run or fight.  We may need that same abusive parent to feed and shelter us.

Unable to launch a mobilization, our Liver Qi becomes stagnant, invades and shuts down the Spleen/Stomach. We can’t transform food into Qi and instead accumulate dampness and phlegm around our middle.  We become obese and may be unable to assimilate certain nutrients as well.  These survivors often have irritable bowel syndrome or GERD as well.

There is considerable shame in our culture with obesity.  Helping your client to embrace that her obesity is not “her fault” is a critical first step to unlocking the shame.

Use your good diagnostic skills to discern where she was thwarted in her self- protective response.  Work with the relationships between the Officials in her middle Jiaoto help restore her capacity to successfully mobilize, without re-enacting digestive shut-down.

She is fortunate to have an acupuncturist on her team who can help her to restore regulation to her whole system – and isn’t tantalized by quick-fix approaches focused on appetite suppression alone.  What she needs most is regulation and we are in a unique position to support exactly that.

Alaine DuncanMarch News ‘n Views

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