Sunday, December 28, 2008

Conversations with Dr. Duckworth: Holiday & Winter Health

Q: Are there particular maladies you see this time of year, around the holidays and with the cold weather?
A: As a general statement, we do see people stressed out at the holidays, through family relationships. This year, the stress we are seeing is all economic, a combination of Christmas and Wall Street. There's a phenomenon we see in Oriental medicine called wind poisoning. It's a situation that has quite an effect on the immune system and the upper respiratory system. We see that much more often in the winter than the summer, and we'll see it again in the spring, when the winds come again. In the winter, it's more of a cold poisoning phenomenon and it's definitely seasonal. We give some dietary recommendations and there are certain teas that will help the diet, also.

Q: Are there some things that people can do at home, on their own time, to help reduce their stress level?
A: Meditate. To stop taking themselves so seriously. The most relaxing thing a person can do is make a ginger bath to just soak in. Which is done by taking a small handful of grated ginger root, add it to non-boiling water and then take that heated water through a sieve, before pouring it into your bath water. People who do aromatherapy - which I know nothing about - recommend lavender, as well, for relaxing. There's a many-thousand-year history of meditation, in Buddhist and Christian forms. Any kind of quiet in the mind can relieve stress. I also highly recommend singing, dancing and watching very funny, silly movies.

Q: Couple of questions in relation to that answer. What are the qualities of ginger that allow for that type of relaxation?
A: I don't know! I can tell you that the qualities of ginger in the bathtub, or in a small compress, give the body an ability to relax. It gets into the muscle fibers and then radiates back out, allowing the whole muscle tissue to expand and become more supple. How, or why, that works, I don't know. It just does. (For more info, see this article by Dr. Duckworth on the benefits of ginger.)

Q: When you mention singing, dancing or laughing, those seem elemental and yet people might not go that route.
A: Healing is quite elemental and quite simple. We complicate it ourselves. The KISS concept of "keep it simple stupid" has a lot to say here. It's a matter of not allowing yourself a space to laugh. Norman Cousins wrote a book called "The Anatomy of An Illness" in which he cured himself of a terminal disease by watching funny movies. So I'm a strong advocate of that.

Q: One last question for this round. Is there something that people should eat more, or eat less, during the winter season?
A: Sugars and fruits are very cooling. A fruit salad in July is a wonderful thing to have. A fruit salad at the New Year is a silly thing to have, because it cools you down. So the fruits that are available this time of year, in-season, are limited. There are certain pears and apples that are harvested and maintain their burst in this season and those are fine, moderately. Root crops - potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and onion - are foods that grow close to the ground and tend to allow the body to generate more heat in the wintertime. A small salad in the wintertime is okay, but a big one will be very cooling. It's better to have steamed, or slightly-cooked vegetables at this time.

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