Exercise and alcohol

Alcohol is the drug of choice in many different cultures. In both Chinese and Western medicine, it is classified as a poison. And like other poisonous substances, it can harm when used inappropriately and benefit when used wisely. From a Chinese medicine perspective it warms and promotes free flow of qi and blood (vasodilation). When we drink, therefore, we feel warm, expansive, happy and at ease. But we also know that its warming quality can become excessively heating, it can give rise to dampness and damp-heat, and in excess it can damage and distort the mind. It’s not surprising, therefore,
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Sex and the older man

The chapter on sex (affairs of the bedroom) in my recent book Live Well Live Long was probably the toughest to write. First of all, any writing about sex presents challenges. In the UK we have the infamous ‘bad sex awards’ for passages in fiction that make everyone curl up with either laughter or embarrassment. But more importantly, it is one (almost the only) area where traditional Chinese teachings and the modern medical view diverge strongly. The general opinion among modern sexologists is simple – sex is good, have as much of it as you can, and there is no significant limit
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Don’t eat late!

Eating most of our food earlier in the day and only eating lightly and early in the evening is an established tenet of most traditional dietary wisdom. Various pithy sayings drum this in … “Eat a hearty breakfast, a moderate lunch and a small supper” (Chinese), “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant and sup like a pauper” (English), “Eat your breakfast alone, share your lunch with a friend and give your supper to your enemy” (Jewish). As usual, Chinese medicine has a fine understanding of why. It recognises that digestion requires a lot of yang energy and because the microcosmic human body
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Exercise, blood flow and brain health

It’s often the simplest ideas which are the most profound, and the apparently simple idea of ‘free flow of qi and blood’ is one of these. The concept of free flow is built in to Chinese medicine. When qi and blood are unobstructed and flow freely, we are physically and emotionally healthy. Many things interfere with this natural flow, but the most common are emotional repression, stress and tension, and lack of exercise. The last of these is probably the simplest to tackle. Any reasonably vigorous exercise will increase the flow of blood through the thousand of miles of major
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Ageing and wellbeing

There’s no denying that ageing involves loss. We lose muscle bulk and strength; our vision, hearing, cognitive function, sense of taste and touch fade; fertility and libido decline. We may sleep poorly and suffer various forms of disease and pain. Yet – in the midst of what would seem to be unremitting doom and gloom – there are surprises. Some things just keep growing and getting better. One of these is emotional wellbeing. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reports that despite all of the above, older adults are happier and suffer less stress and anxiety
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Follow-up to Diet in Pregnancy

What a coincidence and what a disaster that on the same day I wrote the previous post, the UK’s Prime Minister has over-ruled the health secretary’s plans to restrict promotions on junk food (supermarket 2for 1 deals etc.) as she doesn’t want to ‘burden the food industry’.
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Diet in pregnancy affects child health

I refer in my recent book Live Well Live Long to the idea of ‘ancient wisdom, modern forgetting’. One of the most dramatic illustrations of this is the fact that as the 20th century progressed, modern medicine forgot the ancient knowledge that a mother’s diet, emotional state and exercise during pregnancy will have potentially lifelong impacts on the health and wellbeing of her child. When UK Professor David Barker published his findings in the 1980s that low birth weight was associated with increased lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, it was even called ‘the new science’. Since then, copious evidence has confirmed
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Keep moving

Sun Simiao, the great 7th century Chinese physician, said, “The Way of nurturing life consists of … never sitting nor lying for a long time … extended lying down damages the qi … extended sitting damages the flesh.” The truth of this observation has been gradually revealed over the last few years of exercise research. It has even been said that however much exercise you do, extended hours of sitting (for example an eight hour day in the office followed by an evening on the sofa) will significantly increase your risk of heart (and other chronic) diseases. Various studies have shown
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The soil and the human microbiota

Science magazine reports today that adding small amounts of soil from one terrain such as a wild meadow can ‘inoculate’ barren soil elsewhere. It is of course the uncountable organisms in the healthy soil that achieve this effect – the microscopic bacteria and fungi, nematode worms and other invertebrates. Different communities of these organisms in soil will form relationships with different plants, and so choosing the right soil to draw from will influence which plants grow best in the inoculated soil. This is a dramatic discovery since attempts to restore grasslands, forests and other precious damaged ecosystems are often either unsuccessful or take many years to work.
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Dr. John Shen

I was asked to write another piece for The Acupuncturist, the newsletter of the British Acupuncture Council, on a teacher who inspired me, and this was my submission:   Dr. John Shen – who gave two memorable seminars in London in 1979 and 1981 – probably had more influence on practitioners of my generation than any other teacher.  He was a man of extraordinary intelligence, enhanced by his practice of daily meditation from the age of 17 until the end of his life. His single greatest skill was diagnosis. Combining a forensic knowledge of the pulse, traditional Chinese face-reading, a vast
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