Dr. Matthew Fellner, DACM, L.Ac.
How’s your energy? Are you full of energy? Do you need more? Do you have too much? Our ability to exist in this world and be productive members of society depends on how we manage the energy we have. Some people are always tired and need more energy. Other people are bounding with energy to such an extent that they have trouble sleeping. Despite all this talk of energy and its importance in our lives, very few people understand the intricacies of how to manage their own energy to live a healthy & balanced life. In this 3 part blog, I’ll introduce the 3 C’s of energy management and offer some tips to effectively incorporate the main principles of how to make your energy work more efficiently in your life.
Understanding how to manage your energy starts with appreciating that there are only 3 possible things you can do to energy to make it work for you: Create, Circulate, & Conserve.
In this first part I’ll be discussing energy Creation.
What the heck is this?! Chemistry? I promise you won’t be bombarded with hardcore science, but this is the most basic equation that explains how energy is created in the body. It represents the breakdown of glucose into adenosine triphosphate, which is the primary building block of energy. The only thing I want you to notice is that on the right side of the equation, aside from energy, what you are left with is carbon dioxide & water. That essentially represents air & food. The most basic takeaway from this equation is that there are only 2 ways to make energy in the world…breathing & eating. That’s it. Nothing else. If anyone tries to convince you that there are any other ways to make energy, you can rest assured they are mistaken. Caffeine does not give you energy, it stimulates what you have, exercise only circulates energy(as we will see in the next blog), & sleep conserves energy(as we will see in the 3rd blog).
Chinese medicine has described this process for thousands of years. Naturally they did not have the advances of modern technology, so they used different terms to describe the same process in more general terms. Most people have heard of Qi, and it can be loosely translated as “energy”. It is probably better to think of Qi as “function” or “dynamic intelligent electricity”, but for our purposes in this article, “energy” will suffice. Conveniently, there is also an equation that we use to describe the production of Qi.
Gu Qi + Da Qi = Zong Qi
Gu Qi is the unrefined portion of food that we ingest, and Da Qi is the unrefined portion of air that we breath. When they are combined, they are said to “gather” in the chest and become the Zong Qi which, after further refinement, becomes the energy that circulates throughout the body. Although the equation is a little more basic and poetic, it clearly shows that there are only 2 sources of creating energy…namely air & food.
How does acupuncture and Chinese Medicine fit into all of this? There are 2 main ways. The first is related to what we put into our bodies. The 2nd is related to how we process what we have put into our bodies.
Often, when we are low on energy, it is a result of improper food intake. We either eat food that is not healthful, we eat at irregular times, we eat too fast, or we eat improperly for our body types. All these factors will bog down our digestive system and make the production of energy sluggish and less efficient. When this happens, we may need to supplement our nutrition. Chinese herbs are a way to add substance to the body and fill in the gaps that our diets cannot adequately supply. Supplements and vitamins can also help here, but Chinese herbal formulas are designed to be adapted specifically to the individual’s needs. When it comes to air, most people are not spending enough time practicing focused, deep breathing. The brain uses 20-25 times more oxygen than any other part of the body, so if you are not breathing deeply and efficiently, then you will be running a mental energy deficit. Simple breathing exercises that take 10 minutes a day can have a powerful effect on your mental & emotional energy.
Acupuncture is the most effective modality to use to normalize the function of energy within the body. Once you eat or breathe the body has to process and metabolize, so ensuring that it works efficiently is crucial. Although acupuncture does not specifically create the energy your body needs, it aids the process of making sure the high energy demands of a modern lifestyle are met. We’ll explore this in more detail when we discuss circulation.
Here are a few simple dietary tips you can follow to help ensure that you are creating energy your body can use in a healthy and productive manner. And after there are 2 simple breathing exercises that will make a profound difference in how you oxygenate the brain.
All Asian cultures traditionally eat with the seasons to create harmony in the body. They never eat anything too cold, too spicy, too hot, too rich, or too dense. They try to match what is freshest and readily available based on the season and how that will affect the body. Check out this website for some interesting explanation of how to follow that
A few other tips:
- Eat the freshest, cleanest produce you can get. Organic is great, locally grown is even better
- Eat until just before you are full. Give it 10-15 minutes and then you can always eat a little more. But usually it takes about that much time for you to feel the fullness
- Supplements & vitamins may be a great addition to your routine, but make sure you consult with a professional first. Not every supplement that is good, is good for everybody
- Chew your food with intention. It will slow you down and aid digestion
- Avoid anything that has artificial sweetener, preservatives, and hydrogenated products. They are not meant to be put into your body
- Read labels meticulously. Generally if there are too many ingredients, or things you can’t pronounce…it probably should be avoided
Here are 2 developmental breathing exercises that are meant to strengthen your Lungs and clean out toxins. They are phenomenal at creating energy and sharpening your brain.
- Cleansing Breath – Inhale deeply through the nose. Fill the lungs completely without straining. Exhale quietly through a pinhole made by gently pursing the lips. Elongate the exhale and visualize the lungs being cleansed from within. Repeat 8-12 times. Best done seated or lying down and in a clean quiet environment.
- Filling Breath – Inhale deeply through the nose. Fill the lungs completely without straining. Exhale quietly through the nose. Elongate the exhale while visualizing the lungs expanding in surface area and growing. Repeat 8-12 times. Best done seated in a clean quiet environment.