Ice is for Dead People
… as my teachers in acupuncture school so eloquently stated.. As an acupuncturist, I have nightmares about ice- whether it’s in your water, your bath, your smoothies, or on your sprained ankle. If you are my patient, I know you know.
Ice has the nature of contraction. It slows organ function and causes muscles to contract, specifically in the lower body. When you drink ice water, you are not cooling your body down, but rather creating more heat because your stomach has to work harder to break foods down and return to equilibrium. This heat causes us to crave more ice water and cold foods, resulting in a vicious icy cycle. Ultimately, this slows down and damages the entire digestive system causing bloating, constipation, difficulty losing weight, abdominal pain, menstrual cramps, fibroids, and other reproductive issues.
🥝 If you drink fresh pressed juice from raw fruits and vegetables, warm it up with a slice of ginger to offset its cold nature, or drink it with a warm glass of water.
🍹 When making a smoothie, allow it to sit out on the counter until it becomes room temperature or opt for bone broth instead.
🥗 Steer clear of salads and raw vegetables, especially during the winter months. Lightly (or fully) steam all of your vegetables to allow for easy digestion and absorption of nutrients.
🍉 If (and only if) it is a hot summer day and you are craving ice water to cool down, opt for eating foods that are cold in nature instead, i.e. watermelon, cucumber, mint tea, lettuce, celery, mango, or tomato.
🍣 If you’re eating sushi, don’t forget the ginger! This warms up the cold nature of the fish.
RICE and Acute Injuries:
We are taught from an early age to use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) on acutely injured areas of our bodies. In TCM, we take a different approach to treating acute injury that does not incorporate ice or cold therapies. It is a natural process for our bodies to react to injury by creating inflammation to remove damaged cells, pathogens, and initiate the healing process. When we add ice to the equation, we are getting in the way of our bodies natural healing process by halting this inflammatory process.
Think of oatmeal or jello- when it cools down, it congeals and becomes thick and hard. When it is heated up, it becomes loose and runny again. When you put ice on an injured area, Qi (energy) and blood congeal and stagnate which prevents fresh blood from circulating into the area, and therefore prevents healing. In TCM, stagnation = pain, so once the numbness from the ice wears off, you are left with chronic pain and an increased chance for re-injury.
However, it is widely agreed upon that swelling causes more pain, and can potentially damage tissue and make scarring worse. In TCM, we use different modalities to improve the circulation of Qi and blood, reduce pain and swelling, and promote healing.
In my practice, I begin by using acupuncture points to stimulate the circulation of Qi and blood, and to reduce pain and swelling in the affected area. This is followed by infrared therapy, which stimulates the body’s natural healing mechanisms through the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays a critical role in promoting blood flow to tissues and increasing lymphatic drainage. This results in lower inflammation and reduced swelling. Depending on the severity of the injury, some patients will go home with an herbal formula to take orally, and some will leave with a topical. Each are equally important and both are often necessary in order to accelerate the healing process.
Charlotte Morgan, M.S. L.Ac.