I don’t know about you but college brought on a whole different kind of stress than I was ever prepared for. Finals week felt like running a marathon 5 times in a row and every other minute was spent struggling between the question of studying, eating, socializing, or sleeping. Having picked up in mid-September 2017 and moved across the country from Washington, D.C. to Eugene, Oregon, I was all on my own figuring this stuff out…which didn’t really work out because my two coping mechanisms were either — calling my mom or sleeping.

Needless to say, the first half of my freshman year was rough, and I can honestly say that having a sure way to help me stay physically and mentally healthy would have helped a lot,  but I didn’t, which left me with yet another thing to figure out. I tried a term of yoga which definitely helped, as did going to the gym at least four times a week. But I still felt tense and stressed out and not all of the google searches in the world could answer my question as to how to fix my situation. Luckily, I have Time4Coffee now.

This summer, I accompanied T4C’s Chief Java Junkie, Andrea Koppel, to her weekly acupuncture appointment at Thomas Acupuncture and Wellness in Annandale, Virginia. The second I walked in I already knew everything I had previously heard about acupuncture was wrong.  I was not at all expecting the calming music, the smell of incense, or the selection of tea they offered for free. One of the nurses greeted us and took us to the room where the appointment would be conducted. She asked Andrea to fill out a form detailing what she’d eaten in the last 24 hours, and check off whether she had any discomfort or issues with her various bodily functions.  She also weighed Andrea and to her chagrin, she was the same weight as the previous week.

Then another office assistant, Katie, came in to kindly explained to me, the newbie, what Thomas Acupuncture and Wellness’ theory was all about: it is the combination of Eastern and Western medicine to help put the body back into balance. This includes “treating food like medicine”, fixing one’s diet by eliminating those foods that cause inflammation like dairy and grains (and even spicy foods and garlic), bringing awareness to one’s mental state, as well as getting regular acupuncture treatments to help the body purge itself of various toxins.

At the beginning of the appointment, Thomas asked Andrea to show him her tongue. From just a glance he was able to see that she had been drinking coffee (which he, chided her for drinking because it’s acidic and, ironically, what’s been keeping her from losing the additional weight she wants to!) and, as a result, she had backtracked a little in their progress. Having just taken a sip of my daily iced coffee, I laughed, and asked what he could tell from my tongue. Without getting into details …I also need to change my diet. Regardless of the sad news that I, too, would have to give up coffee, and other delicious foods and drinks, I was astonished at the amount of information he was able to get about my body and health simply looking at my tongue.

Although watching Thomas carefully place each needle into Andrea’s side and back (and ear for that day since he could tell she was a bit stressed) was awe inspiring, what truly amazes me is the real-life results that followed. What Thomas is pioneering in his practice is the knowledge that the lymphatic system is connected to the digestive system and frankly, every organ in our bodies, including our brains.  The fact that our moods, our level of energy and our health, more broadly, are connected to what we are eating makes sense. I mean think about it — if you’ve just eaten a huge bowl of pasta with lots of yummy thick sauce, you’re going to want to crash on the couch afterwards. I always thought this was because my digestive system was working so hard, but turns out it goes much deeper than that. My body was actually trying to rid itself of the wheat, dairy and other foods I’d eaten — and as a result, my energy took a big hit.   

You may have heard of ‘fight or flight’ – our natural instinct to react to a stressful situation. Well, think about it — if we’re constantly feeling stressed, and then just adding things like caffeine (which quicken our pulse and heart rate) to the mix, that can over tax our nervous system. This is called the sympathetic nervous system.  Thomas believes that for many people their parasympathetic nervous system — which counterbalances the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system and regulates all the organs in our body — is in a state of perpetual dysfunction.  Because of all the crap we eat and the stress we’re under, our natural equilibrium is thrown off course. That’s why we have an epidemic in our country of IBS, constipation, diarrhea, screwed up thyroids (hypo and hyper), rosacea, acne and the list goes on and on.  After learning all of this, everything really started to click for me.

I’ll be completely transparent with you.  I’ve looked into what seems like hundreds of different ways to reduce my stress, lose weight, be happy — all the time — and no tea or “life hack” has been able to save me, but this one seems real. After talking to Andrea about her journey and learning that she genuinely feels less bloated, more energetic, happier, and calmer after visiting this practice, I am convinced. (I even texted my parents about it as soon as we got back to Time4Coffee HQ.) As not only a college student but someone who is still very young and growing, keeping up with my health and the quick changes of my body is difficult. Visiting Thomas Acupuncture and Wellness showed me that there are people, like Thomas and his team, who understand that not everybody knows how to take proper care of themselves and so they’ve developed a practice to share their knowledge and expertise. Getting acupuncture is just one piece of the puzzle to achieving good health, it also takes a commitment to audit your diet and remove the foods that are making you feel badly.  But if you can do that, and complement it with the right kind of acupuncture by a certified practitioner, then you will find yourself on the path to achieving better health. You should also make sure you check-in with your regular doctor to make sure he or she is on board with this approach. Tweet us @Time4CoffeeLLC and let us know if you’ve tried acupuncture and how it went for you!

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