The Wisdom of Your Tongue

When you have an acupuncture treatment – no matter what part of the world – it is quite common for the practitioner to ask to see your tongue. It also is quite common for the patient to feel silly, surprised, or confused when you ask to see their tongue. That is until I explain why the tongue is so important to me.

The tongue is a micro system of the body, and contrary to popular belief,  all tongues are not the same.  The colour, size, coat, and moistness level all vary dependant on the person.  Even if there are a few physical symptoms that seem contradictory and make a diagnosis more difficult, a tongue is extremely reliable.


Lets start with Body Color:

This is the colour of the physical tongue, not the coat it may have.

  • Pale: Deficiency of Yang or Blood.
  • Red: Heat.
  • Deep-Red: Severe Heat.
  • Purple: Blood Stagnation.
  • Blue: Cold leading to Blood Stagnation.

Tongue Size:

I will go over only the common ones, because there are a lot!

  • Thin: Blood Deficiency, Chronic.
  • Swollen: Dampness or Phlegm.
  • Long: Heat.

  • Short:Cold, Extreme Yin Deficiency.
  • Cracked: A crack can indicate a few things, but the easiest to understand is if the crack is in the middle of your tongue can indicate stomach issues.
  • Toothmarks: These are along the sides of your teeth and look like your tongue has moulded your tongue. This indicates the very common Spleen Qi Deficiency.
  • Quivering: Also Spleen Qi Deficiency.

Tongue Coat:

A great example of this is that thick tongue coat you have that you try to brush off but never really goes away… well thats because it represents what is happening in your body.

  • Yellow: Heat.
  • White: Cold.

Sometimes the coat is only on specific parts of your tongue too.

Tongue Moisture:

  • Too Wet: Dampness, Yang Deficiency.
  • Too Dry: Heat or Yin Deficiency.
  • Slippery/Sticky: Phlegm/Dampness.

Organs on the Tongue:

  • tongue_diagnosisCentre: Spleen/Stomach
  • Sides: Liver/ GallBladder
  • Root/Back: Kidney, Bladder, Intestines
  • Tip: Heart
  • Between tip and centre: Lung


I know that is a lot to take in, so here is an example.

If two people come in experiencing pain, I will look to see what the tongue looks like. If one is purple that represents a Blood Stagnation and will require a different treatment than patient #2 with the pale tongue. The second patients’ tongue would  indicate a Blood Deficiency. Even though both patients come in with the same complaint, it would be a different treatment because of how the tongue looks.


Exciting News!

After careful consideration and great excitement, I have decided to pursue my acupuncture career full time at Goodsense Healthcare & Happiness Boutique in Stettler. I feel so grateful for the wonderful opportunity and patients I have experienced at Refresh Wellness Centre.

The transition will take place April 1st, 2016. All the practitioners at Refresh are up to date on patient files.


cropped-taylorestuckey6-e1436280391894.pngNew Hours of Operation in Stettler:

            Sunday: 11am -4pm

            Monday: 12pm-7pm

            Tuesday: 2pm-9pm

            Wednesday: 6:30am-2pm

            Thursday: 9:30am-12pm, 2pm-8pm


4804 50 St, Stettler, AB


“When the Liver is harmonious, there is never stress or tension” – Dealing with Liver Qi Stagnation

When you hear Liver Qi ‘chee’ Stagnation, what do you think? Probably the first few thoughts that come to mind are “well I have no idea at all”, “that’s not a thing”, and/or “um… what’s wrong with my liver?”

Well, in Chinese Medicine your Liver has a very specific action on the Qi –or energy- of your body. When I speak about the Liver, Spleen, Heart, etc., it isn’t your physical heart or liver- the anatomy of those organs is probably fine- it is the Chinese Medicine aspect of the energy of the meridian and TCM organ. Each meridian is associated with an organ, hence its name.

Now that you know I’m not talking about your physical liver, we can talk about what exactly Liver Qi Stagnation is!

Your Liver is a huge player in TCM, it controls the smooth flow of Qi in your body, stores blood, controls sinews, opens into the eyes, and is affected by anger. Today, we are going to only focus on the smooth flow of Qi. The smooth flow of Liver-Qi is essential to all physiological processes throughout the whole body, in every organ and part of the body. So…. When Liver Qi becomes stagnant, there is a lot of disharmony that may occur.

Common symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation include; PMS, distended breast before period, irritability, depression, moodiness, feeling ‘wound up’, sighing, abdominal distention, irregular periods, and potentially feeling like there is a lump in your throat.

Like the majority of our society, I am or have experienced most of those symptoms at a variety of different times. Due to our hectic lifestyles, it is quite common for people to have an underlying Liver Qi stagnation. When the Liver Qi is not moving as it should, it will slowly start to effect the Spleen, Heart, and so on. That is when the bloating, poor digestion, poor sleep, head aches can come into play.

There are a few things you can do to help yourself and your Liver. By releasing endorphins and regulating Qi, acupuncture is huge in regulating the smooth flow of Liver Qi. Reducing stressors in your life will also help- take up walking in nature, meditation, and exercise. Really, whatever it might be to help you release that stress and irritability will be huge. And of course your diet will greatly affect your Liver Qi.

Eating in moderation, not eating late meals or being stressed during or after the meal. Eating pungent such as lemon and onions as well as raw foods are ‘anti-stagnant’ and will help the Liver-Qi flow smoothly. I drink lemon water every morning, it is a wonderful way to start the day and help regulate Liver Qi. Bitter foods will also help resolve Liver-Qi stagnation.

Some suggested foods are; onions, small amounts of citrus, garlic, asparagus, sp-qiturmeric, chestnuts, beets, cabbage, celery, carrots, and dill. And now some foods to decrease or restrict include; cheese, eggs, deep fried foods, beer, spicy meals, pizza, nuts, refined sugars, and raw vegetable juices.

If any of these symptoms sound like you, I would highly suggest incorporating a few of these dietary and lifestyle adaptations along with acupuncture. I know it helped me!


Healing with Whole Foods – Paul Pitchford

Foundations of Chinese Medicine – Giovanni Maciocia

Acupuncture can improve athletic performance

If you know me at all, you will know that I am very passionate about sports and living an active, healthy lifestyle. I have experienced a variety of sports injuries – the leading injury to date ended with two knee surgeries. I ruptured my ACL, tore my MCL and medial meniscus – the triple threat as the surgeon called it.IMG_3776
I am fortunate enough to have already found Acupuncture at the point of my knee injury
because I was able to use it in my pre- and post- surgery rehab. My surgeon asked what else I had been doing at my check ups and I explained my use of Acupuncture and he was thrilled! Let me explain why…

There are typically two types of sports injuries. The first type is overuse or chronic – usually the result of repetitive training.

Whether its tight muscles, recovering from a chronic injury or from an acute injury; athletes want to get back out on the court/ice/field/ etc. as soon as possible with a minimal chance of re-injuring yourself. First, lets see how acupuncture can help with tight muscles and overuse injuries.

Tight muscles can really inhibit an athlete’s performance by restricting movement and pain. When a muscle is tight, it is the Trigger points/ motor points that cause the pain. They inhibit range of motion by keeping muscles short and can also weaken the muscle. Not all trigger points are painful, but when you feel that knot in your calf or trap (shoulder area), you’re feeling the motor/trigger point. If it is left long enough, excessive muscle contraction can potentially disarticulate joints or even cause nerve entrapment. Acupuncture is veryeffective when it comes to releasing a trigger point. The needle is inserted directly into that specific area and you will actually feel the muscle jump a lot of the time – it is such a neat and unique feeling! By releasing the tension in the muscle it will allow it to ‘reset’ in a way. Combining IMG_1401Acupuncture and massage is extremely effective when it comes to tight muscles. When you come in for Acupuncture for tight/sore muscles, you will likely experience a muscle release, cupping, guasha, and/or electroacupuncture. Acupuncture helps restore the muscle to its full length therefor recovers its normal function, metabolism and blood supply. Acupuncture can usually achieve immediate results, keep in mind that it is important to continue regular treatments if you have been experiencing muscle pain for an extended period of time. It is important to know that this therapy is so much more than IMS. When you seek a Registered Acupuncturist for muscle tension, I will use trigger points to release the muscle but also Acupuncture points to help your body recover faster.

Overuse injuries occur over a period of time or from not taking care of an immediate injury, they can be linked to tight muscles as well. Typically the pain with a chronic injury is described as a deep, dull ache or numbness and tingling.

The second type of sports injury is an acute traumatic injury. These are the sprains, strains, etc. that usually initiate an inflammatory response and have a more intense pain than overuse injuries. Many professional sports teams have Acupuncturists on staff for this very reason. Acupuncture helps reduce the pain and inflammation as well as improving movement to help you move closer to your goal of playing again.

Acupuncture effectively treats sports injuries literally from head to toe. Recent studies have shown that it can also improve performance and give athletes a competitive edge.

If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to ask, I would love to help you get back out playing your sport as soon as possible!

– Difficulty conceiving + acupuncture –

Having a baby is such an exciting time in so many people’s lives; unfortunately the harsh truth is that there are growing numbers of cases of infertility. I have found that a lot of the time when a couple is having a difficult time conceiving it is the women who seeks treatment or thinks something is ‘wrong’ with her. It is so unbelievably sad to see this.


First things first, both men and women have fertility issues, it is important for both to get checked out. And secondly, Acupuncture can help!

I am so excited that I have recently completed additional education on helping from conception until birth. Let me tell you, there are a ton of things that can happen in a pregnancy –both positive and negative- I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be.

So now, lets take a look at how acupuncture can help you…

Acupuncture is an amazing therapy for stress reduction. In such a stressful time, it is important to make sure you are taking time for yourself to reduce your stress. This might include acupuncture treatments, yoga, meditation, reading, a nice long walk in nature, or whatever it is that helps you. Research shows that during an acupuncture treatment, endorphins are released – which gives you that “happy and relaxed” type feeling. So, while you are starting to feel more relaxed and not as stressed, acupuncture will also be helping regulate your cycle. Each week of your cycle will be a slightly different treatment because each week, in your body, there is something different going on hormonally with your cycle. For example, at ovulation time, the dominant follicle releases an egg. The follicular phase is considered the most yin part of the cycle. Menses is the most yang, so with Yin and Yang being opposite, we treat in accordance with that. When trying to conceive, 4-5 days prior to ovulation would be the best time to start engaging in intercourse – 48 hours being the peak time.

Taking your basal body temperature (BBT) will help you and your therapist know when or if ovulation has occurred, what phase of your cycle you are in, as well as thyroid function. For your convenience, here is a link to a BBT chart.–cervical-mucus-chart

A lot of the time, couples feel helpless or like they FullSizeRender copy 2have no control over their difficulty conceiving. Hopefully now you feel a bit better about how you can help your therapist and yourself to bring a new bundle of joy into your life!

If you have more questions, please ask! There will be a few more blogs posts on this issue for both men’s and women’s health…. So stay tuned!

– Stomach trouble? This one is for you-

Who doesn’t love to eat?! I know I do, I love every aspect of it – food preparation, smell, taste! But its a lot less enjoyable when you experience digestive disturbances. I would estimate that about 90% of my clientele come in with what they commonly call “stomach trouble.” Bloating, gas, nausea, loose stool, gurgling in the stomach, the list goes on…. it is uncomfortable and can be embarrassing.

There are a number of reasons that can lead to digestive disturbances. Firstly,  it is important to be aware of what you are ingesting. It is amazing what our digestion tells us about everything going on in the body. A lot of digestive issues, along with other ailments, can be eliminated or greatly decreased when you take a look at your diet and alter it based on what your body is telling you. I personally have a poor digestive system and have used acupuncture to help regulate it along with being aware of what I am eating. An example is preservatives! My body has a strong hate-on for preservatives it would seem. So (for the most part) I simply eat food that comes from the earth, preferably organic. I started changing what I was putting into my body and bing, bang, boom – my digestive disturbances decreased tenfold. I have become quite passionate about learning different ways to prepare food, or different foods to eat all together. Food is not always the main reason for digestive disturbances, but it does tend to be common with the way food is prepared/ packaged today.

A second, common reason for digestion troubles is the Spleen. When I speak of the Spleen it is notSpleen the physical Spleen that we commonly know from Western Medicine. In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen (not your anatomical Spleen but the Spleen Qi) is very sensitive, and has large control over digestion symptoms. In our world we are constantly on the go and rarely take time to rest or to create a space of stillness to calm our bodies and minds.  This does not benefit the Spleen and when the Spleen becomes deficient we will start to see more digestive abnormalities. Acupuncture has been proven to be very efficient to help alleviate the symptoms of poor digestion. From person to person, the treatment will be slightly different depending on the pathology. Acupuncture helps tonify the Spleen and regulate the Qi in the body, but you still need to do your part to eat less raw fruits and veggies and to do relaxing activities.

A third possibility is if there is heat in your stomach… meaning in your physical stomach and also the Stomach Qi. If you come in with symptoms that look like heat in your stomach, then along with weekly treatments to regulate the stomach and expel heat, you also need to decrease spicy and hot food (temperature and energetics) from your diet.

And lastly, another way we can look at bloating, gas, bowel movement abnormalities, pain in the abdomen, and more is to look at your emotional well-being. Our emotions can easily derail pretty much every aspect of our physical body if we don’t deal with them and let them go. What I love about acupuncture is how wellness is seen as a complete package – you may just think you have pain after eating, but so often your body is reacting to something your mind hasn’t wanted to process.

I could go on and on about digestive disturbances, but at least now you know a bit more about it. If you are experiencing “stomach trouble,” pay attention to what your body reacts to, take note of the stress and business in your life, or any emotional or mental duress that may be coming up. And of course, I am always happy to help as well.


– What is acupuncture? –

Ah, yes. I remember the first time I went for acupuncture:

You’re going to put needles where?

What is it going to feel like?

What exactly is this going to do?

These were all questions I really wanted an answer to before my acupuncturist started poking around. And if you have the same questions, they are totally legitimate! You can read about how acupuncture has helped me personally on my info page but I wanted to share with you a ‘Cole’s Notes’ version of what acupuncture is and importantly, how to ensure you are in good hands with a knowledgeable Acupuncturist.

So, what exactly is acupuncture? Acupuncture is a part of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). It is an ancient (and by ancient I mean 5,000 + years old) oriental medical science and healing art. Like all TCM, acupuncture is based on Yin and Yang which means opposite but complimentary. The idea is that your body has energy lines called meridians running head to toe. Energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) can become stagnant or deficient due to a variety of reasons. When either stagnation or a deficiency occurs, you get sick, or just feel out of balance. This can impact you physically, mentally and emotionally. Acupuncture views the body as a holistic organism with mind body and spirit very much connected so if one thing is out, it can impact other areas (Yin and Yang!). By inserting tiny needles into specific acupuncture points, the energy is stimulated in that area to heal or re-balance. It’s not as easy as just sticking needles in anywhere. Your body has 365 points but the cool thing is your acupuncturist will be able to tell not only from your symptoms but also from your pulse and tongue (a post for another day, I promise!)  what is out of balance and where the acupuncture needles should go. I’ve laid it out in more detail on the what is acupuncture page on my site but that is the basic gist.

Now – on to choosing an Acupuncturist. Acupuncture is a registered profession in Alberta. Please do not go to anyone who is not registered. A Registered Acupuncturist (look for the letters R.Ac. beside their name) will have at least three years of post-secondary under their belt and will have successfully passed three Pan-Canadian and two Provincial examinations.  It is important to note that not all medical professionals who practice acupuncture/dry needling are Registered Acupuncturists.  The Acupuncture Program at MacEwan University, where I graduated, is 2070 hours overall, with 630 clinical hours. Don’t be afraid to ask your potential acupuncturist for qualifications! Also, healing is really personal so you want to feel comfortable and safe with your acupuncturist. You can ask to meet for a consultation before making an appointment.

I’ll end with a fun video of Oprah trying acupuncture for the first time. She has lots of questions!