the kind life

Acupuncture and a Plant-Based Diet

I have fallen in love with acupuncture...
Acupuncture on a hand.

Traditional Chinese Medicine advocates for eating meat. But you can undergo acupuncture and maintain a plant-based diet. Here’s how.

I have fallen in love with acupuncture… Not that it’s a necessity for everyone, but with so much going on with work and not being a perfect superhero 24/7 (I love to be naughty), I find it to be an excellent support system. My only concern with it is someone being talked out of a vegan diet, since many practitioners tend to do this (more on this in the interview below).

But, if you’re interested in trying acupuncture, you don’t have to let this happen to you. You can find a practitioner that is a good fit for you. The point of acupuncture, after all, is correcting imbalances in your body and strengthening your connection with yourself. And if your practitioner isn’t a good listener, a soothing presence, or a wise counselor (at least in your eyes) then it’s best to keep looking.

The other thing about acupuncture is it can be pricey. So you may want to look into a growing movement called community acupuncture. Built on the old-school idea that the best medicine is not getting sick in the first place, these clinics offer acupuncture in a way that allows for frequent affordable visits. More traditionally used in Asia, this style of acupuncture is done in a comfy, peaceful communal space. This not only benefits you because of the collective energy field created when neighbors, friends, and family heal together—which can enhance the power of your treatment — but it also means you’re paying far less (sometimes as little as $10 to $20). Many of these clinics ask for payment on an honor-based sliding scale, meaning you decide how much you’re able to pay.

To find one of these healing spots near you, check out the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture’s (POCA) website. You can also see if a yoga studio in your neighborhood offers this same service.

I recently spoke with two Los Angeles-based acupuncture pros: Erica Docimo is based in West Hollywood and Sherrie Matthews in Hollywood. Erica is a California Licensed Acupuncturist who graduated with honors and a Masters Degree in Oriental Medicine from The Emperor’s College. She also attended The Academy of Orthopedic Acupuncture (AOA). Sherrie is a licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist who received her Master’s Degree from Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica, California.

AS: When and why did you start getting into acupuncture? 

Erica: I first got fired up about acupuncture in high school after interviewing the only acupuncturist in town. I wanted to get into a field where I could deeply connect with people, while still being creative. Acupuncture was a beautiful fit.

Sherrie: I was really drawn toward Eastern and Alternative Medicine in my early 20s. A friend from Belize sent me a book on a medicine woman who lived in the mountains and learned alternative healing with the oldest medicine healer in the country. I realized that is what I wanted to do — help people feel better.

AS: At what point did you become vegan and why? 

Erica: I grew up on meat and potatoes, back when kale was used as a decorative divider between the various vegetables people actually bought. At 21 I took a job cooking privately for a vegan family. I didn’t know how to cook or much about veganism, but after some hand-holding and learning to decipher nutritional labels I began making edible meals. About six months into that job I decided to experiment with being vegan myself and seeing how it affected my health. It was night and day for me.

SherrieI became a vegetarian right after high school.  It was amazing how much better I felt! My skin cleared up, I could think clearer, and I had more energy. A couple years after that I realized that dairy was causing my chronic childhood sinus infections. I stopped dairy and never had a sinus infection or headache again.

AS: Which came first, your acupuncture practice or eating vegan?

Erica: I began acupuncture schooling first, with veganism close on its heels. By the time I graduated both were in full effect and I had a vegan toddler!

SherrieVegan. It’s been more than 25 years now.

AS: How do you feel about the majority of Chinese medicine practitioners advocating for meat consumption? Why do you think this happens?

Erica: It doesn’t bother me at all. I’m adamant about not judging others for eating differently than I do, which typically disarms them from feeling the need to impose their diets back onto me. It’s definitely a two-way street. Chinese medicine views nutrition a little differently then we do in the West, and meat is seen as a valuable blood tonic. Some practitioners insist that meat is the only way to truly maintain health. I prefer to blend textbook knowledge with empirical data derived from the lives and experiences of my patients and myself, all of which has me convinced that a vegan diet is extremely sustaining and even preventative.

Sherrie: Chinese Practitioners really stress eating meat mostly due to its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This view regards meat as nourishing for your Essence, what we call “Jing” in Chinese Medicine. As a result, they think that a vegetarian or vegan diet will lead to a deficiency (mainly referred to as a blood deficiency) causing people to feel faint, or become highly fatigued, have a loss of memory, numb limbs.

I really make a conscious effort to eat well and exercise and don’t have any of those symptoms. Even throughout my pregnancies I continued to be vegan. My kids are super healthy and smart so I think it really is perfect for me. Actually, just the smell of meat when I was pregnant made me instantly vomit. I had to avoid smelly restaurants. Fun times!

AS: What is a rebuttal to this claim?

Erica: There are an abundance of nutrient-rich foods on our planet, all uniquely beneficial. There is no shortage of complete protein, iron, calcium, and minerals found in the vegan diet. It’s about balance between eating right for your body, and attaining the correct nutritional needs to match your activity level, the season, and so on.

Sherrie: I really think it’s just based on old tradition and an old thought process and a cultural thing. I think there is an old fear-based pattern that if they don’t eat meat then it cuts the chances of having longevity, something prized and highly sought out for in the Chinese Culture. I do have to say that I see some people who go vegetarian not really approach it correctly and therefore do not get enough nutrients. They just cut out the meat but eat more carbs and sweets without adding in protein and vegetables.

AS: What is your go-to restorative and easy-to-make meal?

Erica: When I need to hit the reset button on my diet I take it back to basics. Recently it was a plate of black-eyed peas, cooked mustard greens, arame carrot salad, and some kimchi.

Sherrie: I love to sauté dragon kale, quinoa, and white beans. I like to throw in seaweed and black sesame seeds. Sometimes I’ll whip up a tahini sauce to dip. I eat this 3 or more times a week.

AS: What is your favorite natural beauty product?

Erica: My new favorite product is squalane oil, from olives. Both squalane and squalene oils are derived from multiple sources, and are sometimes taken from Shark Liver Oil. Know your source and leave those sharks alone. This oil has done wonders for my dry skin and hair but never clogs my pores or weighs my curls down.

Sherrie: I love a Rose and Sandalwood hydrosol that is infused with crystals that have been blessed. It’s something I use in my Acupuncture Rejuvenation Facials. It smells amazing and it carries a positive energy so I spray it all day long!

AS: What advice do you have on how to integrate the principles/mission of acupuncture into one’s daily life?

Erica: Acupuncture brings the body into balance through its own innate healing process. Give your body the tools it needs to thrive and find balance in your lifestyle between discipline and letting loose.

Sherrie: A great way to integrate the principles of Traditional Oriental Medicine is to create overall balance by setting up a basic morning routine: you should eat your first meal before 9am and eat mindfully try not to eat too many cold things like juices and salads during the day.

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The Kind diet

A simple guide to feeling great, losing weight, and saving the planet

By following The Kind Diet, you will lose weight more easily, your skin will absolutely glow, you will have tons of energy, and you will become more sensitive to all the important things in life – like love, nature, and your deepest, truest self.