Asians do it better… Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

‘Dig the well before you are thirsty’

(Chinese Proverb)

All being well, if you cut your arm (don’t try this) what happens? It heals right.  Miraculously, all by itself.  If the human body is sick or out of balance, get it back in balance and it will most likely do the same.  That is one of the goals of Traditional Chinese Medicine – to get the human back into balance; through lifestyle, food, acupuncture and herbs.

Remember the whole Yin and Yang thing? Balance.
Want to live well and long? Balance is your goal.

 

You good?

I hope so… if so read on..

if not, definitely read on..

This is a  full-on read about the future (and past) of health.

PS. This is not about eating soy 😉

 

Intro:

The practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses some or all of the following in order to achieve balance in the human – lifestyle change (food and stress), acupuncture, acupressure, herbs and massage.

Making changes in life are often the hardest thing for a human to do, even if the outcome of not changing means sickness and early death. Western medicine too often focuses on patching up the symptom (symptoms being messages from your body – HEY SOMETHING IS GOING ON!) where as TCM goes deeper, both soothing the symptoms while getting to the root of the cause.

With Tu Youyou recently receiving a Nobel prize for her life’s dedication to and working with TCM, it is very obvious to me that TCM is about to receive the credit and exposure it deserves.  People often use TCM alongside Western medicine to heal their sickness.

…if you have 2 more minutes do read on.

Notes:
1) Western medicine has it’s place in this World, but with a bit of prevention you just be able to steer clear.
2) I do not support the use of animal parts in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are herbal alternatives.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Sh*t hit the fan at the beginning of the 20th century when scientists were confronted with the fact that their most fundamental  principle, mantra, belief if you will, was flawed.  Flawed all the way to the center of the atom (there is an interesting video by Bruce Lipton Phd on this at the bottom of this page)

The basic problem was that they thought the atom was solid, it isn’t.  Inside the atom is energy.

(This situation is kind of like how; they thought the World was flat, and they were ‘right’, but it wasn’t)

2000+ years ago the Chinese had no idea that in 2000 years scientists would finally be getting around to quantum physics – you know, looking inside physical matter at what is actually there – energy.

Thousands of years ago physicians of TCM didn’t know how to look inside a cell, molecule or atom… But they did know that there is more to the human than just physical flesh and bones.  Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the fact that a human is made of energy (known as Qi) and, that Western medicine began based on a fallacy.

“Even though this energy can’t be touched or measured, they believe that Qi (Life-force energy) is running through us and every living thing in the Universe including food ” (Deperon and Enion, 2015)

Two completely different foundations, and foundations are everything right?  Remember that old age saying; keep building on a shaky foundation and you will end up with an obesity epidemic and millions of people paying billions of dollars for medication(?)

Traditional Chinese Medicine has evolved over thousands of years of research and practice.  The learnings are passed on between practitioners and the herbs and remedies are not protected by patents. 

(By the way, yes I have experienced many TCM treatments including acupuncture and herbs. The more I research and experience treatments (it’s actually awesome for maintenance too) the more I love it and want to share this information with you).

Side note: Western medicine has its place, I’m sure. Because there is a lot of mis-information out out there about Chinese Medicine, often the purpose of this article is to show you the benefits of wisdom from the East that has been around for 1000’s of years.

 

INTERESTING FACT: Recently (Winter 2015) Tu Youyou (pharmacologist at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences) was awarded a Nobel Prize (and $900k+) for her research and work in discovering a therapy for malaria (artemisinin being the specific extract from Artemisia Annua).  Artemisinin was proven to be an improvement on the drug Chloroquine which the malaria parasites have developed a resistance to.   Oh, by the way she’s 84 years old and awesome.

 

Artemisia Annua

Artemisia Annua

 

Chloroquine

Chloroquine

 

4 insights into Traditional Chinese Medicine:

1) Sickness or illness is viewed as stagnation.  
In order to heal or balance the human the stagnation needs to be relieved – unblocked if you will.

Compare that to “you have illness X and here are you pills”.  Not cool…  Or do you like taking the pills?  TCM can get stagnation flowing again in a number of ways, often starting with lifestyle and eating habits, closely followed by acupuncture and then herbs (taken orally or applied topically).  Know that there is no actual order for the treatments and it is a human by human diagnosis and administration of treatment.  So, in TCM illness is viewed as something that is happening in the moment rather than a final diagnosis.

2) The medicine you eat/drink/take is herbs.
After balancing food and lifestyle then come the herbs.  They’re potent and get to work performing a number of functions depending on the symptoms (messages from the body).  Some dry from the inside out, some add moisture, some warm, other cool, some give energy and others calm.  The combination of herbs you are given will be based on you.  (more on this in point 4 below).

IMPORTANT NOTE: herbs are not to be depended on (unlike many of the unnecessary prescriptions in Western medicine), they are to help create balance while other changes are being made (lifestyle and food)

Note: Herbs are sometimes prescribed straight away depending on the practitioner and the state of the human.

3) The body is viewed as a mini version of the Universe and that it is completely connected to the immediate and greater environment.

I love the perspective of Dr Bruce Lipton who lectures about the body being made of cells, inside the cells are molecules, then atoms and inside the atom?  Energy (Qi)

(This is a key principle in TCM and it is science- quantum physics).

4) Everything is comprised of the ever changing Five Elements. Fire, Earth, Wood, Metal, and Water symbolically represent everything.

Metaphorically speaking too much of the ‘fire’ element in a human could manifest as night sweats or acid reflux.  Too much of the ‘water’ element might show up as ‘loose poop’.  The critical factor in treating imbalances in the elements is the correct diagnosis followed by the right balance of herbs and lifestyle changes to address the imbalance.  An example; someone that has too much fire and water would both need to dry the water and cool the fire (symbolically speaking of course).  It’s important to remember that the elements in the environment are always changing too (Think seasons – summer is more fiery than winter, which is cooler and perhaps more damp) and so that is one reason it is beneficial to eat local because the food will be in season and in tune with the environment it is born from.

 

Other awesome stuff they do in the East:

– Squat to poop.  I started doing that when I was around 21, and in so many years have only downed one toilet – yep, the whole toilet fell onto its side and I ended up with one foot in and one out (re-pooping thankfully).  When you squat (butt below knees) you relax your insides allowing an easier poop and for more volume to be released.  By doing this safely over time you also strengthen your knees and open your hips – useful in old age – just ask your nanna or someone elses’.

squat

– They eat white rice. It’s more easily digested than brown rice which contains the whole husk.  White rice is not necessarily great for someone who urgently needs to burn fat but for the most part it’s more easily digested and generally recommend as part of a meal for someone especially if they have a weak digestion.  The labor intense lives of the Chinese, especially a few hundred / thousand years ago, was well suited to the fast releasing carbs like white rice.  Oh my, so much more to say on that subject but I will leave it there for now.

– Seaweed is a staple in the Asian diet (not wheat).  Seaweed is a great (real food) source of iodine giving 3000 to 5000 micrograms of iodine per day.  In the the West they simply added an extract to table salt which is inferior real food and potentially dangerous (Mercola, 2013)

– Asians tend to eat much more fish than Westerners giving them a more balanced Om3 to Om6 ratio. (‘Are fish safe to eat?’ and ‘are we killing all of the fish?’ are a whole other conversation).

– They tend to eat most of the animal including making broths and soups by boiling the bones to pull out much needed minerals.

– Asians meditate and walk more than most in the West.

– Fermented food is common in Asia – this is a process that helps remove the plant’s natural defense mechanism making it more easier to digest.  AND the fermented foods (like cabbage and tea) nourish the human with brilliant bacteria.

 

Advantages of Traditional Chinese Medicine:

+ Using herbs means no chemical.   

+ It works to heal rather than destroy.  Western medicine appears to focus on destroying the problem and everything in it’s path often including the immune system and bacteria critical to the health and healing of a human being.

+ Side effects are few and far between – increasing compliance – people more likely to actually take the herbs knowing they are going to feel alrigh (NCBI, 2001).  Compared to common side effects of pharmaceuticals; death, nausea, constipation, drowsiness, pain and you have a no-brainer.

+ Cost is minimal (especially in comparison to pharma)

+ Can heal and prevent major illnesses which would often be diagnosed as terminal in Western medicine.

+ The job of the TCM practitioner is more than just healing you.  Remember the old ‘give a man a fish’ metaphor?  This is the way TCM is helping the human race with its health – offering learning on finding and keeping ones own balance.

+ Western medicine defines health as the absence of illness.  Fuck not being ill, what about being awesome!

+ ‘Fresh, local food and herbs when needed’ is pretty much their eating ‘philosophy’

Getting Traditional Chinese Medicine right:

– Herb quality is very important – like food, soap even deodorant if you use it – anything that goes in your body should be the most nourishing as possible – especially medicine.  You can get this right by having your practitioner referred to you by someone in the know and doing a little research yourself first.

– It can take longer to cure a disease using TCM but TCM is known for curing, removing the tail or root of the disease rather than merely covering up a symptoms.

– It takes commitment by the patient (you might have to boil herbs to make the medicine) where in Western medicine you just take a pill, though some TCM practitioners use herbs in capsule form.

– If you are taking Western medicine and see a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine it is critical that you report this to your new doctor, and vice versa (NCBI, 2001).

– It can take a bit of time finding the right practitioner for you.  My experience was as well as seeing my awesome acupuncturist in LA I used to drive to San Francisco to see a specialist too.

The antibiotics factor:

“Antibiotics” Phillip Ward, Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine says  “When it comes to treating a life threatening infection there is no other type of medicine/herb that has benefited the world as much as antibiotics.  He goes on to say “The fact that they <antibiotics> are widely over prescribed is a whole other issue.  But, for example, if you have a legitimate infection in your heart or kidneys there is no time to mess around and antibiotics should be prescribed immediately.  In general, TCM does not deal with urgent illnesses of that nature and magnitude as well as Western medicine.  This is why hospitals in China use the best of both worlds (TCM and Western pharmaceuticals) to treat patients.  The beauty of living in this time of existence is that we can use more modern medicines like antibiotics to rid ourselves of a dangerous infection and then use TCM to recover and strengthen our system to prevent possible infections in the future. Although, there seems to be a shift brewing with medical doctors on the horizon western medicine’s biggest pitfall is educating patients on how to stay healthy.  They focus on treating diseases and put very little if any emphasis on staying healing and the importance of a balanced life (healthy eating, proper sleep, adequate movement and exercise, healthy relationships)  This is where TCM does its best work. We (TCM practitioners) have the means to treat serious illness but our primary focus is to keep our patients healthy. The forefathers of TCM realized 3000 years ago that it is easier to stay healthy than it is cure a disease”.

 

I would LOVE to read your thoughts and comments about this (this is your queue to write a comment)

And… Follow @RichEats on Twitter  Instagram and Facebook

 

The Bruce Lipton video I mentioned on going inside the atom:

 

And a funny video about how to poo:

Bibliography:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/tu-facts.html

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/oct/05/william-c-campbell-satoshi-omura-and-youyou-tu-win-nobel-prize-in-medicine

Lu, Henry C. Phd Chinese Natural Cures – Traditional Methods for Remedy and Prevention Black Dog & Leventhal publishers inc. 2005

Lu, Henry C. Phd Chinese System of Food Cures. Prevention and Remedies. Sterling Publishing company inc. 1986.

Mercola, Joseph. 2013. Iodine Supplements may be too much of  a good thing. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/29/iodine-deficiency-risk.aspx

Pitchford, P. Healing with Whole Foods. Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books. 2002

Craze, Richard & Jay. Richard ‘The Tao of Food’ Sterling Pub Co Inc. 1999

Chene, Jung Shi MD. Medicinal food in China

Strengths and Weaknesses of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine in the eyes of some Hong Kong Chinese. 2001.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1731793/pdf/v055p00762.pdf
Segerstorm and Miller. 2006. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System:  A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/

If you like this you might also like these health articles:

Is Soy good for me?

Tea Basics

 

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