World Health Day 2015

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

World health day was April 7th, and to celebrate I want to share a little bit about how health is defined in Chinese medicine. For the uninitiated, Chinese medicine is a system that is more than 5000 years old. It is an umbrella term that encompasses modalities such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, moxibustion, gua sha, cupping, auricular acupuncture, tui na and dietary therapy. One of the things that makes Chinese medicine so effective and still able to treat modern diseases, is its holistic approach. It is not a system of medicine, it teaches a way of life.

For this world health day, I have teamed up with the American Recall Center, a new site that is working to improve patient safety and providing up to date FDA information. We both are working to celebrate good health and focus on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Lifestyle : Chinese Medicine Living

The Holistic Approach

Chinese medicine is a holistic system. It takes many factors into account when evaluating the health of a person. Because of this, the intake process is very detailed, as it is important to get as much information as possible, about every aspect of a person’s life, to determine why they are not well, and to figure out what needs to be done to correct the problem. All aspects are considered equally important to health including the emotions, diet, exercise, mental state, spirit and the workings of the body. The practitioner of Chinese medicine will go through all these aspects and determine the root cause of the imbalance so that it can be corrected and health restored.

Acupuncture : Chinese Medicine Living

Another aspect of Chinese medicine is that health is considered a state of balance between all parts of the body and life. Inside the body, we think of Yin and Yang, the water and fire energies respectively. When there is too much Yang, there are symptoms like headaches, red eyes, palpitations, dryness and outbursts of anger. A preponderance of Yin would manifest as symptoms of cold, lethargy, contracting pain, low energy, listlessness and water retention. In life, if the emotions are expressed freely, the diet is balanced and we are spending as much time moving as we are sitting still, then we are seen to be in good health. It is only when the balance is disturbed that symptoms develop, and this is a sign that something needs to be adjusted. The severity of the illness is directly proportionate to the severity of the imbalance.

The practitioner of Chinese medicine does not only administer acupuncture and herbs to their patients, they are there to educate their patients in a way of life; how to stay balanced so that illness never has a chance to develop. It is a preventative medicine. Of course, imbalances happen, but armed with the right information, and being aware of the subtle changes in our bodies, we all have the capacity to remain healthy well into old age, a time when many people are resigned to illness.

Traditional Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

Western Medicine

Western medicine has made many advancements that have contributed to the overall health of people all over the world. Diagnostic tests, western drugs and surgeries have saved countless lives and continue to do so. I have always believed that if Chinese and western medicine could work together, their combined abilities to heal would be without limit. I think about medicine as a tool box, and Chinese medicine has various tools with which to bring a person back to health – acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion, dietary therapy, etc… these are the tools of Chinese medicine. Western medicine also has myriad tools  which it uses to heal a person. There is nothing lost by adding tools to your tool kit, they are simply different perspectives, different approaches and all are useful when trying to heal from disease. Some work better for certain things, but having as many options as possible is not only pragmatic, it gives you a better chance to recover from what ails you.

Many people are aware of only one option when they get sick. But I am finding that more and more people are turning to alternatives and being open to their possibilities to heal. It is heartening to see that many people are beginning to accept that there are many types of healing, and that all can be helpful.

Here is an example. I have a patient who was diagnosed with cancer about a year and a half ago. He was given between 3-6 months to live. His cancer was particularly aggressive and dangerous. He is doing chemotherapy, but is also having regular acupuncture treatments and is taking Chinese herbs. His tumor markers are consistently going down and his oncologist is pleased at his progress and recovery. The acupuncture and Chinese herbs are working to build his immune system and building his strength so that his body can sustain the chemotherapy. Each of these treatments in isolation would have been beneficial, but together they are compounded and the benefits are amplified. I look forward to watching him make a full recovery and see him live a long and healthy life.

In conclusion, when I decided to study medicine, I chose Chinese medicine because it resonated with me, but I have always been open to all types of healing. I deal with patients every day who are taking western medications, having surgeries and who are struggling with diseases. I believe that working together with western doctors, we can help many patients to heal using the combined strengths of each system. I wish you a happy World Health Day, and much health to you now and in the future as well.

Health : Chinese Medicine Living

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