In our Western culture when we seek medical care it is usually because of some physical issue that is bothering us. We describe our ailments to the doctor, perhaps run blood tests or x-rays and more times than not receive a written prescription for medication – mission accomplished. For many years that was my method of health care. But then I began to wonder as I returned to the doctor year after year with seasonal allergies if the antibiotic medications prescribed that solved my immediate health concerns might be causing other damage to my body the longer I took them. And while I was a relatively healthy and active person, why did I suffer each year? Was there another way to address these allergies or was I doomed?
My curiosity led me to studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) at the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, California. In the past ten years I have been able to solve many of my own health issues (seasonal allergies, back and knee pain, insomnia, emotional challenges) with acupressure, healing teas and the wondorous wisdom of Chinese medicine. This has since turned into a thriving private practice to help others toward a balanced and healthy lifestyle and an opportunity to share many self-help techniques to prevent illness.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, disease is looked at from a holistic philosophy that recognized the importance of balance and harmony between human beings and their natural surroundings. The human body is viewed as a microcosm of the Universe. Observing and inquiring what is happening within a person (thinking and emotions) and how he/she interacts in their relationships and community as well as factoring in the impact of the world around them will provide a clue to understanding the underlying disease or disharmony as well as keys toward balance and wellness. A holistic approach then takes into account a person’s:
– Environment (climate, seasons, geographic location, pollution, toxins)
– Lifestyle (diet, relationships, sleep patterns, exercise, stress, drug/alcohol use)
– Emotions (anger, joy, pensiveness, grief, fear or shock)
We are each born with a set of constitutional factors contributed by our parents. We may have a strong healthy constitution or weak depending on our parent’s lifestyle, emotional state and environmental factors at the time we were conceived. Regardless of what constitution we are born with, it is more important in our lives post-birth to pay attention to the environment surrounding us, engage in a healthy and balancing lifestyle and manage our emotional states.
Balance and harmony are key to health. Disharmony comes in the way of too much or too little. Too much or too little food, exercise, sleep, stimulants, emotions, stress leads to excess or deficiency conditions all of which can lead us not to be the best of who we are. We then seek out quick fixes in hopes that our systems will balance and it rarely does. It was true for my seasonal allergies. I got the quick fix of antibiotics and the allergies went away. Since taking hold of my health issue, I now take care of allergy issues before the season begins, using a neti-pot to clear my nasal passages, give self-care acupressure to build up my immunity and drain excess fluids and stay away from foods that clog and block my breathing and drink herbal teas. It has been more than five years since I have taken antibiotics. I am happy that not only am I more in charge of combating allergies before they have a chance to get into my system but I also am preventing the long term harmful build up effects of antibiotic use on my kidney and liver.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is all about living in balance and harmony within one self and with the community and environment around one. It is about prevention of disease rather than our Western notion of treating the symptoms of disease. It’s about finding the clues from different angles of how a person lives, feels and interacts with the world around to really understand and treat the underling cause of the illness.
My studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) were more than an opportunity for me to try a new profession after working in philanthropy and community development but also a time to review my own health and to “think outside the box” about healthcare options. I appreciate Western medicine for the advances that drugs, surgery, vaccines, hospitals offer and I appreciate Traditional Chinese Medicine for its wholistic approach that understands that lifestyle and emotions can equally put us in a state of disease. So here and in future blogs, I will spell out some ways that I am integrating TCM with Western medicine to achieve my goals of living my health in balance and harmony. It begins with living with intention and using my will to embrace a healthy life.
The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (240 B.C.) is considered to be the bible of health care. It offers advice that seems true for that time and a guiding lesson for 2014.
“Health and well-being can be achieved only by remaining centered in spirit, guarding against the squandering of energy, promoting the constant flow of qi (energy) and blood, maintaining harmonious balance of yin and yang, adapting to the changing seasonal and yearly macrocosmic influences, and nourishing one’s self preventively. This is the way to a long and happy life.”
Here’s to a long and happy healthy life for all of us!