Archive for the ‘Food Therapy’ Category
As Chinese medicine evolved, practitioners began to realize that patients did not live in a vacuum and they could not be treated as such. Every patient affected by an ailment needed to be treated individually because many factors beyond just physical disease were playing a role and required attention. For Master Li Dong-Yuan, lifestyle was a major factor in the preservation of a patient’s well being. He felt that patients’ emotions could heavily influence the qi’s integrity and that physical illness could be eroded by the socio-economics of a war-torn society plagued with famine, epidemics and poverty.
Li Dong-Yuan, also known as Li Gao (1180 – 1251 c.e.), began his medical studies under one of the most famous physicians in the Hubei Province: Zhang Yuan-Su. Li Dong-Yuan’s family was wealthy, so he was afforded a great opportunity to apprentice closely with Zhang Yuan-Su and the teachings of the Yi Shui School. It was from this direct influence that he formulated his own school of thought that became known as the Earth School.
Once he completed his studies with Zhang Yuan-Su, Li Dong-Yuan became involved in managing his family’s property. After the decades of harsh Mongol conquests, he left home in Hubei to utilize his medical knowledge and training to treat the masses that were adversely affected by the unrest and upheaval of being a conquered region.
It was then that he began to deeply develop his thesis that the etiology of most diseases was a result of injury to the digestive system. The principle organs of the digestive system from a Chinese medical model are the Stomach and the Spleen, which are responsible for taking food and drink and transforming the raw material into energy (qi) for the body’s core functions. Li Dong-Yuan believed that the cause of damage to the stomach and spleen occurred as a result of three main factors: intemperance in eating and drinking (especially consumption of excess amounts of cold, raw, fatty or unclean foods), overwork which leads to exhaustion, and from the effects of excessive and habituated emotional expression — excessive emotions agitate the body and consequently weaken digestion.
When the conquered people were left powerless, poor and unable to access proper nutrition, opportunistic disease processes were able to also overcome and vanquish health physically, mentally and spiritually. This becomes the basis of the Earth School’s doctrine.
Weak digestion on a physical level leads to exhaustion and listlessness with loss of appetite, loose stools and visceral prolapse. On a mental level the organs of the stomach and spleen when distressed have lost the ability to problem solve and use intellect. There becomes a tendency to over-ruminate on the same subject without the ability to act on a resolution. This creates the concept of yin fire. Yin fire is the pathological state of habituated unresolved emotions that are unable to be expressed and manifested, which leads to a noxious feedback cycle culminating in repression and suppression of negative emotions.
Because these feelings have no outlet for expulsion from the mind or body, they become lodged internally. Over time, this leads to the generation of heat trapped in the body which further exhausts resources and causes further debility. We may recognize these states from a Western lens as syndromes of chronic inflammation or autoimmune responses.
Two of Li Dong-Yuan’s most important Chinese herbal formulas to treat digestive qi’s lack of strength and integrity along with the discharge of the injurious heat were Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang (Yang Ascending and Stomach Nourishing Decoction) and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Tonify the Center and Regulate the Qi Decoction). Both formulas include ginseng (Ren Shen), astragalus (Huang Qi), and white atractylodes (Bai Zhu) to strengthen the weakened person.
Another common feature is the use of bupleurum (chai hu) to ease emotional tension, allow unencumbered flow and to lift – holding the body’s structures in place. Historically, we are now at a turning point in the crafting of Chinese herbal formulas. Li Dong-Yuan is using a bi-directional strategy of both uplifting and rehabilitating the body’s resources while simultaneously draining out of the body injurious heat and dampness. He is also revolutionary in assigning directionality of herbs to ascend or descend when ingested and also creating a mapping of an herb’s proclivity to affect change certain organs and channels.
He also credited for the herbal formula Sheng Mai San (Pulse Generating Powder), which is still widely used in modern Chinese hospitals for cardiovascular cases, as well as Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang, which is a combination of astragalus (Huang Qi) and Dang Gui (in a ratio of 5:1), used to quickly and deeply nourish the qi and blood following extensive blood loss.
The addition of the Earth School’s ideas to Chinese Medicine helped to further incorporate the concept that exogenous pestilent factors were not the only etiology of disease – and that it was necessary to self cultivate to nurture and build health in order to maintain well-being. Li Dong-Yuan taught a way to live a proactively healthy life as well as a path to reclaim health when afflicted.
In the mad world of newer-better-faster-stronger, it’s important to take a minute and remember that all of the advances that we have—from iPhones and micro-computers to laser treatments and super drugs—evolved from earlier innovation. The foundations of modern medicine are no exception. Often the basics that new techniques are built upon trace back to systems laid out centuries ago and are still formidable in shaping new ideas and thoughts on disease treatment and prevention. Chinese medicine is arguably the oldest, continually practiced form of medicine in the world. There definitely is a reason these strategies have survived the test of time.
It’s become a pretty common practice to spend time on the internet diagnosing ourselves and thinking about treatment options. As more practitioners and patients move towards collaborative medicine and incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into Western treatment plans, it’s not a bad idea to have a better understanding about the theories developed, the physiology around why it works, and the historical context that shaped the paradigm shift. Exploring the important contributions made by masters of Chinese medicine helps provide a better understanding of how medicine has evolved to where it is today. Never a bad thing to know where and why things started.
So, what and who shaped Traditional Chinese Medicine? Much and rightful attention is paid to the Han Dynasty (220 B.C. to 220 A.D.). The masters of Chinese medicine of this era included Hua T’o and Zhang Zhong Jing. This is when the most famous texts of Chinese medicine were published; these seminal texts include the Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders) and the Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescription from the Golden Cabinet). Chinese medical knowledge during the Han dynasty is expansive. Hua T’o is credited for self cultivation practices known as daoyin exercises as well as surgical and anesthesia protocols. Zhang Zhong Jing is recognized for the development of the Six Stages Theory. This theory is a model for the diagnosis and treatment of disease based on the progression of pathogens once they enter the body. This becomes a foundation for the practice of herbal internal medicine.
The historical time known as the Jin-Yuan period will be the focus of our of next four blog articles. The Jin-Yuan period covers the 13th and 14th centuries and is a catalyst for the development of great innovation in Chinese medicine.
From the Jin-Yuan era came the development of four distinct schools of thought, created by men who came to be known as the Four Great Masters of Chinese Medicine – Li Wan Su, Zhang Zi He, Li Dong Yuan, and Zhu Dan Xi. Their mastery of Chinese medicine coupled with their personal circumstances during the times they lived helped shape four distinct philosophies in the causation, prevention and elimination of disease. Their critiques of the classical canons and doctrine create new developments and ways of thinking thus expanding the medicine for more modern times and conditions. Their novel new approaches helped usher in a renaissance in Chinese medicine.
Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s disease and, perhaps not surprisingly, it’s more common in people who live in colder climates.
“Treatment” for Raynaud’s disease often consists of activities like layering clothing, wearing gloves and donning extra thick socks. Some patients take medications deigned to open up or widen their blood vessels and promote circulation.
Increasingly, I am seeing patients who are interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches to easing Raynaud’s disease. These treatment regimens are often focused on herbal formulas that warm, increase peripheral circulation and work on improving the integrity of qi and blood in the superficial channels. Depending on the Patient’s presentation we evaluate and use herbs such as astragulus (huang qi), aconite (fu zi), ginger (gan jiang), ligusticum (chuan xiong) and cinnamon (gui zhi) to ease the chill, move blood and reduce pain in their extremities.
Patients are also finding relief with acupuncture as it can increase blood flow and decrease pain. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine showed that acupuncture treatment decreased the symptoms or “attacks” of Raynaud’s disease by 63%.
Finally, avoiding too much caffeine, getting a good amount of exercise and eating a balanced diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can also help your body successfully combat Raynaud’s disease.
More information and helpful resources for Raynaud’s disease can be found here:
The mind-set, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has become an ingrained attitude of embracing decay in America. It is played out in our current political arenas, our values and in matters of personal growth and self care. As a result of our quest to tighten fiscal belts, our infrastructure is also experiencing malnourishment and neglect. This has been highlighted in numerous articles and recent studies, and has been the source of outrage and, often, despair once something finally surrenders in a cataclysmic manner (think bridge collapses, levy failures, government shutdowns).
This was discussed in an interesting and thought-provoking 2012 article from The Economist, “A Question of Trust”:
For decades America has underinvested in infrastructure—even though poor roads, delayed flights, crumbling bridges and inefficient buildings are an expensive burden. Deficiencies in roads, bridges and transport systems alone cost households and businesses nearly $130 billion in 2010, mostly because of higher running costs and travel delays. This filters through to all parts of the economy and increases costs at the point of use of many raw materials, and thereby reduces the productivity and competitiveness of American firms and their goods. Overall the American Society of Civil Engineers reckons that this underinvestment will end up costing each family in the country about $10,600 between 2010 and 2020.
I believe that – unfortunately – this attitude of neglect and purposeful ignorance is affecting the state of our country’s personal health. We live in a time where most of us are connected to the web, texting and email 24/7. We are also over-connected to information that really is inane, unnecessary and just a diversion. Our personal infrastructure is overburdened and overly taxed! We tend to devalue expenditure on our personal infrastructure. We prefer spending on the novelty and status of newer and faster stuff that binds us more intimately to the accelerated disintegration of our body’s finite resources, our emotional stability and our potential for spiritual fulfillment.
Further, we tend to only pay heed when symptoms have gone from intermittent to fixed, subtle to untenable. This is a level of minimal engagement that is truly very costly, filters through all parts of the economy, reduces productivity and aides and abets the breakdown of community. If we were to become just an iota more introspective, and listen to the internal inspection reports that are constantly emitting as “the state of our infrastructure” we could CHOOSE to engage our efforts and modest financial resources to rebuild and recover our true innate personhood.
The potential net gain is infinite, but how do we engage in this process?
No it doesn’t require a new type of sporting gear, a faster processor or more mega pixels. It isn’t achieved through V8 German horsepower or a mani and pedi.
It is far more exclusive, but accessible by all.
To quote Elmer Fudd, “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet” and then check inside.
What is the state of your personal infrastructure?
If you are listening you might hear:
“I am anxious.”
“I am unhappy.”
“I am scared.”
“I am in pain.”
The next step is to disengage our familiar response toward the cry.
Challenge your automatic responses and habituations toward the predicament.
If you are tired, rather than reach for more caffeine, get more rest.
If you are discontented, rather than mindlessly eating more “comfort food,” sit and think about involving yourself in things that engender happiness and freedom of expression.
If something is hurting, stop ignoring it. Seek nurturing and expertise to understand and work toward corrective measures.
Most of the challenges we experience with our infrastructure come from the chronicity of ignoring our body’s own reports and cries for help.
Yes, there will come the day that our infrastructure can no longer withstand the neglect just like the day that the levees no longer could hold, despite the decades of countless warning. It’s the broken aspects of our situation that provide the richest opportunities for innovation and growth.
It isn’t necessary to suffer so intensely or be so outraged with the state of our infrastructure.
How can I be so certain of this? We all struggle with our mortality and the ebb and flow of emotional discontent, feeling powerless and pain. I think they call it “the human condition”. Try something new put yourself in the zone of reaching beyond your own resistance, if this doesn’t work for you, you can always go back to what you are doing now, no questions asked.
If we pay attention and give town-hall time to the inner self and it’s innate mission to survive, we can go way beyond the fundamental preservation skills of our lizard brain and really begin to have a symbiotic relationship with ourselves, our responsibilities and our commitments, This is how we tap into our infinite potential.
Dedicate yourself to a small amount of structured time and resources for the communion, I guarantee it WILL pay off.
Did you know that in ancient China, eating disorders were considered to be the result of a ghost or demon invading the body? While modern science and medicine have ruled out that root cause, treating an eating disorder is still very much a battle for each patient…one that can be long, arduous and require several different treatment approaches to ultimately triumph.
There are two eating disorders that are most common here in the U.S. – anorexia nervosa (when a patient severely limits food intake) and bulimia nervosa (when a patient binge eats and then purges by inducing vomiting). Both are serious medical conditions that are best treated by psychological counseling and conventional medical treatment and supervision.
Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can also play a role in supporting eating disorder patients and accelerating their recovery. Specifically, there are three types of symptoms or conditions associated with eating disorders for which Chinese Medicine has been shown to be effective:
While an eating disorder has outward physical signs, symptoms and hallmarks, the root of the disease is psychological and driven by the patient’s desire to be thin. This unending quest takes a toll on the body, but also on the patient’s stress levels and emotional well-being. A recent study showed that eating disorder patients receiving acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment felt less stress and anxiety.
Eating disorder patients that are not on a regular diet or are struggling to return to a healthier eating regimen may be experiencing GI issues associated with their eating habits. This can result in abdominal bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. A review article in the Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that acupuncture was effective in helping treat GI issues and that “in the future, it is anticipated that acupuncture will be used to treat these [GI] patients in addition to the current therapy. This would also signiﬁcantly reduce the cost of medical treatment.”
Because diet and nutrition are literally the fuel for your body’s engine, eating disorders negatively impact your overall health by weakening all of the body’s systems – cardiac, GI, immune and reproductive. Studies have shown that patients with eating disorders can struggle with infertility later in life. Studies have also shown that Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can be used to effectively treat infertility, as highlighted in this recent WebMD article about “The Ancient Art of Infertility Treatment.”
Eating disorders are devastating to the patient, as well as his/her family and loved ones. Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing body of research and conventional and alternative treatments available to help patients conquer this disease.
So, you are thinking about trying acupuncture to help improve and maintain your health? Or, perhaps you are a long-time devotee of the approach to balancing your energy and improving your well-being? No? Maybe you are a skeptic?
No matter what your relationship with or thoughts about acupuncture are, I think you may agree that its origins and history are fascinating. I’m often asked by my patients, friends and colleagues and collaborators in the “Western medicine” field about the history of acupuncture. Here is a brief overview.
Most researchers and historians agree that Chinese medicine and acupuncture predate recorded history. In fact, sharpened stones and bones that date from about 6000 BCE have been interpreted as instruments for acupuncture treatment and the philosophy that shapes and drives current acupuncture theory is at least 2,000 years old.
The pivotal texts that reframe and reshape Chinese medicine and acupuncture from a supernatural medicine to cohesive somatic preventative practice were compiled during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) and the early Han period (206 BCE–220 CE). These are known as the “Huang Di Nei Jing” or “The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine.” They have a very conversational style and are written as a series of questions that are posed by the Yellow Emperor to a learned physician named Qi-Bo. They emphasize Daoist philosophy, including yin-yang theory and nature’s five element doctrine. The first book is commonly known as the “Su Wen,” or “Fundamental Questions” and covers the theoretical foundation of Chinese Medicine and its diagnostic methods. The second book is named “Ling Shu,” or “Spiritual Axis/Pivot” and is essentially a detailed acupuncture manual. These texts were revolutionary for the time due to their systemized content. The “Huang Di Nei Jing” departs from the commonly held societal shamanistic beliefs that disease was caused by demonic influences. These “conversations” between the Yellow Emperor and Qi-Bo revolutionized Chinese medicine and laid the foundation of a complete holistic medical system, emphasizing the premise that disease develops due to natural causes of diet, lifestyle, emotions, environment, and age.
Throughout the history of China, acupuncture and herbal medicine continued to advance and develop into a nuanced medicine. The Tai Ping, Imperial Academy, was very instrumental to this process. The Imperial physicians were often the “cream of the crop” physicians and scholars in Chinese medicine. They created criteria for excellence in medicine by developing detailed models for disease transmission, treatment and prognosis. Depending on the historical period, often societal and social constructs made their way into the medicine. Confucianism and moves back to renewed interest in mysticism often show up in the recorded medicine of the time.
Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the modern era was again morphing in the 1950’s. Chairman Mao declared that Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine would be united and acupuncture became widely available in all hospitals. “Barefoot Doctors’ were also trained in a very elementary manner to employ the use of Chinese medicine and acupuncture so that some form of healthcare could be deployed to meet the challenges of the rural populations. At this point in history, only 2% of China’s population lived in cities.
Acupuncture made its way to the U.S. in the early 1970s. In 1971, New York Times reporter James Reston was treated with acupuncture during a visit to Beijing and wrote an article about how it helped treat post-operative pain. The following year, the first legal acupuncture center in the U.S. opened in Washington, D.C. and in 1973, the IRS allowed taxpayers to take acupuncture treatments as a medical expense deduction.
Now, nearly 40 years later, acupuncture has become more mainstream and is rapidly growing in use and acceptance. Building on its thousands of years of history and practice, acupuncture is continuing to impact patients’ health and overall well being.
Sources and more interesting information:
Here at Empirical Point Acupuncture, we are fortunate to get inquiries from patients, researchers, physicians and reporters on a fairly regular basis. We love that people want to know more about acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and we are proud to be a resource, engaging in conversation and providing our thoughts and educational information on health topics ranging from how to treat achy knees to healthy eating and from stress relief to how to finally quit smoking.
So, when Insight Magazine called and told us they were reviewing several local acupuncture practices, we were happy to give them a tour and offer a treatment session.
Great news – in the magazine’s most recent issue, Empirical Point Acupuncture was named “Philadelphia’s Best in Acupuncture” and we are honored. Here are a few excerpts from the article, which you can read here:
Feeling taken care of is an understatement after a visit at Empirical Point, as Sherman is gracious and calming—not only caring for my pain points in acupuncture, but for my well-being in general.
Her comprehensive approach to learning about new clients includes an in depth questionnaire which helps provide important details into how Sherman will heal each client. I thoroughly enjoyed our in-depth consultation, allowing me to express my points of discomfort. Sharon wanted to help loosen my stress knots and relieve knee pain I had been having, in just one session.
Ultimately, Empirical Point offers excellent results in just one hour-long session in peaceful surroundings. It doesn’t hurt that, after visiting Sharon’s Chestnut Hill location, I learned that Empirical Point is one of the cleanest, more comforting acupuncture locations in Philadelphia.
We want to thank Insight Magazine for this designation, but remain most dedicated to being the “best” in our patients’ eyes. So, we’ll celebrate this award for a bit, but will continue to focus our 2012 efforts on helping you achieve your long-term health goals.
Thanks – YOU are the best!
Look around. You may have noticed that our lives are faster and more hectic than ever before. The pace of everyday life has accelerated and we want quick results. This is true in our professional lives (how many emails did you have to answer today?), our personal lives (instant status updates on Facebook, anyone?) and even when it comes to our health. While chronic conditions like pain, arthritis, inflammation and even obesity can take years for our body to develop and affect us, we often want to fix them instantly with a pill or even a surgery.
Chinese Medicine is built upon a wholly different approach and philosophy. Your health is a long-term investment, one that you make in yourself and are personally responsible for every day. It is achievable when you invest in it, open yourself up to it and make it a priority in your life. Healing your body and maintaining your health is a result of putting long-term effort into balancing your body, your mind and your energy. Exercise. Healthy eating, relaxation techniques to calm your nerves. It’s all about self-cultivation and pursuing activities that engender your spirit and pique your passions.
So, it all starts with the individual. Simply put, maintaining your health is a matter of self-responsibility.
I’ve recently read some great articles and blog posts that talk about this and how it ties in to some of today’s hot topics – the health care debate, the economics of health care treatments, Americans’ increasingly sedentary lifestyle. I think it’s very telling that more Americans change their car’s oil on a regular basis than go in for regular medical or dental check ups and that it’s become entirely normal for someone to spend 4 hours a night watching TV but to get less than 15 minutes of physical activity a day.
The good news is that if your health has not been optimal, YOU can make changes and empower yourself towards better health. Like many other things, health is achieved by working at it, one day and one small effort at a time. Also like many other things, being healthy (or unhealthy, for that matter) isn’t something that happens instantly – it takes time. For this reason, it’s very important to be patient and to be strongly committed to your goal.
Chinese Medicine approaches the cause of disease more broadly than traditional Western medicine, outlining five root causes:
- Emotional factors
- Dietary factors
- Environmental causes – exposure to excessive coldness, heat, wind, damp, dryness, and environmental toxicities
- Lack of movement, or exercise
- Our inherited genetics
In Chinese medicine, these five factors are seen as the cause of interruptions to the body’s normal physiology. The body will work to quell and block damaging habits and activities, but if it’s trying to do so on a daily basis, it often will compensate – this can result in symptoms like heartburn, chronic constipation or diarrhea. Your body is trying to tell you that it is stressed and working hard to compensate for another illness or problem. Today, many people will take an over-the-counter medication to counter these symptoms, but that is only a temporary fix. Chinese medicine asserts that you should “listen” to what your body is telling you and work to fix the root cause, not just the uncomfortable or undesirable symptom.
To do that, we look for stagnations or obstructions in the flow of humors or vital energy – these obstructions can create blockages and over time will manifest as disease. And it’s not just a physical phenomenon. Emotional issues like stress, if unresolved at the source, can also affect your body and its systems. If dealing with them is pushed to the bottom of your “to do” list, your body will work to compensate in some other way and these type of issues can take a negative toll on your health.
So, what do you do? How should we practice self-responsibility and take ownership of our health?
I am suggesting that we all work to create mindfulness toward better health. Take a moment to see – really see – the everyday factors that could be affecting your health. Factors like stress, anger, frustration or junk foods and a sedentary lifestyle. What is negative in your life and how might it be affecting your health? What can you do to change it?
You can change it.
In fact, even small changes like a 10 minute walk or an apple instead of chips can be hugely beneficial for your body. Also, an overall healthier outlook or attitude can have an impact. You can reach your health goals if you take tiny steps forward…and keep taking them.
All this being said, I do want to be clear that there are health conditions that can strike anyone and are devastating in their anonymity. What it does mean is that there is a whole spectrum of entirely preventable conditions that by staying in tune with your body, treating it with respect and care, YOU can combat. You are your own best champion for health and balance.
And, in the end, don’t you (and your body) deserve that?