Recently I conducted an informal poll and it quickly became apparent that most Americans (including those who receive acupuncture) have little knowledge about Traditional Chinese Medicine.
And why would they?
It is an ancient system of medicine from a far away land based in a paradigm completely unfamiliar to us linear thinkers in the west!
So in this blog series, What You Must Know About Chinese Medicine, I am going to highlight the aspects of this ancient medicine that can make a huge impact in the health of our modern lives. In this first blog, I will explain the basic strategies of Traditional Chinese Medicine and how they differ from the strategies of Western Medicine.
Traditional Western Medicine . . .
For the last several generations here in the west we have grown up going to the doctor to get
1) medicine (shots or a prescriptions) and if that fails,
This system is a two trick pony and leaves the patient out of the equation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) . . .
The classic medical texts, which have thousands of years of accumulated wisdom, define a clear hierarchy for treating illness and restoring balance. The first line of treatment is
1) meditation followed by
2) proper lifestyle and
3) healthy diet.
4) Herbal medicine and
5) acupuncture are used only after these first line interventions are in place.
What stands out in this hierarchy is that the first three treatments or health strategies are essentially the responsibility of the individual. We do not need anyone nor can we pass off to anyone the responsibility of these most important health strategies of meditation, lifestyle, and diet (this is not to say that we can’t benefit from advise on these three strategies).
The ancient wisdom of this medicine recognizes that nearly all health imbalances can be remedied by these first three strategies. And in fact, these first three strategies are essential for cultivating and maintaining healthful balance and longevity. Interestingly, here in the U.S. it is estimated that 80% of all chronic illness could be eliminated by proper diet and exercise alone. Why haven’t we done it then? Is something missing?
Here is what the ancient texts say about the first three strategies in the treatment hierarchy:
1) Meditation – treating the mind and the emotions. Thoughts and emotions are the drivers of health and behavior. When we are stressed out and our thoughts or emotions are dysregulated, not only are we more likely to make poor health choices but the internal metabolic byproducts of the stress linger in our systems causing more physical damage and more mental and emotional stress. This can become a vicious cycle that we are all familiar with. What did the ancients tell us? At the first sign of physical or mental imbalance, be still and look within. Restore the mind-body connection. This first step at restoring health allows our nervous system to relax which imparts numerous physical health benefits and it gives us the mental and emotional clarity to analyze reality.
2) Lifestyle – finding balance between rest and activity. For most of us in our modern culture, we have not found this balance. While many of us over do it on sports and exercise, others are clearly low on physical activity. I would also challenge that our rest is impaired too. Whether it is by overwork, insomnia, or a hyperactive mental drive, we are tired and worn out. What did the ancients tell us? Observe and mimic the effortless balance of stillness and activity in nature. Through meditation we can restore the mind-body connection and use that wisdom to adjust our levels of rest and activity both daily and seasonally to increase our health and vitality. By balancing the yin and yang of rest and activity, health can be restored and maximized .
3) Diet – regulating what and when we eat. An ancient Chinese principle of longevity states:
In the morning eat like a King. At midday eat like a Prince.
And in the evening eat like a pauper.
The ancients also knew the benefit to longevity of regular fasting (calorie-restricition) and how to use the properties of food for medicinal quality. Unfortunately, as a whole, we westerners are lost on strategy number 3. Despite all the medical advancements in the west, obesity and diabetes in our culture are predicted to shorten the next generation’s lifespan for the first time in modern history.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is distinctive in it’s recognition of the mental and emotional human dimension in overall health and longevity. This treatment hierarchy shows the holistic nature of this ancient medicine with mental and emotional regulation through meditation being the first-line strategy for maintaining health and treating illness. Indeed, it is our thoughts and emotions that determine our internal and external reality – healthy or unhealthy. The mind and the emotions are the rudder of health and diet and lifestyle are the engine.
If you would like to take control and determine your health future, you can! You can follow the sage wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine and integrate the mental and emotional components of health into a complete wellness strategy. Please call me at 310-545-5588 to learn more and to schedule a consultation.Share