When I was offered a chance to write about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for Alive Magazine, my answer was a resounding, “YES!” If we haven’t met, I’m a huge fan and supporter of TCM, its principles, and its treatments. After all, I’ve been practicing it for over 16 years. The more people who know about TCM and get a chance to try it in some format–TCM consultation, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, TCM food cures, cupping, or simple lifestyle changes based on TCM foundations–the happier I am!
One challenge about sharing information about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it uses a different language than most of us from the West can comprehend. Yin, Yang, Qi, meridians, Damp-Cold, Liver attacking Spleen–say what?! The thing is, many systems and professionals use their own language, from “lawyerspeak” to medical jargon to tech terms. Understand that this is our way of explaining complex principles and diagnostics, and some of our words are not to be taken literally (for example, your liver is not actually attacking your spleen!).
It’s not easy to encapsulate all I want to say about TCM in just one article, but check out my link to Traditional Chinese Medicine: Deep, Historical Roots Offer New Medical Insights in June 2017’s issue of Alive. You’ll find a basic intro, my description of how TCM has been changing and evolving, and some info about how to find a qualified TCM in Canada.
I meant to add this awhile back as this is an article written in the Vancouver Sun about Connect Health. It’s one patient’s experience with Connect Health. It’s great to look back on the year and see how we’ve been able to work as a team at Connect! It’s also great to know that we are a growing team that are finding out even more ways to work well together for the betterment of our patients.
Patient Sings Praises of Holistic Healing Team
This is for ONE person?!
I am recently returned from a trip to Germany and France. I had training in Germany, so I extended the stay for a holiday visit. The training was very helpful. The travel was wonderful. The food…well, the food was different than my usual.
I had never thought of sauerkraut as a vegetable, but my experience in Germany showed me that sauerkraut is thought of there as a salad. The only other vegetable I saw in Germany was spargel, known here as asparagus. Actually, it wouldn’t be recognized here at all, as asparagus there is huge and also white.
While I was traveling, many of my fellow practitioners at Connect Health, back in Vancouver, were in the midst of an elimination diet. An elimination diet is used to help determine foods that might be poorly managed by the body and thus resulting in a variety of symptoms, from fatigue, to bloating, to skin disorders, to headaches, and more.
While they eliminated red meat, I was eating meat almost exclusively in Germany. I don’t think there could be many vegetarians in that country, at least not in Bavaria. While dairy was a no-no for my colleagues and is normally not on my food roster at all, it’s really hard to avoid cheese in France! And, really, I can’t say I wanted to avoid it in France. No sweets, pastries, and breads in Vancouver. More of those over those two weeks for me than I would normally have in months. My husband and I shared a pretzel in Germany that was almost the size of a steering wheel! And, what else would you choose for lunch or a snack in Paris other than a baguette or croissant? You might even wash it down with a coffee, something I have maybe once a week maximum in Vancouver. Finally, I don’t imbibe much at home, but one simply has to try the beer in Germany and the wine in France, doesn’t one? Besides, those beverages seem to be cheaper than water in these two countries!
So, now, back in Vancouver, I’m happy to be back to my usual choice of foods. I do not miss the wurst, the cheese, the beer or wine, or even most of the sweets (though I would have a good croissant if I bumped into one). Yesterday I made a fennel and apple salad with black beans for lunch. And today I prepped two full batches of date and nut protein snacks, half of which I will freeze for future use.
Some of my family and friends think I’m depriving myself by avoiding or limiting a lot of the foods they think of as staples. I think that I feel so much better without those foods and my taste buds have become stronger, able to taste sweet or salty without being flooded. Do you think of fennel as sweet? What about black beans? Eating backwards for a short time was a strong reminder for me that eating the “accumulation diet” is not for me. To modify the quote from Forrest Gump, “Healthy is as healthy does.”
Yes, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for 3000-5000 years. Yes, it is the oldest continuously practiced medicine in current practice. Yes, other medicine like Aryuvedic and other native medicinal practices also have long historical records of practice.
But, the “new” medicine, the current buzz word in conventional medicine, is “Functional Medicine”. What is functional medicine?
- It addresses the underlying cause of disease
- It focuses on the patient instead of the disease
- It addresses the whole person–body, mind, and spirit
- Practitioners spend more time with their patients to gather information on a variety of levels
- Practitioners create an individualized treatment plan for each patient
Hmmmm…that’s what TCM does. We have always done that. But conventional medicine has relatively recently identified this “new” way of practicing medicine!
It kind of reminds me of this quote:
2001 BC Here, eat this root.
1000 AD That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
1850 AD That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1920 AD That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1945 AD That pill is ineffective. Here, take this penicillin.
1955 AD Oops… bugs mutated. Here, take this tetracycline.
1960-1999 AD 39 more “oops”… Here, take this more powerful antibiotic.
2000 AD The bugs have won! Here, eat this root.
I love it! 🙂
I recently did a talk for a class of pharmacy students at the University of British Columbia. I wasn’t sure what they might already know about Traditional Chinese Medicine and what their views on it would be. I was happy when they asked me lots of questions though and I thought you might have some of those same questions.
What is the training for becoming a TCM health provider?
Every province (and state) is different, but these are the regulations in BC:
There are 4 levels of registration for TCM in BC and each allows a different type of assessment and treatment. Both Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.) and Registered Chinese Herbalist (R.TCM.H.) require 3 years of training with a minimum of 1900 hours of study and training. A Registered TCM Practitioner (R.TCM.P.) can practice both herbs and acupuncture and they receive a minimum of 4 years with at least 2600 hours. A Registered Dr. of TCM (Dr.TCM) has the highest level of training of 5 years at 3250 hours.
In addition to the schooling, we also need to pass 2 examinations for each (written and practical), take safety courses for each, maintain requirements for good standing of the regulatory body, complete 50 hours of continuing education credits every 2 years, and be insured for liability and malpractice for minimum amount required by the college.
Lotsa hoops to jump! But all of that should be reassuring to you that we’re well-trained and practiced in what we do! All of this happens through the CTCMA (College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Association). The role of the CTCMA is to protect the public by making sure that we follow the rules. If you want to know if someone is a registrant (they should not be practicing in BC if they are not!), check out the listing here: http://www.ctcma.bc.ca/public.asp?cat=search
How many Chinese herbs are there?
There are more than 6000 herbs–including plants, minerals, and animal parts–with 600 used commonly.
Do you prescribe things like tiger bone, bear gallbladder, and rhinoceros horn?
NO! A big emphatic NO! Though they have been used traditionally in TCM in the past, they are illegal in Canada. Not only that, but they are not necessary to use. There are many substitutes that are effective and ethical to use.
What herb is best to treat…[fill in the blank, e.g. headaches]?
In TCM, the key is to obtain a TCM pattern diagnosis. Everyone is different, so 10 people with a headache might all have different herbs and treatments. Not only that, but Chinese herbs are almost always prescribed in combination, almost never as single herbs.
How do you make sure that herbs you prescribe are safe?
An herbal prescription is chosen with safety at top of mind. We consider the length of time that the herbs will be prescribed, the quantity of herbs prescribed, the methods of processing the herbs, whether there’s any risk of conflicting with any pharmaceuticals or other nutraceuticals, each individual’s health issues, and allergies and sensitivities.
Do the herbs come from China? Is the quality safe?
Some of my patients are concerned about the quality of the herbs I prescribe as they hear about quality issues with come products and foods that come from China and other countries. Some problems include that poor quality herbs can low quality or incorrect herbs; can be adulterated with pharmaceuticals; laden with heavy metals, pesticides, fungus, molds; and manufactured in substandard facilities.
But, not all herbs can be painted with this same brush! The herbs I use go through rigorous testing. They are extremely high quality herbs that much attain a Certificate of Analysis (COA). They must pass the strictest criteria of standards from U.S., Singapore, Japan, and E.U. Herbs go through a process of identification that includes selection by qualified professionals, microscopic inspection, chemical identification, and chemical “fingerprinting” (thin layer chromatography) to make sure that the right herb is chosen. Herbs are cleansed of dirt and other foreign particles, prepared with traditional methods, and extracted while making sure to maintain the integrity of the volatile essential oils. They are then concentrated with low temperature methods so as to not destroy any of the components. Every batch is tested with microbiological assays to make sure there is no e.coli, salmonella, molds, yeast, or other contaminants. Gas Chromatography tests for safety, making sure there are no pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. High Performance Liquid Chromatography measures for key active ingredients while Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometer tests for heavy metals.
Phew! So, as you have learned, there is a lot that goes into the selection of each herbal formula that I create!
Any questions? Ask me!
If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll probably see that I sometimes use my dogs as examples of good health. It’s not because they are healthier than the people I know–though they may be; it’s because they lead such simple lives, in contrast to most humans I know.
Well, about 6 weeks ago I was rushing around (as usual) trying to get more tasks completed in less time than possible when I noticed that my dogs were doing their usual…nothing. Laying on the couch looking sleepy, even though they had done virtually nothing all day. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t that be nice.” Wouldn’t it be nice to just sleep, laze around, stretch, get up to eat, maybe play a bit, take a short walk, go back to sleep, get up to eat, etc…
Don’t get me wrong, I actually love to be busy! But sometimes it can get overwhelming and you wish you could just stop, but at the same time there’s still lots to be done!
I realized that there’s something wrong if a person can’t take just one day to do nothing. Like a dog. Or a cat. So, I looked at my calendar, picked a day weeks in advance and slotted that as my first “Dog Day”. Leading up to that day, I completed the tasks that I knew were vital. I told those around me that I would be doing nothing that day. I planned out what I meant by “nothing”. For me that meant: NO work. I could read. Boy, was I looking forward to reading just for fun–again, no work readings. I could watch movies. I could go for a walk. I could take a nap. I could go to yoga (after all, my dogs do exercise and play). I could even cook. But I could not turn on my computer. I could not use my iPhone or iPad for any work at all.
Those who know me doubted I would be able to do it. Could I avoid working? Could I avoid turning on my computer?! Could I avoid all emails?! I questioned my ability to succeed at this and I even considered making Dog Day into a half day to ease myself into this idea. But as the day approached, I started to get super excited about the idea of a full day off. Like a real holiday!
On that first inaugral Dog Day I got up, ate, went to yoga, finished off a fiction novel I had started almost 8 months previous but never completed, watched a movie (Men Who Stare At Goats–great movie!), read another whole book (!), cooked a new meal with my husband (yummy Tofu and Banana Curry–so easy), and watched another movie (King’s Speech–long, but interesting).
It was EASY! And it was great!
Not only did I enjoy the day, but I also discovered that I have even more energy for my days of work. I am very fortunate to love what I do. But even still, it’s important to have days off–completely off–to rejuvenate.
So, I’ve already chosen my next Dog Day, planned out, of course, weeks in advance so I can prepare. My goal is to have a Dog Day every 4-6 weeks. If you have trouble shutting down the work mind, I challenge you to try scheduling a Dog Day as well (or Cat Day, if you prefer). Tell me all about it!
This morning I just read an article written for the online version of the newspaper The Vancouver Sun. The Sun is a reputable newspaper, but clearly not immune to inaccuracies. Case in point (no pun intended), their recent article called, “The Intricacies of Acupuncture” by Randy Shore.
The question “What is acupuncture?” is posed. The answer they give includes a paragraph that reads, “The theory is that acupuncture unblocks and rebalances the flow of energy, or Qi, through the body. The modern practice of medical acupuncture – as practised by medical doctors – uses wires inserted into known anatomical structures rather than points dictated by ancient philosophy or astrology.”
So much wrong with this last sentence! Acupuncture is medical acupuncture. We treat medical conditions and I don’t follow astrological charts to do so! Yes, acupuncture uses the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to choose acupuncture points, but just because they are founded on ancient practices doesn’t keep them stuck in a time 3000 years ago. Just as we no longer use sharpened stones as acupuncture needles, so too have we modernized our practice. We learn anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. We recognize the structures that we are needling as acupuncture points and meridians, but also as muscles and other soft tissues.
I have a degree in kinesiology from the University of Guelph where my training in how the body works included anatomy with a cadaver dissection lab, neuromuscular anatomy, basic physiology, respiratory physiology, cardiovascular physiology and applied sciences of human gait analysis and ergonomics. Traditional Chinese Medicine’s “philosophies” are actually observations that were made over thousands of years and came to conclusions about how the body works. The TCM scientists of the time correctly identified many of more modern science’s current understandings.
Many of my colleagues take extra training in modern forms of acupuncture in addition to the 3-5 years of training and 1-3 provincial licensing exams — depending on whether we train to be registered acupuncturists or registered Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine, with the latter requiring the most training. Motor point acupuncture, trigger point acupuncture, studies of myofacial tissues, and biopuncture are all modern forms of acupuncture that I trained in that many “medical acupuncture” performing MDs have not studied.
I do not divorce myself of either the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine or the current understanding of the physiological structures of human anatomy. It’s Yin and Yang. Knowledge, recognition, and practice of both strengthens the results.
Where registered acupuncturists (R.Ac.), registered TCM practitioners (R.TCM.P), and registered Dr. of TCM (Dr.TCM) differ from MD “acupuncturists” is that we have MORE training for the practice of acupuncture. And perhaps even more important is that we can use both the 3000 (or more) years of observational studies of the human body as well as the more modern practice and study of current medical knowledge.
So, while I have asked some stars about their thoughts on acupuncture, those stars are human (acting and sport), not the ones in the sky.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/intricacies+acupuncture/6161674/story.html#ixzz1meiRqJ84
For months I had been complaining that the garage door opener in my building was not working well. I would point and press the button…no door movement. Press again…nothing. Try a different angle, put my hand out the window, get out of my car. So frustrating! Some of my neighbours also complained about the same thing.
Then a couple of weeks ago I was in the garage when our building’s newest tenant drove up to the door on the outside and pressed the button on his garage door opener and it opened first try. No problem.
How was it that he did that so easily? This is going to sound ridiculously simplistic, but he drove his car right up to the gate. Many of my other neighbours and I drove toward the gate, but stopped about 8 feet back. This new neighbour drove up to within a couple of feet. It makes me laugh now that I hadn’t thought of that myself!
So, let me ask you this…
Do you have pain? Are you struggling with a health issue? Have you tried a lot of different things without success?
Have you tried the same thing over and over again without success? Perhaps it’s time to rethink what you’re doing and see if there’s another way. Perhaps you’ve heard the quote by Einstein:
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Of course one of my favourite solutions to recommend is Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. Why? Because making an appointment for a consultation is simple and getting a treatment plan and treatment is effective!
One of the inside jokes we have as Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners is that TCM has two hearts and no brain. It may sound like it, but it’s really not a dig. In TCM we discuss function more than form. The two hearts are the physical heart and the emotional heart.
The “no brain” is because we don’t discuss the physical form of the brain on its own. We discuss the brain as being encompassed by the marrow and that is most linked to the energy of the TCM Kidneys. Long-term memory is also more directed to the TCM Kidneys. Short-term memory, focus, and concentration are most connected to the TCM Spleen. Various emotions come to play via the assortment of TCM organ systems, but the “house” of emotions (the centre of our emotions) comes from the TCM Heart.
The emotion allotted to the TCM Heart is joy. So if you want to improve both your physical and emotional heart, find ways to incorporate more joy in your life. There are so many reasons to do so.
- Don’t you like to be happy?
- Joy, like other emotions, can be contagious.
- Happiness improves your ability to learn by about 31%!
- Happiness may make you more successful, in marriage, business, income, health, and friendship!
- You will handle stress better.
- Happiness may help protect you against getting sick!
- Joy helps reduce inflammation and protect your heart!
The physical heart works so hard! It gets no holidays, no time off. It keeps us alive! Do you take good care of your heart? Do you offer it regular exercise to help keep it strong? Do you eat healthy foods that provide it with the nutrients it needs? Do you help it to recover with sufficient sleep, rest, and some sort of relaxation routine like meditation?
If you have high (or low) blood pressure, high cholesterol, have suffered a cardiovascular condition like a heart attack or have angina, you need to take extra special care of your heart. Taking pharmaceutical medications is not enough.
Some supplements and herbs that can help your heart include:
- Coenzyme Q10
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs), especially the omega 3s DHA and EPA
- Vitamins C, B, E
- Plant sterols
- Chinese herbs: Shan zha, gou qi zi, dan shen
* Keep in mind that each and every person is different, so it’s important to get a proper assessment to determine what best suits your body and what might not be right for you.
Acupuncture is also very effective at improving blood circulation, reducing stress, lowering high blood pressure, regulating heartrate, and more.
I heart TCM because TCM hearts my heart!
This is the time of year that you may hear a lot about Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that most commonly occurs during the winter, particularly in areas where the days become darker for longer, so it is also known as the winter blues. It can, however, also occur with other seasons. People with SAD usually sleep more, feel more tired, feel depressed, and may crave more sweets and carbohydrates. Symptoms resolve with a change of seasons.
The Standard American Diet fits its anacronym. If you eat a diet high in sugar, simple carbs, and saturated or hydrogenated fats, and low in fibre, complex carbohydrates, and good fats (mono or polyunsaturated fats), then you eat a SAD menu.
Instead of focusing on the negative as typical of our current world, let’s add our own new SAD words that are actually happy and/or healthy combos!
Here’s a few of mine, but I’m sure you can do better! What would you like SAD to be?
Simply Avoiding Donuts, Sharing All Desserts, Skilful Acupuncture De-stressing
If you want to read more about the relationship between the Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Standard American Diet, read my newsletter article here.