You probably know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years. But unlike trepanning (having holes drilled into your skull), mercury drinking, and lobotomies, TCM has stood the test of time and continues to evolve and grow in use. I recently started writing for a website called Integrative Practitioner, a site that aims to increase dialogue and education between different types of health professionals. It was this opportunity that made me think to write an introduction to TCM, answering the question of how Traditional Chinese Medicine has “stuck” around for so long.
When patients come to see me, their first question is usually “Does acupuncture hurt?,” something I’ve answered in a previous blog. But even before that, we might ask ourselves, how has a medicine that involves poking people with needles (albeit very thin, smooth, and not painful ones) and drinking nasty-tasting herbs managed to survive?
In short…because it works.
And one of the reasons why it has stood the test of time is that it is founded on four dominant strengths that continue to allow it to benefit so many. To read what I think those strengths are, check out my article “How has Traditional Chinese Medicine ‘Stuck’ Around?”
The September 2017 issue of BC Medical Journal (bcmj.org)—a magazine that “provides clinical and review articles written primarily by BC physicians, for BC physicians”—published a letter in the “Personal View” section about herbal medicine and liver toxicity.
The letter reports on two patients who were transferred from local hospitals to the Liver Transplant Program of Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) for assessment and liver transplant because of acute liver failure. The patients were reported to be previously healthy, with one middle-aged and the other young. Though one was also on antidepressants, it was “strongly felt” that the cause of illness in both was the use of commercially-obtained herbal remedies—one was traditional Chinese herbal medicine and the other was traditional Indian herbal products.
The authors lament that “These two tragedies could have been avoided, and it behooves physicians to be aware of what nonprescription products their patients are consuming and the associated risks.”
They then assert that “Drug-induced liver injury from these products is not uncommon. In China, such injury from Chinese herbal medicine is estimated to be 25% of all reported cases (unpublished work from Dr Qi Xing-shun, General Hospital Shenyang Military District, 8 August 2017).”
Next, the letter authors state that they “strongly feel that regulation of these products, on either the federal or provincial level, needs to be consistent with that applied to the pharmaceutical industry” and that “the public needs to be made aware of the potential dangers of these products.”
I do agree with this letter on a few points.
- For those two patients who needed to undergo liver transplants, this was indeed tragic (though I might argue that that word is most often associated with death, and there is no statement that that is what occurred).
- It is absolutely important for medical physicians to ask their patients about their use of any herbal products or supplements.
- Just because a product is herbal or “natural” doesn’t mean that it is always safe—for everyone, in any dose, for any length of time.
However—and this is clearly the whole reason why I bother to write about this letter—there are several points that I hold issue with.
Firstly, while these two cases are important and may be reflective of a much larger issue, they are basing their letter on two cases, without giving any idea of whether there is a grander scale to consider. That is, is there truly a danger or might these have been isolated incidents?
What are not isolated incidents, are the adverse effects from proper use of pharmaceuticals, improper prescription of pharmaceuticals, and other medical errors. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, in 2014-2015, “patients suffered potentially preventable harm in more than 138,000 hospitalizations in Canada.” That’s about 1 in 18 hospitalizations. And “of the patients who experienced harm, about 20% experienced more than 1 harmful event while in hospital.” (summary report: https://www.cihi.ca/sites/default/files/document/hospital_harm_summary_en.pdf; full report: https://www.cihi.ca/sites/default/files/document/cihi_cpsi_hospital_harm_en.pdf; technical notes: https://www.cihi.ca/sites/default/files/document/hospital_harm_technical_notes_en.pdf)
I don’t want to be alarmist. But those are numbers that stand out and should provoke a response. A letter reporting just two cases needs further elaboration.
Furthermore, using unpublished work from a Dr. Qi Xing-shun practicing in China (not in Canada), the authors of this letter state that damage to the liver from Chinese herbal medicine makes up about 25% of all reported cases. That makes it sound like 25% of people who take Chinese herbs end up with liver damage. That’s not the case. Assuming the 25% noted, but not published, by some Dr. in China is correct, we still have no idea of how many people that is. It’s like saying, “Nine out of ten doctors agree, this is the best toothpaste.” It sounds like 90% of all doctors. But it could be that 10 doctors were selected, and 9 of them like the toothpaste. In other words, if there were 8 total reported cases of injury from Chinese herbal medicine in China, then that would be just 2 liver-affected cases. Again, not noteworthy.
Even if the numbers are, in fact, noteworthy, let’s keep in mind that those are unpublished statistics from China, not here. And that brings me to my second point.
Herbal remedies—just like over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and even fibre powder—can be taken inappropriately. They may be taken in combination with other things that don’t mix well with them. They can be taken at dosages that are too high or for too long. They can be taken by the wrong person for the wrong reason. The Chinese herb ma huang (ephedra) is an example of that. The herb is not unsafe. In TCM, we prescribe its ingestion (combined with other herbs), mostly for opening the sinuses and getting rid of a cold. Unfortunately, people started taking it to lose weight. Wrong use. Wrong dose. Wrong duration of use.
But you could say the same of alcohol use. Or of cough medicine, nasal decongestants, motion sickness pills, or narcotic painkillers used to get high. Or laxatives or diuretics used to lose weight. And, how many people have caused stomach ulcers because of overusing anti-inflammatory medications?
Specifically, when it comes to liver damage, Dr. Michael Rieder, a pediatric clinical pharmacologist at Western University states that acetaminophen is the “most common cause for liver injury. Period. Full stop.” Every year there are about 4500 hospitalizations in Canada caused by acetaminophen overdose, with approximately 700 of those accidental, according to Health Canada.
Dr. Yoshida himself, the lead author in this letter, “regularly sees patients with severe liver failure from accidental acetaminophen overdose.”
This is why I wonder about Dr. Yoshida et al’s word of warning to their medical physician colleagues that “the public needs to be made aware of the potential dangers of these [herbal] products.” The problem isn’t necessarily with the herbal remedy being dangerous. It’s the improper use that is the main concern. Just as we don’t need to be warned about the dangers potentially imposed by forks, though you could be seriously injured by one!
Of course, if a patient arrives at your office with four small, closely placed puncture wounds in his leg, you might consider that a fork was the cause. And you should ask.
In fact, health care providers should always ask our patients about their use of medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), recreational drugs, medicinal narcotics, alcohol, cigarettes, and herbal and supplement remedies. We should be specific and ask for details, not just, “Are you taking anything?” When I phrase the question that way, people often answer no. But, when I ask in more detail, they may say, “Oh, yes. I’m on the birth control pill.” Then, “Oh, that. Yes, I take a sleeping pill every night.” And, “Um, yah. The only way I can sleep is if I also smoke a joint.” So, yes, we should ask in detail.
And, we should remember that our attitudes will influence whether they answer us truthfully or not. I’ve heard time and time again from patients that they don’t tell their physicians about their supplements. I encourage them to do so, but they say that their docs will shame them and tell them they are wasting their money. Some patients have even told me they’re afraid that their doctors won’t even see them anymore.
In terms of having regulation of herbal products being on par with that applied to the pharmaceutical industry, I disagree. Some people wrongly think that the world of natural health products is like the wild west—anyone can sell anything with any claim. This is fully false. We already have good regulations in place. All natural health products on the shelves in Canada are required to have a Natural Product Number (NPN). From the Government of Canada website:
“All natural health products must have a product licence before they can be sold in Canada. To get a licence, applicants must give detailed information about the product to Health Canada, including: medicinal ingredients, source, dose, potency, non-medicinal ingredients and recommended use(s).
Once Health Canada has assessed a product and decided it is safe, effective and of high quality, it issues a product licence along with an eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM), which must appear on the label. This number lets you know that the product has been reviewed and approved by Health Canada.”
If anything, patients can be informed to make sure that any of the natural health products they buy are either from a qualified and licensed health professional or that the product has an NPN. Where did those two liver patients get their herbal products? That’s the question I would ask.
Rather than try to scare medical doctors into scaring their patients away from all herbal products, let’s try to educate ourselves about them. Let’s tell our patients to talk to the right type of healthcare provider when it comes to the remedies they are taking. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners (for Chinese herbs in British Columbia, that’s Dr.TCM, R.TCM.P., or R.TCM.H.) can make sure the herbal medicine is prescribed appropriately.
I work in an integrative clinic with medical physicians as part of the team. We fully respect and appreciate each other’s knowledge, skills, and type of practice. And, it was one of those medical physicians who alerted me to this letter in the BC Medical Journal. He told me, “this is what MDs are reading” because he wanted me to respond in a clear fashion that could inform both my TCM and other natural health colleagues, and perhaps help inform medical doctors as well, so we could all work together. With the facts. And with patient interest at the forefront.
While fear might provoke action faster than any other emotion, it doesn’t help us in the long-run when it comes to our health care system.
Goji berries are not a food I would normally consider local. Grown mostly in China, goji berries are a challenge to grow in Canada. That’s why so few places do. But, fortunate for us, there is one farm in the Lower Mainland amongst that short list, and this week I visited them.
Why should I care about goji berries?
Well, you don’t have to. But if you’re interested in healthy food options and like to try different foods, why not? After all, goji berries have many health benefits.
- They are rich in antioxidants–i.e. cell protectants that help prevent cancer, fight disease, and manage inflammation.
- They are a good source of fibre. Fibre helps stabilize your blood sugar (Traditional Chinese Medicine has long used goji to help manage diabetes), helps you feel full, and supports healthy bowel movements, all of which can help with healthy weight management.
- They contain more protein than most berries.
- Ounce for ounce, goji berries have more iron than spinach! In TCM they are classified as a Blood Tonic.
- TCM has long used goji–except that we call them gou qi zi–for supporting healthy vision, and research supports this.
- Gojis may increase men’s testosterone levels and improve sperm count and motility, so it’s no surprise that in TCM, goji are sometimes used to address men’s sexual health.
- For women, goji berries may also boost fertility by helping with ovulation.
- Goji are also popular for promoting healthy skin and boosting energy.
When I was doing my internship in China, I noticed that all the TCM doctors I trained with drank hot water with goji berries. As the weather got hot, they added in chrysanthemum flowers, but the goji berries seemed a staple.
Visiting a Local Goji Farm
On the first day of August, my husband and I made a drive all the way out to Aldergrove because ever since I met the owner (Peter Breederland) of a BC goji farm at a health show, I wanted to visit his goji farm.
When we arrived, though I had intended to simply buy freshly picked berries, there was only one clamshell of goji available, so I asked about the U-pick. It was hot, hot, hot out, but I was told the goji are super easy to pick. It’s true. They are. And we picked about 3/4 kg of berries in no time.
Fresh goji are super fragile. Their flesh is very soft and there are small seeds inside. The taste of the larger, ripe goji are mildly sweet, slightly tart. I find some of the berries have a bit of a red pepper taste, but others have told me they are reminiscent of huckleberries (I don’t think I’ve ever had them, so I can’t compare). The LA Times described the taste: “The berries had a mild, sweet, tomato-like flavor, with vegetal, rose and red pepper notes.” I think they taste quite different from the dried goji I’m super familiar with, but I’ve been enjoying fresh goji on my oatmeal, just as I typically have the dried ones.
If you come in for an appointment with me this week, ask me for a goji berry (I’ve got them at the clinic!).
In case you’re interested, you can even buy your own goji plant! Check them out at Gojoy, and let them know I sent you! 😉
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.
Still working on it…my TCM nutrition book. One whole section of it will contain food suggestions for various health conditions. Because so many suffer from anxiety, I thought that would be a good section to share with all of you now.
Treating anxiety with food
Though there are several different types of anxiety—including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias—and a wide range in severity of anxiety symptoms, the general symptoms include feeling panicked or uneasy, palpitations, shortness of breath, dry mouth, cold or sweaty hands or feet, muscle tension, dizziness, nausea, and problems sleeping.
TCM usually looks to the Water and Earth elements when addressing anxiety, as it is a combination of fear and worry. The Water element is related to the Kidneys and adrenal glands that pump out stress hormones. Some salty flavoured foods address this issue. The Earth element is fed by whole sweet foods, including complex carbohydrates. Unrefined complex carbohydrates maximize the presence of L-tryptophan in the brain which aids in the formation of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is required for calming the mind and promoting sound sleep. L-tryptophan is found in most foods, but other amino acids in high-protein foods compete with its use in the formation of serotonin, so carbohydrates are your best source.
Of course you shouldn’t go overboard on the salty or sweet foods, and you may notice you crave these foods when you’re stressed, anxious, or depressed. But, look to find a healthy balance of whole foods that include these flavours.
Whole grains fit this category, as they are rich in B vitamins. They also contain some essential fatty acids, like the omega-3s you’ve probably heard about time and again as a thing you should make sure you eat. When the germ and bran of a grain is kept, you get these nutrients, and the bitter flavour of the whole grain supports the TCM Heart, helping to calm the mind. The interesting thing is that TCM and Ayurveda both use whole grains like wheat and barley (both gluten grains) as herbs and foods to help calm the mind and even improve digestion. That is, if your digestive system is not completely out of balance.
Foods rich in essential fatty acids and magnesium are also key to addressing anxiety. Essential fatty acids help improve brain function. Magnesium has been called “the original chill pill,” as it can help decrease an overactive stress response through a number of hormonal and brain mechanisms.
Put it all together, and these are foods that can help treat and decrease your anxiety.
- Chamomile tea is calming and ideal for the evening
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens
- Green tea contains L-theanine which helps release chemicals in the brain that promote a feeling of alertness with calmness during the day
- Magnesium-rich foods, including beans (black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, white, etc.), halibut, tuna, artichoke, dates, figs, barley, oat bran, brown rice, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli, beet greens, okra, parsnips, peas, pumpkin, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes
- Omega-3 essential fatty acid foods, including wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring; also chia seeds, flax seeds (ground), and walnuts
- Seaweeds such as dulse, kelp, kombu, nori, wakame
Foods that are best avoided or limited include stimulants like caffeine-containing food and beverages and processed or concentrated sugary foods.
There’s so much going on in this book, The Spark in the Machine, that I feel I need to bite-size it. And it starts with one of the best chapters I’ve ever read in non-fiction. That’s because it is non-fiction, but reads like fiction. The author caught his thumb in a folding chair when he was three years old. Though it was reattached at the hospital, what I didn’t know (and many other medical people also don’t know) is that he would have been able to regenerate that tissue without surgical intervention!
Say whaaaaa? Yup. Though it seems like a super power,
amputations above the last joint in children under six left to heal naturally would regrow, the entire finger, without a scar or deformity.”
*Note, please don’t try this out on your neighbour’s kid, no matter how noisy they are!
My own notes on tissue regeneration
I knew that some animals have this ability. Lizards can regrow their tails, spiders can grow a new leg (glad to know that one, as I’ve accidentally amputated a few spiders in my attempts to catch and release them!), sharks replace lost teeth, starfish rebuild new arms, and animals with antlers shed and regrow them annually. Some animals are so good at regenerating that they can replace any part. Flatworms, sea cucumbers, and sponges can be cut into pieces, and each piece can become a new creature. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to duplicate yourself just once so you can be twice as productive?!
Even you can regenerate parts of yourself. We’ve known this for a long time. There’s even an ancient Greek myth about it. Prometheus was a Titan (a race of gods) that got himself into a bit of trouble with Zeus. Zeus was said to have a quick temper, so when Prometheus peeved him badly, Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock to have his liver devoured every night by an eagle. Every day Prometheus’ liver would regenerate, only to be gnawed on each night. While we don’t have the ability to regrow our liver from nothing, it can regenerate its own tissue and function normally provided as little as a third of the tissue is present. This isn’t an excuse to abuse your poor liver, however!
Scientists have studied how animals are able to undertake this amazing task of regeneration and they’ve discovered that changes in electrical current and reversal of polarity actually causes the blood cells to become primitive stem cells again! Stem cells are unprogrammed cells that can repair and replace any tissue in the body. They can become a liver cell, a muscle cell, a skin cell, whatever the cell is needed. In other words, the valuable kind of cell that we’re researching for its potential to heal all!
One scientist, an orthopedic surgeon R.O. Becker, showed that
higher animals, such as rats, can sometimes regenerate limbs, especially if he provided the injury site with an extra boost of electricity.”
The problem for mammals, however, is that as we get older and as the injury becomes more severe, the weaker our “regenerative powers” become. Becker came to the conclusion that the more complex and bigger the brain of an animal, the more energy it spends on that brain, and the frailer its regenerative abilities.
But since we can repair and replace many of our damaged and old cells, we must have some sort of electrical energy driving that. And Becker found that it’s not the same as nerve impulses. So, what is it? Some call it Qi. In my next section, I’ll cover The Spark in the Machine‘s next chapters that dive into the meaning of Qi.
The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine
By Dr. Daniel Keown
Dr. Keown is both a medical doctor in the UK and a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. “The book shows how the theories of western and Chinese medicine support each other, and how the integrated theory enlarges our understanding of how bodies work on every level. Full of good stories and surprising details, Dan Keown’s book is essential reading for anyone who has ever wanted to know how the body really works.”
Did you know that the average person sighs about 12 times an hour, or about every 5 minutes? You likely don’t even notice that you’re doing it, unless someone points it out, perhaps asking if you’re okay. So, why do we sigh?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), frequent sighing is a sign of what we call “Liver Qi stagnation.” We sigh because we are trying to release bound up energy in the chest that might be caused by frustration, irritation, depression, resentment, anxiety, or other emotional tension.
Why do we sigh?
If you hear someone sigh, what do you think is going on for them?
It’s interesting that in a study done on the perception of sighing, experimenters found that participants given different scenarios of people sighing guessed that it was out of sadness. But, the participants themselves felt they sighed mostly out of frustration. 1
It seems there is a mental/emotional purpose for sighing. It can be a bit of a reset. 2 People given puzzles to solve sighed when they took a short break from a challenging problem, though they often hadn’t even noticed the sigh.
Sighing is also essential to proper lung function. It’s amazing that for every type of breath you take—regular breathing, deep conscious breath, sigh, yawn, cough, etc.—a different neuron is activated in your brain’s breathing centre.
In our lungs are tiny balloon-like sacs where oxygen enters and carbon dioxides leaves. These are called alveoli. These delicate little balloons sometimes collapse, rendering it hard for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide gases. When we sigh, we take in twice the amount of air as a normal breath, thus opening these collapsed alveoli. If we don’t sigh, our lungs will eventually fail. 3
So sigh away, it’s vital to your health!
However, if you notice the need to sigh more often and notice yourself feeling moodier (or maybe people are avoiding you!) and/or you are experiencing digestive issues or hormonal imbalance, then come in for acupuncture or herbs. While the sighing can help temporarily release some stress, unless it’s taken care of, it will continue to disrupt other aspects of your health.
IBD is short for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and it includes chronic inflammation at any or all parts of the bowels. The most common types of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, but inflammation of the rectum is also possible, and it’s called proctitis.
Few people want to talk about their challenges with an IBD. It simply isn’t accepted as a topic easily discussed in public. But, recently someone asked me to write about inflammatory bowel disease, in particular proctitis, as it’s something that she suffers from.
* If you want to read more about Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, check out my blog Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s or my article in 24 Hours, Time to Get Gutsy.
Proctitis can be either acute (short-lived) or chronic (long lasting), and it can cause rectal pain, frequent or continuous sensation of needing to have a bowel movement, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, mucus in stool, and pain in the left side of the abdomen. Diagnosis can involve blood tests, stool tests, and a scope.
Causes of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Proctitis
About a third of the people with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis will have proctitis.
Sexually transmitted infections—including gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, and HIV—particularly from anal intercourse, is one of the risk factors for proctitis, so it’s important to use protection.
Other types of infection that can result in proctitis include foodborne infections like salmonella, campylobacter, and shigella. Antibiotic use may also make us more susceptible to infection as it destroys the good bacteria in our gut, allowing harmful bacteria to flourish. Probiotic supplementation and the consumption of naturally fermented foods rich in good bacteria can help diminish the risk by rebalancing our gut flora.
Radiation therapy for cancer treatment in areas close to the rectum (such as prostate or ovarian cancer) can also cause proctitis. This can happen during radiation therapy and last for months after, or even occur years after treatment.
Treatment of Proctitis
Obviously, if the cause of the proctitis is an infection, that will need to be treated. Antibiotics may be the appropriate course of treatment, but remember to take your probiotics as well. Time them away from when you take the antibiotics. Yogurt is not enough. Yogurt and other fermented foods are helpful for general promotion of good bacteria in the gut, but antibiotics are powerful drugs, so you’ll need to take a probiotic supplement to counter the destruction of all the good bacteria.
Probiotics are a good treatment option in general for digestive disorders, so talk with a health practitioner about your best choices.
If the infection is viral, like herpes, you may need to take an antiviral medication. One natural option for herpes treatment is the amino acid l-lysine. Again, it’s best to talk with the right health practitioner for assessment.
As the “itis” component of the word proctitis indicates, this is an inflammatory disease, so taking care of the inflammation is key. Natural anti-inflammatories include turmeric (curcumin), bromelain, and fish oils. It’s also important to avoid foods that are likely to trigger inflammation, including refined sugars, processed fats, chemically-laden foods, caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and too many animal meats. Spicy foods, seeds, popcorn, raw foods, and foods with sorbitol in it may also be triggers for proctitis and other IBDs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Proctitis
TCM always assesses each person individually. The best TCM is not a “cookie cutter” treatment with the same acupuncture points, herbal formula, or nutritional advice being doled out to every person with the same medical diagnosis. In fact, treatment plans can vary quite widely for the same disease because the people suffering are all quite different.
Nevertheless, there are some patterns that we do commonly see. For example, inflammatory issues, especially when acute or in a flare, often show signs of Heat, so we recommend avoiding hot spices, stimulants, alcohol, and excessive exercise (light and moderate are still recommended, depending on the severity). Those who’ve been struggling with a digestive disorder (or most any chronic health issue, really) for a long time, probably have a number of deficiencies–areas of weakness. For those, we may recommend herbs that help strengthen the body, including ginseng and reishi or cordyceps mushrooms. Juicing may be appropriate for those with more Heat signs, while soups and stews and slow cooked meals may be recommended for those with more Cold. Both are more easily digested than simple raw foods.
Acupuncture can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and calm the nervous system to support healing. And, don’t worry, the needles are not done locally.
If you or someone you know has proctitis or any other IBD or digestive disorder, contact me if you have questions on how to treat it. No need to suffer in silence.
Here I’m going to start with the bad, so I can illustrate the power of something you could call a natural medicine. A study in the 1950s by Dr. Carl Richter involved taking rats and putting them through a forced swim test. Rats can swim, and the rats they used were, as far as they could tell, equally healthy. The rats gave up swimming and sunk (we’ll pretend they ended up ok), fairly quickly–some in mere minutes, some up to 15 minutes. But, if they were removed from the water for a short amount of time before that, and allowed a brief rest while they were held, they could then be put back in the water and swim for up to 60 hours! From 15 minutes max to 60 HOURS!
What?! How could they somehow bring about a Herculean effort to keep swimming for 240 times longer when they would otherwise have given up?
A Natural Medicine
They had hope that they might again be rescued. Hope is a powerful natural medicine. It helps us try more, push harder, and persist longer. And, often, eventually succeed.
So, when I hear from patients that they’ve been told there’s nothing further that can be done–to manage their pain, help them sleep, improve or cure their illness, or simply function and feel better–I’m disturbed by that. Why
That’s why I love Traditional Chinese Medicine and most natural medicine practices. The goal is to discover what combination of imbalances have lead to the health issue at hand, and to help strengthen the body, and thus allow healing. There isn’t always cure. There isn’t always a fast fix. But improvement is possible. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I’m someone’s last resort. At the very least, I aim to offer hope and support while the body begins the process of healing.
I recently wrote an article, Sweet in the Modern World (pages 7-9), for Medicinal Roots Magazine. As a result, Michael Max, an acupuncturist in the US, contacted me to ask me to join him to talk about sugar’s health effects on his podcast channel, Everyday Acupuncture.
In this podcast, Michael and I discuss a number of issues that come up with sugar.
Show highlights on sugar’s health effects
2:27 How I discovered sugar was affecting my health
5:24 Sugar’s health effects: health issues that may be caused by or aggravated by too much sugar
8:06 Planning ahead helps you manage your sugar cravings
10:42 Your taste buds can change to become more sensitive to smaller amounts of sweet
14:46 Be mindful about your food choices
19:50 Is it stomach hunger or are your bored, lonely, or other?
20:27 Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you get off sugar
26:20 Some simple tips to reduce sugar intake
29:48 Your menstrual cycle and sugar cravings
31:22 What else can you eat that’s healthier and still tasty?
37:43 Have you considered a food diary?
41:35 Quick tips to get your own attention around food and eating
Here’s the podcast:
Check out more of Everyday Acupuncture podcasts by clicking on the image below.