The concept of prevention is well known to all traditional medical systems, Oriental Medicine among them. I want to make a strong point that Oriental Medicine is one of the traditional healing systems THAT IS TRULY EQUIPPED to render preventive care. There is a need here for the important and clear distinction. We commonly assume that cancer screening, colonoscopy, variety of sophisticated blood tests etc. are all part of prevention. They are very impressive and very useful medical tools but they are not about prevention. They are about EARLY DETECTION. This means you can catch the problem early and act on it early. The point here is that you already got the problem! It is better not to get it in the first place and not to get it means to know what to do to prevent it from occurring. It means to know where our day-to-day choices are leading us and know how to protect ourselves from the danger of ignorance.
Oriental Medicine has both – diagnostic skills to see unfolding pathology – namely pulse diagnosis and the tools to help re-balance the body – mainly acupuncture but often combined with herbs, nutrition and QiGong exercise.
Oriental pulse diagnosis is a very sophisticated tool that can help the practitioner of Chinese Medicine see the problem that is not yet completely manifested but is in the process of manifesting. Specific pulse characteristics that signify potential problems develop over time and are indicative of a patient’s past and present health conditions as well as problems that will solidify in the future if the proper action is not taken. In Oriental Medicine we measure not only the pulse rate but we also evaluate about 24 other pulse attributes. Pulse is measured on both wrists in a minimum of three positions (pertaining to internal organs) and at three levels (superficial, middle and deep). Pulse has three characteristics that we call: Shen (spirit), Wei (stomach), and Gen (root) and four images: speed, strength, depth and shape. This way, the practitioner gathers information to differentiate quality of pulses according to 8 principles (internal/external, deficiency/excess, cold/heat and yin/yang) and is able to determine the presence of pathogenic factors and differentiate patterns of disharmony. The normal healthy pulse is usually harmonious, moderate, smooth and even, and it has vitality. The healthy pulse beats on the average of four times per single respiration (or has 60-75 beats per minute). This is usually affected by emotions, medications, sex, age, season, and climate. In basic acupuncture training we learn to recognize at least 28 different pathological pulses but many of our distinguished teachers and leaders of this medicine recognized and documented many more.
The most typical example of pulse diagnosis that can effectively save the patient a lot of health problems is detecting the pulse that skips the beat at regular time intervals and is commonly associated with a serious heart condition that can lead to heart attack. When a pulse like this is found, the patient is strongly encouraged to see their MD ASAP for further tests. However, most irregularities found on the pulses are more subtle than this type of pulse. There are many pulses that can alert the patient of potential problems well before they come to manifest. For example – “choppy” pulse. This pulse speeds-up and slows-down its rhythm and is not uncommon. This pulse tells the practitioner that there is the presence of an obstructive quality in the body that creates obstacles in the even flow of circulation. Sometimes, this problem can be compounded by uneven amplitude of the wave of the pulse. A choppy pulse shows that there is stagnation and that the body is trying to break thru the obstacle but there is insufficient QI and or Blood to do so. Obstructions can be created by many factors, often by the accumulation of phlegm or dampness. In this scenario the patient would greatly benefit from increased physical activity, a more simple diet, avoiding rich foods and of course receiving acupuncture treatments which are effective at increasing circulation and triggering the body’s self regulating process. Many herbs can safely transform phlegm, drain dampness and quicken the blood. It is hard to say what kind of specific pathology will be developed in the future but the pulse tells the practitioner that the trouble is becoming established and will solidify in the future in one form or another and will call for more serious intervention. More specific predictions might be made by well-experienced practitioner and against the background of patient’s health and history
Oriental pulse diagnosis is very sophisticated and able to confirm or determine pathology. However, we cannot stop with the diagnosis we must follow through with the treatment.
Acupuncture can certainly be used as a preventive measure. Some examples include acupuncture treatments prior to the flu season for strengthening the immunity. The immune system can also be stimulated prior to the allergy season to prevent adverse reactions to pollen and to prevent sinus infections that are triggered by seasonal allergies. Because of its strengthening and balancing effect on the immune and nervous system, some patients are coming for acupuncture sessions prior to scheduled surgery or dental procedure. Acupuncture helps the body to quickly heal and resume performance. Some patients come for “acupuncture tune-up” to simply do the regular maintenance. This kind of maintenance is usually done every month or two and it has a very stabilizing effect. It can ease seasonal adjustment, regulate mood and sleep and take care of small discomforts. Of course, one should never underestimate the value of relaxation, which is a main highlight of acupuncture treatment. A fast paced lifestyle keeps most people in sympathetic (fight or flight) overdrive. Prolong stress and pressure inhibits just about all of the body’s autonomic functions and is a source of serious health issues including cancer (number two killer). The deep relaxation during acupuncture treatment activates the parasympathetic branch of nervous system, hence, the body has a chance to regulate its own functions. It is not uncommon to use acupuncture to enhance sport performance and increase stamina and vitality. Many professional athletes know about and use acupuncture as a safe and natural stimulation. It’s been done for athletes as well as animals (race horses and dogs).
Traditional cultures and their health systems emphasized happiness, health and longevity thru the cultivation of the physical body, mental sanity and emotional stability – true prevention. The village doctor was considered a good doctor only when the villagers remained free from illness. These doctors were healers, educators and counselors who were helping people to figure out not only what is the best food to eat but also to contextualize the life experience thru taking proper perspective and making healthy life choices.
Contemporary scientific mind sees the body as a machine and is more preoccupied with the parts and the details of the machine rather than the whole. True prevention is not well integrated into the contemporary way of practicing medicine and as a cultural value is really anecdotal. In order for prevention to be part of the everyday culture of an average person, we need to pioneer a value system, which will truly support healthy life style. Today, our society is set up for achieving the goals of high productivity and fast growth and in general is not supportive of any activity that does not align the individual with those goals. Science based medicine is practiced the same way – oriented not so much towards healing but making a machine work NOW and again, and with no regard to its future longevity and wellness. So, because our society puts material gains before health, all of us who want to take care of our health have to work hard on it and against some great odds, like the challenges of food additives, allergens and neurotoxins found in most of the pre-packaged and “ready to eat” foods and diet foods. Also the deterioration of the soil leads to the production of food that is depleted of nutrients. Additionally and probably most harmful is the contamination of crops with dangerous cancer causing chemicals.
Practitioners of Oriental Medicine, Naturopaths, some chiropractors and other healers as well as very few distinguished Medical Doctors recognize the urgent need for change and are trying to integrate true prevention into their services by educating patients and the public on food, nutrition, proper agricultural methods and cultivation of life promoting habits. Many put countless hours of unpaid labor into collecting and publicizing information to empower those who are willing to take responsibility for their health. A gram of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. One cannot underestimate the financial, emotional and moral impact of a loss of health and well being not to mention the impact of a heavy ecological footprint caused by the standard medical treatment of disease. It is important that many people take a good look at these issues since the power is in our hands and we can change our societal values if we really care.
In the end I would like to share with the reader the methods that I apply daily to prevent chronic illness, notably cancer.
Most of my routine is concentrated in the morning and it consists of a few things I do for my physical well-being. However, throughout the day I make choices in relation to my food intake and my immediate environment to prevent exposure to too many chemicals and heavy metals.
Right after awakening, my morning beverage is one tbsp of organic black strap molasses with freshly squeezed lemon juice and powdered vitamin C dissolved in one cup of slightly warm water. My morning beverage helps me build up my blood, helps the immune system and aids in cleansing the organs. Before getting dressed I do the whole body dry skin brushing for about five minutes (this aids in peripheral circulation and detoxification via the skin). Morning routine is continued with 20 min of running to increase aerobic activity of the body, which is essential for oxygenation and circulation. Twenty minutes of moderate running is just enough to stimulate deep breathing, some perspiration and aid thyroid function. It is important to NOT OVEREXERCISE. Too much exercise depletes the body’s resources. After the morning shower I rub hydrogen peroxide into the skin all over the body. This brings even more oxygen to the capillaries of the skin. Oxygenation of the tissues is of paramount importance in reducing anaerobic activity, hence preventing degeneration that leads to cancer. My routine is done in 1 hour maximum and is performed daily and can be portioned and done in whatever way it can fit into your day.
My daily food choices are based on what I have learned about nutrition and what I know about the true status of the quality of our foods. My diet is 100% organic and vegan with absolutely no milk products and no refined foods, and yes, I prepare all my food in my own kitchen. I also believe in supplementing the diet with some nutrients, which in today’s world we need in higher quantities than our ancestors did. This is due to higher toxicity of the environment. The body needs specific nutrients to help to neutralize and eliminate toxins. Ironically, our soils are depleted of many nutrients and that becomes another reason for at least occasional supplementation.
I understand that to some readers my “prevention routine” may look too difficult and too time consuming. I would like to assure everyone that it all could be done very efficiently with proper set up and organization. I derive a lot of satisfaction from feeling good and I also know that it takes a lot more energy to combat the illness than to lead the health oriented life style. Besides, frequent repetition makes the routine easier in time. Again, it is a matter of priorities and choices.
Lastly, I would like to point out the importance of the quality of our attitudes and beliefs, which are also a vital part of staying healthy and happy. Stress that is generated due to internal conflicts of a prolonged nature, harbored resentments or unexpressed anger destroys the internal peace and it must be resolved. Cherished beliefs and assumptions must be re-examined because they lay the foundation for psycho-emotional stress that is the cause of many serious internal diseases. In other words, the mind needs to be cultivated with the commitment and seriousness equal to the care of the physical body. Regular meditation is also prevention.
Why is it important to talk about this? Because we need to take as much power into our hands as we can. The medical help is not always reliable or possible. As a society we are struggling with the inadequacy of many of our social systems, which involves medical help as well. We simply must become more self reliant in taking care of our own health. Our health is not a responsibility of the health care system – whatever it may soon become. It is absolutely a responsibility of every individual and everyone has a real impact on his or hers health thru the right actions. The most beautiful thing about actual PRACTICE of your commitment to truly healthy life style is your positive impact on the environment and the life of the future generations. There is a strong, upright force that is generated by doing the right thing, even if it is done against ignorance and arrogance of those who don’t care. This uprightness brings forth harmony, wisdom and compassion into our societal values and becomes a beacon of light and clarity in the times of confusion. So, it is that important. Good luck and good health to you all!