Sunny Shades of Grey

A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) View on Integrative Medicine

For many years in the Western civilization, we have almost exclusively used Western Medicine as our primary healthcare. But no single medicine is a panacea. This article addresses how our black and white attitude in the West can limit our potential for optimal health.

The interconnectedness of our internal and external body systems mimics our natural world. Nature works together in that if one aspect was taken away (water for example), it would affect the whole and would eventually have dire consequences. For example, if a tree is dying due to lack of water, it would be silly to keep replanting the tree as that would not be the root cause of the problem! The root of the problem would need to be adjusted (i.e. watering it in this case) in order to regain harmony.

Since TCM works along the same lines as the above analogy, it is important to discuss where its strengths lay in our healthcare system as opposed to the strengths of Western medicine.

Western medicine has a much more black and white attitude towards health. It is commonly called a ‘mechanistic’ view as its strengths lie in honing in on the most severe symptoms and treating exactly that. For example, when someone gets cut on a main artery in their leg, Western medicine would go straight to that artery to stop the bleed and then repair it. This is absolutely invaluable as their medicine excels in emergency healthcare, surgery, and certain diagnostic tests.

TCM on the other hand excels in areas of chronic illness or illnesses not severe enough for acute medical care. A good example is stomach pain. Rather than just looking at the stomach itself, TCM will look at how the entire body system is affected and look for the root of the problem. Perhaps the problem is dietary, or another organ system is out of balance and affecting the stomach. That being said, TCM can be used pre-operative, post-operative, (some even use it as anesthesia for certain surgeries), and can help with healing when one has had an emergency or severe health issue of any kind.

Both Western and Eastern medicine compliment each other brilliantly and should be understood as a balance. Both have different views of the body, and both have different strengths. Using the two together can often provide much more holistic and effective care than one on its own. In the above example of stomach pain, it is also important for the patient to consult with their own MD in order to rule out any serious illness needing surgery or other Western care. It has been the case where I have felt the need to refer my patients back to their MD as Western treatments may be more suited to their needs. In my present practice, we have many MD referrals for cases where the patient would like to avoid minor surgeries for pain, or to evade medications for sleeping, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and the list goes on. For certain illnesses, like manic depression for example, we can work with an MD to lower the prescription dosage for the patient and reduce the side-effects of these strong medications, thus achieving a balance.

So, keep your mind open to all possibilities when it comes to your health as each have their own beneficial strengths. Seek out a well-rounded health care!

February 23, 2016
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