Is Your Health Optimal?

Apr 13 07:57 2005 Brian Benjamin Carter, MS, LAc Print This Article

Is Your Focus on Disease, or Wellness?

Both Western and Chinese medicine could be accused of focusing too much on disease treatment,Guest Posting rather than wellness. Practitioners from both medicines are taught to be problem-solvers and disease-curers instead of wellness promoters.

You can't blame Western medical docs - most of their preventive advice is to avoid negative things. They don't really have a deep and powerful system of prevention. No wonder they don't see prevention as paramount.

We can't blame patients for not striving for optimal health. Most of the time, humans just do their daily thing until something keeps them from sleeping, working, or enjoying life.

We only think of medicine when we need a cure. We don't live preventively.

Ignoring Minor Symptoms

We tend to ignore minor problems (like dull headaches at the end of the day, itchy eyes, morning grogginess) until they get worse. The prevailing medical system has conditioned us to only think of medicine for major problems, and to take a symptom-relieving pill for the minor ones. We take aspirin for headaches, allergy medicine for the eyes, and drink coffee for grogginess.

Continuum of Disease

Chinese medicine sees illness as a continuum. What do itchy eyes have in common with migraines, or hepatitis? What does grogginess have in common with Alzheimer's? Dull headaches with life expectancy? Western medicine would say nothing. But sometimes there is a connection, and Chinese medicine can explain it.

Minor symptoms can lead to major illness. Reversing imbalances sooner can keep you in good health longer.

Chinese Medicine Prevention and Wellness

Many Chinese medicine practitioners do study the prevention and wellness wisdom of Chinese medical literature. They don't just give acupuncture and herbs, but they also recommend dietary changes, exercises and lifestyle modification based on the same personalized diagnosis used by acupuncture and herbal treatments.

The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (from 250 B.C.) says, "In the past, people... understood the principle of balance... They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided overstressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained well-being of body and mind; thus it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years."

Is Your Health Optimal?

So, if minor symptoms are imbalances that should be addressed too, what does health look like? How does a healthy person feel? Is it just an absence of illness?

I decided to put together a chart of symptoms and signs of illness and wellness. It's based on the multi-system questions a Chinese medicine practitioner asks a new patient. Inquiry, or asking, is one of our Four Examinations, or ways of gathering information about your health. The other three examinations are touching, looking, and listening.

Holistic Medicine and Irrelevant Questions

Holistic means looking at the whole, not just the parts. Everything in us is connected - mind and body. Holistic medicine looks at and treats the whole person.

We're made of systems and organs that work together - the digestive system, nervous system, immune system, muscles, bones, mind, etc. The ideal medicine includes all of these, and understands how they're interconnected.

Beginning to work with a Chinese medicine practitioner means answering a whole lot of seemingly irrelevant questions. Even if you came in just for back pain, we're still going to want to know about whether you feel hot or cold, what you menstruation is like, and how your sex life is, etc. An extensive line of questioning just comes with the territory in holistic medicine.

The following chart is a sample of some of the basic information a Chinese medicine practitioner obtains from each patient. Next to each, I've shown the healthy experience, and some possible symptoms of imbalance. How does your health match up?

Attitude & Emotions

  • Wellness: Emotional balance, equanimity, open heart and mind, patience, tolerance, peace, helpfulness, service
  • Imbalance: Anxiety, worry, obsession, grief, fear, phobia, irritability, anger, depression. These predispose you to certain imbalances: Melancholy, impulsiveness, rashness, impatience, selfishness

Body Temperature

  • Wellness: Comfortable, unremarkable 
  • Imbalance: Feelings of heat or cold, hot flashes, chills, or alternating fever and chills

Chest & Abdomen

  • Wellness: Comfortable chest, normal breathing, normal heart function. Comfortable abdomen, no bloating, no pain.
  • Imbalance: Feeling of fullness or blockage in chest, cough with lots of phlegm, hot uncomfortable feeling in chest, pain in chest, or palpitations, abdominal pain of any type, or bloating relieved by passing gas or belching

Immunity

  • Wellness: Resistance to environmental changes
  • Imbalance: Aversion or sensitivity to wind, cold, heat, dryness, or dampness

Food Intake & Digestion

  • Wellness: Good appetite, comfortable, effective digestion, variety of foods in diet 
  • Imbalance: No thought of food and drink, persistent nausea, very high appetite (out of proportion with nutritional needs) or preference for rich fatty foods, indigestion, acid reflux, food digested immediately and always hungry, or stomach pain better after eating. An excess of cold, raw, or fatty foods, and tobacco smoking are unhealthy

Gynecology & Obstetrics

  • Wellness: Regular, red, moderate menses without pain or emotional fluctuations. That's right, no PMS
  • Imbalance: Early, late, light, purple, bright red, thin, thick, clotted, painful, or irregular menstruation, painful distended breasts, PMS, miscarriage, difficult deliveries. Excessive childbirth can lead to long-term depletion

Sleep

  • Wellness: Fall asleep easily at a sensible hour, stay asleep all night, no dreaming or pleasant dreaming, wake up restored and refreshed, wakeful and alert throughout the day
  • Imbalance: Insomnia = Reduced or shallow sleep, profuse dreaming, nightlong sleeplessness, feeling hot or agitated during sleeping hours. Somnolence = extended periods of sleep, drowsy consciousness, desire only to sleep

Stool & Urine

  • Wellness: Bowel movement once or twice per day - firm, without smell. Urination 4-6 times per day, light yellow color, no discomfort.
  • Imbalance: Constipation, hard dry stool, difficult defecation, diarrhea, thin stool, loose stool, urgency, or loss of control. Great amount or frequency of urination, need to get up two or more times at night to urinate, rarely voiding small amounts, dark yellow color, pain or burning, or reddish urine.

As you can see, Chinese medicine has higher standards for well being. For example, Chinese medicine sees PMS as a sign of imbalance, whereas Western medicine says that since it is the statistical norm, it's acceptable. But with Chinese medicine, you don't have to put up with discomfort.

There's no need wait for more serious diseases to develop. We can treat any of the abnormal symptoms above and keep you healthy. That way, you'll prevent a lot of harder-to-treat, serious and complicated diseases.

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Brian Benjamin Carter, MS, LAc
Brian Benjamin Carter, MS, LAc

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