This article will look more closely at the Oriental medical approach and its alternative treatment methods.
To understand how Traditional Chinese Medicine works, one needs to look at the fundamental principles underlying this medical framework.
At its most basic level, we have the concept of a form of energy called Qi, which circulates throughout the body and organs. Qi provides the essential life force, which keeps the body and mind functioning. It facilitates the transformation of the food into nutrients, it warms the body, and it represents the immune strength to protect us from illnesses.
Health issues arise when this fundamental life force is not circulating properly. This can be caused by a deficiency when there is not enough Qi in the body to nourish it, or when the Qi becomes blocked in specific areas. Stagnation of Qi can be caused by several factors, including frequent emotional outbursts of anger or frustration and stress, all of which are known to affect the liver organ.
In this holistic oriental model, the mental and physical aspects of our health are intrinsically linked. As an example, cancer is, in most cases, related to physical factors such as exposure to chemicals like nicotine, pollution, bad diet, or a genetic weakness.
Living with a life threatening illness brings an enormous amount of emotional stress. These internal factors will, in turn, create a stagnation of Qi in the channels resulting in pain and further weakening of our general immunity.
In our way of thinking, since the human body is constantly being maintained at a warm temperature of 37 degrees centigrade, long term stagnation of energy will gradually accumulate excess heat, like a cake being left too long in the oven. Other causes of heat build up in the body are excess consumption of spices, alcohol, or a poor diet.
In our medical framework, herbal remedies and foods are classified according to their thermal effects on the body whether warming, cooling or neutral. Methods of cooking are also important. For example, frying food is lot more warming than steaming it, which explains why most junk food creates excess heat in the system. When the energy is not flowing properly, the circulation of blood and fluids becomes affected. The cells are no longer supplied with essential nutrients and the waste products can’t be removed adequately, resulting in chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
On a deeper level, the accumulation of toxins slowly poisons the body. The cells, which are the body’s microscopic building blocks, start reproducing at an abnormal rate. This signals the onset of cancer.
An excess of Cold (Yin) energy can be just as detrimental. Cold coagulates fluids and stagnates energy, preventing it from functioning properly. Most of us have experienced stomach pain from gulping iced water, or eating an ice cream too quickly. Cold causes the body to slow down. When it develops into a chronic problem, the organs and the glands cease to function at a normal rate. This is the main cause of hormonal diseases like hypothyroidism. In that instance, the thyroid gland in the neck is too weak to regulate our metabolism, which is the body’s ability to use energy. The calories absorbed are not being burned at an optimum rate, and the person becomes overweight, constantly tired, and constipated.
When not enough heat is being produced, the body fluids are not being dried, which can create an overly damp environment, and the creation of phlegm. Phlegm, or thickening of fluid, in Chinese medicine is a common cause of tumours and breast cancer. So it is important to cultivate Qi through diet, exercise and meditation.
Eating a balance of warming foods like carrots, garlic, basil, rosemary, rice, onions, chicken, or salmon, with the addition of cooling foods like apple, bananas, pears, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, broccoli and celery is highly recommended.
Undertaking chemotherapy puts the liver under considerable strain. Cooling vegetables like celery and broccoli have traditionally both been used as liver cleansers. According to the author Henry McGrath (Traditional Medicine Approaches to Cancer 2009. p.187), recent research shows that celery contains high levels of the bioflavonoid apigenin which inhibits cancer growth by reducing the amount of a specific enzyme used by cancer cells. Broccoli has a very useful bioflavonoid called kaempferol, which prevents the binding of oestrogen to its receptors, and stops the development of breast cancer.
We will conclude this topic next month by looking at herbal treatments and lifestyle changes.
You can read Part One of this topic at:
Olivier Lejus MHSc.BHSc. is a registered acupuncturist practising in Sydney.
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com