I just started rereading the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine or the Neijing. This is one of the seminal works of Chinese medical philosophy. It's quite amazing and vast. I thought I might share some thoughts from the text as I go along. It is written as a discussing between the Yellow Emperor and some of his ministers. In the first chapter a question is posed: 'I've heard that in the days of old everyone lived one hundred years without showing the usual signs of aging. In our time, however, pople age prematurely, living only fifty years. Is this due to a change in the environment, or is it because people have lost the correct way of life?' Qi Bo replied, 'In the past, people practiced the Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of yin and yang, as represented by the transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices such as Dao-in, and exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided overstessing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained wellbeing of body and min; thus it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years.' This is from the translation by Maoshing Ni.
Often when we are treating back pain we want to add Chinese herbs between treatments to increase the effectiveness of the treatment and get you feeling better as soon as possible. There are several formulas that we have used for years that can really speed things along. One of my favorite for acute back pain is a formula by Evergreen herbs call Traumanex. This formula is good for trauma anywhere in the body. Another one we use often is shen tong zhu yu tong which is sometimes called the Great Invigorator. This formula increases blood circulation to the back which is usually an issue in acute back pain or strain. Another good formula that is good for more chronic conditions is du huo ji sheng wan. With chronic back pain a weakness in the kidney energy is almost always an issue. This formula tonifies the kidneys and warms the low back to move the blood. When acupuncture and cupping are applied first then followed by some herbs, back pain can resolve quickly.
A couple of blog posts ago I talked about the roll of inflammation in disease. I believe that most of the inflammation people have these days is caused by diet. In his fantastic book 'Grain Brain: the Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar -- Your Brain's Silent Killers' Dr Perlemutter describes how and why this happens and what you can do about it. It's one of my many book recommendations (another is 'Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubs). Even if you don't end up implementing most of the changes that he recommends, you at least will become more aware of the issue, and it will start you thinking about what you are consuming and its roll in your health. It is always good to be an informed consumer of whatever we consume especially something as important as what we eat daily.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the benefits of intermittent fasting, Chinese medicine would agree. In acupuncture school while learning about nutrition from a Chinese medicine perspective we actually were taught techniques of fasting. Intermittent fasting is a gentler version of not eating at all which is what many people consider fasting to be. There are many ways to intermittently fast and you can look online and try one are more that appeals to you. My favorite is really quite easy. It is just taking 1 or more days a week (I recommend starting out with only 1 or 2 a week) and eating a light and early dinner (emphasis on the early) and eating a late breakfast the next morning. So if you usually eat dinner at 7, move it to 5 or even 4. If breakfast is usually 8 move it to 9 or 10. That's it. I prefer to do the fast after dinner and overnight because it's more beneficial to let the digestion rest while you are sleeping, plus its just easier to do most of the fast while you are asleep. I won't go into all the benefits here but one of the best is that it seems to really cut inflammation levels, which of course is on its own enough of a reason to do it.
Many of our patients come to us for specific issue like back pain or some acute condition. Some of them stay. What I hear most from our patients who have been coming long-term (some of my longest term patients have come for nearly a decade) is that they feel better and that they get sick less. This is because acupuncture is based on the brilliant Chinese theory of yin and yang which, to our decrement, there is no equivalent to in the West. I want to talk more about yin yang theory in another post, but for now we can just think of it as balance. One the the main goals of an acupuncture session is to help bring balance to the body. When the body is balanced we don't have to worry about it. Looking from the outside we don't realize all the thousands of orchestrated things that go on inside our body each moment to keep it running smoothly. It's a real miracle. We don't have to worry about the condition or operation of our liver or heart individually from the whole. If we are in balance all of these processes just go on like they should and we remain in health. Using the also unique concept of Qi (more later) acupuncture helps the body stay in balance.
In my opinion perhaps not all but maybe a significant percentage of diseases are caused by inflammation. You know how when people get a cold some will always get a sinus issue while another person will always get a respiratory cold while another might always get gut problems? The bugs will attack the weakest part of our body most of the time. What if most chronic diseases were just inflammation attacking the weakest most vulnerable part of our body. In one person the inflammation might effect the intestines and this become Crohn's disease. In another it might attack the small joints like fingers and toes and this becomes rheumatoid arthritis. In yet another the inflammation targets the brain and someone comes down with signs of Alzheimer's. So maybe most diseases are just one disease.
It's been a couple of days short of 6 weeks on the Keto diet and I'm still feeling really good, really energetic. Its gotten easier to know what to eat on a daily basis. However, I have gone off the diet about 1 day a week for the past couple of weeks. Not way off of the diet but only for an evening or maybe 2 a week. This has served to kick me out of ketosis for a couple of days after the cheat meal. The key to this diet is really to eat enough fat. If you do not eat enough fat and you eat too much protein (or carbs) you will not stay in ketosis. It's important for me to drink the bullet-proof coffee to start the day off with a adequate amount of good fats. Weight-wise I have only lost one more pound, but still in line to meet my goal of 10 pounds over two months.
One method we might use during a typical acupuncture session is electrical stimulation or e-stim. This is similar to using a tens unit. The big difference is that with e-stim the electrodes are applied to 2 or more needles that are inserted in acupuncture points. This serves to stimulate those points more giving a stronger effect. We might use this method in many instances such as for back pain, hand of foot pain, or maybe on select points to help with constipation or stomach issues.
I am a nationally certified Chinese herbalist. Many acupuncture schools do not teach herbology but my school did and that's one of the reasons I went there. At least half of our education there was in herbs. Chinese herbology is vast and it takes many years of study and many years in practice to understand it and use it well. If you are going to take Chinese herbs make sure you find someone who has extensive training as well as years of practice. While Chinese herbs are very safe you do need to know what you are doing to get good results. As far as how Chinese herbs are taken in our clinic, our herbs come in pill form or in powder form. The powder form is a bit stronger per dose and we can mix and match formulas as well as single herbs to customize a formula just for you and your condition. The downside to powdered herbs is that they do not taste very good. Most people can take them but if you have a hard time ingesting bad tasting things you might want to stick with the pills. The pill form is more convenient and there is no taste. However the pills are pre-made patent formulas and cannot be modified.
I very much like to field questions from patients about our medicine. I'm fascinated by it and I like to talk about it and even try and teach it. But some patients are really curious and want to delve deeper into it. As you can imagine from a discipline that is over five thousand years old, it can be rather complicated. It's complicated when you get into the details, but really not so bad to learn the basics of. It is vast and simple at the same time, as are many things that are wise. There is a lot of info on the internet to get you started, but if you really want to go deep there are a couple of books that we usually recommend. The first is the Web That Has No Weaver. This book would be good for the technical or scientifically minded person. The other is Between Heaven and Earth which takes things more from a Five Element point of view, which some people like better. Both are available on Amazon and I suggest you read some reviews before you decide which is right for you. Another book that explains Chinese medicine in more western terms is the Spark in the Machine. If you really want to go into the deep end pick up a copy of the Yellow Emperor's Classic which dives deep into the philosophy of Chinese medicine.