Friday, June 12, 2009

Some Thoughts

I’m reading a very good book about Chinese Medicine. When I read it, I’m still amazed by TCM, by how deep and wide it is! After practicing TCM for more than 10 years, I still feel like I’m at the beginning. I will spend my lifetime studying it, trying to understand it fully and using it to help others. I wish my English were much better so that I could translate all this information and let more people know about TCM. Thank God I have so many people helping me, like Alyssa, Monica and especially Madeline who has 2 little ones, a full time job and tons of housework. I truly appreciate everything they’ve done for me so far.

Thank you so much.

Chronic Urinary Tract Infection

One of my clients, a 65-year old woman, came to me with a chronic urinary tract infection that she had for more than 10 years. Her symptoms would come and go, but when she did have them, she would experience the frequent urge to urinate and with it, a painful burning sensation in the bladder or urethra. The treatment of this would be antibiotics. After so many years of suffering this condition, she decided it was time for an alternative treatment.

According to TCM, the symptoms of a chronic urinary tract infection are caused by heat and dampness in the lower part of the body. To help clear away this heat and dampness, I prescribed some herbs and within 3 days, her symptoms were gone. From this point, the most important part of the treatment was preventing this infection from coming back. So, I checked my client’s tongue and pulse and discovered that she had a Kidney Qi deficiency. Knowing this, I prescribed some herbs to improve her deficiency. After taking these herbs for more than half a year, my client has been doing very well and has been infection free ever since.

This is why I say that Western medicine is more about treating symptoms and Eastern medicine, like TCM, is about treating the root of the problem.

Eat Healthy

So far, we’ve talked about the importance of prevention against diseases with the 4 main principles being: healthy eating, getting enough sleep, proper exercise and keeping stress to a minimum and we’ve discussed what proper exercising means. Today, let’s talk about eating.

Eat regularly: As in exercise, we need to eat our 3 meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner at around the same time each day. There’s a saying that goes: breakfast – eat good, lunch – eat full, dinner – eat less.

I have a client who is nearly 50-years old with diabetes, hypertension, is overweight and has suffered 2 heart attacks. The first time I met with her, even with her insulin treatments her blood sugar levels were around 20 mmol/l, more than double the normal levels. Her main complaint was that even though she’s visited her doctor many times with these symptoms, nothing she has done so far has helped. When I asked her about her lifestyle, she told me that she went to bed every night at about midnight, got up in the morning between 9 am and 10am and always skipped breakfast. This is something no doctor can treat.

What to eat: People are always asking what’s good to eat. Most people should follow these principles: 10% of your meal is meat – this includes red and white meat. 20% of your meal should include rice, noodles and bread. 70% will include vegetable, fruits and nuts. One should eat a variety of foods. Of course, people with certain diseases or conditions need to avoid certain foods. In addition, according to TCM practice, those with cold composition need to avoid too much cold food consumption and those who have heat composition need to avoid hot and spicy foods.

In my personal opinion, I’ve never really agreed with being vegetarian, especially for women. Because of the monthly menstrual cycle, a certain amount of blood is lost. Western medicine would say that that women can easily lack iron because of this. The best source of iron still comes from red meat. Some vegetarians would disagree with me and say that they can remedy this by eating more vegetables with high iron content. But I believe that the iron that comes from vegetables is different than iron from red meat.

As long as you have a good digestive system and you eat well, there shouldn’t be a need to take any additional vitamins or health supplements.


The main focus with TCM is on preventing rather than treating diseases. This means starting with a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating healthy, getting enough rest, moderate exercise and keeping stress and anxiety to a minimum. This sounds easy enough, but how many of us, myself included, actually put these into practice?

I recently read an article by a famous sports specialist in China about “Proper Exercise”. So let’s start there. Proper exercise means exercising around the same time, for the same amount and at the same level of strength. By doing this, the body creates a “memory”, which makes exercising more effective.

You need to exercise at least 4 times a week, for a minimum of 30 minutes each time and for a total of about 4 to 6 hours every week. Exercising whenever you feel like it or whenever you can fit it in to your day creates an irregular exercise schedule, which is not as effective as a consistent schedule. According to the study, the best time to exercise is between 3pm to 9pm. If we exercise every day at around the same time, our body remembers the pattern, which improves the results of exercising.

Exercising for the “same amount at the same level of strength” does not mean walking for 20 minutes today and 60 minutes tomorrow. Nor does it mean going 1 km today and 3 km the next day. A correct example of putting proper exercise into practice would be jogging for 1 km in 15 minutes, and doing this every time at the same pace.

A proper exercise plan should be based upon the individual, taking into consideration their health, time and environment. A good plan is simple, practical, effective and easy to follow. Following this will improve strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, sensitivity, etc. For example, ball sports improve sensitivity and coordination. Climbing is good for power and endurance. Yoga and dance are good for flexibility and coordination.

When we say we need to exercise at least 30 minutes everyday, this does not mean exercising for a longer period of time is better. Two to three hours of exercise will overwork the body and could cause injury, not acute or immediate injury, but definitely chronic injury. Over time, this high level of exercise will cause stress on internal organs, consume a surplus of energy and produce a lot of excess waste. It’s not healthy if waste takes more that 1 or 2 days to be eliminated.

The ideal proper exercise regime means exercising everyday for 30 to 90 minutes: spending 30 to 50 minutes cardio exercises (like jogging and swimming) and the remainder of the time focusing on strength and flexibility. Every week, take a day or 2 off to rest or do some mild exercises.

When you decide to start your proper exercise plan, remember to begin slowly and gradually increase in intensity.