Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! Don't Eat Too Much Candy!

I hate to be the guy who gives out the apples, but I feel it's our duty to point out that nearly all Halloween candy is chock-full of empty calories and high fructose corn syrup.

Be safe, have fun!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chinese Face Reading

As we mentioned the other day, Chinese medicine uses external signs to get a picture of what's going on inside the body. Without MRIs or X-rays, a skilled Chinese medicine practitioner can tell you accurately the general condition of your internal organs and the specific pathological mechanisms taking place that need fixing.

Of course, now that magnetic resonance imaging and radiology have developed, we don't ignore them. They are very useful tools, but the drawback is the time and expense involved in obtaining results. X-rays are harmful to your cellular structure and therefore should be avoided unless necessary (why do you think you wear a lead gown when you get one?). MRI machines fill entire rooms!

One fast and inexpensive way to diagnose a person is to look at their face. In general, we look at three things: color, overall shape, and finally individual facial structures such as the nose or the forehead.

For more about Chinese reading, take a look at Patrician McCarthy's website. For a TCM-style analysis of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden and yes, John McCain, take a look at this piece from the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Everyone in San Francisco Has Health Care

Healthy San Francisco is an innovative program designed to ensure that everyone in the city and county of San Francisco, regardless of income, has access to a basic level of medical care.

Unfortunately the program doesn't cover acupuncture at this time. But if San Francisco hired just five full time acupuncturists to deliver Chinese medicine care to program participants, I guarantee you that people would be getting better faster and staying healthier longer. Everyone knows acupuncture is excellent for pain. But Chinese medicine also gets excellent results with a whole host of problems that affect public health: diabetes, addiction issues, mental health, asthma, and on and on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obese People Enjoy Food Less

According to a new study (pdf), obese people enjoy food less than lean people do.

"We originally thought obese people would experience more reward from food. But we see obese people only anticipate more reward; they get less reward. It is an ironic process," Stice tells WebMD.

According to Chinese medicine, most obese people have an accumulation of dampness in the middle burner. When dampness is present in the Stomach or Spleen, there will be hunger but without any desire to eat.

How is that possible? What do you mean dampness? What's a middle burner?

Chinese medicine is an ancient method which uses a sophisticated system of outward observation to discern what is happening on the inside. They didn't have x-ray machines or MRIs thousands of years ago. Heck, they didn't even have blood tests. Chinese medicine was forced to develop methods of "imaging" the inside of the body by observance of outward symbols - nearly all of which have proven to be incredibly accurate in terms of today's modern anatomy and physiology. The image that we as Chinese medicine practitioners gather is necessarily more metaphorical than Western biomedicine - but that does not make it any less accurate. Indeed, often Western medicine misses the forest for the trees by focusing on the minutiae of bacteria and blood cell counts, while failing to deduce the overall situation of the patient.

I say all that to help me explain dampness. "Dampness" on the inside of the body is what happens when your food and fluids do not properly separate. In a healthy human system, food enters the Stomach, where it undergoes "ripening and rotting" (a term that rather nicely describes the contractions of smooth muscle and secretions of digestive enzymes that takes place). The Spleen extracts the essence of the food, the food energy, if you will, and sends it on its merry way to the next stage of processing.

If the Spleen is weak, it can't properly extract all the food essences from the chewed-up remnants of the Double-Double you just ate. Some portion of the unrefined food energy then sits in your middle burner, where it combines with the fluids of your body to form a kind of sludgy mud we call dampness. As you become fatter, your Spleen becomes weaker, forming what Dr. Naiqiang Gu likes to call "the vicious circle."

As for the middle burner, that's a Chinese medicine term for the general region of the middle of your body. The important organs there are your Spleen and Stomach. The upper burner refers to the upper part of the body (Heart and Lungs) and the lower burner refers, of course, to the lower part of your body and includes the Kidneys, the Bladder, and all the organs of excretion and reproduction. The Liver is anatomically situated within the middle burner, but because of its importance is considered to be functionally deeper in the body and therefore part of the lower burner.

Now how about that "hunger without desire to eat" bit? Well, imagine you have dampness in your middle burner (now that we're all on the same page with that). Your Spleen-Pancreas is underperforming, but it still works - you get some gas and bloating after you eat, you've developed food allergies, maybe you have occasional diarrhea, but you can still eat most things. Your body figures that getting sixty-five percent of the available energy from food is better than not eating at all, and thus you still get hungry. But there's that dampness sitting in your middle burner. Let's suppose that you don't exercise as much as you should and you haven't changed how you eat, so the dampness continues to accumulate. Thus your body doesn't receive the food with the same relish that it might were your middle burner to be nice and clean.

How to break out of this vicious circle? How to rid oneself of dampness and extra weight? For starters, eat less and exercise more. Then, limit or avoid greasy, fried, and fatty foods. Alcohol and soda should also be avoided as they contribute greatly to dampness. And of course, go see your acupuncturist for a treatment and an herbal formula that is customized to your constitution. Your Chinese medicine doctor has many many herbs and formulas at his or her disposal which have a remarkable effect on the digestion.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rise in Kidney Stones for Children

This story in the New York Times reports on a sharp rise in the rate of kidney stones in children as young as 5 or 6.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy AOM Day!

What is AOM? AOM is an acronym for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and it refers to the system of medicine that uses acupuncture, herbs, body work, nutrition counseling, exercise and more as the tools to get people back in balance and therefore back to health.

What's the difference between AOM and TCM? TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is the official system of Chinese medicine that is taught in China. The terms, theory and methodology are all standardized and thus are used in many non-Asian countries for educational purposes.

Here in the United States we use both terms to refer to the medicine. Some people prefer the term AOM because it encompasses all systems of Asian medicine with roots in Chinese medicine. The traditional medicine systems of Korea, Japan, Vietnam and many other Asian countries are all based on Chinese medicine, but have developed their own unique theories and treatment methods as well, and thus cannot be called TCM.

Still other people prefer the terms East Asian Medicine, Traditional Asian Medicine, or Classical Chinese Medicine. In the end it doesn't matter what you call it - just use it! If you're a patient, take a moment to reflect on how your Chinese medicine practitioner has helped you, and tell a friend. If you're a practitioner or a student, let's give thanks for being in this profession and use today to let people know about why they need Chinese medicine in their lives.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dao of the Day

So wide can't get around it
So low you can't get under it
So high you can't get over it
This is a chance
Dance your way
Out of your constrictions
Here's a chance to dance our way
out of our constrictions

-Funkadelic, "One Nation Under a Groove"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's That Smell?

It's called moxa! And it's a critical component of your acupuncture treatment.

If you've ever had an acupuncture treatment, you probably know what to expect: extremely thin, sterile needles inserted into your body at certain points, a gentle distending sensation, and relief from whatever you happen to be suffering from (as Chinese medicine professionals, we know that acupuncture treats almost everything, but not everyone shares our view. Here is a list from the World Health Organization of conditions acupuncture has been proven to treat effectively).

But there is another, equally important method of treatment that Chinese medicine doctors use. Moxa is the burning of dried mugwort leaves (艾叶 Ai Ye in Chinese, artemisia in Latin) on or near acupuncture points. Moxibustion stimulates acupuncture points in much the same way as acupuncture needles.

There are many different forms of moxa. The most common is the use of a moxa roll, seen above. There is also needle moxa, direct moxa, the ever-popular moxa box, and many many other variants. Most people report feeling a pleasant warming sensation. As with any technique involving heat, there is a slight chance of a burn, but in the hands of a licensed acupuncturist that chance drops to nearly zero.

Now, about that smell. Some people enjoy it, while others can barely tolerate it. It smells exactly like what it is: a fragrant dried leaf. Now there are some misguided people who think that it smells similar to marijuana, but it's actually quite different. But just in case your appointment is before work, you might want to ask for a note from your Chinese medicine doctor explaining why you smell the way you do.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Does Acupuncture Treat?

In 2003, the World Health Organization published "Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials". This report (here is a summary and the full report in PDF form), often cited on acupuncturist's websites, lists the following:

Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment:
  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Dysentery, acute bacillary
  • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
  • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Hypertension, essential
  • Hypotension, primary
  • Induction of labour
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Low back pain
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow

Your acupuncturist can tell you that this list is far from complete. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system in and of itself, which can effectively treat nearly any condition. As research progresses, traditional medicine and bacteriological medicine are becoming partners in delivering the best health to people the world over.

As a patient, you should look for health care practitioners who have a broad-minded approach to medicine. Ideally you'll want not only an M.D. who is open to Chinese medicine, but a Chinese medicine practitioner who knows about your condition from both Western and Eastern perspectives. Tell your doctor about your acupuncturist! Tell them how much it helps you. If you have a serious condition like cancer, your doctor and your acupuncturist must coordinate your care for the best results.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Everyday Health: Taking the Weekends Off

The importance of rest cannot be overstated. Everyday Health TCM will now appear every weekday, Monday through Friday. Thanks for your continued support!

Acupuncture for Migraines

Judith Warner's health blog on the New York Times website tells an interesting story about her battle with migraines. A former eight-cup-a-day coffee addict, she successfully managed her migraines with a combination of acupuncture and the antidepressant amitriptyline.

Then last month, my acupuncturist moved away. This was hard, and detrimentally affected my energy. My mother had a serious health scare, triggering one of those facing mortality moments that adversely affect everyone’s energy, too. Plus, I was given a do-or-die deadline on my three-years-overdue book on children’s mental health issues. And the economy collapsed.

Any one of these events could have been a migraine trigger. Together — combined, perhaps, with ragweed — they launched me right back to where I’d been one year ago, pre-acupuncture, in the darkest of the migrainous days, having headache after headache and popping pill after pill.

She tried another, stronger medication from her doctor. The column details her struggle with the seriously disabling side-effects of this drug. She doesn't name the drug, but many people, in the comments section, declare that they recognize the symptoms from their own life and that it must have been Topamax.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dao of the Day

In previous posts we've explored quotes from the Dao De Jing, the classic attributed to Laozi. Today we strike out in a slightly new direction: the Zhuangzi! Zhuangzi was a philosopher in the Warring States period who is supposed to have been Laozi's student and successor. The two are linked so closely that the school of thought attributed to them was known as "Laozhuang thought" before there was such a thing as Dao-ism.

Today's quote is from Thomas Merton's translation of the Zhuangzi. Thomas Merton was an interesting fellow - he was a Trappist monk who didn't read or write Chinese, although he was fluent in several other languages. His method of translation was to gather together the translations available in the languages he knew, read and assimilate them all to make an English version.

If a man steps on a stranger's foot
in the marketplace,
he makes a polite apology
and offers an explanation
("This place is so terribly

If an elder brother
steps on a younger brother's foot,
He says "Sorry!"
and that is that.

If a parent
treads on his child's foot,
nothing is said at all.

The greatest politeness
is free of all formality.
Perfect conduct
is free of concern.
Perfect wisdom
is unplanned.
Perfect love
is without demonstrations.
Perfect sincerity offers
no guarantee.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nature's Limits

I just came across a very interesting article on nature as it related to economics, sharks and politics.

Nature, in fact, places the most severe limits on animals and their behavior to make sure they stay balanced. Sharks don't have a "stop eating" mechanism in their biological blueprint. Under normal conditions sharks can't catch food fast enough to do themselves damage from over-eating. Nature has limited their ability to catch food. A shark in a feeding frenzy, however, given enough food, will eat until it quite literally bursts open like an overstuffed sausage. Its guts just explode out into the water. In some cases crazed, gut-busted sharks eat their own entrails, unable to distinguish between their innards and their kill.

What's the relevance to Chinese medicine, you ask? Chinese medicine takes nature as the all-powerful regulator. There is absolutely nothing man-made that can withstand the power of nature. If it doesn't drown you, burn you, sting you, gore you or freeze you, nature can wait you out. The power of time is on nature's side. Eventually humans will vanish from the earth, and many millions of years later even plastic will disappear. But the earth will still be here. If not the earth, then certainly the sun. If the sun itself has gone dead, the universe marches on.

Faced with this incredible power, the ancient Chinese tried to learn from and live in harmony together with nature, rather than conquer it (Grand Canal notwithstanding). The ancient maxim 天人合一 tian ren he yi or "heaven and man together as one" is an expression of this admiration and respect for nature.

One of the most basic things we as humans can do for better health is to live in harmony with the seasons. That means eating food that was grown in-season, not flown from halfway around the world. It means taking time out, at least once a season, to get away from the city, to a wilderness area where we can better appreciate nature's glory. It means dressing appropriately for the seasons and not letting our homes or cars become completely insulated from the outside environment - turn off your air conditioning!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shen Nong Website

Here's a nicely-designed website with loads of information about Chinese medicine.

The Shen Nong website has sections on the history of Chinese medicine, diagnosis, terminology, and more, making it very useful for students, practitioners and patients alike.

For instance, here is some advice on using Chinese-style food therapy to boost fertility, and here is some advice on how to avoid PMS and have a smooth, pain-free menstrual cycle.

Shen Nong (神农 - one representation is above) is a mythic figure in Chinese medicine, the legendary author of the first Chinese herbal book, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (神农本草经). Shen Nong means "divine farmer" or "spiritual husbandman". Husbandman might be the more accurate translation, as that implies working with and taking care of plants in all settings, rather than just in a domesticated setting, as a farmer does.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Food Dyes: Too Much of a Bad Thing?

Bright colors in our food have for millenia indicated freshness, deliciousness, and a host of other positive qualities. But these days nearly anything can be made to look fresh, even if it is highly processed. Check out these tempting-looking donuts - see the bright sprinkles? To your brain, that looks delicious. It probably thinks you've discovered some kind of fruit with multicolored seeds.

It's not just donuts and packaged goods. Farmed salmon has for many years been artificially colored.

There is now new research about the effect of these dyes on children's health. Take a look at this article from the L.A. Times. There is probably no single cause for the sharp rise of ADD and ADHD in the United States and other "developed" countries, but these studies may provide a clue towards finding the contributing factors.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Great Medical Advice from Thousands of Years Ago

The sages of ancient times emphasized not the treatment of disease, but rather the prevention of its occurrence. To administer medicines to diseases which have already developed and to suppress revolts which have already begun is comparable to the behavior of one who begins to dig a well after he has become thirsty and of one who begins to forge his weapons after he has engaged in battle. Would these actions not be too late?
- The Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic, Simple Questions, quoted in Tao: The Subtle Universal Law and the Integral Way of Life by Hua-Ching Ni

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it? Hua-Ching Ni goes on to explain that, in the Chinese system, "it is possible to detect energy imbalances long before they are seen as an overt disease."

From the point of view of modern medicine, health is merely the absence of disease. But, by taking a preventive route, one may elevate one's general state of health to a level at which one may consistently enjoy a positive feeling of well-being with an abundance of physical and mental energy.

Sounds great, doesn't it? How does one get there, to a state of health where you just feel great and have lots of energy all the time? Four things: regulation of the mind and your emotions, proper physical activity, proper diet, and staying in tune with the four seasons ("proper" here means both the right amount and the right type).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dao of the Day

Today's quote from the Dao De Jing:

The five colors cause man's eyes to be blinded.
The five tones cause man's ears to be deafened
The five flavors cause man's palate to be cloyed.

Hard to obtain merchandise causes mankind to do wrong
So the Sage concerns himself with the abdomen and not the eyes
Therefore, he rejects the one and chooses the other.

This is from Lao Tzu: My Words Are Very Easy to Understand

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Behold the Power of the Sun

This incredible display of yang energy comes to you courtesy of the sun. Scientists call it a spreading coronal mass ejection. I call it freakin' awesome!!!

Click here for even more jaw-dropping pictures of the sun.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Taoist Conference Update

After taking a closer look at the program for the upcoming Taoist conference, I thought I should highlight some of the teachers who are presenting there. The mix is very interesting - people from many different Taoist traditions will be sharing their view of the path. Dr. Alex Feng and Charlene Ossler, the conference organizers, will of course be presenting, on Hua Tuo's Five Animal Qi Gong and the Taoist approach to health, respectively.

The list goes on...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Taoist Conference in Oakland October 24-26

The Fifth Annual Taoist Gathering will be held the last weekend in October in Oakland, California. The theme is renewal.

The Taoist Gathering is organized by Zhi Dao Guan, the Taoist Center in Oakland, founded by Dr. Alex Feng and Charlene Ossler. Zhi Dao Guan offers classes in martial arts and qi gong, acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments, and Taoist meditation classes.

Dr. Alex Feng has been my martial arts teacher, mentor and spiritual guide since I was eight years old. Our family had the good fortune to be living around the corner from his martial arts school when The Karate Kid came out, sparking renewed interest in martial arts in kids across America, including me and my brother. Dr. Feng's teachings reflect his multi-cultural heritage: born in Guangdong province in southern China to a Chinese father and a German mother, his family moved to Taiwan after the Communist party won China's hard-fought civil war in 1949. There he was forced to defend himself against both people who suspected his family of having Communist sympathies as well as narrow-minded bigots who disapproved of his mixed heritage. At the age of 16, the family moved to the racial and cultural melting pot of Oakland.

From an early age, Dr. Feng studied martial arts, starting in China and continuing in Taiwan and America. The Bay Area was fertile ground for martial arts in the 1960's and 70's. Besides Bruce Lee, who opened his first school there, there were many who promoted the path of martial arts before there was a Tae Kwon Do school in every city.

At Dr. Feng's first location in Berkeley, the system of Wu Jian Pai included both kung fu and judo. I remember there were classes five days a week: on Mondays and Wednesdays there would be kid's kung fu classes followed by adult's judo, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays there was kid's judo followed by adult kung fu class (there was also an open Sunday class for anyone to come and practice). As a youngster I often came to the kids class and stayed on through the adult classes. Although we wore different uniforms and bowed differently in each class, Dr. Feng and his senior students taught all the classes and made the connections between the traditional Japanese and Chinese systems. Long before the term "mixed martial arts" could even be Googled, we were mixing judo's highly refined and powerful throws and groundwork with our kicks and punches during sparring.

Later, as interest increased, Dr. Feng started teaching tai ji quan, qi gong and other internal energetic work. Wu Tao Kuan School of Martial Arts recently celebrated 35 years of teaching.

Dr. Feng is an electric, charismatic teacher who has probed the depths of his self and come out with important lessons for anyone willing to listen. Refusing to be bound by orthodoxy, he has searched the world for superior teachers in the spiritual, medical and physical arts. Some of these great teachers will be at the conference in Oakland. Acupuncturists, martial artists and anyone interested in Taoism should take advantage of this opportunity.

In these perilous economic and political times, when the whole world seems to be collapsing around us, it should be wonderfully refreshing to rub elbows with people who are more concerned with things like this, for instance: Research Project on Higher Consciousness: What Inner States Do People Experience when Emitting High Frequency Brainwaves from the Upper Forehead Region? (To be presented by Dr. Beverly Rubik on the second day of the conference) than with this or that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tribute to Luther Secrease

Mr. Luther Secrease, an icon in the Bay Area martial arts community, recently passed away at the age of 58. We pay tribute to Mr. Secrease and his contribution to the health and welfare of the community he served.

Luther Secrease Memorial

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Warning Label for Children's Cold Medicine

The pharmaceutical industry has taken the pre-emptive step of adding an extra warning label to their children's cold medicine. The label will advise parents not to use the products in children under 4 years old. The following quote from the New York Times will shed some light on how we got to this point:

Safety experts at the agency recommended a year ago that it consider banning use of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children under 6, and an advisory panel concurred. Manufacturers agreed at first only to warn against the products’ use in children under 2 and vowed to fight further restrictions... Despite the products’ extraordinary popularity, every study performed in recent years shows that they have no therapeutic effect beyond sedation, and a growing number of reports have concluded that they can be dangerous. The risks are as varied as hives, neurological problems and, in rare cases, even death.

Chinese medicine effectively treats all kinds of pediatric complaints, from common respiratory illnesses to skin irritations and bedwetting.

Previously on Everyday Health TCM:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cyberdyne Makes a H.A.L. Suit

The long-awaited day is here! Rise up out of your wheelchairs for just $2200 a month! This robot suit is built by Cyberdyne (let's hope this is just a coincidence) and uses signals from your brain to activate robotic parts which assist your nonfunctional limbs as necessary.

The suit is called the H.A.L., for hybrid assistive limb (let's hope this is just a coincidence).

Note that it's powered by a delicious buttery pack (see above), so fuel is as close as your nearest grocery store.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Late Summer

In Chinese medicine, the five elements - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood - can be used to describe all patterns that occur in nature, including the change of seasons. Spring is the season of the Wood element, of new growth and fresh movement. Summer is related to the Fire element, being the hottest season of the year, and Fall to Metal, the time of contracting and consolidating. The Winter season is associated with the Water element, the most dark and yin time of the year.

So where does the Earth element fit into the seasons? Some people say that the Earth element is represented in the change of seasons from one to the next, that time when things feel kind of still and grounded as hot turns to cold and dark turns to light. Another idea is that Earth is represented in the Late Summer, the time of the big harvest when the days are no longer unbearably hot, but the leaves have yet to turn and blow away in the autumn wind.

Walking through the Mar Vista Farmer's Market this morning made me feel like Late Summer really is the time of the Earth. As the last of the berries, peaches, and plums were being sold, their seasonal decline marked by the smaller and smaller tables taken up by the farms that grow them, there have been some new arrivals to the market to take their place. Today there were baskets full of summer squashes of all kinds - zuchini, cousa, yellow, and those cute little flat ones that look kind of like UFO's. There were also the first of the pomegranates, persimmons, asian pears, and so much delicious corn. Huge yams the size of my cat were pulled from the Earth and placed for sale in delicious piles of deliciousness.

The Earth element in the human body is related most closely to the digestive system, the place in which we take in from our surroundings and process what we need. It is the foundation of our bodies, being anatomically the physical center of ourselves as well as the center in which we can spiritually "stomach" what the universe gives us.

In celebration of my Spleen and the spirit of late summer, here's a simple recipe for a delicious seasonal soup I had for supper. All the produce can be found at the farmer's market, and ingredients in the soup have the Chinese nutritional properties of tonifying the Spleen and Stomach:

4 Garnet Yams, cut into large chunks
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 bunch Spinach, cleaned and cut
1 bunch of Baby Bok Choy
1 bunch On Choy, cut into thirds
2 large handfuls of mushrooms
6 slices fresh Ginger
6 pieces of Da Zao
3 pieces of Huang Qi
1 lb Jumbo Shrimp
*serves 3 hungry people who can really get down, with enough left over for lunch the next day

Put the cubed yams and garlic in a pot with plenty of water (at least a gallon). Bring to a boil and cook until the yams darken in color. Turn the heat down halfway and throw in the spinach and baby bok choy. Add the ginger, da zao and huang qi and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms. You can season to taste with some salt, lime, or soy sauce, or nothing at all if you like it the way it is (I happened to have some prepared nước mắm for such an occasion. I am Vietnamese... that stuff runs in my veins!). Right before serving, blanch the on choy until it just gets soft, and cook the shrimp just long enough for it to get pink. Enjoy with some rice or noodles!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Chinese Medicine in Central Jersey

Take a look at this newspaper article about a Chinese medicine practice in New Jersey. Candace Jania (above) has relocated her practice to a new, larger facility. She has used acupuncture and Chinese herbs effectively in her own life to treat migraines and boost her fertility - and as the article says: "It worked. That baby is now 2 years old."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Over-The-Counter Medicine Ban for Children

Facts about children:
  • They are dirty
  • They like to stick things in their mouths
  • They are little sacks of germs that get colds all the time, and pass them amongst each other because they are dirty and like to stick things in their mouths

Facts about colds:
  • Most colds clear up on their own after a few days
  • The best remedy for a cold is rest and fluids

Facts about over-the-counter cold medications for children:
  • They were approved by the FDA only 30 years ago without any separate studies done to prove their safety or efficacy in children
  • To date, there are still no studies that show the medications to be effective, even though there have been some research into the serious side effects (such as death in some cases)
  • Thousands of children are sent to the emergency room every year from the administration of these drugs
  • Despite the urgings of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Food and Drug Administration officials to remove these OTC cold remedies from the market, they are still being manufactured and sold across the country
  • Families in the US spend over $286 million a year on these cough and cold medications for kids, of which there are over 800 different kinds on the market... That's a big market!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Condition-Specific Websites, Diabetes, HFCS

This article in the New York Times led me in turn to this website by and for people with diabetes, which in turn led me to this blog post that follows up on the "Sweet Surprise" ad campaign that we let you know about last month. Isn't the web great?

The Times article gives you some good links for online health information, beyond what you might find with a typical Google search.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

One Doctor's View of Health

There was a revealing essay in the New York Times the other day. It's by an M.D., and the subject is the definition of health. The author shows that, despite modern integrative medicine bringing Western and Eastern models of health closer together, there is still a wide gap in how we view the body.
Women who get a diagnosis of breast cancer, for example, are usually quite healthy. It is the appendage that is sick. After they lose the appendage, they must take treatment that makes them very sick, so they can stay healthy. But, of course, some never quite make it back to that shore, for the terror of recurrent illness can itself negate health.

Rub your eyes and read it again: women who get a diagnosis of breast cancer are usually quite healthy. It's the "appendage" that is sick, so it follows that all you have to do is lop off the offending appendage and the problem is solved. This quote illustrates what Efrem Korngold and Harriet Beinfield call the "mechanistic" view of the body.
The findings of the early anatomists validated the mechanistic view that the body is made out of distinct and separate parts, connected and yet autonomous... for the mechanic, it is best if the parts of the machine are standardized and uniform. That way the parts are interchangeable, easily replaced, and the ways in which they break down become predictable from one body to the next. Standardized diseases develop from established causes, and protocols of treatment are fixed. Uniform parts sit on the shelf. This view focuses entirely on the ways in which all people are alike and tends to overlook the ways in which people are unique and dissimilar. When a group of people receives the same diagnosis, they receive the same treatment. Science and industry have enabled medicine to be practiced on a mass basis. The same mechanistic philosophy that inspired mass production in industry also inspired mass medicine and health care. --Between Heaven and Earth

By comparison, the Chinese medicine doctor views the body as a garden, an innate part of nature. This view both simplifies and complicates treatment.

On the simple side, if your garden isn't doing well, what is the first thing you think of, even if you've never done any gardening? Water and sun. Is the plant getting enough water and sun? Is it getting too much? Each plant is different - some like the shade and some like blazing heat. Almost all of your plant problems can be traced back to water and sun. It's the same with people: nearly all of our problems can be found in our immediate environment, in what we take in on a daily basis, whether that be food, air, water or emotions.

Then again, nature is an incredibly complex subject, and if knowledge of the body requires knowledge of nature, we are all far behind. For all of humanity's great achievements and machines, there is little we can do when faced with the tremendous power of nature. We still can't predict earthquakes or hurricanes.

Gardening is one of those "a little bit every day" kind of disciplines. If you take the time to weed a little every day, water a little every day, talk to your plants and tell them that you love them, your garden will be fine. You can't wait until the blackberry bush has taken over the entire fence before you start trimming - at that point the fence itself may have toppled over. You can't save up all your watering and do it all at the end of the month - some plants will have died already, and watering dead plants only gets you mud. So tend the garden of your body with a little bit of exercise every day, fresh food (maybe some vegetables from your actual garden, eh?) and clean water. Tend the garden of your mind with meditation to quiet the mental garbage you accumulate. And tend the garden of your soul with good friends, good music, and whatever spiritual or religious tradition you connect with. Don't wait until your fence needs to be torn out and rebuilt.