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Eastern vs. Western Medicine: is one better than the other?

Plant Pill

Hmmm…well, let me start by musing that there is a HUGE difference between the two, and that it really begins in their philosophies. Both types of medical care have their time and place; let me explain why.

There is acute care, and there is chronic care. Acute care is synonymous with western medicine philosophies. (Namely, to fix what is broken immediately, and move on.) This type of care is amazing and essential within the frame of emergency situations. Say you fall and break your leg. You want acute care for that. Or, say your uncle has a heart attack. Again, acute care. You want doctors to see you immediately and fix what’s causing you immediate and extreme discomfort, or even save your life. NOW.

Acute care: Right now. Emergency. Quick, fast, essential.

The same thing that makes Western medicine great, also contributes to its downfalls: the treatment, whether acute or chronic, seems to be the same. What I mean, is that symptoms are treated, not the root of the issue. While this is fine for acute care, because acute care requires quick thinking and even quicker action, in a chronic care environment, is does not do us much good.

Chronic care is very different, and this is where Eastern medical practices come to play ball. If you are suffering from a long-standing gastrointestinal disorder, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure or gout, then you want to make use of the Eastern ways of doing things. Why? Because Eastern medical philosophies are aimed at treating the root of the problem, not just using “bandage” solutions to temporarily get you back on your feet.

Putting a stent into an artery to open it up and allow blood to flow back to the heart is acute care. Changing the diet and lifestyle of that heart patient to heal that person from the inside out and prevent another heart attack is to treat the root of the problem—that’s where Eastern medicine thrives.

To use another example, let’s use GI trouble, because that’s an area I know all too well. (*Sigh) Say you have Crohn’s disease, which is an auto-immune disorder characterized by the inability to absorb nutrients, because the gut is severely damaged. Symptoms include pain, chronic infection, bloody stools, urinary tract infections, insomnia, and a giant host of other awesome by-products. (That are not actually awesome at all.)

Someone trained in and practicing western medicine would probably order up some tests and refer you to a specialist, who would then tell you that you have Crohn’s disease and that you should begin Humera[1], which is a steroid designed to suppress the immune system so that you’re symptoms would subside and you could live your life more comfortably. Hopefully.

What does that do for you? While this drug can definitely offer the patient immediate relief, it basically puts a bandage over the problem by making it seem that your symptoms are getting better, when really you just won’t notice them as much for awhile. And when they come back in full-force? Or you experience side-effects from that medication that you aren’t enthusiastic about living with for the rest of your life? You’ll be prescribed a different medication, or perhaps your doctor will just increase the dosage of the original one.

Now, because this is a chronic problem and not an acute one (you won’t die from this condition within the next week or so), say you had the same GI issue and took it to someone practicing Eastern medicine, whose philosophy is to discover the root of the problem and treat IT, not the symptoms?

This medical professional would probably question you extensively about what you eat, if your exercise, if you’ve been travelling, and what inoculations you’ve received recently. They’d take a full list of symptoms and then decide where they believe the problem lies. For GI disorders, they would probably have you go on a strict elimination diet that makes you forgo dairy, sugar, processed food, GMOs, alcohol, coffee, etc. (There is a list of other foods that can be harmful to someone with Crohn’s, but I’m just using this disorder as an example, and can’t get into everything.) Basically anything that could be irritating your sensitive digestive tract.

From there, you would probably be put on not drugs, but probiotics, to strengthen your army of friendly bacteria that is so essential to a properly working immune system (90% of which lies in your gut), and perhaps also given specific foods to eat that are very high in nutrients, so that the intestinal tract can begin absorbing them ASAP. You might be given some natural supplements to try, such as oil of oregano, which is an antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic herb. You would be tested for intestinal parasites, among other things that may be causing your intestinal wall damage.

In other words, not covering the problem up with pharmaceutical meds, but rather treat the actual gut for what it may be lacking, and removing what might be clogging or harming it. Isn’t treating the root of the problem a good idea for chronic illness? Something is causing you unpleasant symptoms. Don’t you want to fix that something, and not just pop a pain killer?

There are more specific types of medicine that fall under the Eastern medicine category. The following definitions were taken from HERE[2]:

Biological Medicine:

-Prescribes non-prescription, pharmaceutical-grade herbal/homeopathic medications

-Personalized assessment of vitamin/mineral supplements

Functional Medicine:

-Investigation and treatment of symptoms such as fatigue, digestive dysfunctions, immune dysfunctions, hormonal dysfunctions, multi-system disorders, etc.

Environmental Medicine:

-Inhalant/pollen/mold allergies

Food intolerances

-Chemical sensitivities

-Other environmental sensitivities

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are two very different ways to treat something that is going awry in your body. First, determine whether or not it’s acute or chronic. This should be relatively easy:

Acute:

1-      Did it happen suddenly?

2-      Do you need immediate intervention?

3-      Is this an emergency room situation?

If you can answer yes, then it’s acute. Western medical practices will probably be your best bet.

Chronic:

1-      Have you experienced this problem before?

2-      Is this an ongoing issue?

3-      Are you confused as to why you have the symptoms that you do?

4-      Can you wait for an appointment to be treated?

If you can answer yes to these, then your problem is chronic. Eastern medical practices can probably help you better than a more acute approach.

Is one type of care better than the other? No—they both just have their special situations in which they thrive. The key is to match your ailment to the care that will best suit it. Decide if your issue is acute or chronic, and proceed from there.

Happy (Meatless) Monday!


Interesting Infographic on Chronic Disease

Hey, all! Check out this new infographic on chronic disease. It’s interesting stuff, and includes eye-opening stats that everyone should be aware of.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Sick! Epidemic of Chronic Diseases

The Relationship Between Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes, and Coconut Oil

Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s and Diabetes

There is always a steady stream of research being done on Alzheimer’s disease: an incurable type of dementia that affects memory, behaviour, and usually results in early death. [1] So, why is it recently being nicknamed type 3 diabetes?[2]

“When the body refuses to make insulin, the condition is called type 1 diabetes; when the body mismanages the hormone, it’s known as type 2. Now, scientists report new evidence linking insulin to a disorder of the brain: when the brain prevents the hormone from acting properly, the ensuing chemical imbalance may help trigger Alzheimer’s disease. The correlation is so strong that some researchers are calling Alzheimer’s disease “type 3” diabetes.” –Time[3]

The human brain is fed by glucose, or sugar. (This is one of the reasons I have such a huge beef with Atkin’s-type diets: you NEED carbs.) A recent study by Northwest University concluded that in the instance of insulin shortage (which the brain needs to properly break down glucose), one of the first things to be affected is memory.[4] Huh.  Are there any alternatives that the brain can use besides glucose, you ask? Well, looks like there might be!

What Does Coconut Oil Have to Do With It?

Ketones are a compound that can be used as an alternate source of energy for the brain in the absence of glucose, and coconut oil is a known source of ketones.[5]  Ketones can theoretically be used to synapse function in the brain, thereby restoring brain function. Once brain tissue dies, it cannot be brought back.[6] But ketones can help to restore brain function before any tissue death occurs. Interesting, right?

Now, there are always a ton of declarations concerning which foods may be killing us, which ones should be eaten voraciously for better health, and which ones are only food-like substances, and therefore should technically be avoided. We all are privy to television and newspaper reports that allege the amazing benefits or the disastrous effects that certain foods have on our bodies.

Should we drop everything and take to heart all that we hear about these foods? Certainly not! That would be exhausting. Usually I’m pretty skeptical when I hear something crazy-sounding, like “coconut oil may hold the key to curing Alzheimer’s!”[7] I ask myself who is making such a claim, who is backing the claim, and what studies have been done to prove that the claim is real and not just a really great idea? (‘Cause most are just really spectacular theories.) 😀

What Are the Studies Saying?

Basically, studies are indicating that we’re going to have to take all this coconut oil/ketone talk with a grain of salt. While there haven’t been any studies to definitively prove that consuming coconut oil will provide the brain with ketones needed to help stop or reverse Alzheimer’s,[8] there ARE several individuals who have been sharing personal success stories via the web.

Dr. Mary Newport is one such person, who accidentally stumbled upon the powers of coconut oil when (some might say successfully) attempting to treat her husband for Alzheimer’s.[9] She has written about her experiences with her husband, Steve:

“He is a very different person than he was a year ago and perhaps even two or three years ago. He has serious atrophy of his brain and will never be “normal,” but for now we are very pleased with where he is at and, should coconut oil stop or slow down the progress of his disease, it will be worth every drop that he takes. My sister Lois told a lady she works with about the coconut oil and Steve’s response to it. Her fa­ther began to give this to her mother, who has Al­zheimer’s and she has had a similar response, with more alertness, conversation and sense of humor.  ” [10]

In Conclusion…

Although there is no clear evidence as of yet to absolutely prove the miraculous benefits that coconut oil may hold in regards to curing Alzheimer’s disease, we need to ask ourselves: why should we wait? There are countless natural remedies that work well for tons of different ailments that are not “officially” recognized. These types of remedies, of course, are my favourite. If you know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s, I can’t imagine there being any harm in treating them with coconut oil, but I’m definitely going to put the disclaimer out there to first check with their physician or naturopath. Good luck!

References:  


The Consumption of Animal Meat: Health Versus Wealth

Meat Vs. Fruit

Health vs. Wealth

In doing some research for my new book, I’ve come across so much information that indicates that there is a huge correlation between the health of those who are “wealthy” and those who are not, and how much animal meat they consume. As was suspected, the difference is staggering: most middle and upper-class households consume meat on a daily basis– sometimes in every meal! Those who do not have the funds that their wealthier counterparts do, just don’t eat as much animal meat.

But guess what? The wealthier population, even though they have access to better health care and generally possess more knowledge about how to care for themselves in terms of exercise and stress-relief, are either falling ill with (or dying of) western diseases that are associated with increased intake of animal products! Diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, digestive diseases, etc.

Huh.

This phenomenon is very apparent and readily observable in China, where their long-time diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, sea goodies, and all things generally high in fibre and sky-high in nutrients is changing. With increased westernization and wealth, comes the idea that meat equals status, and people are quick to jump on the “I can afford this now” bandwagon. The result? China is getting sick– and the country’s health stats are reflecting that!

And so it seems that the diet of those less fortunate is actually in many ways better for us than the diet of those who have more. A steak dinner in a nice, upscale restaurant can cost around $30 in Canada, but a vegetarian one is usually closer to half that. So, maybe it’s less about saving money, and more about saving ourselves? It’s ironic that those who can afford to feast like kings are often chained to a long list of prescription medication, and those who are pinching pennies have remarkably low blood pressure

So here’s what I propose: let’s take all that moolah that we spend on our precious, status-increasing animal meat, and go buy ourselves a great juicer, a series of vegetarian cooking classes, and a full-bodied, organic, bottle of shiraz. (To share!)

Peace of mind (and heart) included. 🙂

Introducing Nude Food Fridays!

069Friends! I’ve been all over the place lately in regards to my blogs– so much to say, such a small platform! Sooo, in light of this, I’ve decided to make Fridays a specific day to discuss the power of whole foods (hence Nude Food Fridays) and the downside of foods that do not fall into this category. (Altered foods) This topic is one that I am extremely interested in, as I believe it has much to do with the escalating cases of western disease that we are all observing lately. (Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, digestive disease, etc.)

For my first post on this topic, I want to discuss reductionism. For those of you who have never before heard this term, reductionism refers to our western obsession with pulling apart whole foods and reducing them to their specific ingredients. For example, someone might eat an orange because of its vitamin C, not thinking that the orange, in its entirety, is chalk full of other nutrients and fibre, and other good things that work together as a whole to provide a unique set of nutritional properties.

It’s easy to forget that whole foods were designed by Mother Nature to be eaten in whole form, in order to provide optimum benefits to our health. This is why there is so much debate as to whether or not there is any real benefit in consuming supplements. Supplements may offer a boost in one vitamin or mineral, but is it effective on its own? How do we know if that vitamin or mineral must work in conjunction with the other nutrients in a whole food to be effective at its job? What if, when we isolate that nutrient, we ultimately end up rendering it useless or greatly decreasing its effectiveness?

These are questions that scientists, to this day, do not know the answers to. But it makes sense that when we swallow a calcium supplement, it’s not the same as eating kale. Right?

So, for today’s first Nude Food Friday, the message is this: do not rely on isolated nutrients to add to your overall health and well being. Rely on whole foods. These foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, beans, etc) are what our bodies function optimally on. Don’t sell it short– eat whole, be whole. TGIF!

Aromatic Help for Digestive Flare-Ups

102

Despite our best efforts, those of us who experience digestive unease caused by food, really do pay the price physically. Flare-ups can be exhausting and painful. I’ve discovered that aromatherapy can really help when I can feel a bout coming on. Maybe this practice can help you too.

Essential oils are fabulous, but you need the right ones for this specific problem. (Intestinal angst.) Fennel, peppermint, ginger, and chamomile all can help relieve some pain and bloating. They are anti-inflammatory, and naturally aid the digestive process. You can place a few drops in water and drink it, rub a few drops onto your stomach and massage it in a clock-wise motion to stimulate better digestion, shake some into a warm bath, or simply shake a couple of drops onto one wrist, rub your wrists together, and just sit back, close your eyes, and breathe deep in and out of your nose.

It’s important to know that when you are purchasing these oils, they should be pure and organic- generally good quality, with no added chemicals, I buy mine at Sage Natural Wellness.

Happy Wednesday!

Prop 37 Defeat

I realize that this occured almost a week ago, but I am so saddened by the defeat of California’s Prop 37. Had this bill passed, foods containing GMOs would have had to be labelled as such. This would have had a ripple effect across North America, as I’m sure food companies would not have gone through the trouble of producing seperate packaging just for California, and instead would have made this GMO-identifiable packaging available nation-wide.

How sad is it that we passed up an opportunity to know what exactly is in our food? What are the reasons for not wanting to know? How weird. Although narrowly defeated (47% voted in favour of the new label), I feel as though this outcome is a giant step back for the American public, and therefore Canadians, also. I don’t understand what our obsession is with cheap, crappy food. People brag “I only spend $400/mo on food for my family of five!” That’s great, but what are you buying for that amount?

It’s frusterating to me that Canada and the U.S. are leading nations when it comes to chronic disease, when we live in first world conditions, and have access to so much. Most of the diseases that are common (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal disorders, certain cancers, etc) are completely preventable by diet change. Good food -that’s all it takes. Why are we so weird about that?

I’m tired of organics being looked at as some sort of conspiracy theory. Organic food was the ONLY kind of food available 100 years ago, when there was no chronic disease. The weird food is the new food- the food that comes in bags and boxes, who’s ingredients are unpronouncable and questionable as to their purpose. The food that contains ingredients that have undoubtedly been genetically modified.

I’m completely aware that this post has turned into a rant, but I don’t care. I’m disappointed. Writing about it makes me feel better. Thanks for tuning in, and next time, let’s vote no-gmos.

Flu Shots

I am a volunteer at Ridge Meadows Hospital. Along with regular employees, volunteers are required to get a flu shot this time of year. I’m on the fence with this one. I don’t normally get a flu shot- I feel as though my immune system should have the chance to react normally and naturally to exposure to viruses, and that flu shots are usually unnecessary for people of my age. (Thirties.) On one hand, I don’t want to expose fragile people or people who may be more susceptible to the flu by NOT getting the shot. I also don’t want to GET the flu from someone at the hospital and expose it to my kids (surely my exposure will be much greater than usual this year, because of hanging out at the hospital on a weekly basis), and so maybe the flu shot is a good idea. However, like I already was saying, I just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of going ahead and volunarily injecting myself with a dead virus. You’re not even guarranteed to get immunized for the right flu- it’s a hypothetical guess on which viruses will be going around this year that determines what is it the shot concoction…hmmm…will get back to you on this one…