Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Is Natural Medicine?

By Thomas E. Duckworth, DKM, L.Ac.
Copywritten 2002

Perhaps I should be speaking of HUMAN medicine instead of NATURAL medicine because I believe that natural medicine is first and foremost, person-centered health care which is based on the premise that the well-being of the person is more important than the outcome of the procedure. You’ve heard the old joke: “The procedure worked perfectly but the patient died”.

Natural medicine is the recognition that the body is the sum of body/mind/spirit-in its environment.

Much of natural medicine has evolved from those cultures which have had no dichotomy between Mind and Body and which recognized that a living organism is part and parcel of the “external” environment in which it dwells.

In modern times we hear and read of the mind-body connection or mind/body/spirit unification. Modern physics and biology continue to confirm this phenomena but in Oriental medicine, this fact is not spoken of in hyphenated words. The functioning body, operating mind and living spirit are/is the base of human life. For brevity sake, I’ll use the term ‘body’.

The other important distinction is the dynamic environment in which the body lives - Nature. The western philosophies which provided the fiction that living is happening independent of environment has lead to some interesting ideas. Like the statement, “I love to get out in Nature on the weekends.” It has also led to the erroneous belief that the body (and mind) is made up of separate components. Now we have cardiologists who know nothing about the lungs, heart medicines that weaken the kidneys and specialists who say, “I checked your stomach and I couldn’t find anything that would cause you pain. Wait a few weeks and if it persists, we’ll run some more tests.” I liked the young doctor who told me, “What you eat has nothing to do with health.”

The body is always in an environment. It can not be separated from environment. It can change environments but it is always interacting with its outside. The mall may not be “natural” but it is the nature that body is in at the moment. The body is quite sensitive and is continually adapting (or attempting to adapt) to changes in the environment - changes in nature. This adaptation occurs according to certain principles - what we can call “natural principles.” That is, they are happening - period.

We all know how certain life forces are influenced by gravitational pull, lunar activity, by the ebb and flow of oceans and solar activity. “Natural Medicine" recognizes that all parts and systems of the body are interconnected, closely related, cooperative and functionally affect each other physiologically and pathologically. We are a Unified System.

In Oriental Medicine, for example, seasons and climatic changes in the environment are basic to understanding the health of each individual. In this Unified Field, we know not only that in the Spring it is warm but that there is a growing abundance of Ki (Qi) [Life energy] and Blood [Life force and nourishment].. We know the body is going to behave (if it can) in accordance with the same environmental principles that cause seeds to sprout, plants to develop leaves, animals to procreate, winds to blow and the earth to shift so as to allow an increase of sunlight. With the heat of summer we have full abundance and the energy is not only strong on the surface of the planet but on the surface of the body. The body will sweat more, urinate less and crave or need foods much different then what is needed in the winter. When taking the pulses, we find the pulse to be big and floating - that is, abundant and on the surface.. If the pulse is not like this, that person is known to be out of sync with his/her environment which will result in a weakening in the system.

So too with the coolness of fall and cold of winter - the Ki and Blood go deep inside, like the sap of the tree returning to the roots. There is scant sweat and profuse urine; the pulse is deep and fine and the inclinations, cravings and activities will be opposite to summer.

Even each day is different. From dusk to midnight, our yang (expansive) energy decreases and the mind too gets quiet.. From dawn to midday, our yang energy increases and so does our mind.

Even in sickness, a person with a fever (yang energy) will have less fever and less restlessness in the early morning hours but then have the fever ‘spike’ in late afternoon or early evening. This is the Wholeness of the body.

Any system of medicine that acknowledges this and attempts to work with the whole person is “Natural Medicine.” You can not say that Acupuncture is Natural Medicine or that surgery or psychiatry is not natural medicine. Natural Medicine is any health care provision that operates without a dichotomy and within the holism of Body/.Mind/Spirit/Nature(environment).

For years in our society there has been a preoccupation with disease. Consumers and health care providers seem to believe “that the body is fundamentally flawed, subject to disintegration at any moment, always on the verge of mortal disease, always in need of continual monitoring and support by health care professionals......” (Lewis Thomas 1977). As the story goes, a young medical doctor in residency training was asked, “What is the definition of health?” To which he quickly replied, “A situation where not enough tests were conducted.

I call it Natural Medicine. Other terms are: Holistic, Bio-social and Vitalistic. Whatever it is called, it is predicated on the assumption that a person is a single, unified organism, complex and intricate and so inner & interrelated that a malfunction in any one system affects and reflects on all subsystems.

Natural Medicine also recognizes that living organisms can influence normal biological processes and can even reverse processes that seen to be unchangeable.

Natural Medicine recognizes that there is such diversity of individuals at the gross anatomical level, the subtle bio-chemical level, the very subtle mental level and the even more subtle ‘karmic’ level that it is highly unlikely that a treatment correct for one person is necessarily correct for another - even if their symptoms are similar and their gross diagnosis is the same. Natural Medicine believes, “It is more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.” (William Osler)

In Oriental Medicine, classification of illness is based on SHO (profile or picture), in which the sho of the illness is at the same time the sho of the course of treatment. It is said, the treatment is in the diagnosis. The sho is not only the name of the sickness; included are the individual's body type, constitution and condition; differences in environment; whether a condition is heavy or light, chronic or acute, the duration of the illness, etc. Thus, in the examination, individual differences, even small differences, are not overlooked. All facts must be fit together to arrive at the proper sho.

In Oriental medicine's system, several individuals may all exhibit the condition known in the West as Asthma, but each individual may be described by a different sho and thus will receive a different treatment. Conversely, different individuals may exhibit different symptoms, say bronchitis versus laryngitis, or gastric ulcer versus cholecystitis but the same sho may be involved. In which case, the same combination of acupuncture points may be used for both conditions. What is important is the sho, not any one symptom.

When even one element of the pattern is different, treatment can be radically different. For example, in cases where the main condition is identical, but one person shows out strong pulses and another with weak pulses, the treatment of these individuals is quite different. Oriental medicine is very much rooted in the here-now of each patient in comparison to Western medicine, which is much more theoretical - homogenizing and generalizing patients and diseases.

Natural Medicine will also seek diagnostic systems that are inexpensive and non-intrusive. When intrusive diagnostic techniques are needed, the Natural Medicine physician will approach the procedure with compassion and human concern, seeking to “do no further harm” as decreed by the medical Hippocratic oath. The Natural Medicine physician will never look at nor treat a living organism from the mechanistic model viewpoint.

No medical/industrial complex underlies acupuncture medicine. Its tools are extremely simple: needles and moxibustion and hands. Diagnostic tools are readily available - hands and ears and eyes. Compared to technological medicine, it is inexpensive both for the patient and for society.

So maybe I will stop calling what I do “Natural Life Medicine. I should call it “Vital Life Reaffirming Therapy”. Whatever it is called, I urge you to seek, to demand that your Physical, Mental and Spiritual physicians understand and incorporate into their practices a few basic truths concerning health and well-being:

1) A symptom can never be considered in isolation. A symptom is a part of an on-going, complex process. The symptom is a visible link in a chain of processes. To treat one part of the process is unrealistic, simplistic and inadequate and can actually prevent lasting improvement of health.

2) Symptoms are the body’s attempt to heal itself. Even mechanistic medicine is beginning to appreciate that often fevers are not part of the illness but are in fact, part of the healing. In many cases, the symptom, while being a problem can also be informative concerning that person’s Mind/Body/Spirit/Nature state. Sometimes a symptom is nothing more than an opportunity to rest or stop doing whatever it was that allowed a chain of events to finally show up as a symptom.

3) The body is a Mental/Physical phenomenon. A physician who doesn’t grasp this is a “I don’t care” practitioner. A true doctor is as concerned for your mental health as for your physical health.

4) You are an excellent source of information. This is especially true concerning your own body, symptoms AND treatment. The days of the physician-centered, patient-dependent treatment method are done with. Medical doctors don’t study nutrition and I don’t know anything about bio-feedback. You are a learning resource for your physician.

5) Information and knowledge is preferable to treatmentI. Both the consumer and the physician must always be learning. The doctor must seek to educate the consumer, as well as himself/herself. The consumer too must seek to educate the physician and herself/himself. “Treatment, by definition, implies that either the patient or the physician has waited too long before taking corrective action.” That’s not correct; that’s not natural.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Free Children's Health Care: Tuesday, August 24, 2010

(If a patient mentions seeing this note on the blog, they get free pediatric care for the rest of the month of August. Mention this at the time of your appointment.)

The Traditional Oriental Pediatric Medicine provided at Natural Life Therapy Clinic includes the techniques of Shonishin (Pediatric ‘acupuncture without needles’) and Anma (Japanese Massage) which incorporates Shiatsu principles. In my practice, this system is referred to as Pediatric Tai Ki Shonishin and Te a Te (handwork, with and without touching). It is an aspect of Traditional Oriental pediatric health care that has been evolving for over 1,100 years.

There have been many books written on this subject; some of the Classic Chinese texts are:

New Book of Pediatric Medicine - (1132 C.E.) 40 volumes, 547 chapters; Principles of Pediatrics (1549 C.E.) 2 volumes; Collected Works of Pediatrics (1750 C.E.) 6 volumes. Classic Japanese texts include: Essentials of Medicine (982 C.E.) 30 volumes; Treasure Book of Women (1726 C.E.) 6 volumes; Treaties on Needling Technique [of children] (1736 C.E.).

By the early 18th Century, development of traditional Japanese Pediatrics had centered in Osaka where the Nakano family was famous for many generations for its pediatric health care system. As was the tradition, shonishin techniques, children’s acupuncture, with and without needles, were family secrets until the end of World War II. Dr. Mori published the Shonishin system after the Second World War.

My studies of pediatric health care began in the early Sixties when the first of my six children was born. It progressed as I studied massage, herbal medicine, midwifery, and Emergency Medical procedures. I then spent 10 years with Dr.Masahilo Nakazono Osensei studying Kototama Life Medicine, Tai Ki Te A Te and Traditional Oriental Medicine, including Shonishin (traditional Japanese pediatric meridian therapy ), Anma (traditional Japanese massage), Shiatsu (modern Japanese meridian tactile therapy), Ampuku (specialized abdominal massage), Sakai Hon Li Te A Te (unique abdominal energetic tactile therapy developed and taught by Sakai Sensei), Sotai (modern Japanese physical therapy), Kappo (traditional manipulative therapy and first aid developed in the martial arts), Japanese naturopathic medicine and tama-nutrition. Nakazono Sensei also instructed me in Aikido and trout fishing.

Traditionally, in Osaka, on the full moon in August, all children were treated for free for health preservation. In keeping with that tradition, Natural Life Therapy Clinic will provide free preventive shonishin on Tuesday, August 24th to all children under the age of 8 who show up here between 8:30 am and 7:00 pm.