Category: Western Science

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Personalized Medicine in the East and West

Have you found the lightning speed of discoveries in the field of genetics absolutely fascinating and promising for the future of medicine?

As we have learned more about the human genome, genetic testing has become affordable and accurate at predicting and preventing disease.  Our level of understanding disease has expanded from a 2D view to a 3D view, and we can now piece together many of the achingly beautiful mysteries of the human experience.

In discussions around genetic testing, we are beginning to hear a term that is gaining popularity with Western medicine – “personalized medicine.” According to The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Dictionary of Cancer Terms (n.d.), “personalized medicine” is:

A form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes, proteins, and environment to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease.”

As the Stuff You Should Know podcast describes it, personalized medicine involves the concept that, “people have different types of reactions to different types of treatments and can have different types of experiences with different types of diseases.”  They note that this realization occurred in the Western Medicine tradition in the mid-20th century (“How Personalized Medicine Works,” 2015).  

With genome testing, we can potentially predict the exact effect that a specific medication will have on an individual and the likelihood that administering it will have the effect that we desire.  We can bring these predictions down to a mathematical equation and act with more certainty in administering medication, in predicting the spread of disease, and in predicting the onset of disease, etc.  Potentially, we may be able to prevent forms of cancer from occurring in individuals with an increased risk of developing them, simply by knowing their genetic risk for such diseases.

In traditional therapies, we have used the concept of personalized medicine for centuries. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), includes five basic modalities:

The system uses these five techniques to craft individualized treatments.  Each session employs one, all, or some combination of these techniques based on the person’s healthcare needs.  Together, the five methods demonstrate a long history of time-tested results through “precise medicine,” i.e. medical treatment based on a person’s constitution and individuality.  Here is personalized medicine at it’s inception.

So then, how old is the concept of personalized medicine?

The origins of acupuncture points and acupuncture meridians are so ancient that we are not completely sure which came first.  The discovery of a man known as Otzi who died under a glacier in the Alps may lead to discoveries about the origins of acupuncture.  Otzi had tattoos on very specific acupuncture points on his body, sometime around the year 3250 B.C.E.!  We are talking about the possibility of a 5000 year old medical tradition – based on personalized medicine!  

Even in the west, we see it in the underpinnings of the Hippocratic Oath; an oath recited by every doctor upon their entrance into the field of medicine:  

“It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.” – Hippocrates (c. 460 BC – c. 370 BC)

There is a similar saying in the TCM tradition; “yi bing tong zhi, tong bing yi zhi,” which translates to:

“One disease, different treatments; Different diseases, one treatment. – Such an old quote that no one seems to know who said it.

What does this mean?  It means is that six people who walk into a TCM practitioner’s office with asthma will likely receive six different treatments.  However, it is possible that one person with asthma and one person with rheumatoid arthritis will have the exact same constitutional patterns, leading to a treatment that is identical.  The treatment is built around the individual and not around the disease.

When a patient walks into my practice, they receive an individualized treatment formulated for their specific body-type, symptoms, and underlying patterns of disharmony.  They receive a custom herbal formula that is specific to their symptoms, exactly where they are today.  In this way, my goal is to treat the root of a disease, and not its symptoms alone.  By doing this, I can stave off the symptoms of chronic or acute pain, wheezing, headaches, sweating, or whatever is bothering you, while also taking out the underlying pattern of disharmony in the body that is causing those symptoms to reoccur. 

Your symptoms of physical or emotional discomfort are unique to you.  They are a reflection of who your genetics and your “epigenetics;” in other words, the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences that define your personality and constitution.

It is no coincidence that personalized medicine is currently landing in the Western medical field.  Western audiences are ready to understand the power of viewing the individual as a unique universe with personalized needs.  A rise in popularity of TCM coincides with our increasing understanding of the human genome under the context of personalized medicine.  People are beginning to realize that a healthcare system where everyone is treated the same is not as powerful as a system where individual needs are met.  The combination of Eastern and Western medicine styles complement one another nicely and provide a hopeful future for personalized healthcare.

For a custom treatment built for your specific constitutional needs, book an appointment here.  

We’ll begin by talking about you.

 

References:

Stuff You Should Know,  (2015, June 26). How Personalized Medicine Works [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from:  http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/how-personalized-medicine-works/
NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?cdrid=561717

Hands in front of a pregnant belly, holding baby slippers, fertility blog photo

4 Steadfast Reasons to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine for Fertility

“Why do we always give ear needles to women who are trying to become pregnant?” asked my professor during a lecture on treating fertility.

The acupuncture students in my class shouted out various answers:

“To regulate the hormones.”

“To improve the likelihood of conception.”

“To enhance the strength of the treatment.”

“Yes… but what’s the biggest reason that we always give ear needles to women who are trying to become pregnant – every treatment, every single time?” she repeated.

“Stress,” offered another student.

“YES.  Because when the body is doing it’s biological count down, and a woman is receiving test after test, and monitoring her body temperature daily, and eating carefully to regulate her blood sugar levels, and taking medications and timed hormone injections to enhance her likelihood of conception… And when her husband is rushing off in the middle of a work day to a clinic where he has to ejaculate into a cup in a strange environment at the exact moment when his wife or girlfriend may be fertile – this may be the most stressful time in a couple’s life.  And to conceive under the condition of this type of stress is unlikely – your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive and your stress hormones are out of whack.”

Duly noted.

Years later, I have not forgotten this emphatic point.

What my professor did not cover in this description is the deep heartache, self shaming and cultural humiliation that can happen to a couple when they cannot conceive.  If you were not aware that stating things like, “Are you two planning on having kids soon?” can seep a gut-wrenching heartache into an infertile couple, who keeps their struggles private from the public and may leave you completely unaware of this anguish inside of them, consider yourself informed and read this article.

This leads us right into the first of 4 Steadfast Reasons to Use Traditional Chinese Medicine for Infertility

1. It reduces stress.  Stress, anxiety and grief are key elements that must be eliminated during the fertile window in order to ensure successful implantation for pregnancy.  Acupuncture, and particularly ear acupuncture, can regulate stress and help the body relax.  Have you heard about couples that cannot get pregnant for years, as they go through tests and appointments galore, but they hit up a beach vacation and come back expecting a new family member in 9 months?  Reducing stress levels is essential to healthy conception.

2. Evidence-based Results.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, does more than just regulate stress in infertile couples.  It relieves Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).  It improves symptoms of  PCOS and assist in inducing ovulation.  For years, acupuncture has shown in Western studies that it can reduce blood flow impedance in the uterine artery, which helps increase the uterus lining’s receptivity during implantation.  There are Western studies galore that point to the positive effects of TCM on infertility.  As an acupuncturist, I refer to these articles to inform me on what I know has been proven to work.

3. Individualized Treatments for your Unique Constitution.  Western studies, impeccable and shatterproof as they are, miss the most important aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  In TCM, we look at both the patient’s symptoms and their unique constitution to create an individualized treatment.  Our treatments address both the “root” of the disorder (i.e. the internal and external systems in the body that are creating the issue) and the “branch” (i.e. the symptoms that occur as a result of underlying imbalances, for instance, infertility.).  Our treatments are designed to specifically address the patient that is in front of us instead of offering a catch-all treatment for every person with infertility or any other disorder for that matter.

You know what is absolutely, positively awe-inspiring about these individualized treatments?  Infertility is such a rapidly expanding field as the growing acceptance of various sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions arrive on the scene.  Our world is now, more than ever, a color wheel of life experiences as opposed to our previous black and white view.  As healthcare begins to address those of non-conforming gender identities and tailor to same-sex couples, individuation in care is essential.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has trail-blazed in providing individualizing care for over 2000 years.  As this traditional field grows to become more inclusive, it can use these humble roots to lead healthcare into a new era.  This new era will provide comprehensive, high quality, informed healthcare where it has previously been denied.

4. Light & Dark Acupuncture. When I treat individuals for infertility, I craft a treatment that is founded in evidence-based research.  These treatments also address my client’s unique make up, and everything taking place in their body at this given moment in time.  I love being present with my patients and creating a space where they can grieve, heal and celebrate on this journey to parenthood.  If you are looking for a professional you can trust to walk through this journey with you, schedule an appointment today.  This is a long, but rewarding adventure that I’d be honored to jump into with you!

Person holding red, inflamed, painful achy knees

Acupuncture for Jarred, Achy Knees

As a tap dancer, my knees have taken the brunt of my quick turns and circle shuffles over the years.  Any good tap dancer will point out that I should be moving from my hip in order to protect my knee.  Well, we all should be doing many things, but we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

I can tell that I am moving from my hip more on my right side and less on my left, because my left knee sends an occasional temper tantrum up to my brain, which causes me to take the class a little more slowly that day.

As a response to this occasional knee pain, I have stuck many a needle into many a knee – including my own.  Electric stimulation of the needles in the knee can interrupt the pain pathway, i.e. the signal being sent by your nervous system to your brain that says, “Hey!  Brain!  There’s some pain in my knee!”  By interrupting and re-setting this pathway, acupuncture can decrease pain.

Additionally, it can strengthen the tendons and ligaments surrounding the knee.  For people who refuse to let a little knee pain get in the way of their passions, this is the most important part of a knee treatment.  Curative medicine is where athletes recover, but preventative medicine is where stars are born.

Below is the link to a great article on the recent science behind treating the osteoarthritis-related knee pain.  Dancers, soccer players, basketball players, and all other athletes of knee-jarring sports, bring me your knees so that you can get back to doing what you love!

http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1572-acupuncture-relieves-arthritis-knee-pain

 

Painting of a couple doing the tangoWhy did I name my practice Light & Dark Acupuncture?

It’s about the dance.

The dance between the light and dark influences in our life.

The dance between feeling healthy, energized, alive and feeling stress, anxiety, pain and illness.

The dance between Eastern medicine and Western medicine.

The dance between science and that which cannot be measured.

The dance between courage and vulnerability.

These unrelenting dances are the guiding principles in my work.  They are never static.  They are always in flux.  I can count on that.  Balance is not a state that can be achieved because the state of our wellness is continuously evolving.

I do not “balance” my patients.  I help my patients achieve a state of flux that serves their health.

The Dance in Spirit

What is Light?

Light is having a sense of humor in the midst of life’s daily chaos.  It is celebrating life.  It is courage, growth, diversity, freedom, and aesthetics.  It is creating community and sharing our experience with others.  It is providing a safe space for my patients to shed light on their darkest corners by encouraging them to talk about their stressors, fears and vulnerabilities.  Most importantly, it is feeling completely accepted even in spite of our faults and failures and feeling connected to those around us.

What is Dark?

Dark is about the hard edges in life.  It’s reality.  We are busy; we make challenging decisions; we see horrific things happening around us and sometimes to us.  No matter how positive and loving we are, these things still exist.  They are our reality.  My patients know that life is hard – there is nothing more debilitating than physical and emotional pain.

“Dark” is in the name of my business because I walk with my patients in their darkness.  I encourage them to look their shadows in the eye and I stay present with them along the way.

I’m not the “Light, Rainbows and Skittles Acupuncturist.”

I will walk to hell with you and sit next to you there if that gives you the courage to face your demons. I treat those who wake up each day to encounter their suffering again, in spite of its insistent nagging.  I see their courage when they cannot.  I honor their warrior spirit as they confront these struggles time and time again.  I bear witness to their pain, so that they are not alone in their experience of it.

Most importantly, I encourage my patients to embrace their faults, failures and imperfections – to love themselves with these and not to disassociate from them.  To side-step the tougher side of life only strengthens a person’s fear of being vulnerable or defeat, and as my dear friend Granddaughter Crow says, “fear wants only one thing – for you to believe it’s real.”

Light & Dark shift their weight from lead to follow, in a magnificent tango called “life.”  I accept you exactly where you are in this perpetual dance between Light & Dark.  After all, constant change is the only consistent thing.

Light & Dark Acupuncture is honored to be your health dance partner.

The Dance in Science

Have you ever heard of the Fluid Mosaic Model of the Cell?  It’s a theory about the structure of a human cell’s membrane.  Trust me, you learned this in middle school, but I know you’ve probably spent the last few decades trying to forget everything you saw and heard in middle school.

It’s basic.  A cell has an outer skin, right? The skin keeps things out of the cell (sort of), and it is called a “membrane.”  On the outside of the membrane there are all kinds of things – proteins, carbohydrate molecules and various other fragments.  Together, all these molecules make a mosaic on the outside of a cell.  That’s why it’s a “mosaic” model.  (Art/science, science/art – the two are inextricably connected! Amazing!)

But where does the “fluid” part come in?

In the history of cell theories, the Fluid Mosaic Model was the first one to recognize the constant state of movement in a human cell – molecules move in and out of the cell membrane.  The mosaic of molecules on the membrane re-position and realign each second.  Microscopic particles flow through the membrane, moving in and out of the cell affecting its electrical charge, its pH, its shape and the activity inside of it.  The cell’s gel-like shape shifts constantly, like the blobs in a lava lamp from the 70’s, or the early 90’s, depending on how old you are… Shit.  Who am I kidding?  The lava lamp shall never die!

The cell is a living, breathing form of intelligence with it’s own fluid-like state of movement – an oscillating dance that never ends.*

*If you would like to learn more about the Fluid Mosaic Model of the Cell, watch this super nerdy, science-rific video on you tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEY9Bie92aM (Mr. Pollock, 2014).

References

Mr. Pollock (2014, October 13).  The Fluid Mosaic Model of the Cell Membrane. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEY9Bie92aM.

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