This month’s article is dedicated to all of our readers wishing to learn more about traditional Chinese medicine. Last month, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Linh Chau, Ph.D. candidate and clinical acupuncture intern at Maryland University of Integrative Health. During our conversation, she shared a lot of evidence-based health knowledge about modern Western medicine as well as traditional Chinese medicine. She indicated that “living well” is indeed an option for all of us. According to Linh Chau, there are several easy and simple steps one can take to lower risks of certain conditions and diseases, like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and certain cancers – to name a few. This article provides a general overview of traditional Chinese medicine and a list of resources for additional information. A few words of wisdom by Lihn Chau are also shared.
Is traditional Chinese medicine recognized in the U.S.?
Yes. Traditional Chinese medicine is recognized and gaining popularity in Western countries. In fact, information about traditional Chinese medicine is provided by leading health agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) and WebMD. The NIH has dedicated a center to study these practices. It funds ongoing research of many therapies to determine their health benefits and risks. The new name of the center is NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health (NCCIH).
What is traditional Chinese medicine?
According to the NIH, CDC and WebMD, traditional Chinese medicine originated in ancient China and has existed for thousands of years. Practitioners use various mind and body practices, like acupuncture and Tai Chi to treat or prevent health problems. Acupuncture is a technique that involves pressing on pressure points in the body that are connected to the organs by meridians. Each point can have multiple functions. According to experts, acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause potentially serious side effects. In the United States, people use traditional Chinese medicine primarily as a complementary health approach.
Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the idea that an energy called qi (pronounced “chee”) flows along pathways in the body called meridians. The belief is that illness and diseases occur if the flow of qi along these meridians is blocked or unbalanced. It focuses on the balance between body, mind and spirit. This is commonly expressed as “yin and yang.”
Some examples of factors that may cause “imbalances” include wind, cold or heat (known as external forces); emotions like joy, worry, stress, anger or fear (known as internal forces); and poor diet, low levels of physical activity, lack of sleep, dehydration/not drinking enough water, excessive alcohol intake and smoking (known as lifestyle factors).
Sometimes herbs and herbal products are used in Chinese medicine. Some herbs used can contaminate or interact with other drugs, and thus have serious side effects. Talk with your doctor to learn more how herbal products can affect you.
Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to the NIH and CDC, for most conditions, there is not enough rigorous scientific evidence to know whether these therapies (methods) work for the conditions for which they are being used. Today, the NIH NCCIH funds ongoing research of many therapies to determine their effectiveness as well as health benefits and risk.
Words of Wisdom by Linh Chau
Linh Chau says, “Living well is indeed an option for people. Good health is important. People need to learn how to take good care of themselves.”
The following are a few easy and simple ways that people can live well. These are general recommendations recognized by both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine: Maintain a healthful weight with proper exercise and diet. Get plenty of rest. Drink water. Eat at least five daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit processed foods high in salt, saturated fat, sugar and additives/preservatives. This is sometimes called the “Western diet.” And, yes, “one must pay attention to his or her body. The body tells you a lot by signs and symptoms.”
Making lifestyle changes is never easy. The good news is that small changes can make big difference. This gives us a lot of hope for having good health, living a better life.
To learn more about traditional Chinese medicine, visit the following links: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cdc.gov; National Institutes of Health, National Center of Complimentary and Integrated Health, nih.gov; and WebMD Cancer Health Center, webmd.com.
Visit your doctor to learn more about ways to lower your risk for conditions of the heart, lungs, skin, bone, teeth as well as diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease to name a few; and approaches to maintaining good health.
A full article highlighting traditional Chinese medicine food recipes for the fall season will be featured in a future La Voz Latina Central health column – so stay tuned.
Take good care of yourself, and send your health questions to ¡Hola, Oralia! at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy. ¡Salud!