Tuesday, August 14, 2012

                     Blog # 6:  The Five Elements in Asian Medicine, Our Bodies, and the World
     The previous five blogs addressed topics involving the five elements in Asian Medicine (AM):  metal (air), water, wood (trees, eye exercises), fire, and earth (organic farming).  Today, we cover how these five elements correspond to internal and sensory organs, and to the world in general, and how AM, which includes acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, massage, meditation, qi gong, and moxabustion can help balance these five elements in the human body.
     AM five element treatments and other holistic therapies can often effectively address imbalances in internal organ function, especially when the problems have arisen fairly recently.  For this reason, it is often wise to consult a holistic health professional first for many issues.  If necessary, the health professional will refer you out for more conventional care, involving medication or surgery.  The chart below gives some five elements correspondences.  Refer to it to help clarify the rest of this blog. 
Internal Organs
Sensory Organs
Lung/Large Intestine
Liver/Gall Bladder
Heart/Small Intestine; Pericardium/Triple Warmer
Late Summer;
Between Seasons
Spleen, Pancreas/
Mouth and Lips
       The five elements can be linked in an endless circle which can be entered at any element.  As a rule, any strong element A has a nurturing, strengthening effect on element B immediately following A, and has a subduing, counteracting effect on element C, which follows B.  Looking at our country’s unusually warm, weak 2011-12 winter and its effects on our environment and health from a five element standpoint, we would see this:  a deficient winter resulted in an atypical spring which was hotter and longer than usual, with some late freezes, resulting in early budding vegetation followed by considerable frost damage, plus more mold and pollen than usual, resulting in more allergic symptoms, especially itchy eyes (the sensory organ of spring/wood).  Spring 2012 was also less windy than usual, since wind results from a strong warm front meeting a strong cold front.  A strong, cold winter (A) would have made the spring (B) more typical, and also would have subdued the summer (C).   Since winter was weak, summer is/was excessively hot and dry, with severe, widespread forest fires, and the worst droughts the U.S. has suffered in many decades.  People had more fevers, respiratory problems, hot flashes, heat stroke, and heat-related deaths than usual this summer.  If there is no intervention in the cycle (i.e. cold air currents from the arctic) late summer and autumn may also be unseasonably warm.
     Humans and other organisms experience five element patterns within their bodies.  Imbalances can often be observed and corrected through AM.  An example:  Joe has weak kidneys (the water element).  That means his kidneys (A) are unable to cool his body sufficiently; they cannot handle or balance fluids properly and therefore do not rid his body of enough toxins to maintain good health.  As a result, the liver (B) is stressed and inflamed (too warm) from handling an increased toxic load.  Because the liver is inflamed, this will tend to inflame the heart (C) as well.  The kidneys also may not be filtering enough water to maintain safe levels sodium and potassium, and this can stress the heart.  Weak kidney function has many causes, including: 1. dehydration or insufficient fluid intake, 2. damage from medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, Aspirin, or naproxen, some antibiotics and blood pressure medications, and 3. over-consumption of toxic substances such as alcohol, cocaine, and heavy metals (i.e. cadmium, lead, mercury).  It is essential to correct the root causes of Joe’s weak kidneys, which in this case are staying out in the sun too long without drinking enough water to compensate for fluids lost through sweat, his over-indulgence in alcohol, plus his regular use of ibuprofen to alleviate low back pain, which can itself be a symptom of poor kidney function.  It is important to also support his weak kidneys with AM or another holistic therapy and thus help them regain normal function as soon as possible so that negative impact on other internal organs can be minimized or avoided.  Uncorrected kidney deficiency will eventually result in excessive liver heat/fire and in symptoms such as headaches, hot flashes, and red, itchy eyes.  If this imbalance is allowed to go on even longer, it will affect the fire element (the heart), and hypertension or certain types of heart problems can develop, such as angina, rapid heartbeat and cardiac arrhythmias.  If the kidney deficiency continues even longer, the earth element will be impacted and digestive problems such as heartburn, ulcers, gastric reflux and decreased appetite can develop. 
     Fortunately, unpleasant symptoms will probably motivate Joe to eliminate the roots of his problem, assuming he can recognize these roots.  An acupuncturist’s thorough history-taking, as well as skilled pulse and tongue diagnosis can help identify the root causes of health problems.  AM treatment can also help resolve these problems.  A few of many treatment options follow.  Specific acupuncture points can dramatically subdue inflammation and help cool and moisten the kidney (water) element.  Many herbs disperse heat/inflammation and tonify the water element.  A few non-toxic, herbs are green tea, watermelon seeds, turmeric, and nettles.  Food and drink, such as water, vegetable and fruit juices, watermelon, cucumber, tomato, celery, green leafy vegetables, berries (especially cranberries), cherries, grapes, apples, and red bell peppers can be helpful.  These foods must be organically grown;  pesticides cause inflammation and will put further strain on kidneys and liver.  Qi gong exercises, like the six healing sounds plus almost any standing and moving qi gong forms, such as eight pieces of silk, “kick and swing” exercises, and “mental physics” exercises, or brisk walking all can help the kidneys and liver. 
     Please share this blog with others.  This month’s offer: make an appointment at my office for a complementary pulse and tongue diagnosis.  This does not apply to patients I am currently treating.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

                                                             Why Organic?    

     Conventional farming uses pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  Organic farming minimizes pesticides and uses natural, nutrient-rich fertilizers.  Pesticides exert stress on the liver and kidneys and can negatively impact digestion, detoxification, the immune system, and energy level.  Most pesticides used today have an estrogenic and, eventually, a mutagenic effect on the body.  This means that the person who is exposed to pesticides, whether through diet, skin contact, or inhalation, will be more likely to suffer from such symptoms as fatigue, edema, food sensitivities, rashes and other skin outbreaks, irritable bowel syndrome, infertility, depression, and reduced mental concentration.  They will also be more likely to develop degenerative ailments, such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s, disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Biodynamic farming, an even more holistic approach to farming than organic, uses natural composts, treats farm animals humanely, and synchronizes planting and harvesting with times of day and phases of the moon.
     Our soil has been adulterated by chemical fertilizers and depleted through continuous planting and harvesting without times of rest, i.e. a fallow year after several years of farming.  Crops pull nutrients from the soil in order to grow, and these nutrients are often not fully replaced.  Fewer nutrients in the soil results in fewer nutrients in crops, and therefore less nutrients for humans and other animals to absorb from food.  Instead of using nutrient-rich fertilizers such as mushroom compost, vegetable compost, liquid kelp, or manure from grass fed, organically raised cows, conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers that only replace a few lost minerals – usually just phosphorous, nitrogen, sulfur, potassium, and calcium.  Even these minerals are not replenished completely by chemical fertilizers.   Produce and animal products from large, organic farms are less toxic and more nutrient-rich than the products from conventional farms.   We can enjoy and benefit from even better nutrition by shopping at organic farmers markets or growing food in our homes, yards, or community gardens.  Indoor or backyard composting is one way to enrich our soil and decrease household waste at the same time.  Check out Urban Worm Girl, a Chicago-based home composting non-profit.  Nutritional products, such as herbal tonics and some vitamin and mineral supplements made from food rather than chemicals, can help make up for some of the nutrients lacking in today’s diets.  Some companies which sell excellent vitamin products include Shaklee, Standard Process, and The Synergy Company. 
     GMO agriculture is relatively new; there is not yet sufficient data to predict how these products will affect the world’s populations.  What we do know is that a significant number of people have developed sensitivities and allergies to wheat, corn, soy, and other genetically modified crops.   This does not bode well for the future of more sensitive people, since more and more crops are being modified in this way.  Some European countries are boycotting GMO crops. 
     Some of the most striking arguments for eating organically grown food can be found in chapters 23 and 24 of A Cancer Therapy Results of Fifty Cases, written by Max Gerson, M.D., copyright 1958.  Ground-breaking then, it is still highly relevant today.  I recommend that you obtain the book and read it.  It can be found at the public library and can be purchased in paperback or as an e-book. 
     This month’s offer:  bring in your nutritional supplements plus a week’s food diary and I will make suggestions about changes you can make to improve your energy level and health.  There will be a charge of $50.00 for this service, and insurance does not apply.  Please share this blog with others.