Integrating Eastern and Western Techniques Into Everyday Medicine

originally published on Healthcare.DMagazine.com

When applied to healthcare, the term integration often implies an interdisciplinary approach: collaboration amongst physicians and healthcare professionals who communicate with each other to decide upon the optimal treatment protocol of a patient. The goal may be to treat a particular disease or set of issues, or it may be to attain and maintain a state of overall good health. It also implies the use of various treatments by a practitioner to bring a patient back to balance mentally, emotionally, and physically rather than focusing solely on the chief complaint.

No doubt, we would all agree that being in a state of good or, better yet, perfect health is the desired goal. As complex beings, good health means not only being disease-free, but also implies excellent functioning of the biological, emotional, and social systems, which are interdependent and interrelated. What happens in any one of those systems has ramifications in the other systems—just as the ripple effect of putting a drop of red paint into a bucket of white paint, or putting a teaspoon of salt into a pot of boiling water affects or influences a change in one area it spreads throughout the whole.

While we could all agree that integration is a good idea, we must also recognize that we have choices about the types of treatments that we select to integrate. For instance, one paradigm would be a group clinic of Western-trained specialists consulting and working together in treating a patient. The consulting providers might involve internists, radiologists, social workers or psychologists, oncologists, and surgeons. Each practitioner would have input based upon their expertise using the tools in their armamentarium with an emphasis on medications and hi-tech diagnostic procedures. Each physician or service provider would be highly skilled and focused on treating one aspect of the patient’s disorder.

An Eastern approach based on traditional Chinese medicine would involve the integration of ancient proven techniques such as: acupuncture, acupressure, herbs and natural supplements, diet, exercise—all of which are designed to create, restore, and maintain a state of balance and harmony within the body and mind. Such practices are natural and noninvasive. Eastern-trained clinicians are generally educated and trained in other complimentary and innovative techniques that are integrated into a patient’s treatment plan. The focus is to modulate, release, and redirect the body’s own energy to seek and maintain its natural state of homeostasis.

The concept of working on the energy system of the body is one of the most trying concepts in bringing about a true amalgamation of Western and Eastern medicine. I would like here to present a perspective that brings us to the ultimate. Imagine you are with a patient who is dying. First he is alive and two seconds later he is dead. What is the difference between the first state and the second? Two seconds after death, the blood is still there; hormones are still there; neurotransmitters are still there; the nervous system is intact. There is no life force making any of those processes do what they did two seconds before. This is the energy that we are talking about when we talk about energy from an Eastern perspective. It is what heals us and keeps us functioning optimally so that we can go through the full range of human experience without having our attention drawn to our elbow, our anxiety, or our allergies. Certainly we can measure with modern lab tests that there are changes in physiology when specific acupuncture points are stimulated. We can demonstrate that WBC, RBC, cytokine, and hormone balance are altered after acupuncture. However, it is not acting directly on the blood, gland, or thymus that elicits these changes, but rather the underlying energy system that drives every aspect of our physiology.

Whereas both the integrated Western approach and the integrated Eastern approach address the resolution of symptoms, the integrated Eastern approach addresses the whole system to find out the underlying reasons for the chemical imbalance in the brain necessitating the use of SSRIs or the underlying reason that someone is having a hormonal imbalance that necessitates the use of HRT. Western medicine often seems quicker, as in the removal of a tumor, which takes care of the offending issue. Eastern medicine seems slower as it requires differentiating and observing changes of patterns over a period of time, as in acupuncture and practicing Tai Chi to regulate the flow of blood and Qi.

Healthcare is not just a matter of choice, i.e., plan A or plan B as in an insurance plan. Education, experience, and insights are the key factors. This applies not only to the patient but also to the healthcare practitioner(s) from whom the treatments are provided. In order to achieve optimum health and obtain excellent care, it is required that the patient take responsibility for his/her own body and life, and works with a knowledgeable doctor who is committed to treating the person who has the problem, and not simply treating the problem that the person has. It is a collaborative effort. The patient’s attitude is as important as the training and experience of his/her doctors.

It is fortuitous that healthcare has become such a popular and public topic. People are open minded in sharing information and learning how to live up to their natural birthright in staying healthy and happy as high functioning members of the society.

In expanding the concept of microcosm to macrocosm…what happens for one happens for all. A Chinese philosopher stated, “A change in one person can affect the course of a nation and change history.” The healthier each one of us strives to be, the stronger we can become personally, as a society, and even as a global community.

Credentialed in both Eastern and Western modalities of medicine, Iva Lim Peck is a co-founder of the Integrated Center for Oriental Medicine in Plano.


Treating Autoimmune Disease with the Integrated Model

The rates of autoimmunity have exploded worldwide. The number of known cases of autoimmunity in the United State is staggering. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. The most common autoimmune disorders today include hypothyroidism, celiac disease, pernicious anemia, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

The majority of people with hypothyroidism have antibodies that attack their thyroid, thus an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. Celiac disease causes antibodies to the intestinal enzyme transglutaminase in response to dietary gluten, the protein found in wheat. Pernicious anemia is a B-12 anemia caused by antibodies against intrinsic factor, the transport protein for B-12. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are inflammatory bowel diseases that involve autoimmunity to the large intestine, and rheumatoid arthritis involves autoimmunity to joint cartilage.

Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, from our extensive experience, we found that not just treating with acupuncture and oriental medicine but integrating other innovative techniques helped to optimize our outcome.  Acupuncture and oriental medicine is the foundation of all our treatment protocols. Acupuncture is noted especially for pain management, immune and hormonal regulation, addictions, digestive regulation, etc.

From the oriental medicine perspective, we counsel patients on the functional medicine necessary to treat the root cause of the disease.  Innovative techniques include NAET (Nambudripad Allergy Ellimination Technique ), an extremely effective technique that can successfully desensitize allergies, as well as improve the assimilation of essential nutrients and NET (NeuroEmotional Technique ), a technique that enables a person to be free from emotions that had caused physiological changes and restrictions allowing one to move forward in life, career, health and in relationships with others.  Functional Medicine approaches the body from the perspective of treating the root cause of disease.

Our next few posts will help you understand what causes autoimmune diseases, how acupuncture and the Integrated model can be used to treat autoimmune diseases, and how to enhance your endocrine system, which is essential in the prevention of autoimmune diseases and important in many other regulatory functions.

Contact ICFOM for more information on how acupuncture can help treat autoimmune disorders.


What this means to the patient?

(an excerpt from “What Causes Disease and What Heals” by NetMindBody.com)

Both camps have scientific support within their own practices and standards. Which camp is more meaningful to the patient is determined by what he or she perceives health to be. If the patient thinks that the absence of symptoms is health, then drugs (mechanistically based) are likely to appear attractive. For example, pain-killing drugs eliminate the symptom of pain.

On the other hand, if the patient knows that most “diseases,” especially the major killers of today, are relatively symptomatically quiet until their final stages, he or she may have a different (and vitalistic) definition of health—which may include the concept of optimum functioning of all cells and systems of the body, regardless of symptoms. This patent knows that a person who is symptom free today may have a heart attack tomorrow. In addition, patients today generally realize all allopathic drugs have side effects. Thus, more and more people are turning to alternative health care.

Vitalistic practitioners do use symptoms to guide them to the CAUSE of symptoms. Within the practice of any vitalistic approach, a practitioner may utilize observable mechanisms to free the vital energy. Allopathic mechanistic medicine does have its place, and emergency medicine is a good example of this.

Thus, if a person has a heart attack or any other symptom, what is the best question to ask? An allopathically minded person may well ask, “What drug do I take?” A vitalistically minded person has at least two questions: “What CAUSED this problem?” and “How do I naturally correct this cause so my body can heal (vitalistically) itself?”

If you ask what caused the problem, then an appropriate course of action can take place. So then comes the question: “What causes ‘disease’?” In the alternative health field, we use the term “dis-ease” to denote that ill health is a lack of ease, rather than an entity. In general, Mechanists are interested in the “disease,” rather than the host organism. In general, Vitalists are interested in the host organism and reject the idea of “disease” being an entity. The bottom line is that Vitalists are interested in causes.


What Heals?

(an excerpt from “What Causes Disease and What Heals” by NetMindBody.com)

“It is important to realize that drugs, powders, potions and lotions don’t heal. Nor do chiropractic, medicine, acupuncture and psychotherapy. Doctors don’t heal. Only the wisdom of the body heals.”

Scott Walker, D.C.

Two Schools of Thought – Mechanism vs. Vitalism

The doctrine of mechanism holds that ALL natural phenomena can be explained by material causes and mechanical principles. Most mechanistic practitioner today use drugs and surgery. These methods FORCE the body to change. The doctrine of vitalism holds that life processes are guided by non material vital principle and are, thus, unable to be fully explained as physical and chemical phenomena. Most vitalistic practitioners today use natural methods which ALLOW the body to change itself.

In his book, “Divided Legacy: A History of the Schism in Medical Thought,” Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D., observes that over the thousands of years of recorded history, two main philosophical camps of practitioners have repeatedly clashed over this exact question, “What heals?” This brings to mind another question, which must be answered first, “What makes or usually keeps the body healthy in the first place?” The two camps are “Mechanism” and “Vitalism.” Each viewpoint has had its peaks and valleys of popularity and usage. In this last century, mechanistic practices (allopathic medicine) have peaked and are now falling, as Vitalism (alternative health care) ascends.

Thus, we have the health care revolution we are now witnessing. To underscore this revolution, a study by D. M. Eisenberg (JAMA 1998 Nov 11; 280 (18): 1569) stated, “Extrapolations to the US population suggest a 47.3% increase in total visits to alternative medicine practitioners, from 427 million in 1990 to 629 million in 1997, thereby exceeding total visits to all US primary care physicians.”

Although there is some cross over, most “US primary care physicians” are in the camp of Mechanism. Most alternative health care practitioners are in the camp of Vitalism.

Continue to “What does this mean to the patient?


What Causes Disease?

 (an excerpt from “What Causes Disease and What Heals” by NetMindBody.com)

The cause of disease, according to many, is a lack of circulation. Circulation here refers to the circulation of the vital force known in China as Chi. To practitioners in other parts of the world, it is also known as Prana (India), Ki (Japan), Pneuma (Ancient Greece) and a dozen or so other names.

Acupuncturists have said the cure for disease is the circulation of this vital force. The chiropractic profession calls this vital force “innate intelligence.” No matter what you call it, many health care professionals have observed that when innate intelligence or vital force is freed from blockages, healing occurs. Chiropractors traditionally use spinal adjustments to free the life energy; acupuncturists use needles on congested acupoints and other vitalistic professionals use other methods to that same end. Nutritionists recommend foods containing this life force. Homeopathic doctors give remedies to remove energy blocks to this vital life force circulation, and the list goes on.

Go to “What Heals?“.