Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Humble pie

Had me a slice of it recently. After my visit with Dr. Cao over the holidays, my stubborn symptoms persisted. In the middle of a sleepless, fevered night, sitting up on the couch, coughing so hard I was seeing spots, I knew something was seriously wrong. I made the decision to call a doctor first thing in the morning.

This was a big step for me. I normally don't go to the doctor. Ever. I grew up with my mom who is an alternative healer, and now she is also an acupuncturist. My whole life, I took herbs and hot baths instead of antibiotics.

I remember when I was about 13 years old, my gym teacher suggested I get tested for exercise-induced asthma. My mom took me to the doctor, and the poor thing tried to give me a steroid inhaler. My mom refused, saying steroids would do more harm than good, and then whispered to me that we would try some herbs instead. The doctor actually cried. I think she thought I was being raised by wolves.

My mom was always adamant that we have health insurance. Just in case. But, for everyday maladies--physical, emotional, and spiritual--we had much more effective tools at our disposal.

On New Year's Eve morning, as I frantically googled doctors and clinics in the neighborhood, I couldn't help but feel a little defeated. Why didn't Chinese medicine take care of it? Why couldn't I heal myself without western medicine? I'm an acupuncturist for Pete's sake! I have all the tools at my disposal. Darn it.

The PA listened to my lungs and told me I had pneumonia. Two thoughts went through my mind: "Pneumonia!? Really!?" And, "At least it's a dragon that out-smarted my Chinese medical sword, and not some rookie beast." Okay, not in those words exactly.

I took everything she gave me -- the inhaler, the hard-core antibiotics, even the prescription strength cough syrup with codeine so I could finally get some rest. Nothing holistic about it, I was desperate to feel better and to stop rescheduling my patients. It's funny, I think most people come to alternative medicine as a last resort, after they've exhausted all western medical options. I'm the complete opposite.

But I did start to feel better. Within 8 hours. After being sick for two weeks, this seemed like nothing short of a miracle. I have never been so grateful for western medicine in my life.

As a former pre-med student / medicine woman's daughter / acupuncturist, I am reminded how important it is to combine healing modalities to achieve optimum health. I have always believed this to be true, but never more so than I do now.

Now that I am completely recovered, thanks to western medicine and Chinese herbs, I am insanely grateful for my health, and my sense of compassion is renewed for people who are sick.

This has been one of the coldest winters we've had in Colorado. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Take it from me.

1) Wear a scarf! In Chinese medicine, Wind enters the body through the nape of the neck and the lower back, which then turns into Wind Cold and Wind Heat, otherwise known as the common cold or flu. Keep these areas covered during the winter.

2) Don't over-extend yourself. Conserve your energy. In Chinese medicine, your qi (or energy) sinks inward and downward during the winter. Get in touch with your inner bear and enjoy hibernation mode.

3) Eat right. Sugar is scientifically known to compromise or temporarily shut down your immune system. Do your body a favor and minimize your sugar intake during winter months.  

5) Stay warm. In Chinese medicine, it is true that you actually get a cold from being out in the cold. Those old wives knew what they were talking about.

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