Hello. I am Tatsuki – and I am currently studying Chinese Medicine.
Many people have asked me about my reasons for studying Chinese Medicine – including my friends from IMU who have known me for the past 5 years. – yes, you have read that right. I have been in IMU for the past 5 years, in MBBS. I have joined the Chinese Medicine course immediately after graduating from MBBS, and started my classes even before my convocation.
I have joined the Chinese Medicine course immediately after graduating from MBBS, and started my classes even before my convocation.
I do have some very good reasons to pursue this 5 year course – and since I have had to explain myself a lot of times, (sometimes it is just tempting to say “WHY NOT?” depending on the tone of the question) I thought it would be great to just point out things, give a complete explanation, and also hopefully encourage some people to study a bit of Chinese Medicine as well.
Being in IMU-MBBS (non-PMS), I have seen many strengths and weaknesses of the Western Medical system.
Western Medicine is the more mainstream form of healthcare nowadays – and this is true in many nations, all over the world. It is the choice of healthcare by a vast majority of the public. However, many do not know that Western Medicine – like all things in the universe – has its limitations.
Medicine has had its first great victory over diseases probably in the advent of antibiotics by Sir Alexander Fleming, and among other things, evidence-based approach to disease. Medicine works by proving that certain specific remedies work for certain specific diseases, by providing a very concise explanation for it – just like how penicillin works against several bacterial infections by effectively shedding the bacterial cell wall during bacterial division – which has been proven by close observations.
Western medicine is pretty awesome when it comes to bacterial infections (until now), surgically correctable diseases like congenital heart defects, and in minimizing obstetric complications through hand-washing and careful perinatal care. The statistics shows great success in these kinds of fields.
One of the many success of western medicine – hand washing.
However, just like I mentioned, nothing in this world is perfect- Western Medicine has its flaws. To name a few;
- The over-emphasis on reductionism and disease-centered approach
to a doctor – in short, you need a diagnosis to be treated. It is difficult to treat a patient with a tummy ache and nausea despite having found nothing upon an endoscopy. On the other hand, if you have a gastric ulcer, we can patch that up, get your anaemia sorted if you have any, prescribe you some proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and check to see if your uninvited guest (H. pylori) needs to be asked to leave. It seems as if only severe patients get the ticket to admission of western medicine.
- Difficulty of integration of body-mind-soul. The WHO model of health states that our health comprises of wellness in terms of physical, mental and social health. But can you see a doctor for having trouble finding friends in university? It might sound absurd, but who says we should regard physical health over our mental and social health? Aren’t they all supposed to be important?
- Over generalization of humans and remedies. When you have a headache, you usually either get some rest, get a panadol, or aspirin that comes in the same sized pills for all. For whose convenience? We are all human, but we know we have subtle differences (or huge differences, if you feel that way). Shouldn’t therapies be based on each of us as individuals?
- Emphasis on fixing the broken – We see sick people in the hospital all the time. But what we are really seeing are previously healthy people that may have stayed that way, if they have had some intervention before they showed on our doorstep. We are failing on preventive measures, and every day we see legs that get amputated that could have stayed with the patient if s/he had known the importance of glycemic control, or even better – a healthy lifestyle.
Chinese Medicine or other traditional medicine (e.g. Ayurveda) on the other hand for instance, focuses on the way of living to prevent diseases, and strengthening of our natural defence mechanisms to combat diseases.
In Chinese medicine, the bodily defence mechanism may be described as 正气（Zheng qi), which combats intrinsic or extrinsic ‘evil’ pathogens, 邪气（XieQi). There is emphasis on the importance of balance – of Yin and Yang (阴阳) – which may be described as equilibrium or, in medical terms, homeostasis.
Chinese medicine may categorize the types of people by 5 elements – Fire, Wood, Earth, Water, and Metal. Ayuvedic medicine may categorize a person into a mixture of 3 constitutions – pitta, vata and kapha, which influence the following remedy to a great extent. Traditional medicine places heavy emphasis on individualized diagnosis and management.
The five element theory
There are many more concepts in traditional medicine that resemble modern understanding of human physiology, and the treatments prescribed by trained practitioners are well-founded on these principles.
Each therapy is individualised – for instance in Chinese medicine, the early stages of Cold is treated perhaps with herbs 麻黄 (Ma Huang) if the patient is a fit male who can eat well, but桂枝( Gui Zhi) when the patient seems to be frail and cannot tolerate the diaphoretic potential of Ma Huang.
The mode of therapy itself is varied. In the 皇帝内劲“Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine”, which is attributed to the Yellow Emperor who reigned 3000BC – there were already methods of Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Herbal therapy, and Tuina (massage) therapy, all depending on the type of people who needed the treatment. By taking into consideration the demographic and geographical factors, the ancient Chinese invented a variety of treatment methods to suit the patient.
Chinese Medicine is a holistic care system – the common belief amongst practitioners of Chinese Medicine is that the mind and the body are never independent of each other. Intense anger may damage the liver, sorrow weakens the heart, and pensive thinking may disturb the spleen and stomach. Everything we do in our daily lives affects our health – our diet, exercise, and sleep-wake cycle has close relationships with our health. The ancient Chinese believed that diet was of great importance in maintenance of health – 五穀為養、五果為助、五畜為益、五菜為充、気味合而服之、以補益精気 (the five grains nurture, five fruits help, five meat supplement, five vegetables fulfil our five organs). Each food has specific effects on various aspects of human physiology and it is possible to alter our diet to supplement or fortify our homeostatic control of health.
Intense anger may damage the liver, sorrow weakens the heart, and pensive thinking may disturb the spleen and stomach.
Integrative medicine – an amalgamation of Western medicine and other complementary medicine – is not only possible, but is currently being practised by many doctors and practitioners. In Japan, for instance, where I come from, only doctors are allowed to prescribe Chinese herbal medications, as the government recognizes herbs as medications – and some Japanese doctors (with western medicine degree and practising license) have used Chinese herbal medication, or Kampo (漢方as) we call them, and been having good clinical results. Most doctors express that it is nice to have an alternative method of therapy, when western medicine therapy is exhausted. A good example is a patient with ‘functional dyspepsia’ – where patient may complain of gastric disturbance symptoms with no discernable cause, and all investigations return negative. In this case, some doctors may try alternative medicine, and for some, it may work.
If you are a doctor who does and recommends yoga to your patients, than you are already practicing integrative medicine!
Most doctors express that it is nice to have an alternative method of therapy, when western medicine therapy is exhausted.
At the end of this long article, I would just like to summarize my reasons for pursuing this course. The realm of healthcare is a never-ending winding road, which I have just found out at the end of MBBS course. I made a choice to take the road less taken, and to see if I can find something new to benefit more people. I will not abandon western medicine, but rather I would like to learn as many things as possible during this course which may benefit my future patients.
I made a choice to take the road less taken, and to see if I can find something new to benefit more people. I will not abandon western medicine, but rather I would like to learn as many things as possible during this course which may benefit my future patients.
A lucky guy, blessed with family and friends. A jack-of-all-trades student, swimmer, singer, guitarist, and master of procrastination.