Or Traditional Chinese Medicine vs Western Medicine
What is the difference between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine? Besides the fact that insurance companies routinely pay for Western Medicine and rarely for TCM, there are some differences in philosophy that it would be wise for consumers to pay attention to.
For the most part, Western medicine specializes; diseases happen in isolation; individual symptoms are addressed and attended with drug therapy or surgery. The body is a separate entity from the life it lives.
As I write this, I’m thinking, “Can that possibly be a true statement?” I’ve not asked a Western Medical Doctor. So surely I’ve oversimplified.
But then I think back on my own medical history. Though it seems impossible that an entire industry and an enormous professional community believes in the separatist theory of medicine, well, the fact is, even if they don’t, they practice as if they do.
Where Western medicine believes in separating specialties, symptoms and curatives, TCM looks at the body as a more holistic system. An interplay of energy and matter that is in balance and working or out of balance and dysfunctional.
To be fair, I suppose is it possible that because the Western Medicine is so entrenched in its processes, specializations and history, there’s no way out. They are locked into a compartmentalized way of healing and unweaving the entrenched beliefs or opening antiquated minds just isn’t going to happen in my lifetime. So where does that leave those of us who need medical options?
To anyone who has followed any kind of alternative or natural healing, this is not a groundbreaking concept. It’s an argument that shouldn’t need to be argued. Yet if everyone knew what we know, everyone would have acupuncturists and TCM doctors assisting us with our health. And it would be paid for by insurance.
So let’s take this one step at a time. Let’s talk about functional medicine. Here is where TCM is far ahead of Western Medicine. Recently my thyroid hormone was increased by my endocrinologist. I’m on thyroid hormone because I was prescribed it long ago – though I’ve recently found out I actually didn’t need it when they prescribed it, but I do now and will need it for the rest of my life because I’ve been taking it for so long.
Anyway, for the first time in years, with my increased dosage, I feel better. I think I feel the way I’m supposed to feel. The way a healthy person feels when they are eating right, getting exercise and are reasonably happy. When they make a change in thyroid medicine they will test you about six weeks out to see how the new dosage is working. My six-week test came back “toxic,” meaning the new dosage was too high. They wanted to lower my dosage back to where it was. I said no and asked for another test in two weeks time. Again, the test came back toxic. Again I refused to change. Functionally I feel fine. But according to the ranges I am toxic.
I began to question the normal ranges that tell me I’m in the toxic range.
Do you know how ranges are defined? Do you know that ranges increase, the sicker the population?
What? Really? Yes, really. Normal range is defined as the average of maximum and minimum tests in a geographic area. So for thyroid, the data that puts me into toxic range is the average of a compilation of testing done on other people. Never mind that I might feel good, or bad, that normal for me turns out to be not normal for anyone else.
As I pushed the nurse practitioner about ranges and just what happens when I’m defined as toxic, she began to tell me that for my particular condition, it’s actually better to be right where I am. I run less risk of my immune system getting engaged and attacking my thyroid. She gave me symptoms to look out that would signal I’ve fallen further down the toxic hole and left my med prescription where it was – where I was functioning better than I have in years. Had I not been so stubborn….
In TCM, they don’t use ranges, they look at the body as a system. They don’t separate the life lived from the body that lives it and they take into account the connection between mind, body and spirit. With TCM I wouldn’t have been given drugs in the first place. Instead they would have addressed the blocks to my energy balance. So now, I work around the thyroid issue, accepting what is for what is. But I see an acupuncturist for the blocks that created the condition in the first place. And I turn to TCM first when I need healthcare.