Dr. John Aguilar, Jr, DAOM, EAMP

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

What Your Cravings Reveal: Part IV

In Diet on December 29, 2010 at 11:16 am

Wrapping up our review of food cravings and the therapeutic indications and actions of the five flavors, here, we’ll discuss sour and bitter.

In my clinical experience, the most commonly craved flavors are sweet, salty, and spicy. These last two, sour and bitter, are much less common. However, they are associated with specific internal organ systems and have specific effects on the body, so they are very much worth mentioning and keeping in mind for health.

Technically, sour is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder systems. Physiologically, it is astringent and absorbs (which makes sense, if you think of the puckering reaction when you bite into something really sour, like a lemon.)

Medicinally, this flavor would be used for cases of excessive ‘leaking’ or loss of energy or resources, examples being certain types of diarrhea, seminal emission, or uncontrolled, excessive sweating. However, I rarely see an actual craving for this flavor for such conditions.

Incorporation of sour into one’s diet (in moderation and in relative balance with the other flavors) is important as it is the dietary representative of, and stimulates, the liver and gallbladder systems. As with the other flavors, too much sour negatively effects its associated systems, and this is especially important with sour.

Most of us tend towards obstruction and blockage of the liver system (think frustration, anger, irritability, depression, and the like). This is relieved not with sour, but with spicy, which moves qi and energy. Too much sour can actually astringe to the point of causing blockage. It is, therefore, best when combined with the other flavors, as is so often seen in popular dishes, such as all those that are based on “sweet and sour”.

Bitter is perhaps a little more popular, with cravings for dark chocolate and (black) coffee. (Hmm, what is it, exactly, that you crave when you are wanting some chocolate? It may be the sweet, maybe the creamy, or maybe that sweet combined with that bitterness…)

Bitter is associated with the heart system (perhaps you’ve seen the recent research on dark chocolate and heart health???), clears pathological heat, and may have either a drying or purging effect, depending on the source of the bitter.

The heart system is of the Fire Phase (the Five Phases or Elements being Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire) and is the seat of consciousness. It is said that each organ system is associated with a particular emotion, e.g. Liver – Anger, Lungs – Grief/Sorrow, and so on, but that it is the heart that actually experiences the emotions, as the seat of consciousness.

The heart, being of the Fire phase, and the actual experiencer of emotions, quickly tends to generate excessive heat, the flames of the fire burning fiercely. I believe this is especially common in modern society where it is so easy and accepted to have one’s emotions constantly stimulated; we tend to run a little manic, as a group :).

Bitter coffee can drain some of that heat. Of course, this is far from appropriate therapy, as coffee also depletes our core reserves of energy (turning it into an immediately usable ‘burst’ of energy – hence the pick up effect – unless it just drains you, as is common with a small, but significant, portion of the population).

Interestingly, a lot of people combine their coffee with sugar and cream, i.e. substances that boost energy (sweet) and replenish yin-reserves (cream). All in all, the popularity of coffee, really, can be seen as a somewhat complex attempt at self-medication.

Now, as with all the flavors, if this occurrs on an infrequent occasion, thus indicating medicinal effectiveness (it makes the problem actually go away), then perhaps it is truly “ok” self-medication. However, if it occurs on a regular basis, without the underlying need subsiding, then the body’s real imbalance is not being addressed…

And if you’re paying attention, you may just catch this. You may notice, “Whoa – I drink coffee everyday – I need to drink coffee everyday!” At that point, you can investigate what’s really going on and provide for your body what it so deeply needs.

Lastly, bitter may also dry, where there is pathological accumulation of fluids or dampness (most likely a result of over-indulgence of sweet) and purge, where there is excessive accumulation obstructing the bowels and large intestine. It’s easy to see why bitter can be popular and so craved!

In closing, it needs to be stated that, though all the above is “true”, in that it reflects traditional Chinese medical theory, as has been tested through actual clinical use over thousands of years, it is one small part of the overall picture. ***Actual, real-world experiences are going to be much more complicated.

This is the danger of a blog. There simply is no way to cover even this small aspect of diet therapy comprehensively (and who would read it? πŸ˜‰ ). So, please, take all this information into consideration, but the “grain of salt” you should take it all with is that your personal, individual experience is, most likely, not going to match perfectly with what’s been written.

If you want to get a better handle on your specific issues, go visit a competent acupuncturist. This is, quite literally, what we do! πŸ™‚

Please let me know if you have specific questions or thoughts.

Eat well!

OH – Almost forgot! If you want to learn more, I’ve listed some resources for Chinese medical diet therapy on my website. Please visit and let me know what you think!

Visit DenverChineseMedicine.com


Now Offering Weekly Yoga Classes

In Yoga on December 28, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Many would say it’s been a long time coming ;)…

Come January, I’ll be teaching weekly yoga classes at my office at 930 Logan St. The classes will be more meditative, in nature, than physical and are well suited for beginners (and advanced practitioners that are wanting to take their practice inward).

Schedule and details are as follow:

Monday and Wednesday: 6 – 7:30pm
Saturday: 10 – 11:30am

FREE for current patients
$15 drop-in (cash or Visa/MasterCard)

For complete details on yoga, my style of teaching, and what to expect at these classes, please visit the yoga section of my website.

Standards in Chinese Medical Research

In Research on December 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Chinese medicine is like the wizened old man whose words and deeds are rich with his many years of experience. His ways may seem odd to the casual observer, but only because few have walked the path he has – few could fully appreciate the maturity and advanced evolution of his actions, at first glance.

But there is efficacy in what he does, so he gets attention. People stop and look; they’re not sure what they are looking at, but it is clearly worthy of closer investigation. They visit and chat, try his advice, take some of the medicine he offers, and they return – time and time again.

This is the story of Chinese medicine. It is unique, as systems of medicine go, as it is the current expression of a long, unbroken lineage of clinical experience and wisdom. Its reliability is grounded in reoccurring effectiveness over generations of use.

It does look weird. It doesn’t sound or talk like “medicine”, as many know it. But it works.

Part of the responsibility of the modern practitioner of this ancient art is to translate and interpret this evolved medicine to modern terms and worldviews, and this is quite a difficult task.

One may, perhaps, think that medicine is medicine, no matter how, exactly, it looks in the clinic. One may think that science is science, that there are many paths to discover truth, but, ultimately, they are one-in-the-same in seeking reliable theory. However, it is not so.

There are very real differences. Chinese medicine is different at a very deep level. This makes validation of it, from a modern scientific point of view, exceedingly challenging. But it is possible, and we are slowly getting there.

A recent blog post, coming from Blue Poppy Press, up in Boulder (www.BluePoppy.com), authored by Eric Brand, a leader in the field, speaks to this. He discusses some basic flaws of current research, as well as some difficulties that present due to the unique nature of the medicine. As Eric is an expert in this area, I would like to pass on his brief, but important blog post – Standards in Chinese Medicine, Part Two: Research

Visit www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

What Your Cravings Reveal: Part III

In Diet on December 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm

The body is a complete, self-healing entity. It instinctively knows when it’s out of balance and what to do about it. (Our analytical minds quite often disallow connection with this instinct or argue and debate with it when it arises, but that’s a whole different story ;).)

Food cravings are a good example of this innate knowing and self-healing ability in action. One of my first ‘rules’ of diet therapy is to really pay attention to your appetite. When do you get hungry, and of paramount importance, here – What are you hungry for?

Cravings are, by definition, a strong desire for a certain type or flavor of food, and so the body is helping us follow the above rule. A craving is hard to ignore, which is all the more reason to give it that attention.

In this series of posts we’re borrowing from a hundred generations of clinical experience to help us heed the inner calling of our bodies to return to balance. Chinese medicine has collected a tremendous amount of information on health and healing, and diet is one of the most basic areas upon which its expertise can shed a lot of light.

Thus far, we’ve learned that sweetness is associated with the digestive system (specifically, the spleen and stomach), and that it strengthens and relaxes the body. Saltiness is associated with the kidney system which, from a Chinese medical understanding, has to do with our fundamental reserves and basic drive in life.

We covered how, when heeding our cravings, we should strive to consume flavors in naturally occurring states and in moderation (leaning towards too little, rather than too much).

The craving for spicy foods is quite prevalent, for reasons which will soon become obvious. Spicy, also referred to as ‘pungent’, corresponds with the lung and large intestine systems, and its effect in the body is to promote circulation of energy and blood, clear heat, and assist digestion.

From a Chinese medical viewpoint, stress, frustration, anger, irritation (as well as guilt and depression) are all due to energy obstruction (specifically, Liver qi stagnation) or the internal heat generated from such obstruction. As spicy flavors move energy and clear heat, it is pretty clear why such foods are so popular. We tend to be a bit stressed, as a society πŸ˜‰

In addition, spicy aids in digestion. We also tend to eat too much at a sitting and eat poorly, resulting in very poor digestion. Instinctively, our bodies know that if it can get some spicy stuff in there, it’ll get help with trying to digest that huge meal. (Now, if we gave our full attention to our instincts, we wouldn’t over eat or eat inappropriately, but, again, another story for another time. :))

It’s important to bring up that heeding cravings won’t completely ‘balance out’ bad dietary habits. Dousing that humongous burrito with hot sauce will aid in digestion, but it’s still gonna take a toll. And such minor alterations are definitely helpful, but if you’re steering your car towards the edge of a cliff, simply reducing the speed only buys you some time. Ultimately, you need to turn around… just sayin’. πŸ™‚

It’s worth mentioning that spicy food that makes you break a sweat may just save you from a cold, if you can catch the cold in the very early stages, when you have chills and fever. If it’s gonna work it’ll have near-immediate effects. Worth a shot!

In the next, and last, post, we’ll cover bitterness and sourness.

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What Your Cravings Reveal: Part II

In Diet on December 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

In Part I, we discussed how cravings for certain flavors are linked to the state of specific internal organ systems. Specifically, we talked about how the flavor of sweet corresponds to the digestive system and, in general, strengthens the body.

As with all the flavors, a little, naturally occurring sweet will tend to have the above effect. It is very easy to over do it, though, take in too much of the flavor, and have the exact opposite effect. In this way, foods are very much like medicines – The correct dose does as it should, but too much quickly causes harm (though, of course, the ‘harm’ caused by over consumption of a certain flavor is far less than with medications).

This can be difficult in modern society. We tend to ‘go big’. We concentrate our sweets and combine them into a single food. If a truly healthy amount of cake can be eaten, for example (the amount that will act as an energy tonic and not drain the system) then it is most likely a piece of a small piece of cake. It may, perhaps, literally, be just a ‘taste’.

An example from my personal life, I often keep a bar of dark chocolate in the freezer. Should I crave something sweet after a meal, I will break off a single square and have that. It tends to be exactly enough to satiate the craving without causing bloating, a sensation of fullness, or induce a ‘food coma’.

Additionally, just as the organ systems, themselves, do not function in a vacuum, flavors should always be eaten in combination with other flavors (as typically occurs in nature). For example, a good dessert is not dominated by sweetness, but is, instead, led by sweetness in concert with other flavors.

The next most common craving is probably that for salt or salty foods. Salty foods are most often desired for their effect on the kidney system.

It’s important to emphasize, here, when organs are mentioned in a Chinese medical context (eg. kidney, spleen, etc.), it is done in reference to a whole system, and not just the organ, itself.

This is extremely important to keep in mind when speaking with an acupuncturist. I will often refer to an imbalance within the heart system of a patient, despite the complete lack of any evidence of physical heart irregularities (eg. EKG readings are normal).

With cravings, please keep in mind that though a craving for salt does likely indicate an issue within the kidney system, it does not necessarily indicate any problems with the kidneys, themselves.

In fact – and this is a great advantage to having this information at your disposal – in a healthy person, cravings for certain flavors can be an early warning sign of imbalance within the associated system. Heeding such cravings can be an excellent, effective way to address health issues at very early stages, way before any ‘symptom’ may present from which an MD could actually derive a diagnosis.

Saltiness is linked with the kidney system. Within the Chinese medical categorization of the human being, the kidneys represent the fundamental energies and reserves of the being. They are the seat of basic physiological drive (something like metabolism, from a Western scientific standpoint), as well as mental and emotional willpower.

The kidneys are also our basic reserves of energy. Ideally, we live off the energy and resources from a healthy diet and correct breathing habits. Where we don’t, we tap into the kidney system.

When a person works hard, without adequate rest, over time they deplete the kidney system. In America, we tend to encourage such an excessive work ethic. In my professional opinion, a typical 40-hour work week most likely has a significantly detrimental effect on the worker’s kidney system. As the kidneys are the storehouse for energy and reserves of all the organ systems, weakness in the kidneys greatly predisposes one to a wide variety of other health issues.

It, then, makes perfect sense why salt cravings are so common. Even for those who don’t necessarily crave it, salt is often over consumed for simple ease of access.

This brings us to another important point with cravings. Should we follow them? I believe a good general rule is that, if a little will satisfy it, then, yes, eat some food in which that flavor naturally occurs.

However, if you find yourself gorging on foods or needing more and more, or if the craving persists over days and weeks, despite your eating habits, then professional attention is needed. Diet, alone, is not enough to right the imbalance in those cases.

This is why increasing sodium intake will not simply ‘take care’ of any kidneys issues you may be having. If you have become accustomed to adding salt to everything you eat, because you really crave it, a deeper issue is likely present and is going unaddressed. It is in these cases were Chinese medical treatment can truly prevent serious disease, by recognizing and addressing it before it progresses into full-blown pathology.

The reaming flavors of sourness, spiciness, and bitterness will be addressed over the coming days.

As always, let me know if you have specific questions, comments, or ideas.


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What is Qi? (The short answer)

In General on December 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Likely the most important term in the medicine, qi is also the most difficult to define. (In the most widely used introductory Chinese medical theory text, Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Giovanni Maciocia actually leaves the term untranslated due to its complexity.)

In my first theory course in Chinese medical school, our professor was quizzing us and asked what qi was. When put on the spot, a nervous student scrambled to give a succinct and accurate answer, and uttered “Everything?…” Though correct, a lot more could be said.

On the most practical level, qi is that which the acupuncturist directly accesses and manipulates to effect changes in the patient. It is directly, concretely experienced by the acupuncturist, and possibly the patient, and, in effective therapy, elicits an immediate, tangible response in the patient.

This response may be evident in any number of ways, including:

  • objective symptom presentation, eg. reduction of redness or swelling,
  • report by patient of physical or emotional/cognitive change, eg. change in mood, immediate reduction of pain, or
  • change in pulse presentation (the pulses being a main pillar of Chinese medical diagnosis and, thus, view into the patient’s state, an immediate response to acupuncture therapy is expected).

In a way, the above direct experiences, reliably reoccurring over generations of patient-physician interactions, combined with a theory, or comprehensive, coherent system of thought drawn from the above experiences, constitute sufficient “definition” for clinical use. It does, however, leave one wanting more.

Qi is understood to be the motive force behind all physiological activities of the body, and is typically defined, locally, according to the unique nature of those activities.

For example, qi is the “energy” behind the process of digestion. Specifically, we would refer to that isolated energy as “Stomach Qi” or “Spleen Qi”. It follows, then, that poor or weak digestion (as evidenced, perhaps, by fatigue after a meal, as one example) could be clinically defined as “Spleen Qi Vacuity (or Deficiency)”, for which acupuncture points or a Chinese herbal formula that treats Spleen Qi Vacuity could be prescribed.

As a side note, the objective existence of “Spleen Qi” is, ultimately, meaningless, unverifiable, and irrelevant, clinically speaking. That is, whether there is something that can be isolated and labeled Spleen Qi, as argument that it “actually exists”, is outside the realm of both practical use, as well as scientific investigation. What’s important is whether the theory of Spleen qi, when actually used, results in predicatble effects, as discussed below.

Science deals solely with rational theory. Its aim is to develop ways of conceptualizing – developing logical stories – to explain observed phenomena. As both modern quantum mechanics and, below, Albert Einstein reminds us, actual, direct “knowledge” is beyond the realm of the thinking mind.

“Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality, we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears it ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious, he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility of the meaning of such a comparison.” (1)

The whole purpose of science is to develop theories that work, with reasonable predictability and reliability, not discover absolute truths. This is why there can never be 100% guarantee of treatment outcome for any system of medicine. We strive to employ clinical theory that has a high chance of producing a specific effect in the patient.

Qi is a concept at the center of Chinese medicine. It has a rational foundation of evidence derived from extensive clinical use – an amount unparalleled by any medical system in the world. As discussed above, it is understood as the energy behind all processes of the body and can be defined according to the unique nature of that activity.

Qi, however, is not limited to an abstract, theoretical concept that provides a rational construct through which we perceive and deal with physiological processes. As was mentioned above, qi is also what we label actual physical sensations.

For example, there is a distinct response to needle manipulation the acupuncturist experiences, and there are unique sensations often experienced by the patient. These sensations are unique in that they are not simple pain responses. That is, they are different from the feeling of having a needle inserted into the skin. (Interestingly, the patient is often left temporarily speechless, unable to describe the sensation, as it is new and different from anything else they had previously experienced.)

These qi sensations are also experienced by advanced martial artists, practitioners of qi gong, and meditators, as well. The sensation is actual physical experience (not visualization or imagination), is experienced in response to certain qi ‘moving’ exercises or activities, and, to the practitioner with training, can be freely manipulated with mental focus and direction.

All these qi experiences occur along, more or less, consistently mapped out pathways through the body, known as acupuncture channels or meridians (the jingluo). As with much of Chinese medical thought and theory, there is no concrete, biological correlation to the meridians; they are more functional entities than concrete. They are a system based on recorded experiences of billions of patients and practitioners, and used with reliably predictable results in the Chinese medical clinic.

Qi is, thus, both a concept allowing the acupuncturist to deliver safe and effective medicine, as well as a description of various, actual experiences. The above is a very simple, brief overview. Please feel free to contact me should you have specific questions.

1. Albert Einstein, quoted here from Lonny Jarrett’s ‘Nourishing Destiny: The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine’, p.13, originally from Einstein and Infeld ‘The Evolution of Physics’, p. 31.
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What Your Cravings Reveal: Part I

In Diet on December 16, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I love this medicine. You probably already know that. I just can’t help talking about it, though. And for good reason (I believe). Chinese medicine is so wise! You know what I mean? It feels like this really old, well, Chinese guy that has seen sooooo much and knows a zillion things about everything. One example is the accumulated experience the medicine has about food cravings and how they relate to the sate of your internal organ systems.

Flavors are distinct and interesting enough to warrant a hypothesis that, maybe, they do something specific to the body. I mean, salty, sour, sweetness, these each elicit specific physical responses – puckering, salivating, etc. – as well as psychological, such as a feeling of comfort, security, or ‘ok’-ness. Surely, this isn’t random or meaningless…

Countless (literally) observations over hundreds of years, along with some wise theorizing and testing in clinical situations, has led Chinese medicine to the conclusion that no, such cravings are not random. They are distinct, and they do correlate with specific internal organ systems. An acupuncturist can, in fact, use cravings to help arrive at a diagnosis, and can even recommend eating foods of certain flavors for specific therapeutic effect.

Chinese medicine breaks flavors into five main groups: Sweet, Spicy, Salty, Sour, and Bitter. It then applies the theory of the Five Phases (aka Five Elements) to arrive at a list of correspondences, each flavor corresponding with a Phase, and each phase representing a different group of internal organ systems. Cravings (or, importantly, aversions) to any of the flavors indicates an imbalance in the corresponding organ system. Pretty simple, right?

The most popular crazing, the sweet tooth, corresponds with the digestive system and the ability to take in from the environment nourishment and deliver it to all parts of the being. Specifically, the sweet flavor strengthens the body.

So often, we get a craving for sweet immediately following a meal. This makes perfect sense, as digestion requires a tremendous amount of energy and we too often over eat, placing a huge burden on the digestive system. The body instinctively calls out for some assistance, a boost, to deal with the challenge. Hence, we start craving something sweet.

The ability to receive nourishment extends beyond the physical body, as well. We are nourished by experiences and interactions with the world around us, just as much as the food we ingest. It is consistent with basic Chinese medical theory that one would crave chocolate with emotional upset. The sweetness offers a basic comfort, a certain emotional ‘nourishment’ that, perhaps, we just lost in a break-up (and the bitter flavor, as in dark chocolate, effects the heart system).

Just as there are physical nourishment needs, there are certain corresponding emotional needs, as well, and one cannot substitute one for the other. We have a term ’emotional eating’ where we know we aren’t actually hungry, but the act of eating somehow approximates another, non-physical need. This makes sense, from a Chinese medical viewpoint, as there is definitely a close relationship between taking in food and ‘getting what we need’, even when it’s not food that we always ‘need’.

It should be noted that all flavors have therapeutic effect when taken in natural, moderate doses (I think we know this, instinctively, but, perhaps, choose to ignore it…;)) It’s important we pick naturally occurring flavors and eat them in moderation. (What’s ‘moderation’, you ask? The amount that gives you the intended effect without negative side effects – A little feels good. Too much causes physical and emotional consequences.)

More on sweet later, as well as the other flavors…

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The Hidden Spigot

In General on December 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

(That word looks really weird. It’s one of those I only ever hear, never see written. In case it’s the same with you, it means ‘faucet’…)

You turn it on and things start happening. Nothing specifically, just things, in general, happen. It is the source of ‘doing’, or, more accurately, the Source.

So often I see people really wanting to turn it on. They really want that ‘doing’ to happen; they want to make it happen – ‘Turn on the spigot!’ ‘Things need to change, crank that bad-boy up!’

With my trained eye, though, I notice that most of time, the spigot is already on. It is full-on wide open. But it’s hidden. We don’t see it, and we don’t see the stream flowing out of it.

We do actually notice its effects, but we don’t realize the source – the hidden spigot – and we attempt to correct the course, the flow coming from the spigot. And, too often, we succeed. We redirect and obstruct that flow.

This causes problems – a lot of problems. In response to the those problems and issues that have arisen from redirecting the flow from the hidden spigot, we feel a need to do something; we feel the calling of doing – ‘Turn on the spigot!’ ‘Make it happen!’…

The spigot is on. In most cases it is on and flowing; all the doing that needs to happen is happening. Chances are, all our willful doing should, ideally, be towards clearing out all the mess from in front of the hidden spigot. It’s on. The Source is wide open. We’re just not realizing – seeing – it for what it is. Instead of trying to recreate the original – literally, of the origin – spigot of action, clear the path of the hidden spigot.

Just a thought.


Chinese Medical Terminology for the Everyday Person

In General on December 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Howdy! I would like to extend an invitation to take part in a small project. I am building a glossary of Chinese medical terminology for my website. I want to share some of the lingo we acupuncturists use to help everyone else understand what we’re talking about when we say your Liver Qi is stagnant. πŸ˜‰

The invitation is simple: What terms have you heard for which you’d like a more formal definition? Are there any Chinese medical concepts or ideas you’ve heard, for which you’d like some clarification or explanation?

I’ll likely start with ‘qi’ (aka ‘chi’) and move on to the Chinese medical conceptualization of the internal organs, and then perhaps disease processes, like qi stagnation, and Damp-Heat, but let me know if you have any suggestions.

Below is the introduction to the glossary I thought I’d share with you.

As always, your feedback, ideas, and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

(From the ‘Introduction’)

Probably the greatest single hindrance in the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine is the fact that it really is based on a whole different way of seeing and interacting with the human being.

In the West, we take the western medical sciences for granted. We forget that hormones, the nervous system, etc. are theoretical constructs. They are specific ways of ordering and categorizing observations of the human being.

These medical theories are based on ‘deeper’ theories such as biology, chemistry, and physics, for example, and those underlying systems of thought, again, reflect a certain fundamental approach to investigating phenomena and organizing, or ‘making sense’ of, those observations.

Technically speaking, there is no inherent truth to those systems. They are not, strictly speaking, the way the body ‘actually is’. (This understanding is key to science and is why these theories are undergoing constant alteration and revision; they are continuously refined through ongoing investigation, what they say about the body being ‘updated’.)

Chinese medicine is the result of a similar process of making observations of the world, developing theories or ideas to explain what is observed, then testing those ideas and changing them to adapt to what is observed. That much, the two systems of medicine share in common. Their respective conclusions, their individual theories of health, illness, and healing, are quite different.

To the Western ear, the phrase ‘Damp-Heat in the Lower Jiao’ is meaningless, but the term “urinary tract infection” makes perfect sense. This is not because Damp-Heat is ‘made-up’ and UTIs ‘actually’ exist, but, instead, because there are two distinct systems each observing a patient’s condition.

Importantly, Damp-Heat in the Lower Jiao is not the same thing as a UTI; they are not equivalent, interchangeable terms or ideas. This is because contained within them are certain base assumptions about reality, health, and illness. To simply equate the two and say all patients with Damp-Heat have a UTI, is to ignore the difference in basic approaches to medicine, and, since the therapies, the treatments, are based on the same basic approach, mixing and matching diagnostics and therapeutics makes for pretty sloppy clinical medicine.

This is important because Chinese medicine truly is different, and that difference means it can and does fill deficiencies and inadequacies of Western biomedicine. It is because they have such a different view on the human being in health and illness that they complement each other. If we simply treat acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as if it were nothing more than alternate ways of effecting hormones or neurochemicals, then we lose the distinct advantage of seeing something in a completely different way.

It is for this reason I resist replacing traditional Chinese medical terms with the supposed western medical equivalent, in my private practice. For example, I neither diagnose nor treat ‘arthritis’. It is likely I can offer effective treatment for the symptoms to which that term refers, but the truth is I am seeing, and thus treating, that patient through a different lens, a different worldview.

If Chinese medicine has anything to offer, it is important that it remain Chinese medicine and not compromise its integrity to simply fit in or be easily recognized. It is for this reason I offer this glossary. This medicine does not simply offer a different way of treating whatever illness a patient has been diagnosed; it offers a whole different way of approaching the patient’s suffering. What follows is a glimpse into that complementary world view.

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The Calm Before the Storm

In General, Yoga on December 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Things have been busy – buh-huh-huh-izy! πŸ™‚

I haven’t been posting much for all the excitement going on in my life – finishing yoga teacher training, rebuilding my website, and so on. The relative calm on this blog is now over – Here comes the storm.

New Website!!! – Same ol’ name, but whole new look (and new and different info on yoga!) Check it out and let me know what you think – www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

Yoga Classes Coming up! – You all have already heard me rave about Tara Emrick (GraceGriefYoga.com) and her beautiful practice of sharing yoga with those experiencing loss and grief. Well, I’ve talked her into visiting my practice to share with patients and friends.

If you, or anyone you know, has lost someone – a family member, a loved one, a pet – or some ‘thing’, like a job or house, and is struggling with it (or simply want to work with it in a different way), Tara will be offering a three hour yoga class focusing on grief:

Saturday, Jan 22nd, 11-1pm
930 Logan St #101
Denver, Co 80203

The cost is $30, and you can register by contacting Tara at 720.232.6514 or taraemrick@hotmail.com. More info at GraceGriefYoga.com.


Yoga to Soothe the Soul, offered by Tracy Patch, CYT:

“Come find the calm from the storm of life while increasing strength and flexibility. My yoga classes offer you the opportunity to slow down and leave the outside world for a time. Whether you call it stress, anxiety, revved up or just life, this gentle yoga practice will allow you to soothe the soul both on the mat and in your day-to-day living. Come join me and feel physically rejuvenated, mentally refocused and ready to join the world refreshed.”

Classes begin Jan. 5th:

Wednesday’s- 10:00 – 11:15 a.m.
Thursday’s – 5:30 – 6:45 p. m.

(Private sessions available)

Location: The Meditation Place,
940 Kimbark (between 9th and 10th)

In the last yoga class I had with Tracy, I was brought nearly to tears within the first five minutes (in a good way ;)), and experienced a full gamut of emotions through out the practice. Somehow, at the end, I found myself not only released from all those emotions, but cleaner, lighter, more peaceful, but vibrant… words always fail… it was Good.

She has a background in teaching and it really shows in her professional, confident, effective sharing of really good yoga. (Be warned, though – Those chants of hers can be real tearjerkers! ;))

For more information contact Tracy Patch, gentlewisdomyoga@gmail.com, or 520-975-7585.

As for me and yoga…

If you know me… at all, this will come as no surprise – I’m likely going to continue on to advanced training – **Shock!** πŸ™‚

There’s a six month module on the cakras (aka chakras) and tantra (basically, energetic anatomy and physiology (A&P) – or, as I like to think of it – the A&P behind A&P).

It explains the effects of yoga (and so much else), thus allowing you to practice and teach yoga at a whole nother level. My studies of the cakras have, already, greatly altered and enhanced my understanding and approach to my yoga, my life, and my professional Chinese medical practice. I can’t imagine what another six months of focused, advanced training will do! But I am oh so excited!! πŸ™‚

I am also offering yoga as an extension of my private practice. You all know I love qi gong and Tai chi. Well, yoga is, effectively, another style of qi gong, and specific yoga practices (postures, breathing practices, mudras, chants, etc.) can be prescribed for specific ailments and issues. It is a perfect (no exaggeration) extension of my practice. I mean, it fits seamlessly. No joke.

I will also (likely) be offering small-group yoga classes. Again, the emphasis being on more direct contact with students. I fully appreciate the modern American version of yoga being taught to a group in a studio three times a week, but, as with Chinese medicine, my heart is drawn to the more traditional approach, the more personal me getting to know someone and helping them individually and directly. I’m old school that way πŸ˜‰ Check in at my new website for class schedules, whenever they arise… πŸ™‚

I’ve likely used up as much of your attention span as you’re willing to spare on this blog. If you have any questions, want more information, have feedback, or have figured out the answer to life (in less than seven words), let me know! john@DenverChineseMedicine.com

Be well!


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