"Discover the 
of Chinese Medicine,"
Prevention, pps. 104-111, March 1999

"A few years ago, Sharon Sanders, a 48 year old writer and cookbook author from Center Valley, PA, had a bout of unusual abdominal pain that sent her running to her family doctor, and eventually to the ER.  'It turned out that a fibroid about the six of a 16-week pregnancy was growing outside my uterus,' says Sanders.  Her gynecologist recommended a hysterectomy.  But Sanders didn't want surgery--especially when it might plunge her into early menopause.  So when she saw a magazine article about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a possible natural fibroid-buster, she decided to try it.
     Within four months of acupuncture and herbal treatments, her fibroid had shrunk by a third--enough to quell her symptoms and eliminate the need for surgery.  As far as Sanders is concerned, her experience with TCM was a good one.  So good, in fact, that she returned her practitioner for more herbs and acupuncture--this time, for her allergies.
     Chinese medicine may sound might strange.  But this ancient healing art, which predates our won medical system by more than 2,00 years, has drawn the attention of western researchers who are finding some Chinese therapies surprisingly effective, especially for women.  From fibroids to hot flashes to even more serious illnesses, there's evidence that Chinese medicine may have something to offer that you can't get elsewhere.

Treating the Whole Person
The philosophy of TCM may take some time for the average person to understand, but the theory behind it is pretty simple--and appealing.  Unlike conventional medicine, which treats the outward signs of a disease or disorder, TCM practitioners believe symptoms are the result of un underlying imbalance--and that is what they attempt to fix.
     Like holistic physicians, TCM practitioners help you tackle lifestyle issues, especially stress and diet, that can contribute to your physical problems.
      A TCM doctor won't just treat you for hot flashes or painful periods.  He will look at what's going on in your whole life to help determine what treatment to recommend--and what changes you can make that will help relieve your symptoms.
      'In fact,' says Terry Courtney, a license acupuncturist and chair of the acupuncture and Oriental medicine department at Bastyr University in Bothell, WA, 'there's a chance you could emerge from treatment feeling like a whole new woman.'

Where Do I Sign Up?
Sound good?  There is a rub:  Though you can take ginseng for energy and see an acupuncturist for you arthritis, TCM isn't really a do-it -yourself project.  To get its full health benefits, you need a practitioner to diagnose and treat you.  And unless you live in or around a well-populated area, finding one might be tough.  In 1995, there were about 12,000 practitioners in the US.  By the turn of the century, there may be as many as 20,000.  Many of them are Chinese, and in some cases, there may be a slight language barrier.
     But, if TCM's focus on individual holistic treatments, natural therapies, and exercise intrigues you, read on.  You can get referrals to certified practitioners from several sources.
     But don't fire your doctor.  'Think of TCM as a supplement to the regular care you get form your doctor,' says Courtney.  Unless they are also qualified MDs--and there are some--TCM healers don't perform the pelvic exams, Pap tests, breast exams, mammograms, or other screenings you need.

Here's What to Expect
In general, on your first visit, expect to be closely questioned about your health history.  Depending on your problem, it's likely you'll receive an acupuncture treatment and perhaps some Chinese herbs your practitioners believes will help your specific imbalance.  You'll also be given dietary suggestions, and maybe some advice about meditations or practicing tai chi or qi gong.

Day Sweats, Night Sweats...No Sweat
Linder Singer, 48, came to Bastyr University's Oriental Medicine Clinic hoping to ease the monsoon-style menopausal sweats that were making her life miserable.  'Her doctor had taken her off hormone replacement therapy [HRT] because she had a strong family history of cancer,' recalls Courtney.  'She was a mess--the night sweats ruined her sleep, so she was exhausted all day, and the embarrassment of drenching herself at work made her really anxious.'
     Courtney saw Singer's problem as a classic imbalance between yin and yang.  According to ancient Chinese science, yin and yang are the two opposing life forces.  You need both, but they need to be in balance.  Too much of one, not enough of the other, and you're headed for trouble.
    Mainstream doctors believe that hormonal swings at menopause tamper with your body's thermostat, causing hot flashes and night sweats.  But TCM practitioners have a different theory.
  'Many menopausal symptoms are thought to be yin deficiencies.  Yin is associated with coolness and moisture; its opposite element, yang, is associated with heat and dryness,' explains Courtney.
     Like other TCM practitioners, Courtney believes that as your body ages, its ability to produce yin energy diminishes.  The yin depletion that results creates a sense of heat--a sort of "false fever."  The treatment goal: to build and strengthen the yin energy to ease the menopausal symptoms.
     Singer received five weeks of acupuncture treatments and took a Chinese herbal formula designed to correct her yin-yang imbalance.  'By building and strengthening her body's yin and yang, Linda's night and day sweats began to subside,' recalls Courtney.  Singer was happy to report that her sleep improved and her overall energy was much higher.
     'Though she discontinue the acupuncture after five weeks, she continued with several more weeks of herbal treatments to maintain her progress,' says Courtney.  'When Linda's under a lot of stress, she'll return for acupuncture to head off any recurrences.'

"My Fibroid Shrank and I No Longer Need a Hysterectomy."
When Sanders decided to use TCM to shrink her fibroid, she visited Chung-Hu Tao, OMD, a TCM practitioner and licensed acupuncturist in Allentown, PA.  He prescribed weekly acupuncture treatments and a custom-blended herbal formula.
     'Dr. Tao mixed about 20 exotic herbs--dried twigs, roots, and leaves--into paper bags.  I was to boil a tea and drink a quart of it every day.  It tasted so terrible my daughters called it my 'evil brew,'' says Sanders.  But she stuck with Dr. Tao's program.  (She soon learned to flavor the tea with honey and lemon.)
    Sanders monitored her progress to see whether the TCM was making a difference.  She had a baseline ultrasound taken by a medical doctor at the beginning of the treatment.  The fibroid measured 3.5 by 3.5 inches.  Four months later, an ultrasound showed that the fibroid had decreased in size by a third, and Sanders was no longer in pain.
     How did the TCM treatments shrink Sander's fibroid"  No one's exactly sure.  'The amount of research on acupuncture is overwhelming, and the National Institutes of Health confirms that there's good evidence to use acupuncture for various forms of nausea and pain, including menstrual cramps,' says Prevention advisor John Astin, PhD, Fellow in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA.  'But I haven't seen any research about the effect on fibroids, possibly because no conclusive studies have been published.'
     What's more, it's hard to scientifically evaluate the action to complex herbal formulas, since many different active compounds could be involved.
    And sometimes, fibroids shrink on their own, especially during menopause.  According to Prevention advisor Brian W. Walsh, MD, director of the Menopause Clinic at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, fibroids usually occur when uterine muscle cells, genetically programmed to grow to accommodate a fetus, start growing when there is no pregnancy.  'They become the clusters we call fibroids,' he explains.
     But Chinese practitioners have an entirely different take on the subject.  'In Chinese medicine, we believe that fibroids are caused by 'stuck blood,' so we use treatments to get the blood and energy moving again,' says Martha Benedict, OMD, a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Oriental medicine from Santa Cruz, CA.
     And that's precisely what Dr. Tao's plan was designed to do.  He says the formula he created for Sanders included herbs that, according to Chinese medical tradition, boosted her circulation, softened the fibroid, and helped balance her hormones.  During Sander's initial acupuncture treatments, Dr. Tao applied the needles directly into her abdomen over the fibroid's location to remove "blockages of energy flow."
     No matter how it worked, it did work.  Sanders has now been symptom-free for more than a year.

Your Sex Life and TCM
Picture this: A 50-something couple walks into their local acupuncturist's office.  He's got a shoulder injury, she's having headaches.  The doctor says she can help them both.
     After several weeks of acupuncture and herbal treatment, the couple report something unusual: Not only have their original complaints subsided, their sex life has improved too.  Is this some kind of weird fluke?
     Not at all, says Felice Dunas, PhD, a clinical Chinese medical practitioner from Topan, CA, and author of Passion Play (Riverhead Books, New York, 1998).  Dr. Dunas became interested in the connection between sex and TCM when she observed that many of the people she'd treated over the last 25 years for unrelated problems often told her they ever had before.  It seems that as their physical conditions improved, their relationship grew stronger, their emotions were more stable, conflicts diminished, and habitual problems were seen in a whole new light--not to mention their sex lives perked up.
     'Chinese medicine is brilliant in its ability to improve your general health...and that can have a positive impact on your sex life,' says Dr. Dunas.  According to her patients, 'those who said they felt nothing sexually begin to feel alive once more.'  What's more, the benefits of good sex extend way beyond the bedroom, says Dr. Dunas.  Let's take that 50-something couple, for example.  What has the improvement in their sex life meant to them?
     'It's given them a sense of spirituality, peace, and compatibility,' says Dr. Dunas.  'Now, they have new goals and the desire to create something new together.'"

Main Office:
Tao's Acupuncture & Herbs Center
Chung-Hu Tao, L.Ac.
Phone: 610-770-6201
1251 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., Suite #110A,
Allentown PA.18103

E-mail address: chungtao@msn.com

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