19 December 2011

How's Your Flame?

After my CT scan in October, my doctors weren't sure why I had abnormal symptoms. Their analysis showed that my organ activity was normal, though my Crohns was inflamed and had spread slightly. I wasn't really feeling ill, but I knew that my body was trying to tell me it was time for change. The doctors recommended drugs with side effects. While those drugs are a good option for other circumstances, I didn't feel like it was right for me or right for me now.

While I was sitting in the waiting room of my specialists office, I noticed a table tent for their acupuncture clinic. A friend at work had recommended an acupuncturist in Corvallis when I first moved here. I had been to a Chinese doctor before in Salt Lake City. I was intrigued by the experience but it became difficult to make the commute for each appointment. So when I saw this table tent I was open to the idea of accupuncture and figured it would be worth investigating, especially if it meant no side effects. In the meantime, I also accepted a prescription for my usual Crohns medication.

The philosophy of Eastern medicine is sometimes difficult for us Westerners to comprehend. I still feel like I need to study an "Acupuncture for Dummies" edition. My dad said he heard the difference in philosophies explained like this - Eastern medicine is like tending a garden to make plants grow. First you need to check the soil and make sure there are enough nutrients and the levels are right. Once your soil is good you can plant seeds and help them to grow into a healthy garden. Western medicine, on the other hand, is like a fire truck.

During my first visit to this practitioner of Chinese medicine, she explained how my central burner/flame (spleen-stomach) was not communicating well with the rest of my body. Also, she could tell from pressure points on my body and through feeling my pulse that my liver was also involved in this miscommunication. She explained how Chinese medicine is approached through herbs, acupuncture, and diet.

When she asked me what I ate on a regular basis, she was surprised. My diet, she said, was putting out my flame, at least that's how my Western mind understood what she said. She recommended that for my Crohns right now, I should try eating warm foods, drinking warm liquids, and eating things like sweet potatoes, cooked greens, and whole grains like quinoa.

For so many years I thought that avoiding iceburg lettuce, popcorn, and fried foods was "managing my Crohns through diet." This visit completely changed my perspective. I had avoided some foods that were bad for Crohns, but I wasn't focusing on foods that could help my Crohns. Since then I've been walking around talking about my flame, and people are giving me funny looks. "Sorry, my flame doesn't like onion rings." "Ooh, I really shouldn't have that alfredo. It may do bad things for my flame." "Honey, my flame wants oatmeal for breakfast." Scott has started referring to his flame as well, even though he has definitely not had an official flame evaluation.

While it's a bit unusual, I can tell that the process is working. I am more aware of body language, I feel a difference in my immune system, and there are times when an acupuncture visit or dose of herbs has immediate effect on the problems I'm seeing. The point is not to put out the symptomatic fires. Ideally I'm creating a happy qi garden, where my flame is rockin'. Maybe like the eternal flame at Arlington.

For a more kosher explanation of Chinese Medicine, you can visit this site.