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Covered in this chapter


Integrated Medical Practitioner
This is a term used for a medically trained doctor who uses complementary treatment options to help the body to help itself. Integrated refers to the fact that we use medical skills at the same time as applying complementary methods. Some integrated doctors prescribe medical drugs, but I personally no longer do that. Instead, if I feel that specific medical treatments are required, I refer the patient to a trusted colleague.

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About Health
The body is a miraculous mechanism. Its proper functioning, or health in other words, relies on the interplay of opposing forces, which need to exist in a balance of harmony.

This is true on all levels. Whether it is our heart, expanding and contracting like a pump to supply the body with fresh blood, the lungs doing a similar thing breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide, or our muscles showing the right amount of tension, neither too contracted (hypertonic) nor too lax (hypotonic). Our stomach and digestive system require exact amounts of acid and digestive enzymes, in order to properly digest food, neither too much nor too little. Our thyroid glands have to produce the correct amounts of thyroxin, the hormone which fuels and warms the body metabolism. Our immune system, in order to recognise an intruder like a germ, a foreign protein or a tumour cell, has to produce the correct amount of response, not too much and not too little.

All our body systems work in this way, from the minute level of cellular metabolism to the visible functioning of our organs described above. This interplay of opposing forces has been described with different terms, according to the medical system or culture. In Western medicine and naturopathy the term homeostasis is used, in Chinese medicine the opposing forces are described in terms of Yin and Yang.

The body always strives towards achieving perfect harmony. It has inbuilt sensors and a complicated system of glands which are regulated by the so-called autonomic nerve system. This biofeedback mechanism seems to know at all times what correct level of homeostasis is required.

Integrated medical health care, and complementary treatments like acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine aim to use these inbuilt biofeedback mechanisms to help the body to achieve harmony; they help the body, or the person, to help themselves.

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About Illness
When the equilibrium is out of kilter this shows as illness and pathology. A commonly encountered imbalance is a form of deficiency, where the patient has overdone things by trying too hard for too long, or simply did not replenish themselves with rest, exercise, good nutrition and supplements. Here the normal body functioning withers, the patient becomes fatigued, the organs start to under perform and the metabolism slows down.

Excess can also be contracted in this way. If you imagine a situation where one races a car at high speed across a desert, the first symptom is often an overheating of the engine (excess), which can be followed by a significant deficiency, or occasionally terminal collapse.

Another common imbalance is what in Chinese medicine is described as stagnation or stasis, where the vital force, the Qi, does not flow smoothly. This is usually aggravated by emotions like anger or frustration. Headaches, migraines, period pains, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and many other conditions, frequently fall into this category.

When the heart works overtime, the result can be a fast heartbeat or high blood pressure. When the mind works overtime, we may end up anxious, panicky or unable to sleep. An overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, is another typical example.

Over functioning in this way is often caused by the ‘fight or flight reaction’ via the autonomic nerve system. When we think we are in danger, we raise our level of activity in order to be able to fight back or run away.

Should this kind of over activity persist for too long, the situation may reverse and we end up with a state of under activity. In the case of the heart this might result in heart failure, swollen ankles and shortness of breath. In case of the thyroid an under active thyroid, or hypothyroidism, is quite common.

The list of examples is almost endless. The menstrual period may happen too frequently, and the blood may flow too much for too long. Or the periods may not arrive on time, they may be too erratic, and the flow too little and too short. Too much acid in the stomach may mean heartburn or a gastric ulcer. Too little release of gastric juices may result in bloatedness or wind. An over functioning immune system may produce allergies, autoimmune disorders or chronic fatigue syndrome. An under functioning immune system may result in an increased susceptibility to cancer, or chronic viral diseases like HIV or Hepatitis B + C.

Symptoms, however, are not always a sign of the body malfunctioning. The common cold is a good example. We produce mucous, sneezing and coughing in order to expel germs from our respiratory system. A slight fever, or rise in body temperature, helps the immune system to raise its game, alerting the white blood cells to fight viruses or bacteria. Every symptom of the cold has a biological purpose.

To explain this, I sometimes use the analogy of a police station. In the ideal case scenario the intruder is dealt with quietly by the police, so the rest of the community is unaware of it. This is probably true for many cases when we have been exposed to viruses without even knowing it.

When the intruder has a certain strength, the white cells, the immune police, become highly active, and the above symptoms appear. Here the coughing and sneezing constitute a healthy level of immune response, designed to overcome the infection.
When the symptoms persist, or the discomfort becomes too great, or it lingers on for too long, this can mean that the body’s immune police are unable to fight the intruder, in other words our immune system is unable to control a virus or bacterium. In this case, especially if we can demonstrate the presence of a resistant bacterium through a swab, the use of antibiotics may be the right choice.

If, however, the symptoms are an appropriate reaction of the body to overcome infection, suppressive treatments like ibuprofen, aspirin, paracetamol and antibiotics are usually counter productive. They weaken the immune response in the long run and should be avoided. Here acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are a much healthier approach in my opinion.

However, it is important for me to point out that the above said is not a proven fact and not a claim I am making, but rather my opinion, since neither the CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) nor the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) have so far accepted that there is sufficient evidence that acupuncture (or Chinese herbal medicine) work in such situations.

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My aim as an Integrated Health Care Practitioner
The aim is to:
- Try to understand the imbalance
- Find the minimum intervention required to achieve an effective rebalancing, which helps the body (or person) to help themselves
- Teach the patient healthy ways to maintain homeostasis
- Judge correctly when the moment has arrived where more medical and interventionist treatments are required.

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Methods of treatment
Since acupuncture (see separate chapter) is a method of relieving excess, supplementing deficiency and, most importantly, freeing stagnant Qi, I often use it at the beginning of the treatment process, starting gently with one or two points and building up to the strength required. This is a bit like opening a heavy door, first one pushes gently, then one applies more force until the door opens.

If acupuncture is not sufficient I often combine it with Chinese herbal medicine (see separate chapter), which works on very similar principles to acupuncture.

Healing (see separate chapter) is another subtle treatment, which I often employ in combination with acupuncture.

Fundamental to making the above methods work effectively is an awareness of the lifestyle choices which contributed to the deficiencies and imbalances in the first place. In other words, counselling and nutritional advice, including the taking of supplements, is an important part of the treatment.

Counselling and nutritional advice can be compared to a regular car service and maintenance.

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