in this chapter
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
aim as an Integrated Health Care Practitioner
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.
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.