Health; Eastern and Western perspectives

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Health as a topic is confusing. One might think we can measure health by looking at our blood pressure numbers, or reading our cholesterol labs. Another may think our state of health depends on how much we exercise. There really isn’t a good way to “measure” health, yet we try to find new ways to do so all the time. But instead of being confused on the what is healthy, we must look to different perspectives and philosophy of the concept of health to really get a clearer picture.

Modern Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine excerpt from A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth by Tom Bisio

There is no such thing as perfect health. The very concept of perfect health is an illusion. For many of us, health means feeling no pain or weakness. In fact, health is a balancing act, a constant series of small shifts back and forth to maintain a general sense of equilibrium. For this reason, when the body moves out of balance medical interventions must be chosen carefully, with the goal of returning the body to a balanced state.

In the West, illness, weakness, or pain is perceived as “not good”, and steps are taken to rectify the situation. Interventions in modern medicine often take the form of painkillers, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, antidepressants, or surgery. These interventions made lead to a change in symptoms. These new symptoms, in their turn, may also require correction. Each shift may be seen as a separate entity and each set of symptoms as a different disease or syndrome. Each is a disease to be overcome and defeated. As diseases and syndromes proliferate and the technology used to treat them grows more complex, specialization becomes a necessity. The very nature of specialization in modern medicine requires that the specialist works within the borders of his or her understanding, often without regard for the whole. These patient’s sense of his or her own body and the interconnectedness of the whole is overridden by the expertise of the specialist, who is concerned with only one part.

Modern medicine is very good at understanding disease but does not give us the tools to understand health. It cannot offer clear-cut ideas about what health is because it has no standard to go by. Traditional Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, has an understanding of health that dates back to one of its oldest books, the Huang Di Nei Jing, (third century BC). These ideas have never become outdated despite the technological advances of Western medicine. Why? Because in ancient times, the Chinese observed the minute changes that occurred in the human body in relation to season, weather, climate, diet, exercise, and emotional shifts. From these observations was born a system of medicine that perceived the fundamental holism of the human organism and its interconnectedness with the surrounding environment. Thus Chinese medicine offers a unique perspective on maintaining a state of harmonious balance in the human body.

 

 

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