by Simcha Gottlieb, M.S., A.P., L.Ac.
(adapted from an article published in Golden Times Magazine)
It’s not always easy to figure out how to stay healthy in this complex day and age. We are fortunate to live in a time of miraculous advances in medical science. The heroic interventions of cutting-edge biomedical technology can save lives, and can prolong our life expectancy. But despite the wonders of modern medicine, too many of us still suffer from nagging aches and pains - or worse, from chronic illnesses that can, perhaps, be managed, but whose cure eludes even the best of doctors.
The media today are filled with advertisements telling us to ask our doctors about the medicines they want us to buy. Often such medications can alleviate symptoms; yet the side effects send us running to yet another specialist, for yet another pill. When conventional medicine does not produce the desired results, we might turn to alternative medicine – but which forms of alternative medicine are tried and true, and which are merely passing fads? And whom do we trust - the recommendations of well-intentioned friends, or the claims of the practitioners, or the 'quackbusters' who cynically dismiss all but the most mainstream modalities? We are flooded with advice. Every week there’s a newly publicized, 'absolutely essential' vitamin or mineral or miracle food on the market, and your sister’s husband’s nephew’s mother-in-law swears it has changed her life! Before long one needs an electronic database just to keep track of all those pills and products and supplements…
How do we make sense of all this? What are the guidelines that can assure us of the best medical care, and the best of health? In my experience as a practitioner of traditional Asian Medicine, I’ve seen clearly that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to such questions. Every individual is unique, and different situations frequently call for different approaches to health care. Each school of thought has its strengths and realms of expertise. Generally speaking, proper nutrition and exercise is the best way to achieve and maintain wellness - and prevention is the best medicine. But there are times when the conventional tools of pharmaceutical drugs or surgery are necessary. Often, a traditional healing modality such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, or homeopathy can help prevent illness, relieve pain, or help us avoid more radical or invasive techniques. The Chinese medical paradigm, which is the focus of my training, has at least a 2500-year track record of success and a vast, evolving legacy of clinical literature to back it up.
It is beyond the scope of this brief article to explore and compare the various modalities and health care options. However there are certain core principles that can help each of us, in every situation, to make the right health care decisions and to improve the quality of our lives. I like to emphasize the following three key ideas:
ONE: Focus on wellness rather than illness. Pay more attention to what’s working rather than worrying about what’s not. The natural state of a human being is well-being, and very often all we need to do in order to connect to the inner source of health and wellness is to let go of our own resistance, and let healing happen. Of course this may be easier said than done, but it is never too late to cultivate the art of discovering our own internal healing power.
TWO: See the whole picture instead of chasing after symptoms. In this age of specialization we often “can’t see the forest for the trees.” All aspects of our lives are interrelated; the mind, the emotions, the soul, and all the complex subsystems of the physical body are intertwined and act together in determining our state of health. A major reason why I decided to pursue the study and practice of Oriental medicine is its age-old “whole-systems” approach to understanding human life. And as the science and art of healing evolves, modern medicine too is growing in its understanding of the relationships between body, mind, and spirit. Seek the sort of health care that concerns itself with the whole human being.
THREE: Take personal responsibility. Virtually every health care practitioner will tell you that the patients with the best prognosis are always those who are willing to improve their choices, their behaviors and their habits – even, sometimes, the habits of a lifetime. The foods we eat, the types of exercise we do, even the thoughts we select are all-important in supporting longevity and well-being. Acts of kindness and an attitude of gratitude can often accomplish more that the latest miracle drug. Healing may just be a good deed away. Decide here and now to nourish yourself well, in body, mind and spirit – and be well!
Simcha Gottlieb is a Licensed Acupuncture Physician, a Nationally Board-Certified practitioner of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, and a Nutrition & Wellness Coach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org