Your Health Spectrum (part 1)

I ask all of my patients what health means to them. I get a variety of responses, “feeling good”, “no pain”, “everything works the way it should”. Webster’s dictionary defines health as “the condition of being well or free from disease.” All of these are part of being healthy but I feel they fall short (or maybe we need to come up with a different term so as not to offend George and Charles). Health, to me, means the ability to function optimally or the ability to be at ease. If you are suffering from a physical or emotional problem you can not function optimally and you are not at ease. If we view health as a spectrum and you have optimal functioning and ease at one end, at the other end you have dysfunction and dis-ease (or disease). So what lies in between. Things like pain, decreased energy or mood, decreased immune function and even organ dysfunction. Now organ dysfunction can be as benign as a stomach ache or it could be as serious as say for example, liver disease. All of these things are symptoms, or signals from your body that something is wrong. All of these symptoms can also be broken down in to two broad categories: acute and chronic. Acute issues can be things like pain, you can catch a cold or the flu, you can have stomach problems. Pain can also be a chronic issue, along with things like getting sick often. Mood and energy tend to be more chronic issues and of course organ dysfunction can be chronic.   The great thing about acupuncture and oriental medicine (would this be an acupuncture blog without there being something great about acupuncture) is that it can work on both ends of the spectrum. Western medicine typically only works on acute issues and often has little to offer for chronic issues besides medications or surgery. In fact, I think that this is where Acupuncture and oriental medicine really shines because it does have so much to offer in the way of relief and healing. Many people do not think of acupuncture for acute issues however. Obviously with pain (strains, strains, etc.) acupuncture can help with the swelling, inflammation and pain. Herbal plasters and topical liniments can speed and improve the healing process. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are extremely effective at lessening the duration and severity of colds and flus. Digestive problems ranging from food poisoning to constipation and diarrhea also can be effectively treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.   So what keeps us from the optimal function and at ease end of the health spectrum. Things like stress, poor diet, lack of exercise (or wrong exercise), and exposure to toxins are all stressors and can all keep us more toward the disease and dysfunction end of the spectrum. So what can you do. Well, you can do things to reduce or mitigate stress, eat better, exercise a little more and reduce your exposure to toxins. Unfortunately, unless you are going to move to the mountains and live like a monk, you are going to be exposed to stress, you are not going to eat great all of the time, you are going to blow off your workout here and there and there is simply no way to avoid exposure to toxins. In the second part of this article we will explore just how your body deals with these stressors and how you can improve your ability to deal with them.