I embrace many different types of treatment that have proven health benefits. As everyone is different, I believe it’s short-sighted to administer just one general therapy. Here I’ve explain some of the primary alternative treatments used in the field of integrative medicine for you to become better acquainted with. I encourage you to learn more, and try them out for yourself.
Acupuncture is the main treatment modality within the ancient system of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is the use of very thin needles placed less than 1mm into the epidermal layer of the skin, to stimulate the flow of the body’s vital energy, or Qi (Chi) along the body’s energy channels, known as meridians. Acupuncture meridians in TCM serve as pathways of vital energy to our organs and systems. When these pathways are blocked due to energetic imbalances, then illness, pain, and other degenerative conditions can develop. The placing of acupuncture needles at various key acupuncture points along these meridians for a short period of time can relieve these blockages and stimulate a more efficient and harmonious flow of vital energy, thereby allowing the body’s innate healing mechanisms to flourish.
Acupuncture has been proven efficacious over the thousands of years it has been practiced in the East. With its relatively recent popularity in the West, acupuncture has gained a strong reputation, even in some strict conventional medical communities. The effectiveness of acupuncture in treating a wide range of medical issues has been proven not only empirically over thousands of years, but also in a number of clinical trials conducted mainly in Asia, Europe and the US, thus giving acupuncture a viable reputation in the world of medicine. Health concerns ranging from cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, to hormone balancing, depression, and acute and chronic pain, have been helped with acupuncture treatments.
Each patient and diagnosis is unique, and a skilled acupuncturist will structure each treatment according to a wide variety of variables. The effects of acupuncture treatments tend to be subtle at first, but with time and consistency, noticeable results can be achieved. With regards to cancer therapy, some of the goals of acupuncture treatment include supporting the strength of the body’s various systems, enhancing vital energy, boosting immunity, reducing inflammation, increasing circulation, relieving stress as well as relief from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Overall, the goal is to treat the health of the whole person – body, mind and spirit, so that their own innate healing capabilities can flourish unobstructed, and they can better overcome the health issues they are facing.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a system of medicine dating back well over 2,000 years, with the first written work: the Huang Di Nei Jing (“Cannon of Medicine”) compiled around 200 to 100 BC. Central to the basic knowledge of TCM are key fundamental theories that incorporate specific patterns and structures within the natural world, such as the laws of interdependence in nature, to form a dynamic philosophy of the body’s innate healing capacities. TCM encourages a holistic view of the individual by interconnecting the patterns and relationships within their physical, mental and emotional systems, not only to each other, but also to the flux of energy among the natural elements and surrounding environments. The philosophies in TCM, though often viewed by the West as metaphorical and not easily translatable, are nonetheless highly refined and sophisticated in ways that Western Medicine may have yet to attain. Many patients in the West successfully used TCM when diagnosis and/or treatment with allopathic medicine had failed.
The main treatment modalities in TCM are acupuncture and moxabustion (the burning of Moxa herb, mugwort, around specific acupuncture points), Qi Gong (specific exercises to enhance the flow of vital energy), specific dietary recommendations, as well an extensive pharmacopeia of herbal medicine. These modalities have been and continue to be proven highly effective under scientific study in the treatment of disease.
The origins of TCM as a form of energetic healing are spiritual in nature. The overall health of a person is believed to be interrelated with their psychological, emotional, and spiritual health, and as such, many of the diagnostic and treatment protocols within TCM take into account this relationship between the physical functioning of the body and a person’s mental/emotional energies and experiences. Even with such relative subjectivity, clinical studies on the effectiveness of TCM treatment on a number of diseases have proven it to be a highly efficacious system of medical treatment that is both sophisticated and wise. TCM has been used successfully to treat many health problems including cancer, chronic degenerative diseases, immune deficiencies, depression, digestive problems, allergies, heart disease, inflammation issues, hormone imbalances, fatigue, chronic and acute pain, infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, and many others.
Homeopathy is a system of integrative or holistic medicine that originated in Germany around 1795 from the work of German physician Samuel Hahnemann. Homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s innate healing responses with remedies that consist of various natural substances diluted to almost untraceable amounts, making them safe for everyone, even babies. Most homeopathic remedies are based on the Law of Similars, which is a philosophy in healing that goes back to Hippocrates and states that “like cures like”. Therefore, substances that would cause similar symptoms as those caused by an illness or reaction are used as homeopathic remedies in extremely diluted form. For example, the homeopathic remedy Coffea, is derived from coffee, and can be used to treat insomnia. Modern science at this point does not have an exact explanation of how homeopathy works, however, new discoveries in the field of quantum physics may be helping to shed light on the topic.
Active ingredients in homeopathic remedies are diluted in some potencies literally millions of times, making them essentially untraceable. However, it is this miniscule amount that may only contain an energetic imprint of a substance, when viewed on the molecular level, which induces a healing response. In this way, homeopathic remedies provide a very gentle yet highly effective form of therapy with measurable results.
Just recently, a major cancer research institute tested the effectiveness of several homeopathic remedies on cancer cells, finding results that were almost equal in effectiveness to chemotherapy drugs. More research remains to be done on this exciting finding. In vitro (laboratory cell studies) will now need to be tested in vivo (in animals or humans). The fact that a major cancer research institute has recognized the potential of homeopathy will be a huge benefit for those who seek safe, effective alternative treatments to many illnesses, including life threatening ones.
Traditional homeopathic doctors will typically spend over an hour with a new patient, asking many questions related to the physical, psychological and emotional history of the patient. Specific remedies are often selected based on the mental/emotional patterns presented by the patient as primary symptoms, while the physical issue often remains secondary. With homeopathic remedies, less is more, so it is important to take only the prescribed potencies and quantities of each remedy. Homeopathy can help treat a wide range of health problems from cancer to broken bones to psychological imbalances. A skilled homeopath will help you decide which remedies can work best for you.
Infrared Heat Therapy
Infrared heat therapy uses infrared lamps, heaters, and infrared saunas to boost immune function, reduce inflammation, stimulate detoxification and weight loss, promote cardiovascular health and circulation, relieve pain, increase healing of wounds, relieve stress and depression, among other clinical benefits. Hyperthermia, or raising the body’s core temperature through external heat sources, can have a number of benefits. The use of infrared heat specifically has been clinically researched and proven highly efficacious in helping to treat a wide range of health concerns.
Infrared radiant heat is an energy source that heats objects through a specific process known as direct light conversion, also known as radiant heat. This type of energy can travel three or more inches deep into the body from the skin’s surface, thereby nourishing tissue and stimulating beneficial reactions, most notably increased immune activity, heavy metal and toxin removal, increased circulation and reduced inflammation, and the stimulation of collagen growth. This type of heat is what stimulates the hypothalamus, which is a primary endocrine gland involved in immune regulation. The core body temperature raises only a few degrees temporarily, making this form of hyperthermia safe and effective for many people. Infrared lamps and saunas are now believed to have some anti-tumor effects, by slowing the proliferation of cancer cells, while stimulating the activity of certain immune cells to help destroy the cancer.
There is some debate regarding the use of near-infrared heat vs. far-infrared heat. Artificially, near infrared heat comes from an infrared colored heat lamp, and is a wide spectrum heat wave but with a shorter wavelength range as compared to far infrared. Near infrared heat thereby more naturally resembles the suns’ rays (without the negative effects of UV radiation). Near infrared heat is definitely beneficial for focusing on a concentrated area of the body, and some studies suggest that it may penetrate more deeply into the body than far infrared. It is possible to add near infrared lamps to a far infrared sauna to increase the effectiveness. Overall, both types of infrared therapy can provide a multitude of health promoting benefits. However, if you are under the care of a health professional for a serious illness, it is necessary to consult with your care provider to ensure safety and success of treatment.
Jin Shin Jitsu
Originating in Japan, Jin Shin Jyutsu is a form of Shiatsu that recognizes 52 pressure points, termed “Energy Locks” distributed evenly on both sides of the body. According to JSJ theory, fatigue, stress, tension or illness can trap the body’s vital energy in these energy locks and create imbalances within the individual. A JSJ practitioner stimulates these specific points with gentle touch, as well as with movements of the hands over various areas of the body to release these blockages and harmonize the natural flow of vital energy within a person.
Jin Shin Jyutsu has been shown to help in the treatment of such diverse disorders as chronic and acute pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, immune deficiencies, high blood pressure, organ transplants, eating disorders, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, hormone imbalances, recurrent infections, insomnia, and even provide relief from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. It is such a gentle and effective form of therapy that it has been used successfully in such delicate cases as pre and post heart transplant surgery and end stage cancer pain management.
Skilled practitioners utilize diagnostic techniques known in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as pulse reading and inquiring into the mental/emotional status of the patient. The end result can be the rejuvenation and rebalancing of the body’s vital energy and with successive treatments, the underlying condition is often improved significantly.
Any detoxification and immune enhancement process must include stimulation of the lymphatic drainage system. Within the body, the lymphatic system is responsible for the removal of toxic substances that build up in our blood and tissue as a result of toxic exposure, sedentary lifestyle, and in more extreme cases, impaired detoxification function. Many chronic illnesses and conditions can often be traced to the buildup of toxins in the body, signaling that the lymphatic system has become overloaded and stagnant, often leading to reduced immune function. Helping the detoxification process by stimulating the lymphatic drainage with electo-devices, massage, and exercises, is an important step in the process of removing toxic buildup in the body and promoting a healthy immune system.
One such electro-device that is very beneficial is a machine that delivers minute electrical impulses by a handheld device through the surface of the skin to the lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels. These electrical impulses help to stimulate the flow of lymph and break down toxins making them easier to remove. Other beneficial lymph therapies include lymphatic drainage massage, a specialized massage therapy aimed at manually massaging areas of lymphatic build up and moving lymph toward the heart, where it can flow directly into the blood stream and be removed efficiently. A very relaxing treatment.
Dry skin brushing is a simple, do-it-yourself therapy that also helps the flow of lymph and encourages healthy lymphatic drainage. Using a natural bristle skin brush starting at your extremities and moving toward your heart, brush the skin in vigorous, short brush strokes.
Regular cardio exercise, the “chicken walk” (a brisk 20 min walk where you rotate your arms, or flap them like a bird), yoga stretches, and rebounding on a small rebounder trampoline, are all excellent exercises to get lymph circulating and move toxins out of your system. Any or all of these treatments can be combined to provide comprehensive adjuvant therapy during a seasonal cleanse or all year round, to improve immunity, reduce toxic build up, and promote overall health and well being.
Nutritional IV therapy is the sterile administration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids directly into the veins, when ordered by a physician and administered by nurse or medical doctor. IV therapy “cocktails” are prepared in sterile water or sterile saline solution bags, and dripped slowly over the course of several hours. Since the nutrients flow directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive tract, this type of therapy is especially indicated with patients who have impaired digestive function. Even with healthy digestion, however, a percentage of nutrients that are consumed orally simply don’t make it into our blood stream. Therefore, patients that need increased amounts of specific nutrients may benefit from nutritional IV therapy.
This type of treatment has shown to be beneficial in a number of difficult illnesses, even cancer. “Megadoses” of Vitamin C with other antioxidants, have been clinically shown to reduce the growth of some cancers. This type of nutritional IV therapy has also shown benefit in cases of impaired immune function, heavy metal toxicity, chronic and acute infection, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, asthma, inflammation, depression, post surgical wound healing and others.
Nutritional IV therapy can be prescribed by any MD, though most often it is by those in the field of integrative medicine who have acknowledged the health benefits of nutritional IV therapy and use it regularly in their practice.
Osteopathy is a medical practice in which various gentle manipulations of the musculoskeletal system are performed by a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) to promote rebalancing and regeneration of the body’s entire systems. It is effective in providing relief from chronic pain and injuries, as well as acute injury and illness. Because their medical degree and license is legally recognized as the equivalent of a M.D. in the United States, DOs can utilize all recognized diagnostic and therapeutic methods in their practice.
Osteopathic treatments focus on the musculoskeletal system, mainly the joints, muscles, spine and cranium. These treatments, known as manipulations, aim to enhance whole body health by correcting imbalances within the musculoskeletal system, thereby improving the functioning of the circulatory, nervous, lymphatic and other systems. Nutrition, exercise and supplementation are also a large part of Osteopathic protocols.
Osteopathic philosophy is holistic in nature, viewing all of the body’s systems as interconnected in structure and function. It is not, however, a preventative system of medicine, in that Osteopaths generally believe in the innate healing power of the body to restore balance when illness or injury has occurred. Due to the pace of our modern world however, the body sometimes needs assistance in dealing with illness or pain. This is where Osteopathy can help in the rebalancing and reintegration of the body’s systems.
Meditation and Healing
The health benefits of meditation, whether secular or spiritual, have long been recognized in the East, and now these benefits have successfully been tested in the rigors of the scientific community with excellent results. More and more peer reviewed research on meditation confirms that it is a viable method of improving health and psychological/emotional well being, helping with issues ranging from cardiovascular disease, inflammation, immune activity, to pain, anxiety, depression, mental imbalances, and more. As a relaxation technique, meditation offers many benefits, and it is well known in the medical world that reduction of stress improves the condition of many disease states and helps to greatly reduce health risks related to physical, mental and emotional overload. Risk factors for a multitude of diseases including life threatening heart disease and stroke have been improved with the regular use of meditation as a balancing and strengthening self-care modality.
The benefits of meditation are most noticeable when it is practiced on a regular, preferably daily, basis. The most important thing to remember is to start out at a pace that is reasonable for you, say, 10 minutes every evening before bed. If you place a lofty goal of meditating for two hours every morning, and are unable to reach it, it is very easy to give up, and as they say in Buddhism, your mind is always looking for an excuse to avoid meditation. Commanded by our egos, the resistance of our hyper-active minds to the gradual and gentle quieting influence of our natural inner calm, our true essence, is one of the greatest challenges to a successful commitment to meditation. By gaining control over this hyper-reactive mind state through the gentle discipline of a budding meditation practice, we can experience greater and more profound access to our natural inner essence, leading to increased awareness and a more profound experience of being. The health benefits that this expanded depth of experience can provide are numerous, but most often they are marked by a greater mental and emotional stability, and a balancing and strengthening of our physical energy.
Developing a regular meditation practice requires only a quiet space and a commitment to continuing to make time to meditate, no matter what obstacles seem to arise, and believe me, they do. One of the biggest obstacles is the endless busy-ness of day to day life, whereby an extra 10 minutes often seems too much to spare. It is important to realize, however, that by granting yourself these precious moments on a regular basis, the overall quality of your life will improve, and things that seemed to take away from your time and energy may resolve themselves as your clarity, focus and stamina are improved.
There are thousands of styles of meditation practice, but one of the most profound also happens to be one of the simplest. This is the ancient Tibetan practice of Shamatha meditation. Shamatha means “calm abiding” in Sanskrit, and this meditation is intended to let the mind’s natural state of tranquility and clarity be accessed by focusing the breath on a specific object, and letting all other thoughts arise and slip away as the attention is turned back to the breath. Eventually as our practice deepens, the space between thoughts becomes greater and more profound. Resting in this quiet space, we make room for our true inner nature of love, peace and tranquility to arise and expand. The layers of obstructions, in the form of attachments, aversions, hopes and fears, slowly peel away, and as our inner light becomes brighter and clearer, healing takes a quantum leap.
The Power of Positive Affirmations
Do positive affirmations and positive thoughts really work? Does thinking positively upon yourself and your external environment and reality actually produce positive effect and create noticeable change? Can you cure yourself of disease simply by affirming yourself to be healthy and whole? Well certainly, having a positive outlook can alter your perception of reality which can be beneficial, but does it actually alter reality per se? As an Integrative physician, a holistic healer and a meditation practitioner, I am confronted with this issue every day. In fact, this may be the most profound question in the age-old contemplation of consciousness within spirituality, philosophy, and yes, science. What role does consciousness play in the establishment of reality?
There are many extreme views on this topic. Western science has traditionally clung to the dualistic concept that subject and object are separate, and there is no room for subjective (i.e., consciousness based, emotional based) experience in the scientific “rational” observation of the material world. Taken experientially, this interpretation states that the mind of the human being is simply a passive observer of a reality that is imposed by a totally deterministic external world, i.e. by forces of nature that we have no internal control over.
The opposite view, held by many mystics and spiritual practitioners across the ages, is that all experience in this world is created by consciousness, and that all tangible elements of physical reality are therefore ultimately an illusion. Then there are many beliefs, spiritual, philosophical, and scientific, that place themselves in the middle ground, existing as flexible mediums between these two extremes. One such belief system, celebrated especially by the New Age Movement, is the belief in the “Power of Affirmations”, the power of “positive thinking”.
When we make an affirmation, we generate a positive thought, but unfortunately it often doesn’t result in a real difference. Why? More often than not, the thought is generated in a contrived way, and is not genuine. We may tell ourselves that “we are healthy and happy”, but deep down, we might not really believe it. Often, our positive thoughts are just a few thin layers covering a multitude of suppressed negative beliefs generated by fear, aversion, attachments and the like. These negative beliefs can be both conscious and unconscious, but regardless of their specific location in our psyche, they are clearly the obstructing force in any real effect of positive affirmation on our reality. Which leads me to conclude that, Yes, positive affirmations do work, but only to the degree that they are truly genuine– that you generate them and sustain your belief in them from the deepest core of your being possible. This means being in touch with yourself, experiencing the true potential of your existence, and then being genuine to that experience. As an example, we may be living only at 5% of our potential, but we may be 80% genuine to that potential. But that is still experiencing only 3% of our potential.
So what is the deepest core of our being, and how do we access it? This is the difficult part. We can use the metaphor of the onion and its many layers. Our deepest core is our true essence, and it is in no way separable from the essence of the Universe. When we peel back the layers of the onion, the layers of negative beliefs, distractions, fears etc., we can actually reach this core essence and rest in it, naturally and effortlessly radiating energies of love, compassion, and healing. The deeper we go, the more layers we peel, the more access we have to our true essence and the more genuine our affirmations can be, for this essence is simply pure openness, love: the true essence of positive affirmation. Often, and especially in moments of crisis, we can become more genuine to ourselves, to our experience of existence. This is the true opportunity presented by crisis. If we keep going deeper, and have the right guidance, we can start peeling into the depth of our experience, peeling back the layers that obstruct our essence. Then, when the openness is there, love and compassion flow effortlessly as a natural expression of our true nature, and anything can happen.
Lama Giatsu, who just passed away, taught me these three principles of Buddhist healing:
- The Substance: The medicine that you are giving
- The Mantra: The power of prayer. This is the affirmation.
- The Wisdom (yeshe): This is the knowing of our true essence.
He told me this as part of a story how his teacher in Tibet healed all the yaks and protected them from an epidemic. When we touch our wisdom, our essence, the power of healing and change takes a quantum leap.
It is interesting to note that the traditional dualistic system of rational western science is beginning to give way to a more holistic view of reality, especially in the field of Quantum Physics. Scientists in this field are starting to discover the subjective nature of reality: that the influence of mind and consciousness is more, perhaps much more, far reaching than previously believed. A program at Princeton University called Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research is currently devoted to a range of scientific studies on consciousness-related physical phenomena. This is may be interesting to anyone seeking “proof” of the effects of consciousness on our external reality. For me, the belief lies in the core of our true essence. An “affirmation” generated from this depth of being, from the openness and love and compassion for ourselves and the world is now a “truth”.