My first appointment with the oriental medicine practitioner had me a bit nervous. I was open to trying something new, but definitely skeptical about some of the methods of eastern medicine. I wanted to give it a fair shot, but I didn’t want to have to check my intellect at the door and dive headfirst into a bunch of touchy feely stuff. For that reason, I’d chosen a woman who started her career as an RN. I figured I’d be able to express some of my own hesitations to someone who’d been in my shoes before.
Theresa was great. She carefully read through my health history and 7 day food log. She actually pulled out a real, western blood pressure cuff and took my blood pressure and pulse! (I’m not sure if I expected her to try and read my blood pressure psychically, divining the numbers while humming with her eyes closed, but I was still surprised.) She listened with sympathy as I recalled my embarassing incident at work. She asked me all kinds of questions about everything possible during my hour and a half visit with her. How were my energy levels throughout the day? Had I ever had a complete thyroid panel drawn? How regular were my periods? Did I have a stressful home life? Had I ever been tested for food allergies? The list went on and on. At the end, she gave me some practical tips for how to increase my energy levels throughout the day. Lemon water in the morning to get my metabolism started, a little sea salt mixed with water in the afternoons when I felt my energy dropping, and above all, drink lots of water! She also asked me to get a full blood panel done. Labs I’d never thought to check, my vitamin D level, thyroid panel, cortisol workup and a whole set of labs related to anemia. As I walked out of her office, I realized it was the most comprehensive medical visit I’d ever had. While she mentioned words like “qui” and spoke about my kidney energy, she did it in a way that didn’t seem strange or mystical.
Over the course of the next year, I dove headfirst into exploring what it meant to listen to my body. Not just to pull out a book and read about what I thought was wrong with me, but to actually be in tune to how I felt at various points and in response to different foods. I learned that my adrenals were shot from prolonged stress and overexertion. In an effort to make the ungodly amount of stress hormones I was using, my body was diverting resources away from making sex hormones like progesterone and using them to make cortisol instead. I was highly reactive to gluten and casein, foods that were damaging my gut lining every time I consumed them. I was underweight because the intestinal damage had compromised my ability to absorb nutrients. The facial flushing that I always tried to cover up with makeup was a sign of the inflammation going on in my gut. My intestinal bacteria were imbalanced from an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and candida. (Eww! Never felt so disgusting in my life!) I had a list of things that were all related, things that all combined together to make me feel drained and fatigued. Or, as eastern medicine would say, they all drained my qui, my life force. And that’s exactly how it felt.
Fast forward to today, and my life feels balanced. I have a lot more energy, though I still feel that old fatigue if I push myself too hard for too long. My skin has cleared up, my bowels are more regular, and I actually gained about 10 pounds since starting on a healing diet. I no longer think that eastern medicine is all about chanting and “touchy feely” medicine. I think its a system based on listening to your body and finding how your own unique biochemistry influences your everyday life. And I think we’d all be better off if we found a way to combine the science and technology of western medicine with the intuitive and personalized approach of eastern medicine.
So that’s it, in a nutshell. My goal now is to learn as much as I can about the impact of nutrition, stress, exercise and everyday life choices on our bodies, our lives, and yes, our qui.