Chinese + Functional Medicine
Digestive Warrior is a platform for information regarding digestive conditions in a more alternative fashion, while absolutely acknowledging science. My work represents the integration of two very sophisticated systems: Chinese and Functional Medicine. This is, by definition, East meets West. In my humble opinion, the marrying of these two systems strengthens both and equates to the highest potential in healing.
If you are seeking ‘standard’ definitions of digestive conditions, best to visit Wikipedia or Mayo’s site. This is a different type of discussion and there are plenty of resources out there if you desire more Western information. I’m going to assume that if you are reading on my site that you are already well versed on such (relevant) material, no need for redundancy.
*Reading my ‘Root Cause’ article (that you will receive for free by subscribing to my site) is a crucial addition in understanding my approach to reversing digestive symptoms. It is very educational and defines my 4-step approach.
I believe in order for the discussion of digestive illness to take place in the context of these two systems, it is important to have an elementary understanding of each, as well as how they interact and enhance one another. This allows one to be as informed as possible in approaching their illness in a more alternative fashion, if one desires. This is not ‘new-age’ medicine…..this is 2,000 years of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is, as we speak, practiced alongside conventional medicine in all hospitals in China.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine (FM) is the study of functional relationships in the body. Simply put, FM is ‘contemporary science.’ FM believes in restoring function through the latest scientific research in how our genetics, environment, diet and lifestyle all interact. Through biochemistry and physiology, FM focuses on assessment and intervention at root levels of metabolic imbalance. It is an evolved version of the Western paradigm of medicine that better addresses needs of the 21st Century. In these modern day times, we have unprecedented epidemics’ of diseases- FM addresses the very core as to why this is so. Digestive illness is increasing at an alarming rate; it is imperative we investigate the reasons behind this. Functional Medicine does just that.
There has been a 30% increase in the past year of MD’s acquiring FM certification, transitioning their practices into a more well-rounded, non-cookie-cutter approach. FM practitioners are not anti-pharmaceuticals; they are simply open to the exploration of natural treatment and preventative medicine, thereby potentially eliminating the harsh side-effects, toxicity or long-term repercussions of drugs. The greatest attribute of FM practitioners is that they are most interested in root cause of disease. They are detectives, determined to know the underlying reason(s) as to why patients are experiencing symptoms, rather than throwing a label and a drug at them. It is through the unraveling of such fundamental information that they, with precision, can address the patients’ individual needs in treatment.
The most significant commonality between FM and Chinese Medicine is that they recognize each patient as unique. This recognition is long over-due in the realm of orthodox medicine.
For a further look at functional medicine, its history, the institute and what they do, click here:
A Functional Medicine Perspective on Root Cause of gut disease:
- Genetic Mutation (11 genes have been identified)
- Food Allergies
- Environmental Toxins/Triggers
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Mitochondrial Dysfunction
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Oxidative Stress
- Poor Detoxification
What is Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) encompasses how the body interacts with all aspects of life and the environment, seasons, weather, diet and emotional states. It is a system that emphasizes pattern recognition per each individual. It sees the key to health as the balanced functioning of the body, mind, spirit and holds that this balance depends on the unobstructed flow of Qi, or “life force” energy throughout the body along pathways known as ‘meridians.’ TCM practitioners see disease as the result of disruption in the circulation of Qi (in the very simplest of terms).
Chinese Medicine strongly identifies each person as very unique in their disease pattern. For example, if a Chinese practitioner had ten IBS patients standing before them, each might be diagnosed very differently. Now of course there may be some underlying diagnostic similarities among these ten people…….but they could perhaps each have different patterns in how the disease originally ensued. Each person is identified according to their individual constitution, each ones course of treatment (what herbs to prescribe and where to put needles) specific to their pattern of disharmony. Perhaps this is not too far off from Western Medicine- one person responds great to a biologic, another does not. Chinese Medicine is simply far more intricate. Point being- every person is vastly unique in regard to what their needs are for healing. This is the beauty of Chinese Medicine.
For a more in depth discussion of what Chinese herbs are and what exactly they do, please read my blog Why Chinese Herbs. It will quell your curiosity. Chinese herbal medicine is sophisticated alchemy……not hocus-pocus. For the aforementioned 10 patients, each one would receive a unique herbal prescription. Yes there would most likely be consistency in some of the primary herbs used. Of course it would depend on what the patients’ symptoms are at that moment as well, i.e. to stop bleeding vs stop pain (or both).
A Look at the Relationship between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Functional Medicine (FM)
In modern TCM research it is possible to integrate syndrome differentiation with a biomedical diagnosis. Syndrome differentiation is one of the most important pieces in the practice of Chinese Medicine, and while it looks very different from conventional diagnostic methods, there is a cross-relationship. There is no ‘one to one’ correlation, however, in TCM to Western medicine.
A person can suffer from 2 or more diseases at the same time, and each disease can show 2 or more TCM patterns of disharmony. Bottom line: In Chinese Medicine, syndrome differentiation is dynamic, with the diagnosis digestive disease being no exception. In TCM, one pattern could be altered or resolved after treatment, requiring revision of treatment.
While the practice of TCM is becoming more widely used and accepted these days outside of China, scientists in the West have mostly focused on phyto-chemical aspects of Chinese Medicine (herbs). Unfortunately, they have no real understanding of the way a Chinese practitioner differentiates disease and syndromes.
The systems’ biology approach used in FM is very similar to the concepts of pattern differentiation in TCM. These principles can (and should be) used as a bridge between Eastern and Western medicine. The ‘correlation exploration’ studies between TCM pattern differentiation and biomedical disease diagnosis are very innovative studies and have the potential to offer profound intervention for patients, biologically. More and more clinical trials are taking place in China in the last decade in an attempt to correlate these two systems for a more comprehensive understanding. Published data is increasing in China from scientists, doctors’ and researchers to provide information due to the recognition of the efficacy in the integration of these two systems. Modern research development is on the rise in this arena, and I believe it is only a matter of time before an entirely new paradigm of medicine is born.
For an example: A double-blind, randomized clinical trial an enteric-coated capsule of Fu Fung Ku Shen was proven to be as effective and safe (if not safer) in the treatment of Ulcerative Colitis given the TCM diagnosis of damp-heat accumulation, compared to an enteric-coated capsule of mesalamine; it even showed a more positive effect specifically in the inflamed left hemi-colon area (Gong et al, 2011).
- For a look at Chinese herbal medicine trials and studies for IBS, check out my ‘Scientific Articles’ section
Cutting edge TCM research is also very interested in the pharmalogical evaluation of herbal formulas for drug discovery, as over 70% of drugs are derived from plants. In conventional medicine, prescribed drugs mostly consist of a single compound for the treatment of a specific disease. In TCM, multiple compounds are prescribed to restore health (a Chinese Herbal formula typically consists of 5-10 herbs). This ‘multiple compound’ approach, which addresses layered biological imbalances, could be dissected for new drug discovery…….and perhaps become a future pillar in pharmacology.
The integration of these two systems is an art in and of itself. In their similarities as well as their differences they support one another.