Try a Mix of Eastern and Western Medicine for Optimum Health


Dr. Xiaolan Zhao, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the author of , explains how Eastern and Western medicine can complement one another to lead to a healthier, more balanced body and mind.

Q: With Western medicine, we have this idea that you only go to see a doctor if you’re sick. Does Eastern medicine differ from that idea?

A: Yes. The heart of TCM is preventative. When troubles come, we try to balance things, but the basic theory really emphasizes prevention. We want to empower people to look after their health as the most important thing.

Q: Are there any reasons people particularly come to see you?

A: Everything! Western medicine really looks at the symptoms, but TCM looks at the balance of the whole body. When you have an emergency, you need the help of Western medicine to address that. If someone outside my office was in a car accident and broke several bones, I would send them to Western methods to stop the bleeding. But 80 or 90 percent of the problems are chronic conditions. For chronic conditions, you can’t just take a pill; you have to address everything. And for so many chronic conditions, we don’t really know the specific cause. TCM practitioners aren’t pathologists, but we are trained to tell when things are blocked or out of balance.

Q: When someone comes in for a consultation, how do you determine what part of their body is out of balance?

A: With TCM, we have four techniques for diagnosis. One is conversation. Two is observation of the person’s Qi; when someone walks in you can get a sense of their balance. Three is the pulse, which says a lot. And four is the tongue; it’s connected to the internal and any toxins will show up.

Q: Are there a lot of people whose bodies are out of balance, but they have no idea?

A: Actually, it’s the contrary: lots of people [know they] don’t feel well, but their doctors don’t know what’s wrong with them because their blood tests come back fine.

Q: But is the Eastern idea of wellness something people need to embrace even before they start to feel unwell?

A: Absolutely. We’re really trying to encourage people to try meditation and to eat well. For me, to empower people is really important. I have a lot of patients who completely change their lifestyles; you have to learn how to depend on yourself. The quality of daily life if you eat balanced meals, exercise and sleep well can be a huge difference.

Q: What are some of the treatments you offer?

A: We have a naturopath, homeopath, psychotherapist and massage therapist. They’re complementary therapies.

Q: Can you explain how the detoxifying therapies work?

A: When the body’s sick, we believe that that the body is blocked by toxins. In TCM, detoxifying is essential. If you can detox in spring – the time of year associated with wood and fresh growth – then the whole year you can be healthy. Just as when you want to make a plant healthy, you need to make sure the earth is clean and nourishing and rid of toxins.

Q: So even if there’s nothing particularly wrong with me, can I just come into your office to check on my balance and get a prescription for living a healthier lifestyle?

A: Absolutely. It’s like with a car, where you take it every six months for a tune-up. The body needs maintenance, and acupuncture is preventative. Once people start coming to see us, they realize how good they can feel. Women really need to honour themselves and take care of themselves.

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