Oriental Medicine, Men and Their Health

Cameron Bishop DAOM, L.Ac.

Years ago, when I worked as a Medic, there was nothing quite like driving code three (full lights and sirens) against traffic on the Las Vegas Strip. I was twenty and remember many adventures of scooping up the injured and dropping them off at the hospital never to be seen again. There was no concept of taking care of my body or aftercare for them. I could play all day and dance all night. I was indestructible. Things change.

As a result of living in Japan for many years, observing patients for a decade, and rebuilding my own body from injuries, I have found a few things that can help you live a healthier life.

Our country excels at mechanical linear medicine. We relate to the simple idea it is "broken or fixed" - especially American males. Well, we guys usually like to wait till there is a disaster. We then demand to be well instantly. We want our mommies to make it all better. You ladies are probably laughing in agreement. Women are simply better at health maintenance. They are used to it- hair, nails, make up, color, and fashion! Everyone forgets to remember that how a cut heals is how our bodies heal - slow and in stages. In fact we forget we are organic. We like to think we are mechanical and as we get well, just like our car being fixed, we take it for granted.

Using the example that our bodies are like a car, our ‘vehicle' can take us where we want to go, whenever we want. We should then acknowledge that, unlike a physical car that we can trade in or replace, we, as humans, only get one "car" in life - Our Body! Therefore, when some of our parts are not working correctly, we want to get a quick fix.

We often take ‘our car' for granted until things go wrong. Then we want the "Doctor God" to save us immediately. We expect our doctors to know ‘how long,' ‘how much' and ‘when' can I go back to what I was doing that was killing me in the first place. We push ourselves and then are frustrated that we are not fixed instantly. And, it is particularly frustrating to older folks that have no previous generations with which to learn from, draw upon positive experiences.

Our culture teaches us to find something outside of ourselves to save us. Eastern Medicine thinks of our body as a garden. It teaches us to allow seeds to bloom within - seeds leading to a healthier mind, body and spirit. We may not know what may sprout, but one thing is for certain, we become what we cultivate. Or what we don't cultivate.
But what we are forgetting is that if our body has been an ‘unattended field' for many decades, it will take time, perhaps seasons, to transform it to the kind of garden we are wanting.

Amazingly, our bodies have the ability and means to know how a disease started, progressed, sprouted and then finally became an illness. Using this same innate knowledge, our bodies can work in reverse as well. Therefore, it IS possible to ‘save your own life' by making better choices one choice at a time knowing that these healing steps may be subtle improvements, that over time can bring your body back to better health.

Another complicating cultural phenomenon is we have a generation living longer than they expected. We are living longer than ever. They have no example of how to age or what it is normal in the golden years. And because our culture focuses on the individual to pushing for an immediate goal, we have become one of the most productive nations, and one of the most stressed and overworked. The overview of the long term health is superseded.

A common scenario in my clinic is that people come to see me after they have lost "their edge," and no longer feel, or perform at their best. Although they have been successful attaining the American dream, they have pushed themselves on many levels to succeed. As a result, they feel older, and not at their best. On some intuitive level they know something is wrong. Meanwhile, the generation behind them is watching and thinking: "Look at them... I don't want to die on thirteen medications or have multiple operations". These baby boomers are looking to stay healthy. They know they need to do something different, but they're not sure how. It's guess work.

One of the positive results of their line of questioning is that they already realize that there is a new goal and value that they need: to have health in retirement rather than worship youth, beauty and perfection now.

A second important key to keeping your health at its' optimum is NOT to use herbs symptomatically. Sometimes I have a patient come in with a shopping bag full of herbal bottles. An example is a recent patient who went to the herbal store and came home with Gingko, Vitamin C, White Willow and Vitamin E. He was told that Gingko would keep Alzheimer's disease away, Vitamin C would keep colds and cancer away, White Willow would help his arthritis pain as would Vitamin E. What he did not know is his mix was all blood thinners. The lesson - get advice from someone who knows how to mix them properly for a holistic approach to your health: constitutional first, and symptomatic second. Don't buy out of fear based consumerism.

It is harder to clean up an unattended house than to keep up on it everyday and so that is true with the body. This brings us to one of the most important things you should do to maintain good health. Get regular cancer screenings. They can help you catch something sooner rather than later. We know around half of the cancers out there are from genes and the rest environmental. Many prosperity diseases are simply from our rich lifestyle and can be avoided.

An important secret is that everyone's health rules are different. My grandfather lived well till 97 claiming that whiskey and water and popcorn with no butter was the secret. My grandmother lived to 96 claiming a daily pot of coffee was the way to go. Simply one man's medicine is another man's poison. That goes for diets too.

The Japanese live the longest, and after extensive investigation, it is found that they simply eat less, eat better and exercise more. I don't make the rules for health. If I did, coffee, chocolate, beer and pizza would fix everything. I have learned,  to follow them is better than not to follow them, and at least half of my health and wellbeing is dependent on it. In the end the simple truth is some of it is a roll of the dice, some of it is genetics, and some is luck.

Apply some simple honesty to yourself, and reflect on these concepts. You may find you will live longer, be healthier and can do more of what you want to do later on. This could save your life, or at least give you a better quality of life in your golden years. The idea is to live as well as possible as long as possible with a short drop off rather than a long debilitating ride down.