Eastern v Western Medicine

The human body forever captivates me in all of its beauty to carry out its millions of functions, each and every day that you venture around this earth. It baffles me the commitment that the body has to keep someone ticking over, even when they completely abandon their health, poisoning themselves with cigarettes, alcohol and food that doesn’t deserve to even be called food. But the body can also hold a lot of darkness when it comes to disease.  When the body has had enough, it clearly lets you know. I felt this in what some might consider to be subtle, but nonetheless has opened my eyes more to my commitment to health and nutrition.  

One CT of my esophagus, a handful of blood tests, more radiation by way of a procedure in hospital, called a barium swallow, and a whole lot of worry, drew doctors to the diagnosis of acid reflux. Here I was thinking I was dying a slow death, when a sensation of something being stuck in my throat, sporadically occurred over the course of this year.throat.JPG While it ended up being a minor diagnosis, that’s very easily treatable with lifestyle changes, it still woke me up to take more care of my health. I imagine that other diseases on people have the same effect, although I know of many that still choose to ignore the warning signs.

East v West treatment

I very rarely go to visit a GP, perhaps once a year, at least when I’m not head butting reefs in the Philippines. I’ve been very fortunate to find a doctor that practices a blend of Eastern and Western Medicine. His name is Dr Ali and he loves Ayurvedic approaches, one of the most ancient medical systems in the world. It pre-dates Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine combined.

Dr Ali is happy to print me a script of antibiotics, but he’ll forewarn me that it’s a last resort approach, running through the various side effects, such as the destruction of good bacteria in my gut and increase in free-radicals. He will even go so far as handwriting traditional Chinese remedies, or supplements to take if I choose to be prescribed with the antibiotics, in a bid to counteract their damaging effects. The Eastern and Western divide can be described in the following extract from National Institutes of Health:

“Western medicine, while excelling at acute care and surgery, puts great emphasis on the chronic use of drugs to suppress the symptoms of illnesses. What is forgotten is that our bodies have a natural wisdom and intelligence; they have an intrinsic knowledge of how to grow, heal, maintain balance, restore homeostasis, and regenerate. Our bodies have evolved over aeons with these capabilities, but when they are suppressed, for example, when nutrition, exercise, and diet are not given adequate attention, or people ingest toxins, then “lifestyle-related” diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are much more likely to arise”.

Unfortunately, the divide between East and West has become all too much for Dr Ali and as he was helping me in my plan to tackle reflux, he told me he was taking off to Colorado in two weeks to study genetics as he’d had enough of the practice.

The Western Approach

I had requested blood tests of my own will, to rule out any issue with my thyroid and of course I was itching for the results. On the day of my appointment with Dr Ali, he had called in sick last minute, so I had to re-book with another unknown doctor.

Let me tell you, he was one of the coldest humans I had ever met. Even his white skinwestern medicine looked cold, as he pressed the dispenser of the antibacterial gel, that sat atop of his desk, lathering his hands in eliminate-all-bacteria, while his eyes glanced over my breasts and legs.

He remained expressionless, as he asked me why I had requested blood results for an issue with my throat. Before I could even answer, he found ways to talk over top of me. Scrolling through the results, he uninterestedly told me all my vitamin levels were fine and he couldn’t see anything worth concern. With a CT of my esophagus and blood tests showing nothing, I knew I had to book into the procedure in hospital.

The Eastern approach

After my results came back from hospital and I returned to the welcoming rooms of Dr Ali, the diagnosis of reflux was noted, but he also told me my blood tests were not great. My vitamin B and folic acid levels in particular, he described in his words as “ratsh*t”! On a running scale of worst to best, I had just made over the worst rating, which apparently was enough for the cold doctor to clear me of any concern. Something he had been taught in medical school Dr Ali mentioned.

The thing that shocked me most, was that the doctor had a discussion with Dr Ali asking chinese medicineif he had followed some particular code of practice, that again. had been taught in medical school in Australia. Dr Ali carrying over 30 years’ experience, in his unique blended approach and  practicing all over the world, mocked his colleague in his chest-puffing capabilities.

Dr Ali went back in the system and read the clinical notes of that doctor, from my visit to receive the blood test results. They were utterly appalling.  Any of the words that I managed to get out that day, throughout being cut, were recorded in the notes in quotation marks as if I was mad, and his final recommendation was to prescribe me psychotropics! Dr Ali laughed and said “well I won’t be doing that anytime soon”. My only guess is that as reflux can be triggered by stress and anxiety, this doctor’s approach was to prescribe me some anti-depressants! That shall fix the problem! I think I’ll stick to my yoga and meditation.

Holistic treatment

Of course a giant wave of relief washed over me as I found out that I was in fact, not dying. Relief turned into excitement in finding ways to better improve my already pretty good diet. The most uncanny aspect about the whole event, is that I’ve been writing health articles for a client on acid reflux for the past three months. I also had a gut instinct long before diagnosis to increase my vitamin B’s (being vegetarian) and had ordered PH test stripsnatural medicin for saliva months before.

Dr Ali handwrote his prescription of various supplements and Chinese Medicine that I could order to best treat my reflux. He also wittingly drew a map to the nearest fresh food market with the best raw treats in town.

It’s only been one week since I got my results, but I feel so full of life and energy, from mindfully increasing my intake of fresh fruit, vegetables from my garden, and Chinese teas containing a mixture of various healing plants and flowers. I’m yet to receive my supplements from an online order, but I think life will become even richer when I do.  I’m so proud of everything that I’ve learnt on holistic approaches to health over the years and everyone that has influenced that. Even though Dr Ali will be off overseas, on another journey and no longer there to guide me, I’m forever inspired to seek out alternative practitioners for any future health issues, and avoid prescription medications at all cost.

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Improved surfing with creatine

Creatine is one of the top selling workout supplements on the market today and it’s one that I’ve only personally discovered in recent times. I find it to be a highly efficient addition to my training regime, in particular my paddle fitness, strength and endurance in other workout activities. There does however seem to be many heated debates about whether creatine should be used by women as it has been known to increase bloating and water retention.

Creatine for women

As with most things I do believe it needs to be trialed personally before you make a decision about whether creatine is right for your workout regime or not. I did find mild bloating but compared to the other positive effects and what I’m getting out of creatine, fitneit’s really not a big issue for me. One thing I do believe needs to be monitored in particular with women is that we generally need to be gentler with our bodies when it comes to recovery. Creatine really makes you push harder with your workouts therefore you need to ensure you’re getting more rest time than you would otherwise without it.  Stretching is also very important due to how much harder you are pushing your muscles.

How it actually works

Within your body there is a very important molecule called Adenosine Tri Phosphate (ATP) which is the source of energy for every muscle and cell in your body. ATP is stored within your cells and is used for almost every move you make. However the levels that can be used straight away for high intensity activity is quite low and only lasts a very short time-a few seconds. Creatine helps to increase the time in which your body can perform at that creatine for womenoptimal level and therefore allows you to push harder in your workouts. What I found quite unique about creatine is that I actually feel a physical change in whichever muscle I am working out at the time, almost like a light burn or fuzzy effect! I guess this is the same as when you take a pain killer, science has made it so that it targets the key points of pain.

How much and when to take

The trick to creatine is that it requires loading and maintenance. Unfortunately it’s not something you can just take sporadically before any given surf while skipping days at a time. Take the dosage (1tsp) per day at the same time if you can, for 6-8 weeks, along with generous servings of carbs and protein to enable your body to store more creatine in your muscles. Then give yourself a rest for 4 weeks and repeat. It’s interesting to note that vegetarians naturally have  much lower levels of creatine in their bodies than meat eaters.

Why it’s perfect for surfers 

When you’ve been out in the surf for a couple of hours you usually get to the point where you feel fatigue in your muscles and thus you need to replenish by food (high carb) and thoroughly re-hydrate before you can get out for another session. Creatine works to increase your body’s capacity to perform at an optimal level and therefore assists in the building of greater muscle and increases your performance.

This is ideal for the days when it’s pumping and you want to stay out for as long as you can push your body. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the WQS competitors have cottoned onto creatine! I certainly notice a positive change in my paddling strength and feel a little like superwoman when I can rapidly paddle and duck dive back into the lineup with much less fatigue.

Aside from the above effects there are also many scientific studies carried out that prove creatine can enhance brain function, improve recovery time and even healing of bones. There is a great write up about these particular effects here > www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson181.htm

If you’re looking to increase strength and cardio fitness, lose weight or tone down then it’s certainly worth adding creatine to your supplement list. I find in other activities such as running, that I’m able to push myself much harder than I otherwise would. I think it’s a fantastic supplement for surfers as we engage in a very high cardiovascular sport where we continually need short bursts of energy and is great for increasing performance out in the water.

Graph courtesy of www.muscleandfitness.com