Chinese Medicine and Infertility
|by Dr. Mike Berkley
Although health and healing are the common goals of Traditional
Chinese Medicine (TCM) and allopathic medicine, their
ideas on the etiology of disease, disease itself and the
process used to regain health are decidedly different.
The allopathic physician learns that disease must be cured
by prescribing medicine, which kills bacteria or renders
a virus ineffective; at times surgical intervention is
There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach.
It often works. The question worth exploring is why TCM
succeeds where allopathic medicine fails? What is the
mechanism of action of acupuncture and herbal medicine,
which results in palliation or cure that is not manifest
Though the goal of TCM is to cure a patient, the doctor
of TCM attempts to do this not by treating the disease
but rather by treating the whole person, taking into account
the various attributes of an individual which, when combined,
account for an individual being sick or healthy. A person,
according to the tenets of TCM is more than their pathology.
While treating the pathology may yield impressive results,
they are commonly temporary.
A person is not, according to TCM, represented solely
by his or her illness, but by the accumulation of every
human interaction engaged in from the moment of birth,
including the values of and the culture from which the
individual develops. The emotional experiences, eating
habits, work habits, work and living environment, personal
habits and the social milieu are factors that contribute
to disease and are factors which, when modified appropriately
may lead to regained health.
Though the Western scientific community has not, to date,
arrived at a methodology to use in research of Chinese
medicine, the veracity and efficaciousness of this medical
modality is nonetheless proved by its long history of
continued success. More than a quarter of the world's
population regularly uses TCM as part of their health
care regimen. Chinese medicine is the only form of classical
medicine, which is regularly and continuously used outside
of its country of origin.
THE FOUR EXAMINATIONS
The 'Four Examinations' is a method of diagnosis which
dates back over three thousand years. Observing, Listening
and Smelling (Listening and Smelling are counted as one
of the Four Examinations), Questioning and Palpating make
up the 'Four Examinations'. This method of diagnosis is
far from simplistic, allowing the practitioner to arrive
at a differential diagnosis.
Each of the "Four Examinations" can take years
to master, and while these diagnostic tools are not replacements
for that which Western medicine can provide in analyzing
and treating disease, they have the ability to offer information
which, when understood in the context of TCM, provides
additional opportunities in mapping out patterns of disease
and arriving at greater treatment success.
The doctor of TCM must approach a patient with a clear
and calm mind, without a
preconceived diagnosis and etiology. This mind-set will
enable the practitioner to yield clinical gems which are
clues about the individual who sits before us! This is
the stuff of TCM.
The subjective, interpretive and objective evidence of
an individual obtained via the 'Four Examinations' leads
to the discovery of the etiology of disease while concomitantly
opening a window to the 'Whole Person", thus revealing
where in the individual's life the pathogenesis started
and what initiated it. The practitioner of TCM must utilize
his own interpretive skills, which takes into consideration
what is verbalized by the patient and what is observed,
while considering what the patient does not verbalize
as well. Often, that which is not said can be as clinically
enlightening as the information which is freely provided.
The tone of the voice, the complexion, the condition of
the eyes (in TCM, the Shen or spirt of an individual is
said to be revealed through their eyes. Who can deny the
clinical efficacy of this? Is there a different expression
revealed through the eyes of a clinically depressed individual
than from those of a happy, well adjusted one?), the facial
expression, the overall demeanor, how one walks, sits,
and stands are all observed and utilized by the doctor
of Chinese medicine as part of the information required
to arrive at a differential diagnosis. The doctor must
be able to note and sense inconsistencies in an individual
that are expressed by the patient even without the patient
being cognizant of the chasms which exist between what
they verbally express and what their spiritual presentation
divulges. The sensitivity to and awareness of these human
idiosyncrasies enables the TCM doctor to develop an understanding
of who the patient is even before the 'main complaint'
Proper treatment in TCM is more than the elimination of
pathological processes. In addition to attacking a pathological
factor(s), it is the responsibility of the TCM doctor
to support the individual in his or her goal of achieving
overall health which includes aspects of physical-psycho-emotional
and spiritual health. This paradigmatic approach is an
inexorable part of the process of healing. Without it,
we are merely chasing the sickness and forgetting about
the patient. With this approach, the patient is seen as
a whole person, representing the sum of a lifetime of
experiences if you will, not just an embodiment of pathology.
Pathologies are guests (and we hope temporary ones!) in
a home which serves as a gracious host - our physical,
emotional and spiritual selves. TCM first is concerned
with strengthening the immune function which includes
homeostasis of the physical, emotional and spiritual attributes
of the patient, so as to be able to assist the patient
in his or her endeavor to do battle and destroy the enemy
at the gates (or inside them). When people are chronically
exhausted from lack of sleep resulting from anxiety or
depression, they can become chronically sick as a result
of a lowered immune system.
In TCM the point of departure from Western medicine is
not to view the acute
presentation (called "the branch" in TCM) as
primary, but to treat the etiology (called "the root"
in TCM) which is the anxiety and depression which causes
the insomnia then facilitating exhaustion and lowering
the immune function which can lead to chronic illness.
So, rather than prescribing antibiotics repeatedly, we
might address the patient's anxiety/depression syndrome
or refer them out to a psychotherapist for appropriate
intervention while simultaneously providing treatment.
In Part II we'll look at the mechanisms of action in infertility.
About the Author
Dr. Mike Berkley has been treating fertility disorders
since 1996 with amazing results. He works exclusively
in the area of reproductive medicine and enjoys working
in conjunction with some of New Yorks most prestigious
reproductive endocrinologists. Sign up for his free newsletter