Use Health Care Not Disease Care

In America, the dominant medical paradigm confuses health care with disease care. In the spirit of traditional Chinese medicine, at Barefoot Acupuncture we focus on caring for health, not treating disease.

In The Yellow Emperor's Book of Internal Medicine, the imperial physician Qi Bo says:

"In the old days the sages treated disease by preventing illness before it began, just as a good government or emperor was able to take the necessary steps to avert war. Treating an illness after it has begun is like suppressing revolt after it has broken out. If someone digs a well when thirsty, or forges weapons after becoming engaged in battle, one cannot help but ask: Are not these actions too late?"

Generally, conventional medicine focuses on disease don't get care until you get sick. Even their "preventive" programs, like cancer detection screenings, reveal their real focus on disease, not health. You don't prevent cancer by getting prostate or breast exams, these exams DETECT cancer, not prevent it! This is indeed like waiting until thirsty to start digging a well. You might die of thirst before you finish!

Health care also focuses on supporting healthy body function, not focusing on eliminating symptoms or disease. Health care includes eating well, taking appropriate physical activity, cultivating beneficial relationships, hygiene, having fun, taking vacations, following your heart, living your truth, managing your internal "parts" (demons), and regularly using "therapies" like acupuncture, reflexology, herbal medicines, and nutritional supplements that support healthy body functions.

Health care focuses on doing things that make us feel well and improve body functions. So, for example, if you have a "cold," health care means resting, drinking appropriate fluids, supplementing appropriate vitamins, and using herbs that support the immune response.

Medical care, in contrast, focuses on eliminating symptoms of dis-ease. For example, in medical care, if you have a pain, you take a pain killer or anti-inflammatory; if you have high blood pressure, you take a drug that suppresses blood pressure; if you have a virus, you take an antiviral; if you have cancer, you cut it out or poison it. This approach lacks any attention to supporting natural body functions.

For example, if you have pain in the knee, this symptom is telling you something. At the very least, the pain is a message that you need to stop using the knee until it heals on its own or preferably you find out why you have the pain. Knee pain can arise from injury, endocrine weakness, or muscle imbalances in the thigh and hip, just to name a few possible causes.

Let's say you have a knee injury. Pain and inflammation arise to stop you from using a compromised joint. If you take an anti-inflammatory and it relieves your pain, right away you go back to using the knee while it is in an unhealed condition, which will only cause more damage. The end result will be a weaker, not stronger knee.

The health care approach would be to support the normal healing process. This could involve acupuncture or herbal medicine to increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the knee so that it can repair the damage and through repair the pain will subside. This process will result in a stronger, not weaker knee.

I don't treat cancer, but if you have cancer, and you cut it out or poison it, do you now have a healthier body? Not at all. You have eliminated an apparently offensive tumor, but you have not done a thing to enhance the immune function of the body. A healthy immune system takes care of cancer cells before they turn into tumors!

Whatever your symptoms, they are expressions of the body's natural self-healing power. Natural therapies support the self-healing process, whereas medical care often works to suppress or circumvent the healing process. Natural health care works to promote longevity, whereas a myopic focus on disease care tends to reduce longevity.

Don't wait until you feel sick to start caring for your health, or you might find yourself trying to forge weapons after getting involved in a battle--it could be too late.

Don Matesz, L.Ac.

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