Tuesday, March 21, 2006

RedOrbit - Health - Integrating the Best of EAST & WEST

RedOrbit - Health - Integrating the Best of EAST & WEST:

IN their quest for more effective treatment methods, Chinese doctors have been combining Western and Chinese medical practices for decades. This has resulted in the creation of what they call Integrated Medicine, writes YONG TIAM KUI.

HERE in Malaysia, many people believe it is dangerous to take Western and Chinese medicines simultaneously. This is certainly true as far as self-medication is concerned.

But in China, it has been the accepted practice for more than 50 years for doctors to treat patients with a combination of Western and Chinese medicines.

Zhang Xichun, a traditional Chinese doctor in the city of Tianjin during the twilight years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was one of the pioneers of this approach.

One of the things Zhang did was to use a simple mixture of gypsum, a traditional Chinese remedy, and aspirin to treat fever.

Now, more than one hundred years later, close to two thirds of the Chinese population have benefited from Integrated Medicine, a comprehensive treatment approach which merges Western and Chinese medicine.

"Integrated Medicine is neither alter
native medicine or complementary medicine. It is not simply about adding traditional Chinese medical treatment to Western medical treatment.

"It is a comprehensive form of medical care that combines the strengths of Western and Chinese medicine and makes up for the inadequacies and possible side effects of both types of disciplines," said Professor Dr Wang Wenjian of Fudan University, China.

Dr Wang, director of the university's Institute of Integrated Medicine, says doctors who practise Integrated Medicine have to spend six years training in Western medicine and two years in Chinese medicine.

As they have access to a wider range of treatment options, this allows them to select the safest and most effective approach.

So, how exactly does a doctor who practises Integrated Medicine treat his patients?

Dr Wang says he usually begins by using modern Western diagnostic methods. This is followed by the application of traditional Chinese diagnostic techniques to further determine the exact nature of the patient's ailment.

For instance, if a patient appears to be suffering from gastric ulcer, modern Western diagnostic methods, such as endoscopy, are used to determine whether he really is having gastric ulcer or something more serious such as, say, cancer.

Having made a conclusive diagnosis of gastric ulcer, the doctor applies Chinese diagnostic techniques to find out whether the problem is due to conditions such as "stomach heatiness, stomach cold, liver qi invading the stomach or spleen-stomach vacuity cold".

At this point, the doctor has to decide what is the most effective course of treatment - Western medicine, Chinese medicine or a combination of Western and Chinese medicine.

During the SARS epidemic for example, said Dr Wang, patients treated with a combination of Western and Chinese medicine responded better than those who were treated only with Western drugs.

"Patients who were treated with conventional Western drugs had to put on a respirator for an average of 14 days.

"Patients treated simultaneously with both Western drugs and Chinese herbs to clear heat, resolve dampness, stimulate blood circulation and and invigorate qi (life force) only spent an average of five days on a respirator."

Dr Wang was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote the use of red yeast rice (hong qu) in lipid regulating therapy for the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease.

Red yeast rice is produced by fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus over red rice.

It is used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote blood circulation, soothe upset stomachs and invigorate the spleen.

In a seven-year study involving 4,870 Chinese individuals aged 18 to 75 who had survived a heart attack, Dr Wang and his team found that red yeast rice extract reduced total cholesterol level of subjects by an average of 13.2 per cent, triglycerides by 15 per cent and low density lipoprotein by 20.2 per cent, and increased high density lipoprotein by 4.9 per cent.

It reduced the incidence of coronary heart disease by 45.1 per cent and reduced fatalities by 31 per cent.

Clearly such impressive figures calls for further investigation and research.
* yongtk@nst.com.my

In Malaysia, the vast majority of people refer to Western medicine, though it does not mean that they have altogether turned their backs on traditional medicine.

However, before you embark on a red yeast rice programme for cholesterol control, do consult your regular Western-trained doctor.
Source: New Straits Times

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