Not too long ago, I spent another weekend in a very intensive course on functional medicine. I was in Charlotte attending a three-day class entitled “Mastering Functional Blood Chemistry”. This was the third time I have taken this course. Each time I have taken this course it has been with different instructors. Each instructor brings their own unique clinical experience and pearls of wisdom and expertise to the course.
Obviously, I find great value in this course in having taken it multiple times. With each class, I have had the opportunity to receive the latest cutting-edge and most up-to-date research on the advances of modern medicine. Every nugget of information that is shared is peer-reviewed, scientifically driven data, and verified with clinical findings and laboratory testing.
I have been participating in courses of this nature for over a decade now. Typically, the vast majority of these classes are composed of Western medical doctors or chiropractors. This most recent class had over 60 participants. I believe only 3 were acupuncturists in this class, which is more than there have been historically. As a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, I must admit, sometimes the nuances of physiology and biochemistry escape me. I was trained in an entirely different way to understand the physiology and pathological processes of disease as seen in Western biochemistry. Sometimes, I need to refer to textbooks or good old Google to fully understand all the material discussed in these courses.
My path to functional medicine is a little backward compared to the vast majority of functional medicine practitioners. Most functional docs started with typical Western allopathic and biomedical training and then leaned more into using that information in a more holistic perspective. My path in medicine began with the holistic approach and then leaned more into the Western allopathic and biomedical perspective- but in the journey, the holistic approach has always remained the foundation of all healthcare.
Every single process in the body is due to, and/or creates another chemical process in the body. I suppose the simplistic way to describe Functional Medicine is “holistic Western medicine”. (Which I joke, is an oxymoron…but it’s not really a joke… it’s pretty accurate). Functional Medicine operates with different normative chemistry values and like holistic medicine, seeks to understand the underlying causative factors for health imbalances. The beauty of understanding functional blood chemistry and understanding the etiology (causation of a disease process), allows one to see the biochemical imbalances that will cause illness long before they become pathological or a “disease”. Likewise, this understanding of chemistry will also offer insights on how to achieve and maintain the chemistry supportive to optimal health.
Each time I have taken this class, and other functional medicine courses like it, I have walked away with renewed respect and reverence for the amazing complexities and beautiful intricacies of the chemistry of the human body. Chemistry is real. Simply put, if the chemistry of the human body is out of balance, overcoming certain illnesses will be very, very difficult, if not impossible. In my clinic, understanding the physiology and blood chemistry of the body is so incredibly and critically important in guiding my clients to overcoming illness and optimizing health…
But chemistry is not everything.
I really do deeply appreciate learning about biochemistry and allopathic medicine’s physiological explanations for disease processes. I value the latest advances and clinical research being done on the treatment and prevention of so many debilitating diseases plaguing our modern life. A deep understanding of the latest advances in modern chemistry is incredibly valuable in understanding the treatment and prevention of so many diseases…
But it is not everything.
“Qi”, most simplistically translated as “energy” or “life force”, is a fundamental concept in Eastern medicine. It is the presence of Qi that brings life to tissue. It is the Qi of the organs that allow them to function. The manipulation of Qi by acupuncture and herbal medicine enables a practitioner of Eastern Medicine to bring balance back to body and mind.
This balance and the very idea of Qi is not understood nor can be quantified by the typical rubrics of Western biomedicine and chemistry. While the effects of Qi influence chemistry, it cannot be seen or understood by our current concepts of chemistry.
The very idea of Qi and acupuncture was only introduced to the West during the 70s. Since that time, the Western medical model has been trying to understand Qi and just why in the world acupuncture is so effective at treating so many problems. Over the years, many Western biomedical theories have been introduced in an attempt to understand and harness the power of Eastern Medicine, but to this day, none have truly been able to fully understand, quantify, or explain how and why acupuncture is effective.
Chemistry is real, but it is not everything.
I feel very fortunate that I can view each of my client’s health through the Eastern energetic balances and Western bio-chemistry perspectives. Each offers its own unique and valuable insights into understanding the underlying root causes of ailments. Each perspective offers its own unique diagnostics as well as its own solutions to restore balance, eliminate symptoms and restore health.
I like to think that my training in both the Eastern energy of Qi and the chemistry of Western biology enhances my clinical skills and offers me more modalities, perspectives, and tools to support my clients best.
And I also understand there is at least one more very important factor that completely evades and escapes all reasoning and epistemology of chemistry and the Western biochemical understanding. This is one of the most powerful forces that I have consistently witnessed bend the laws of physics and chemistry…
This is the power of the human spirit.
Chemistry cannot yet measure the power of determination… or the power of grief. Our standard biomedical model cannot quantify the power of the will to thrive or the effects of feeling hopeless. Blood chemistry alone cannot understand love, fear, hope, regret, feeling happy, or feeling sad. There is no way to measure or understand the impacts of previous trauma or the power of feeling resilient.
I do believe as humans we have an innate power. This is the power of our minds and how and what we think. We are powerful. We can create our reality. It’s true. Think of it… if you think the world is dangerous and ugly and scary, you will for sure find reasons that support your theory. Likewise, if you believe the world is beautiful and full of kindness, you will find reasons to support your hypothesis. If you tell yourself you are broken, you are right. If you tell yourself you are resilient, you are also right. What power we hold!
There is also no way that all the medical advances, studies in genetics, advanced imaging, or the latest cutting-edge diagnostic methodologies can measure the power of simply changing your mind to think differently.
I suppose the point I am trying to make is chemistry is real and it matters, but this cannot measure Qi. Chemistry is real but it can’t quantify the power of your being. You have an innate power of choice and perspective. The power of belief and how we think is unintentionally consistently verified on a regular basis with scientific studies adjusting for the very real and very common placebo effect.
Our beliefs and what we think are so powerful.
Use this power well.
Article by Quinn Akira Takei, Doctor of Oriental Medicine(NM), Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, and Holistic Health & Wellness Coach.
The Center: Natural Health Specialists, 8404 Six Forks Road, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27615. (919) 848-0200. www.TheCenterNHS.com