Monday, January 29, 2007

HPV/Cervical Cancer Vaccine

The issue of vaccines is a heated one, and this blog entry is not meant to be a discussion or analysis of the efficacy or morality of vaccines in general. (A blog will come on this subject soon.) But I recently came across a few articles and links regarding the HPV vaccine and thought I’d post on it.

Unfortunately, as vaccines are becoming a greater and greater part of the medical scene, vaccines like this one will keep popping up unless enough people get educated about the politics, financial gains and the false claims being perpetuated currently. This is a billion dollar industry and with that in mind, we must seek the facts for ourselves as the ones currently providing the information have significant interests and biases.

Just as we are to be convinced that providing a blood-borne disease vaccination to newborns on day one of their lives is valid (Hepatitis B vaccine), so too are we being told that vaccinating young girls prior to sexual maturity with the HPV vaccine is not only prudent but necessary AND SOON TO BE MANDATORY. Without belaboring the point, please see the following links for some of the facts behind this issue.

Are we as healthy as our grandparents?

It often strikes me in my practice that I (and many others in my profession) are encountering significant illness and weakness in younger and younger people as the years go by. As both a practitioner and parent, this is very troubling to me. Are we as healthy as previous generations? If not, why?

With all the technology in healthcare, it seems as if it cannot keep up with the assault on our bodies and minds from living in our daily world. Certain findings on the pulse, which were rare only a handful of years ago, now seem ubiquitous. A few are:

1. The Choppy pulse: a sensation like teeth grating on your fingertips is a sign, when found over the entire pulse, of toxicity. What those toxins are need to be borne out with other findings and a detailed history, but the numbers of young adults and children with these findings over the past few years is astounding. Our bodies are in a serious battle with the significant numbers of toxins we are constantly being exposed to. From environmental toxins, pollution, chemicals (both inhalant and those found in our water, foods, those that leach through our skin), prescription medications, preservatives and additives in our food, we are being assaulted on a daily basis. For more information on toxicity and the pulse see this link.

2. The Rough Vibration: a coarse rough vibration felt uniformly over the entire pulse. Signifies trauma or heart shock. The import of this is very significant as trauma affects the heart and circulation impairing circulation to the entire organism, and weakening the kidneys and adrenals. When this trauma occurs early in one’s life prior to the maturation of the organ systems, developmental problems and the beginnings of the decline of organ function is set into motion. This leaves one weakened in a compromised physical and emotional state predisposed to the entire gamut of physical and emotional complaints. Unfortunately, unless properly diagnosed and treated, these imbalances will worsen over time into chronic illnesses resistant to conventional treatments. The impact on the emotions (fears, anxieties, panic disorders, depressions) and the body (chronic fatigue syndromes, heart disease, infertility, to name a few) cannot be overstated.

A very common cause of the Rough Vibrations in young children and adults is birth trauma (i.e., placenta previa, traumas to the mother while pregnant, toxic exposures while in utero, breech births, cord being wrapped around one’s neck, forceps, drugs and epidurals, isolation from incubators, etc.). Birthing practices themselves should begin to be questioned by the public at large. Is it okay to continue the common practice of inducing labor for the convenience of doctors when the use of harsh drugs like pitocin and the like literally force out a baby into this world prior to being ready? What emotional effects will this traumatic event have on the baby, toddler, adolescent, young adult, adult? We seriously need to rethink birthing practices and maternal healthcare before the impact of the current practices worsens. In my opinion, they are already unacceptable.

3. Muffled: Muffling on the pulse is described as feeling a pulse through a towel. The artery is palpable and one feels the beating, but the vessel lacks clarity or distinctness. This pulse is a sign of stagnation of the circulation of qi, blood and body fluids. It is generally thought of as a neoplastic process. Not necessarily malignant cancers, but often with cysts, fibroids or other growths and tumors. As such, it is a fairly significant finding. One that is ever increasing in patients across this country and throughout the world. It is not surprising that we are seeing more Muffling on the pulse: just look at statistics. Cancers are practically epidemic.

So with the significant presence of these three pulse qualities in younger and younger populations that were heretofore not present, it would seem that our youth is in serious jeopardy of major illness, illness that will strike younger and younger.

All these findings in young children and young adults suggest weakened and compromised constitution and body conditions. According to Dr. John H.F. Shen and Dr. Leon Hammer, the vulnerability of organ systems depends on (1) constitution (heredity, pregnancy, and delivery); (2) body condition (experiences between birth and adulthood) and (3)adult habits and lifestyles. Should one’s constitution be affected for any reason (and we are mostly discussing the one’s we can control), or should early life experiences be tainted with toxic exposures, it weakens one’s innate energies and invites illness.

Getting to the Heart of Exercising

Is exercise good for one’s health? Before you answer that question, ask yourself how you define health. Do you really have an understanding of health or do you, like western medicine, define it simply as the absence of disease. Looking at athletes or compulsive exercisers from the standpoint of bloodwork, MRIs or CT scans one finds no disease, but does that prove health.

By no means do I intend to state that athletes or the countless millions of exercisers out there are sick and unhealthy, but I encourage the reader to expand one’s definition of health and to question the current dogma regarding proper exercise and the effects that aerobic exercise have on one’s heart, circulation and overall well-being.

In Chinese medicine we define health as the balance of yin and yang and the smooth flow of qi and blood. With this barometer in mind, we can evaluate changes and deviations from the definition of health, especially as it relates to the health of the heart, and concomitantly, the circulation and rest of the organism.

The heart is deemed equivalent to the emperor. With its paramount function of circulating blood throughout the body, it effects every nook and cranny of the organism and every organ, tissue, cell relies on the heart for nourishment. Should any part be deprived of this nourishment, it will eventually succumb. Weakness or instability in the heart will effect every part of the body, just as disturbance or imbalance in the emperor will cause chaos in the rest of the empire.

With the exercise craze that has overtaken our country, many are pushing their bodies past the limits, and are, in fact, doing more harm than good. Exercise needs to be done in accordance with one’s constitutional strengths and weaknesses in mind. For some without the constitution of an olympic athlete, trying to engage in strenuous exercise and training regimes will only leave them weakened and depleted. Eventually, if they do not heed the warning signs, illness will result.

Some of the earliest warning signs are fatigue, poor recuperation, sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking not rested), emotional lability, anxieties, depressions, achiness or wandering arthritic-like pains.

One of the most troubling signs of the over-exerciser is the slowing of one’s heart rate. While I know conventional medicine considers that to be a sign of a healthy efficient heart, in Chinese medicine, we understand the opposite. See the charts below for the healthy ranges of one’s heart rate according to one’s age.

Dr. Shen
Age: Rate:
Birth to 4 years 84-90/min
4-10 78-84/min
10-15 78-80/min
16-40 72-78/min
40-50 72/min
50+ years 66-72/min

Age: Rate:
In embryo 150-160/min
Upon birth 130-140/min
First year 115-130/min
Second year 100-115/min
Third year 90-100/min
Age 4-7 85-90/min
Age 8-14 80-85/min
Adolescence 85-90/min
Adulthood 75-80/min
Old age 60-75/min
Decrepitude 75-80/min

Hammer, Leon, Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, A Contemporary Approach, Eastland Press, 2001, p. 152.

What is obvious from this chart is that from our earliest age (in utero) our heart rate is the fastest. Upon birth, it is significantly slower and continues to slow as we age until death. Heart rate is actually a good barometer of the health of one’s heart. As we age, our heart rate gets slower and slower until we die. With heavy exercise beyond one’s innate capabilities, we accelerate the process of aging our heart and move closer and closer to death.

Another very common sign of the over-exerciser is the Ropy pulse. The Ropy pulse is defined by its distinctness from the surrounding tissues. It feels as if it can be plucked right out of the wrist. It signifies hardening of the arteries. The process as it relates to over-exercising is defined very succinctly by Dr. Leon Hammer is his book cited above.

Medicine Buddha

The mantra of the Medicine Buddha:



According to Buddhism (and Chinese medicine), the causes of diseases are primarily rooted in one’s emotions. The “afflictive emotions,” i.e., ignorance, wrong views, desire, anger, jealousy, hatred, pride, fear, grief, etc., create imprints or seeds which grow over time until they ripen, unleashing that negative karma onto our experience or direct perceptions in the current time. Specific emotions can have direct influence over the energetics and functioning of related organ systems, and conversely, weakness in certain organ systems can predispose us to particular emotions and states of mind. The entire range of biomedical diagnoses can find root in the imbalances caused by afflictive emotions.

As most of us are continually creating negative karmas, reciting the mantra of Medicine Buddha can invoke the power of healing and begin to free us of our patterns of negative thoughts, actions and emotions. To see some of the visualizations commonly practiced with this mantra see this link.

Paradigm (cont'd)

Back to the idea of what makes a system of medicine effective. Looking at one’s paradigm for perceiving imbalance, does one look to the past, present or future? Blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, etc. are only a snapshot of the present moment. How often does a patient go to the doctor for regular mammograms only to find out on one visit that she now has breast cancer. Did the breast cancer develop between the yearly mammograms? Or has it been growing (mostly likely for years or decades) without being detectable by western diagnostic tests? The latter, obviously. If one only looks to the present, there can never be a true understanding of the nature of disease.

Chinese medicine’s inquiry starts in the present, looks to the past for understanding, and looks to the future in order to predict where the illness may go (based upon the past and present). One of the major examples commonly seen in practice is the issue of traumas. Traumas have profound impact on us emotionally, physically and spiritually. From traumas occurring at birth (placenta previa and insecurity of the pregnancy, forceps, breech births, cord being wrapped around one’s neck depriving oxygen) to sudden shocks early in one’s life (major accidents, death of a parent) to abuse (physical, sexual), each has tremendous repercussions on our physical and emotional well-being. An interesting case study in Dr. Hammer's trauma and shock article at this link.

The effects of traumas on our heart, nervous and circulatory systems and kidneys can set the stage for multiple imbalances as the years proceed. Being able to spot the signs of trauma (thorough history, visual inspection of the complexion, pulse diagnosis) one can more effectively and holistically treat the current complaints as well as the enduring root causes of these and future illnesses.


A medicine cannot be truly effective without a successful paradigm. By that I mean, how can a system of medicine diagnose, treat, and heal an illness that it cannot even recognize. One of the many advantages Chinese medicine has over Western medicine, and most other medicine’s for that matter, is that its paradigm takes all observable phenomena into account. Rooted in the cycles of nature, sensitive to the effects of climactic influences, perceptive of the vicissitudes associated with the ever-changing nature of one’s emotions and spirit, Chinese medicine understands that an individual and his illness are, in fact, one in the same.

Thus, the paradigm allows for the inclusion of all information relevant to one’s being into the formation of a holistic diagnosis. One that takes into account not just the illness, but the terrain or environment that the illness resides within. To effectively diagnose an imbalance, one must understand what the balance is. One must understand the relationship of the signs and symptoms to the history and the terrain. One of the addages of Chinese medicine states (and I’m paraphrasing), “a dozen diseases, one diagnosis; one disease, a dozen diagnoses.” This statement expresses the notion above, that a diagnosis is only made once the signs, symptoms, history, and terrain (i.e., constitution and uniqueness of the patient) is taken into consideration.

With this in mind, how can we be satisfied with going to the doctor with a cold or flu only to know that we will be given an antibiotic just like every other patient that day/week/year has been given for the same symptoms.

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, one must delve deeper. Besides questioning on the chief complaint, we must make a detailed inquiry into the onset, timing, nature of the illness. What makes it better or worse; signs or symptoms that come concurrently. We must ask about one’s energy, one’s sleep patterns, digestion and elimination, temperature, thirst and urination, areas of pain or discomfort, question the different systems of the body such as breathing, circulation, gynecology and reproduction (significant emphasis in placed upon the female menstrual cycle, including the number of days, regularity, pre-menstrual symptoms, quality of the bleeding, color of the blood, presence of clots, etc.), emotional/spiritual/psychological states, tendencies and overall outlook on the world, past medical history (with a detailed inquiry into birth history, prior traumas and childhood illnesses and stresses), family medical history.

Besides questioning, we must search for other objective data. This includes noticing one’s posture, gait and other structural imbalances, the quality of the voice and respiration, the shen (heart-spirit) as it radiates through the eyes and complexion, any odors emanating from the body, a visual inspection of the tongue (which includes the body color, size, shape, moisture, motility, location of cracks or fissures, coating, sublingual veins, etc.).

In addition, we must palpate. Touching the body allows us to directly perceive energetic imbalances. We palpate the channels of the body, the abdomen or hara, and especially the pulse at the radial artery. These topics will be discussed in greater detail in future blogs, but needless to say, they are the hallmark of the great diagnostician. Significant training is required to perceive and understand the subtlety of these messages.

Again, understanding the amount of information taken into consideration by the practitioner of Chinese medicine to understand your illness AND your direct perception of it, do you take the antibiotics your doctor prescribes for your cold or flu after hearing two minutes of your symptoms?