One of the biggest health worries my female patients struggle with today is bone health, and for good reason. Osteoporosis—a progressive thinning and weakening of the bones—has frightening consequences. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 44 million Americans are at risk for this condition. The NOF also estimates that half of all American women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetimes.
With statistics like these floating around, it’s no wonder that the media bombards women with warnings about osteoporosis. Magazine articles and television news shows urge women to take calcium supplements and eat calcium-rich foods. It’s also no surprise that pharmaceutical companies are spending big bucks to develop drugs (Fosamax® is one well-promoted brand) that claim to “treat” osteoporosis.
However, as is so often the case, these sound-bytes miss the mark in two ways. First, they oversimplify biological processes that are in fact extremely complex. Second, focusing exclusively on drug-based “cures” for illnesses is misleading at best. The key is prevention. Maintain a healthy, balanced body today, and you avoid health problems – including osteoporosis – tomorrow.
A New Definition of Health – A Holistic Approach
The human body is an incredibly complex organism. It’s also more than a physical machine. From Eastern medical traditions, we have learned that our bodies are also energy systems. This energy, or ch’i, flows through a system of channels called “meridians.” When ch’i flows freely, the molecules and cells of our bodies perform as they are intended. Damaged structures are rebuilt. Wastes are eliminated. Pathogens are repelled. And we feel good. We have energy. We recover easily from both physical and emotional stress.
But when the flow of ch’i is disrupted, the physical processes of our bodies begin to work less effectively. We begin to experience the symptoms of poor health. These symptoms vary by individual, because each of us is unique. But typically, they start out as mild conditions—the type of symptoms that mainstream medicine dismisses as insignificant. Female patients I see may complain of premenstrual discomfort, fatigue, headaches, mood swings or digestive upset. Their doctors may have suggested over-the-counter drugs. In some cases, these women have been told “it’s just stress” or “it’s all in your head.” But in the healing tradition I practice, it’s important to heed these signs. Ignore them, and the imbalance will eventually manifest as more serious illness. Instead, it’s important to treat these symptoms as medical “clues.”
Gathering the Medical Clues – Diagnosing the Issue
The beauty of practicing chiropractic today is it enables me to draw from an eclectic menu of diagnostic tools. Some are drawn from ancient, esoteric healing arts. Others are decidedly mainstream.
When a woman comes to my practice, we start by asking for her complete medical history. We learn, from her history, whether she has any relatives who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. We ask about her diet. Bones need protein to stay healthy, so a diet deficient in animal protein sources can set women up for osteoporosis. A diet that is inflammatory or overly acidic is also suspect, so we ask her if she eats a diet that is heavy on grains or sweets.
Chinese medicine tells us that people who are traditionally classed as “kidney types” are more susceptible to bone problems. Often, this type of woman is tall and thin. She is likely to mention low energy levels. She is likely to describe digestive trouble originating in the small intestine.
From Western medical traditions, we can identify calcium imbalances through bloodwork, so if we suspect potential bone health issues, we request a blood test to evaluate serum calcium levels.
Next, I may perform one or more other diagnostic procedures. One is a pulse diagnosis. This has nothing to do with the heart rate data that Western doctors typically track. Instead, it is based on traditional Chinese technique which identifies six pulse points on each wrist. These pulses can be evaluated according to 28 major classifications, plus numerous subcategories, to see if they are beating in harmony. When they are not, it indicates an underlying imbalance that may set the stage for health problems.
Another important diagnostic technique I use is applied kinesiology. This technique helps me to “read” the meridian system itself to find ch’i imbalances.
With all these techniques, there is a common thread: I’m looking for very subtle imbalances. Compare this to mainstream medicine, where osteoporosis is often diagnoses by a bone density scan. Physicians use this test to find evidence of bone thinning. The problem is that, by the time you’ve begun to lose bone mass, your body has already been in decline for years, or even decades.
By looking for subtle imbalances, on the other hand, I’m able to identify problems when they are much easier to correct. Take calcium, for example. Calcium is more than just a building block of bone. It is the molecule our nervous system uses to balance itself. It is used by the body to buffer pH levels. Calcium is also used to bind with heavy metals like cadmium, mercury and copper to prevent cellular damage. So a woman who complains of digestive upset, as one example, may in fact be experiencing a nervous system imbalance. Her problem is not a Maalox deficiency. Her problem is that she has an imbalance in her body’s calcium/potassium levels, which is causing a misfiring of her autonomic nervous system, which in turn is overstimulating her digestive processes.
If this same woman happens to be 35 or 40 years old, and pre-menopausal, no mainstream doctor would examine her for osteoporosis. But by identifying, and correcting a calcium/potassium imbalance, she will avoid serious bone loss in later life.
You Are Unique – Customized Medical Care
Another misconception commonly accepted by mainstream medicine is that you can treat medical problems with a “one size fits all” approach. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each of us is unique. Even when two people manifest the same disease, the “cause” of that disease may be completely different. For this reason, health treatment programs need to be individualized. You need a program that addresses your specific vulnerabilities and nurtures your individual strengths.
In my practice, I use a variety of treatment strategies. One is spinal adjustment. Many of meridians follow pathways that correspond, at some point in their flow, to the spine. When vertebra get out of alignment, the meridians are affected. Chiropractic adjustments help address this by physically re-aligning the spine. Over time, a series of adjustments will even then re-teach the body’s muscles to maintain proper spinal
alignment. In many cases, I also use homeopathic or herbal remedies to rebalance bodily processes. Some regimens I prescribe help the body to rid itself of toxins, such as heavy metals.
With bone health issues, I may suggest dietary changes to help the body utilize calcium more harmoniously. For example, 50 percent of the body’s calcium is held by the plasma in the blood. If there is not enough protein in a woman’s diet, the body may not be able to maintain normal levels of serum calcium. It’s also important for women to incorporate good oils in her diet through clean, deep ocean fish and plant sources such as avocado, olives and nuts.
I also often suggest calcium supplements. In this case, I pick a form of calcium specific to each woman’s particular needs. Calcium alone is not enough however. To be assimilated properly, a number of co-factors are also required, including magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin A.
Holistic Health As A Process
Mainstream medicine typically operates on the basis of crisis management.
Many women, for instance, learn that they have osteoporosis only after they break a bone.
A better way to approach health is to view it as a lifelong process. When we identify and address subtle imbalances early, we often prevent more serious illnesses from manifesting later. Women who listen to their bodies often know when they are out of balance. The beauty of alternative medicine today is that it gives these women the option of finding practitioners who will not dismiss their concerns—even when the symptoms are vague or don’t fall into categories acknowledged by mainstream doctors. As a result, these women are able to nurture true health. They can enjoy life more fully today, while they prevent illness from manifesting in the future.