Monday, April 27, 2009

Utilizing Western Medicine in a different way

Within the past few years, more and more Western physician have begun to explore alternative therapies. This has given rise to a new field: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The idea has been to use so called "alternative" therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathic medicine as adjuncts to conventional Western treatments.

The question of whether the practitioner of Chinese medicine, should enthusiastically embrace this approach will be the focus of this discussion. A clear distinction needs to be made between combining different modalities and integrating Western biomedical substances into the Chinese medical model. (By the way, this question is an area of controversy in China as well, and concerns acupuncture as well as herbal medicine there). I would contend that taking the approach of treating symptoms rather than people is patently flawed. This applies to any medicine (even natural or herbal medicine) that treats conditions and symptoms, rather than people, using the "whatever works" approach to attack the state of imbalance, whether due to repletion or vacuity.

The decision as to which model to use for diagnosis and treatment of the patient revolves around the following question: Does the physician treat with the goal of ameliorating his patient's symptoms, or does he treat with the goal of putting the patient in balance. With the goal of stopping pain or discomfort, the physician needs to consider the fastest, least complicated, least expensive and most efficacious therapy, and the approach with the fewest side effects. Should his goal be to promote balance, then the physician needs to choose a treatment protocol which best addresses the patient's patterns and differential diagnosis, constitution and history, including imbalances in the patient's biochemistry, biomechanics, and bioelectricity, as well as non-physical considerations. The former approach is pure Western Bio-medicine, and the latter is the approach of the Chinese and Jewish medical traditions.

I contend that in years to come, the Western Biomedicine model will go the way of the dinosaurs, an extinct remnant of an ignorant past, much as medieval alchemy and mercury therapies such as those used in Europe by Paracelsus and his peers are now considered. (Of course, there were the exceptional remarkable alchemists who did hone this dangerous skill and used it properly, but they were few and far between).

The time will come, I believe, (and I hope soon!) that there will be an "aha!" moment--when Western biomedical practitioners will wake up to the fact that their approach, of primarily treating symptoms, and not necessarily concerning themselves with the pathogenesis of the illness, nor of the interconnectedness of the body, is flawed. They will realize that medical acupuncture and folk healing which only treat symptoms (in the case of the former, local points or simple empirical patterns such as ST38 for shoulder pain or GB41 for headaches and in the case of the latter herbs or supplements hawked by health food store nutritionists) are no different. Medical acupuncture as practiced by MDs is no more than an introductory cookbook approach to a complex and detailed system of medicine, the network of acupuncture channels and collaterals. The learning is primarily done by video viewing, and involves a total of up to 200 hours of didactic studies and 100 hours of clinical observation and treatment. I have read case studies brought in medical acupuncture journals-by MDs and for MDs, which were embarrassingly inprecise in their methodologies and procedures! Rather, medicine needs to be appreciated as an art, and using a cookbook makes it neither art, nor medicine.

As I said, I believe that a seminal moment will come , just like the fall of communism, that supposedly "perfect" system of government, when practitioners will wake up to the fact that their patients no longer trust their methods of treatment. This patient rebellion will force MDs and even NDs and chiropractors to re-evaluate how they treat patients, and precipitate a paradigm shift in their diagnosis and treatment to truly practice complementary and integrative medicine.

A physician's approach should be to treat the "whole person," for if not, the whole person will not get well. Either there will be some other new condition, or the condition originally treated will return. The Mishna in Avos tells us, "He've dan es kol ha'adam l'cof z'chus." This is usually translated as, "Give every person the benefit of the doubt." But a more precise translation say the Chidushei Harim and the Sfas Emes is that "One should judge the whole person as meritorious." In other words, one should look at all of the factors making up a person before forming an opinion. I would suggest that physicians need take the same approach as well: to treat the whole person and not just suppress local symptoms causing side effects which resulted from the original flawed therapy. Furthermore, using tools wrongly, should not be considered much different than using a sophisticated electronic devise as a hammer.

On the other hand, who says that Western pharmaceuticals can't be used differently, as part of sophisticated, and balanced formulas to treat the whole person? Chinese medicine recognizes that all substances have specific properties such as temperature, flavor and channels. For example, antibiotics are energetically cold and would be indicated for someone who has fever, but not necessarily for someone who has flu-like symptom, and is achy but not hot. Again, the key would be treating the whole person and according to the patient's pattern. If Western meds could be used within this paradigm, I think that they could become more effective and eliminate their side effects. What must never be done, though, is to use medicine to suppress symptoms. Pain relief, for example, is not pain suppression. Dosage also, as with Chinese medicine can make a tremendous difference in terms of a harmonizing treatment. Micro-doses or even homeopathic doses of Chemo, NSAIDS or steroids, might potentially have wonderful benefits when integrated into herbal formulas, but not without adequate research studies and development. I would suggest that every medicinal substance should be evaluated in terms of its actions, interactions, indication and contraindications, specifically in conjunction with other planetary herbs and substances, just as Chinese medicine rarely uses single substances as formulas. Though some traditionalists may cringe, just as over the centuries, new substances from thousands of miles away were introduced to the Chinese pharmacopoeia, why shouldn't Western medicinals (and therapies) be utilitzed the same way?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The safety of vaccinations-and an alternative

As a practitioner of Jewish medicine, I must always consider whether my actions will please
The Holy One Blessed Be He, and whether what I do as a physician or recommend to my patients could cause harm. It is in this light that I consider the important question that every new parent is challenged with: "Should I vaccinate my child?" Though, on the one hand I think that it is a gross generalization to claim that all autoimmune disease and diseases of civilization result from or have a relationship to vaccinations, nonetheless, it is folly to take their potential danger lightly.

Though grounded on the logical basis, of introducing to the immune system an attenuated pathogen so as to stimulate an immune memory, and prepare it for the next exposure, both the medium in which the vaccine is delivered and the substances contained within mainstream vaccinations are problematic. Richard Moskowitz, MD has written extensively on the problem of shots. He contends that if the mode of transmission of the vaccine mimicked nature, it wouldn't be so harmful. But how many communicable diseases enter the bloodstream directly, by injection, going past the body's layers of defense? None! They are transmitted through the upper orifices (nose, mouth, and perhaps the ears), the lower orifices (anus, urinary, and reproductive tracts), or through broken skin. Does this powerful introduction of pathogens directly to the deepest levels of the immune system traumatize it, and later cause immune dysfunction? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't discount the possibility. Furthermore, consider for a moment what is contained within vaccines: mercury, formaldehyde, putrified proteins, and, believe it or not, anti-freeze!

How can the introduction of such toxic poisons in such an aggressive manner be beneficial to a small child whose immune system is so delicate? In my opinion, it is completely innapropriate! Once a child hits 5 years old, and assuming he is healthy, then the decision to vaccinate becomes an easier one. But the witchhunt that Western biomedical physicians, along with their stooges in government and the school systems have carried out against parents choosing not to vaccinate, is criminal, as far as I am concerned. The studies showing that vaccines are not related to auto-immune function are flawed and no more valid than saying that a particular herb or acupuncture point works or doesn't work to treat headaches or gout. For a study to be valid, ALL of the subjects need to have the same differential diagnosis, similar constitutions and preferably also be within the same age group. It isn't enough to have the studies just placebo controlled and double blind. Personally, neither my baby who is now 25 years old, nor my grandson who will be 1 next month have been vaccinated. Our choice, again, was based upon a cost to benefit ratio. And my intuition is, that even if valid double blind, placebo controlled test have vindicated the safety of vaccines, just the thought of injecting putrid proteins preserved with mercury into my child's vascular system would make me cringe. It is informative, that Louis Pasteur, at the end of his life acknowledged that Bechamp was right: that it is the terrain and not the microbe which causes illness. That's my conclusion. I would encourage parents to make their decision whether and when to vaccinate, in an unrushed, unemotional, unbiased and informed manner. Don't be intimidated by hyperbole or scare tactics. Rely on intuition and listen to your inner voice of wisdom. And certainly wait, at the very least until your child is 5 years old.

But there is another aspect to principle #2 of TJM, "Sur me'ra va'ase tov" (turn away from bad and do good). As important as it is to do no harm, it is equally important to promote balance and build up your child's internal milieu with proper nutrition, exercise, air, sleep and joy. The goal of all medicine should be, to be obsolete. If a patients is in balance, then they won't need medicine, herbs or acupuncture, will they?

Oh, and by the way, there is another alternative which is certainly non-toxic, and from what I have read, quite effective: homeopathic immunizations. You can read about that option in the excellent book, "Vaccine Free Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Contagious Disease with Homeopathy: A Manual for Practitioners and Consumers," by Kate Birch, ISBN #ISBN 1425118690.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Healing must take place on multiple levels

With each patient the physician treats, he must address the total person, in order for healing to be sustained and permanent. This is my pet peeve with Western Biomedicine: Instead of addressing the origin of a patient's illness or the nature of his imbalance, the Western physician measures success by his ability is to ameliorate the patient's symptoms in the least obtrusive and painful manner. (That being said, let me make it clear that pain, which is a wake up call, does need to be addressed, but by reversing it, not covering it up!) Unfortunately, many alternative practitioners also take this approach, and even though they may be successful in using natural modalities such as acupuncture or Chinese medicines to treat conditions, in my opinion, their mindset is wrong, and other important issues and questions need to be considered:

First, is the patient doing anything harmful to exacerbate his condition? That could include allergies and food sensitivities (which cannot be underestimated and certainly manifest a degree of an inflammatory response), exposure to heavy metals or chemicals, poor diet, poor lifestyle habits, and addictions (including food, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, pornography, adrenaline, etc), and parasites.

Second, has the patient experienced any significant life-changing traumas, either physical or emotional, anytime in their lives, even as far back as childhood or before! Never underestimate their impact! Living in an unnaturally stressful world forces every person I have ever met to adapt just to survive. It is our ability to release and completely let go of those traumas which are unbearable, that makes the difference between surviving and flourishing. Also, just because someone is efficient, can multi-task, thinks quickly, is charismatic and makes a powerful impression, doesn't mean that they are succeeding and flourishing. There are lots of folks out there who are wonderful performers, but who are miserable inside, and candidates for autoimmune dis-ease, which, I strongly content, more often than not results from sympathetic hypertonicity (repeatedly not allowing oneself to rest after being in fight-or-flight) .

Third, consider biochemical deficiencies. Let's take a couple of examples: As far as hypertension is concerned, two nutrients specifically come to mind as potential causes: Zinc, magnesium and essential fatty acids. I had two patients that I want to tell you about: The first one was an athlete, who, after receiving acupuncture, CranioSacral therapy and herbal formulae, was feeling great. He was highly motivated and was doing everything right, but one problem remained unresolved: His blood pressure remained dangerously high, and he refused to use western drugs. I found the key when I asked him about his diet, which, he revealed, was completely lacking in essential fatty acids. I told him to eat minimally 1 avocado a day, have at least one portion of fish daily, and take a tablespoon of hemp seed oil twice daily. Within one week, his BP dropped from 160/110 to 125/80, and it has pretty much stayed there ever since. Then there was a very different patient, who though she did not have hypertension, was very stressed out--and was in constant state of fight or flight. It so happens that the minerals, Zinc and Magnesium, are often depleted by stress. Zinc deficiency can cause the arteries to become hardened, brittle and inflamed instead of soft and flexible. This loss of flexibility will raise BP, especially systolic pressure. Interestingly, it is very easy to test for Zinc deficiency: Zinc Sulfate in distilled water is swished around in the mouth for 30 seconds and then swallowed. If the patient is deficient, the liquid will taste like fresh spring water. But if the patient has sufficient zinc, it will have a metallic, unpleasant rusty flavor. Magnesium is more subtle: If a patient has a magnesium deficiency, they will tend to be constipated or have hard bowel movements, and they might have bone spurs, osteoporosis, muscle spasms or tight muscles, elevated cholesterol or atherosclerosis, and poor sleep. I started to patient immediately on Zinc Picolinate, 20mg twice daily, and Magnesium Citrate 1 gram three times daily. Using the liquid Zinc test, it actually took 2 months before she starting to taste ever so slightly the zinc. In addition, her mood has dramatically improved as has her sleep. Meanwhile, she is noticing that her sense of smell has dramatically heightened (from the Zinc), and though blood pressure is not an issue for her, it certainly should be considered when herbs and acupuncture don't make an impact.

The bottom line is always consider the whole person: body, emotions, mind and spirit, using integrative therapies, which address the uniqueness of each individual: biochemically, biomechanically and bioenergetically. Concerning genetics, DNA can be changed, and pre-disposition is not necessarily pre-destination. The greatness of the human species is our ability to change and adapt, and just because parents and grandparents had a condition, doesn't mean that we are doomed to the same fate. Our free choice is part of our tzelem E-lokim (our image of G-d), and we are only limited by our ignorance, imagination and fear. When we educate ourselves, let go of fear, and work closely with a physician who thinks differently serving the patient instead of his ego, the paradigm shifts.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Bnei Ketura and black magic as the basis for Ayurveda--but not Chinese Medicine

Recently, a friend speculated as to whether Chinese Medicine might have been one of the "gifts" given by Avrohom Avinu (our forefather, Abraham) to the Bnei Ketura (children of Ketura).

The source of this conjecture is Braishis (Genesis) 25:6 where it says, "And to the children of Avraham's pilagshim (concubines-which the midrash recognizes as Hagar or Ketura) Avraham gave presents to, and sent them away from the vicinity of Yitzchok, his son, while he was still alive, eastward, to the country of the east."

Note the following:
1. "presents...while he was still alive" tells us that Yitzchok was his sole heir.
2. "Presents" coming from Avrohom must indeed have connoted something special and unusual. Just what were the presents? The Gemara is Sanhedrin 91a (on the bottom) teaches us that Avraham gave everything he had to Yitzchok, physically and spiritually. What then, were the gifts that he give the Bnei Ketura? Answers Rav Yirmiya bar Aba, "He gave over to them "The use of Ha-Shem's name with impurity." This Rashi tells us means that he taught them black magic and demonology (Which he had received from Paroah as a gift, along with his daughter Hagar when he went to Egypt!). The Maharsha asks there how could it be that Avrohom taught Ketura's children Kishuf (black magic) which is forbidden by the Torah, since we know that Avrohom kept the whole torah even before it was given? Answers the Maharsha, not to use it, but to have the knowledge. But wouldn't there also a problem with having the knowledge, of putting a stumbling block in front of the blind (by tempting them to use it and therefore sin?) Answers the Ayin Yaakov, the prohibition of Kishuf is only in the holy land, and since Avrohom sent them eastward (to India?) there was no prohibition. Also, interestingly, the Etz Yosef adds, "Lfi sh'makor hakishufim umaase shedim beretz kedem hu" (...since the source of black magic and the works of demons is in the land of the east).
3. "sent them away from the vicinity of Yitzchok his son" tell us that Avrohom was not interested in their influence on Yitzchok.
4. not just "eastward" but even further "to the country of the east".- Eastward means the eastern boundary of the the land that Avrohom will inherit, which we learn in the previous week's Parasha is the Euphrates river. East of the Euphrates would bring us to Persia (Iran), and the land to the east of Persia is indeed India. So the logical conclusion could be that the "gifts" Avrohom Avinu gave the the Bnei Ketura, might have included the ancient disciplines of Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga, which do indeed have their roots in Avoda Zara (idol worship) and come from India, a land steeped in Tuma (impurity). As such their permissibility halachically (according to Jewish law) would certainly be questionable.
5 There are 6 sons of Ketura mentioned in the Torah: Zimran, Yakshan, M'dan, MIDYAN, Yishbok and Shuach. Interestingly, who does the Torah call the foremost master of black magic?--Bilaam ben B'or FROM MIDYAN! So apparently, this was something that was inherited actually from Avrohom Avinu.

The origins of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, on the other hand, are based on natural law, as it states in what all agree is the source text of Chinese medical philosophy, the Huang Di Nei Jing -The Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic. While many great physicians over the centuries were Taoist or Buddhist, a vast majority were Confucianist natural philosophers. You won't find chanting, praying to deities or other such practices anywhere in mainstream Chinese medicine. You could go through thousands of volumes of material and not find any avodah zarah.

I want to share one final interesting passage that comes from the holy Zohar: (Vayera:80) on this topic:

"Rabbi Abba said: One day, I came to a town where the children of the east live, and they recited some of their ancient wisdom ...and brought me one of their books.
In it was written: "Just as a person's will directs him in this world, so too there is a spirit above that is drawn according to that which his will attaches itself. If he desires and focuses his intention to higher holy things, then he draws them down for himself from above. If he desires to attach himself to the forces of evil, and he focuses his intention upon them, then he draws that down to himself from above." It went on to say that in order to draw something down from above depends upon one's speech, deeds and the will to attach to it. I found in that book, all the actions and workings of the stars and constellations, what is needed to serve them, and how one goes about directing his will in order to draw their influence down. Therefore, if someone wishes to attach himself to above with "ruach hakodesh" (divine spirit), he needs to direct his deeds, speech and deepest intention to that goal, and he will be able to draw this down and be attached to it. It also said that that which a person is drawn to in this world, becomes attaches to him when he leaves this world, and remains attached to him in the world of truth, whether of holiness or impurity. If holiness pulls him to the side of "Kedusha", and he is attached to it up above, then he becomes one of those who serve HaKodesh Baruch Hu, (The Holy One, Blessed be He), among all the angels. Concerning that person, the verse says, "And I have placed you to go among those who stand." So, too, with impurity. One who in this world is drawn to the side of Tuma, causes himself to be attached to those forces who are called human demons. When his time comes to depart this world, they take him and bring him to Gehinom (hell). It is there that those who polluted themselves and their spirits are judged. Afterwards malevolent forces attach themselves to him, and he becomes a demon like all the others who damaged the world."

I said to them, my children, that which is in this book is close to words of Torah, but nonetheless, you should distance yourself from it, and other books like it, in order to not be drawn to the deviated paths which lead one away from worshipping Ha-Shem. These books all cause people to err, because the children of the east possessed a wisdom which they inherited from Avraham, who had imparted it to the children of his concubine, as it says, "And to the children of Avraham's concubine, he gave presents," and in time this wisdom became adulterated to many deviant paths."

The point we need to learn from this Zohar is that in many ancient traditions, there may be ideas which are similar to the Torah. But learning different wisdoms from them can be dangerous potentially leading one astray from paths of holiness. In any event, that which I practice does not come from these traditions, nor do I have any desires or plans to learn them or integrate them into what I do. Avrohom wanted no part of those traditions for his son Yitzchok, and neither should we, his descendants.

A happy and Kosher Pesach!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Using Spiritual Adrenaline to prepare for Pesach

These last few days before Pesach can be very difficult. Life is stressful enough, but with the additional tasks and deadlines, we are truly in danger of adrenal burnout. How can we possibly hope to enter Pesach feeling like royalty, let alone free people?

Yet there is a way to re-program the ways we think and act, if we do step back and think differently, Pesach can indeed become Zman Cherusenu (The season of our freedom). First, let us consider how we have responded to technology: with all of our time-saving conveniences, instead of having more free time, we have taken upon ourselves to do even more! This faster and faster pace, never stopping to catch one's breath, sets one up for Yin and QI vacuity (burnout and exhaustion) and even possibly a nervous breakdown. Now even though, not everyone who burns the candle at both ends, does suffer a nervous breakdown, still, everyone does pays a price. It is extremely unhealthy to go beyond the point of exhaustion, and invariably, it takes much more to rebuild Yin (material, substance), than to prevent it from being squandered in the first place. Ha-Shem has given us a wonderful mechanism for dealing with stress and rebuilding after stress: our autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS consists of two branches, the sympathetic branch, also called the "fight-flight-or-freeze" (I add the term "freeze" to the usual "fight-or-flight" because this, too, can often be the response to sympathetic stress.) and the parasympathetic branch, the "rest-relax-and digest" control center. When we face an emergency, biochemically our sympathetic nervous system sets off a series of complicated biochemical reactions, that include the release of the stimulating catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla, as well as inhibitory cortisol from the adrenal cortex, and fueling this sudden needed burst with glucose from stored glycogen in the liver. After the crisis is over, our parasympathetic branch kicks in, healing, replenishing, and rebuilding. But, alas, everything has a limit: the parasympathetic process of rebuilding is slow and gradual, and our bodies do not take kindly to being overdrawn. So unless we do recognize the need to balance our ANS, we set ourselves up for deterioration, premature aging and shortchanging ourselves on life.

But there's more to it than that: We Jews believe that we are much more than just a body with a biochemical factory keeping us running. The more we integrate Torah into our beings, the more we are potentially capable of accomplishing, certainly spiritually, but even PHYSICALLY! Our sages tell us that the neshama (soul) is called a vessel, but unlike a physical vessel that when full, can no longer hold any more, with the neshama, the bigger it gets, and the more it is able to hold. Those who have had the pleasure of being in the presence of tzaddikim (holy people, the completely righteous) notice, that they have an interminable amount of energy. They're always on. They're always happy and energetic. They get by on 3 or 4 hours sleep a night. They eat next to nothing except on Shabbos when they usually eat extra0rdinarily large amounts. They don't use chemical substances to enhance their functioning. So how do they do it? with "SPIRITUAL ADRENALINE".

At times, when one is tired, finding himself stuck, unable to concentrate, dragging his tail, feeling sorry for himself, day dreaming, and even depressed, and yet he needs to perform an important spiritual task, such as davening (prayer) or learning, what is he supposed to do? Physically, it is then that we need that extra sympathetic boost in order to function successfully. We have choices we can make. We know that we can get it from our internal catecholamines or from external stimulants such as caffeine. But we need to be accountable. The fact is that we will pay a price by taking that approach! A second approach is to look to the logic of Traditional Jewish Medicine and follow the second principle: "Sur Me'ra Va'Ase Tov:" Stop and rest, and THEN utilize building and tonifying herbs adjunct revitilizing therapies such as acupuncture, to put ourselves in balance, and restore what we have depleted.

Yet, there is one other way, and that is through the "Spiritual Adrenaline" that I mentioned above. My son pointed out to me once, that even if I am exhausted on Shabbos, if a guest shows up, I suddenly wake up, and am able to give over Torah. It would seem to me that Ha-Shem has placed within us, a special reserve system that we tap into to nourish our Neshamos at times of need, as well. But unlike our adrenals which connect to our liver, this "secretion" connects to the "En Sof", (Eternal One). I would contend that the name of this "hormone" is DEVEIKUS(literally adhesiveness or attachment), for when we attach our souls to the Almighty in our service of him, be it in davening, learning, or doing acts of kindness, WITH ENTHUSIASM AND LOVE, forgeting about ourselves, our bodies receive a spiritual charge of adrenaline which never burns out. As the verse tells us, "Va'atem had'veikim Ba-Shem El-okeichem chayim kulchem hayom" (And you who attach yourself to Ha-Shem your G-d, are all alive today).

Wishing you all a Kosher, Happy and Enthusiastic Pesach!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cravings, Yin vacuity and Gu Pathogens

Dear Friends,

We live in a completely unnatural world, in which the boundaries between day and night are blurred, foods lack nutrition obesity is rampant, people live indoors, and stresses are so overwhelming, that few manage to function and survive without multitasking, compartmentalizing and anesthesizing.

It is no wonder, that for so many, food is no longer the Divine gift it was intended to be, enabling us to be healthy, strong and able to serve Ha-Shem, but rather it has become a drug, an anesthetic which for some, is even viewed as an enemy. I recall that when I was in medical school, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to treat former addicts with acupuncture at a Jewish sober living center in Culver City. I was astonished by the constant snacking and obesity, as well as the chain smoking of the residents. This facility required ex-addicts to be verifiably clean for a certain period of time, and the residents were subject to constant urine tests. But they missed the point and were tragically allowed to replace one drug for another. The externship was under the auspices of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association(NADA) which taught that all addicts are vacuous or deficient of Yin. The addict is starving for Yin, for material substance, and will desperately seek any substance that will give him a quick fix. The Bostoner Rebbe, Shlit'a, of Har Nof Jerusalem, pointed out many years ago, a fascinating spiritual parallel: We find the same emptiness with Jewish souls raised with cold, boring and unchallenging Jewish educations and who are therefore starving for spirituality. It is because their Jewish experience has been superficial and unsatisfying, that their souls, are drawn to the many exotic sects and religions that offers them warmth, excitement and perhaps a good meal. This too, is a type of Yin vacuity, a craving to fill in the emptiness in one's existance, either in body or soul. Clinically, the classic telltale sign of Yin vacuity is a red tongue without a coat, either the whole tongue, or at the very least, the tip of the tongue.

But there is also, a second component of craving: what classic Chinese medicine calls "Gu" pathogens. In Chinese medical theory, the organ which is responsible for extracting and making available the nutrition from the foods we eat and distributing it throughout the body is the Spleen (which some modern scholars also identify as relating to the pancreas). The spleen thrives on foods which are warm and dry, and becomes dysfunctional when foods that are cold and damp are eaten, impeding its performance and vitality. This lack of vitality causes an accumulation of dampness, which then transforms into phlegm. The Chinese consider phlegm and fat to be synonymous. When the spleen does not work properly, the resulting fatigue and accumulation sets the stage for "Gu syndrome". Professor Heiner Fruehauf' discusses this in his article, "Driving out Demons and Snakes, Gu Syndrome, a Forgotten Clinical Approach to Chronic Parasitism" http://www.classica lchinesemedicine .org/downloads/ cs/gufinal. pdf. In it he writes that "Gu worms", though they indeed are to be taken literally, also, from a modern perspective, need to be viewed figuratively as well. The fungus, Candida Albicans, which flourishes in the presence of dampness would be clearly a Gu pathogen. Its symptoms fit perfectly with the description of Gu syndrome, both emotionally and physically. For example, the mental-emotional symptoms associated with Gu pathogens such as depression, irritability, anger and restlessness are commonly seen in cases of Candida Albicans as well as what Fruehauf describes as"a sensation of being posessed." Furthermore, as parasites, Gu pathogens drain the body of yet more Yin, further depleting the already vacuous patient.

It is these two insidious patterns, therefore, Yin vacuity, and Gu pathogens that lock the patient into a prison of craving. Helpless, for as the gemara in Brachos tells us, "One who is in jail is unable to get himself out."

But is there a way out, is there a way to heal? Yes! And by carefully looking to the Torah, we find the roadmap which provides our escape and deliverance.

There are three important steps:

First, one needs to do Teshuva: to return with complete sincerity to Ha-Shem, our loving Father. The Rambam says in Hilchos teshuva (the laws of repentance), that the first step toward reconciliation with Ha-Shem is Vidui(confession). One needs to articulate and acknowledge that one has a problem. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov tells us that talking OUT LOUD to Ha-Shem, verbally expressing what we have done, to Him, has incredible therapeutic value, and reconnects us with Ha-Shem. Often, one who has cravings and addictions is on automatic pilot when he eats. He is disconnected from Ha-Shem, numb, and out of control. The first principle of Traditional Jewish medicine is "Bchol derachecha d'eyhu" (Know Him in all your ways, and He will straighten your paths). By acknowledging how we have been eating and by talking to Him, we reconnect. Our sages tell us "Haba le'taher, mesayim oso" (Someone who wants to purify themselves will be helped from above). This, then, is the first step: reconnecting.

Second we need to think differently and eat consciously, slowly and with purpose. It is not enough to say a blessing on a food, but one needs to, with deliberation, THINK that they are providing spiritual nutrition to their souls and physical nutrition to their bodies as they eat. The Rambam is Hilchos Deyos(the laws of character traits) and elsewhere, tells us of the importance of conscious eating. He tells us that one should not eat unless one is hungry nor drink unless one is thirsty. One should never delaying elimination at all. One should stop eating when one is 3/4 full. One should drink very little with meals. One should never exercise right after meals but rather specifically one should exercise before meals. One should sit quietly when eating. One should eat light foods that are easy to digest, always eating lighter foods first. One should avoid rich and sticky foods, particularly foods prepared from white flour, and additionally one should generally avoid eating fruit, especially sour fruit, and in particular, peaches and apricots. By following the Rambam's diet, utilizing the gifts of Chinese medicinal formulas to dry dampness, transform phlegm and strengthen the spleen, and acupuncture to invigorate the body's vital connectivity, Gu pathogens can be tamed and defanged.

Third, we need to replenish Yin, and accomplishing this must involve the second principle of TJM: "Sur me'ra va'ase tov" (turn away from bad and do good). We need to stop doing things to harm ourselves and burn ourselves out. Yin vacuity is an emptiness that one brings upon oneselves by not getting enough sleep, letting negative emotions such as anger, fear, depression, over-thinking, lightheadedness, jealousy or arrogance control us, by using substances which harm our bodies, and overdoing healthy, normal activities. Women are much more vulnerable than men because they menstuate, lose blood during childbirth and psychologically, tend to multitask and go beyond what their bodies are able to handle. It is these emotions and activities that deplete our bodies and souls of Yin, and it is imperative that we make ourselves aware of what we are doing, and how we are living.

If we accept upon ourselves this three-pronged approach of connecting with Ha-Shem, thinking and eating differently, and refraining from activities that deplete Yin, we can overcome this seemingly inconquerable foe: Food cravings, and transform eating to the high spiritual action it is intended to be.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

California Dreaming

The world we live is dominated by the civilization of Edom or Rome, whose primary character trait is superficiality. Edom (Red) was the nickname of our forefather Ya'akov's (Jacob) brother Aisav (Esau), who fiercely competed with, and whose descendants continue to compete with us to the present day. Edom is also an extension of Yavan, (ancient Greece), which worshipped beauty and the greatness of the human body and soul . Yet unlike Yavan, Edom's motto is the Christian verse, "Live for today for tomorrow we die."

The spirit of Edom bombards our senses, insidiously and overtly, our objectivity and sensitivities are compromised and our children are dulled and poisoned. The Divrei Bina of Biala writes that this lack of depth and hedonism, is the quintessence of Milchemes Gog and Magog--(the forces engaging in the war which precedes the coming of Mashiach) and challenges the very sovereignty of Ha-Shem. It is interesting that the Toldos Odom of Ostrove writes that the reason the Jews went to sleep on the night before the giving of the torah, was because they were convinced that a prophetic sleep would be the medium through which the Torah would be given, not understanding the subtle difference between prophesy and dreaming. The great Kabbalist, Rav Chaim Vital explains in Shaare Kedusha, that prophecy happens while in the body and dreaming occurs when we leave the body and are asleep. What that generation didn't recognize, was that their bodies had reached such a level of purity and holiness, that they WERE actually vessels fit to hear and feel G-d speak.

Dreams, the gemara in Brachos, tells us, are one sixtieth of prophecy. Dreams truly are significant and even though the gemara says elsewhere, that what we think about during the day affects what we dream at night, in my opinion, this has much to do with all the noise, and sensory overstimulation we are exposed to on a daily basis. I would suggest the following antidote, therefore, before going to sleep: First, find a quiet place, breathe deeply, unwind, and actively sort out the sensory stimulations experienced during the day, to release what we don't need. When we are out of "fight-or-flight," and more in touch with ourselves, we can then actively talk to Ha-Shem and review our day with Him. After that we are ready to say the special prayers of confession and forgiveness (the Rebono shel olam and Vidui) with the thought of letting go of any resentment toward others as well as acknowledging and resolving to correct the mistakes that we have made, and finally with the Shema and Hamapil prayers, we can accept the sovereignty and unity of Ha-Shem and hand over our neshamos (souls) to Him for safe-keeping until we awaken, G-d willing, in the morning.

One final interesting note I'd like to share before I say goodnight: Sleep has a tremendous influence on bio-chemistry and balance. The Chinese view excessive dreaming as a Shen (spirit) disturbance, closely related to heart fire. This is another form of pollution. One should therefore avoid eating fried, spicy or energetically hot foods in the evening hours, including coffee, tobacco and alcohol, to allow the Shen to remain grounded and not float, and prevent unnecessarily excessive dreams and disturbed sleep.

And from California, this early Thursday morning, wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful night.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SomatoEmotional Release and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

The essence of Jewish medicine is summed up by  the Rambam who tells us in the Laws of Character Traits (3:3) that though the purpose of life is  to  connect to Hashem, it is impossible to do so if one is hungry, sick or in pain! As such, the physicians job is to act as a messenger to help restore the balance which is lost when one is sick or in pain.  As a practitioner of Jewish Medicine, one of the tools that  I use in my practice to achieve this balance is CranioSacral therapy(CST), and its companion therapy, SomatoEmotional release (SER). CST is a gentle, hands-on technique, in which the therapist seeks to determine the causes of pain and dysfunction, and encourages the body’s self-correcting properties. The therapy utilizes the craniosacral system, a recently discovered phenomenon, which involves the membranes and fluids surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord (the dural tube). It is a semi-closed hydraulic system extending from the bones of the skull, face and mouth (which make up the cranium) down to the sacrum and tailbone area. Because of the network of fascia that extends from the cranium all the way down to the feet, a skilled practitioner can feel the CranioSacral rhythm anywhere in the body. Any trauma or injury, however, can cause a change to the normal CranioSacral rhythm, affecting either to its symmetry, quality, amplitude or rate. The result can be a somatic dysfunction manifesting as pain, headache, inability to concentrate, irritability, palpitations or depression. Abnormalities to any of the body's structures or functions, whether the nervous system, the musculoskeletal system, the blood vascular system, the lymphatic system, the endocrine system or the respiratory system, will usually influence the craniosacral system. The process of SER expands upon CST, to release emotional as well as physical traumas, some imprinted decades before, even from childhood, birth, or before, which the person has been carrying around like a weight, causing him dysfunction and eventually even collapse.

Recently I saw an amazing selection from Likutei Moharan (Anochi 4:5) in which Rabbi Nachman says that averos (sins) do the same thing to the body, and become imprinted in the bones!

"The sins of a person are on his bones, as it says in Yechezkel, 'And their sins will be engraved on their bones'. Every sins involves a combination of letters (permutation) , and when a person commits a sin, that bad permutation becomes engraved on his bones. Through this, the potential of the commandment he transgressed goes to the "other side", that of impurity, and he is given over to the"malchus" (dominion) of the gentile governments (instead of dominion of Ha-Shem), giving them power over him. If, for example, he violated the commandment, "You shall not have any other gods..," he destroys the good permutation of the commandment and builds (with the letters of that Mitzva) an evil permutation which then becomes imprinted on his bones and avenges him, as the verse says in Yermiyahu," Your sins have overturned these..." and as it says in Tehillim, "The deathblow of the wicked is evil". [So how does one extract, or release the imprint of the sin?] ( Note: this is the continuation of a previous chapter where Rabbi Nachman discussed this concept-YF) By confessing in detail the sin commited, to a Tzadik (holy person) who is also a scholar. This causes the letters that have been imprinted to leave his bones recombine, and re-form the letters of the commandment, as it says in Tehillim, "All my bones will say...," destroying the evil permutation that was built, and connecting him to the Kingdom of holiness."

May the merit of all the true Tzadikim protect us, and may we be worthy of releasing all of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual traumas, no matter how deeply they are embedded, enabling us to truly begin anew.