A Chinese patient who was more than eighty years old was escorted to my office by his son-in-law to seek medical help. I have known his son for almost thirty years, since the time I was practicing acupuncture without a license. After comforting each other, the senior citizen began to tell me that he knew a TCM doctor in China who was known nation-wide; he had also traveled 100 miles to see a Chinese doctor in San Jose, as well as a former associate professor of TCM in China in San Francisco. After listening, my eyebrows frowned, and I worried about what could I do for him even though I believed in my skill.
He complained he felt dizzy and his face looked pale and you could see he could not walk steadily. He told me the doctors he saw were good, but results were slow and as he talked to me, I could smell that he ate much meat and he could not digest his food completely. As I was taking his pulse I could feel it was over-active and I saw that his tongue was pale.
After I finished the TCM examination, I began to drain his body with the warming method. Why drain the body? Because his body’s constitution was cold. After treating him a few times, he was feeling somewhat better. I told him, “From your pulse, I can tell you eat much rich food.” He answered, “I feel weak, so how can I not eat good food?.” Sometimes, he told me, “I feel a little better but I am still feeling dizzy.” I said, “Don’t eat too much meat and too much rich food at the same time.”
One day, he came for treatment, and his step was not stable. His face not only looked pale, but also it had some dark green color along the nose. That sign alerted me to a condition of ‘liver wind,’ a condition which could cause a stroke if I was not able to cleanse his liver which was suffering as a result of his eating too much good food. I had to tell him again and again, “From your complexion and your pulse, you have had too much good food. You have to cut down.” He listened and looked at me with some doubt, “But if I don’t eat good food, I may get even weaker.” I said, “Your pulse is over-acting which means your pulse is getting narrower.” I know that it is not easy for most of the senior citizens to change their minds. It is not even easy for me to get young patients to change their habits and thoughts which have been passed on from generation to generation, but I have more then enough patience to deal with my patients. I have them change their habits step by step.
I told my patient not to sit down and watch TV after a meal, but to do some light physical work such as washing dishes or sweeping floors or taking a nice walk, and I suggested eating dinner earlier, thereby allowing the body to digest the food for several hours before sleep. I also suggested drinking some tea after a meal (about two to three hours later). You can get the best benefit if you eat and drink tea at the same time because it will make the stomach acid thinner. By following all of these procedures, my old friend’s father-in-law began to feel really better. He cut down on the amount of meat he ate, and he picked up some more confidence and began to believe even with less meat and good food he could get much better, even in his old age. He realized that in fact, other doctors’ diagnosis and treatment was correct, but they just had not realized that in America, the people’s food is too rich to digest.
As he began feeling better, I talked with him about contemporary knowledge. I also told him that in fact, modern science is in accordance with ancient science. Ancient TCM tells us not to eat too much salt and not eat too much fat. Modern science says that too much salt is a burden on the kidneys, and that your body cannot handle too much fat. Your body cells will change to an abnormal condition. With understanding and results, he was happy to co-operate with me. His pulse improved and became less wiry. The pale color on his face and the green-blue color around his nose became lighter. He secretly told me that the reason he ate too much meat and too much good food was because his son-in-law worked in a well-known restaurant in which many kinds of food could not be kept over night, so his son-in-law would bring it home for him to enjoy. I joked with him: “People give food, and you give your life.” He responded by laughing. He promised not to eat too much in order to have good health. I joked with him: “If you mop your floor everyday, you can have some more dessert. If you do the hard labor work in your back yard, you can have some more good food.” He laughed.