ACH Blog

Acupuncture and the Prevention of Illness

Isobel Cosgrove - Thursday, November 07, 2013

In China, for many centuries it has been common prac­tice to give children, from seven years onwards, herbs to counteract the effects of difficult weather, a special diet to support their individual growth and development, and an acupuncture treatment once a season to maintain their health. A doctor, who looks for the individuals’ inherited areas of constitutional vulnerability, sees each child. This diagnosis then determines what diet, exercise programme, herbs and acupuncture they should follow during their growing years.

Chinese medicine suggests that if you look after your area of metabolic weakness – digestive, circulatory or respira­tory for example – during your early life, you have more chance of avoiding chronic symptoms as you get older.

As an adult you can make the choice to continue hav­ing acupuncture treatments every four, six or eight weeks, the frequency depending on the strength of your constitution. Your practitioner can make lifestyle suggestions so that you can avoid respiratory conges­tion (in a damp climate) with small dietary changes and an exercise programme to support the lungs. Herbs can prevent anaemia, increase circulation, lower blood pressure, take inflammation out of joints, the digestive or urinary tract, and can keep skin conditions at bay.

After 60 years of the NHS in the UK, we are all more used to waiting for a crisis to develop with our health before having a GP or even hospital deal in crisis management with drugs or surgery. The idea of preventing a crisis by managing our own constitutions with help from acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise is starting to appeal to more of us.

During my thirty years as a practitioner I have had con­tinuing maintenance treatments. From time to time I have had more intensive input – blood tonic herbs for anaemia and other herbs to take inflammation from the lungs after an infection. I have advised some of my clients to consider maintenance programmes to prevent (or reverse) the progress of chronic illness.

One of our clients, now in her 70s, has no signs of arthritis (at 55 years old her consultant said she should plan for a hip replacement in a few years). Another patient with M.E. started coming ten years ago, when she was in her 20s, unable to work and with very low energy. She is now running her own business after teaching for the last few years. A third patient started acupuncture after having three children in four years. She now has good energy levels, her sleep has regu­lated and she works part time as the children are all now at school. Recently she had a family bereave­ment and used acupuncture more frequently to help her deal with the shock and grief. Finally, a man in his 40s with rheumatoid arthritis decided that he wanted to minimise drug intake. So, for the past 12 years he has had herbs and monthly acupuncture and his condition is stable and has not progressed at all. His drug intake is minimal and his quality of life is good.

These case studies illustrate how it is possible, at any stage in the life cycle, to take charge of our own health, to give ourselves support at times of need and to continue with a level of input which maintains well-being and prevents the onset of illness.

Isobel Cosgrove

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