Medical Journal

Diarrhea that Needs to be Treated and Doesn’t Needs to be Treated

Frequent recurring excretion is diarrhea even when the feces look normal

If constipation is delayed excretion after digestion, diarrhea is sudden or very frequent excretion. To be specific, sudden growth in the number of excretions, abnormally mushy or watery feces or increased amount of excretion is medically known as conditions for diarrhea. On average, excretion up to three times a day is normal. But even when the number of visits to the bathroom is less than three, if you’re experiencing an inconvenience in daily activities or is afraid of consuming certain food is considered abnormal bowel movement that should be treated in Oriental Medicine.

Diarrhea is so common that it is often overlooked as a disease

Diarrhea is a very common disease. According to statistics, about a hundred million people, worldwide, experience acute diarrhea every year. Its symptoms easily disappear without any treatment and an emergency caused by diarrhea is very rare in developed countries like the United States. Because of these reasons, people habitually overlook the serious symptoms that diarrhea can convey. Being too worried about one-time diarrhea or constipation and visiting a doctor for diagnosis isn’t necessary but frequent recurring diarrhea or constipation could be a signal to a possibility of serious symptoms that should be of concern.

Difference between acute and chronic diarrhea

If diarrhea has been recurring for 2 weeks it’s medically considered as acute diarrhea, chronic diarrhea if it goes on for more 4 weeks or more. They are discerned by its duration because of the difference in the length of consistent diarrhea distinguishes the cause of such symptoms. Diarrhea that people commonly suffer is acute diarrhea (90% of cases) due to infection. If the patient experiences vomiting, fever, and stomachache along with acute diarrhea it’s reasonable to question bacterial infection. The bacterial infection is caused by eating spoiled food most of the time but weakened immune system due to taking immunity related medication such as immunity suppressant could be the cause. Or paradoxically, taking antibiotics to cure bacterial infection can cause more severe bacterial infection through the intrusion of more bacteria when the number of intestinal bacteria is reduced.

Symptoms of diarrhea that needs treatment

Most of the acute diarrhea heals naturally that it doesn’t require prescription or diagnosis. But there are rare cases of acute diarrhea that evolves to be an emergency that needs to be checked. The patient should see a doctor if following symptoms accompany acute diarrhea:  sudden dehydration, fever above 101.12 degrees Fahrenheit, continuous symptoms over 48hours, serious abdominal pain for adults over 50 years old, seniors or patients on immunity suppressants or if multiple of symptoms occur simultaneously. It is recommended to go to a hospital for the diagnosis than an Oriental Medicine clinic.

What to do for diarrhea that needs treatment

Normally principle treatment to acute diarrhea is to hydrate and replenish electrolytes (prescribed antibiotics for special cases). Some who experience diarrhea skip drinking water to avoid going to the bathroom, but this can be critical to one’s health because it causes serious dehydration. Also taking antidiarrheal could rather worsen the symptoms by disabling excretion of bacteria and toxin out of the body.

On the contrary, chronic diarrhea has no relations to bacterial infection. It is often accompanied by fever and stomachache, symptoms of infection, but because it’s not caused by a bacterial infection it cannot be treated solely with antibiotics or sterilizer. Also, chronic diarrhea isn’t a big concern in and of itself, but it can be a symptom to a bigger problem that has to be closely diagnosed. These symptoms can be effectively treated through Oriental Medicine by balancing out the whole body.


Medical Journal

Are Yin and Yang and the Five Elements Scientific?

Yin Yang and the Five Elements are the Standards of Oriental Medicine to Classify Our Body

If modern medicine classifies the organs by its spatial placement, Oriental Medicine classifies by its function. For example, modern medicine classifies lungs as “two chunks of masses at the chest”, whereas Oriental Medicine classifies all organs that perform the respiratory function as a whole, as “lungs”. That would include the organ, lung, itself, but also respiratory tract, nose, skin, and sweat pores too. This kind of special standards are used in Oriental Medicine and of them all, the two most important are the Yin and Yang and the Five Elements (fire, water, wood, metal, and earth).


‘Yin’ is Having Too Little Energy, and ‘Yang’ is Too Much Energy

‘Yin’ generally means deficiency of some kind in the body and ‘Yang’ means an excess of something. So, in Oriental Medicine, ‘Yin’ would be referring to organs that perform resting and saving to counteract on deficiency and ‘Yang’ refers to organs that perform an activity that use up the excess energy. It’s like the concept of ‘sympathetic nerves/parasympathetic nerves’ and ‘autonomous nerves/dysautonomic nerves’ in Modern medicine but Oriental Medicine breaks down the concept into organs.


‘Yin and Yang’ is the Conceptualization of Functions of Organs

If the concept of Yin and Yang is based on the function and the range each organ performs, then the Five Elements are the organs symbolized into the elements of nature. For example, the spread of the heat all over the body through circulation of blood is much like the image of fire flaring out that heart, the organ which causes the flow, is named ‘the organ of fire. In the same aspect, the kidney is ‘the organ of water’ for it filters and cleanses the body, liver is ‘the organ of tree for it keeps our body firm and strong, stomach is ‘the organ of soil’ for it absorbs and takes in outside nutrients into our body, and lung is ‘the organ of gold’ for it blocks the external waste from coming into our body.


The ‘Endocrine Theory’ of Modern Medicine is Another Expression of ‘the Theory of Five Lines’ of Oriental Medicine

Looking into the Yin and Yang and the functions of organs, it’s clinically proven that decreased performance of the kidney has a greater probability of causing heart-related diseases. This kind of phenomenon is explained as weakening of ‘water-energy’ which makes it difficult to control ‘the fire energy’ in the concept of the Five Elements. It describes relationships of these energies to be compatible(상생) and incompatible(상극) to express more complicated functions of the human body. This concept of the Five Elements is very similar to the Endocrine system of Modern medicine.  The endocrine system explains the constant cycle of excreted hormones by offsetting each other’s power, creating a balance. This organic structure of organs explained through the Endocrine system is synonymous to the concept of the Five Elements.

Though the jargons and ways of explaining the concepts are different, the Yin and Yang and the Five Elements of the Oriental Medicine can be said to be identical to the concepts widely accepted and used in the Modern Medicine. Or, considering that the idea of sympathetic nerves and parasympathetic nerves are found only recently (less than 100 years ago), the Oriental Medicine, which studied and confirmed through practice these concepts thousands of years ago, can be said to be more ‘accurate’ and ‘practical’.


Medical Journal

Can health be maintained by Vitamin?

Experiencing degraded health due to vitamins

Contrast to common belief, overdosing on vitamin can worsen your health, such as increasing the chance of a diagnosis of cancer or heart disease. Tim Byers, MD, MHD, a well-known director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, has conducted an experiment on 35,000 Americans for the past 10 years on the effects of vitamins. He concluded that nutritional supplements don’t result in drastic improvement in health but rather, growth in the number of cancer patients among the experimented population.

Likewise, in 2013, a study from Harvard University has announced a similar conclusion on the effects of multivitamins on cognitive skills (tested 6,000+ seniors for 12 years). Comparing the group who has taken multivitamins steadily with the group who have taken a placebo, the difference between the two groups is medically insignificant.

Moreover, ‘JAMA’(short for The Journal of American Medical Association) which is one of the top three medical journals, released a shocking conclusion a few years back on the correlation of multivitamins and diseases. After testing 14,000 people, they not only concluded that there is no significant effect on the diagnosis of heart disease, stroke, or cancer after taking the multivitamins for 11 years compared to placebo group but also supported the conclusion of Dr. Byers’ experiment, concluding that overdosing certain vitamins is rather harmful to one’s health. This experiment states that Vitamin E and B are found to significantly raise the risk of certain diseases.

Those who have been taking vitamin E for 12 years experienced a 17% higher diagnosis rate of prostate cancer than those who didn’t.  Heart disorder patients that took vitamin B complex for more than 3 years experienced a 22% higher rate of a resurgence in heart disease.

Extracted vitamins react differently from vitamins consumed through a natural ingredient

Omega-3 is a nutrient well known to prevent cardiovascular disease. When Omega-3 is consumed by eating fish like Mackerel, which has a lot of Omega-3, twice a week, it reduces the death rate by heart disease by 36%. Contrast to its effective results, when Omega-3 is taken in the form of an extracted pill, it is not effective at all.

Similarly, an experiment at Johns Hopkins University stated consumption of vitamins and minerals has no effect in preventing heart disease like a heart attack. A fascinating thing here is when the vitamins were consumed directly from natural ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and nuts, there were significant positive results that were not seen from taking vitamins and minerals through extracted pills.

The argument on the effects of vitamin has a long history

The pharmaceutical industry has quickly counteracted on the results and strongly rebutted that the experiments are biased due to inconsistent controls. They tried to follow up with experiments but nonetheless, the public was already consumed in the wave of theories on the uselessness of vitamins.

Although the public is just starting to catch up to the wave, this is no news in scientific research. The effects of multivitamins have been persistently questioned and argued for the last 10 years. Consistent conclusions on the effects of multivitamins have been proposed but it is just now surfacing up to establish its ground in the interest of the public, due to the nature of scientific research where experiments must be conducted in long-term to confirm its validity.

It’s better to consume nutrients directly from food

An interesting argument concluded from the series of experiments is that it’s certain that nutrients consumed directly from food positively affects our body but when certain nutrients (vitamins, minerals) are extracted from the food and consumed indirectly, it shows no significant improvements but moreover, cause side effects. All in all, it’s only proper to expect positive results from consuming vitamins directly in its natural state. Simply taking one or two supplements do not show improvements but rather cause harm to our body.

Compatibility of components is more important than individual characteristics

Why do the same nutrients react differently in our body when consumed in other forms than food? Though nutrients are the same, when the components of nutrients consumed changes, it reacts differently to the body. This fundamental belief in the compatibility of components is what Korean Medicine stress and emphasize, rather than focusing on one nutrient or component.

For example, Saponin, a chemical compound found in ginseng, is only effective in the form of ginseng, producing a synergetic reaction with other nutrients in it. But when Saponin is specifically extracted and put into a capsule, it affects our body differently.

This is a piece of notable evidence that explains the difference in the effects of multivitamin pills from that of vitamins consumed through food.


Medical Journal

You will get healthy when you stop following a “healthy” habit?

It’s necessary to know how to stay healthy

Health is surely one of the most popular topics of interest these days.  As population aging is becoming more extreme, our average life expectancy is headed towards 100 years now. As people face longer years as seniors, the concern of how to grow old and stay healthy is not just a concern to be overheard but a real problem.

We’re lost in too many ‘How-to’s

There are a variety of professionally recommended ways to stay healthy. Some would suggest consuming certain types of food or vitamins and some would recommend doing certain types of workout regularly. As we’re more exposed to all this information from the media, we come to face a lot more difficult decisions on how to stay healthy.

Are we really healthier after all?

It’s already burdensome with so many things we’re recommended to do. But on top of that, there are conflicting opinions among different professionals that it’s even more confusing. To accommodate all opinions, doing everything well and eating well as much as allowed has become the trend. From the perspective of Korean Medicine, this is neither ideal nor recommended. As more things are added on to the list, there’s going to be a point where it all becomes too much and do more harm than good.

Too much of good can rather be harmful

In Korean Medicine, being in balance is the standard of being healthy. When one is too much or too little and breaking the balance is defined to be sick.

Unbalance caused by too little is called Deficiency and unbalance caused by too much is called Excess. In the past, there were more patients with Deficiency from not eating enough and not working out correctly or effectively. But recently there’s been significant growth in patients with Excess who have been sick due to overdoing things to stay healthy. Too much good, by nature, does more harm than good, and it’s often overlooked by many.

This generation needs to know when to say enough

A grandpa who was lethargic and exhausted ate two ginseng roots every day and came to the clinic with high blood pressure and constant bleeding in the bronchus. A woman who thought walking was the best way to stay healthy come in with knee inflammation from jogging too much. A man who drank energy drinks and worked out daily to be fit came in with frequent nose bleed and unbearable migraine. They all tried their best to be healthy, but they ended up losing their health. What our generation needs is not adding more but to know when it’s enough. These days, working harder, eating better, and pursuing more is looked upon as desirable and respected. On the contrary, taking a break or being satisfied is perceived to be lazy and frowned upon. This societal aspect always has us on our feet trying to find more things to do for ourselves. As a result, many are doing too much trying to make up for something they might be lacking.

The reason for working out can cause more problem

Our body is constructed so that doing more would not be better for it. Working out is tense physical labor that activates the sympathetic nervous system. Then it leads to higher blood flow towards the muscles and increases muscle efficiency. With more blood flowing towards the muscles there’s less blood flowing to essential life-supporting organs which lowers organs’ efficiency. When this continues for a time, organs cannot function properly and cause indigestion(stomach), heart palpitation(heart), insomnia (liver, heart), incontinence (bladder, kidney) and other diseases. Of course, there are remedies like herbal medicine which can suffice the lacking nutrients for those organs or acupuncture that turns the blood flow back towards the organs, but the most fundamental and simple treatment to such problems would be to take a break.

Take a break for a recovery

Parasympathetic nerve system enhances and speeds up the recovery of natural biological function. But to do so, the sympathetic nervous system needs a break from the labor, in this case, working out, which causes tension. Through a break, the parasympathetic nervous system can reverse the blood flow back towards the organs and let them recover to normal condition.

Food consumed is stored as fat in abdominals during the day and our body spreads the fat all over the body during sleep and reduces the possibility of getting abdominal obesity. Physical injury is treated and healed overnight while we’re asleep. Like so, our body is systemized to take off as much as we put on, which means taking a break is essential to be healthier. In Korean Medicine, this balance is defined as ‘Yin-Yang Balance’ and this is the logic of life people should be more aware of.

Medical Journal

Why put a needle in the hand when the pain is in the back?

Why do they put needles in where it doesn’t hurt?

Have you ever gone to an acupuncturist for back pain and get a treatment on the right hand, which seems to have nothing to do with the pain in the back? This is based on the unique principle of treatment in Oriental Medicine where the right side of the body is treated when pain occurs on the left side, and vice versa. And when there’s pain towards the top of the body, the lower part of the body is treated, and vice versa. This principle of treatment is very different than our common knowledge so those who are unfamiliar with acupuncture treatments often expect to be treated where it hurts and question the doctor when the needle is put somewhere else.

The cause of pain isn’t always at where it hurts

Why does Oriental Medicine put needles in where it doesn’t hurt? First, the most common reason is that the medical cause behind the pain doesn’t always correlate with where it hurts. A good example of this case is disc herniation. Normally, patients who suffer from a disc herniation often feel pain near the lower back, far off from the actual herniated disc. A herniated disc in the neck causes pain near the arm or finger joints, and herniated back disc causes pain near the thigh or lower leg. Therefore, the targeted treatment should not be the arm or leg where there is a pain but near the neck and lower back where the causes of the pain lie. In similar principle, if a patient came in for a severe headache and the doctor diagnoses the pain to be caused by the liver, pushing up the overheated energy towards the head, the patient will be treated on the legs where the liver energy/chi-pathway flows rather than on the head.

Treating away from the pain heals faster

The second reason behind the principle is treating away from the area with pain is more effective. For example, it’s more effective to ask one’s superior or a boss to speak to a person of misconduct rather than to speak directly to them. Our systematic body works in a similar way. Like so, when patients suffering from chronic, long term pain are given acupuncture treatments on the area of pain, the needle might not be strong enough to stimulate the pain and when the energy circulation is stagnant near the affected area, treating it directly doesn’t treat it as effective. Hence, it’s more efficient and effective to treat areas where similar functions are performed as where it hurts.

Some acupuncture treatments focus on quick recovery and healing rather than relieving pain

The previous two explanations focus on treatment based on the cause and condition of the pain. There is another acupuncture method specific to Korea which is called ‘Sa-am’ method. ‘Sa-am’ method is famously practiced by Jun Heo and Jema Lee, two of The Three Renowned Korean Medicine Doctors, which applies the fundamentals of the Yin and Yang and the Five Elements of Oriental Medicine. This method also places acupuncture needles far away from where it hurts.

If the general principle of acupuncture treatment directs the acupuncturist to fix the cause of symptoms and pains directly, the ‘Sa-am’ method focuses on inducing the body itself to fix the area of the problem. In a figurative example, if someone is struggling to reach the top of the mountain while hiking, ‘Sa-am’ method would figure out the cause behind the struggling so that the climber can climb to the top on his own rather than moving him to the top of the mountain. In a realistic situation, doctors who practice ‘Sa-am’ method doesn’t treat the pain directly but help the patients’ body to recover on its own, which they find to be genuine treatment, so they try to avoid treating where it hurts directly with needles. I, also as an acupuncturist who practices Sa-am method, don’t treat the pain directly and a lot of new patients tend to get confused about the treatment.

If the acupuncturist treats the “wrong”, unexpected place with unexpected treatment…

Like so, it’s very common for every other acupuncturist to use different principles and methods in treating symptoms. So, do not worry if your doctor places needles far off from where it hurts. Some often request the doctor to treat with a specific method at a specific area of their preference, but this is a dangerous act that could lead to unknown results. Even though the doctor puts needles in some odd place, it’s best to acknowledge the different methods of treatment in acupuncture and simply ask questions to try to understand and respect the doctor’s specific treatment. Moreover, if the patient cannot understand or respect the doctor of his specific method of acupuncture that he practices, it would be best to find another doctor that practices acupuncture by patient’s preference of treatment rather than requesting the doctor to treat differently.