Book Nook: Integrative Medicine – The Return of the Soul to Healthcare
This is an interview posted December 2, 2019 from Motherhood Moment.
The book Integrative Medicine: The Return of the Soul to Healthcare, was written by someone who’s been both patient and healer. Based on both Dr. Bonnie McLean’s extensive research and personal experience as a practitioner and recipient of allopathic medicine, oriental medicine, functional medicine, energy medicine, and counseling, this book offers a comprehensive explanation of integrative medicine with resources for further exploration by the reader.
Dr. McLean is an expert in her field and has been selected as Top Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncturist of the Year for 2019 by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). She is also a contributor to many articles in publications, a sought after lecturer and speaker, and has also hosted her own local TV shows in California and Florida.
I had a chance to learn more about integrative medicine in this interview.
Why did you write this book?
I am a patient advocate. That means I do my best to educate and support patients to receive the best care possible from our healthcare systems. As a healthcare provider, I believe it is my responsibility to empower patients to stay as healthy as possible so they don’t have to use our healthcare systems any more than necessary.
I am a practitioner and have been a patient, and my book is written from both perspectives. I have been in the healthcare field for over 50 years. I grew up in an environment of conventional allopathic medicine. My father was a physician and surgeon. My mother was a nurse. I then practiced nursing myself for 20 years. I have seen many changes in our medical care over the years. I like some, such as increased efficiency, advances in medical technology, such as life-saving procedures and surgeries, and amazing research, such as with stem cells and genetics. One of the changes I don’t like how medicine has become big business. Another is the decrease of the human touch and a listening ear.
I have now been practicing natural medicine as an acupuncturist for the past 36 years. I see a lot of patients who feel like they are falling through the cracks of medicine and a lot of people who would like to be more self-empowered with their own health.
So much information is available on just about everything, including health. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with it all. I wanted my book to be a user-friendly resource of health topics for patients and their loved ones. I wanted it to also have a personal touch; therefore, I have included my experiences with my own health challenges throughout my life. I was a very allergic and rather sickly child with eczema and colic as an infant, asthma as a child, and Shingles at the age of 13. As a young adult I struggled with Mono and the Epstein Barr virus, a heart arrhythmia, a bout of pneumonia, and depression. The blessing from my journey in self-healing is my beloved profession of Oriental Medicine and my training in ancient indigenous healing practices. In recent years I learned about a gene I have called MTHFR, how this gene can contribute to health issues, such as the ones I have experienced, and what I can do to keep my body healthy despite this genetic challenge.
My dream is that this book be available to all those who are searching for better health and healthcare for themselves and their families. I would love to see it in the waiting rooms of both conventional and natural medicine practitioners.
What is Integrative Medicine?
To me integrative medicine is a combination of conventional medicine, natural medicine, and self-care. I meet a lot of people who seem to think they have to choose one or the other. Conventional medicine is basically based on fixing a problem or symptom with medications, procedures, or surgery. It is the healing aspect of healthcare. Natural medicine supports the body to heal itself. This would include approaches, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, body work, functional medicine using nutrition, etc. This also includes education in a healthy lifestyle. To me Integrative Medicine is the incorporation of both approaches and using each appropriately. You can find this example in some of our hospitals and institutions who have integrative medicine centers, such as UCLA, Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Duke University, and University of Miami.
What is the difference between natural medicine and allopathic medicine?
As I mentioned, allopathic medicine is amazing when it comes to fixing a physical ailment with the emphasis on finding a cure. This approach works very well for potentially life-threatening situations, such as infections, strokes, heart attacks, accidents, organ shut-downs, and other health crises that need diagnostic procedures, surgeries, and medications. Modern medical technology has the ability to save lives and restores the quality of life for many. We have organ transplants, diagnostic procedures such CAT Scans and PET Scans that allow us to see inside our bodies, and rejuvenation of our body parts with stem cell treatments. Our research with human genetics is cutting edge. Medications allow diabetics and people with high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias to live normal lives. Even though they are now considered commonplace, anyone who has experienced cataract surgery or treatment for a detached retina or glaucoma will tell you how grateful they are to have had these modern miracles available.
Natural medicine works very well for people with chronic pain and illness, such as auto-immune diseases like arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, and fibromyalgia, immune diseases such as Epstein Barr, and diseases related to obesity, People with health problems related to life style and emotional and environmental stresses respond very well to approaches such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and coaching in nutrition and exercise. Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This remains true today. Natural medicine offers preventive care before and after a health crisis. Natural medicine incorporates, not only health education, but also the healing power of touch, listening, and compassion. These elements are very important when someone is tired and discouraged from their challenges with pain and illness.
I visited China with a group of medical professionals interested in learning more about Chinese Medicine. One of our guides explained to us that the larger hospitals offered both Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine. If someone needed diagnostics and treatment for an acute illness or injury, they were sent to the Western Medicine wing where they received testing, medications, procedures, or surgery. If the problem was chronic or in recovery after their acute episode, they were sent to the Chinese Medicine wing where they received acupuncture, herbs, massage, and training in tai qi. They were able to receive the best of both worlds. I was impressed with that model.
How does stress affect our health?
I think most of us have noticed that stress seems to adversely affect, not only our mental health, but also our physical health. Anybody who has had headaches, allergies, or digestive problems has probably connected the dots between the two. When we are stressed, we don’t sleep well, we may eat too much or too little, we may be more accident prone, we catch colds more easily, and pain can feel worse.
There is actually a physiological reason for this. Dr. Hans Selye was the first physician to research this connection. He spent 30 years ( from the 1940’s to 1970’s ) researching the mind/body connection link and the effects of stress on health. He came to the conclusion that stress is normal and is actually a beneficial survival mechanism– if it’s short term. It’s when stress becomes chronic that it causes us problems.
It was Selye who identified the “fight or flight” response. When there is perceived danger, this survival mechanism kicks in. The body moves out of it’s normal state of rest, growth, and reproduction ( the parasympathetic nervous system ). The action part of the nervous system ( the sympathetic nervous system ) takes over. There is a sudden flow of hormones, such as adrenaline, that causes our muscles to tense up in preparation to engage the threat or to run away from it. Extra blood sugar is released into the system to provide extra energy. Cortisol is released to handle any possible pain. All of this is well and good in the beginning. But if the body remains in it’s action mode, it cannot rest enough to regenerate it’s systems and heal itself.
Depending on our genetics, some of the systems of each of us tend to be weaker and more vulnerable than others. This is why one person may respond with a heart attack or stroke, another may respond with migraine headaches, another may respond with stomach ulcers or colitis, etc.
With the new field of epigenetics, however, we are discovering that the environment of the body has a huge impact on the cells and systems. This environment includes physical elements, such as nutrients ( or lack of ), hormones, and toxins. It contains water which needs to be balanced with acidity and alkalinity. On an energy level it contains thoughts and feelings. According to Chinese Medicine, it is fed by qi or vital force. This is why lifestyle is so important and why disciplines, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and body work, can be effective for so many health challenges.
Integrative Medicine: The Return of the Soul to Healthcare illustrates the best of both worlds (science of medical technology and the art of healing, contemporary knowledge and ancient wisdom, East and West) are beginning to work hand in hand under the umbrella of integrative medicine.
DR. BONNIE MCLEAN O.M.D., A.P., M.A., B.S.N. is the Founder of Spirit Gate Medicine. She was recently selected as Top Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncturist of the Year for 2019 by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP), for her outstanding leadership, dedication and commitment to the industry.