Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spirituality and Alternative Medicine

"I don't jog. If I die,

I want to be sick."

- Abe Lemons (former writer and head basketball coach of Oklahoma)

Welcome Spirituality & Science followers – we have a special guest with us today. Alison Dinn, L. Ac. is a Licensed Acupuncturist who specializes in Chinese medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and trained in a hospital in Cheng Du, China. Alison graciously agreed to answer some questions that I thought might be useful to those who are interested in alternative medicine. I use the term “alternative” to describe Chinese (or Eastern) medicine, as opposed to “traditional” or Western medicine practiced most commonly in the United States.

Interviewer (moi): Thank you so much for being here today. It seems like we are hearing more and more in the media about alternative (Eastern) medicine and I was wondering what you perceive the main differences to be between Western and Eastern medicine?

Alison Dinn: There are many differences but I believe there are 3 main ones.

1) This one I think is the most important: We view everybody as unique so there is no one treatment plan for one dis-ease that works for everyone – because everyone is different. 10 people may come in with the same complaint and after an evaluation; they may all require different herbs and varying acupuncture points.

2) Western medicine tends to treat symptoms of disease while Chinese medicine doesn’t believe there are diseases or illnesses per say; there are patterns going on in the body at all times so we are treating those underlying patterns. By the time symptoms show up physically, these patterns (or imbalances) have been going on for some time.

3) In Eastern medicine the physical body is viewed holistically or globally. It reminds me of the butterfly effect, “If a butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing in March, then by August, hurricane patterns in the Atlantic will be completely different.” We don’t divide the body into systems such as cardiovascular, respiratory, etc. as everything affects everything else.

I: Can you explain the concept of chi?

A.D.: Basically, the basis of all Chinese medicine is that every living thing is all a balance of yin – female and yang – male (pure energy). The word “chi” is a type of yang energy and is the life force that flows through all living things in the universe. There are numerous kinds of chi that flow through your body and everything else.

I: There appears to be more hype these days about the connection between mind and body. In your opinion, how does spirituality play a role in health/wellness?

A.D.: (laughs) You know, we were never even taught the mind/body connection because it was just assumed that there is no separation between the mind, body, and spirit. Acupuncture treats people on all 3 of these levels even though most people present for treatment due to issues on the physical level. Problems usually occur first on the spiritual or emotional (mind) level and then show up on the physical level; however, most people (in the U.S.) are more focused on physical issues. Interestingly, when I worked in China, I saw people heal from physical problems more quickly because they tend to get treatment sooner and more often. They also tend to be more focused on eating healthy and engaging in practices like Qi Gong and Tai Chi.

I: What types of methods do you commonly use in your practice? Why types of health issues do you see that respond especially well to alternative medicine?

A.D.: Acupuncture, reiki, and herbs. I usually use a combination of these. About 2/3 of Chinese medicine is treatment through herbs. I will use acupuncture to get the person in balance, and I think of herbs as a type of “daily” acupuncture t o keep people balanced. The needles used in acupuncture don’t do anything in and of themselves; they simply tell the body to regulate itself. The body is smarter than anything else and knows how to best treat itself. The needles are placed on points along meridians that follow the energy pathways in the body.

Common ailments that respond well to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) are pain, digestive issues (IBS, etc.), women’s issues (fertility, gynecological, hormonal, etc.), and insomnia. There are some studies being conducted in Europe on acupuncture used for fertility problems, and they’ve had amazing results.

I: That brings up another question. If more research is supporting the use of “alternative” methods such as acupuncture, then are these treatments being covered more by managed care insurance providers?

A.D.: Yes! I have seen an increase in managed care companies that cover acupuncture now. Several of the top of my head are: BC/BS, Cigna, Kaiser, and Aetna.

I: What is something that people might be surprised to know about alternative medicine?

A.D.: Most people think of acupuncture as some “out there” treatment when in reality, it is more linear and rational than much of Western medicine. It is mapped out based on the evaluation in terms of definitive diagnosis, specific herbs, and acupuncture points. The evaluation involves the interview, visual examination, and “feeling” of the organs and pulse.

I: Does it work even if you don’t “believe” in it?

A.D.: Absolutely – some of the most miraculous healing I’ve seen has occurred in people who didn’t believe in it but came to treatment because “someone made them.” My own father is an example - he couldn’t believe that this was what I chose to study as he didn’t believe in any of it. He hadn’t been able to move his shoulder at all for 3 months, so I offered him a treatment. It’s been 5 years now and his shoulder has been fine ever since – he now believes.

I: Protecting confidentiality, can you give an example of a successful case treated with alternative medicine?

A.D.: I saw a young woman who had not had a period in 7 years. She had been given a Western medical diagnosis by a doctor, but had no resolution of her problem and she desperately wanted to become pregnant. She came to me hoping that I could regulate her period so that she could begin trying to get pregnant. I treated her for a few months, and she didn’t get her period – because she got pregnant! She had to tell her ob/gyn that the date of her last period was 7 years ago! She now has a second child - and regular periods.

I: Wow- that’s an amazing case. Is there anything else you want people to know about Eastern medicine?

A.D.: I want to make it clear that I am very pro-Western medicine. I just believe that it’s best to integrate the two. In China, 90% of internal medicine issues are treated with herbs rather than other medications. The doctors there are trained in both Western and Eastern medicine, so they know when to use herbs versus antibiotics, for example. I think that medications are necessary at times, and I wish that here (U.S.) we could work together to create a more cohesive health care model.

I: Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge with us. I appreciate your taking time out of your day for this.

More information about Alison Dinn: for those in the Denver area interested in acupuncture, Ms. Dinn can be reached at 303.733.4500.

On a personal note, I can say that she is absolutely fabulous. She was my introduction into alternative medicine when a friend recommended her due to my chronic allergies, and is the reason I went on to become trained in Reiki and am now a Reiki Master. It is not an understatement to say that my life has completely changed since meeting her – for the better of course, or I wouldn’t have done this interview. :) Until next time…


Clarke said...


It was a nice post.

Here is an important information on Reiki which promotes natural ways of healing.

Reiki, as an alternative medicine, channels man’s energy to the energy of the universe and creates harmony between the two. The reiki master will become the mediator between man’s energy and the universal powers so that happiness and contentment will be achieved. During the first step, which is called the attunement process, the master must first pass on the healing symbols. In the art of learning Reiki, the chakras of the body or the seven energy centers are realigned to promote the smooth flow of the natural energies inside us.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for this informative interview.

Question: Alison Dinn's education was at U Penn in Philadelphia. Does she have any referrals for alternative care in Philadelphia? If she has any suggestions I would be grateful.

Please feel free to email me if privacy is an issue.

Thank you

Kristi said...

Journalizer - I'll check w/ her and get back to you via email. Thanks.