The puzzle of health: A Chinese medicine adventure

Last week I had a health setback.

People often ask, “How did you discover that you had cancer?” The answer is pretty simple — I had a day of vomiting so horrific that I was pretty sure my stomach was somehow broken. I went to the gastrointestinal doctor for it, and he peeked into my stomach via an endoscopy and found cancer.

So we fixed the cancer.

But last week, I had another bout of vomiting of the same sort that inspired my trip in the first place. I went to the GI doctor again (in the middle of sickness), and said, “HEY, what gives? Surely since my cancer is gone, everything should be OK now, right?”

He had no answers for me, though, except to give me an antinausea pill and instruct me to keep up the daily antacid (Omeprazol).

In fact, doing some research on websites about what might help a sensitive stomach, I came across a page that essentially said, “Don’t worry about what you eat. Either take a pill, or get an operation to cut off your duodenum and sew your intestine onto your small intestine.”

This seemed so ridiculous to me that I ignored it. First, I like my body as it is. Second, how could food not have anything to do with my stomach?

Luckily I had a trip scheduled to Tara Reed (a doctor at the Medicinal Life clinic). She gave me acupuncture during my chemotherapy, but I’d saved my last visit until just now, well after the chemotherapy was over.

We had a discussion about my health that felt incredibly relevant. Western medicine has its place because it fixes stuff that’s broken. But it doesn’t look at the entire body system and see how it fits together in order to make someone feel HEALTHY.

Tara listened to me talk about my various health issues.

I explained that it seems to me that there’s a sure way to get me vomiting, and it’s this: get post-nasal drip; drink hot lemon tea and kill my stomach with acid and heat; drink milk-based Starbucks drinks and fill my body with mucus; sleep little; exercise too hard; eat food that’s bad for me. = puke!

“So essentially, if you fill your body with mucus and then overdo it, your stomach rebels and you vomit?”


Apparently in the Chinese medicine system, all of my symptoms (including cancer, uterine fibroids, and post-nasal drip) stem from an overabundance of phlegm in my system. She explained to me how this works (which I will share with whoever is interested), but importantly, she said this about my health:

“Your whole body is reacting badly to mucus. Reduce your body intake of stuff that gives you mucus, and do everything you can to reduce mucus, and all of these symptoms together will feel better.”

It’s nice to know that my body systems actually all interact, right?

This means she recommends no dairy, coffee, processed foods, or sugar in my diet, and she had a list of foods that are good for me to eat, mostly vegetables.

GOODBYE SWEET STARBUCKS MOCHAS. Amazing how this one addiction of mine contains everything that’s worst for me.

Still, it’s good to know that there might be something proactive to do to stop the current inbalance in my system,and I’m willing to believe something that sounds so incredibly practical as “eat healthy food, quit eating stuff that makes you sick, and you’ll feel better.”

There’s more stuff that gets into Chinese philosophy, and she also perscribed a herbal remedy. I’ll save the details for people who are interested…

But still, I feel better and more hopeful after this discussion. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have to be on an antacid for the rest of my life, or get that awful operation. But hopefully…hopefully…a little more careful eating will get me feeling as well as I did a year ago.

Leave a comment


  1. This is interesting! I agree that Western medicine has become so successful because it treats symptoms individually and never looks at the body as a whole in an attempt to make someone feel -healthy-. I hope you’ll keep us updated on the status of things!

    I, too, have a sensitive stomach these days and take omeprazole regularly due to bouts of fierce vomiting. Thankfully, I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer of any sort, however I haven’t had the money to go and have everything properly checked out.

  2. Achariya

     /  February 26, 2012

    Oh man. *hugs* sorry to hear that your stomach sucks like mine! I doubt you have cancer. I think this sort of stomach ailment is actually more common than it should be, simply because of how we live in the 21st century! Stress and coffee, yanno? Please share whatever wisdom you’ve gained from your road too! Yeah this blog is kind of a health/creativity/everything type venture, so feel free to follow my journey here if you like. 😀

  3. ….”no dairy, coffee, processed foods, or sugar in diet, … (eat) mostly vegetables”…It’s so simple and logical, isn’t it? Brilliant. I was having bad dizziness and my doctor told me the answer is usually the most obvious thing. I should stop jamming sticky ear plugs in my ears several times a night because of snoring husband. He was right of course.

    Also, drink lots of water.

  4. When I started eating Paleo/Primal, one of the first things I noticed was the absence of mucus. I have always had horrible sinuses, and thought it was just how my body was. Turns out, it was what I was eating– I suspect dairy was the main culprit for me. Now that nearly 100% of my diet is unprocessed and cow-dairy free (mostly veggies and meat,) I haven’t had a single sinus infection. Hope it helps you, as well! Violent vomiting (or major surgery) is no fun! 🙂


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