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Thoughts on East vs. West

One of the books I’ve read on our cancer “journey” is Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber.  This book was published in 2007 and became a best seller.  Dr. Servan-Schreiber was a research psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and author when he found out that he had a brain tumor at age 31.  Anticancer was the result of his research and belief in using diet and one’s own mind and body to help heal cancer ALONG WITH traditional Western cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.  His book resonates with me because although I am far, far from being any sort of medical professional whether Eastern, Western, or Martian, I have always believed that everything in moderation, listening to the voices of our individual mind and bodies, and taking the best ideas from the best no matter who they are has to be the optimum medicine.  Balance in ALL aspects of life.

I know there are many who would disagree, believing that one has to throw oneself 100% behind “THE TRUTH”.  The problem is….whose version of the truth???  I am not talking about religion or faith in God here.  I am talking about what to eat, what medicine to take, how much exercise, where to live, which doctor to see,  which products are best, the list goes on and on.   On any given day, new research emerges telling us sun exposure gives us Vitamin D which is good for us except when it’s not, a glass of wine is good for us except when it’s not, vitamin supplements are good except when they aren’t, running is good for you except when it’s not, fish is good for you except when it’s not, eggs are good but only free range, omega 3, grass fed, organic, purple ones with blue spots…..just kidding, but you know what I’m talking about!

In his book, Servan-Schreiber discusses time spent with a French organization similiar to Doctor’s Without Borders.  It was during this time that he became interested in and impressed by the methods of ancient traditional medicine.  He spent time in an area of the world that had both a state of the art Western hosptial and also a training facility for Ayurvedic medicine.  Servan-Schreiber observed that the consensus among the people who had access to both modalities was that Western medicine was preferred for treating acute conditions such as a broken bone or emergency surgery; however, for chronic conditions and those that could be healed over a longer period of time Eastern medicine was the choice.  BOTH types of medicine were used and respected.  In Anticancer: A New Way of Life  Dr. Servan-Shreiber explains the benefits of a balanced lifestyle in all areas including nutrition, exercise, emotional well-being and environmental awareness in the fight against cancer.

Why is this approach not used more often in the United States?  There is evidence to suggest that certain diet changes are quite effective at helping with blood counts, dealing with side effects from cancer treatments, and more importantly keeping tumors from growing; however, these are seldom mentioned at most oncologist appointments. Depending on the diagnosis, one is often told to just eat anything that tastes good.  While I understand the challenges that chemo patients often face just trying to get a few bites to stay down, I also find it somewhat fatalistic to NOT educate them on their best nutritional choices.

There is also much evidence that we are poisoning our bodies with toxins in our water, our air, and in practically everything we purchase to clean our homes and slather on our bodies.  Read the ingredients on items in your cupboards and pantry right now.  Check out your cosmetics, shower gels, shampoo, and baby products.  The name brand companies and the products they produce are perfectly legal.  Is it a coincidence that cancer rates have so dramatically increased in this age of convenience and synthetic “fragrance”?

There are areas where we oh so arrogant Westerners might learn a few things from the East and our own ancestors.  Maybe new and improved isn’t always.  We who are so quick to take a pill or get the surgery might need to slow down and take the long road instead of the shortcut.  The road less traveled may be the one to make all the difference.

References: 



https://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/07/30/world/europe/30servan.html

Frost, Robert. Mountain Interval. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1920; Bartleby.com, 2017. www.bartleby.com/119/.

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