Newsletter # 5. Winter 2008 -2009

What do you know about Your pulse?

A primary component of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), pulse diagnosis is a diagnostic method that has been practiced for more than 2,500 years.

Most people already know that the pulse reflects heart rate, which is normally between 60-80 beats per minute. Whether it is too slow, too fast or irregular, it can indicate a possible heart problem. However, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the pulse reveals more than just heart rate. Chinese pulse diagnosis is an extremely complex subject and an important diagnostic tool. This is why practitioners of TCM take pulse readings much longer than you normally experience at a western medical office. Pulse diagnosis is thought to provide clues to the health and allow the practitioner to then determine the best course of treatment. An experienced pulse-diagnosis practitioner can feel up to 28 different pulse characteristic according to speed, rhythm, strength, overall shape and quality, depth, length and width. Once these are taken, proper treatment can began.

Pulse diagnosis used to diagnose acute and chronic illness, organ and endocrine disorders, depression, pain, anxiety and fatigue.

The following will introduce some brief explanation of Chinese Medical pulse diagnosis.

Pulse diagnosis is important for two reasons – it can give very detailed information on the state of the internal organs and it reflects the whole complex of Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang and every part of the body. It gives the doctor an indication of the overall constitution of a person. Just as the tongue can reflect these phenomena, so does the pulse. Pulse diagnosis is a very subtle skill. Practitioner takes the pulse on the radial artery, dividing it into three sections on the wrist and detecting it at three different levels. The three wrist sections of the pulse on the radial artery are the front, middle and rear, respectively. The three levels are superficial (pressing lightly), middle (pressing a little deeper) and deep (pressing even deeper). The three levels at each of the three sections on the wrist are referred to as the “Nine Regions.”





Each pulse position can reflect different phenomena in different situations. For example, in a state of health, the left middle pulse (Liver) will be relatively soft and smooth, neither superficial nor deep. Therefore, we can say the liver and gall bladder energies are balanced or that the Yin and Yang within the Liver/Gall Bladder sphere are balanced. If a patient is experiencing migraine headaches and her pulse feels wiry (harder or tighter than normal) and more superficial and pounding, then we may diagnose this as Excessive Liver Fire (Yang) Rising (up the Gall Bladder channel to the head). The pulse reflects the rising energy.

Here are some characteristics of pulse with Yin/Yang imbalance.

Pulses with Yin quality:

  • A weak pulse can be sign of an internal deficiency with a loss of immunity and vitality.
  • The pulse is thought to be slow if there are fewer than four normal beats per breath cycle. It indicates an illness that is caused by cold weather or an infection.
  • A deep pulse is one that can be sensed only with firm pressure. It indicated an internal illness that is becoming a chronic condition.

Pulses with Yang quality:

  • A strong, steady pulse indicates a condition of excess, as when the body’s defenses are triggered.
  • The pulse is considered rapid if there are more than five normal beats per breath cycle. It can signal an illness with symptoms of fever, such as flu.
  • A superficial pulse is the result of external forces, such as wind, and corresponds to the transmission of contagious diseases.

Again, the pulse is assessed at three different depths: a superficial, middle and deep level. These three levels of the pulse give an immediate idea of the level of Qi in the pulse and, therefore, the kind of pathological condition that might be present. In particular, the superficial level reflects the state of Qi (and the yang organ); the middle level reflects the state of Blood; the deep level reflects the state of Yin (and yin organs). Thus, by examining the strength and quality of the pulse at these three levels doctor get a better idea of the pathology of Qi, Blood and Yin, and of the relative state of Yin and Yang.

Prostate Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine

The American Cancer Society classifies prostate cancer as the most common form of cancer among U.S. men.

A walnut-size gland surrounding the male urethra, the prostate produces the milky secretion that mixes with sperm during ejaculation in order to prevent infection in the urethra while protecting and invigorating sperm. Located in front of the rectum and below the bladder, the prostate can become enlarged, especially in men over 40 due to the aging process as hormones change and weaken. If enlargement is non-malignant, it is referred to medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. The swelling of the prostate puts pressure against the bladder and urethra, thereby affecting the smooth flow of urine. Typical symptoms of prostate enlargement include difficulty urinating, a weak urine stream, dribbling after urination and constant urge to urinate that continues all night.

If you are a man over the age of 40 and prostate cancer runs in your family, it is extremely advisable to monitor your Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. A PSA blood test measures the level of a protein released by prostate cells. Recent experts state that if a PSA level is 2.5 or higher, it reveals the possibility of prostate growth (hyperplasia), but it does not always mean that cancer is present. Since PSA levels may fluctuate with infection and lab errors, usually more than one test over a period of time is done to confirm your PSA level. Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) and ultrasound are other ways to evaluate the prostate. However, only biopsies can truly determine whether the growth in the prostate is benign or malignant.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to Prostate Care 

TCM associates hyperplasia of the prostate with damp heat and kidney deficiency.

After the age of 40, one’s vital energy in the kidney system decreases, resulting in the disturbance of sex hormones. This process also decreases one’s sexual energy, which affects the function of the prostate and the circulation in this region. Throughout the ages, in order to compensate for the decline of prostate function, men in China have used regular acupuncture treatments to improve the circulation and energy in the prostate.

To enhance the effect of acupuncture, they have also used Chinese herbs such as Polygoni (He Shou Wu), in traditional, custom herbal formulas to replenish the kidney essence. In fact, at our clinic, we have successful cases of normalizing elevated PSA levels in patients with prostate conditions. Kidney essence nurtures the prostate. As the prostate is revitalized, it is now capable of self-regulating toward normal functioning and maintaining a balance of growth and non-growth. This is the balancing property of Chinese medicine.

Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations 

TCM nutrition encourages men to eat more nuts, seeds, mushroom, watermelon and its seeds, and berries to help nourish their prostate. Managing stress, regular exercise and massaging the prostate are also vital to help maintain prostate health. Besides Chinese and western herbs such as saw palmetto and stinging nettle, there are many delicious foods that you can eat to help maintain a healthy prostate. Regular consumption of foods that contain lycopene (a prostate protective antioxidant) is highly recommended. The following are foods that contain lycopene: watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, papaya, apricot and cooked tomatoes (tomato paste, tomato soup, tomato juice and marinara sauce). Nutrition experts have expressed concern that pesticides and herbicides in animal products may trigger cancer growth. This may be another good reason for you to eat more fruits and vegetables that are organic and avoid saturated, high-fat animal products and snacks that contain hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils.

Snack on pumpkin seeds to nourish the prostate. The seeds contain sitosterol, a substance that may help reduce prostate enlargement, as well as beneficial fatty acids and a substantial amount of zinc, which all help to promote a healthy prostate gland.

Keep moving. Extended sitting and cold feet reduce circulation in the pelvis. If you spend a lot o time sitting down, stand up periodically and move around. If working at a desk is unavoidable, change your position frequently. Take walks and get other exercise regularly to improve circulation. Don’t resist the urge to urinate – instead, visit the bathroom as soon as possible and be sure to take time to empty your bladder completely.

Sitz baths can improve circulation in the pelvis and help to alleviate congestion in the genitourinary organs, including the prostate. Fill your bathtub with warm water and bathe for approximately 10 min. The water should be up to your navel; your upper body can remain dry.

These diet and lifestyle recommendations may help prevent this pervasive cancer and help invigorate your body.

To know more about how Chinese medicine may help with this and other health problems you need to visit our clinic.

This article was posted in Newsletter. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are closed.