East Meets West in Medicine

There I go again, a Western guy giving a lecture to an Eastern crowd. What team do I play on, you ask? In fact, I am honored to give a keynote at the First Integrative Fertility Symposium in Vancouver. Ok, call me a “swingman,” but the Easterners have a lot up their medical sleeves too. Ask Western medicine how to help a guy relax, and they’ll say, “don’t work so hard and take this pill.” Ask an Easterner, and they might suggest acupuncture, mindfulness and meditation. Which approach is better: a patch or a fix? You decide.

One Happy Family

Eastern and Western medicine have very similar goals to restore the body to a state of health. But they go about this very differently. As a fully vested Western medical provider for over two decades, I am of the ilk that we don’t truly have the care of young men “in the bag” as much as we would like to think. Just ask Dennis Barbour of the Partnership for Male Youth. We could use some help, which is the point of my lecture on A Planetary View of Men’s Reproductive Health.

Mano e Mano

Many Western medicine types hold Eastern medicine at arms length for the following reasons:

  • Eastern medicine is the youngster of the two disciplines, dating from the Shang dynasty in the 14th through 11th centuries BC; Western medicine dates to 3000 BC in ancient Egypt.
  • Eastern concepts of the body, its energy (chi or qi) and of disease carry notions of a “superstitious pre-scientific culture”
  • Modern science has not produced hard evidence for the existence of traditional Chinese concepts such as qi, meridians, and acupuncture points
  • The cost effectiveness of Eastern medicine is not well known
  • The creation of effective new drugs based on traditional remedies has largely failed.

But let’s visit the other corner of the ring. Here is the Easterners’ take on things:

  • Western medicine thinks by hypothetical deduction (theory, fact probing, conclude) whereas the Eastern approach uses inductive reasoning (cumulative direct observation).
  • Western medicine tends to separate health from disease, whereas Eastern medicine considers health as a state of balance, with disease causing imbalance.
  • Western medicine focuses on treating symptoms rather than root causes of disease. Eastern philosophy seeks to reestablish balance in the human body through channeling the body’s own healing mechanisms.
  • Western medicine is mainly reactive, fighting illness and disease after it strikes, whereas Eastern medicine is largely preventative, helping individuals avoid illness and disease by achieving balance.
  • Western medicine likes to change the environment, whereas the Eastern way adapts to the environment and changes the individual.

Given that my talk draws on the links between overall health and male infertility, it reeks of holistic and deductive reasoning, just like those Easterners. And, by combining the detailed factoids of scientific medicine with the practical, bring it home, big-picture-view of men’s health, it clearly suggests that I am double dipping. That’s fine with me as I consider it a two-fer! I invite you to join me in the best of both worlds.