Taken by itself this letter published in Today yesterday would be no different from the usual cow dung-type of argument for alternative medicine.
Let us go natural
TCM can keep toxins at bay
Letter from Chia Hern Keng
LATELY, there has been a lot of talk about the harm of consuming trans fats. Suddenly, the table margarine that we have been using for the last 40 years is looking like poison.
Before there is widespread panic given the continual barrage of reports and letters on this danger, allow me to provide a different perspective based on what I have learnt from general concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
TCM says that all foods we consume contain varying levels of tu or toxins, which can cause health problems like heart disease, diabetes and rheumatism.
It also advocates the use of foods as medicine to keep ourselves healthy rather than to seek treatment when we feel ill.
Various common herbs sold in our neighbourhood medical halls and supermarkets are in fact meant for regularly ridding our bodies of toxins that we accumulate from foods, air and other sources.
Another TCM concept is that of re chi, or heatiness — which is another word for a kind of toxin — that affects one's physical health, performance and emotions.
Thus, Chinese grannies who prepare "cooling" herbal concoctions know their therapeutic value. Alas, due to modernisation and the popularity of Western medicine, not everyone now appreciates this.
However, it must be noted that TCM detox herbs can also be toxic if consumed in large quantities, causing unwanted side-effects. A Chinese traditional physician or sinseh would be better placed to advise on this but I would also like to highlight what I think is an underrated system of healthcare.
It is impossible to avoid taking in toxins even if one sticks only to organic foods. For instance, we breathe in air that contains vehicle exhaust emissions. Electronic waves from mobile phones, TV, radio and other wireless communications are also constantly in contact with our bodies' energy fields. These cannot be altogether harmless.
So even as humans have to contend with more pathogens, let us find natural ways to rid our systems of the toxins that promote these pathogens — as a number of natural therapies like TCM and naturopathy seem to agree upon.
Mr Chia describes the paradigm of TCM, but ultimately he provides no evidence for the veracity of that paradigm, nor does he point us to any evidence that TCM can rid our bodies of such ‘toxins’.
Like I have said, taken in itself this letter would not have merited more attention, except for this article which also appeared in Today the same day.
Cancer cures: Be more wary
Alternatives to conventional therapy should be taken with care, say oncologists
An alternative option to conventional cancer treatments has its appeal but oncologists at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) are urging their patients to be more cautious when considering such treatments.
According to Dr Donald Poon, associate consultant at NCCS, some 80 per cent of his patients are on some kind of complementary or alternative medicines (CAM), a 20 per cent leap from a study done in 1998 on cancer patients.
Dr Poon, however, is more worried about the estimated 10 per cent of patients who completely forgo conventional cancer treatment for CAM, as he believes this number may be growing.
A 50-year-old woman, who did not want to be identified, stopped her breast cancer medication in favour of a herbal paste recommended by a friend who also had cancer.
Said her son, Mike: "(Our friend) claimed that this lump actually became smaller and smaller so we decided to stop (conventional treatment) temporarily."
But more than a year later, his mother had backache, numbness, and difficulty walking. They returned to NCCS to find that the tumour had spread to the spine.
Scenarios like this could be avoided if patients take claims of cancer prevention and cures with a little more scepticism, feels Dr Poon.
Dr Swee Yong Peng, a western-trained doctor who is also vice-principal of the Singapore College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said that he finds wild claims of cancer cures "appalling".
He stressed that if a patient chooses TCM over orthodox therapies, the same standards of care must apply, such as getting X-rays or scans done.
"(A patient or doctor) cannot just depend on taking a pulse to say you're getting better," said Dr Swee, who sees three or four patients every month who choose to forgo their western treatment, and has managed to convince about half of these patients to go back to conventional therapy.
Noting that early breast cancer is one disease best dealt with using conventional methods, he added: "If Western medicine gives you a good chance, then why forgo it for TCM?"
As for using CAM together with conventional treatment, Dr Poon said it should always be done in consultation with a doctor. An example is taking antioxidants while on cancer treatment, as antioxidation actually counters the effects of radiotherapy. Another is wheatgrass, which prolongs the recovery of low white blood cell count.
With the proliferation of supplements and foods purporting to prevent or treat cancer, consumers must assess those claims carefully, said Dr Poon.