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The End of Antibiotics

A very sobering recent article by Professor Tim Walsh of Cardiff University

(http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099%2810%2970143-2/fulltext)

may herald the end of the ability of antibiotics to treat infectious diseases; a new gene conferring high levels of resistance to almost all antibiotics is rapidly spreading through the world, courtesy of international travel and ‘medical tourism’. According to Walsh, in about 10 years time, antibiotics may be powerless to treat many bacterial infections, and so far there is nothing to replace them with.


One can only imagine the world wide consequences of these changes. Add to this the now annual alarms about influenza pandemics, and you could be forgiven for getting a bit worried about our health prospects. But perhaps a better response would be to remember that the stronger and healthier we are, the better able our system is to fight off whatever assails it.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we speak of our defence system as the ‘wei qi’, sometimes translated as ‘defensive qi’. A healthy person has good ‘wei qi’, which can throw off an invading pathogen; the stronger our wei qi, the less vulnerable we are to any incoming threat. In the west, with our reliance on antibiotics and immunisation, we are perhaps in danger of neglecting the fact that there is a lot we can do to bolster our system’s defences, to bolster what we call the wei qi. For example, there is a well known acupuncture point on the lower leg, known as zusanli in Chinese, and sometimes referred to as Stomach-36 in the west. Stimulating this point, especially with acupuncture and/or moxibustion, where we burn the herb mugwort to warm the point, is a traditional way to boost the wei qi.


However, the wei qi depends for its formation and circulation around the body, on a number of factors. It depends, for example, on eating well, and being able to digest what we eat effectively. It depends on the freedom of the qi to move around our body, something which in turn depends on our emotional freedom, the health of our lungs, getting enough exercise, amongst other things. So pretty quickly we see again that what we need is holistic health care. If we are a healthy person, we have abundant qi which can flow freely. To stay healthy – or to stay as healthy as we can be – we need to attend to every aspect of our health. This is the strength of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which always looks at the person in total, rather than just focusing in on one particular problem, and aims to strengthen the qi and encourage its free flow, in particular by attending to any underlying imbalances or weaknesses which are the true origin of any problems we have.


Of course, some people are constitutionally weaker than others, and some are weaker because of having suffered from chronic illness, or from having made what are now called ‘unfortunate lifestyle choices’. But weak or strong, there are always a number of things we can do to boost our wei qi and give ourselves the best chance of not needing to rely too much on pharmaceutical drugs some of which are, it seems, losing their effectiveness.


Written by Vimalaprabha

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