This is where the "Eastern Medical Secret" is finally revealed! Since most of my practice incorporates Eastern Medicine, I feel it's important to elaborate on this subject.
What I find most significant about TCM is that it is believed that nutrition, lifestyle, environment and/or emotions (and likely a combination of all of these) is responsible for ill health. Most importantly, EACH of these areas plays an equally important role in health. So a person who eats highly fatty foods is just as likely as an extremely anxious person to get heart disease. In our link from this page (subpage), I will clarify which emotions affect which organs according to this philosophy.
Assessment According to TCM
humans are complex!!!
In any medicine, the human body is seen as a bit of a puzzle. In illness, our puzzle pieces get disorganized and we must try to figure out how to put the puzzle back together. In Eastern Medicine, this puzzle is composed of 3 main pieces that help us determine the health of the individual. The first, is the one we are most aware of: Our Symptoms. This may be low energy, headaches, weight loss or gain, bowel changes, etc. This is what we go to see a doctor about -- since humans are complex creatures, often more than one symptom is experienced at one time.
What Eastern Medicine strives to do is figure out which symptoms led to which other symptoms in the body.
Let's take for example, a patient with both a stomach ulcer and back pain. Often stress can cause both. But what if we discover that a patient has been taking anti-inflammatory medication for the back pain and months later is diagnosed with the ulcer. Here, it's likely that the medication has resulted in the side effect of the ulcer. If we were to use only patients symptoms to diagnose a case, we would look forward to such a clear case! Unfortunately, the cases that I see are often much more complex than this. So we need another "piece of the puzzle."
the tongue "says" more than you thought!
The next piece of the puzzle is called a "Tongue Diagnosis." In Eastern Medicine, the state of the internal organs is reflected on various parts of the tongue. Just like iridology looks at the iris and reflexology looks at the foot for a "map" of the human body, Eastern Medicine looks at the tongue. A normal, healthy tongue body should be pink with a thin, white "coat." Now you might notice a thick white coating on your tongue when you wake up in the morning, and you probably brush it clean with your toothbrush. This is good!!! That coating is bacteria (Eastern Medicine would call it a "cold invasion") -- and should be brushed off. But 5-10 minutes after brushing, you should see your normal coat. If this coat is thick or yellow, this indicates some internal imbalance in your system. The more chronic your symptoms, the more likely your tongue will be red, and the more likely you will be missing this coating either on certain areas of the tongue or the entire tongue body. Many people will think they have a very "clean tongue" if there is no coat; however, this is a true indication of imbalance in the body.
The last piece of the human puzzle in assessment is the Pulse Diagnosis. It is believed in Eastern Medicine that on each wrist, there are 3 pulse points which also correspond to the health of the internal organs. Unfortunately, a person cannot assess these pulses on his/her own since both wrists are assessed simultaneously and compared to one another for information. So although I am still feeling the radial artery (for you anatomically-aware people!) -- I am not checking just the overall rate/rhythm of the heartbeat. For this tool, you will need to be assessed by a practitioner who is aware of Eastern Pulse Diagnosis.
For the practitioner, this is an extremely useful piece of information as it determines whether individual organs are weak or strong. For the patient, this piece is useful while working with a practitioner but not crucial to health care from an individual perspective. After all, once you know how to read the tongue and you are already aware of your own symptoms, you have 2 out of 3 pieces of your puzzle to work with! This is more than enough to keep yourself healthy long-term.