An interview with Kathie Albertson, L. Ac., PhD by Leah Giuliano
It's not every day you meet someone who is as enthusiastic about the present and future of medicine as Dr. Kathie Albertson. Kathie is licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in Irvine, CA. She also holds a PhD in Holistic Nutrition. I sat down with Kathie and she revealed deep perspective on how important it is to combine Eastern and Western medicine to improve your health.
What can acupuncture and herbal medicine do for us as patients?
TCM (traditional Chinese medicine which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbs) has been around for 5000 years. Not only does it stand the test of time, TCM also treats health problems holistically, in a manner which resolves the root cause rather than masking or medicating symptoms.
The basic difference between Western medicine and TCM is that Western medicine utilizes a linear approach by focusing on the indicators of illness, while TCM corrects the problem at its base. TCM resolves the origin of disease in a natural, healthy, and safe way, and it is generally quicker as imbalances are detected much earlier. Western medicine, on the other hand, must wait for the problem show up on a test or in a diagnostic before it is treated. This is a lengthy process and diseases worsen over time, as does a patient' hope.
Many patients try acupuncture out of desperation, or because of poor results from Western medicine, or because they are tired of the doctor trying one medication after another without knowing what's causing the problem. Patients are tired of being shuffled around from one specialist to another, without any one caring totally about how they feel. Many patients arrive at my door on multiple medications, sicker than when they started because of the side effects of the drugs. Their immune systems are compromised, their liver is toxic and they have lost a quality of life. They easily discuss the anxiety, depression, and frustration derived from trying to get better, without success. I know the powerful results that TCM brings to my patients' health and I can't wait to help them see and feel the benefits.
I love it when an MD refers a pain patient, or one who has had little results from Western medicine. I just hate it when I see patients who have found acupuncture on their own, without any guidance from Western medical doctors. It's just not good enough! And as a society we should work towards being better than this. TCM can heal people faster, without severe side effects caused by Western drugs. It restores quality of life, improves the immune system and puts them back to work faster.
Is it that inconsistency and lack of knowledge between Western Eastern medicines that drives you?
Absolutely! I want to educate my patients on how TCM works for them and what it can do to improve and optimize their health. I want those who have not experienced acupuncture to learn more about it and consider TCM as part of their primary care. I want mothers to learn and know about TCM so that their children and families don't have to suffer. I see many children in my practice with eczema, respiratory, sinus and digestive problems, ADD, and autism. Many women suffer from menstrual irregularities, infertility, headaches, insomnia, depression and much more which can be tremendously helped with TCM. Men are the "providers." "Providers" don't complain or let on about their symptoms! They seem to carry their physical and emotional pains over a longer term. They soon realize that TCM significantly helps reduce the stress in their lives as well as alleviate neck, back, knee, elbow pains and injuries, as well as prostate problems, libido, headaches, digestion issues, and immune system concerns. If TCM can help all ages, and is effective, we should tell the world!
So why is your practice so unique?
Well, I could say that my Italian descent brings a compassionate, helping, yet tough love approach! I want my patients to feel listened to. I want to educate them on how TCM works and how it will work best for them; so education is an important component in my first interview, and because of my Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition, I am concerned with changing poor nutritional habits. Nutrition, diet, and lifestyle (stress, overwork, medications, drug use,) are critical components of TCM and you will feel much better sooner if these are addressed and improved.
In addition, I pride myself on taking a "hands on" approach. While a western doctor might simply advise: "you need more rest," or "you need to exercise a little," or "you need to reduce stress," I work closely with my patients to whatever level of commitment or improvement they desire and can handle. For example, with a patient who comes in for infertility because she/ he has not had success and has perhaps undergone one or two IVF (in vitro fertilization), I will thoroughly and wholly assess their lifestyle. Many times she/he is still drinking soft drinks, coffee, a little wine here and there, and very little water. Hello?! Good nutrition is what makes a good blood system which makes good eggs, happy sperm, good implantation, a healthy uterus and balanced endocrine system.
I like to say, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement! When a patient is already working so hard to achieve their goal, some additional changes can help us achieve even greater results. I conduct a vitamin and mineral deficiency test and other analyses to identify problems not addressed by western medicine. I can also formulate and dispense a unique, specific Chinese herbal formula, which treats the root cause and improves progress and results.
Are Chinese herbs safe?
YES, and much more so than Western medications in many, many cases. The side effects may be slight diarrhea if the formula is taken in too large a dose or is not adapted to the patient's individual sensitivities. This is easily corrected and a good herbalist makes a proper formula. Western drugs have severe effects on the liver and kidneys, and Western protocols keep many patients on drugs forever; often they need not be if we can correct the root disorder.
Stabilization is important, so a TCM practitioner would not take a patient off their drugs. Many patients begin feeling better and then meet with their doctor to discuss prescription changes. Drugs used for hypertension, cholesterol, or blood thinners for stroke or brain injury patients serve a critical purpose in the patient's life and are addressed very appropriately. A TCM practitioner is familiar with drug interactions and herbs so caution and airing on the side of prudence is always respected and warranted.
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