MODERN MEDICINE CATCHES UP TO ANCIENT KNOWLEDGE
Originally posted June 11, 2005
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the constitution of a mother while pregnant will have lifelong effects upon her child.
For example, a mother who is severely depressed or experiencing extreme sadness during her pregnancy may suffer some lung ailments: Sadness effects the energy and tonality of the lungs. Ergo, her child may end up having problems with asthma.
Interestingly, Western Medicine is beginning to find the same correlation the Chinese had discovered so long ago.
Mothers who suffer from major depression or anxiety disorders are more likely to have children with asthma and other allergy-based conditions, according to a US study. The association was only found for biological children, supporting a “shared genetic liability” theory.
Ramin Mojtabai, a psychiatrist from Columbia University in New York, US, assessed the relationship between parental psychopathology and childhood allergy in more than 9000 parent-child pairs from the 1999 US National Health Interview Survey. Most of the parents were biologically related to their children, but 554 of the pairs were non-biological.
Mojtabai says it is unclear why the children of mothers with depression had a higher risk of allergic disorders, but he speculates that it might be related to mitochondria – which are inherited through the maternal line – as mutations in mitochondrial DNA have been reported in both atopic and other skin disorders and in bipolar mood disorder. “Or it could be to do with genetic imprinting – how some genes are expressed when received from one gender, but not the other,” he says.
“Other studies have shown a shared genetic risk for allergy and mood disorders in twins, and that people with depression are themselves more likely to suffer from asthma, although we didn’t find any strong evidence for that,” Mojtabai adds.
I love finding stories like this. Western Medicine is wonderful, and I would not try to live without it – it is the hardware of the science of human wellness, health and recovery. But sometimes I think Chinese medicine (and some folk medicine) is the software of that same science. (Prayer, of course, should suffuse and accompany both.)
Although Western medicine is relatively young (150 years or so) and the other medicines are ancient, they both have value, and I’m always amused when someone pooh-poohs an Eastern remedy that has been around for thousands of years, simply because it is NOT a new Western treatment. Many people don’t realize that well before the discovery of penicillin, Oriental doctors were making compounds of mold and deeply green leaves (chorophyll) to fight infection. So when I find stories like this, which have even the barest suggestion of bringing West and East together, I like to highlight it.
I can tell you that I was robust and hearty with my first pregnancy and my elder son is never sick. I was much less so with Buster (threw up for 9 straight months, almost from the moment he was conceived until the very morning of his delivery) and he has seemed, from the start, to have a more delicate constitution and more penetrable immune system. That’s a mere anecdote, I know, but it is interesting, when reading Chinese Medicine, to think back to all the times you have experienced great sadness or grief or stress in your life, only to have it followed by upper respiratory situations.
Knowing what I know about the Chinese theories of sadness and the lungs, it was not a great surprise to me to find that 12 weeks or so after the death of my brother (while on vacation, when my body was finally starting to relax) my lungs and immune system were so amenable to laying me out with pneumonia. My husband, too, was hacking away, although he managed not to go all the way into the bark-wheeze-and-gag which made 7 days at sea so much fun! My poor father-in-law -a gentle man who holds all of his feelings in- has had one lung ailment after another since S died.
Interesting stuff. The Web that Has No Weaver is a particularly good book if you’re looking for accessible reading on Chinese Medicine.