I had hoped that the news coverage of this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing would yield some insightful stories about health, athletes, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Unfortunately, a man with 205 needles in his head, each with a flag representing an attending nation, isn’t what I had in mind. Groan.
Beijing and health
The news out of Beijing is dominated by concern over the high levels of air pollution. And even though the Chinese government is desperate to do something about it, there is widespread fear that Beijing’s air will be so bad that it will imperil both athletes and spectators. What a mess.
The athletes most likely to be affected by air pollution are those who have asthma. And among those with asthma, the ones most at risk are long-distance competitors. So imagine the plight of Paula Radcliffe, the world record-holder for the marathon, who just happens to have asthma. I don’t know if the Chinese hosts will offer acupuncture to the athletes, but if she were my patient I would first determine if her breathing problems were tied to kidney or lung deficiency and then try to fortify her body in a way that would lessen the impact of pollutants. But the exact treatment would depend on knowing a lot more than I know now, so all I can say here is that I wish her well and hope the dietary regime she has adopted will help.
Breathing problems can be brought on by exercise, even for athletes not diagnosed with asthma. Changes in humidity and temperature – as happens when aerobic exercise leads to breathing through the mouth — can trigger EIA. And one would have to assume that irritants in the air would make things worse. I just hope that the athletes have been taking good care of themselves for the past year to ensure their bodies are ready for what they are about to be up against.
OK, let the Games begin, along with the hourly updates on the quality of the air.
And maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of how Chinese medicine is being brought to bear on the health challenges in Beijing.