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The homepage of my website has a quote from Thomas Edison that reads, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” These are words I live by and encourage my patients to as well. With proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and being mindful of oneself, illness can be prevented. In most cases as people focus on nourishing and supporting their overall wellbeing, they are supporting their immunity. I like to tell my patients that going for regular acupuncture treatments is like wearing a coat of armor. It protects you from getting sick.

This is not to say that there is any guarantee and that you will never come down with a cold, virus, or more serious condition. However, what this means is that by nourishing your core from within, you are building a shield that will protect you from either getting sick as often, or getting hit as hard.

One of my teenage patients once told me that since she started coming for acupuncture she feels that she “cheats diseases.” She initially started coming to me for extreme digestive issues. The stress at school and social pressure wreaked havoc on her digestion and caused her to be in immense pain. She had seen many doctors, had extensive testing, and been given the gamut of various medications, none of which helped. After being frustrated and drinking a bottle of Maalox a day, she finally decided to try acupuncture. She has seen amazing improvement and is on maintenance treatments. She schedules an appointment every so often, just as you would take your car in for a tune-up. Her analysis of the situation is what I want to discuss today.

We are living in a time where we simply cannot catch up with the rigors of our schedule. It is sometimes impossible to get a workout in, or to take the time to eat a proper healthy meal when we are often on the go. It is even more difficult to get a full night’s sleep when there is so much to be done. It is at times like this, when we are stressed to our limits and not doing our best, that illness can set in. We have all felt those intervals when we are rundown and pushing the limits. You just know you are in for it.

While I would like to think that I am different and the exception to the rule, unfortunately this is not the reality. Most recently I had run myself down between making a wedding overseas and trying to balance my acupuncture practice while being jetlagged and exhausted from the trip. It would have helped if I had taken more time out to “needle myself,” as I often do. However, I started treating patients a mere two hours after landing at JFK. I saw patients back-to-back all week without a single break because I had been away for ten days.

I too had the thought in the back of my head, “It’s OK, Shabbos is coming, I will crash then and it will all be OK.” My body had other ideas. I picked up a virus that did a number on my stomach. This created havoc as I had to rearrange my schedule, clearing patients until I was better. I did finally take the time to treat myself with acupuncture, which allowed me to get this awful bug out of my system in a short time, less than 24 hours. (The person I suspect I caught the virus from was suffering for almost a week.)

This reminded me that no one is infallible. I had still worked myself too hard, even knowing full well it would catch up to me. Had I simply taken the time to go a little slower initially, I am sure this could have been avoided.

A patient I have been treating for some time now for arthritis with severe bone degeneration, along with herniated discs, has seen great success with acupuncture. She has been able to get back to long walks and can get through her workday and family time with minimal reminders of her health. She once remarked to me that she had not had a sinus infection. I quickly flipped back through my records and didn’t notice any mention of sinus issues. We continued to discuss it and apparently before she started incorporating acupuncture into her life, she had suffered from chronic sinus infections during the fall and winter months. She was usually on an antibiotic medication at least three times per season. She had failed to mention this to me, as it was not her concern when she began treatment. While it had never been a focal point of our treatments, because she had built up her immunity, she had not suffered a single sinus infection since she began her treatments!

Our focus needs to change. We need to start taking better care of ourselves and supporting our immunity to prevent disease. Thomas Edison had it right even before anyone could envision how rigorous our daily routines would become. Take time for yourself. Slow down. Listen to your body. See your acupuncturist. As my wise young patient said, do your best to try and “cheat” diseases.