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Q. I was diagnosed with pneumonia on 1 June 2012, following 4 weeks of antibiotics along with a 10 day course of steroids I am suffering from a number of side effects i.e. cold sweats and acidic heartburn along with dark spots on my feet. Can you possibly give me an idea of what organs may have taken their tole following my illness and what these symptoms may mean.


A. We always advise our members to be very cautious with questions like yours. Symptoms will be the common denominator for all medical systems. What they mean, however, is often understood in an entirely different way, and if practitioners aren't careful they can alarm or worry patients.


Take the term 'organ', for example. In Western medicine these are solid masses of specialised tissue which undertake specific and well-defined physiological functions. In Chinese medicine, however, an organ is more than simply a physical entity with physical functions; it also has mental, emotional and spiritual functions. This is what we talk about when we speak of body, mind and spirit being inseparable. An organ which is damaged or working below par could manifest symptoms on any or all of these levels. This is why Chinese medicine textbooks always capitalise the organ, the Liver, as opposed to the organ described in western medical terms, the liver. There is obviously some overlap, but if a Chinese medicine practitioner says 'your Liver has been affected by your illness' this does not mean the patient should make a headlong rush to casualty to get their hepatic functions assessed.


Chinese medicine is also premised on complex inter-relationships. Any Organ which malfunctions will affect all of the other Organs to a greater or lesser extent, and any one of these could manifest symptoms as a consequence. You can see immediately that what the symptom means could be very different. It may be clearly identifiable with one part of the system, as in, say, acid reflux which is clearly located in the stomach, but that does not mean that it is the Stomach (note the capital!) which is malfunctioning. There are several clearly defined syndromes which can cause acid reflux where the problem lies elsewhere, and being able to deal with the cause, not the manifestation, is the practitioner's aim. This means that the symptom will stay gone, not simply go away for a short while.


So, the rather woolly but correct answer to your question is that all of the Organs have probably been affected to some extent, either directly by the pneumonia and its treatment or indirectly because of the disruption to your internal balance. Similarly this means that your symptoms will only make sense, from a Chinese medicine perspective, when seen in the context of your overall presentation and of the diagnostic signs specific to Chinese medicine, tongue and pulse, for example.


Our best advice, if you want to get a clearer understanding of what is going on from a Chinese perspective, is to visit a BAcC member local to you and ask if they would be happy to give you a short consultation, hopefully without charge, in which they can assess what may be going on and give you an idea of whether Chinese medicine may be of benefit to you.

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