Subject: East is East and West is West?
In a society where a large proportion of the population still ascribes to traditional (or, in a more currently used term, alternative) medicine, I would get asked questions that, as a Western-trained doctor, I found difficult to answer.
A typical exchange:
Me: ”I’ll give you some medicine to help with your sore throat & phlegm. This is probably due to a viral infection, & you should get over it in a few days.”
Patient: ” Is it heatiness*? I ate a lot of chocolates yesterday.”
Me: “Er, I’m sorry, I really can’t say if it’s heaty or not, as I was not trained in Chinese medicine. This is probably a viral infection.”
I usually don’t brush it off as nonsense, as I like to keep an open mind. I occasionally even agree with the patient if I am too tired to explain, & the patient goes away happy that he/she has self-diagnosed the cause of his/her symptoms.
Another example involves a patient who is either recuperating from surgery or from an injury. He/she would ask me to confirm the “fact” that they should abstain from food like chicken & prawns as they are ”toxic”, & also from dark soya sauce as it would result in a hyperpigmented scar. I try to give them my opinion, but I usually don’t protest too violently, as I know that no matter what I say, these beliefs, which have been handed down through God knows how many generations, will persist; and they would abstain from those food items anyway.
*The concept of ”heatiness” & “coolness” is one held in Traditional Chinese Medicine to cause a variety of illnesses. Eg. Sore throat, phlegm, cough are attributed to one’s body being too “heaty”, often due to “heaty” foods like chocolates, anything fried, durians etc (the list goes on). Hence, “cooling” remedies like herbal teas are used to treat the symptoms.