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For the first time in my travels abroad (between the Middle East, East/South Africa, Europe and now Asia over the last couple of years), I’ve contracted a stomach virus of some type. Nothing major, but achy enough in my abdomen to stay away from solid foods for the last four days except for a couple of pieces of fruit here and there (which I found out is the WRONG thing to snack on, apparently). Even though I’m in a foreign country, I’ve wanted to stay away from going to the doctor… not that I have a phobia of medical visits, I just always think, unless something is REALLY wrong, whatever it is will sort itself out. Hopefully. But, my circle of influence, here in Hong Kong as well as in the States, thought it was in my best interest to visit an MD, and since I was still in pain halfway through this afternoon, I ventured out on a hunt for a doctor.

So, in my mind, and in some of the suggestions given to me by friends, I thought it would be a great opportunity to seek out EASTERN MEDICINE given that I am at mainland China’s side door. I was curious enough to seek something out, but had my reservations at the same time. So I stopped by the front desk of the apartment and asked to be referred to a doctor. “Go out the door, turn the left, and cross the footbridge to the Great Eagle Centre.” Sounded easy enough. I stepped outside of the lobby and started walking. Overwhelmingly, the sunlight and heat were an immediate burden. Largely due to my lack of sustenance and mild fever, moving through the humidity, especially when in the direct sunlight had me question if I should even try to go and find a doctor. Going back upstairs to the air-conditioned room wouldn’t have made logical sense, but that’s how I was feeling. Luckily, it didn’t take long to actually find the doctor’s office, but as timing would have it, I had arrived during his lunch break, which was longer than an hour’s time. SO part of my mission was accomplished, finding a doctor that took walk-ins. Now I would have to wait out the time before he arrived to see me.

That would come easily with a trip to the neighborhood nail salon for a bit of mani-pedi therapy, which was long overdue. Because of the speed with which the nail technicians completed the service, I actually made it back to the doctor’s office ten minutes after he’d return from lunch. I went in, we made pleasantries (he couldn’t tell where I was from, “Don’t I look American??” I joked) and then I explained my symptoms: that though I’ve been here since June 1st, it’s only since Saturday that I’ve been feeling nauseous and experiencing mild stomach cramps. I explained that even when I drink water or eat a bit of fruit, my stomach cramps for an extended period of time afterwards, though I don’t have diarrhea or vomiting. It would almost be better to have some extreme physical manifestation of a stomach virus because at least I would know it was leaving my system.  With very little physical examination he diagnosed a mild case of food poisoning or gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the GI tract largely due to something ingested that was bad. He prescribed gastrocaine and hyoscine-butylbromide (basically antacid and an anti-inflammatory tablets) to be taken four times a day for the next few days. (For someone who doesn’t remember to take vitamins everyday, I thought, Great, days of pill poppin’. But, with the pain I’ve endured and lack of appetite, I’m sure I will remember to take them.)

In regards to the lack of appetite, the doctor asked if I had eaten lunch, a phrase that you hear often from Hong Kongers, and from my understanding it’s more small talk after a greeting than actually wanting to know what you’ve eaten. So I told him no, and that I haven’t eaten much of anything in days. He said, “You must eat. You will give yourself other problems if you don’t eat.” He suggested warm liquids, no greasy or fried food, and no fruit. I told him of the little I have indulged in lately, it had been tons of cold water, melon, cherries and a banana. He said everything I was eating was the wrong thing…. Warm water to drink. Rice and noodles with veggies in watery broth would be better to eat. But that didn’t sound appetizing at all! Sounded more like something I’d want to add spicy sauces and meat to! Nevertheless…

This led me to ask, “So, what options do I have for Eastern medicine?” He looked at me with a side-eye glance and said, “Chinese medicine?” I smiled and shook my head as he leaned forward and faced me full on. “I am Chinese,” he said, “And I do not ascribe to Chinese medicine.” My expression was all question marks as he continued. “Look. There are plenty of people who will still use ancient Chinese herb, but there is no way to know what it is and where it came from. You are taking something that has no indication of expiration or contamination. There is no regulation for the containers in which medicines are processed, or whether it is affected by the metal or lead. You don’t know the environmental quality of the ground from where the root came. You don’t know what environment and surfaces the herb is prepared in. You know nothing. It’s not hundreds of years ago when traditional herbs could be blindly trusted as the only or best option. If an herb is from a good or bad batch, how will you know whether the next one will be from the same? There is no standard that I know of for these things.” He was looking at me with such intensity that all I could do was sit back and exhale. “What an analysis!” I said, “I’ve never thought about any of that.” He went on about there being regulatory standards for Western pharmaceuticals and reiterated that he always deters his patients from Eastern medicine…

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Photo credit: preapism.com

So, there was really no other conversation to have with him about that. I don’t know, though, that I will take his word as the sole authority on Eastern medicine, but it has triggered my interest in reading up more on the standards and regulations associated with its production. I am fully aware, however, that Big Pharma has a devastating impact on people’s ability to get healthy and likelihood for substance abuse of prescription drugs. And I try not to always resort to pill-popping when physical pain is an issue. (Or at least I’m making more of an effort to take less OTC pills.) I never got around to asking his opinions on acupuncture, cupping, ear candling and Chinese massage therapy, but I think my time was up and my prescription was ready to be filled. So I kindly said, Bye bye! as he encouraged me one last time to EAT LUNCH! And I paid my $45 consultation fee before heading out to find a meal.