Natural Awakenings Boston April 2011

Page 20

Helping the Body Heal Itself by Casey McAnn


he central nervous system is a wise manager, with the task of controlling autonomic processes such as respiration, digestion, sleep patterns, hormonal activity and cardiovascular function. When a person experiences physical, emotional or mental stress, the central nervous system is disturbed, body functions are thrown off and illness can result. According to licensed Acupuncturist Lisa Bernazini, in Cambridge, that’s when acupuncture can be used to restore well-being. “Acupuncture is not as mysterious as most people think,” says Bernazani, who is also a licensed Chinese herbal medicine practitioner. She explains that the body perceives the insertion of acupuncture needles as a kind of attack, and responds by releasing substances that normalize the central nervous system. “When the nervous system becomes stabilized, all the body’s autonomic processes become normal again,” she says. Bernazani has successfully treated clients for thyroid imbalances, infertility, depression and anxiety, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders, insomnia and other complaints. She says that while most individuals require a series of treatments to correct their health issues, clients usually feel a difference after one session. “They report feelings of internal stability and improved sleep, digestion, hormonal balance and mood,” Bernazani advises. “People also regain their will and clarity to move forward on their path in a way that’s appropriate for them.” That’s the ultimate goal of acupuncture, she says— getting clients relaxed and balanced enough to make diet, exercise and lifestyle choices that will keep them well. “Prevention is almost always the best cure,” notes Bernazani. “Once somebody becomes sick, it requires a very large commitment on the individual’s part to return to normal.” A true wellness plan is less complicated than most people imagine, she says, and it doesn’t necessarily involve supplements, rigid diets or a monastic lifestyle. “All you have to do is slow down, relax, listen to yourself, know your limitations and respect them.” Bernazani counsels her clients to take responsibility for their own well-being—an approach that she believes will ultimately save the nation’s healthcare system. “It’s not about throwing more dollars at healthcare, or more news flashes about what to do and what not to do,” she says. “It’s really up to people to start changing their ways.” To connect with Lisa Bernazani at her practice, Middle Path Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, call 339-2213132, email or visit


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conventionally schooled doctors here also use therapies and medications based on the holistic approach to medicine inspired by the anthroposophy of Waldorf education founder Rudolf Steiner. “If you want to understand a person’s disease and support his self-healing powers, it’s of central importance to look at the human being as a whole—body, spirit and soul,” says Paracelsus Medical Director Erich Skala. “This may require more time and effort, but it’s how you treat the causes, and not just the symptoms.” Dr. Daniel Dunphy, of the San Francisco Preventive Medical Group, believes the Paracelsus approach is what the United States needs. “You have to take time to get to know the patients and listen to their stories,” he counsels. “I want to know their personal history, their traumas, how they do at work, what they eat and at what times of the day—and then I know what to do about their problem.”

The Bottom Line

Of course, the bottom line in the debate about health care is cost. Proponents of integrative health argue that the promotion of preventive steps such as eating healthy food and making positive lifestyle changes, as well as using complementary methods to treat the whole person and not just the disease, will result in “… the biggest return on investment this nation could ever have,” in the words of William Novelli, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the former CEO of AARP. Kenneth R. Pelletier, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine and the University of California School of Medicine, has been putting numbers behind the arguments for integrative health. Pelletier has studied the cost-effectiveness of corporate programs to promote health and manage disease among employees. The programs encompassed everything from subsidized gym memberships and smoking cessation classes to biometric screening and serving smaller portions in company cafeterias. Pelletier found that companies with such programs in place realized healthier, more productive workforces, fewer sick days and less staff turnover. He estimates that it takes, on average, just over three years before firms see a financial return on this kind of investment. “These reviews clearly indicate that comprehensive interventions do evidence both clinical- and cost-effectiveness,” says Pelletier. “There’s a very good payback. It makes us think about health as an investment.” More money, more pills and more technology don’t necessarily lead to better health. Advocates of integrative medicine generally take a “less is more” approach—less needless medications and medical procedures and more prevention and healthy personal lifestyle changes can add up to big financial savings and big improvements in an individual’s quality of life. Marco Visscher is the managing editor of Ode, Ursula Sautter and Carmel Wroth are contributors. Adapted from an article that first appeared in Ode, the magazine about positive change.

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