Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine are among the time-honored approaches to healing, originating thousands of years ago, that are still practiced today. Practitioners in TCM and Ayurveda base their healing recommendations on an individual’s constitutional condition and not on what we usually consider a diagnosed disease. After obtaining a detailed verbal health history, carefully examining the tongue and pulse and performing a physical exam, the TCM or Ayurvedic practitioner may suggest a variety of interventions with the goal of re-balancing the organ systems and the body’s energy. These interventions usually include herbs, but may also include diet and lifestyle changes, music therapy, exercise, meditation, acupuncture, and others.
How can this help?
Since TCM and Ayurveda are based on individual assessments, people with the same diagnosis from a conventional physician may receive different feedback and treatment suggestions from a TCM or Ayurvedic standpoint. The personal evaluation and holistic treatment philosophy that began millennia ago are not only valid today, but are being expanded upon with an increased focus on personalized medicine and more rigorous scientific validation of both complementary and integrative approaches to medicine as a whole.
Patients with ITP vary significantly in their symptoms, duration of the disease, and treatment responses. (Provan 2010). To verify their approach, TCM researchers have attempted to map the most common TCM diagnostic patterns corresponding with the known platelet antibody and immune system variations in ITP. They did find a correlation and concluded that there was value in looking at the disease from both approaches. (Yang YF 1995, Yang YF 1992). TCM can also be used to evaluate the degree of immune dysfunction in ITP. (Zhan WY 1992) And, because these traditional medicines work with individual signs and symptom confirmations rather than broad disease diagnoses, they are often able to translate these confirmations into specific and effective treatment choices.
In addition to an individual approach, healing with TCM and Ayurveda is multi-faceted and may address the mind, body, as well as the spirit. While there have been no clinical trials measuring a combination of complementary therapies for ITP, there are many clinical trials demonstrating that a holistic approach to healing that includes aspects of stress reduction, diet improvements, exercise, and increased community can regulate the immune function and increase the body’s repair mechanisms, (Ornish 2008), help control prostate cancer (Ornish 2008), improve cardiovascular disease and reduce inflammation, (Dod HS 2010, Ornish D 1998) plus help protect against cell aging and death as measured by telomere length.(Falus A 2005). Functional Medicine, emphasizing a personal, multi-dimensional approach to healing, and the program at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, emphasizing life-style changes are both conventional contemporary options that incorporate some philosophies of traditional medicine. With this integrative approach in mind, PDSA has a list of diet and lifestyle suggestions that may be helpful to the patient with ITP.
Since the approach to treatment in traditional medicine is individual and suggestions are used in combination, it takes some philosophical compromises to create a clinical trial that uses only one treatment for a group of individuals. There have been a few clinical trials for Ayurvedic and TCM herbal combinations as well as other singular approaches. Trials for herbal remedies and energy therapies such as acupuncture will be referenced in the other sections of the complementary portion of the website.
Just as conventional treatments for ITP can have harmful side effects, there have been published reports of some herbs, foods, and supplements causing low platelets. (Royer 2010) or interfering with platelet function. The Warnings page contains a list.
Because the treatments are individualized and can vary by practitioner it is important to work with someone who is both an appropriately licensed professional clinician and also very knowledgeable and experienced. PDSA has published a list of questions that can be helpful for choosing any healthcare provider.
“I believe I’m alive today because I approached healing my ITP from so many different perspectives. The Ayurvedic herbs boosted my platelets to a normal range and the meditation recommended by my Ayurvedic doctor transported me to a very calm and healing place. I believe these things plus diet changes, energy therapy, and a host of other large and small lifestyle interventions worked synergistically to renew my health.” -Joan (Joan's Story)
“Dr. Wang did a lot of very intensive work on my body – painful deep work, adjustments, meditation, breathing exercises. He kept the dietary restrictions that I started with my acupuncturist (no wheat, dairy, no coffee, I never drink alcohol). In addition he also put me on a vegan diet. He also had me drink a minimum of 1 gallon of warm/hot water every day before 6pm…My blood count went up in August and stabilized. I’ve been in the mid 200,000’s ever since.” -Sasha (Sasha's story)
Dod HS et al. “Effect of intensive lifestyle changes on endothelial function and on inflammatory markers of atherosclerosis.” Am J Cardiol. 2010 Feb 1;105(3):362-7.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20102949
Falus A et al.”The 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine and its surprising message: lifestyle is associated with telomerase activity” Orv Hetil. 2010 Jun 13;151(24):965-70. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20519179
Ornish D et al. “Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease.”JAMA. 1998 Dec 16;280(23):2001-7.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9863851
Ornish D et al. “Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study.” Lancet Oncol. 2008 Nov;9(11):1048-57. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18799354
Ornish D et al. “Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jun 17;105(24):8369-74.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18559852
Provan D et al. “International consensus report on the investigation and management of primary immune thrombocytopenia” Blood, 14 January 2010, Vol. 115, No. 2, pp. 168-186.http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/full/115/2/168
Royer DJ et al. “Thrombocytopenia as an adverse effect of complementary and alternative medicines, herbal remedies, supplements, foods, and beverages.”Eur J Haematol. 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20525061
Yang YF et al. “Preliminary analysis of relationship between immunological changes and syndrome differentiation-typing in traditional Chinese medicine and prognosis with chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.” Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1995 Jul;15(7):401-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7580059
Yang YF. “Analysis of the correlations between immunological changes and syndrome groups in patients with immunological thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).” Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1992 May;12(5):263-6, 259. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1392474
Zhan WY et al. “Research of the relation between the type of asthenia of the spleen and kidney and platelet associated antibodies and T-lymphocyte subsets in idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura]. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1992 May;12(5):283-4, 261.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1392480
PDSA thanks Mr. Paul Kempisty, MSTOM. L.Ac., for his review and comments.