David Talks Travel as Students Prep for Tianjin

AIMC Berkeley professor David Caruso-Radin will be leading this year’s travel abroad experience to the First Teaching Hospital of Tianjin, University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Tainjin, China. This is the third study abroad trip to China under David’s direction. Along the way, David and AIMC Berkeley students will stop off for a tour of the Oncology Department at Guan’anmen Hospital in Beijing, and enjoy lots of one-of-a-kind sightseeing, shopping, and tasting experiences. With just a few weeks to go before the group departs for China, David meditates on his career in Chinese medicine, provides a peek into the details of the upcoming trip, and doses out some useful advice on how to stay healthy while traveling abroad.

“Great Wall” photo by David-Caruso Radin.
Click here
to view more amazing photos from David’s travels.

How did you become interested Chinese medicine?

Caruso-Radin: That’s a pretty long story that dates all the way back to the 1960s when my grandfather contracted cancer and was given 6 weeks to live. He was quite curmudgeonly, he checked himself out of the hospital, and essentially cured his cancer with organic foods and high dose vitamin therapy. And when he died over 30 years later, it had nothing to do with his cancer. So I grew up with a healthy distrust of the medical system. I knew that I wanted to practice medicine to help those around me. And I wanted that medicine to be a medicine that looked at the body in a more holistic sense. I went to school for Integrated Nutrition and Shiatsu and became addicted to Chinese Medicine.

How long have you been travelling to China and what will the trip be like for the students? 

Caruso-Radin: When I designed the China trip back in 2008 or 2009 – our first trip was in 2009 – I wanted to design a trip that was a combination of cultural and clinical experiences. China is such a unique country with such a vast history. Here in the United States we make lots of assumptions about China. In our profession, a lot of those assumptions are based around Daoism and Buddhism, and there’s a lot more to China. It’s an incredibly complex place. A country of 1.35 billion people is an incredibly pragmatic country. I felt that it was very important for students not only to experience the medicine, but also to experience the culture. It’s kind of two trips in one. It is a cultural tour, and a clinical education program as well.

What are you looking forward to most in this next trip to China?

Caruso-Radin: What I look forward to most is bringing students to China for the first time and helping them experience all that is China.

How has traveling to China in the past affected you as a practitioner of Oriental medicine?

Caruso-Radin: It’s not too far-fetched to say that my first trip to the teaching hospital in Tianjin was an incredibly profound experience. I would say that many practitioners – myself included – and certainly students, are relatively anxious to some extent about needling. We hear all sorts of horror stories about the damage that we can do with the needles, and it creates a fair amount of anxiety. After going to China and watching what was really possible in a hospital setting, it became very freeing. It definitely took my needling technique up another notch, or even two notches.

In addition to a practitioner, you’re also a professor at AIMC Berkeley.

Caruso-Radin: Yes; I’m a teacher at heart. I thrive on imparting knowledge to students in a way that I believe they can really soak it in. I derive a great deal of self-actualization through teaching.

One of the classes you teach at AIMC Berkeley is Nutrition. What are your top three nutrition tips to help people move toward their health goals?

Caruso-Radin: The first one is to not only concentrate on nutrition, but also to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, managing stress, and getting enough exercise. We concentrate too much just on nutrition – or nutrition and exercise – and leave out the other pillars of health. The second tip is to make sure that you eat a well-balanced diet of food. There’s so much in our food system that isn’t really food. Food should be whole. Food should be appropriately raised and prepared. Those things are incredibly important. The last one would be for people to cook for themselves. If you’re not cooking for yourself, the quality of nutrition that you’re getting just isn’t there. Prepackaged meals every now and then are not a problem. But doing it all the time, there’s a lot of nutrition that’s going to be lacking.

How do you care for your own nutrition while traveling?

Caruso-Radin: Now that’s a really charged topic. Yes, I am a nutrition instructor at AIMC, but when I look at health, I look at health from a “four pillars” standpoint. I don’t always look at health from a nutrition standpoint. I also account for sleep, exercise, and mental health. I believe that mental health – or most importantly, stress – is something that we don’t account for very much. One of the things that I teach when I teach nutrition is the Harm Reduction Model. The essential tenet is that you want your nutrition to be as high quality as possible with as few damaging foods or food-like substances in it at any given time. But every now and then, straying from that “right path” is not going to create a great deal of damage. What causes a lot of damage from a nutritional standpoint is the regular ingestion of substances that are not very healthful. Bringing that back to how I deal with nutrition when I’m in China, I try to eat in a balanced way as much as possible. But when I don’t have the ability to eat the foods that I normally eat at home, I give myself the permission to eat foods that I otherwise might not eat, knowing that a little bit here or there is not going to cause great harm. Also, after I come back from a trip abroad, where I may be engaging in behaviors and eating foods that I otherwise wouldn’t, I do a cleanse.

Do you have any recommendations for dealing with changes in diet while traveling?

Caruso-Radin: I go with the flow of the new country. I try to stay away from chemicals as much as possible and try and stay away from fried foods as much as possible, because you never know what type of oils may be used. But aside from that, I eat like a local.

What recommendations do you have for international travelers to help with jetlag?

Caruso-Radin: There are two point prescriptions that I teach students before the trip leaves. I have student use tacks on the middle of the Gallbladder and Spleen meridians on the lower leg. There’s an auricular jetlag point prescription for earseeds that includes Insomnia 1, Insomnia 2, Pineal Gland, and two other points. There’s a homeopathic remedy called No Jetlag that I personally take. Taking melatonin half an hour before the sun is going to set in the place that you’re going to land helps with resetting your biological clock. Making sure that you’re well-hydrated is very important for jetlag. And once you land wherever it is you’re going to go, do your best to try and stay awake until it’s evening-time wherever it is you’ve landed. I start that practice on the plane, I try to go to sleep on the plane at the time I will be going to sleep in the new time zone.

Do you have any other tips to help with the general stresses of traveling?

Caruso-Radin: The most important thing to think about when traveling is that all of your best-laid plans may not work out. There will always be a hitch here or there. When you go into a journey expecting that to happen, and aren’t surprised when it does, then there’s a lot less stress. There are certain things you need to do to mitigate intense stress, such as always knowing where your passport is. You want to keep your eye really tight on expensive things, like electronic equipment, money, credit cards, etc. Maybe think about not taking expensive electronic equipment like iPhones that you may not use in the country you’re going to. Packing lighter and not bringing multiple changes of clothing means you have an easier time carrying your luggage. The lighter you pack, the less stressed you’ll be.

Click here for more nutrition tips and information from David Caruso-Radin.
Special thanks to Sean Trace for facilitating this interview.

David Caruso-RadinProfessor Caruso-Radin received his MSOM from AIMC Berkeley and his Master of Science in Organizational Psychology from Baruch College in New York, New York. He studied Shiatsu and Integrated Nutrition with Paul Pitchford at the Heartwood Institute in Garberville, California, and is a nationally certified diplomate of Asian Bodywork Therapy. David trained in Medical Qigong under Suzanne Friedman at AIMC Berkeley, and earned Wild Goose Qigong teacher certification from Master Hui Liu at the Wen Wu School of Martial Arts in El Cerrito, California. David practices privately in Berkeley and Richmond, and at Wilbur Hot Springs Hotel Resort. Click here to visit his website, MindBodyHerbs.

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