The 5 Best Foods for Colds & Flu in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Eat. Your. Medicine.

The changing of the seasons, especially the transition from warm to cold weather makes everyone more susceptible to colds and flu. The good news is that nutritional therapy is one of the pillars of Chinese medicine and contains a huge arsenal of foods for combating colds and flu. There are also a great many foods and herbs that build the immune system which will help you get over your cold or flu, as well as make sure that you get through the rest of cold and flu season with the best health possible. Below are the most effective foods for dealing with colds and flu in Chinese medicine. Remember, Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years, so these have been used for a long time and they really work. ;)

1. Congee

Chinese Medicine for Colds & Flu : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from seriouseats.com

Congee or "Jook" is a like the Chinese version of chicken soup. It is a traditional breakfast in China, as well as an all purpose remedy when we are sick. Congee is made with rice and water (about a 1:10 ratio of rice to water). Other ingredients are added depending on what type of cold or flu you have, whether it is a heat type with symptoms like severe fever, mild chills, sore throat, sweating, and thirst, or the cold type with symptoms of severe chills, profuse, clear discharge from the nose, mild fever, no sweat, headache and general aching. White rice is very easy to digest which makes the spleen happy and is less work for the body when should be directing all its energy to fighting the pathogen. Congee is also delicious, nutritious and you can eat it any time of the year, but it is generally eaten in the colder months for its warming and nourishing properties. Here are some delicious congee recipes you can try.

2. Ginger

Ginger is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine. It has so many medicinal uses, that you should always keep some in your kitchen! Ginger is a very warming herb and has a pungent flavour. It acts on the lungs, spleen and stomach. Ginger warms the middle burner which stops vomiting and warms the lungs to stop cough. Its actions are to direct heat from inside the body to the outside, helping to resolve fever by inducing sweating. Adding a couple of slices of raw ginger to some boiling water and drinking it as a tea is a good way resolve a fever by increasing sweating. Another excellent way to use ginger when you have a cold or flu is to grate some fresh ginger and put it in a old sock, tie a knot in the top and throw it into a warm bathtub. This is a very good way to stimulate sweating and break a fever. It will also leave you smelling delicious.

Here is a nice infographic that lists some of ginger's healing properties.

Chinese Medicine for Colds & Flu : Chinese Medicine Living

this lovely infographic from mindbodygreen.com

3. Bone Broth

Chinese Medicine for Colds & Flu : Chinese Medicine Living

this image from barebonesbroth.com

Many traditional cultures use bone broths because of their numerous healing properties, and in Chinese medicine they are powerful Qi and blood tonics. One of the reasons that bone broths are so good for our health is that they are cooked using the bone marrow of the animal, and the marrow in Chinese medicine is produced by the kidneys and contain kidney Jing. Jing is something that we get from our parents at birth, and it is very precious and vital to good health. Things like working too hard (or partying too hard), not sleeping enough, being under a lot of stress for extended periods of time and childbirth are things that we can deplete Jing. Women lose Jing having too many babies too close together without time to recover, and men lose Jing from ejaculation, but bone broth is a way we can rebuild our Jing essence. Depleted Jing causes premature and accelerated aging. This is why living a balanced lifestyle is so important! Preserving precious Jing is the goal when it comes to health and longevity. Consuming bone broth therefore is extremely tonifying to Jing as it is literally made of Jing. Bone broth is also excellent to stimulate the immune system, so its a good choice when you are suffering from any ailment, especially colds and flu.

4. Honey

5 best foods for colds and flu in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

this image from thespiritscience.net

Honey is sweet in flavour and its energy is neutral. Honey acts on the spleen, stomach, lung and large intestine. Honey tonifies the Qi of the middle burner as well as the lungs, relieves spasms and alleviates pain. It is very moistening to the inside of the body, so it is very good to use when you have extreme heat which is very drying. Honey lubricates the bowels to promote bowel movements, detoxifies, lowers blood pressure and slows down the acute symptoms from colds and flu. It is indicated particularly for chronic cough and constipation. Honey has the added benefits of:

  • boosts the immune system
  • relieves coughs & sore throat
  • heals wounds & burns
  • helps to heal ulcers
  • relieves constipation
  • improves sleep
  • boosts athletic performance

5. Garlic

Surviving Cold & Flue Season with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

this image from livingtraditionally.com

Garlic is one of the most widely used herbs in the world for its numerous healing properties. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India), Chinese medicine (which is super awesome and my personal favourite) and the traditional medicine of much of Europe. In Chinese medicine it first appeared in Chinese texts more than 2000 years BCE as an effective treatment for poisoning. It is also known for its ability to treat infection and cleansing the body of pathogens. Garlic is considered a warming herb in Chinese medicine, and is used to aid the spleen and stomach in digestion and aids to expel harmful microorganisms. It is known to cleanse the blood of cholesterol and is a powerful immune booster. Here are some more of garlic's amazing healing properties:

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Commonly used to treat infections of the upper respiratory tract
  • Taken preventatively for infectious conditions, both digestive and respiratory
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces blood cholesterol
  • Used to treat worms (ringworm and threadworm)
  • Promotes circulation
  • Promotes sweating
  • Eliminates yeasts, including Candida albicans
  • Inhibits viruses and other micro-organisms associated with degenerative diseases like cancer
  • Eliminates toxins from the body, including poisonous metals like cadmium and lead
  • A drop of garlic oil in the ear canal once a day relieves ear infections
  • A poultice made of garlic draws out swelling from boils
  • Eliminates worms
  • Used for dysentery, snake bites, warts, hepatitis, asthma, tuberculosis, hay fever, asthma and diarrhea
  • When traveling eating a clove of raw garlic before suspected food or water will protect against dysentery
  • Eating a clove of raw garlic a day will protect against colds and flu
  • Garlic tea relieves poison ivy, poison oak and nettle stings
  • Promotes the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria

One thing to note about garlic is that the medicinal parts exist in the oils which is where all the strong smells are, so using garlic pills with no smell doesn't really work. You are missing all the good healing parts. One of the best ways that I know to use garlic is to take a clove and crush it into a spoon and take it raw. It is intense, but it is the best way to make sure you are getting all the healing benefits. You can do this daily as a preventative, or at the first signs that you are coming down with something. You might want to make sure that you have some juice to chase it with, and even though it is intense, it works to ward off illness almost every time.

For some information on garlic and its incredible healing properties, you can read - Why Garlic is Your New BFF. :)

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

The 5 Best Foods for Colds & Flu in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


What is Qi?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Qi is a huge and complex subject, and one that is central to Chinese medicine theory. Qi is a difficult concept to explain because it is difficult to measure, and impossible to see. To the Chinese, it is a given. It is the very force that governs life and all of its processes, but for us in the West, it is a little more difficult to wrap our minds around. In the West, we live in a culture that is largely ruled by science, and science is all about things that we can see and prove. Although science is now able to prove the efficacy of things like acupuncture, the HOW is still largely under debate. Qi is at the core of why all of the modalities in Chinese medicine - Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, gua sha, tuina, moxibustion, cupping, auricular, it is one of the main reasons that they are so effective, and have been for more than 5000 years.

Qi is a subtle energy that can be loosely translated as vital energy or life force. In India it is called Prana. In Japan, Ki. Many of the Eastern cultures know and understand this concept and its role in keeping the body healthy. In Chinese medicine, Qi is the force that animates all living things. Qi flows through energy pathways throughout the body called meridians or channels. There are 12 main meridians that correspond to specific organs and run bilaterally, mirroring each other. There are also extra pathways that run deeper in the body, but all are the channels through which Qi travels. Qi must move freely throughout the body for health to be maintained. A blockage of the Qi in the body usually results in pain (a main symptom of Qi stagnation) and if left untreated can cause a whole host of other, more serious problems. In addition to Qi running through the meridians, each organ also has its own unique Qi. Each organs’ Qi can become deficient, excess, or stuck, or stagnated. A stagnation of Qi starts energetically, but if left untreated, can manifest physically as things like tumors and other masses. This is why it is important to keep Qi flowing freely.

Acupuncture Meridians : Chinese Medicine LivingThis image from Acupuncture Media Works

The Qi in the body also flows in two hour intervals through each of the organ systems. This is used as a diagnostic tool by TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) practitioners. If, for example, you are waking up consistently at a specific hour every night, it points to an imbalance in that specific organ. If there is a certain hour of the day when you feel particularly productive, then it would suggest that the organ that corresponds to that hour is strong. You can see the chart below for the organs and the corresponding times.

Qi Clock : Chinese Medicine Living

Because of the importance of Qi and its ability to flow freely through the body, the Chinese have developed many exercises to help build Qi, as well as keep it moving freely. The external martial arts, like Kung Fu are excellent for cultivating Qi and keeping it moving, and the internal martial arts like Tai Chi and Qi Gong are excellent ways of cultivating and strengthening Qi and keeping it flowing throughout the body so that health can be maintained.

Kung Fu : Chinese Medicine Living

There are many ways to build Qi. Good food, clean air, and participating in positive activities all build Qi. And many things diminish Qi, like stress, not getting enough sleep and having an unhealthy lifestyle. It is almost impossible to stay away from stress and other things that can deplete Qi, but the good news is that we are always able to rebuild it by simply doing things that give us energy. Keeping Qi moving is extremely important and the best way to do this is simply by moving your body. The act of walking (preferably in nature) is a wonderful way to keep Qi moving and stay a healthy, happy human being.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

This article also appears on the website Qi Encyclopedia at -
http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=WhatIsQi-3

Chinese Silk Pulse Cushions : Chinese Medicine Living

What is Qi? : Chinese Medicine Living


Social Behaviour and Your Health

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese medicine is not just a physical medicine. Although it does treat the physical body, the body is only one small part of a much larger picture. It is a holistic medicine, taking into account all parts of a person, including the environment in which that person lives. Everything that person experiences has an effect on their health, and so all must be examined when diagnosing and treating disease.

Because Chinese medicine takes so much information into account when diagnosing and treating a patient, it makes the task of the TCM practitioner more difficult, and requires more skill. It also makes the medical system extremely effective and is why it has survived for almost 5000 years.

Social Behaviour : Chinese Medicine Living

Social Behaviour

The way we spend our leisure time isn't something most people associate with poor health, but many of the ways that Westerners pass the time when they are relaxing, are actually detrimental to our health on many levels. I personally believe that at least some of the reasons why we choose to engage in activities like drinking, smoking and doing drugs are a way to escape the stresses that living in the modern world places upon us. So let's look at how some of these things affect health in the context of Chinese medicine.

Smoking

Smoking : Chinese Medicine Living

The act of smoking introduces a lot of heat into the body and creates dryness, especially in the lungs. The short term effects are the consumption of lung yin, but over the long term this yin deficiency can spread to the rest of the body and cause all manner of other disharmonies. Another factor with smoking is the effect on the body's qi. The heat from smoking actually acts to move any stagnant qi that may be in the lungs, which explains why many people find that the act of smoking relaxes them. The movement of stagnant qi is short lived though, as the reason for the qi stagnation to occur in the first place has not been addressed. So although there might be a temporary short term benefit, if the cause of the qi stagnation is not addressed, the qi stagnation will return and if left untreated, can lead to more serious disharmonies.

Alcohol

image courtesy www.lifeprinciples.com 

Alcohol introduces both heat and dampness into the body. Although alcohol has been used medicinally for many years and can be beneficial in cold climates to help to warm the body, it is important, just as with everything in life, that we exercise moderation so that the energies of the body do not swing too far out of balance. Alcohol has a similar effect on qi as does cigarettes, acting to move any stagnant qi, but the stagnation soon returns if the cause is not determined and dealt with.

Drugs

Drugs are a hugs a complex subject, and acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used for many years with great success to help people with addictions (to read more about Chinese medicine and addiction read - Acupuncture & Addiction). Different drugs have different negative effects on our bodies, its organ systems, relative yin and yang and the body's qi. In my experience I have found that the psychological component is as important as the physical one in dealing with the addiction and so is the desire of the patient to recover. Addiction is a complex issue, but Chinese medicine, thankfully, has many modalities to help people to recover from addictions from things to food to cigarettes to heroin, as long as there is a genuine desire to recover and the person is getting the support they need for a long and often difficult process.

Sexual Energy

Sex : Chinese Medicine Living

Our sexual lives have a definite effect on our health, and in Chinese medicine too much sex, or not enough sex can actually contribute to disease (to learn more read - Can Too Much Sex Be Bad for Your Health?). Having a healthy sex life is part of being a happy, healthy human being, but in Chinese medicine, they have perhaps a different outlook on it than you may have heard before. You can read the article above for more detail, but essentially the Chinese view on sex and disease is not based on morals or social norms, but on its impact on the energies of the body. The kidneys, for example, are the source of the body's yin and yang energy and also a very important energy called Jing. Too much sex is said to deplete kidney Jing, especially in men who lose precious Jing when they ejaculate. The situation is not so serious for women who do not lose Jing during sex. A woman's eggs or ovum are seen to be the direct manifestation of Jing so they are not losing them the way a man does when he ejaculates. This is why, regardless of gender, it is important to practice moderation with sex and all things to maintain health. There are other ways that women can lose Jing like having too many children too close together. The effects of depletion of Jing for both men and women are symptoms like premature aging, prematurely greying hair, developmental and growth problems in children, cavities, sore knees, weak and sore lower back, blurred vision, frequent urination and extreme fatigue.

Don't worry, a healthy amount of sex is good for your health, it is only when we do not practice moderation (which is so common in our culture) that problems can arise. There is a handy chart in the above article if you are curious about how much sex is recommended for different ages, just remember these are only guidelines!

The other thing is that there are many Taoist practices that teach how to preserve the body's energies, including kidney Jing. One of the masters is Mantak Chia and his wife Maneewan Chia who have written several books on the subject. If you are curious, check them out. ;)

The great thing about Chinese medicine is that it is not just a medical system, it really teaches a way of life. It is not a pill you take, an herb you drink, or a few needles. It really teaches how to live in balance with yourself, and the world around you. I love that everything is relevant, because it all has an effect. It is such a beautiful system that I fall more in love with every day. I hope that learning a little bit more about it, you will fall in love with it too.

I Love Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

Social Behaviour and Your Health : Chinese Medicine Living

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Behaviour & Your Health : Chinese Medicine Living


What is Spleen Qi Deficiency?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The spleen is my favourite organ in the body. As an acupuncturist, I am not really supposed to play favourites, saying you love one organ more than the others is like a parent declaring that they love one of their children more, but I feel like I have a special connection with the spleen. I talk about it a lot and I seem to write about it even more. It is a hard working and often under appreciated little organ, so it is my duty, and my privilege to give it some much needed love and attention.

The spleen is an organ that doesn’t really get discussed very much in relation to the other organs of the body. I think its role in Western medicine is perhaps seen as less ‘vital’ than the other organs, but the role of the spleen in Western medicine is very different than its role in Chinese medicine.

The Spleen In Western Medicine

In Western medicine the spleen is part of the immune system and the largest organ in the lymphatic system. It is where red blood cells are recycled and where white blood cells, called lymphocytes, are stored. It is possible to live without a spleen. You can lacerate or rupture your spleen in a car accident or playing contact sports (or via any severe physical trauma) and the spleen may have to be repaired or removed completely (called a splenectomy). Although it is possible to live without a spleen because other organs overcompensate and take over many of its important functions, it makes a person more susceptible to infections and ultimately compromises their immune system.

The Spleen In Chinese Medicine

5 elements chart : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from http://thespicedoc.com/content/glossary and designed by Patricia Callison

The spleen has a fundamental role in Chinese medicine. It, paired with the stomach, are the main organs of digestion and are responsible for digestion and distribution of food and nutrients throughout the body. The spleen extracts qi from the food we eat that is used by the body to build immunity (wei qi), keep things moving freely (stagnation leads to disease), the proper functioning of the other organs and helps to regulate mental functions and emotions.

Why Our Culture Is Hard On The Spleen

It is very common in our culture to have a deficiency of the spleen. Because the spleen is the main organ of not only digestion, but processing, it is responsible for processing the food and drink that we consume, as well as all of the stimulus that comes in through our sense organs. We are a culture that values doing many things at once. The more productive we can be, the more we are praised at our jobs and in life. This philosophy is contrary to the health of the spleen. In Chinese medicine, to keep the spleen healthy, it is important to do one thing at a time, and as mindfully as possible. The idea is that the spleen is then able to use all of its energies to process one thing, rather than having to process many things at once, which wipes out its energy stores, or spleen qi. Examples of doing many things at once are eating (taking in food/drink) while watching TV (taking in stimulus). Or eating while sitting at your computer working. These are commonplace in a culture where everyone has too much to do and is always short on time. This is one of the biggest reasons that so many people suffer with a deficiency of their spleen qi. So, do one thing at a time. If you are going to eat, just eat. Really concentrate and be mindful about what you are doing. Enjoy and savour your food, this will not only help your spleen, but lead you to be more relaxed and help you digest more efficiently too.

The Spleen in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

A Strong And Balanced Spleen

People with strong and balanced spleen energy have the following characteristics:

  • responsible
  • practical
  • hard working
  • strong
  • like to nurture themselves and others
  • active
  • stable
  • excellent endurance
  • good appetites
  • good, healthy digestions
  • strong limbs
  • are orderly and careful
  • often very creative
  • have fertile imaginations

 

Chinese Medicine Living : Traditional Wisdom for Modern Living

A Spleen Imbalance

People with an imbalance of their spleen often display the following characteristics:

  • chronically tired
  • a feeling of being “stuck” in their lives
  • physical and/or mental stagnation
  • weak digestion (lots of digestive issues)
  • poor appetite
  • diminished sense of taste
  • loose stools
  • abdominal bloating and tenderness
  • masses in the abdomen
  • weight problems (either overweight without overeating or underweight without the ability to gain)

Spleen Qi Deficiency

A deficiency of spleen qi can be caused by many things. Eating a poor diet of mostly refined, highly processed foods where the body is not receiving enough nourishment is certainly common, especially in industrialized nations where foods tend to be overly processed and many people make poor food choices. Another cause is simply our hectic lifestyles. As I mentioned above, we are a culture of multitasking, and this is particularly hard on the tiny organ that is responsible for doing all the processing. If it is constantly overloaded, then it will become exhausted, leading to spleen qi deficiency. Another cause, and this is also extremely common, is the emotional aspect of the spleen. In Chinese medicine, every organ is associated with an emotion. An excess of that emotion can damage the related organ, and likewise, when the organ is out of balance, it can have a strong effect on the corresponding emotion. The emotion of the spleen in worry/over thinking. If there is one emotion that I see more than any other in clinic, it is WORRY. An excess of worry and over thinking, as well as having a hard time just shutting off your brain, is damaging to the spleen. And we do that so much in our society. The pressures on us are enormous, and people are simply overworked and overstressed. So, poor nutrition, multitasking and a propensity to worry are all part of our culture, and all are affecting our poor, overworked spleens. It's no wonder spleen qi deficiency is so common.

Here are some symptoms of spleen qi deficiency so you know what to look for:

  • weakness of the whole body
  • fatigue
  • loose stools with undigested food
  • a pale tongue with a thin white coat and teeth marks on the sides
  • a weak pulse
  • weakness of the arms and legs
  • weak muscles
  • prolapse of organs (such as hemorrhoids, uterus, bladder, intestines)

The symptoms above all point to a spleen imbalance. There is good news though. There is wonderful nutritional therapy for deficient spleen qi, and as many Chinese doctors have known for centuries, food is the best medicine.

The Thermal Nature Of Foods In Chinese Medicine

When we talk about nutritional therapy in Chinese medicine, which is an important modality, we talk about the thermal nature of foods. This can be a bit of a difficult concept to understand at first, but once it's explained, it actually starts to make a lot of sense. Thermal nature is not just how physically cold or hot a food is as a result of cooking. In Chinese medicine, all foods are seen to have a fundamentally thermal nature, either warming, cooling or neutral, and these are important to know as they have a direct effect on the body. In the context of Chinese medicine it is also important to know the thermal nature of your body, which is measured by the relative yin and yang energies it encompasses. For example, if a person comes to you with a red face, bloodshot eyes, outbursts of anger and is shouting, it is pretty safe to determine that that person has an excess of yang energy and thus, should eat cooling foods and stay away from warming ones until the balance of yin and yang is reestablished. Every organ also, has a temperature that it prefers, so it is good to know all these things when thinking about food therapy in terms of health and disease.

Foods for Spleen : Chinese Medicine LivingBeautiful Foods

Food Therapy For Spleen Qi Deficiency

With foods thermal nature in mind, the spleen likes to be warm and dry. So if you have spleen qi deficiency, you want to eat foods that are warming, or at least neutral to help build the spleens energy. Cold foods should be avoided as they weaken digestion. Also, foods that are cold in temperature take more energy for the spleen to digest and are seen to extinguish the digestive fire. The flavour associated with the spleen is sweet, so as a rule, sweet foods are prescribed to correct a deficiency.

One of the best foods to build spleen qi is cooked white rice, often eaten in the form of congee or jook. Congee is essentially a porridge made of overcooked rice and water. You may add other ingredients depending on your condition and taste. For spleen qi deficiency or any weakness of the spleen, warming ingredients would be appropriate. See the list below.

Beneficial Spleen Foods

Vegetables

  • pumpkin
  • yam
  • black beans
  • garbanzo beans
  • carrot
  • parsnip
  • squash
  • peas
  • sweet potato
  • onion
  • leek

Spices

  • black pepper
  • ginger
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • fennel
  • garlic

Sweeteners (in small amounts)

  • barley malt
  • rice syrup
  • molasses
  • cherries
  • dates

Animal Products (if the deficiency is severe)

  • mackerel
  • tuna
  • halibut
  • anchovy
  • beef
  • beef liver or kidney
  • turkey
  • chicken
  • lamb
  • butter

Chewing foods well is also important when spleen energy is weak. This helps to break down foods before they get to the spleen and means the spleen has less work to do and conserve its energy. Eating things like soups are beneficial because they are cooked until soft and are less work for the spleen to digest. And finally, the preparation of food is also a factor in helping to build up spleen qi. Eating on the run and eating out mean that you are not taking the time and intention to mindfully prepare the foods that you are eating. To prepare foods with care infuses them with healing energies that the whole body, and especially the spleen, needs. So take the time to prepare the foods that you are eating with love, your spleen will appreciate it. :)

Spleen in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

What is Spleen Qi Deficiency? : Chinese Medicine Living

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Would you like to learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine? Check out these downloadable info sheets available on www.learnchinesemedicine.com -

The Spleen - Theory in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Dampness in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Patterns in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen Associations in Chinese Medicine - Poster


The Spleen and Dampness in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Spleen is an extremely important organ in Chinese medicine and imbalances in the spleen system are some of the most common. It is sometimes confusing to refer to the spleen, as it is very different than the spleen of Western medicine. In Western medicine, the spleen is part of the immune system, where the blood is purified and red blood cells are recycled taking things like iron and cycling them back into the bloodstream so they can be used by the body. The spleen is the largest lymphatic organ and plays an important part in the body's immune system by helping it to recognize foreign invaders. The spleen also holds a reserve of blood which is valuable in case of hemorrhage. It is possible to survive without a spleen, with the liver taking over many of its functions. Removal of the spleen, however, does make one more susceptible to certain infections. The spleen is approximately 3x1x5 inches in size, weighs seven grams and is located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen, between the 9th and 11th ribs on the left hand side, beside the stomach.

The spleen in Chinese medicine is quite different. The spleen is considered the major organ of digestion, and is partnered with the stomach. The spleen in yin and the stomach is yang. There are many factors that affect the spleen.

Emotions

Every organ in Chinese medicine has an emotion associated with it. The emotion of the spleen is worry and overthinking. We live in a culture where both of these things are extremely common. We work long hours, often don't eat properly and don't get enough sleep. We eat at our desks, multitasking, which puts more of a burden on the spleen because it is responsible for taking in not only the food and drink we consume, but all the stimulus as well. This is why doing one thing at a time and doing it mindfully takes the load off the spleen. Chewing your food very well and not eating too many raw foods will also help take the burden off the spleen. Intense thinking, concentration, studying, brooding and obsessing are all emotions that, if in excess, also weaken the spleen.

Nutrition

What we eat is of vital importance to the spleen. This is good news, because there are many foods that are beneficial for this important organ. The spleen likes to be warm and dry, so eating warming foods that do not create too much moisture are excellent for the spleen. Also, the colour associated with the spleen is yellow, so as a rule, yellow foods are healing for the spleen. Below is a handy chart.

Foods The Spleen Loves

  • Corn
  • Celery
  • Watercress
  • Turnip
  • Pumpkin
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Button mushrooms
  • Radish
  • Caper
  • Brown rice
  • Barley
  • Amaranth
  • Rye
  • Oats
  • Kidney beans
  • Adzuki beans
  • Lentils
  • Small amount of lean organic meat, poultry and fish, tuna
  • Small amount of whole fruits (as opposed to just the juice), lemon
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed
  • Kelp
  • Green tea
  • Jasmine tea
  • Raspberry leaf tea
  • Chai tea
  • Raspberry
  • Peach
  • Strawberry
  • Cherry
  • Walnut
  • Chestnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Lamb
  • Venison
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Prawns
  • Shrimp
  • Trout
  • Black pepper
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Clove
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Turmeric
  • Thyme
  • Horseradish
  • Cayenne
  • Nutmeg

 

Spleen Foods : Chinese Medicine Living

Foods That Hurt The Spleen

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Cold drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods
  • Refined flour, pastry, pasta, breads
  • Cold raw foods
  • Refined sugar and sugar substitutes
  • Coffee, alcohol
  • Deep fried foods
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Bananas
  • Avocado

The Spleen and Dampness in Chinese Medicine

The concept of dampness in Chinese medicine is related to a deficiency of the spleen's function of transporting and transforming body fluids. When the spleen becomes deficient, it will cause it to produce more dampness, creating a vicious cycle. Dampness can come from both internal and external factors.  The characteristics of dampness are that it is heavy, sticky, difficult to get rid of, slows things down and tends to settle in the lower parts of the body like the legs and abdomen. Dampness often starts in the legs and can work its way up to the organs in the abdomen. If it settles in the female genital system it causes vaginal discharges, often with a foul odour. If it settles in the intestines it will cause loose stools and if it gets into the bladder it will cause cloudy urine, difficulty, frequency and even a burning sensation upon urination.

Dampness has several clinical manifestations, which can be broken down into a few categories. Each has specific symptoms associated with it. Below are some common symptoms of dampness.

Dampness Symptoms

  • A feeling of being tired
  • A heavy feeling in the limbs
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning and getting going
  • A heaviness or fuzzy feeling in the head
  • Unclear thinking
  • A feeling of fullness or oppression of the chest
  • Cloudy urine
  • Urinary difficulty
  • Vaginal discharges
  • No appetite
  • Sticky taste in the mouth
  • Dull ache and swelling of the joints
  • Skin diseases with weepy discharges
  • A thick, sticky tongue coating

External Dampness

Dampness can be acquired externally by living in damp conditions (like moist basements), being out in damp weather, wearing wet clothing or sitting on damp ground. It can then get into the channels causing the above symptoms. External dampness generally invades the lower body, typically the legs and can cause aching and swelling of the joints. It can work its way up the leg channels and cause symptoms in the urinary system, female genital system, and intestines. Because of the heavy, sticky nature of dampness, especially when it mixes with heat, it is difficult to get rid of and tends to return again and again.

Being careful to stay covered up and warm as well as staying out of damp environments as much as possible is the best defense against an invasion of external dampness. If you are out in the rain, dry off right away so dampness doesn't set in.

Dampness in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

Photo by Dannyst @ Deviantart

Internal Dampness

Internal dampness mainly affects the spleen, but can also affect the kidneys. If the spleen becomes deficient and its ability to transport and transform fluids is affected, it will lead to the accumulation of fluids, creating dampness. The symptoms for both internal and external dampness are the same, the difference being that internal dampness will have a slow onset, as external dampness' onset is more sudden. Another difference is subtleties in the tongue and pulse. In external dampness, the tongue will have a thick, sticky coating, whereas in internal dampness, the tongue coating will be thin. The pulse in both internal and external dampness will be slippery, but with internal dampness, it will be fine, or weak and floating. An external damp pulse will be slippery and full.

Acupuncture as well as Chinese herbs are used in the treatment of dampness. Most commonly points on the spleen meridian are used to clear dampness and strengthen the spleen, and Chinese herbal formulas are used to drain dampness, expelling it from the body (often through urination), as well as building the spleen so that more dampness is not created. Dampness can be difficult to treat because of its heavy, sticky nature, but with nutrition therapy - eating foods that strengthen the spleen and drain dampness - as well as acupuncture and herbs, you can get rid of dampness, and have a happier spleen as a result - which is what we all really want. :)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The featured image is this adorable spleen, brought to you by the nice people at I Heart Guts

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Would you like to learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine? Check out these downloadable info sheets available on www.learnchinesemedicine.com -

The Spleen - Theory in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Dampness in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen - Patterns in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen Associations in Chinese Medicine - Poster


Constipated? These Foods Will Help.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Constipation is very common and can be due to several factors. One is dehydration or dryness, meaning that the body is simply not getting enough water. Another is that things are not moving through the bowels quickly enough and that things are sitting too long in the colon. This can be due to several factors, like not having enough fibre in your diet, the colon needs roughage to push against and move things through the colon. Another is that you are simply not moving enough and things easily stagnate. The third is eating foods that are very warming and are drying out the colon so that things don't move freely. There are other factors as well. Many medications are extremely heating to the body and have constipation as a side effect. Alcohol also introduces a lot of heat (and dampness) into the body. You may also have a very yang constitution and be predisposed to things like constipation and other heat symptoms. Another factor is smoking which tends to be very heating and drying to the body and all of its systems which inevitably leads to constipation.

In Chinese Medicine, constipation has many causes as well. The most common is an excess type which is from liver heat. Excess liver heat dries body fluids and stools become hard, dry and difficult to pass. An excess liver also disrupts the flow of qi so the peristalsis, or muscular contraction of the intensities which allows waste to move through them, is inhibited, exacerbating constipation.

Deficiency type constipation is due to a lack of blood and yin fluids in the body. When this deficiency is present the body compensates by absorbing too much fluid out of the food in the intestines which creates dryness and, constipation. This type of constipation is more difficult to treat than the excess type because rather than purging the excess, we must build up the body's reserves of yin and blood which is a more lengthy process.

An important distinction between Chinese culture and Western culture is something I discovered when I was living there in my 20's. The Chinese, at least the family I was living with, do not drink while they eat. This was a hard one o get used to, but the feeling is that drinking while eating dilutes stomach acids that are important for breaking down food effectively. In our culture it is customary to have a glass of water or some kind of drink with a meal. When you walk into a restaurant, the first thing the waitress/water does is brings everyone water. This is further complicated by the fact that much of the water we drink has ice in it which puts a strain on the poor Spleen. The Spleen, being the main organ of digestion in Chinese Medicine, likes heat and dryness so cold foods cause it to use more energy to heat things up again so that food can be digested. We all have some level of spleen deficiency (just by virtue of our culture of multitasking, cold foods, worry and overthinking) so doing this one small thing - not drinking with meals and not putting ice in drinks - will have a huge impact and your spleen will be much happier.

Other Factors To Aid Constipation

Chew Your Food for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Chew your food very well
  • Drink plenty of water (but not with meals and without ice!)
  • Squatty Potty! This helps put you in the more natural pooping position. See more about it here - Elimination Issues - How to Have a Happy Colon

Foods That Lubricate the Intestines

Foods for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Almond
  • Prune
  • Pear
  • Peach
  • Honey
  • Walnut
  • Pine Nut
  • Soy Products
  • Beet
  • Okra
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Whole Fresh Milk (small amounts of high quality milk help ease constipation)
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Sesame Seed Oil
  • Seaweed

Foods That Promote Bowel Movements

Foods for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Cabbage
  • Coconut
  • Castor Oil
  • Asparagus
  • Black Sesame Seeds
  • Figs
  • Papaya
  • Peas
  • Sweet Potato
  • Bran from Oats, Wheat or Rice

Foods To Avoid With Constipation (All types)

Foods To Avoid with Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • All Products with Baking Soda/Powder
  • Yeasted Breads (use sourdough or "Essene" breads)
  • Refined "white" foods such as all white flour products, white rice, white sugar, white (low quality) oils

Herbs for Constipation

Demulcent Herbs

Marshmallow Root for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

Marshmallow Root

When the membranes of the digestive tract are irritated or inflamed demulcent herbs act to soothe and protect them from further irritation.

  • Marshmallow Root
  • Licorice Root
  • Psyllium Seed
  • Fenugreek Seed
  • Flax Seed
  • Comfrey Root
  • Hops
  • Iceland Moss
  • Oats
  • Irish Moss
  • Quince Seed
  • Slippery Elm

Laxative Herbs

Dandelion Root for Constipation : Chinese Medicine Living

Dandelion Root

Many herbs can promote the evacuation of the bowels and they range from mild laxatives to stronger and more violent purgatives. These are to be used with caution and under supervision! The best laxatives are those that stimulate the natural secretion of the digestive juices like bile which naturally causes moving of the bowels.

  • Dandelion Root
  • Barberry Bark
  • Rhubarb Root
  • Cascara Bark
  • Wahoo
  • Licorice
  • Yellow Doc

The occasional bout of constipation is not a big deal and one can usually add a few foods to the diet, perhaps remove a few others, drink a little more water and try some herbal remedies. These combined should do the trick. Nature gives us many ways in which to rebalance, so if you know what to do, you can keep things moving now and in the future too. :)


The Liver and Anger - Part 3

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Ever see a really impressive display of anger? Someone losing it in the lineup at the bank, an exasperated parent yelling at a child having a tantrum in the grocery store, or someone, after being on a plane for a bazillion hours being told that they have missed their connecting flight and that the airline has lost their luggage. Yeah, we've all seen that. And it is most of our instincts' to back away a few steps because of how powerful that anger can be. That, my friends, is your liver talking.

Now in the West, this doesn't make much sense. The liver, we are taught, is the body's filter, making sure that we stay clean and toxin-free. But in Chinese Medicine, each of the organs has an emotional component, which is just as important as its physical functions in the body, and the emotion of the liver is anger. Below is a list of the organs and the emotions associated with them in Chinese medicine.

anger and the liver in Chinese medicine

The Liver - Anger

The Lungs - Sadness & Grief

The Spleen - Overthinking & Worry

The Heart - Joy

The Kidneys - Fear

Now these outbursts of anger are not the liver in its normal state, they are obviously a liver terribly out of balance. It is of course normal to experience emotions like anger, but as we know in Chinese medicine, it is when those emotions are unexpressed or repressed that things can build up and in the case of the liver, if left long enough, can cause a Chernobyl like effect. And nobody wants that.

So how do you not let it get there, you may ask? Well, it is interesting to me that of all the life skills that are most useful to us, none of them to be taught in the place where it would be useful to acquire them - school. Emotional wellness is vital to our health and wellbeing and yet, most of us are at a loss at how to deal with them.

In Chinese medicine thinking, the emotions are a cause of disease. Now this may sound ominous, but let me clarify. HAVING emotions is not a cause of disease and that is an important distinction. It is emotions out of balance, and they become imbalanced when we do not express them freely, or worse, when we do not express them at all.

Let me give you an example...

Expressing Your Feelings

Two friends are having a conversation and one says something that is hurtful to the other without realizing it. The conversation continues with one person being very hurt and the other having no idea that they hurt the others feelings. After the conversation the hurt person starts to feel angry at their friend for having hurt their feelings and not even realizing it. But, once they have had a few days to cool off they realize that they need to express their feelings to their friend so they will feel better. After the conversation the friend who said the hurtful thing unintentionally apologizes and explains what they meant when they said the thing that the other perceived as hurtful. The hurt friend sees it from the others perspective and realizes it was not said intentionally and that anger was diffused and let go. The friends make up and their relationship is made stronger by the fact that they can openly express their feelings to each other.

expressing anger in Chinese medicine

Suppressing Your Feelings

The alternate scenario, and many people do this, is for the hurt friend to be hurt which turns into anger and never mention anything to the other friend about it. This builds up over time and every time any other little thing the other friend does frustrates the already angry friend it just adds to the anger that is growing and growing. The friend who initially said the hurtful thing, completely unintentionally, has no idea that their friend is harbouring so much anger and one day, after a small disagreement, the angry friend has a complete blowup and all the anger that has been growing comes out all over the bewildered friend who had no idea that all that anger was in there, and certainly not that things they had been inadvertently saying or doing was the cause.

Not Expressing Your Feelings

Another scenario is that the hurt friend internalizes the initial hurt, and all other hurts, frustrations, etc... and never speaks about them. They do this not only with this particular friend, but with everyone in their life. Eventually this person becomes sick, despite being otherwise healthy and wonders why. This is one of the theories about where many cancers come from - a long standing stagnation of energy, and in many cancers, many believe that there is a huge emotional component.

Now all that said, sometimes expressing your feelings isn't easy. We are not taught how, but it is of vital importance for your health and well being. A lot of us are taught to avoid confrontation, and many see expressing emotions that are seen as negative as opening the door to possible confrontation. But, I can tell you, that if you can speak your mind, and express what you are feeling, with kindness and compassion, it will almost always strengthen a relationship, and if it doesn't, that might not be a relationship you want to keep.

suppressing emotions is Chinese medicine

A Healthy, Happy Liver

When the liver is balanced and healthy we are able to move freely because of the liver's responsibilities of governing the smooth flow of Qi in the appropriate directions. You may wonder what happens when Qi flows in the wrong direction? Well, each of the organs has a natural direction in which its Qi flows. For example, the Qi of the stomach flows downward, helping to move food and drink through the digestive system, but when the flow of that Qi is reversed due to pathogenic factors it causes belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. A healthy liver means a strong immune system because the liver is responsible for the body's resistance to exterior pathogens. Because the liver opens into the eyes, if you have a healthy liver your vision will be clear and your eyes moist. If your liver is in a state of balance you will have strong nails, recover quickly from physical activities, your movements will be smooth and your body flexible. Those with a healthy liver will also have great courage and resoluteness, and will easily be able to plan their lives wisely and effectively with a clear sense of direction.

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

  • frustration, depression or repressed anger
  • hypochondriac pain
  • sensation of oppression in the chest
  • a feeling of a "lump" in the throat
  • abdominal distension
  • women - pre-menstrual tension, depression, irritability, distension of the breasts
  • belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • bitter taste in the mouth, belching, jaundice
  • contraction and/or spasms in the muscles and sinews, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of the limbs, muscle cramps, tremors
  • dark, dry or cracked nails
  • blurred vision, myopia, floaters, colour blindness, a feeling of dryness or grit in the eyes
  • bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in the eyes
  • irritability, outbursts of anger, red face, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches
  • lack of direction in life, feeling of being stuck

the liver and anger

As you can see, there are a wide variety of symptoms that can point to a disharmony of the liver. The liver has a great many responsibilities in the body, so keeping it healthy and happy is not only good for your physical health, it is important for your emotional health too. The other thing to remember is that having prolonged feelings of anger or frustration that are repressed or unexpressed can damage the liver and the opposite is true as well. A deficiency in the liver from either external pathogenic factors, or an internal imbalance can make you more prone to feelings of anger and frustration. Expressing our emotions honestly and regularly is one of the best ways we can keep this important organ healthy. You'll know you achieved it the next time you are in a stressful situation and you are able to shrug it off and see the positive instead of going nuclear and destroying everything in your wake. ;)

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.


Let's Talk About Your Lady Parts...

A Discussion About Vaginal Health According to Chinese Medicine.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

It may seem a bit saucy to write about something that most people don't like to think about. They like to talk about it even less, but 52% of us have them, and I think it is in our best interest to know what is going on with them and keep them healthy. And when I say "them" I mean specifically the vagina (we can cover the other lady parts later). Men, I don't want to lose you here, you need to know this too. Have a mother? A sister? Daughter? Wife or girlfriend? Then knowing some basic information about vaginal health and disease will benefit you and all the ladies in your life.

Women's Health, Vaginal Health, reproductive health

Gynaecology in Chinese Medicine

Gynaecology in Chinese medicine has a long history. The earliest writings on the subject date back to the Shang dynasty, which was between 1500-1000 BC. As a result, Chinese medicine is extremely effective for dealing with the gamut of gynaecological problems women face. It was because of terrible problems with my periods as a teenager that I found Chinese medicine and after years of being told "I would just have to deal with it", acupuncture and herbs resolved them after a few months of treatment. So, I am speaking from experience, mine and the many, many women I have seen in clinic.

The way that Chinese medicine looks at gynaecology, and really the entire body is completely different than what we are used to in the West, so this is probably a good place to start. Chinese medicine believes that puberty is a particularly important time for a young girl and problems she experiences in these years will have lasting effects throughout her life. Living in a cold, damp climate can cause cold and dampness to invade the body and cause problems, excessive physical labour as a young person, and experiencing many emotional upsets are all factors that can contribute to problems both during puberty and later in a woman's life.

The periods are considered an especially vulnerable time for a woman, as the uterus is seen to be "open" allowing menstruation to occur. There is also, because of the loss of blood, a relative blood deficiency and many problems with menstruation are influenced by these factors. Some other main factors that cause gynaecological problems are:

  • Pathogenic factors from the outside, like heat, cold, dampness and wind (viruses, bacteria, etc..)
  • Excessive physical work or exercise
  • Emotional stress (emotions like sadness and grief, worry and anger, fear, shock and guilt are a significant factor in many gynaecological problems)
  • Diet and nutrition (hugely important always, but especially for women with gynaecological issues)
  • Overwork and exhaustion (which is so common in our culture)
  • Pregnancy and childbirth (having too many pregnancies too close together does not give the body time to recover)
  • Too much or too little sexual activity (you may be wondering, really? Yes. For more info, read this: Can too much sex be bad for your health? Sex and Chinese Medicine)
  • The birth control pill
  • Surgery and hysterectomy

There is a huge emphasis for women to take care during and immediately after their periods, being sure not to become overly emotional (which may seem counterintuitive, as this seems to be the time when most women feel exactly that), not to participate in too much strenuous physical labour, especially heavy lifting, they should avoid cold food, and be careful to avoid cold, damp places as it more easily enters the body at this time.

Prevention and Hygiene

Vaginal Health, Women's Health

Without an in-depth discussion on women's physiology and the aetiology (the cause of a disease) of gynaecological diseases, there are a few simple rules that women can follow to keep all of their lady parts healthy and prevent the problems will we discuss later.

  • Don't have sex during your periods - this is seen to cause stagnation in the uterus which can lead to problems later on and heavy periods
  • Avoid cold, damp environments, especially during your periods - this will cause cold and damp to invade the uterus when it is particularly vulnerable and can lead to problems
  • Don't work too hard or for long hours during the periods - overwork easily leads to deficiency at this vulnerable time
  • Don't have sex with a full bladder - this can lead to stagnation in both the uterus and the bladder
  • No heavy lifting during or immediately after the period - this can lead to qi sinking which, if it progresses can lead to prolapse of organs
  • Refrain from being angry during the period, as it may cause the period to stop
  • Don't drink alcohol during the period - this can cause circulation problems in the limbs
  • Eat foods that nourish blood during the periods such as - Peanuts, carrots, spinach, chicken, egg yolks, wood ear mushroom and Chinese red dates (we have a lot of wonderful Chinese medicine recipes here)
  • Don't be exposed to cold after sex - as cold can easily invade the uterus at this time
  • Avoid cold foods and liquids during the periods - as these foods can cause painful periods due to invasion of cold

Vaginal Discharge

Women often wonder if vaginal discharge is normal. Yes, it is. The way Chinese medicine defines it is that a slight vaginal discharge, that increases in volume and viscosity around ovulation (mid cycle) and is thin and colourless with no smell is normal. Therefore, discharge that is a colour (white, yellow, red, brown, green), thick with a strong smell is considered pathological. Some of the reasons to be having excessive vaginal discharge are below.

Diet

Chinese medicine puts a huge emphasis on what we eat, and how that can contribute to imbalances. This is especially true with gynaecological problems and the big three are greasy foods, dairy, and overconsumption of sugar. Now, in an ancient Chinese diet, these would not be things you would eat a lot of anyways, but we certainly do now, especially in the West. My best advice would always be to eat food that is as close as possible to how it has grown in (or on) the earth. Fresh fruits and vegetables are best. Organic if possible. As little sugar, refined oils, flours and salts as possible and if you must eat processed foods, do so sparingly. This advice goes double if you are healing from an illness.

Connected to diet is also eating at regular times. Chinese medicine theory states that the regularity with which we eat is almost as important as what we eat. The body likes routine, especially when it comes to food, and eating at random hours which change constantly puts stress on the Spleen and can lead to dampness which can lead to excessive vaginal discharge.

Excessive Physical Labour and Overwork

People who have very physically demanding jobs like people who work construction, or are firefighters or orderlies can be prone to Spleen deficiency. The same is true if you work long hours without adequate rest, eating properly and not getting enough sleep. Does this sound like everyone you know? This is a prevalent problem in our culture and many illnesses are a result of this stressful, fast-paced lifestyle. This overwork with lack of rest to recuperate easily leads to Spleen deficiency which in turn leads to dampness, and... excessive vaginal discharge.

Emotions

The emotions of the Liver - anger, frustration, and resentment, and the emotions of the Spleen - worry and over thinking can cause Liver Qi to become "stuck" or stagnant, and stagnant Liver Qi leads to many gynaecological problems. Worry and over thinking (which we do so much in our culture) cause Spleen Qi deficiency which leads to dampness. The combination of dampness and Liver Qi stagnation (which left untreated leads to heat) settles in the Liver channel which happens to wind around the genitals and causes excessive vaginal discharge.

diet and vaginal health

Diet is a very important part of vaginal health

Vaginal Itching

Vaginal itching is defined as persistent itching of the vagina which may also be accompanied by excessive vaginal discharge. To see a definition of excessive vaginal discharge, see the section above.

There are many factors that contribute to gynaecological problems in Chinese medicine. Often the Liver and Spleen are involved, so trying to keep both these organs healthy is a good first step in preventing imbalance in those organs which may lead to gynaecological problems down the road. Below is a list of factors that can lead to vaginal itching in Chinese medicine.

Emotional Problems

Chinese medicine sees the emotions are being an important part of health.  They become pathological when they are either felt intensely, as in a sudden death which can lead to shock; felt in a prolonged way without easing, such as after the death of a loved one; or not felt at all because they are being repressed or unexpressed. Each organ in Chinese medicine has an emotion that is associated with it, and the two most common organs that contribute to gynaecological problems are the Liver and the Spleen. The Liver is associated with anger - which may manifest as resentment, frustration or when extreme, rage. The Spleen is associated with worry and over thinking, two things that as a culture, we tend to do a lot. The Liver, in particular, is at the root of many gynaecological problems. If Liver Qi stagnates or becomes "stuck" it can, over time, turn to heat and that heat affects the Liver meridian which happens to run through the external genitalia, leading to itching. The more heat there is, the more intense the itching becomes.

Diet

We all know how Chinese medicine uses food to keep the body in balance and help to cure it if diseased. As a result, food can also be the cause of a problem and certainly contribute to it if an imbalance is already present. Diet is a big contributor to gynaecological problems in the West because the foods that cause the problems are a huge part of our diet. The main culprits are greasy foods and dairy products. If you are prone to gynaecological problems like yeast infections (candida infections) then take a look at your diet and try to cut back on greasy foods and dairy as they are a prominent factor. When it comes to diet, the regularity of eating is also important in Chinese medicine. The body likes routine, and we live such hectic lives, it is pretty normal for people to go all day without eating and then have a huge meal in the evenings. This puts a huge burden on the Spleen and can lead to problems like dampness. When combined with emotional issues, heat in the Liver combines with the dampness in the lower burner and forms damp heat which causes vaginal itching. The more heat there is, the more intense the itching becomes. So, express those emotions, and try to limit dairy and greasy foods.

Excess Physical Labour

Excess physical work can manifest as vaginal itching in a couple of ways. People with very physical jobs or people who train intensely can, over time, deplete their Spleen. If this physical work is carried out without sufficient rest the Spleen becomes deficient and is prone to dampness which can cause vaginal itching. The other way is if people work very long hours without eating properly or getting adequate sleep it will injure Liver and Kidney Yin. A Yin deficiency will ultimately lead to a blood deficiency which can lead to vaginal itching.

Vulvar Sores

The vulva refers to the external vagina including the labia, clitoris, and entrance to the vagina. Sores on the vulva can be painful, hot, itchy and/or have a discharge of pus. Vulvar sores may be categorized as itching, swelling, pain, lumps, pus and excessive vaginal discharge. These symptoms may also be accompanied by systemic symptoms such as shivers, fever, weakness, constipation, thirst, dark urine and abdominal distension.

In Chinese medicine, vulvar sores can arise for many reasons. The main ones are poor and irregular diet, emotional strain and stress, or an invasion of dampness and cold (especially during or immediately after the periods, or after childbirth).

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very effective for treating vulvar sores, but it is important to obtain a correct diagnosis to ascertain the reason for the sores so that it can be corrected and therefore will not return. It is also important to determine if the vulvar sores may be due to certain sexually transmitted diseases or neoplasms. The vulva is the fourth most common site of gynaecological neoplasia. The majority of gynaecological neoplasms are diagnosed in women in their sixties and seventies, and 15%  occur in women under forty. Gynaecological neoplasms have been associated with the HPV virus (human papilloma virus). The symptoms of vulvar neoplasm are pruritus, erythema, and swelling. If you suspect an STD or neoplasm, be sure to see your doctor.

And last but not least, some basics to keep the lady parts clean and in good health. Wear cotton underwear which will keep all those bits clean and dry (other synthetic fabrics don't breathe and can cause problems especially in damp, hot weather). If you can, don't wear anything (on those parts anyways) to bed so that they get a chance to breathe. When bathing be sure to dry the lady parts very well as they tend to heat and heat and sweat can brew into a less than awesome situation. Most of all, be mindful of your lady parts and pay attention to what is happening down there. This article lists some of the more common issues, but if there is anything that you are worried about, go see a doctor, homeopath, naturopath or acupuncturist - the one you feel most comfortable talking to about these things and make sure you get it sorted out. Peace of mind is a good thing, for any of our parts.

 

Vaginal Health

Vaginal Health - Women's Health in Chinese medicine


References
Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia


foods for the gallbladder

Loving Your Liver With Nutrition - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the time of his doctor.

~ Ancient Chinese Proverb

In this second instalment of the Liver series, we will cover how the foods we eat can heal and support the liver. The spring is the time when liver energies are at the fullest, so this is the perfect time to eat foods that support the liver as well as detoxify, letting go of things we don't need to make room for the new things that will nourish and heal us.

Spring and the liver in TCM

In spring we begin eating less than we did in winter, consuming lighter foods and cleansing the body of the excess fats and heavier foods eaten in winter. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, a time of expansion and expression. Spring is when we introduce newly grown greens and sprouts, salty foods and pungent herbs which support the liver and help to cleanse the body.

Cleansing the body is especially beneficial in spring not only because of the liver's function of filtering toxins, but emotionally as well - emotions like frustration, impatience and anger are associated with the liver and a cleansing of the body and emotions allows us to clear out old residues and enables us to see more clearly and move forward in life with renewed passion and purpose.

Here is a list of things associated with the liver and spring in Chinese medicine.

Yin Organ - Liver
Yang Organ - Gallbladder
Season - Spring
Colour - Green
Direction - East
Flavour - Sour
Sense Organ - Eyes
Emotion - Anger
Weather - Wind

Cooking in Spring

Cooking in spring should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures. In Chinese medicine raw foods are mostly seen to be cold in nature so some cooking is always recommended, but of all the seasons, the spring is the time food is cooked the least for its cooling and cleansing capabilities. Sautéing with a bit of high quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is the perfect was to cook food in spring and the way your liver will receive the most benefit.

greens for a healthy liver

Liver Disharmony

Of all the organs, the liver tends to be the most congested, and ironically, is responsible for the free flow of qi throughout the body. A diet high in fatty, deep fried foods as well as eating highly processed and denatured foods congest the liver and lead to disharmony, physically, mentally and emotionally. A person with a healthy liver in Chinese medicine is supremely calm, has no feelings of stress or tension, easily makes decisions and has excellent judgement.

Physical symptoms of liver imbalance include many symptoms. The liver opens into the eyes so many eye symptoms point to a liver disharmony (bloodshot eyes, floaters, vision problems like cataracts and glaucoma), tendon issues (contraction, weakness, rigidity and inflexibility), pain and distension in the sides and rib areas, vertex headaches and outbursts of anger or frustration are all symptoms of a liver disharmony.

Avocado Salad for Liver Health

Beneficial Liver Foods

  • Honey/mint tea
  • Herbs - basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, horseradish, mint, lemon balm, angelica root, prickly ash bark
  • Complex Carbohydrates - grains, legumes, seeds
  • Vegetables - beets, carrots, watercress, onions, mustard greens, taro root
  • Raw foods - sprouted grains, beans, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Fruits - lemon, lime, grapefruit
  • Bitter Foods - rye, romaine lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, , quinoa, alfalfa, radish leaves, citrus peel
  • Liver cleansing herbs - dandelion root, bupleurum, mandarin, milk thistle seeds, Oregon grape root, chamomile flowers
  • Liver detoxifying foods - mung beans and their sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, watercress, seaweeds, celery, millet, tofu, plum, chlorophyll rich foods, mushrooms, rhubarb root, radish, daikon radish

dandelion for the liver

If you are feeling like your liver might need a little extra love, then try eating some of the foods listed above, drinking some green juices (dandelion and milk thistle are particularly good) and go outside, take in the new green of the growing plants through your eyes, move your body to circulate the qi and stretch to keep those tendons limber. Your liver will love you for it. :)

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.


Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine - Part 1

Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Spring is here, and Spring is the time that the Liver flourishes and its energies are at their peak. Spring is a time of new life and the growth and activity of plants and animals after a long winter hibernating. The Liver is associated with new growth and expansive energies, just like plants in Springtime stretching up and out, reaching for the sun. Spring is the best time to support the Liver, eating fresh green foods and being mindful to express our emotions.

The Liver has many responsibilities in Chinese medicine, as you will see below, and the Springtime is the best time to treat the Liver, as its energies are at their full expression. First we will discuss the Liver's responsibilities in the body, then, in part two, we will move onto the emotions and in part three we will discuss the ways that we can keep the Liver healthy and happy through diet, the emotions and making sure you get to bed by 11pm. :)

What Does The Liver Do in Chinese Medicine?

Stores Blood

The Liver stores blood in Chinese medicine

One of the most vital functions of the Liver is that it is responsible for storing blood. This means that it regulates the volume of blood in the body at all times, and this serves an important function during physical activity. The Liver stores the blood when it is not being used by the body, but when we are active, the Liver sends the blood to the muscles, nourishing and moistening them. This function also has an important influence on a person's energy level. The Liver sends the blood to specific parts of the body, nourishing the necessary tissues. If the Liver is healthy, we will have energy to do our daily activities. If the Liver is impaired however, the blood will not get to the parts of the body that need it and we will become easily tired.

The Livers function of storing blood also directly influences our ability to fight off pathogens. If the Liver function is normal, the skin and muscles will be well nourished and the body will be able to fight off attacks by exterior pathogens. There are other factors that affect our ability to fight off pathogenic factors, like our defensive Qi and the strength of our Lung Qi, but it is important not to overlook the Livers role in our ability to fight off invaders.

The Livers function of storing blood is also extremely important in gynaecology and specifically, menstruation. If the Liver is functioning normally, the periods will be normal. If the Liver is deficient, the periods will be late, irregular or absent. If the Liver is in excess or has excess heat, there can be excessive bleeding and pain. The Liver is very important in Women's physiology and pathology. Many gynaecological problems are due to pathologies of the Liver. If there are gynaecological problems, the Liver will be involved. Because the Liver governs the smooth flow of Qi, the bodies energies, stagnation of Liver Qi is a common diagnosis and manifests in the periods as painful periods, pre-menstrual tension and clots.

Responsible for the Smooth Flow of Qi

Liver responsible for smooth flow of qi

The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. In Chinese medicine, illness or disease is seen to be a blockage of the flow. When things, like blood, are not flowing properly, the results can be catastrophic, like a stroke. So, the Liver's function of keeping Qi moving in the body is important for our health. A blockage of the flow of Qi is central to almost all Liver disharmonies and is one of the most common patterns seen in clinical practice. In Chinese medicine, each organ also is seen to have a specific direction in which its Qi naturally flows. The Lungs Qi flows downwards (a pathological upward flow causes coughing), as does the Qi of the Stomach (when it moves up we get vomiting and belching), and the Qi of the Spleen naturally flows up (when it moves down we get diarrhea). Part of the Livers function of moving Qi smoothly throughout the body is also to ensure the proper flow and direction for all the organs. This is a big responsibility as you can imagine. It is a big job which is why it is so important to have a health, happy Liver.

The Liver function of ensuring the smooth flow of Qi also has an impact on the emotional state. If the Liver is functioning normally, the Qi will be flowing and the emotional state will be balanced. However, if the Qi is obstructed, there can be anger, frustration, depression and a feeling of being "wound up" as well as physical symptoms like hypochondriac pain, a sensation of oppression in the chest, a feeling of a lump in the throat and distension in the abdomen.

Controls the Sinews

Liver controls the sinews

 As you can imagine, the state of our sinews affects our ability to move our bodies freely. Anyone who has ever done a yoga class will be able to tell you exactly how important it is to have moist, supple sinews as even the ability to do something simple like touching your toes can be a humbling experience! The health of the sinews is under the control of the Liver, and specifically Liver blood. Liver blood nourishes and moistens the sinews, ensuring that we can move freely and easily. The sinews ability to relax and contract is also dependent on Liver blood. If Liver blood is deficient, sinews will become dry and brittle and we can experience symptoms like contractions, spasms, numbness, tremors and muscle cramps.

Manifests in the Nails

In Chinese medicine, the nails are considered a by-product of the sinews which are under the control of the Liver and specifically, Liver blood. Liver blood is responsible for nourishing and moistening the nails in the same way as it is for the sinews. If Liver blood is abundant, the nails will be hard, shiny and moist. If Liver blood is deficient, we can see symptoms like dry and brittle nails, and nails with ridges, spots, cracks and can be dark and have a withered appearance. So, next time you break a nail, you might want to consider giving your Liver some extra love!

nails and the liver in Chinese medicine

Opens Into the Eyes

Eyes and the liver in Chinese Medicine

 Every organ in Chinese medicine is associated with a sense organ and the Liver opens into the eyes. The eyes, therefore, are used as a diagnostic tool for helping to determine the health of the Liver. Liver blood is responsible for the eyes capacity to see clearly. Psychologically, the health of the Liver can also determine how clearly we are able to recognize what is actually happening in our lives and how connected we are to reality. If the Liver blood is abundant, then we will see clearly, but if it is deficient, we will have eye problems like blurred vision, dry eyes, myopia, colour blindness and especially floaters.

Because the Liver is especially susceptible to heat, when Liver heat is in excess we see eye symptoms like red and blood shot eyes and the eyes may be painful and have a burning sensation. These symptoms are often accompanied with headaches, ringing in the ears and a bitter taste in the mouth.

Controls Planning

The Liver in Chinese Medicine

One of the other responsibilities of the Liver, and one that is not often mentioned, it its ability to help us plan our lives wisely. A healthy Liver gives us the capacity to organize and plan our lives and gives us a clear sense of direction. A Liver that is out of balance however, affects how well we are able to plan into the future which we see so often in our society, partially because of Liver imbalances, and partially because so many of us are simply overwhelmed with our lives and have a hard time keeping up with our daily activities. A healthy Liver will help with so much more than your health! It will literally help you to focus, and plan your life smoothly and effectively.

As you can see, the Liver has a lot of responsibilities so keeping it healthy is always a good idea. The good news is that there are many, many ways that we can keep Liver energies balanced and keep this important organ happy and healthy. We will discuss these as well as the very important emotional aspect of the Liver (anger) in the following sections.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

If you are having issues with your liver, Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP offers skype consults. Please write to info@chinesemedicineliving for more info, or see our skype consults page to contact us and set up a time with Emma.

If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.