Bladder, the Longest Meridian in the Body

This time of year is known as the time of the water element. The energy pathways most active are the Bladder and Kidney Meridians. I’ve spoken about the Kidney Meridian and its importance the last few weeks. Today I want to focus on the Bladder Meridian.

The Bladder Meridian is the longest energy pathway in the body. It begins at the inside corner of the eye, goes over the head down the neck, back, the back of the legs, the side of the foot and ends at the small toe. This pathway is on both sides of our body and crosses all the other meridians; in doing so, it has influence on all the other meridians.

The Bladder Meridian partners with the Kidney Meridian, together they control fluid transformation and excretion in the body. The kidney stores our deepest levels of energy, and kidney issues can be treated using bladder acupoints.  Points on the Bladder Meridian are excellent for treating headaches, eye strain, back, knee, and ankle pain, and for promoting a sense of deep relaxation. Imbalance in the bladder energy can create emotions of suspicion, jealousy, and the inability to let go of grudges.

The back responds to stress by becoming tight. “In short back tension is putting your problems behind you. With chronic back pain or tension, whatever the cause, there are likely to be some powerful suppressed feelings. For example, after a back injury, there may be fear or anger about the pain or disability.”

……Iona Teeguarden, The Joy of Feeling

To support the Bladder Meridian, stay hydrated, do stretching exercises and rest. Having your energy balanced by a licensed acupressurist or acupuncturist can help release both chronic and acute tight muscles.

Chinese Medicine and the Winter Season

The winter solstice begins this week, and with it the change in subtle energies from fall to winter is complete. Chinese Medicine, which has evolved over thousands of years, is still used today to effectively treat illness and disease.

A basic premise of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that true health is created when we live in harmony with nature. Living in harmony with the changing seasons (changing our diet and habits to conform to the present season) creates balance between our bodies and our environment. We are ushering in the season of winter and the water element, which is represented by the Kidney and Bladder Meridians, or energy pathways.

Kidney represents the yin (dark, cold, slow, inward) energy and Bladder represents the yang (lighter, hot, quick, expansive) energy. Winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys. A good way to do this is to get adequate rest and avoid chills. Dressing for the weather is an important aspect of staying healthy.

Other associations of the Kidney Meridian are:

  • It stores our essence
  • Produces marrow and fills the brain
  • Controls the bones
  • Governs the water
  • Associated with the ears and hair
  • Houses the will power
  • Vitality

Foods to support kidney and bladder are bone broths, warm, hearty soups, miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, lettuce, endive, salt, millet, and barley.

The Heart Meridian and Peaceful Sleep

The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. In Traditional Chinese Medicine sleep disorders and insomnia are considered to be a blockage or imbalance in the body’s energy. This time of year, the fire element is most active, which is represented by 4 energy pathways or meridians, heart, small intestine, pericardium, and triple warmer.

The heart meridian is associated with peaceful sleep, thoughts, intelligence, emotions, and intimacy. It also oversees blood and circulation, houses the spirit, consciousness, and mental ability. When we are sleep deprived, our ability to reason is impaired and our emotions are frayed.

The Chinese 24-hour Meridian Clock, which I have spoken of many times before, shows the times of day in which each meridian is most active.

The meridians most active during the hours of 11 pm to 7 am are:

  • 11pm-1am- gallbladder
  • 1am- 3am- liver
  • 3am- 5am- lung
  • 5am-7am- large intestine

During the hours of sleep our bodies repair themselves. For instance, the liver detoxifies the blood, and makes proteins for clotting, and bile. If we are awake at this time, energy will be diverted away from the liver and these functions will be interrupted. In TCM the liver is also associated with planning and the emotion of anger or frustration. It then makes sense that if you have not had enough sleep, you will have difficulty concentrating and be short-tempered.

There are many different causes for sleep problems and Chinese Medicine has the tools to help you identify the specific cause for each issue. It is important to address sleep deprivation which left unchecked can create other health issues such as palpitations and digestive disorders. An acupressurist can help balance your energy and improve sleep but for more chronic and severe issues it is best to see an acupuncturist.

Treating Migraines with Chinese Medicine

Photo by Mehrpouya H on Unsplash

There are five main types of headache identified in Western Medicine:
Cluster Headaches  • Tension Headaches  • Sinus Headaches • Rebound Headaches • Migraine Headaches.
Today I want to focus on Migraine Headaches and how they are treated in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

In TCM a headache is considered to have two parts, the root, and the branch. The root is the cause or source of the headache and the branch is the location of the pain. TCM always looks for the root cause of any disease, since treating the source of the problem will have long-lasting results, as opposed to treating only the symptom.

Migraine headaches, a severe type, can cause debilitating pain lasting anywhere from 4 – 72 hours. Pain can be throbbing, one-sided, moderate to severe, accompanied by nausea/ vomiting and/or sound and light sensitivity. This type of headache interrupts daily activity and sends people to their beds.

In TCM the root cause of migraines many times is yin deficiency, blood chi deficiency, or excess heat, but there are other possibilities. The former causes are due to energy imbalance, but poor alignment of the neck vertebrae, tension and stress, and sinus infection can also be possible causes. To be sure, it is best to have your energy assessed by an acupuncturist or acupressurist.

There is an acupressure point that is effective for tension headaches. It can be found on the hand in the space between the thumb and forefinger. Go into the webbing of the hand until your thumb meets the bone. Then press into the sensitive spot on the metacarpal bone (the forefinger side) and take deep breaths. The headache will usually diminish.

Treating Stress with Chinese Medicine

In the past, I’ve spoken about the amount of stress that people are dealing with at this time in our country. Bladder and Kidney Meridians which are associated with the emotion of fear are most active during the winter season.

Another emotion that is a component of stress is worry. Worry is associated with the Spleen and Stomach Meridians and these pathways are most active during late summer, but also at the ending weeks of each season. Many times worry precedes fear.

In Chinese Medicine, spleen energy is responsible for the transformation of the food we eat and transporting the nutrients to the rest of the body, but the spleen and stomach also digest information and stimulus.

All the information that enters the body from our sense organs is processed by the spleen and stomach meridians.

We live in an age where we are bombarded with information 24/7 and multitasking is a normal occurrence. Most people have deficient spleen energy.

Some symptoms of spleen imbalance include:

  • Digestive issues (IBS, acid reflux, pain, cravings, nausea, constipation, diarrhea….)
  • Fatigue and brain fog
  • Abdominal distention especially after eating.
  • Weakness and heaviness in the limbs, edema, and swelling.
  • Worry, overthinking, over mothering- or taking care of others at the expense of your own health.
  • Cravings for sweets, carbohydrates

Tips for Nurturing your spleen energy.

  • Do not work or watch anything stressful while eating.
  • Eat more cooked and warm food.
  • Avoid cold drinks.
  • Foods such as: spelt, oats, carrot, pumpkin, sweet rice, winter squash, yams, sweet potato, black beans, parsnip, turnip, molasses, anchovy, beef, mackerel, date, tuna, chicken, beef liver or kidney strengthen the spleen.
  • Create a pleasant atmosphere around eating. Enjoy meals with friends, enjoy a meal out in nature weather permitting.
  • Have your energy balanced by a licensed Bodywork Therapist or Acupuncturist.

Treating Insomnia and Anxiety with Traditional Chinese Medicine

I have encountered many people lately who are having trouble sleeping. These are stressful times, so insomnia and anxiety are not an unusual occurrence.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, one theory on anxiety is that it is caused by excessive energy (chi) in the head. This overabundance of energy presents as heat. Symptoms of this type of anxiety are racing thoughts, difficulty sleeping, and excessive worry. In contrast, energy blockage or stagnation can result in depression. Symptoms of depression are sadness, inability to focus, anger, and fatigue.

In TCM there are different treatments for anxiety. At the beginning of each session, the practitioner takes the client’s pulses to assess their energy flow. Treatment is always directed toward balancing the individual’s energy, bringing the body back to homeostasis so that it can heal itself.

Some energy pathways that would need balancing when a person is experiencing insomnia are spleen, which is associated with worry, and its partner stomach, which is associated with grounding and balance. I would also look at gallbladder and liver meridians, which are associated with everyday stress and anger/frustration, respectively. The heart meridian would also be important since it is associated with restful sleep.

There is no cookie-cutter treatment since each person is unique with different constitutions, emotions, health history, experiences, and body-mind connection. Treatment is always based on the present moment and balancing the energy flow. When a person’s energy is flowing freely, they are better able to manage their stress and emotions.

The Psychological Aspect of Indian Summer in TCM

The earth element, which is the most active energy at this time of year, encourages us to be balanced and grounded in our core and to nurture body, mind, and spirit. “Value and nourish yourself as the highest level of personal spiritual practice you can do, so that your love can then flow out to others.” Being grounded and balanced means to also be aware of our limits. When we overextend our energy, we are thrown out of balance.

The meridians associated with Indian Summer are the spleen and stomach. The earth element governs the “digestion” of thoughts and reasoning on the mental-emotional level. It emphasizes our need to be rooted, harmonious, and stabilized whether in family, community, or work environment.

getting grounded

5 steps to getting grounded – by Damini Celebre

Considering the amount of fear and uncertainty in our present reality, it is especially important to be centered in our bodies and emotions. We live in a sea of energy, and we are affected by the energy around us and what we listen to. Stressful thoughts and feelings can throw us off balance and influence our decision making. It is always best to act from a calm center.

The best way to center ourselves is through our breathing and meditation. I am including a link to a website from Damini Celebre which talks about the importance of being grounded and has a 5-step process for centering and balancing the body’s energy. For a more in-depth look at staying balanced and grounded in our bodies, click here.  How to Stay Centered during turbulent times — Damini Celebre

To promote inner calm and harmony avoid absorbing too much negative information. Spend time meditating, walking in nature, listening to positive and inspirational information, and music. The beginning of each season is the perfect time to have your energy balanced. Spend time in introspection. Create the life you want.

Wu Wei Wisdom – Late  summer health – The Chinese Medicine & Taoist way

The Energies of Spring

early iris flowerThough it is still technically winter, we can feel that change is in the air. The lighter more active energy of springtime is all around us in the appearance of crocus and daffodils. The energy of spring makes it possible to push through obstacles, like the early flowers pushing through the hard soil.

During spring the life force in our bodies is most active in the Liver and Gallbladder meridians (energy pathways). These meridians are responsible for the liver and gallbladder organs as well as the eyes, blood, tendons, and ligaments.

The liver meridian, among other functions, stores, and filters blood, regulates chi and prana, rules the health of muscles, tendons, nails, hands, and feet and is responsible for balancing emotions.

The major functions of the Gallbladder meridian are:

  • Secretes digestive enzymes to break down fat
  • Gives us the ability to follow our path in life
  • Helps with our capacity to regain equilibrium aftershock

These meridians also affect anger, frustration, and courage. The liver controls the ability to plan one’s life, while the gallbladder controls the capacity to make decisions.

Some symptoms of impaired Gallbladder function are:

  • Pain over eyes
  • Gas, bloating
  • Pain along IT band
  • Cramping at the 4th toe, knees, and thigh

Some symptoms of a congested liver are:

  • Skin problems; rashes; brown skin spots
  • Difficulty losing body fat
  • Distended stomach on a thin body
  • Ringing in the ears

Tips for supporting and rejuvenating your liver and gallbladder:

  • Start your day with a cup of lemon water
  • Juice or blend beets, apples, lemon, carrots, and dandelion greens
  • Eat more sulfur-rich foods: garlic and onions, and vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, and cabbage
  • Have your energy balanced

Summarizing Healthy Tips for Winter

winter streamWe are nearing the end of Winter, when the subtle energies of nature will begin to rise and bring new life to the landscape. The animals that hibernate during this time will awaken to a renewed food supply.

We are part of nature and it is also important for us to slow down and renew our energies in winter. Rest, warming foods such as bone broths, and activities that relax and calm the mind, such as Tai Chi and meditation are recommended. This is a time to nourish our body to prepare for the heightened energies of spring.

Some people love winter sports and are energized by the cold; others are the opposite. If we follow the recommendations for health in winter; we can also enjoy our personal activity preferences.

The Chinese Medicine associations of winter include:

  • Kidney and bladder meridians
  • The element of water
  • Flavors – salty, bitter
  • Emotion- fear
  • Organs- ears, bones
  • Time of greatest activity- kidney (5pm-7pm)
  • Time of greatest activity – bladder (3pm-5pm)

The kidneys hold the body’s essential energy or essence, the Jing chi. When we deplete our Jing energy, aging is accelerated. To nourish kidney energies, cook food longer at lower temperatures with less water. Eat foods which grow locally in this season; squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, cabbage, apples and pears to name a few. Rest when tired.

Simple tips to improve kidney health are:

  • Massage your ears for several minutes a day. This will stimulate kidney energy.
  • Go to bed before midnight, take breaks during your day to de-stress and rest when tired.
  • Stomp your feet slowly for about 5 minutes a day. The kidney and bladder meridians have important acupressure points in the sole and heels of the feet.

The 24-Hour Body Clock of Chinese Medicine

24 Hour Body Clock of Chinese MedicineEvery so often I like to revisit this topic. It’s very helpful information and can bring awareness to the problem of disturbed sleep which is of interest to just about everyone. The 24-hour body clock of Chinese Medicine is a representation of the movement of energy through the body’s meridians (energy pathways) and organs in a 24-hour period. Every two hours the energy is strongest in a particular meridian and organ within the body.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), almost all our body functions are linked to a specific time on our internal clock. “This is the time when that particular organ and its related meridians are said to be most energized and working hardest, affecting everything from your emotions to your productivity.” The Chinese believe that to achieve optimum health we need to be in harmony with our internal and external environment.

When our energy is blocked or imbalanced; we experience physical symptoms. If we wake at the same time every night with insomnia; the energy most active at that time is probably blocked.

The best time for bed is between 10 and 11 pm. Gallbladder meridian is most active between 11pm – 1am. Its function is to excrete bile and digest healthy fats and emotionally it’s associated with decision making. “If you’re not resting by 11pm, you could have issues with digesting fats and the emotional components of decision making.”

Here’s the list:

  • 1-3am – organ – liver, activity- deep sleep and dreaming, emotions- anger, frustration, anxiety. A balanced liver keeps these emotions in check.
  • 3-5am – organ- lung, activity -sleeping and gentle breathing, emotions- grief and sadness
  • 5-7am – organ- large intestine, activity-waking and releasing, emotions- releasing that which no longer serves us. A glass of water is a good start to the day
  • 7-9am – organ-stomach, activity-eating and nourishing, emotions being processed- disgust or despair. Having a warming, nutritious breakfast is best.
  • 9-11am – organ-spleen-pancreas, activity-thinking and working, emotions-worry
  • 11am-1pm – organ- heart, actively engaging with friends and eating, emotions- joy or frightful sadness
  • 1-3pm – organ-small intestine, activity-separating useful from useless, organizing, emotions processed- insecurity
  • 3-5pm – organ- bladder, action-reserving and storing, emotion-irritation, moving internal energy. Energy can dip at this time of day. Snacking on something salty will help the energy level.
  • 5-7pm – organ- kidney, activity-replenishing vital energy, emotion-fear
  • 7-9pm – organ-pericardium, activity-emotional support, emotions- excessive euphoria and compassion. Focus on spending quality time with loved ones and self-care.
  • 9-11pm – organ-triple warmer (metabolism, blood vessels), activity-relaxing and hydrating, emotions-hopelessness, confusion
  • 11pm – 1am – organ-gallbladder, action-sleeping and regenerating, emotions being processed-indecisiveness and resentment.

Keeping your energy balanced will improve body, mind, and spirit.