Chronic Cold Condition

Woman feeling coldThis is the season of the metal element in Chinese Medicine. It’s a time when nature pulls back its energy into the earth and roots of the trees and plants to prepare for winter. I’ve spoken about the importance of getting more sleep, eating local, seasonal, cooked food and keeping warm to stay healthy during fall. Today I want to address a chronic cold condition.

Chinese Medicine considers cold to be a cause of disease. It is one of the six “Pernicious Influences “along with heat, dryness, damp, wind and summer heat. Where western medicine considers viruses and bacteria as causes of illness; “the Chinese observed that our body mirrors certain climatic conditions” (1) when we are ill. Cold weather causes contraction and slowing down of activity in nature and creates the same symptoms in the human body.

A chronic cold condition is different from what we call the “common cold”. The common cold is an external disturbance which makes you uncomfortable for a week or so and then passes.

A chronic cold condition is internal cold which makes you feel chilled to your core and can’t be corrected by warmer clothing. Our bodies have heat at our core which keeps our digestion and metabolism running smoothly. When you are chilled to your core, you may have digestive problems, water retention, and feel sluggish and tired a good deal of the time.

This condition is created by an energy imbalance, usually yang depletion, and takes considerably more time to heal than the common cold. It takes a combination of acupuncture, food therapy, herbs and keeping the body warm. A chronic cold condition is created over time, so the correction will also take time.

The third way that cold can manifest in the body is called a cold strike. This occurs when the body is exposed to cold and damp over an extended period (i.e. camping out in cold, rainy conditions). It can create muscle cramps and pain and joint pain. Treatment involves acupuncture and heat.

If your body is always cold, ways to help are:

  • Add warming herbs such as ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, mustard and cinnamon to your diet.
  • Keep your core warm, use a heating pad or hot water bottle to warm your abdomen below the navel or use on the small of your back.
  • Apply heat to joints that ache more with the cold weather.
  • Dress for the weather, keep the entire torso and head and ears covered during cold, damp weather.
  • Seek help from an acupuncturist if all else fails.

Chinese Medicine tips for staying healthy during Fall

Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

As nature changes from the heat and expansiveness of summer to the cooler temperatures and pulling back of energy during fall; we also experience natural changes in our physical bodies, health, and moods. During autumn we are more inclined to stay home at night, get more sleep and spend time in more serious pursuits. Living in harmony with the changing seasons will boost your immune system and help to maintain health.

The energy pathways of Lung and Large Intestine are most active during this season. The emotions associated with Lung, grief, and sadness, will stagnate Lung energy if they are not processed by the body. When our Lung energy is stagnant we are more susceptible to colds, and respiratory infections.

When Lung energy is flowing freely, there is clarity of thought. We can also experience a positive attitude and be able to find peace regardless of our circumstances.

Imbalance in Large Intestine (LI) Meridian can manifest an inability to flow with life, stubbornness and difficulty letting go (i.e. difficulty letting go of summer). A balanced LI meridian can result in a sense of relaxation and the ability to flow with life’s changes.

Some ways to balance Lung and LI energy are:

  • Acupressure or acupuncture sessions. These modalities can move stagnation and balance the body’s energy.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Let go of old wounds. Practice forgiveness of self and others.
  • Clean house let go of what is no longer needed.
  • Get more sleep.

Large Intestine Meridian – the Energy of Fall

autumn leavesThe season of Fall reminds us to let go of that which is no longer needed. This is the metal season in Chinese Medicine; the time when Lung and Large Intestine Meridians are most active. I’ve spoken about Lung Meridian the last few weeks and would like to focus on Large Intestine Meridian today.

The Large Intestine (LI) transports waste to be eliminated. It is closely aligned with the lungs and skin, which are also organs of detoxification. The LI “absorbs liquid and releases anything that is no longer needed in the way of food, toxins, emotions, thereby cleansing the body, mind and spirit.”

Since the LI is closely related to the lung meridian; it is also affected by the emotions of grief, sadness and worry. When LI energy is balanced, we can express grief, let go of thoughts and emotions which no longer serve us and move easily into the season of autumn.

Imbalance in LI energy can bring mindsets of stubbornness, rigidity, confusion, compulsiveness, regret and hanging on. Physical signs of LI imbalance include constipation, age spots, slow metabolism, diarrhea, colitis, diverticulitis, bloating and issues of control to name a few.

To nurture LI energy during this season:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Chew food completely
  • Exercise such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and yoga are very helpful
  • Deep breathe
  • Have massage or bodywork sessions
  • Meditate
  • Express emotions, especially grief
  • Eat an alkaline diet rich in steamed fresh vegetables and greens
  • Include onion, cinnamon, basil, rosemary, turnips, raw honey, nutmeg and fennel in your diet.

Living in Harmony with the Fall Season

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers man part of nature.Therefore, if you live in an area of changing seasons, the changes taking place in nature are also being mirrored inside of you.

To maintain health and prevent illness during fall, TCM recommends that we eat foods which grow locally this time of year and prepare for the coming winter. Transition from the salads of summer to hearty cooked meals.

The Lung and Large Intestine Meridians are most active during this season. Keeping ourselves warm will help to prevent the colds, flu and virus that appear this time of year. If you suffer from chronic cough, bronchitis, skin rashes and eczema you need to support your lung energy. A licensed acupuncturist can prescribe herbs which can help you to heal.

The emotions of sadness and grief are associated with the Lung Meridian. “Suppressed sadness and grief can damage the lungs and make us prone to disease.” Bodywork sessions can assist you to get in touch with these emotions and offer an opportunity to express them. “The issues are stored in the tissues.” When we acknowledge these emotions in constructive ways, we allow ourselves to heal.

We can also access our emotions through meditation, support groups, journaling, taking long walks, praying and talking to a therapist or close friend. This is a time for self-reflection and awareness of body, mind, and spirit. We need to be aware of all parts of ourselves in order to maintain optimum health.

The Energy of Autumn – Traditional Chinese Medicine

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

The Autumnal Equinox occurred on September 23rd this year. With the passing of the equinox, we begin to sense the dance of the subtle energies transforming summer into autumn. The nights are cooler, the days are shorter. The beautiful greenery of summer fades and the warm reds, oranges, and browns of fall emerge.

Fall is the time of the metal element and Lung and Large Intestine are the associated organ meridians.

  • The climate is dry
  • The emotion is grief and sadness
  • It is harvest time
  • The color is white
  • The flavor is pungent
  • The sense organ – nose
  • Tissues- skin

The lung energy is associated with “letting go”. This is a perfect time of year to clean house both physically and emotionally and let go of that which no longer serves us. The lungs are very susceptible to wind and cold, so it is important to be prepared for the drops in temperature which occur. Carrying a scarf is a great way to stay warm in unsettled weather. Many people get colds, sore throats, and virus this time of year.

To strengthen your immune system for Fall, remember to:

  • Dress for the weather
  • If you get a cold, avoid dairy products which create phlegm
  • Get plenty of sleep – 7-8 hours a night if possible
  • Do deep breathing exercises to strengthen the lungs and walk in nature.
  • Eat soups, stews and warming food, such as sweet potato, garlic, onions, cabbage, pears, ginger, walnuts, radish, and cinnamon to name a few.
  • Spend time in introspection. Just as nature is pulling back its energy and sending it into the earth, so should we spend time looking inward.

Living in harmony with nature will boost our immune system.

Supporting the Spleen Meridian during Indian Summer

yogaDuring this beautiful time of year when the earth element, represented by the spleen and stomach meridians is most active, it is important to support these energies for optimal health. I’ve spoken quite a bit about the stomach meridian, so I would like to focus on the spleen energies for today.

The Daoist philosophy, which is represented by Traditional Chinese Medicine, believes that the spleen stores our intention and ideas. The emotions associated with the spleen are remorse, worry, obsessiveness, suspicion, self- doubt and self-centeredness when imbalanced. When the spleen energies are flowing freely, attributes such as acceptance, openness, faith, honesty, and truthfulness can be present.

One of the most common TCM patterns of imbalance seen in the Western hemisphere is Spleen Chi Deficiency. This condition has symptoms of weakness in the limbs, poor appetite, bloating after meals, fatigue and loose stools. Spleen Chi Deficiency can be the result of poor diet, stress or irregular eating habits.

Some ways to support the spleen meridian are:

  • Eat warm, cooked meals- which are easier to digest
  • Add warming spices to your food: ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon
  • Pungent foods such as fennel, onions, and garlic increase the digestive fire.
  • Eat small, frequent meals to stimulate the spleen’s energy.
  • Vegetables such as turnips, sweet potato, carrots, squash, yam, pumpkin, black beans, and garbanzo beans are very nourishing to the spleen.
  • Small portions of cooked fruit for sweetness will stimulate spleen energy.
  • Eat small amounts of fatty fish, chicken, turkey, beef or lamb and avoid dairy.
  • Meditate, practice yoga and eat with mindfulness.

Yin Yoga is especially helpful to balance the spleen energies. The website is a wonderful source for yin yoga poses. Enjoy!

Chinese Medicine Tips for Indian Summer – continued

Photo by Gabrielle Cepella on Unsplash

The ancient Chinese believed that to maintain good health one should live in harmony with the seasons of nature. During this time of year, the intense heat and brightness of summer give way to a cooler, less intense autumn.

It is a time of transition from leisure to more serious pursuits. Children are back in school and the laid-back schedules of many businesses come to an end. This is the time of the earth element, and the energies most active are spleen and stomach.

The emotions associated with the earth element are worry and sympathy. When the earth energies are in balance, we can have empathy for ourselves and others.

When our earth energy is out of balance we can manifest many symptoms such as:

  • Craving sweets
  • Thyroid problems
  • Excessive mucus in nose, throat, and mouth
  • Heavy feelings in the body with achy legs, arms, and head
  • Lack of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Chronic worry
  • Bloating and indigestion with bowel issues

To stay healthy during this season, have your energy balanced by an acupressurist or acupuncturist, spend time in self-reflection or in activities such as yoga or meditation, exercise, make sure your needs are met, nourish your body, mind, and soul.

Chinese Medicine Tips for Indian Summer

Indian Summer (late summer) is the season of the earth element.

Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash

It is a time to slow down and observe the abundance created during summer. It is also a time of self-reflection and self-awareness. With self-awareness, we can be cognizant of our needs and nourish ourselves. When our needs are met, we have the surplus energy to be sensitive to the needs of others.

In order to move forward with ease, we must be grounded in our center. The earth element provides us with this grounding and balance. It is the transition point between the seasons. The earth element is present late summer, late autumn, late winter, and late spring.

The energy pathways associated with the earth element are stomach and spleen. Tips to support the spleen and stomach energy are:

  • Avoid excess consumption of cold tea, liquor, cold melons, and sweet greasy foods.
  • It is important to exercise at least three days a week. Long periods of inactivity are harmful to spleen and stomach energy.
  • Eat a healthy, nutritional diet including fresh fruits and vegetables, a little protein and some grain.
  • Yellow and orange foods, foods harvested in late summer and root vegetables are very good to support stomach energy.
  • Eat dinner by 6 or 7pm each night if possible. To give the stomach time to digest before sleep.

Tips for Staying Healthy in Summer

Though we are almost 2/3 through the season of summer, we still have hot, humid weather ahead of us. Staying hydrated and not overdoing activity during the hottest part of the day is important to avoid heat exhaustion.

Some other important tips to stay safe are:

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Protect against sunburn
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses
  • When sweating profusely, replace electrolytes with Vitamin Water, Gatorade or Pedialyte. (I prefer low sugar options)
  • If feeling, dizzy, weak, lightheaded or nausea move to a cool spot and apply cool water or ice packs.

We’ll miss the summer when it’s over, so it’s important to enjoy as much as we can.

Treating Adrenal Exhaustion with Chinese Medicine

tired womanAdrenal fatigue often occurs when we are experiencing prolonged periods of excessive stress. During this time the adrenal glands produce excessive levels of cortisol to aid in the flight or fight response of the body. Since most of the time we are responding to everyday deadlines or relationship stresses, we are not physically fighting or fleeing and do not use the cortisol. This cortisol then becomes stored around the abdomen as excess weight. Over time the adrenals become exhausted as do the kidneys which sit below them.

When the kidney energy(water) is low it is unable to hold down the fire energy generated by the heart. This heat is needed for the organs below the heart to function properly. Without heat, our other systems, digestion, elimination (large intestine, small intestine, bladder) will be adversely affected.

Some symptoms of weak kidney and adrenal glands are:

  • Allergies – the intestines are not getting adequate blood flow to digest and assimilate food. This inadequate oxygenated blood flow can also cause inflammation which can adversely affect the immune system.
  • Dizziness or light headedness
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure
  • Frequent urination
  • Sleep issues, overactive mind, racing heart or palpitations
  • Low energy and extreme exhaustion
  • Body pain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Brain fog

Adrenal exhaustion can occur after long periods of excessive stress. This is much more common than we realize today since so many people are multitasking, having schedules which run them ragged and working long hours each day.

The symptoms of adrenal exhaustion are many and varied from dizziness and lightheadedness to frequent urination, pain, and anxiety to name a few. Today I want to address solutions to this issue.

Since this condition of adrenal exhaustion and weak kidney energy has occurred over time there is no magic bullet to reverse it. It will take a multi-faceted approach to improve the condition and restore the kidney energy over time. The normal aging process weakens the kidney energy to a certain extent, but when we experience long periods of extreme stress without adequate rest or nourishment for the kidneys, we accelerate the aging process.

To restore the balance of fire and water energy, we need a whole-food-based diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and warming spices.

Foods which support the kidney energy are:

  • black or dark-colored (i.e. black rice, black sesame seeds, black beans)
  • salty or savory in flavor :
    • dark leafy greens
    • seaweed
    • kelp
    • eggplant
    • unrefined sea salt
    • pink Himalayan salt
    • bone broth
    • dark mushrooms
    • sardines
    • kidney beans
  • organ meats, oysters, root vegetables with dark color

Creating lifestyle habits which promote mindfulness will also help. Practices such as:

  • Meditation, yoga, prayer, tai chi, walks in nature, Epsom salt baths will all support the kidney energy.
  • Have the same bedtime each night, try not to be on a computer or watch tv for an hour or two before bedtime. The blue light coming from our tv or computer screens can prevent us from getting restful sleep. Avoid having this light in your bedroom. Restful sleep is one of the most effective things to nourish our kidney energy.
  • Holistic modalities such as acupressure, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy and others can help us release physical and emotional stress that we are unable to release on our own.
  • Chinese Herbal tonics can be very important in supporting kidney and adrenal health. If you feel that you may need an herbal supplement, it is best to consult with a qualified acupuncturist.
  • For lighter kidney support, herbal teas such as, chamomile, Tulsi, passionflower and Reishi mushroom can be helpful.