In Chinese Medicine, there’s a huge connection to what’s going on with the body. The state of a patient’s emotional health can be a direct internal factor of a patient’s overall well-being. Different emotional imbalances can cause dysfunction and pathology in the organs and the meridians.
The Organs and The Meridians
The meridians are the longitudinal vessels of energy that run through the body. Each meridian is paired with two separate organs. Each organ is composed of a Yin organ and a Yan organ. Yin organs include the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. The functions of these Yin organs are to produce, transform, regulate, and store the fundamental substances, such as Qi blood and body fluids. In general, the Yin organs do not have empty cavities. Each Yin organ is paired with one Yan organ.
The Yan organs are made up of the gallbladder, stomach, small intestines, large intestine, bladder, and the triple burner. The triple burner is not an organ in Western Medicine. Some consider it a fascia that connects everything together. It does not have a physical structure and is considered more of a functional unit. The Yan organs are mainly responsible for digesting food and transporting nutrients in the body and they usually have empty cavities.
- Lungs – large intestines.
- Stomach – spleen.
- Heart – small intestine.
- Triple warmer – pericardium.
- Kidney – bladder
- Gallbladder – liver
When it comes to the psychological state of the patient, emotions are not believed to always be the direct cause of the ailment, but have an undeniable connection with the progress of the condition of the problem. This means that you can have an overreaction of a specific organ that can be both the cause and the effect of other illnesses.
For example, the lungs are responsible for the emotion of grief. When you are going through great periods of grief, you can create actual physical pathology in your lungs which can be found in getting sick like the common cold, upper respiratory infection or can be even more severe, like contracting pneumonia. Saying this, if you have severe lung pathology, it can create a chronic sensation of grief.
This is not to say that to experience any of these emotions means that the related organ is out of balance, but rather any extreme case or fluctuations of these emotions may be related to a problem with that organ.
- Lungs and Large Intestines
This pertains to Element Metal and corresponds to the Emotion of Grief. Normally, the paired organs have very similar emotional components and in this case, the large intestine holds the body’s emotional ability to let things go. Here you can see the emotional pairing as when you experience grief, you are unable to get through the bouts of grief without the ability to eventually let go of that trauma that occurred. You will see imbalances in lung function when experiencing grief, which can eventually lead to symptoms that may be unrelated, like constipation, but it can be your body indicating to you that you have an inability of letting go of the cause of grief.
In the clinic, even promoting a bowel movement, can emotionally make you feel a lot better when you are dealing with something like this. Other than acupuncture or herbal medicines, some things that help the lungs and large intestine include clean air, good water hydration, Qigong, and Tai Chi.
Qigong and Ta Chi can really help with anything in Chinese Medicine. It is one of the best forms of exercise and meditation that you can get for your body. Boosting your immunity with lots of rest is really good for the lungs and large intestine and most importantly, making sure that you are expressing your emotions including crying, and not to bottle things up. This can make things a lot worse, especially when it comes to the lungs and large intestine health.
- Spleen and Stomach
This pertains to the Element Earth. Pensiveness, worry, dwelling, focusing on a particular topic, excessive mental work exists all to be excessive mental stimulation and this can really affect the spleen. It can result in fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating and you will also notice when you are trying to study, eat or worrying and eating at the same time, you can lose your appetite and get stomach pains.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the tongue is a complete representation of what goes on in the inside of the body. When your spleen and stomach are taxed through over-worrying or overthinking, its function to digest food will decrease. This can create a build-up of daftness in the body. This daftness can represent in the tongue as a swollen tongue.
Some things to protect the spleen and stomach include chewing food a lot. Make sure that you are enjoying what you’re eating. Relax when you’re eating. Preparing your food with love and practice calm-eating habits and enjoy eating it. Regular mealtimes are important. Doing one thing at a time is really important.
Foods that the spleen and stomach like the most include warm bone broth and soups and leafy vegetables. These will nourish the spleen and the stomach so you will be able to handle more of those overthinking and pensiveness thoughts. It will help you manage that through proper stomach functions.
With consistent worrying, one thing you can do is to make sure that you treat your stomach well with lots of bone broth and soups, nothing too spicy or too sour, too hot or too cold, and make sure you are preparing your food with love.
- Heart and small intestine
The heart and small intestines pertain to the Fire Element, and these organs are related to emotional Joy. In traditional Chinese Medicine, joy refers to a state of agitation or overexcitement, rather than elation. Anxiety is the biggest emotional component of this. Pathological states come about when this emotion is in excess, such as heart palpitations, repeated agitation, excessive dreaming and insomnia, and poor long-term memory. We can see this as a cause and effect. Having anxiety won’t necessarily mean you have heart palpitations, but having this physical chronic pathology may create an emotional imbalance itself. If you are having heart palpitations, an irregular heartbeat all the time, you are not sleeping, you have crazy dreams… all of these may create some anxiety for you, which makes the whole pattern worse.
The biggest things to help with your heart and small intestines are meditation, self-reflection, a simple diet, and recalling your dreams. Getting a dream journal is really powerful to help calm the heart down. Journaling your emotions, as well as making sure you have a nourishing environment, gentle Qigong, connection to one’s destiny, and of course, surround yourself with people that love you.
- Triple Warmer and Pericardium
The Pericardium is the heart’s protective sac. Its sole function is to protect the heart. It does not only provide the heart its physical protection, its Qi also protects the heart from damage and disruption by excessive emotional energies generated by other organs. These include anger from the liver, fear from the kidneys, grief from the lungs, and so forth. Without the Pericardium to protect the heart, it is subject to injuries from the changes in energy caused by every emotional up and down of the day. Love and joy disappear, sadness and fear will rise. You will feel more vulnerable, easily hurt, and heart-broken.
On the other extreme, if the Pericardium is in disharmony, we may be shut down and over-protect ourselves as the fear of being hurt shuts everyone out. When the Pericardium is doing its job, it keeps out energies that will do harm and allows entry to energies that are trustworthy, loving, and fun.
The biggest thing to help with the Pericardium if you find that you are more emotionally sensitive in all aspects, is just self-love and meditation. The only real physical pathology that can arise in the Pericardium, as it is the protective sac of the heart, is its main function as the heart’s emotional protection.
- Kidney and Bladders
This pertains to the Water Element. The emotion of the kidney and bladder is fear, where being fearful, isolated, and aloof can result in imbalances in these organs. Other than just urination, your kidneys are also responsible for your reproduction, growth, development, and maturation.
One pathology that we’ve seen a lot in clinics is with adolescence and children that are bedwetting. There is always a fear component that has blocked some ability to reach maturation. It might be fear from a trauma that’s occurred in the past or some sort of fear that was being passed on by the parents. This has always been kidney-related and as the child gets older and the bedwetting doesn’t improve, the child becomes more fearful about this and more scared and that can make matters even worse. An example of this is when you are watching TV and somebody pees himself in fear, this is all TCM in the emotional connection of the kidneys. Other things that chronic fear might create are lower back pain, poor and short-term memory, ringing in your ears, and even premature gray hair.
Things to help the kidney and bladder include relaxing, moderation in all things, respecting and accepting normal fluctuation of energy levels, drinking lots of water, and using healthy salts like Himalayans or unprocessed sea salt.
- Liver and Gall Bladder
This pertains to the Wood Element. Emotional symptoms in the liver include irritability, frustration, depressive feelings, impatience, a sense of being stuck and lack of direction, and the inability to make critical decisions. The Gall Bladder rules between two options – decision making and good judgment.
In the clinic, we always treat the liver meridian because in day to day life, everybody is always stressed out. The liver helps you deal with the external environment. The physical symptoms that can arise are excessive anger and resentment that causes Qi in the body to rise up quickly, creating headaches, ringing in your ears, high blood pressure, and GERD. If the Qi stagnates or if you are stuck in the frustration emotion, it can lead to abdominal distension, more frustration, slow digestion, and so on.
Tools to help with your liver and gall bladder emotional imbalances are never eating when you‘re angry or upset. Do not eat with people you don’t like, try to have a moderate and balanced lifestyle, go to bed early, eat healthy greens, Qigong, and express emotions consciously rather than keeping them trapped inside.
If you feel imbalances in your organs, we highly recommend you go to your nearby practitioner and get a good herbal tonic because you can be treating it today. All of these emotional imbalance treatments vary, depending on what’s affected. Obviously, acupuncture and herbal medicines work well because they targeting the specific meridian that houses the imbalanced emotions.
Adrienne Coombs was born and raised in Nelson, British Columbia. She began her education with a degree in Kinesiology at Langara College in Vancouver, B.C. Following this, she studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences in her hometown of Nelson where she finished the 5- year Doctorate of TCM. Currently, she is a Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and Sports Medicine Acupuncturist at Pro Motion Clinic at British Columbia, Canada.
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