Lifestyle Factors that Affect the Body’s Constitution
There are several causes for disharmony or dis-ease in the body. Some are:
- External - like the six evils (Wind, Cold, Summer Heat, Dampness, Dryness, and Fire)
- Internal - like the seven emotions (Joy, Anger, Anxiety, Pensiveness, Grief, Fear, and Fright)
Many of these causes are beyond control, like the weather, but there are additional factors that you can directly control and help the healing process. These factors are discussed below.
TCM has discovered that your energy system is comprised of inborn Qi and Jing produced throughout life.
- Inborn Qi represents our general state of health, which inherit from our parents. Inborn Qi cannot be changed much like genetics. If inborn Qi is deficient, then you are more susceptible to a whole range of external and internal factors, which might cause a disharmony. If we discover that we have any constitutional weakness, we must take precautions to ensure that any other potential causes of disharmony in our lives are avoided if at all possible.
- Jing is stored in the kidneys. It is the basis for growth and development and various other physiological activities in the human body.
TCM has always recognized the importance of lifestyle choices or habits in the maintenance of good health and well-being. Only recently has this become the focus of Western medicine’s attention. Like the old saying, “an ounce of preventions is worth a pound of cure.”
Continuous hard physical labor can cause physical harm. The type of work we do, or even unemployment, can profoundly affect our energy system.
- Too much physical work can disrupt our Qi (vital energy), and with excessive lifting the lungs become deficient. If you work outdoors, for example, is more liable to be at risk from cold, dampness, wind or heat evils.
- Too much mental activity can damage the spleen and make the Yin deficient.
All things in life should be approached in moderation. Extreme exercise or a sudden and sustained increase in activity can cause disharmony. For example, many athletes, who train to an excessive degree, may appear very fit. A full TCM health workup would show they are often very susceptible to infections and injuries because they constantly deplete their vital energy. In the long run they may become chronically Qi deficient because of overstressing the kidneys. Stretching, heart strengthening, muscle toning, and hydration are all essential to good health. Many Chinese exercise regimes such as Tai Chi only appear not to be aerobic in nature like many Western forms of exercise. When correctly performed it combines a balance of aerobic, anaerobic, and Qi strengthening in balance consistent with the principles of TCM.
Diet is a common factor that can lead to the development disease.
Diet is crucial in Chinese medicine. You should ingest functional foods, which usually contain significant levels of biologically active components, which boost a person's physical and physiological well-being. Food is considered more than just sustenance; it contains therapeutic properties and is prescribed by TCM doctors. While acupuncture, massage, and herbal mixtures infused to make teas works very well, the first line of treatment is usually diet itself. TCM believes foods boost your entire system with concentrated energy provided by a carefully selected combination of herbs. Referred to as "medicinal diet,” many of the herbs can be given as tasty dishes. It is not uncommon for the Chinese to treat a minor ailment with a specially prepared meal, or by including a particular ingredient in a dish.
The stomach and spleen process food and extract the nutrient essence, which is then passed onto the lungs as a central part of the production of Qi (vital energy) in the body. When bad food choices force the spleen has to work against poor and damaging foods, then it will suffer (especially from damp) and the body will deplete the Qi (vital energy) of the body as a whole.
Balance instead of specific dietary instructions represents the Chinese approach to nutrition. If an individual follows a healthy and balanced diet, then the spleen will remain healthy and the Qi (vital energy) of the body will be sufficient. The overemphasis on sweet and processed foods in many Western diets that are devoid of fiber and natural goodness often leads to serious medical problems.
There is much debate about what is considered excessive sexual activity. There is no question that Western media is fixated on heightened sexual stimulus. The Chinese system recommends a natural decline in this activity as healthy part of the aging. In TCM:
- Excessive sexual activity is considered to be damaging to kidney Jing and can lead to long-term deficiency problems.
- An excessive number of pregnancies can seriously deplete a woman's blood and Jing.