Interconnection of our organs according to Traditional Chinese Medicine

I find that the Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory of interconnection between different organs makes a lot more sense, instead of individualising each organ and only focusing on the organ which is showing signs of trouble. In TCM there is direct and indirect relationship between the organs and in many cases the symptoms your body is showing might not be related to that particular organ. The problem could have started due to another organ malfunctioning first. I will explain this in more detail later. Each organ is associated by one of the Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Metal, Water) and another addition which TCM focuses on is the “vital energy” which is present in our bodies – Qi.

I find that the Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory of interconnection between different organs makes a lot more sense, instead of individualising each organ and only focusing on the organ which is showing signs of trouble. In TCM there is direct and indirect relationship between the organs and in many cases the symptoms your body is showing might not be related to that particular organ. The problem could have started due to another organ malfunctioning first. I will explain this in more detail later. Each organ is associated by one of the Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Metal, Water) and another addition which TCM focuses on is the “vital energy” which is present in our bodies – Qi.

The body is an organic whole, all the component parts are interconnected, they dependent and restrict each other physiologically, influence each other pathologically. The five organs act as the core functional units, and through the linking of the meridian system, a complex set of interrelationships is formed within the body. Every part of the body has special relationships with the five organs, and the five organs themselves are interrelated too. Let me go through the functions and symptoms of each organ according to the TCM.

 

the-five-elements

In TCM organs relate to one another, directly or indirectly. Eg. Heart issue can be directly related to weak/damaged liver

LIVER (wood)

According to TCM, the Liver is the organ responsible for the smooth flow of emotions as well as Qi and blood. It is the organ that is most affected by excess stress or emotions. The Liver’s partner organ is the Gallbladder. When we have liver damage, we don’t feel the pain until it is 70-80% damaged so it is not easy for doctors to diagnose liver problems early. Sometimes even the blood test doesn’t show any abnormalities.
From the TCM perspective, in order to achieve strong Liver function, two principles have to be operating. First, the Liver cannot have a cold energy. (This can come from a variety of sources such as improper diet, cold from the exterior that has penetrated within, and an imbalance in one or more organs that can eventually create a cold condition in the body.) And second, the Liver’s energy has to flow and be flexible, a state that is natural to it.

Liver function: coursing and draining of Qi and blood – making sure that blood and Qi flow smoothly. The Liver’s function of spreading Qi aids the Spleen and Stomach’s digestive functions, and is important to ensure harmonious Qi movement in Middle Burner.

Blood & Liver function reciprocally affect each other. Where Blood is Deficient or Hot, Liver function can be affected. If Liver function abnormal, can affect quality of Blood.

SIGNS OF WEAK LIVER

  • Emotion – problems with the liver cause depression, anxiety and moodiness due to qi stagnation. People who get easily and very often irritated have liver issues.
  • Digestion issues: hiccups, vomit, bloated stomach, diarrhoea, bowel sound.
  • Liver Meridien:

– Irregular Periods and Menstrual Cramps

– Swelling and pain in testicles

– Painful urination

– Epigastric pain; heartburn, red eyes, dizzy

  • Metabolism of water – water retention and ascitic fluid in the stomach
  • Blurred vision, myopia, “floaters” color blindness, dry “sandy” eyes
  • Muscle cramps, tics and twitches or tremors/shaking in muscles
  • Food – liver is associated with sour food, so those with constant sour cravings need to check their liver.

How to improve liver condition?

In TCM all the GREEN FOOD is beneficial to the liver. Such as bitter gourd, grapes, broccoli, seaweed, green beans, cucumber. Also, garlic, ginger and lemon have a warm essence that is very beneficial for Liver function and health. Ginger tea can be added as a daily beverage to help address cold conditions in the body. Because sour is the taste associated with the Liver, according to Five Element theory, sour foods can really help this organ. Including vinegar and sweet and sour recipes (like sweet and sour chicken) in the diet are also very good.

LINGZHI: As I mentioned in few of my previous posts, lingzhi is an amazing liver detoxifier and regenerator. It helps to reduce the GOT/GPT levels (40 to 50 is normal, 100+ liver problems and 1000+ very dangerous levels) in the liver and increase the protein level. You can read about this more in detail in my previous post.

HEART (fire)

The Heart, according to Chinese medicine, is the king of all organs. This means that all the other organs will sacrifice for the Heart. In other words, they will always give their energy to help the Heart maintain its balance. The Hearts partner is the Small Intestine.

The Stomach is the “child” of the Heart.  If the Stomach is functioning well then the mother, the Heart is happy or less impacted.  In this simple analogy we understand that Stomach energy must be in balance for Heart energy to be balanced.

As you can see from the Five Element chart above, it shows us that the Liver is the “mother” of the Heart. When a person is under continual stress, Liver energy becomes compromised because one of its energetic functions is to smooth and regulate emotions. So when chronic stress or excessive emotion is experienced, the Liver cannot offer proper support to the Heart.

Because of these important relationships as described by Five Element Theory, if you want to really take care of your cardiovascular health, it’s crucial to take care of your digestive organs, the Liver and the Stomach!

SIGNS OF WEAK HEART

  • Heart controls bodily fluids – if you sweat excessively it can signal weakened heart Qi. Especially if the sweating occurs around the heart area.
  • Tongue is the indicator of heart condition – if there is insufficient blood in the Heart, the tongue may appear pale. If there is blood stagnation, the tongue will reflect this with a dark purple color. Cracks or lines down the center of the tongue also indicate a potential Heart function issue.
  • Food – bitter taste is associated with the heart, so if you find yourself craving bitter there might be some underlying heart problem.
  • Complexion:

– Deficient Heart Qi: Bright white complexion
– Stagnant Heart Blood: Bluish purple complexion

  • Irregular/weak pulse
  • Dull thinking
  • Poor memory
  • Insomnia

How to improve heart condition?

RED FOOD is associated with heart in TCM. Recommended food to eat are: strawberries, red dates, apples, watermelon, carrots and red rice.

TAI CHI. The slow, flowing movements and diaphragmatic breathing of Tai Chi are known to calm the body and mind. Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years in China for myriad health reasons, and recent medical research has confirmed that it can also lower blood pressure and improve heart function, among other benefits.

ACUPUNCTURE. Another way of reducing stress and lowering the blood pressure is acupuncture and usually you can see the results after a few visits.

SPLEEN (earth)

Spleen Functions

In traditional Chinese medicine, the Spleen is paired with the Stomach and is related to food and fluid assimilation in the body and the transformation of these substances into usable nutrients and substances. The Spleen function in this context is very different from the way that the spleen organ is viewed in western medicine. Spleen Qi Deficiency is associated with Internal Dampness, weight gain, digestive issues, and the emotions related to the Earth Element including an apathetic view-point or worrisome personality.

What I find very interesting is that in TCM Spleen is an organ very often mentioned when it comes to different health issues and symptoms. Previously I never paid that much attention to my Spleen and didn’t realise it was responsible for controlling so much of our digestion. The reason why so many of us have some sort of issue with our Spleen is because we live in information overloaded environment. We eat in front of TV, we look at our phones all the time, we are constantly researching something on the computer and at the same time we are overloading our Spleen. All that information needs to be processed by the Spleen.

Spleen also hates dampness and its function can be impaired by damp forming foods such as salads and dairy, and in turn excessive phlegm can form in the body.

How does spleen affect the body?

  • Blood – it manufactures the blood and keeps it in the vessels
  • Nutrients – circulates nutrients around our body. Therefore if the Spleen is not functioning well   the nutrients don’t reach all our cells in the body.
  • Keeps organs upright – spleen is responsible to make sure all the organs are in its place and don’t drop down to abdomen
  • Manages our thoughts – helps us concentrate and manage our thoughts
  • Worry – excessive worry can damage the spleen

Signs of weak Spleen:

  • Eye bags
  • Cracked lips
  • Low platelets
  • Bad blood circulation
  • Head spinning
  • Weakness of the limbs
  • Feeling cold and cold limbs
  • Watery stools
  • Sharp abdominal pain
  • Craving sweet food

How to improve your spleen?

  1. YELLOW FOOD – pumpkin, corn, bee pollen, lentils, yams, carrots.
  2. Avoiding dairy
  3. Avoiding cold drinks
  4. Changing lifestyle – chewing food slowly, avoid watching TV or Internet while eating
  5. Finding ways to deal with emotion – meditation, yoga, etc.

LUNG (metal)

The Lung’s major functions include maintaining healthy immune defenses against pathogens, as well as circulating Qi and fluids throughout the body. The first way that the Lungs govern Qi is by taking in air or Pure Qi and exhaling used, impure, or Dirty Qi. This constant exchange in the cycles of breathing maintain the correct function of all body’s physiological processes that need Qi.  Weak Lung Qi results in Qi being unable to push the Blood to nourish various areas.

What are lungs in charge of?

  1. Breathing – inhaling fresh air and exhaling turbid (dirty) air
  2. In charge of Qi. We have different types of Qi within our bodies, and lung distributes most of them.

a) Ancestral Qi – foundation of the Yin and Yang energy (the harmony of all the opposite elements and forces that make up existence) in the body. It is hereditary and fixed in quantity.

b) Nourishment Qi – turns nutrients after digestion into Qi

c) Protective Qi – lung distributed Qi to the skin, muscles and tissue. That is the reason why the skin pores will be blocked or sweating can occur for no reason, if there is an issue with lungs.

d) Gathering Qi – Nourishes the Heart and Lungs and forms the basis for the involuntary functions of heartbeat and respiration

3. Lung descends moving water (fluid) downward to the whole body. Un necessary fluid goes to bladder and comes out as urine.

4. Lung controls skin and body hair. Harmonises opening and closing of surface pores, all the unwanted qi will be expelled.

Signs of weak Lungs:

  • Breathing difficulties: stuffy chest, nose block, cough, asthma
  • Feeling cold and fever
  • Less urination
  • Lots of phlegm
  • Blocked pores or excessive sweating
  • Lung heat: dry nose and throat
  • Voice changes: loss of voice
  • Throat swelling
  • Sore throat and swallowing difficulty
  • Craving spicy food and protein

How to improve your lungs?

The Lung is nourished by breathing. The best way to amplify Lung energy is to take plenty of fresh air, develop the physical capacity of the lungs through exercise such as swimming, and to consciously bring awareness into the breath. A few minutes each day of relaxed breathing, learning to breathe with the diaphragm and relaxing the muscles of the chest and shoulders, can be very effective at building the power of the Lung.

Dry brushing can improve and stimulate the skin in order to improve our immune system. Best is to let the skin breath as much as possible by wearing natural fibres.

WHITE FOOD: Mushrooms, cabbage, barley, winter melon, wild yam, lotus root, white sea same, sugar cane, onion, tofu. Cow dairy should be avoided as it usually causes phlegm, but sheep products would be good alternative.

KIDNEY (water)

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney is the powerhouse of the body, supplying reserve energy to any organ running low on Qi. Fluids reach the kidney after they have been absorbed by the stomach, raised upwards by the spleen, and sprinkled downwards by the lung. At this point they become differentiated into clear and turbid aspects by virtue of the transformative powers of kidney yang.

What are kidneys in charge of?

 

  1. Stores the ‘essence’, also known as Jing, a deep form of energy in our body. Some of it we are born with and other aspects we get from food and other activities. Jing is largely responsible for our mental and physical development and forms the basis of our ability to reproduce. Imbalances in this function can include infertility, sexual issues, and physical and/or mental developmental issues.
  2. Controls reproduction and hair growth
  3. Regulates equilibrium of the fluid in the body – discharged waste water from your body. The storage and excretion process of water through the bladder is thus intimately related to the general functioning of the kidney.
  4. Kidney is in charge of bones and generates marrow
  5. Although the process of breathing is governed by the lung, the containment of incoming Qi within the lower burner is governed by kidney Qi. Only if kidney Qi is plentiful and its grasping power sufficient can the Qi passages of the lung be unobstructed and the breathing be harmonious.

Signs of weak kidneys:

  • Sore lower back and knees
  • Cold sensations in the body and its extremities
  • Inhibited urination or frequent and profuse urination – water retention
  • Early morning diarrhoea
  • Asthmatic panting upon slight physical exertion; difficult breathing
  • Impotence and premature ejaculation
  • Infertility due to a “cold uterus.”
  • Weak and sore waist and legs, or even atrophy of the legs causing severely limited mobility.
  • Brittle bones and osteoporosis
  • Weak teeth
  • Forgetfulness
  • Flushed cheeks (redish)
  • Heaty chest – tightness in the chest
  • Craving salty food

How to improve kidneys?

We need to find time and ways to rest and regenerate. Kidneys suffer with the highly energetic lifestyle and working very hard. Doing relaxation practices such as meditation and yoga will help and also finding time to rest and sleep.

Kidneys also need a lot of water intake every day. Salt intake needs to be monitored, not too much and not too little.

BLACK FOOD: Black sesame, fungus, blueberries, blackberries, flaxseed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds, black rice, beans – because beans are kidney shaped as well as seeds with potential for new life, these foods have long been considered especially nourishing to the Kidneys.

How the Five Elements impact our health?

The Five Elements show us how the structures and systems in our bodies are connected to each other; how we are connected to our environment and the natural world; how our world is part of the greater universe. Many people today have lost this deep connection to nature and no longer are able to feel this truth resonate in their being. The Universal principle of connection still exists nonetheless.

What I find very important is that the TCM physicians look at the root cause of the problem. This is something that is not often practiced in the modern medicine. Once they connect the problem to the root cause they not only suggest therapies for that problem, but will also anticipate how the rest of the organs might be affected. Factors like weather, season, lifestyles, eating habits, mental state, body constitution, age, gender and career are usually taken into account in TCM diagnosis, they help provide a full evaluation and design the most appropriate treatment plan to the patient. Most of the time, remedies are designed to restore the balance of the whole body, and are through comprehensive therapeutic effects to achieve the healing propose.

The Five Elements also take our emotions into consideration. I didn’t really go into detail about that in this article. You can see what emotion each organ represents from the chart above, under number 6. In modern medicine we only talk about stress, but there are other emotions which also effect our health and we shouldn’t ignore those.

As you can see the TCM approach is very much holistic and it takes into consideration many different changes that need to be done; diet, lifestyle, hobbies, stress, etc. As this is a natural process of healing it usual takes time and we can’t expect to see the results as fast as when we consume modern medicine. The best is of course when we catch the early signs and reverse the damage so pay attention to your body and look out for the signs and symptoms mentioned above.

Stay Healthy!

 

 

Sources:

http://www.tcmworld.org/what-is-tcm/the-five-major-organ-systems/tcm-lifestyle-wisdom-for-liver-health/

https://agelessherbs.com/spleen-qi-deficiency/

https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/medicine/organs/the-spleen/

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/traditional-chinese-medicine/what-qi-and-other-concepts

https://yinyanghouse.com/acupuncture/my-kidneys-are-what

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/principles/holism.html

https://www.sacredlotus.com/go/foundations-chinese-medicine/get/zang-fu-lungs-organ-tcm

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