Detox and East Asian Medicine – How are they linked? When people think of Chinese medicine they certainly have heard of acupuncture and maybe Chinese herbs, but most of them are not necessarily aware that it is about lifestyle medicine. When people come to our clinic the four most important questions asked are:
1. How is your sleep? Looking for how well you regenerate.
2. What do you eat and how are your bowel movements? Checking for nutrition and gut function.
3. Do you exercise and what types of exercise do you? Meaning how do you circulate your energy or QI in your body?
4. What do you do to relax and calm the mind? Meaning what do you do to make sure that the flow of Qi is smooth and unhindered?
Thinking about the fact how ancient this medicine is -being over 3000 years old- the old Chinese had already worked out the four pillars of health; sleep, gut & nutrition, exercise and relaxation in their holistic approach to achieve and maintain wellbeing. Nowadays, this has become part of mainstream thinking, because Western medicine finally acknowledges lifestyle factors as a huge part of healthy living.
One other aspect is strongly emphasised in East Asian medicine:
Nothing exists on its own, but everything is interlinked with each other. Making changes in one organ system has an impact on the other, in good and bad ways.
The functions of the organ systems are explained with the concept of the 5 Elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.
Each organ belongs to an element and entails every aspect of a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual health. These five elements generate and control each other.
Let’s look at the digestive system as an example:
The digestive system in East Asian medicine is linked to the element of Earth playing a central role for the four elements.
The Earth element is the so called ‘Spleen and Stomach energy’ which is responsible for the transportation and transformation of food and drink and represents our gut function.
Each element is linked to an emotion or mental state that is ruled by the particular organ system. The mental state of the Earth element is rational and smooth thinking when the Spleen energy is in balance, worries, confusion and overthinking when it is out of balance, which then can lead to cravings for comforting foods, nausea, indigestion and fatigue.
It becomes clear, Spleen and Stomach energy in this medicine entails far more than the mere medical function of the stomach.
The Chinese knew from the start that nutrition and good gut function were central to the performance of all other systems in the body. Their premise was: when the gut works well, everything else works well, which is exactly what research is showing us now pointing to the inter-connectedness of our microbiome and all the other systems in our body.
In order to explain how Chinese medicine can help and support the detox process, it is necessary to understand how the organ systems correlate to each other. The Earth element is intimately linked to all of the four other elements/organ systems. In the context of detoxification we have to look into the particular relationship between Spleen and Liver.
The Liver energy, which is the element of Wood, is in charge of the smooth flow of Qi.
Remember the questions at the beginning?
Do you exercise and what types of exercise do you? These questions relate to the circulation of energy or QI in the body.
What do you do to relax and calm the mind? This question relates to the smooth and unhindered flow of Qi.
The liver energy is in charge of the free flow of Qi in the body. If it flows unhindered a person is assertive, organised and get things done.
However, if Liver energy is blocked through stress of all sorts – mental, nutritional or physical – Qi stagnation occurs in the body and the person gets irritable, angry and feels often tight under the rib cage with symptoms like headaches, eye ache or breast pain, typically for women with PMT, which is nothing else than pent up stuck energy, Liver Qi stagnation.
The Liver belongs to the Wood element and is in charge of elimination and detox. It belongs to the season Spring and therefore wants to grow and expand. When Liver energy is healthy it shows mentally in a sense of assertiveness and empowerment. In good condition it helps the Spleen to minimise sluggishness and facilitates the detox process.
When we detox, both Spleen and Liver energy have to be in great condition to make a detox successful. The Spleen needs all the support to transport and transform food properly. When it is weakened we might develop physical symptoms like loose bowels and bloating and become worried, anxious and loose our willpower to continue with the detox because we are susceptible to cravings and comfort food.
The Liver energy has to be strong to deal with the detox and elimination of all accumulated toxins but needs to be free from additional daily stress to work at best capacity.
For people who have done a detox before, know that the first few days or even the first week are quite hard due to coffee withdrawal, headaches, fatigue, grumpiness etc., all signs of an over worked Liver.
As practitioners we are able to support you through the detox by reducing the stress on the body, physically and mentally.
Acupuncture will help to balance Spleen and Liver energy through strengthening the Spleen energy and ensuring that Liver energy can flow freely through the body without stagnation.
In modern terms: acupuncture stimulates neurological, immunological and hormonal responses. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, which might help with the side effects of a detox.
In East Asian medicine Spring is a perfect time for a detox as it is the time for new beginnings and the Liver energy reaches its peak in this season.
Here at Ondol clinic we are ready for new beginnings to help you to get your spring back in your step!
Wishing you all a happy Spring time.