Why is it that so many people suffer from constipation? And how can Chinese medicine help?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) problems, affecting about 42 million people in the U.S. – NIH website
Eliminating is related to the concept of letting go. In Chinese medicine, letting go is a quality affiliated with the Metal element (Out of the five elements – Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) which the lungs and the Large intestine are a part of. Both these organs (more like functions than actual organ) in Chinese medicine are in charge of making sure we are keeping the valuable and are letting go of what is not needed – physically, emotionally and mentally.
On a physical level, the lungs take care of the relatively esoteric gas – the air. They are in charge of using the separating the oxygen from the rest so the body can use it and are eliminating the byproduct of the metabolism in the body, the CO2 – this process has a short cycle and it is repeated many times throughout the day (more Yang in nature). The large intestine deals with more substantial material which is what is left from the food after it is passing through the digestive system which occurs once a day, eliminates all that is not needed anymore and absorbs back water and key nutrients (more Yin in nature). When our body is done extracting the valuable resources from the air or the food – it is letting go of the waste.
On an emotional level – the action of letting go is controlled by the Metal element as well, Grief or Sadness are the emotions related to it. The lungs energy is allowing us to release sadness through crying it has the same energy as a seed the being spread by the wind or a chick that leaves the nest. On a more substantial level, the energy of the large intestine is allowing us to let go of possessions we no longer need. It is the same motion of a ripe fruit falling from the tree on to the ground. All of those are related to the autumn season.
Interestingly, the lung meridian (energy pathway) flows to the thumb and the large intestine meridian flows to the index finger- both fingers are used to form a grip. Letting go is a skill hard to master. It requires the ability to passively do an action, which is a contradiction in a way.
With acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition it is possible to work on those aspects and strengthen one’s body and mind ability to let go of what is no longer needed….the outcome is also better elimination 🙂