When it comes to technological developments for saving lives, emergency medicine and (necessary) surgical operations, Western and/or allopathic medicine always has been light years ahead of Traditional Chinese and/or holistic medicine. However, when it comes to preventive paradigms via in-depth understanding of how the body’s interrelated parts interrelate, the opposite is true.
Only the most progressive of medical doctors are now considering the connection between our guts and brains. Meanwhile this theme has been outlined and dissected in great detail in ancient Chinese Medical texts and pounded into the brains of acupuncture students throughout our Master’s degree programs.
Psychoneuroimmunology is a relatively new field that attracts relatively brilliant and radical western physicians. In Traditional Chinese Medicine “Psych” has most always meant the heart and/or liver, “neuro” the stomach or kidneys, as “immune” does the lungs and digestive system. For example, if the liver (i.e. cortisol) is hyperactive it compromises our digestion, exhausts our adrenals and kidneys and in turn the lungs. Concepts like these are understood by even the most mediocre of acupuncturists.
Chinese Medicine does not differentiate between the digestive and immune system, nor the digestive system, small intestine and urinary bladder. Each of the aforementioned organ channels makes up our “psychoneuroimmunology.”
Wait, what are organ channels?
Organ channels are meridians in the body that carry in them body fluids and energy that traverse our major organs. They are not visible to the human eye, but neither is energy, and no one questions the validity of Albert Einstein’s findings. I digress.
Acupuncture channels coordinate in pairs: The “Shao Yang” pair includes the gallbladder and “triple burner” (basically a fluid highway of interstitial spaces). The “Yang Ming” includes the stomach and large intestine, and the “Tai Yang” are the urinary bladder and small intestine. These are considered the most externally lying meridians that are first attacked and most affected by bacteria or viruses. Obviously this does not mean we expect symptoms of the common cold to be UTI’s or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Acupuncture meridians’ functions do not always translate 1:1 with biomedicine’s interpretation. Neither do they disagree.
The “Jue Yin” pair are the liver and pericardium, “Shao Yin” are heart and kidneys, and finally, the “Tai Yin” are the lungs and digestive system. Whether we are treating a cold or infection or attempting to prevent one, points on the lungs and stomach channels, and/or herbs that influence these channels are always in order. The reader should take note that it is the “Tai Yin,” or most yin, and “Tai Yang,” or most yang, each that are most in charge of our immunity. This should reinforce two concepts:
They are arguably most instrumental in addressing external environmental factors, as “most” does not translate here as best, but as literally highest up in the body, most proximal to the outside.
They are intimately related. My interpretation has always been quite simple, that in reaction to a cold we treat the Tai Yang channel pair. Whereas to prevent getting sick we treat the lungs and stomach. Fortunately this should translate very practically to laypeople: Live healthy.
While I agree with the media’s advice to wash hands, avoid touching our faces and just taking general precautions, it is one of my greatest pet peeves that we are not equally reminded that transmission of infection(s) is multi-factorial and most agency resides with the individual. For example, we all know that five people might sit next to someone on the train coughing or sneezing with the flu and only one or a few of them will get infected, because the remainder have stronger immune systems. If a stronger immune system is largely connected to a stronger metabolic system it is more important now than ever to take care of ourselves.
Eat a mostly Paleo diet (if possible for you) of only warm, cooked foods, mostly vegetables and soups, small portions of animal protein, and drink mostly warm water or tea.
Eliminate or minimize indulgences, which create inflammation and thereby tax the immune system.
Exercise! Exercise strengthens the lungs and mitigates the negative effects of cortisol on the immune system.
Socialize! Positive human interaction nourishes the heart and liver, thereby strengthening the stomach, thereby strengthening the immune system.
Stay warm! Keep your socks and hood pulled up and scarf on, as again, the potential entry for infection is multi-factorial. Exposing the skin to cold air or wind requests more effort by our immune system, which weakens it.
Go to sleep early. Get as much rest as is possible. Disregarding our natural circadian rhythm taxes our endocrine system, which is connected to our immune system.
Get acupuncture or any form of therapy that might increase blood flow and reduce inflammation! Chinese herbs such as astragalus, cinnamon (and many others) are also great immune boosters, which might seem counterintuitive to the ethnocentric, as I occasionally have to remind patients that contemporary Chinese business products has nothing to do with Traditional Chinese Medicine. The herbs most acupuncturists prescribe in the U.S. are grown and tested in the U.S. And do not self-prescribe via “Dr. Google.”
Eliminate or minimize stress, which includes excess worry about the Corona Virus. The concept of Yin and Yang is based on balance – balance within our environment, balance in our lifestyles and our selves. A “healthy yang” is a person who takes action in precaution but not overly so, not with panic, excess or anxiety. A “healthy yin” is one who remains relaxed and patient but not overly so, not apathetic nor stagnant when a threat becomes apparent and logical. We should be balanced and courageous, the latter of which is obviously not mutually exclusive to fear, but instead mutually interdependent. One of my teachers used to tell a story of a legendary Chinese Medicine doctor who included the point Gallbladder 40 in every treatment, no matter the person’s chief complaint or demographic. Its location is on the outside corner of the ankle and its function as a “source point” is to strengthen the gallbladder meridian. The gallbladder meridian, amongst other circulatory functions, is in charge of courage and decision-making. My teacher’s hypothesis for the old practitioner’s intention was if everyone could make the necessary courageous decisions, their lives would be better, hence bodies healthier. Makes sense to me! So by all means, wash your hands, wear a mask and/or take all logical precautions, but equally important to be healthy, strong and brave. Namaste.