If it is one thing that we Vancouverites like to do, it is talk about the weather. We complain about the rain (while some of us love it). We complain about the cold, wind and snow. We ALL seem to LOVE the sun though (when it presents itself). It seems like we are able to find almost any aspect to talk about this fairly innocuous topic.
So, let's continue this topic with a twist. Begin by noticing my title once again. I asked How's YOUR weather? I wasn't trying to be coy or facetious. In fact, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses many of the same terms to talk about your INTERNAL weather, which speaks to your level of health and vitality. These terms are used as diagnostic tools to help a TCM doctor find out the best course of treatment. The following words are used in this process: dry, damp, heat, cold, wind and summer heat and are refer to as the six external pathogenic factors or sometimes as the “Six Evil Factors”. All of these conditions are influenced by the external weather, which can turn harmful when they become excessive or come on suddenly. So someone living in a cold, damp environment like Vancouver could be influenced with some (or a lot) of cold and dampness flowing into their body. On the other hand, if you lived in Phoenix, Arizona, you would be dealing with dryness and heat as possible problems for your health. All these external conditions can suppress the normal flow of Qi within your body.
(NOTE: This whole form of diagnosis is quite complex and requires more analysis than the simplified version that is here to get an exact diagnosis.)
Let's take a simple overview of each one of these conditions and see how it can effect your health.
1. Internal Dryness can create inflammation and heat because of the lack of moisture in the body so it is considered a problem with one’s yang Qi. This manifests most often in the Lungs creating respiratory ailments like a dry cough or in the Large Intestine causing constipation. This condition is most commonly seen in the elderly as we age and have a lifetime of body fluids slowly being depleted.
2. Internal Dampness is usually caused by excessive consumption of certain food and drinks with the main culprit being sugar, which creates stagnation of the Qi. This condition is particularly hard on the Spleen, Stomach and muscles by impeding the Spleen's ability to perform its main function of transforming and transporting all the food and drink into Qi and moving into the other organ systems. Dampness causes the Spleen to not create enough heat to "cook" the food/drink thereby creating problems such as diarrhea, indigestion, edema and a general heavy feeling in the body.
3. Internal Heat is seen as an imbalance between the Yin and Yang Qi, with the Yin being deficient. As with all heat, there is an expansion in the body, however, when this is out of balance it can cause irritability, fear and inflammation. An example of this in the Liver is anger, which is refer to as Liver Heat Rising. This condition can create other problems like wind that can lead to spasms in the body. Excessive heat creates symptoms like sore throat, red eyes and constipation. There is also a condition known at deficient heat, which is from a lack of yin Qi as opposed to too much yang. An example of the would be a chronic UTI due to lack of heat in the kidneys.
4. Internal Cold is seen as an imbalance between the Yin and Yang Qi, with the Yang being deficient. A person with a cold condition would require more sleep and crave more warmth. It usually related to the Kidneys because they are the source of the body's Yang Qi. Someone with this condition would want to eat and drink warm/hot sources of nutrients though they would have little or no thirst. They would be cold to the touch and crave heat sources. They may move, speak and think slowly. Their face might be pale due to the lack of warmth.
5. Internal Wind is considered a more serious imbalance of Yin and Yang in the body and it is associated with the Liver. This is usually a situation created by inflammation. It can block the circulation of Qi in the muscles, joints or skin. This condition can create a lot of chaotic patterns that move around the body. It is here, then it's there, then it's over here like the wind outside.
6. Summer Heat as the name implies takes place during the hot and humid months of summer, therefore, it is a yang condition as well. This condition can effect the heart, head and spread out from there. One severe example is heat stroke while most experience this as a restlessness, red face, excessive thirst and headache. Two ways to clear this type of heat are by eating watermelon, which is mostly water and is great at rehydrating the body. The other option is to place ice behind the knees. There is an acupuncture point (Bladder point 40) located there that is used to help cool the body quickly.
The complexity of these conditions is increased when we consider that many of them work in combination with others to cause many different potential problems within the body. One can have Damp-Heat for example or Wind-Damp, Wind-Heat, Wind-Cold and so on.
There are many ways to work with these six conditions to support health and well being, especially if they are moving into a negative direction. You can support yourself with a vibrant Qigong practice , Chinese herbs, healthy food and drink and a disciplined breathing/meditation practice. However, a great time-tested solution can be found in the healing practice of acupuncture. It is important in my view that when looking for a great practitioner, you need to check and see if they have experience not only with these physical conditions, but with mental, emotional, spiritual aspects as well. Much of the disease that we deal with gets created not just through our exposure to the outside weather, but through our thoughts and emotions that aren’t processed correctly (or at all). One of the best that I have found in this field is Dr. Samantha Jennings, who has been working in this field for well over 30 years. She has been a great source of knowledge in my life (and for this article) and has an impeccable attention to detail with gentle bed side manner. Please check out her link above if you feel called.
I wish you all the best on your continuing healing journey and hope that your future is full of good weather, both inside and out.