Western medicine excels at treatment options for a variety of ailments, but often falls short of providing optimal prevention strategies. It’s true that recent changes in traditional Western healthcare philosophy have emphasized disease prevention, but the health of our internal organs remains overlooked. Organ health is vital to our physiological well-being, yet we often take our organs for granted. These specialized structures work in unison 24 hours a day to keep us alive, and deserve more recognition and support from all healing communities.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the five major organs form an internal energetic network that works in tandem with the natural cycles of Earth and are key components in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. This theory known as The Five Elements evolved from consistent observation of the natural cycles of nature; seasonal changes brought new observations and ideas about the natural flow of life’s energy patterns. Thus, the Taoist tradition of observing nature became the basis for The Five Element Theory and emphasized living with the natural flow of nature instead of against it.
The Five Element Theory is a holistic approach to wellness that incorporates the five seasons: spring, summer, late summer, fall and winter, with our five major organs: liver, heart, spleen, lung and kidney, respectively. The imbalance of these organs is thought to be directly linked to multiple physiological and psychological manifestations, including pain, anxiety and headaches, to name a few. The optimal flow of energy among these organs is vital to our well-being, and any block of energy in one organ affects the other organs in our body. Dr. Nan Lu, of the TCM World Foundation, states, “…everything visible is always connected on the invisible level.”
Therefore, to look and feel healthy on the outside, we must be healthy on the inside. There are many ways to keep the organs healthy, but the simplest thing to do is incorporate seasonal foods into our diet. Best-selling author Paul Pitchford offers an extensive index of seasonal foods in his landmark book Healing with Whole Foods. Eating seasonal, whole foods can simultaneously nourish and heal the body by complementing the natural flow of energy within the organs.
For example, our bladder and kidneys are sensitive in the winter, so during the winter season we must eat foods that nourish these organs. Winter is a time of year when our blood thickens and moves from the extremities into the organs. This inward (Yin) movement increases the likelihood of internal congestion. Thus, we must compensate by preparing and eating foods in a manner that facilitates easy digestion. Eating warm, light foods that are cooked for longer will simultaneously ease digestion and warm the organs, while eating bone broth soups instead of creamy soups will help decrease internal congestion.
If possible, try and remove dairy from your diet. Dairy, which is cold and thick, will increase internal congestion and coldness, leading to blocks in energy flow. Remember, because the bladder and kidneys are the organs associated with winter, we must support them by eating warm foods. Steamed shrimp, lamb, asparagus, cabbage, turnips and small, dark beans are some of the foods that give the kidneys proper nutrition in the winter months. For a more extensive list, visit ChineseMedicineLiving.com.
Exercise is another way to keep the organs healthy, but as we enter the winter season, we must remember to conserve our energy. Exercise should be light and include brisk morning walks, stretching or yoga. These types of exercise will help stimulate the lymphatic system, build immunity, remove toxins, balance neurotransmitters and keep the energy (Qi) flowing properly through the organs without expending our kidney essence. The stored kidney energy (Jing) can then be used to facilitate a healthy physical body in the winter, while also providing potential energy for the ensuing outward burst of activity (Yang) that comes in the spring season.
Healing Touch and Five Element Qigong can balance the organs and restore natural energy flow to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual body. Incorporating any or all of these practices into your wellness routine will lead to greater inner and outer health for many seasons to come.
David Stouffer, owner of Ancient Ways of Health, LLC, inside Inspire Behavioral Health, located at 3001 Plymouth Rd., Ste. 101, in Ann Arbor, is certified in Healing Touch (CHTP) and Raja Energy Healing. For appointments and more information, call 858-344-9417, email AncientWaysOfHealth@gmail.com or visit AncientWaysOfHealth.com.