‘Butterflies in your stomach’ is more than just an expression, we’ve asked Dr Nat TCM to let us in on some TCM secrets of common ailments and their emotional causes…
Just this morning I got off a conference call from a team of Traditional Chinese Medicine experts from across the globe. We got to chatting about health conditions and how each ailment, condition, disease and miss-alignment in the body; intertwines with the emotional. That you can’t necessarily separate the two, that is, each illness has two streams of treatment – the physical and the emotional. TCM recognises an emotional component that until addressed, may never resolve.
Chinese Medicine views that each organ in the body has an attached emotion.
The lung is associated with sadness, the spleen – worry. The emotion of the liver is anger, the heart is joy and the kidneys – fear.
You may have experienced this yourself; perhaps you’ve felt sick in your stomach with worry, strong enough that you lost all appetite or maybe you’ve been so angry you’ve given yourself a stitch. These are relatable to many and help to paint the picture for many of us experiencing similar symptoms.
As I chatted with my colleagues we got excited as we shared stories about women we’d each treated and how the real change came about when we dug deeper into the emotional side of their health.
This is an idea Western Medicine doesn’t give too much attention to, however, science is learning more and more about just how our emotions impact our health. Notably, by way of negative self-talk or unkind thoughts that may keep us in a perpetual state of sickness. It’s important that we look at all corners of health, especially in instances where we feel we’ve made good inroads in treating a condition, yet it doesn’t seem to resolve.
I once treated a patient who had a recurrent low-grade cough. It was worse at night when she lied down and had been with her for about 2 years. Doctors had looked at her health situation and told her there wasn’t anything to worry about, upon x-rays and so forth, nothing showed up. It wasn’t a physical problem, which was good news for her but annoying all the same. I began to treat her without much success, her cough continued even though I was doing my best to address the situation. After several months of treatment, we got to talking about what had changed in her life the same time the cough began. She didn’t make the connection, I literally had to dig deeper and deeper to get answers but eventually, we realised that her mother had passed away around the same time that the cough had begun. I asked how she processed this grief; since stuck emotions can indeed lead to physical health conditions and she went on to explain that she never had. She had never cried or truly grieved and so much time had passed, she no longer knew how. With this new information under my belt, I took to treating her on this emotional level, using points to influence the lung and to move Qi and blood around her body.
I asked her to check in with me in the following days. She called several days later to report she had cried the whole night through following her treatment, like she had never cried before, to the point she felt horrible, sick, and unwell. But she had woken the next day feeling good and several days later, there was no cough.
To my knowledge, the cough never returned. In my opinion, it was her trapped and un-dealt emotions that were causing a physical experience.
Who would have thought?
Since this time, I’ve used these principles around the organs and the emotions many times to treat a variety of problems with outstanding results. The best news with this type of treatment is that it isn’t limited to a counselling session or therapy, but more so influencing the body in a way that is always bringing things back to a more homeostatic environment. It means that the patient can feel far more comfortable where discussion around previous experiences or life events are difficult. Most of us don’t like to talk deeply about our emotions (even though we really should), and it can take time to feel ready to do so. We can somewhat bypass this by treating the body on the organic level.
It means however, that we can see a wide variety of conditions or symptoms present that are great clues in treatment. Here are some common associations I see in the clinic;
- Chronic stress or anger exacerbating endometriosis
- Excessive worry or long term stress influencing fertility or IBS
- Fear associated with kidney issues like diabetes or adrenal fatigue
- Often people with adrenal fatigue are quick to snap and fear the worst – there are always clues for us to see.
- Overjoy (those people who laugh all the time, often nervously) disrupting ovulation or contributing to ovulation associated issues like PCOS or delayed ovulation
- Grief affecting the lungs as discussed – low-grade coughs or asthma.
These are just some examples I see frequently.
The reality is, we should never dismiss the physical aspects of health conditions, but it’s always important we look at the full picture that presents itself to make positive changes on our health.
Whilst the idea of looking at the emotions when associated to physical symptoms may be a very new idea to you, it’s well worth considering when you’re looking into your own health, especially for recurrent conditions that are stubborn and unresolved.
Just another reason why we all love Traditional Chinese Medicine so much.