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Your Stomach Qi Needs Your Love

If you've been receiving these newsletters for a while, you know that I've written about Five Element Theory quite a bit. Five Element Theory is part of the foundation for acupuncture, and the way this theory is understood is via the chart below.

So you may be wondering...what's up with the first chart? Why is the Earth element in the center? Though each element has its importance, the Earth element is particularly important when it comes to seasonal transitions. One of the functions of the Earth element is to "transform and transport". The Earth element helps in transitioning from season to season, hence the arrows that move towards and away from the Earth element from season to season in the first chart. Strong Stomach Qi can ensure a healthy transition free of illness and flare-ups from chronic conditions during these seasonal changes.

The Stomach is the Yang organ of the Earth element, and the Qi it receives from food is vital for supporting all other organs in the body. If the Stomach Qi is deficient, other functions of the body can become deficient.

So why did I title this "Your Stomach Qi Needs Your Love"? Because lately I'm finding a deficiency in Stomach Qi for many patients, and I believe this deficiency goes beyond seasonal changes. 

Let me back up a bit. A key indicator for Stomach Qi deficiency is a Stomach Qi deficient pulse, which is also known in Chinese medicine as a pecking pulse. Basically, when I feel the pulse, I'm looking for the quality of the flow of blood through the vessel. In cases where the Stomach Qi is deficient, the blood doesn't feel like it's flowing through the vessel. Rather, the vessel feels like it's pulsing against my finders in unison like a tap rather than like a wave under my fingers.

The most common times that I find a Stomach Qi deficient pulse are a few weeks before the start of a new season, especially during the transition from winter to spring (a subject I'll be lecturing about on March 3rd with Megan Stypulkoski from Sheep Hill Herbals...see below!). However, for the last few months, I've been observing a Stomach Qi deficient pulse in at least one patient per day. Why is that?

Stomach Qi deficiency is also seen in people with sensitivities to gravitational changes, including from flying, moon cycles and altitude changes. It's also seen in those with conditions affected by barometric changes and those who are pregnant and experiencing morning sickness and fluid retention. With that said, I don't think these are the only reasons I'm seeing an increase in patients with Stomach Qi deficiency, and I'm beginning to wonder if chronic stress is playing a bigger role, especially since stress tends to hinder digestion.

So what can you do to improve your Stomach Qi?

1. Stress Management. Most of what I'm going to list below is also helpful in managing stress, but there are many healthy activities that are worth doing daily in order to prevent and/or decrease the effects from stress. Hiking, running, painting, writing, cooking, reading, playing with your pet, working on a puzzle are all things patients have shared with me that they do to manage their stress.

2. Breathwork. Breathing exercises that help the body naturally breathe deeper and fuller are excellent for holistic health. Healthy breathing can improve not only the physiology of the Stomach but also the entire digestive system.

3. Eat Close To The Earth. Sometimes it's hard to know what to eat, but foods that are close to the earth, meaning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean animal proteins, are the best foods for supporting Stomach Qi. Eat vegetables and fruits seasonally. Now is the time for apples (baked apples with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg with a little coconut oil makes a wonderful breakfast), winter squashes (butternut, spaghetti, acorn, delicata), and hearty greens like kale and cabbage. Highly processed foods and refined sugars can weaken Stomach Qi.

4. Acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments are very beneficial for digestive health and there are specific protocols for boosting Stomach Qi. Sometimes only one or more treatments are needed, but for those who notice that their chronic conditions get worse with seasonal changes, a series of treatments may be necessary.

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