Yin and Yang 101

In clinic I talk about Yin and Yang a LOT. Whether it be because I am talking to a menopausal woman about needing to replenish all the cooling, moisturising, nourishing Yin energy in her body to help hot flushes, or whether I am explaining how we see migraines occurring when the hot, loud, strong Yang energy rushes up to the head, Yin and Yang are key. They are the basis of diagnosis and treatment in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) form of acupuncture, as opposed to the Five Element side of things, which is, unsurprisingly, the remit of the Five Element style of acupuncture – I am lucky as an integrated practitioner, I truly get the best of both worlds!

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So, as I like to try and at least pretend I am not some old hippy sprouting out groovy, psychedelic mantras about yin and yang, I thought I would share the basic differences between the two types of energy, so you can get a feel of where we acupuncturists come from when we see this energy manifesting in the bodies of our patients, but also in the outside world.

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YIN

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YANG

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We each have our own balances of Yin and Yang in the body, and this will change according to the time of day, the season, our emotional state, or any illness we are suffering… the key is to ensure that despite the fluctuations in Yin and Yang at different times, we maintain some balance that bares resemblance to Yin and Yang in nature and the universe around us. This is what maintains health.

For example, at night time Yang should be receding and the Yin energy coming to the fore, as night time is Yin time; symptoms like hot flushes at night or insomnia where you cannot fall asleep, or you keep waking throughout the night, suggest that there is a lack of the Yin energy during a time where it should be abundant. And vice versa, during the day we should be alive, energised, happy and moving – if we feel tired, as though our limbs are heavy, everything is an effort and we need to sleep during Yang time, it indicates we are deficient in Yang energy to get us going. Acupuncture can help restore this balance, and help symptoms, by working with the levels and relationship of Yin and Yang in the body.

If you want to know more about Yin and Yang, or feel that they may be out of balance in your body (and / or emotions), contact me today, or leave a comment below – Yin and Yang, it’s not just for old hippies!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Chinese Food Energetics

Chinese Food Energetics is another way of looking at food and nutrition, and formulating an eating plan or diet that is most suited to us. Just as acupuncture itself is tailored specifically for that one individual patient – and no two patients are exactly the same, no matter how similar they appear to be – Chinese Food Energetics creates guidelines or dietary advice to suit that one specific individial patient too.

For example, some patients can eat dairy literally until the cows come home (pun absolutely, utterly intended!), and another person (like me!) only has to look at a piece of cheese and the nose, sinuses and throat start to fill with mucus or phlegm. This is because dairy is a “damp-forming” food, and some patients are more susceptible to the formation of damp, due to the deficiencies or imbalances that are present in their system.

The “energetics” of food is different to the energetic calories present in food, it is not about the amount of energy available in a nutritional or chemical sense – it is about the affect the food has on the energy or Qi in our bodies. Food is described in Chinese Medicine as having certain qualities – temperatures (hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold), flavours that link in with the Five Elements (salty, sour, bitter, sweet or pungent), routes into the body (the organs it affects most), and actions (moves Qi, resolves phlegm, nourishes blood etc).

When we speak about the temperature of a food, it is not the temperature of it in the mouth i.e boiling hot soup vs freezing cold ice cream, it is the “energetic temperature”, the affect it will have on the body once it has been digested. For example, apples are energetically cool, and pears are energetically cold – so pears are energetically colder than apples, despite them feeling the same temperature to touch on the skin when you hold them in your hands. Furthermore, a red apple is energetically warmer than a green apple! Again they both feel exactly the same to touch on the outside skin, but energetically the temperature is slightly different… but as they are both apples, they are still both warmer than the cold pear – you still with me?! Let’s do a little more explaining…

Energetically hot foods warm us up internally, so a slice of ginger root even if eaten raw, cooked or not cooked, at room temperature or straight from the fridge, will always bring heat into the body when digested. Another example is courgette, which is cool in temperature (foods that contain a lot of water content are often cooler in energetic makeup), will always cool the body internally whether you eat it raw and shredded in a salad during Summer, or cooked in the Winter as part of a stew or ratatouille. We can go further in that the raw one would be more cooling than the one that is cooked, as there is some influence on the energetic temperature of food by the method of cooking, but the cooked one would still be cooling energetics wise. So as to not confuse things too much, more exploration of that can be saved for another post!

And on the actual physical temperature of food, please never eat things straight out of the fridge! Energetically cold food, eaten physically cold, is a double whammy of cold – the digestive system struggles with this. The Stomach is like a cauldron that is warm, bubbling away, digesting everything that goes in. Its job is to get the best goodness out of the food, and it is that job it should be expending its energy on.

However, when physically cold food (actual temperature wise) hits the warm juices in the Stomach, it brings down the temperature of the bubbling cauldron. So the Stomach therefore has to invest all of its energy into bringing the cauldron back up to optimum temperature for digestion, which means it overworks, doesn’t digest effectively, and in the longterm can become very depleted – leading to symptoms like tiredness in the morning, loose stools, undigested food in the stools, discomfort in the epigastrium (just below the rib cage, in the middle). Always bring food up to room temperature so the Stomach and Spleen don’t have to work as hard to digest it, plus you get more nutrients and more energy as a result!

Food as medicine can be incorporated into your treatment plan, to compliment the acupuncture prescribed. Each food has a particular flavour which pertains to one of the Five Elements. For example, the salty flavour belongs to the Water Element and enters its organ – the Kidney; so a little salt will benefit that organ, but too much will inhibit its action. And as mentioned earlier, eating dairy (and/or sugar, wheat, bananas, peanuts and fried foods) will make a phlegmy condition, such as sinusitis or cough, worse; consuming bitter (Fire Element) or pungent (Metal Element) flavours – onions, mustard, olives or green tea – will help clear the mucus. Chinese Food Energetics dietary advice can contribute towards a more effective overall treatment plan.

If you feel you could benefit from some dietary advice based in Chinese Medicine, email me on info@rhiannongriffiths.com or visit the “Acupuncture Plus” page on the website for more details.

© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011