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Oriental 
Medicine 
and Stress

The discovery of a direct connection between the nature of human emotions and the body’s organ system was made thousands of years ago by Chinese physicians. Chinese medicine views the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual bodies as one system and believes that the malfunctioning of any one body can affect another. Although many factors exist in life that trigger malfunction and disease, stress is one that affects the entire body—especially the organ system.  

Stressful events in our lives, whether traumatic or chronic, provoke a sympathetic response from our nervous system which tells our endocrine system to flood our bodies with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This causes increased heart rate, dilation of bronchial tubes and pupils, contraction of muscles and decreased saliva production and digestive functions. In survival mode, optimal amounts of these hormones are heightened in order to save lives, but when maintained at a higher level due to perceived or actual stress, they can lead to imbalances such as high blood pressure, depressed immunity, compromised digestion and growth and skin issues. The result of prolonged or chronic stress on the body, spirit, and emotions can set a foundation for obesity and disease, and also place our mental wellness at risk.

The view of Chinese medicine is that the interruption of the dynamic and balanced flow of qi and blood causes imbalances which show up as symptoms. Qi can be described as a life force or the catalyst behind our energy. Qi and blood are inseparable: qi is yang and blood is yin, and they are interdependent. Qi assists in making the blood, and yet qi also depends on the blood. Blood supplies the body with life-strengthening nutrition and contains oxygen, hormones, analgesics and anti-inflammatories which support the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional bodies. Blood is circulated throughout the body by qi, and when qi and blood are out of proper balance due to stagnation, deficiency or excess, the person experiences physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual symptoms.

Because Chinese medicine views the system of organs energetically, human experience and specific emotions are correlated with specific organs. In many cases, excessive or inappropriate amounts of emotion can be due to a breakdown in organ function. Here are some emotional issues that Chinese medicine associates with imbalances in some of the major organs.

Liver imbalance may cause excessive or inappropriate anger, irritability, frustration, moodiness, impatience, and bitterness and/or depression.

Heart imbalance may cause short-term memory loss, insomnia, excessive and inappropriate anxiety or panic attacks, lack of enthusiasm and vitality, and despair and/or confusion.

Spleen and pancreas dysfunction may cause excessive thinking. Ruminating on a topic may develop into stagnation, causing anxiety.

Lung imbalance may cause inappropriate or excessive grief, uncontrolled crying and/or deep sadness.

Kidney dysfunction may cause excessive or inappropriate fear, powerlessness, isolation, insecurity, lack of trust and aloof behavior.

Acupuncture and herbal remedies, two of the eight branches of Chinese medicine, address imbalances in organ function by regulating the qi and blood within a specific organ.

Acupuncture arouses specific points on the body in order to reactivate qi, which stimulates the immune system, increases blood flow, restores internal homeostasis, releases natural pain killers and reduces stress via the release of oxytocin. This increases the calm-and-connect response (parasympathetic nervous system) and regulates the fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system).

A second branch of Chinese medicine is herbal medicine. Herbal remedies are prescribed in order to restore balance to the opposing, yet mutually interdependent forces of yin and yang energy. Licensed Chinese medicine practitioners prescribe a customized formula based on the patient’s particular symptomology, constitution and medical history. Herbal remedies have almost no unfavorable side effects, are prescribed to restore balance to the opposing, yet mutually interdependent, forces of yin and yang energy and are mostly responsible for maintaining and restoring this body balance.

In the world of Chinese medicine, where soma (the physical body) and psyche (the mind body) are considered to be highly interrelated, practitioners address a patient’s internal environment to assist them in managing stress and emotional triggers, which helps them move toward a balanced system.

Priscilla Dixon, LAc, and Aubrey Poglajen, LAc, are practitioners at Ananda Acupuncture & Healing Center, which is located at 4528 N. Oakland Ave., in Shorewood. At Ananda, the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical bodies are of equal focus. The center provides acupuncture, CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release therapy, along with herbal, homeopathic and essential oil prescription remedies. For more information, call 414-791-0303, email Info@AnandaAcupuncture.com or visit AnandaAcupuncture.com.

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