The following post was strung together from an interview I did with Chava Quist, L.Ac. I am very grateful for her expertise!
Rob Benhuri: Why Do We Get Sick?
Chava Quist: In TCM Traditional Chinese Medicine), we look at the impact of all of our lifestyle choices - our homelife, level of stress, and also climate and environmental factors. All of these things help decide when we get sick, and what form that sickness will take.
RB: You know, I hear a lot about "lifestyle choices," and I dig what you are saying in general. But logistically how do my choices make me sick?
CQ: Most people understand that if they pull a double shift at work, or they drink too much, or stay up too late, their immune system gets taxed and that makes it easier to get sick. Acupuncturists take it a step further. They say that any time you don't follow the "rule of 8's" you leave yourself open to disease.
RB: Ummm.... The rule of 8s?
CQ: Oh it's completely an ideal, not really realistic. 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play, and 8 hours of rest every day. If we really did that, we could be productive while allowing our bodies appropriate rest and relaxation. In modern life we don???t value our resting period - we work long hours, we take on a lot of stress from various avenues, and when we have a moment off we either spend it sedentary in front of the tv or over eating or aggressively work out in a gym which actually leaves us weaker, which is the opposite of our goal with exercise.
So as we are engaged in this cycle of chronic working, and over stress, and no time of replenishment and renewal, the seasons keep changing. we get exposed to cold, damp, wind, viruses, all manner of things from our environment. our lifestyle choices (our day to day choices in this case) have left us vulnerable to these environmental factors effecting the body.
RB: Aha. So this is the way that lifestyle choices and environmental factors lead to the cold and flu.
CQ: Right. Lifestyle choices include working out, not sleeping enough, eating and sleeping habits, physical exercise (too much or too little) stress management, and exposure to environmental factors.
RB: So that???s how we leave ourselves vulnerable. But are you saying that the wind, heat and cold actually cause sickness? I understand the taxed immune system thing, but that's a really foreign concept that the cold air or the wind can literally lead to illness.
CQ: Yes. In acupuncture theory we look at the natural defenses of the body and we call it wei qi. In scientific terms we mean the immune system. It's basically the same thing. When the wei qi is weak, environmental factors (wind, heat, cold and damp) can enter through the pores or other orifices and cause disease - especially the type of disease that we label seasonal allergies, cold and flu.
RB: Ok, not to beat a dead horse, but is it literally the heat or wind or cold that causes the disease? or is it just a classification system?
CQ: Saying "wind-heat" or "wind-cold" (the two most common acupuncture diagnosis for common colds or the flu) is describing the nature of the disease and symptoms. Sometimes i may have a disease pattern that is labelled as cold and i have a history of exposure to an a/c or cold environment. But another person with the same type may not have had that exposure.
In other words, it is not MANDATORY that there was exposure to a specific environmental factor in order to cause the disease. if the symptoms say cold, we call it cold. its categorizing symptom phenomenology.
CQ: I'll give you an example: Today I had 2 patients with a "common cold." Patient 1 has a very sharp sore throat, red itchy eyes and a strong headache and a dry cough. He feels hot, he has a big sweat??? these are all symptoms of what we call a heat-pattern disease.
The next patient also has a "common cold," but she has a wet cough with a lot of clear phlegm, body aches, and chills. Her symptoms are not as strong but they last a long time and it seems like it never resolves. This is what we would call a disease of cold and dampness.
In addressing these 2 patients they get different acupuncture points, different herbal formulas and different home care recommendations, even though from a "western" point of view they have the same illness!
If you were to isolate it you may even find that the two sicknesses were caused by the same virus. Doesn't matter - in acupuncture-land, we trreat them as two totally different problems.
Have a Question about any of this? Check out the library for more info, or...