Health

The Bladder in Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bladder is one of the six yang organs, paired with one of the six yin organs. The yin organs store vital substances (such as Qi, blood, yin, and yang), whereas the yang organs are more active and have a function of constantly filling and emptying. The bladder is a perfect example of a yang organ. Its main physiological function is to remove water from the body in the form of urine. To do this, the bladder uses Qi (energy) and heat from its paired yin organ, the kidneys.

Obviously urination is an essential component to the functioning of our bodies, and as such, the bladder plays a vital role through its filling and emptying of urine.

However, the bladder system in TCM has far more influence in the body than just over fluid transformation and excretion. As mentioned above, each yang organ is paired with a yin organ, and the bladder is paired with the kidneys. The kidneys are one of the most important energy systems in TCM, they store some of our deepest levels of energy, being the root of all yin and yang in the body and hold our essence. The kidneys often exert an effect on the bladder system when there is a weakness, this means that sometimes problems with the kidney energy can be detected and treated sooner by treating the bladder or the bladder channel. An example is low back pain. The kidneys in TCM govern the low back and the knees. The bladder meridian runs down the length of the back in not one but two trajectories on either side of the spine. Most forms of low back pain can be treated with bladder points on the back, as well as bladder points on the backs of the legs.

In acupuncture, one of the most essential aspects of the bladder channel is treating the back. The bladder channel runs from the inner canthus of the eye, over the top of the head, down the neck and the back on either side of the spine, through the sacrum and down the back of the leg to the knee. Then the channel travels back up to the top of the back and begins its downward trajectory again, tracing another trail down the length of the back, more lateral than the first. It then continues down the back of the leg to the outside of the pinky toe. The bladder channels trajectory makes it a powerful channel for treating most kinds of neck, back, sacral, hamstring, calf and achilles pain. It is particularly helpful when there is a pain condition affecting more than one of these sites.

Every energy system in TCM exerts an effect on both the physical body and the mental/emotional self. The kidneys are associated with fear – this means excessive fear will weaken the kidneys, but irrational fear can also be a symptom of a kidney imbalance. As the bladder is linked to the kidneys, it can be used to support the kidneys in treating fear. When the bladder itself is out of balance, there may be negative emotions such as jealousy, suspicion and inability to let go of grudges.

To take care of the bladder, make sure you drink plenty of non-caffeinated, non-sugary beverages throughout the day to optimize its water transforming function. Eating a kidney-nourishing diet will also help the bladder energy. To keep energy flowing optimally through the bladder meridian, make sure to stretch! Create a daily stretching routine that includes stretches for the whole posterior portion of the body. You might think about including foam rolling, massage, myofascial release, cupping, gua sha or tuina.

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Why Am I Sick: The Root Causes of Illness and Disease

One of the top questions I am asked is: “Why?”  Why does my knee hurt?  Why do I get these headaches?  Why do I feel dizzy and nauseous?  Why am I so tired all of the time?  Why does my stomach hurt? Patients are often curious to find out why they are experiencing different symptoms in their body and they want to know if Oriental Medicine (acupuncture and herbs) can really help.  You may be surprised to find out that the root causes of all illness and disease can be summarized in a list less than ten items long.  You may also be surprised to find out that the root causes of illness and disease are the same for every form of health care.

 

Now before I let you in on the secret of what those root causes are, I want to take a moment to talk about how different forms of medicine approach health care.  If the causes of illness and disease are the same for every type of health care, then why are the treatments they employ so different?  All medicine is based on a fundamental world view that shapes how the human body is perceived and this perception drives the decisions of how the body will be cared for.  The philosophical world view behind Western Biomedicine is rooted in mechanistic dualism (made popular by Rene Descartes) and Darwinian Evolution.  What this means is that the body is viewed as a machine that is separate from the mind.  Oriental Medicine is primarily founded on Taoist philosophy of the unity of all things and the interaction of all things based on the principals of Yin and Yang.  Oriental medicine views the body like a garden or a forest where everything is interconnected.  This one fundamental philosophical difference (the body and mind are connected and each part is connected to each other part VS the body and mind are separate and each part of the body is separate) determine all the other choices one makes regarding health care.  If the body is one with the mind and it is formed perfectly with the intelligence to heal itself, then it makes sense to stimulate that innate healing ability and allow the brilliance of the body to bring itself back to a place of balance and wellness.

 

So, now comes the list that you have all been waiting for, the root causes of illness and disease:  external invasion by bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are stronger than your personal immune system, Trauma ( injuries, accidents, repetitive motion, abuse (physical, sexual, mental/emotional), Emotions (thoughts and feelings that haven’t been processed tend to get “stuck” in the system), Constitution (genetics combined with family environment), Diet (type, quality, and quantity of food being eaten), Sexual Activity (this can include sexually transmitted diseases and too much or too little can cause energetic imbalances), Toxicity (exposure to poisonous substances and or poor elimination processes in the body that cause toxic build up), and finally the newest cause of illness is Energetic Toxins ( electromagnetic radiation from power lines, computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.…).  From an Oriental Medicine perspective these root or core causes of illness and disease cause disruptions in the energetic communications system of the body as well as imbalances in the vital substances of the body (qi, blood, essence, yin, and yang).  Acupuncture and herbal therapy are the two primary ways of bringing the energetic system and vital substances back into balance and thereby reducing and eliminating illness and disease.  The two main therapeutic principles for healing and long term wellness revolve around nourishing the vital substances of the body and keeping them moving at a steady pace (not too quickly or too slowly).  When everything is well nourished and flowing well, we come to that place of wellness and bliss.  If you’re hungry to know more, stay tuned for further posts where we’ll dive into greater detail on how illness forms in the body and what we can to get and stay well.

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