The mind, body and soul connection! By Krishma Mehta, Holistic Health Coach & Founder of Traditionally Modern
I am so pleased to bring you our June blog, written by our wonderful friend and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) enthusiast, Krishma Mehta, Holistic Health Coach, Academy of Healing Nutrition and Founder of Traditionally Modern. In this fascinating article, we are introduced to the principles of TCM and the connection we have with our bodies, the seasons and the world around us - how we can nourish our organs to help manage our emotions. Thank you so much Krishma!
The five elements theory
The five-element theory is held in high regard in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a framework that represents the cyclical changes of nature (seasons) that correspond to the balance of energies in all living organisms.
Each season brings along its own energy and rhythms. Living in harmony with these seasonal changes allows us to live a life of physical, mental and spiritual health.
As we go through our phases of life, we also experience our own personal seasons. Just like the winter season (the water element), with an emphasis on inward development like a child in the mother’s womb, then moves to spring (the wood element) where, just like sprouting plants the child transitions to emerge in to the world with a focus on growth, we then go through the summer (the fire element) the expansive energy of social interaction, creativity and activity. The outward energy, starts to reduce as we age and go towards the autumn/Indian summer the earth and metal elements. We begin to centre and ground ourselves, we let go of self-doubt and gain greater awareness. Once again we move towards a inward phase as we proceed towards the winter- the water element, now focusing on wisdom and inner peace, the more stable life like calm waters. The interconnected nature of our environment, mind and body is often linked to specific organs within our bodies.
SEASONS & EMOTIONS
The interconnected nature of the mind and body
Each season carries its own elemental energy which is then associated with different internal organs. Depending on the season, nourishing and bringing harmony to the associated organ results in good emotional and physical health. The interconnected and interdependent nature of emotions to organs in our body is increasingly becoming a subject of conversation in the modern world. Research in to the gut-brain connection is progressively showing a strong correlation in studies all over the world. An article by Harvard health states that ‘a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or product of anxiety, stress or depression’ (health, n.d.)
This may be a new and trendy topic of conversation for modern science, however Traditional Chinese medicine has valued this intricate connection of organs and emotions for thousands of years.
The fascinating two way interconnection of emotions to organ health, where emotional imbalances have an impact on organ health and organ health impacts emotions is fundamental to assessing and addressing disease and disharmony in one’s being.
Understanding this relationship and how to connect with your body and emotions using food and lifestyle can have a pivotal impact in overall health and wellness.
ANGER & FRUSTRATION (Liver)
Anger is associated with the liver organ and the wood element. If you find yourself angry, frustrated and easily irritated, this indicates an overworked or stressed-out liver condition. On the other hand, excess frustrations, rushed mindless eating in stressful conditions and consuming food and drinks that harm the liver for example alcohol, caffeine and processed sugars puts pressure on the functioning of the liver and in turn leads to symptoms of liver fire and imbalance such as dryness in the throat, bitter taste, heavy periods, nosebleeds and skin eruptions. According to the Chinese Meridian clock, a 24-hour body clock which embodies the concept of the energy flow through the body, 1 to 3am is the time of the liver. When the body should be asleep so as to allow the liver to release toxins from the body and make new blood. If you find yourself waking up and unable to rest at this time, focus on nourishing the liver.
How to nourish the liver
Foods: According to Traditional Chinese medicine, sour, astringent foods nourish the liver. Begin the day with a glass of warm water and lemon. Include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir and incorporate cooling foods such as mint and green leafy vegetables in your daily diet. Also avoid excessive spicy foods as these put further pressure on the liver.
Lifestyle: Try to eat your meals mindfully in a calm environment. Avoid excessive intense exercises and instead try to go for walks in nature.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are associated with the emotion of fear. Over long periods, if this is left un addressed, it may result in more chronic conditions such as a lack of will power and a deep feeling of insecurity. Common symptoms of this are panic attacks, night sweats, hot flashes, frequent/involuntary urination, premature ageing and hair loss. According to the Chinese Meridian clock, 5 to 7pm is the time of the kidneys, the best time to have a light dinner and engage in some gentle stretching. If you find yourself particularly unsettled during this time and having negative fearful thoughts, consider engaging in activities that nourish the kidneys.
How to nourish the kidneys
Foods: According to Traditional Chinese medicine, salty* flavoured and dark coloured foods are nourishing for the kidneys. Include foods like seaweed, black sesame seeds, dark beans like kidney beans and black beans, blackberries and blueberries.
Lifestyle: Rest is essential to nourish the kidneys. Try to get enough sleep and avoid heavy distractions like watching the television and work before bed, instead focus on spending a few minutes reading or having a calming drink. Mindful activities such as journaling and meditation can be very helpful in bringing harmony to the kidneys. Stress is said to be very taxing to the kidneys and where possible avoiding situations of high stress can be beneficial to the kidneys.
*Focus here on a balanced amount of good quality salt like pure Himalayan salt or ‘naturally salty flavoured foods like seaweed’ avoid high levels of processed salts as these are derogatory to health.
HAPPINESS & JOY (Heart)
Happiness and joy are unsurprisingly associated with the heart and the fire element. When we experience joy and happiness we nourish our heart, on the other hand ‘excessive joy’ and sadness negatively impacts the heart and can result in a feeling of being stuck, lost and mentally chaotic. It is interesting to note that in Chinese medicine there is great awareness of ‘excess joy’ being connected to damaging the heart in Chinese medicine. This is caused by lifestyles whereby one engages in activities like excessive partying and social commitments and excessive ejaculation and sexual indulgence. The fire element is most active during 11am and 1pm when energy enters the heart meridian channel. This also corresponds with midday when the sun is reaching its peak which is the fire element in the cycle of day and night.
How to nourish the heart
Food: Red foods tend to be very nourishing for the heart. Including red toned foods such as tomatoes, watermelons and beetroots is very beneficial for the fire element. Having a goji berry tea with some jujube dates can very uplifting and help manage feelings of sadness. The taste profile of the fire element is bitter. Foods with a bitter taste like kale and dandelion are said to stimulate the heart and can be very beneficial to nourish the fire element.
Lifestyle: Lighting has a very positive impact on the fire element. Trying to ensure that you work and live in well light bright environments is very nourishing to the heart. In addition, lighting some candles whilst carrying out calming activities like reading, meditating or resting are said to light up the heart and bring more joy.
DEPRESSION, SADNESS & A NEGATIVE TEMPERAMENT (Lungs)
According to traditional Chinese medicine grief is related to the metal element and lungs. Prolonged periods of untreated grief are said to have a very detrimental effect on our lungs. Common symptoms of this are shortness of breath, a tight feeling in the chest, crying easily and frequently and being unsettled particularly between 3am and 5am, the time of the lungs in the organ clock. On the other hand, having well supported lungs can have a very positive impact on inspiration and ambition. The concept of having a light energised spirit is often linked to be housed in the chest.
How to nourish the lungs
Food: White or ‘white centred’ foods are said to be particularly beneficial to the metal element which is associated with lungs. Internally moistening foods like radishes, cauliflowers, garlic, leeks, onions, rice and oats help to nourish the lungs. The taste profile that is associated with this element is pungent and lightly spicy, foods such as onions and radishes can be very beneficial to the lungs.
Lifestyle: Deep inward breathing through our nose, then exhaling through our lungs via our mouth is said to be beneficial in letting go of grief. When suffering from grief, it is also recommended that seeking out support systems and among friends, family and professionals can be particularly helpful and in turn reduce the impact on the lungs.
So next time you feel overwhelmed by emotions, listen to your body and address it’s needs by nourishing your organs.
The five elements and seasons
Autumn, is associated with the element of metal, a time for continued contraction and inward energy. As the leaves fall and are drawn down deep in to the earth, it is a time to focus on intellect and release grief.
Winter, is associated with the element of water, a cold and dark season with an emphasis on rest, inward reflection, like floating calmly on steady flowing waters it is a time for deep thought, planning and preparation for the spring.
Thank you, Krishma