Our organs are closely related to our emotions states. The word bile comes from Latin, which represented specific substances of the body, or humors. Coming from the word bilious, it means irritability, peevishness, crankiness, or anger. Now we know that the liver metabolizes our food and any drugs we consume, as well as purifying the blood. The poisons are turned into bile, which is stored in the gall bladder. It is used to digest fats in the small and large intestines as it is removed from the body. Physiologically, excessive amounts of stress, overindulgence in sugar or alcohol, and unexpressed emotions can cause that “bile” feeling of toxicity and pent up anger in the body.
In Chinese medicine, the body has both Zang and Fu organs. Zang organs are dense and small, while Fu organs are hollow and typically larger. This represents yin and yang organs respectively. The Spleen (yin) pairs with the Stomach (yang), creating both passive and active phases of digestion. Often disease will start in the hollow or yang organs, and if untreated, will move into the yin organs. Nearly 500,000 gallbladders are removed a year. When issues arise with the gallbladder, it is common that disease will eventually affect the liver. Without the gallbladder organ to help out the liver in fat digestion, it will encounter extra strain.
If you have ever been to an acupuncturist you may remember them mentioning liver qi stagnation, a common diagnosis due to Western society stresses that can cause anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, headaches, digestive difficulty, trouble sleeping or wandering pain. The liver likes to go with the flow, spend time outdoors, and doing breath work. When we overdo it on coffee and sugar to try and keep up, we are giving our liver more work to do. The liver helps to detoxify our emotions and regulate our hormones. When we constantly deny our organs what they need, it can create low blood flow, infections, cancer, and cysts.
The heart in Chinese medicine is linked to the small intestine. The small intestine is a digestive organ, which can also affect urination. Urinary tract infections are commonly referred to as “honeymoon syndrome” since they happen around exciting and stressful events as well as increased sexual activity. In Chinese medicine, “heart fire” can often cause injury to the small intestine and prevent it from separating the pure from impure. If left untreated a UTI can cause kidney infections, as the disease moves from yang organ to yin organ. Few people know that Chinese herbs can treat these patterns, and antibiotics are not our only option. In fact, Chinese herbs have antiseptic and antibacterial properties to treat disease. By quenching the fire, rather than simply treating the infection, these types of patterns can be prevented in the future. Other pathologies of the small intestine, including toxicity, parasites, and dysbiosis can create pathology in the heart, creating anxiety, panic attacks, and palpitations.
The mesenteric root of the small intestine crosses the 3rd and 4th lumbar spine, and can affect spinal health. Diseases involving digestion, like celiac disease, can cause back pain as well. The small intestine is implicated in auto-immune issues, as small intestine permeability or overgrowth can leak proteins into the blood and set off a chain reaction of immune responses from the body.
The last organ pair is the Lung and the Large Intestine. When upper respiratory infections occur, it is common that there is constipation. In order to clear heat from the lungs, the practitioner must release the large intestine through Chinese herbs, or the acupuncture treatment. This will help the lungs descend properly. The body must take out the trash in order to bring in the fresh new energy. Challenges in the gut can be correlated with skin issues, as the skin is an outward expression of how the gut is doing. This also relates to an expression, “the immune system begins in the gut.” In order to protect the body from external pathogens, it must have a proper microbial balance in the large intestine.
The organs have an amazing role in cleaning the air, eliminating toxins, and maintaining harmony between internal and external structures. By listening to these various systems and supporting what they are doing well, we promote balance in the body.
Jillian practices at Fire Dragon Acupuncture in the Coppertop Loop. She studied at the Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine, focusing on osteopathic listening, shiatsu, Tui-Na bodywork and continued on to complete CEUs to learn cranial-sacral therapy, visceral listening involving balancing organs and promoting gentle detoxification.