What Is Stress Doing To My Body?
We all know that stress is bad. Most of us have heard something along the lines of how stress induces “cortisol hormone” to be released into our bloodstream or the concept of “fight-or-flight”. But what impact does this have on our body that makes stress the precursor to such a wide range of diseases?
Eczema & hives, insomnia, panic attacks, increase in blood pressure, irregular or painful menstrual cycle, sexual dysfunction and gastrointestinal disorders. When the lockdown lifted, about 80% of the patients coming into the clinic were seeking out help with disorders such as these which are directly connected to COVID19-related stress. According to the theories of Eastern Medicine, Liver is the first line of organ impacted by stress. Understanding the function of Liver and how it relates to the rest of the body according to Eastern Medicine will help you understand why so many diseases can arise from stress alone.
Liver and its relation to other organs according the 5 elements
Wood, fire, earth, metal and water – the 5 fundamental elements represent everything in the universe, including our internal organs. The Theory of the Five Element reflect the Universal law of nature and the interactions and relationship between everything. According to this theory, all things are connected and in particular to our body, its structures and the systems influence one another and is also influenced by our external environment.
Liver is represented by the element wood. If you look at the diagram above, the wood element generates fire (Heart) and controls the earth (Spleen). This means that when the Liver is overactive, it leads to overactive Heart functions and underperforming Spleen functions. Increase in heart rate, busy mind, insomnia, excessive heat and bitter taste in the mouth are attributed to overactive Heart functions. The Liver also keeps the Spleen in check. However, due to its controlling relationship, over activity of the Liver leads to under performing of the Spleen.
The Spleen is the vital organ that regulates transformation of food into useable energy so that it can be transported to the rest of the body. When the Spleen fails to do its job, it leads to gastrointestinal complications and mal-absorption. This in turn causes inflammation & thinning of our cells walls, decrease in Qi and Blood formation, weakening of muscles and conditions associated with dampness (see article on dampness). To take this further, when our Spleen & Stomach weakens, it directly weakens our Lung function. One of the major functions of the Lung is to maintain a healthy immune system and control the skin.
This is why long periods of stress eventually weaken our immune system. This makes us more susceptible to infections and prevent our immune system from repairing DNA damages. Since the Lung controls the skin, it also leads to autoimmune diseases like Eczema, Hives and Psoriasis.
Functions of Liver according to TCM
Similar to Western science, the Liver plays a vital role in storing and controlling the blood volume and smooth flow of blood in your vessels. When the Liver is well, the Qi and blood flows smoothly throughout your body. This is why stress can easily alter our blood sugar level, elevate our blood pressure and affect the menstrual cycle among women. The meridian system that flows through the liver goes directly into our eyes and it nourishes all the tendons and ligaments. So eye issues such as blurry vision, redness, dryness and itchiness are often signs of the energy through the Liver not flowing smoothly.
Since the Liver stores the blood, the impact of stress on the Liver could indirectly prevent nourishment of tendons and ligaments resulting in symptoms like tremors, spasms, tightness of muscles and joints. Liver energy has the tendency to surge upwards so when the Liver is triggered, we are easily angered & irritated and have difficulty unwinding and letting things go. Our body can often recover & heal from these symptoms but when the stress we face become too excessive or chronic, it could cause these symptoms to turn into a chronic condition or intensify our pre-existing conditions.
As I personally struggled through some of these stress-induced symptoms during the lockdown, my concerns grow for those who already suffer with underlying mental & physical health issues. In reading this article, I sincerely hope that understanding how stress impacts our body in many levels will help make sense of some of the symptoms you may be facing and address the symptoms before it turns into a disease.
Tips to improve Liver Health
- Avoid alcohol – The Liver is tasked with metabolizing alcohol and too much drinking will further damage the Liver
- Engage in gentle exercises like Taichi, Qi Gong, Pilates, Yoga or hike through nature. There are tons of free videos on these practices on YouTube.
- Do deep breathing exercise – Increasing inhalation or exhalation can help reverse the “fight-or-flight” response
- Use foam rollers or a hairbrush to roll or hit along the inside and outside of your thigh as Liver and its paired organ, Gall Bladder channel run along this pathway.
- Stop eating 3-4 hours before bedtime and don’t eat when you are stressed as this further stresses your Liver function
- Be kind to yourself. What we are going through is not normal so you shouldn’t expect yourself to perform at the same level
- Spend time in prayer and meditation
If you or someone you know are suffering with symptoms and conditions associated with stress, please do not hesitate to reach out. You may simply need to talk to someone who can guide you to process your stress or you may need prescription herbs or treatments to reverse the damages to your Liver and its connecting organs as a result of stress.
San Fu Allergy Patches
Is your allergy stopping you from enjoying outdoor activities?
Do you suffer from chronic nasal congestion or runny nose?
Worried about catching the flu or cold easily?
Don’t wait until the next episode to start acting. Do you know summer is the best time to strengthen your immune system and fight off allergies?
San Fu Tie, or San Fu medicinal patches has 2000 years of history and has been growing in popularity recently in China for treating chronic allergy and respiratory symptoms. The patch contains herbs to strengthen the body’s immune system and is quick, painless and recommended for both children and adults. Preventative medicine has long been the essence of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and San Fu patches are a great example to prepare your body for the season of fall and winter.
For this summer, our clinic will be offering the San Fu allergy patches on the following 3 days:
*You will need to get the patches 3 times on these specific 3 days to receive the maximum benefits. Each patch session is $45 or pay for the patch package for all 3 days at $120.
Please contact us to reserve your appointment!
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