The last blog topic, Balance, is one that I come into contact with every day. As an acupuncturist, this is the ultimate goal for my patients. Achieving balance is a challenging thing for most people – me included.
When I was younger, like most kids, I thought I was invincible. I didn’t need 8 hours of sleep, or even one full meal a day. I could hang out all hours of the night doing God knows what without ever thinking that there would be any consequences.
It wasn’t until years later, when I moved to San Diego that I started to realize what all of my careless, fun times had done to my body. I started noticing strange aches and pains in places that never seemed to bother me in the past. I started to notice night sweats – something that I thought only ‘old’ people had issues with. But I led a very healthy lifestyle now, so I was so confused as to why these things were happening to me.
Then, when learning about the foundational blocks of Chinese Medicine, the answer became clear: I burned my yin (candle)! I use the analogy of candle here because yin represents substance, solid material that exists in our bodies, like blood, fluid and organs. Yang represents the energy that runs in our bodies – like qi. So a candle represents these two parts. The candle wax representing the yin, while the flame is the yang.
Yin is an invaluable substance, that needs to be noted. Yin can be depleted by over work, stress, too much exercise, sex, or both, drug use, and smoking tabacco.
For example, when a person ages, they seem to shrink. What is actually happening is that the discs in between each vertebrae in the spine are shrinking. Which means that the vertebrae are becoming closer and closer together.
The picture above is an example of what happens in the thoracic area of the spine as we age.
Another example of losing yin as we age, happens when working out. If we don’t stretch properly – especially if we are working out as middle agers, the more likely we will suffer from a muscle/tendon strain or ligament sprain. Think of a snapped, brittle tree branch.
For example, the night sweats that I mentioned above are a great example of losing yin. Because yin always exists with yang and vice versa, they should be in balance. The minute that one of them – in this example – yin – is deficient, then that means that there will be more yang than yin. If yang represents heat, and yin is substance, then there will be heat that rises. In the case of our bodies, the heat that rises from yin deficiency rises only in the yin part of the day – evening and night – after the sun goes down. Once this heat rises, the body starts to sweat – as temperature regulation – thanks to our autonomic nervous system.
If we are properly lubricating our systems with water, and good oils (like coconut and fish oils), the better buffered our bodies will be during sports activities.
There is nothing that can be done in the long term about losing yin – we all end up pretty wrinkled prunes as we age. But we can slow down how fast we lose yin. The best way to do that is by the foods that we eat.
Here is a list of foods that everyone can begin to eat that will slow down the loss of yin:
black sesame seeds, black mission figs, dates, black beans, seafood (like muscles, oysters and clams), purple and regular sweet potatoes, apples, tofu (watch the amounts, because tofu contains a high amount of isoflavones that act like estrogens in the body, and is known to have a causative effect on breast cancer), eggs, coconut milk and oil, brown sugar, honey, kidney beans, peas and walnuts.
Here are a list of the symptoms that can show up when a person is truly yin deficient:
night sweats or hot flashes at night, insomnia, malar flush, hot palms and soles of feet, hot center of chest, having energy at night – when you should be asleep, sore throat that comes on at night, dry mouth and throat and shortage of body fluids. This of course should be confirmed by your acupuncturist with other diagnostic tools.
To read more about yin deficiency, click the link below:
For more on nutrition and Chinese Medicine, click below: