Steven Sonmore, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., OBT, is
owner of Complete Oriental Medical Care in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. He treats treats chronic pain, digestive problems,
allergies, facial rejuvenation, depression, impotence, migraines
and many other health concerns. Visit his web site at www.orientalmedcare.com.
When Marie came to see me, she was a recent law student graduate
ambitiously studying for her bar exam. She was 27, a single mother,
and on first glance appeared in good health. But for many years
she had suffered with severe stomach pain. For pain relief she
used strong prescription drugs, a method which was not always
Marie explained that, for years, she had been maintaining an
intense study schedule that involved staying up late to learn
her craft. From an Oriental medical perspective, excessive concentration
can weaken the spleen, which is part of the digestive system and
converts food essences into Qi (pronounced "chee") or
vital life energy.
Marie's pain was especially intense when she was hungry and the
hunger was accompanied by irritability. She also satiated a keen
thirst with iced beverages and lots of coffee, particularly lattes,
which are made with expresso.
Upon initial examination, I found Marie's pulse to be wiry, which
indicated to me that she had Heat in the Stomach and Liver. Oriental
medicine diagnoses the body climatically; so, heat, cold, wind,
dampness, and dryness are viewed as possible pathogenic factors.
The nature of Heat is to accelerate metabolic activity, activate
circulation, and dilate blood vessels. In Oriental medicine, it
is not necessary to have a fever recorded on a thermometer to
verify the existence of excess Heat in the body. Hot conditions
are often associated with thirst, dryness, constipation, agitation
or difficult urination.
After examining Marie's tongue, pulse, tender acupoints, and
health history, I determined that she had what Oriental medical
practitioners call Wood attacking Earth. This is a term used in
the Five Element Theory, a system used by Oriental medical practitioners
for diagnosis and treatment. In it, each element represents an
evolutionary stage of transformation - fire, earth, metal, water,
and wood. And each element corresponds to the five organ networks
-the Heart, Spleen, Lung, Kidney, and Liver. Each of these elements
and their corresponding organs must be in proper balance in our
bodies for optimal health.
In Oriental medicine we look at how the organs are working with
each other. For instance, the job of the Liver is to smoothly
spread Qi to the other organs like a distributor. It is also is
in charge of the smooth flow of emotions. When the Liver is out
of balance it can become "hot" and send energy upward
in the body. The heat affects the mind, creating irritability
and anger, and dries up fluids to cause thirst. Excess Liver energy
can also overact on the stomach, causing pain in that area.
Each element has psychological and emotional correspondences.
The Wood element corresponds to the Liver organ and to the emotions
of anger and frustration. The Wood element also is our drive,
initiative, and decision-making abilities. The Earth element corresponds
to the Stomach and Spleen and associated with the emotion of worry.
The Earth element also corresponds to our capacity to formulate
ideas and focus attention, as well as our body's ability to change
food into energy.
To address Marie's condition, I administered acupuncture to smooth
out her excess liver energy, nourish her body fluids, strengthen
her spleen, and calm her mind. The first treatment had amazing
results. Marie felt very clam and refreshed. Her stomach pain
was completely gone.
But acupuncture is just one of many tools of this ancient system
of health care. Next, we needed to address her lifestyle. I prescribed
a Chinese herbal combination based on her tongue and pulse diagnoses.
This combination sedated the rising heat from her liver and smoothed
out her liver energy. The herbs also strengthened her Spleen,
and calmed her Shen (Chinese for Mind/Spirit).
Next, we talked about diet. I suggested that it might be a good
idea for Marie to drink green tea instead of coffee. I told her
of coffee's ill effects on the body, and that coffee is an energetically
cold substance, creating conflict with the spleen, which likes
warming foods. Coffee also depletes the kidney yin and yang, so
although it gives us a temporary boost in energy, we are eventually
draining our energetic resources. Women in particular would do
well to avoid coffee. Oriental medicine teaches that coffee can
cause energetic accumulations in the breast and pelvic areas,
and can negatively affect women's reproductive organs. Green tea,
conversely, strengthens the Spleen and enlivens the mind. It also
contains natural caffeine that does not cause jitters. Finally,
Marie and I talked about avoiding iced beverages because they
weaken the Spleen.
Ultimately, excess liver energy is due to mental and emotional
causes. The stress of studying and preparing for a very demanding
and expensive exam was tremendous for Marie. It reminded me of
when I was preparing for the national acupuncture exam. So, to
address this part of the puzzle, I taught Marie Qi Gong meditation.
This empowered Marie to personally strengthen her own internal
organs and enjoy serenity. The liver enjoys periods of activity
balanced with periods of introspection.
Marie's treatment in my clinic ended after a series of acupuncture
treatments. In the end, not only did Marie's stomach pain disappear,
but so did her irritability. She no longer had to depend on prescription
drugs to kill the pain. I am happy to say that Marie passed her
bar exam with flying colors and now is a very successful lawyer,
without stomach pain.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine works on all levels simultaneously
- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When we can balance
these aspects of ourselves, we can approach our lives and our
challenges from a thoughtful, still place.
Steven Sonmore, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., OBT, is
owner of Complete Oriental Medical Care. Visit his web site
He treats treats chronic pain, digestive problems, allergies,
facial rejuvenation, depression, impotence, migraines and
many other health concerns.