The previous post went in depth about what qi is, how it is formed and how it functions in our bodies. But what happens when the qi is disturbed or thrown out of balance? The simple answer, disease or illness occurs. But, as mentioned, this is a very simple answer and there is more to this topic. So let’s dive in to understand more about the different patterns of qi.
According to East Asian Medicine, we are born with a set amount of essence, called jing (primordial qi), and that must last us a lifetime. Activities such as overworking, stressing and abusing the body will burn this essence and shorten the life span.
When we get stressed, our nervous system goes into fight or flight mode, tapping into the adrenal glands. If the body does not quickly return to a rest and digest state, the flow of qi is disrupted. This can lead to qi imbalances, which leave the whole body feeling off. Here are a few signs that your qi is out of balance:
- You stay up late and do not sleep well during the night (yin and yang are reversed).
- You work too much and do not allow enough time for your body to heal.
- You indulge in nutrient-poor foods and alcohol.
- You have emotional irritability, anger or depression.
- You feel burnout.
- You have low energy and fatigue.
- You gain weight easily or you have difficulty losing weight.
- You have irregular menstrual cycles.
- You have body aches and pains.
- You have breathing issues.
- You suffer from acid reflux or other digestive issues.
There are four main imbalances of qi that are recognized by East Asian Medicine, qi deficiency, qi stagnation, qi sinking and qi rebelling. Each of these categories have their own set of symptoms that are commonly associated with the imbalance, but not every person will experience all of the common symptoms.
Deficiency is a lack of something and if we’re equating qi with energy, it’s easy to see how a qi deficient person would feel tired all of the time. Every organ system has its own qi, and a qi deficiency in a particular organ would produce weakness in its function. Lung qi deficiency would lead to shortness of breath, Spleen qi deficiency would lead to poor appetite, etc. The most common symptoms of qi deficiency include fatigue, insomnia, poor digestion, cold hands and feet, frequent urination, shortness of breath, little to no appetite, weakened immune system and / or loose stools.
The qi and blood that flow through the meridians in the body can become stuck, either due to external forces like an injury or internal disharmony. When qi is no longer moving, it is referred to as being stagnant, and qi stagnation can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as stress, anger, frustration, bloating, pain, PMS and even benign tumors or lumps.
Qi, more specifically spleen qi, is in charge of holding the organs in place and the blood within the vessels. When it is very deficient, it may lead to qi sinking. Think of a weak person trying to hold an object up for a long period of time. Eventually his or her arms will slowly lower as they lose stamina. The quintessential sign of qi sinking is organ prolapse, which is when a (Western) organ such as the uterus or bladder falls out of place and descends downward. Symptoms of qi sinking include general weakness, fatigue, aversion to speak, short of breath, dizziness, hemorrhoids, frequent or urgent urination, incontinence or a feeling of bearing down.
Qi usually follows a specific route of flow through the body. But sometimes it doesn’t go where it’s supposed to. For instance, lung qi should descend downward to be received by the kidney. Rebellious lung qi would flow the opposite way – up instead of down – and would present as a cough. Common symptoms of qi rebelling include coughing, vomiting, hiccupping, nausea, belching and asthma.
This is just part of what an acupuncturist considers when they are diagnosing and treating patients. But, as you can see, this is extremely important with regards to the outcome and whether the patient will feel better and heal. The other thing that is always taken into account is that during the healing process, qi can shift and change. So a person who originally was diagnosed with qi stagnation, can actually show signs of deficiency after the stagnation or excess has been cleared away.
East Asian Medicine has a lot to offer those who are willing to give it a chance. And because it is so customizable and fluent, every patient has tremendous odds of healing over time.