Grief and Digestive Issues – Are They Related in Chinese Medicine theory?


I hope you enjoyed my digression last week to talk about some important aspects of the state of medicine – especially Chinese medicine. I’d like to get back to talking about the way Chinese medicine can help in the treatment of digestive disorders. If you missed the previous articles in this series : read the first part here, and the second part here.

Last time we talked about the relationship between the Spleen and Lung in digestion.

This week I’d like to go into one of those organs more directly, the Lung, its relationship to grief, its metal aspect, and how this might affect our digestive health.

As we discussed last week, the Lung is associated with metal and therefore has a downward association. When we need to “let go” of something, often times there is an awareness of a downward movement there, putting it down, letting it go, allowing it to fall away. All of these metaphors are often used in discussions of grief or sadness – and interestingly enough highlight the metal aspect.

Metal Yang helps us to let go of attachments to thoughts or beliefs, as well as emotions and people.

The Lung is known as the sensitive organ, and is injured by grief (pain), sadness, and sorrow.

Relating to its metal aspect we can explain the Lung’s sensitivity by thinking of metal as something easily influenced by hot or cold. An example? Consider a metal spoon which absorbs hot or cold temperatures in an instant. In this way, the Lung as a metal organ absorbs, or gets easily overwhelmed almost instantaneously.

This can be the case for individuals who are either experiencing an acute period of grief – or even folks who experience grief on a daily basis. Being overwhelmed the grief can generate a state of melancholic thoughts and at times entrap the person. Metal that is in a physiological state will have the ability to be a conductor and a transmitter – absorbing things in a way that does not overwhelm allowing things to fall as they may. This is no easy feat!

So – if grief injures the Lung – the Lung is impaired – the metal down-bearing action is rendered less effective – therefore affecting the ability to let go of the grief. A self perpetuating cycle.

The Lung is one of two metal organs – the other is Large Intestine.

Large Intestine is the the direct connection between the reference in the last digestive post about letting go, and grief via the Lung, potentially creating constipation. We can’t go into extensive detail here, but briefly, the fact that the Lung and Large Intestine are paired means that they can have impacts on one another.

In other words when the Lung is impaired, the Large Intestine can readily be impaired as well.

What is paradoxical here, is that Metal Yang deficiency can indeed be a self-perpetuating cycle. Physiologically the Lung and Large Intestine want to move down, to let go, but when the Lung is injured by the emotion of grief – both the Lung and Large Intestine are affected and less able to function in their optimal state.

When we treat digestive issues in a person who has been experiencing grief, then, we must address the whole picture.

In a Chinese medicine appointment for issues like this, practitioners look at Lung’s diverse functions as well as those of Large Intestine. Most importantly we look at how the two of them, working for or against each other, impact the physical and emotional experiences of of our patient.

Metal yang deficiency can look many different ways – there are diverse symptoms that can manifest from similar imbalances – this is one of the most interesting things about Chinese medicine.

I also want to emphasize the fact that Metal Yang in large part helps to create and strengthen the Earth. Here it is in a literal sense – without Metal’s downward ability to enact its function – the digestive processes are impaired. At the same time, this plays out emotionally.

The Earth can also be looked at as the self, as I mentioned in previous articles. Emotionally, Metal Yang deficient patients have trouble “letting go” in the sense of boundaries – of separation – and individuation. This can become incredibly detrimental, and put simply – is not useful as Metal Yang deficient patients are often grasping after everyone and everything, not wanting – or worse yet, not knowing how at all – to “let go.”

Any change in variability – as mentioned in the beginning of the article – can be very tough for someone who is lacking Metal Yang.

This is related to another critical aspect of the Lung – its relationship to rhythm, and thereby stability. Any change in what is perceived as stability can rock the entire experience of this person – which truly speaks to the variability in bowel presentations people experience and report.

One of the most remarkable and core tenets of Chinese medicine is its ability to bring everything into perspective – and the amount we can learn about ourselves in the process. If you would like to talk with me about how your emotional and digestive health are intertwined, jump on my schedule and let’s get started.

Written by Melinda Wheeler, LAc

My care is personalized and tailored to each individual. Through my studies and training, I have developed many techniques and tools to treat anyone, no matter their ailment or injury. Whether you have identified symptoms of physical pain, emotional instability, or you aren’t quite able to put your finger on any form of dis-ease, but you want to try acupuncture and/or Chinese medicine, come and see what we can accomplish together for the betterment and evolution of your well being!