Causes of Disease – Part 1: Emotions and Environment

“So what caused the health problem?” This is a common question asked by patients in my acupuncture clinic.

For Western minds, we’re used to explaining and understanding things in a direct linear cause-and-effect manner. However, Eastern medicine has observed that natural phenomena in the real world, including our own health, is not always simple or black and white; many factors can contribute and interact with each other to create imbalance and disease pathology in our lives.

Because of this, Traditional Chinese Medicine groups the etiology, or causes of disease, into several main categories.

1) Internal causes – Eastern medicine recognizes that emotions, especially when they are prolonged, have a significant impact on our health, with each emotional state corresponding to a particular internal organ:

  • anger
  • excessive joy
  • pensiveness
  • grief
  • sorrow
  • fear
  • fright

It is interesting to note that even Western medicine is discovering and acknowledging the role of emotions on our health through certain modern fields of medical research such as psychoneuroimmunology.

2) External causes – Traditional Chinese Medicine also recognizes that our environment, including changes in temperature, air pressure, and humidity (classically described as Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Dryness), can have an impact on our health.

For example, many people who live here in the cold and damp temperate rain forest climate of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada notice that their rheumatic joint pain improves when they travel down south to a warm and dry climate and returns when they come back home. For others, a fluctuation of symptoms that they experience may also be related to certain times of the year or changes in the seasons.

3) Other causes – the third and final category is wide ranging and includes many other factors such as:

  • diet
  • overwork
  • fatigue
  • trauma
  • pathogen infections

All of these causes can create specific patterns of signs and symptoms in a person’s health. By recognizing and addressing the causes and patterns of imbalance, the healing ability of the body can be nurtured to help regain a healthier state of balance.

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