At one time or another, you may have turned to alternative medicine looking for answers when it seemed the medical system was unable to give you the relief you were looking for. Whether you’re looking to take a more holistic approach to symptom management in addition to conventional medicine, are experiencing adverse side effects of immunosuppressive drugs, or medication hasn’t been effective, then traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may be for you.
We know that autoimmune disorders affect every body differently, and we know they can be debilitating and costly to treat as well. Most autoimmune disorders do not have just one cause, but instead are a combination of genetic and environmental triggers that make you more susceptible to developing an autoimmune disease. There are many conventional and alternative treatment options you can turn to when looking to manage your autoimmune disease symptoms. Traditional Chinese medicine may be an effective option to make you more comfortable, or even put your symptoms into remission. (Source, Source)
In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of what traditional Chinese medicine is and what it entails, and how this method of care may be utilized to help manage autoimmune disorders.
What Is Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including remedies such as acupuncture, tai chi, herbal supplements, moxibustion, cupping, and massage, has been practiced for thousands of years and truly hasn’t diverged much from its origins. Chinese medicine uses psychological and physiological approaches to address and correct underlying imbalances that have had or are having a negative impact on your health. Rooted in traditional methods that have been passed down through generations, TCM is an alternative and useful approach you could seamlessly add into your diet and lifestyle regimen to improve and manage your autoimmune symptoms. (Source)
How Does Chinese Medicine Help?
According to TCM, imbalance in the body can lead to disease. To obtain balance and sustain optimal health there must not be stagnant qi (often romanized as “chi”), which they define as the life source of energy that connects all things in the universe. It is believed that imbalances in the body — referred to as qi deficiency or qi excess — can be corrected by balancing yin and yang to treat illness and disease. Understanding the balance of yin and yang according to TCM is important in maintaining qi. Yin and yang are the opposite and complementary forces of qi that play off each other, with one unable to exist without the other. Balancing yin and yang is a bit like a see-saw: You cannot have one side go up without the other side going down. (Source, Source)
What is Qi in Chinese Medicine?
In Chinese medicine, not having adequate amounts of this vital energy is called qi deficiency. This can result from many factors, such as lack of sleep, food, shelter, fresh outdoor air, or anything we need to survive and thrive as humans. Chinese medicine believes qi deficiency can also stem from not having enough stimulation and interaction mentally and socially, as well as not receiving the love we need to feel whole and balanced from the inside out. (Source)
In contrast, qi excess simply means having too much of this energy. Qi excess can be just as damaging, if not more so, than qi deficiency. This condition of excess can result from environmental toxins such as polluted air or water, as well as internal toxins such as overeating, too much physical activity, stress, and strong negative emotions that affect your health from the inside out. (Source)
In order to avoid this imbalance of qi and the disharmony of yin and yang, you must maintain a healthy balance of your emotions. We know emotions, especially stress, play a large role in developing and managing autoimmune disease symptoms. Think about some of the symptoms an autoimmune diagnosis may bring: trouble sleeping, joint pain with stiffness and possible function loss, muscle aches, fatigue, and more. Chinese medicine would manage these symptoms by addressing the emotional imbalance that is tied to the symptom and associated organ. (Source)
Emotions and Chinese Medicine
It is believed in TCM that emotions are tied in and connected to how our organs function. Specific organs are associated with specific emotions, and if emotions are chronically over-stimulated your qi is likely to become imbalanced. Studies have shown that 80% of those affected with autoimmune disease reported excess stress before disease onset.
We know that stress stems from our emotions, and Chinese medicine supports the emotions of the patient by targeting the organ that is affected by stress. Examples of this emotion-organ connection include fear and the kidneys, worry and the stomach, and stress and the liver. Experiencing these negative emotions chronically will deplete organ function resulting in imbalance of qi. (Source, Source)
Chinese Medicine Remedies
Acupuncture involves inserting very thin, long needles into trigger points on top of the skin to target specific meridians, or energy channels, and unblock stagnant qi, or unmoving energy. In addition to the use of needles, the practitioner may also advise on nutrition and lifestyle practices to better impact your overall health and wellness. (Source)
Tai chi is a traditional form of movement that comes from ancient Chinese practices. This form of exercise first started out as an ancient practice of martial arts. More recently, Tai chi has evolved into a way of maintaining mental health through the physical act of deep breathing, slow and gentle movements, and meditation. (Source)
Traditional Chinese herbs are used to address illness and disease to balance a person’s qi and treat the excess or deficiency accordingly. There are hundreds of herbal therapies used in TCM, and herbal treatment is determined and chosen to manage the specific symptoms you are experiencing. (Source)