Monday, November 20, 2017

Bi-Weekly Blog from Local Experts

Wind and the body

Kite Wind SurfCabarete is a windy place. Windsurfers and kiters love this picturesque bay because of the wind. Those that don’t practice wind propelled water sports enjoy the breeze just as much as they chill on the beach. But can prolonged wind exposure have a negative influence on the body? What happens to our body if we sleep with the fan or airco on? Traditional Chinese Medicine expert Sharon Speicher answers these questions and others.

 

 

 The concept of Qi (pronounced Chee)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the unrestricted flow of Qi is essential to keeping the body healthy and balanced, explains Sharon. The concept of Qi refers to two aspects. One refers to the vital substances comprising the human body and maintaining its life activities, such as the Qi of water and food (food essence), the Qi of breathing (breathing nutrients) and so on. The other refers to the physiological functions of viscera and bowels, channels and collaterals, such as the Qi of the heart, the lung, the spleen and the stomach and so on.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine you are born with certain levels of Qi, and other Qi is derived from what we eat, and from the air we breathe. Wei Qi refers specifically to flows that are primarily in the superficial layers of the body, or in other words in muscles and skin. Wei Qi can most easily be explained as the energy emitting from the interior of our bodies outward. Think of a force field of protection, our frontline defense to external invaders.


Wind girl

The wind and Wei Qi
When a person is young and healthy, wind is a welcome sensation. Gentle breezes caressing our skin are a pleasurable feeling.  Strong winds blowing in the tropical heat help keep us cool and are the very source of ecstasy for the wind-harnessing sport fanatics who enjoy riding the wind and water on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.  

But what if you’re not so young and vital? Infants and the elderly have immune systems that are not as strong. And what about someone who is just plain sick or tired, or both? Suppose your Wei Qi is interrupted or not flowing strongly or smoothly from an injury old or recent to a specific part of the body, can external wind invade your Wei Qi?

Getting scientific evidence would be a tricky research project. First, western medicine would need to recognize the concept of Wei Qi, leaving aside the question of how its strength would be measured. Also, some air is laden with moisture, which would surely also have to be included as a factor to be measured. Despite these scientific obstacles you will probably instinctively agree that the wind can have an influence on the body.  If you have ever had an injured neck or shoulder and then have been exposed to a constant cold air flow blowing on said neck or shoulder by for example air-conditioning or wind created by driving a vehicle, you will have subsequently experienced that dull, achy pain, that seemingly goes right into the bone or joint.


Wei Qi man

Possible diagnoses provided by Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the term Bi syndrome (pronounced “bee”) describes how different combinations of wind, heat, moisture and cold can affect our bodies even down to the blood and bone level.  The western medicine comparison might be osteoarthritis.  

First a depletion of Wei Qi from over-use, injury or general weakness is present. Then the external environment overrides the Wei Qi. Some are more bothered by damp/heat or wind/cold or any of these combinations. Bi syndrome is a common diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

A rather extreme example of what the wind can do is Bell’s palsy.  This syndrome results in half of the face suddenly experiencing muscle weakness.  As a student, one of my first cases was a patient with this syndrome.  A young Asian man who had recently migrated to the U.S. and had been sleeping under an AC vent. He woke up with the above described symptoms.  After ten treatments of acupuncture, the nerve/muscle function returned. I’ve since treated two other cases of Bell’s palsy.  In both cases the patients revealed being overtired and then experiencing strong wind conditions, one while skiing, another while motorcycle riding.  Regardless of the etiology of Bell’s palsy the treatment plan is to tonify or strengthen the Wei Qi, reduce inflammation, and signal the facial nerves to regenerate or function normally.  

Chakra energy

Keeping our Wei Qi strong to ward off negative influences by the wind
So how do we keep our bodies strong so the external influence of the wind doesn’t override our Wei Qi leading to pain, numbness, stiffness or possibly other pathologies?  It all comes down to the strength and movement of Qi.  As we age this is even more important. Think of a river whose mighty force slows down to a trickle.  As the flow of water lessens, this creates the possibility of stagnation or water pooling.  Taking this analogy to the body, it is important to keep that trickle free of boulders and log jams. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses many strategies to keep the Qi strong and flowing including acupuncture, herbal formulas and regular practice of Tai Chi, to name a few.  

Independently of whether you believe that the wind can affect the body or not, it still makes sense to keep your body strong and moving.  Resting is also an important part of cultivating Qi.  Common sense tells us to slow down and stop if we are tired.  But do we? Listen to your body.  

In most of these wind-influenced syndromes, there first is a depletion or weakness of Wei Qi.  So when living in a windy outdoor environment like the one we have here on the North Coast, or being in an indoor environment with the artificial wind of air-conditioning or fans, it is important to be aware of the potential effect of moving air.  Positioning yourself where you sit or sleep in relation to an air duct or window is something to think about. Even if it is warm outside but you know there is relentless wind blowing, it never hurts to have a wrap of some kind to protect the neck and shoulders.

Dog wind

Five steps to stay healthy when it comes to wind exposure
1) Be aware of your surroundings, both indoors as well as outside, in relation to constant air flow.
2) Limit your wind exposure if you are feeling tired or run down.
3) Keep your body strong and moving as this translates into optimal Wei Qi.  
4) Eating well and regularly, and staying hydrated, helps support your health and Wei Qi.
5) Both Traditional Chinese Medicine strategies of acupuncture and cultivation of Qi through movement keep the body optimal in its relationship to environmental factors.

So let the wind blow! Let your spirits soar! Be strong and one with the wind!

 

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