by Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.
One of the greatest challenges to healing according to Chinese Medicine is the factor of Wind.
In Chinese Medicine, Wind is considered to be the primary disrupter of one’s health and the precursor to the “100 diseases.” The concept of Wind is described in Huang Di Nei Jing, known as the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor, and considered the foremost classical Chinese medical text: "Wind is the chief [cause] of the one hundred diseases. When it comes to changes and transformations, other diseases result. It has no permanent cardinal point [where it comes from]. However, [whatever] sets in does so because of Wind qi.” (Unschuld, 2011, 631).
Wind can be associated with acute diseases like colds, flus and allergic reactions. Here we will discuss Wind in association with chronic health disorders.
All chronic disorders are degenerative because over time managing the symptoms of any chronic condition is very taxing on the body's constitition as it depletes the body's resources necessary for regeneration. In order to heal a chronic degenerative disease, we need to address the Wind in our lives, which relates to creating change within ourselves and in our lifestyle to allow for deep transformation to unfold. This is done through daily cultivation.
We must ask ourselves the question - what are we cultivating in our lives? Are we cultivating health with a healthy lifestyle or disease with a stressed out lifestyle filled with bad habits? In order to change any health problem, we must change ourselves on some level.
Resistance to change is the precursor to the manifestation of Wind.
Stubbornness or an inflexible mind leads to rigidity in the body. When a person resists seeing and moving away from the causes of dis-ease in his or her life, over time this resistance stirs up the Wind that ushers in the process of disease.
Overcoming resistance to changing one's life in the face of disease is the key psychological factor to support moving away from illness and towards health and well being.
On a physical level, Wind can be contracted externally from environmental exposure of wind itself or from some type of chemical exposure causing neurological, glandular and organ dysfunction.
Wind can also be generated internally from a body burdened with too much heat (inflammation). Like a fire in the forest which generates wind, too much heat in the body will generate wind. Severe emotional stress can stir-up the occurrence of internal Wind in the form of high blood pressure and when heat and Wind are severe, this can manifest as a stroke.
Wind can also arise from a life-style that depletes the body's yin (hormonal) reserves which can be described as burning the candle on both ends. An example is expending one's physical resources working hard during the day, either physically or mentally, and then engaging in vigorous exercising in the evening. This is the "burning the candle on both ends" scenario. The evening is the time to consolidate one's yin/fluids, and cool down from the exhausting day's activities. When a person is over-active in the evening, then one's yin reserves get drained creating dryness and heat in the body which will lead to internal Wind. This can internal Wind and Heat can create any number of disorders as stated below, but in the big picture, it is creating pre-mature aging.
An important question to ask yourself is how's the weather in your body? You can usually figure this out on your own. Is it too hot or too cold. Is it too dry or too damp? Is there too much Wind with symptoms of rashes, tics, nervousness, shaking, numbness, tingling or radiating pain?
Just as the wind shakes the leaves on the trees, internal Wind can create shaking in the body. The most extreme examples of this are patients with epilepsy who are prone to seizures. It is not uncommon that these patients feel their body shaking inside and when they stick out their tongue for diagnosis, the tongue will shake uncontrollably. You know they are healing as their tongue shaking decreases. Diets that are high in omega fatty acids, and especially ketogenic-based diets, have been found clinically to reduce seizures and therefore the presence of Wind.
Any neurological disorder is a syndrome of Wind as it causes a disruption in neurological function. Wind symptoms can present with hyper-activity of the nerves with twitching, spasms and pain as well as an under activity or decline in nerve function with symptoms of numbness and paralysis.
The presence of Wind is often experienced as spasm, cramping and radiating pain anywhere in the body. For example, Wind can be trapped in the gut causing acute abdominal discomfort or chronic irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. When Wind is trapped in the bladder it will cause cramping with urination. This can relate to a condition called Interstitial Cystitis, which Western medicine finds very difficult to manage but can be treated very effectively with Chinese Medicine.
When Wind is trapped in the head it can cause pressure leading to headaches, dizziness and disorientation. When Wind is trapped in the ears it can create pressure and ringing known as tinnitus. Wind can even affect the heart muscle causing chest pressure and angina.
Internally generated Wind can be caused by a long term deficiency of blood. In Western medical terms this can relate to anemia, which can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue and absent-mindedness resulting from a diminished supply of oxygen held in the blood due to a lack of iron. Lack of oxygen in this case impacts the brain's ability to think clearly and sustain proper balance.
It is not unusual for elderly people to become anemic even if they eat plenty of meat and green leafy vegetables. This often results from poor absorption of iron due to a lack of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach which is required for proper absorption of iron. In fact, one U.S. study found that 30% of the population over the age of 60 suffered from atrophic gastritis due to very low hydrochloric acid secretion of the stomach.
Unfortunately, taking iron supplements is not always the answer to boost iron levels, especially for men. To safely increase iron absorption, hydrochloric acid (HCL) likely needs to be supported directly with HCL tablets and zinc supplementation as zinc stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid .
Zinc is a very common nutrient found to be lacking in many individuals as well and is a crucial mineral in the production of hydrochloric acid for sufficient iron absorption. A simple zinc taste challenge test can be used to gauge a person's need for increased zinc supplementation.
Dealing with the pathology of Wind in chronic degenerative disorders can be challenging and test a person's will power and confidence to follow through with treatment and lifestyle changes on their path to healing.
The more long term and severe a person's condition, the longer the healing process will usually take for significant change to occur. If a person is patient and perseveres in their healing process, they can often be rewarded with great healing, but if he or she is impatient, frustrated easily and gives up quickly because change is happening too slowly, then healing a chronic condition becomes very difficult.
Having faith and seeing yourself as healthy will help you stay the course to clear the Wind and experience a renewed sense of well being.
Resolving Wind can be a complex process. Nevertheless, resolving Wind can be as simple as changing your perspective.
It's important to remember that from a psychological standpoint, Wind equates to "resistance" and "confusion".
One of the basic exercises to practice each day deals with the idea of letting go. Letting go allows us to move on, to move forward, to change and move away from a state of illness and toward a state of wellness. Letting go allows us to free ourselves from resisting the changes we need to make in our lives. Perhaps for one person their illness is rooted in resisting forgiveness of them self or another. "Letting go" for someone else may be about moving on from an unhealthy job or workplace or ending a bad relationship. Through the practice of "letting go" we can experience what it is to step out in faith and learn to be less controlling in our lives. In this way we can allow the flow of life to move through us with all its blessings.
A Daily Cultivation Practice for Letting Go:
Each day, take notice of what you may be resisting in your life that may be holding you back from growing in mind, body and spirit. As you pay conscious attention and begin intentionally letting go of your resistance to change, you will naturally begin the process of resolving the Wind that is causing so much confusion and the many symptoms of dis-ease in your life.
Keep in mind, this is a practice of cultivation, a practice that requires daily attention to how you are living your life. Are you living to support health and healing or are you living to create Wind in your life with its many manifestations of confusion and dis-ease?
In our next article we will cover the factors of Hot, Cold and Dampness and their relation to conditions of inflammation and chronic degenerative diseases. We will also look at the side effects of many medications that impair one's healing in their pursuit to overcome chronic illness.
Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder and Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine & Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare non-insertion form of Acupuncture. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.