Chinese Medicine Diagnosis (Part II): Listening & Smelling

Chinese Medicine Diagnosis (Part II): Listening & Smelling

Did you know that smells and sounds from your body can indicate certain problems with your internal organ function? They can sometimes also indicate ongoing health issues which you may not be aware of.

Quite often my patients come to me with an unusual odour coming from their body, such as bad breath, or an unusual sound such as rumbling. It is important to know how unusual odours and sounds relate to the function of our internal organs for diagnosis.

1. What is Listening & Smelling?

Listening and Smelling is also known as Auscultation and Olfaction in Chinese medicine terminology.

This is a very important component of diagnosis where Chinese medicine practitioners collect additional signs from the body to determine the cause of the disease.

Different sounds and smells coming from the body relate to the different internal organs. They can indicate changes in Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood of the particular organ affected. They can also indicate the type of cause as being excessive (overacting) or deficiency (weakness) of the organ.

The abnormal sounds are: cough, shortness of breath, sneezing, burping, sighing, flatulence, crying, voice (loud, quiet etc), moaning, rumbling (tummy) and clicking of the joints.

The abnormal smells are from: stools, urination, bodily discharges, perspiration, underarms and bad breath.

2. Examples of Sounds and Smells in Diagnosis

I will use the following examples to give you more of an idea about how sounds and smells help us with diagnosis:

a) Strong cough without phlegm may indicate heat in the Lung and Lung Yin deficiency.

b) Talking with a quiet low voice and disliking to speak may indicate internal organ deficiency, usually of the Lung, Spleen or Kidney Qi.

c) Grinding teeth while sleeping may indicate digestive system disorder.

d) Sighing often may indicate stagnation in the Liver.

e) Clicking of the joints may indicate Liver Yin deficiency and a lack of circulation.

f) Strong smelling urine may indicate heat in the Urinary Bladder, Kidney or lower abdominal area.

g) Bad breath may indicate indigestion, food stagnation or infection (heat) in the mouth.

3. How can you cooperate with your Chinese medicine practitioner for Listening & Smelling?

i) On the day of your consultation please avoid wearing perfume.

ii) Avoid eating certain strong-smelling foods such as garlic and chives before your consultation.

iii) If you are unsure of the smell of your secretions upon questioning, you can remember to take notice of them when you go home, and report them during your next consultation. If necessary the practitioner can then adjust your diagnosis according to this information.

It is important to remember that all body smells or sounds are natural and nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Once we can find out the cause and what is going on internally we can help to treat the problem.

Next, learn about Questioning in Chinese medicine diagnosis.

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Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.