Do you know your body’s Chinese medicine constitution?
Traditional Chinese medicine considers that everyone’s physical constitution is different. Your constitution is much more than just your body shape.
A person’s constitution is associated with genetic and also post-natal influences, which includes your environment, diet, profession, emotional influences and relationships.
1. Why is it important to know your type of constitution?
Chinese medicine recognises that different types of constitutions need to be looked after in different ways, from one’s general lifestyle and diet as well as the herbal medicine and acupuncture formula when the body is out of balance.
For example, sometimes a family comes to see me for a head cold at the same time, but after checking each member of the family I usually give them different herbal formulas or use different types of treatment: cupping, acupuncture or meridian massage. This is due to their different constitutions (including age, sex, history of illness, any medications they are currently taking etc). Also, I suggest dietary changes according to each individual case.
Also, we believe for general health maintenance each person needs an individual plan to enhance their health. For example, sometimes two people can take the same natural health supplement but will have a very different response. Some people may improve and others may feel unwell after taking it, or it may have no effect at all.
2. How do you find out your constitution?
a) From your traditional Chinese medicine practitioner
I suggest you have a general check with your traditional Chinese medicine practitioner once or twice a year. Not only to find out your constitution but also get some advice about lifestyle and diet that best suits your body.
b) Check yourself with our list of constitutional types
Sometimes it is not convenient to visit your practitioner or due to certain reasons your constitution may change. In this case you can check our list of constitution types and find some helpful information for your health maintenance.
3. Common constitution types in Chinese medicine
a) Qi Deficiency Constitution
Causes: Usually due to your internal organ weakness and impaired function.
Associated organs: The following organs are associated with Qi Deficiency: Heart, Kidneys, Lungs or Spleen.
Major symptoms: shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, bloating especially after eating, sluggish bowel movements, palpitations, tightness of chest, aching lower back, frequent urination, impotence or low libido.
All of these symptoms can become worse at the end of the day or after physical activity. Those people can also experience the following diseases: low blood pressure, under-active thyroid.
Lifestyle and diet: Avoid excess physical activity such as work, exercise and housework. You can do relaxing and gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, tai chi and qigong.
Avoid overeating, avoid eating large amounts of heavy, greasy foods, eat smaller amounts four or five times a day, eat warm foods and avoid cold foods and drinks. I suggest one boiled egg with your breakfast four or five times a week.
b) Blood Deficiency Constitution
Causes: This weak blood condition affects women more than men in my experience. Generally the following health issues can cause weakness of blood: heavy periods, short menstrual cycle, pregnancy, labour, after a long illness, after surgery, excessive dieting, indigestion, and internal organ disorder.
Major associated organs: Liver, Heart and Spleen, weakness of the Blood.
Major symptoms: pale face, pale and brittle nails, tired, dizziness, scanty periods, delayed or no periods, hair loss, pale tongue. Some people may have the following diseases: anaemia, chronic fatigue syndrome.
Lifestyle and diet: Avoid hot and dry environments, exercise in cool or mild weather. Make sure you drink plenty of water after exercise. Avoid eating hot and spicy foods. The following foods you can eat more frequently: green vegetables, Chinese red dates, goji berries, beef bone soup, carrots, beetroot, boiled eggs. Consume nutritious soups often.
c) Yang Deficiency Constitution
Causes: This is usually associated with inherited influence and can develop after a long illness, from too much cold food and drink in the diet and being influenced by pathogenic cold.
Major associated organs: Heart, Kidney, Spleen.
Major symptoms: cold hands and feet, aversion to cold, puffiness and heaviness of body, oedema, difficult to lose weight, diarrhoea, sluggish bowel movements, joint pain, period pain. All of these symptoms become worse in cold conditions.
Lifestyle and diet: Avoid cold and damp environments, exercise in a warm and sunny environment, avoid sitting or walking on cold floors without socks, avoid eating and drinking cold foods.
Eat the following foods more often: onion, mandarin, lamb, prawns, chestnuts, venison and adzuki beans.
d) Yin Deficiency Constitution
Causes: Yin deficiency means a lack of yin (the blood and body fluids that moisturise the different parts of the body). Many reasons can cause yin deficiency such as genetics, prolonged illness, after surgery, after labour, over-eating hot and spicy foods, internal organ disharmony and living in very hot environments.
Major associated organs: Kidney, Liver, Lung, Stomach.
Major symptoms: very thirsty, red face, dry skin, rash or itchy skin, cracked lips, heels and fingers and toes, hot flushes, heartburn, insomnia, vivid dreams, red tongue with no coating, dry stools, stiffness and creaking of the joints. These people may have the following illnesses: overactive thyroid, prolonged menopause, high blood pressure, anxiety or reflux.
Lifestyle and diet: We suggest avoiding hot and dry conditions especially when you exercise, drink more water or soups, avoid eating hot and spicy foods such as chilli, onion, ginger, garlic, lamb, venison, shellfish (especially if you have dry and itchy skin). Eat cooling foods such as celery, spinach, honey, carrots, chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, pear, white mushrooms, watermelon, green leafy vegetables, orange, lemon and tomato (the last three are not suitable for people who have heartburn or acid reflux).
e) Stagnation Constitution (of Qi or Blood)
Causes: This type of constitution experiences a lack of circulation, Qi and blood not flowing properly. Qi and blood gets stuck in certain channels and areas of the body, causing stagnation and organ disharmony. This type of constitution is very common in the clinic over the last 20 years, this is associated with increasing pressure from society, and Chinese medicine considers many types of cancers are caused by stagnation.
Major associated organs: Liver, Gall Bladder, Heart.
Major symptoms: Anxiety and depression, insomnia, vivid dreams, headache, stiff neck and shoulders, easy to sweat, premenstrual tension, breast fullness before the period, discomfort or pain in the hypochondriac area (side of the ribs) and hips, bloating, sluggish bowel movements. Some people may have the following diseases or illness: endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, thyroid issues, breast cancer, breast cysts, uterine fibroids.
Lifestyle and diet: Suitable exercise outdoors especially in green environments is very important such as walking, slow running, yoga, tai chi, meditation or swimming. We also suggest listening to soft music. Avoid stress and slow down your lifestyle, talk to someone if you have some emotional issues. Eat more of the following foods such as celery, green leafy vegetables, lemon, orange, coriander, green tea, banana, Chinese white radish and carrots.
f) Excessive Yang Constitution
This type of body has too much yang or too much pathogenic heat. The excessive yang can not only damage the organs themselves but also damage other parts of the body.
Major associated organs: Liver and Gall Bladder, Heart, Lung, Large Intestine.
Major symptoms: very emotional, anxiety, palpitations, red face, easy to sweat, body feeling hot, constipation and smelly stools or wind, bloating, insomnia, violent dreams, yellow phlegm and cough, red tongue and thick yellow coating. These people may have the following illnesses: high blood pressure, migraine, anxiety, overactive thyroid, stroke, bronchitis.
Lifestyle and diet: Avoid hot environments, avoid stress and emotional upheaval, do slow and relaxing exercise in cool environments. Eat the following foods: watermelon, orange, lemon, green tea, peppermint tea, pear, plum, eggplant, cucumber, tomato, green leafy vegetables, celery. Avoid eating hot and spicy foods such a ginger and chill, garlic, curry, lamb and onion.
4. Can you change your unhealthy constitution?
As you now know, each person’s constitution is associated with prenatal influences which you can’t change and post-natal influence which you can change.
Chinese medicine can find out what is your internal organ disharmony or inbalance and rebalance your body with using acupuncture, cupping, scrubbing, Chinese herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle suggestions.
During your whole life your constitution also changes due to many issues such as changing residence, after a major surgery, after a prolonged illness, after labour, menopause etc.
You can check your body with your Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, if it is not convenient to visit a practitioner you can check yourself with the information above.
Every body can be healthy and beautiful. I suggest our constitution (our body) is just like a garden. If you look after it well it will thrive, if neglected it may become unhealthy and unattractive.