Why grief, germs and diarrhea go hand in hand.

This is the final installment of my organ series.

Today I’m going to talk about the yin and yang pair that’s left: the lungs and the large intestine.

When I learned about Eastern medicine I was wondering if it really works, it sounded so different from what I was used to.

Without hands-on experience, it’s easy to be a skeptic. That changed the day a “perfect example” walked into my office.

The patient’s major complaint was pain. In fact, pain in his face led to the extraction of all his teeth, but one. As if that’s not bad enough, this patient was constantly sick with the flu, and he was constantly plagued with bouts of diarrhea and constipation. You can read the full story here.

During my interview to get a medical history of the patient, I discovered he had lost three significant family members within the past year.

The patient’s disclosure of his grief clued me in on why he was suffering. Let me explain the connections I made with the new information: The lungs’ related emotion is grief, and the accompanying sound is crying. Grieving affects our lung function and reduces our ability to fight germs.

In terms of his intestinal ailments, it is known that 80 percent of our immune system resides in the gut. Conventional medicine also acknowledges this fact.

In Eastern medicine, the lungs and gut are related. In this patient, I could easily see how grief had affected both organs.

My patient’s grief had manifested itself in his large intestine. Letting go is the task of the large intestine, in both the physical and metaphysical sense. When you cling to a memory, a person, a pet, or anything in an unhealthy way, you will feel it in your gut.

I once attended a retreat focused on the topic of letting go. I can’t tell how often I went to the bathroom. Clearing your mental space leads to a direct clearing of your physical space. Our bodies try to eliminate all the accumulated waste.

The most active time of bowel and lungs is between 3 a.m. to 7 am. That’s why many asthma attacks occur during this time. The least active time is between 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Here’s an example of the relationship between the lungs and gut that I think you can relate to: Think about hay fever. Your eyes are itchy, your nose is stuffy and your throat is raw. When a doctor treats hay fever holistically, she must address intestinal function parallel to eye, nose and throat. Otherwise, the hay fever will return year after year after year.

What can you do to help yourself? Your lungs like anything rhythmic, meaning a stable rhythm of the day, as well as life rhythms. Think about running and rhythm of your breath.

Rhythm is also connected to rituals. Rituals help us structure our life on a day to day basis. Little things like 5 minutes of meditation every morning and dinner every day with your spouse create a rhythmic framework for your life.

In terms of eating, reduce the amount of meat, diary, eggs and coffee in your diet. Hot, spicy foods are especially good for lung and gut support.

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