Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a few parameters through which it views the body. Yin and Yang and the Five Elements are arguably the most well-known, but another is in terms of Qi, Blood, and Body Fluid. While the concept of Body Fluid has some overlap with what we consider body fluids in Western medicine - urine, saliva, and sweat, for instance - it also encompasses other functions that are unique to TCM. The easiest way to understand this is by looking at the symptoms of Body Fluid imbalances.
Body Fluid Deficiency
Body Fluid is more yin than yang in nature, and understandably a deficiency in Body Fluid will lead to symptoms of dryness. This corresponds well with Western medicine. Picture someone who is dehydrated: His or her symptoms might include thirst, dry mouth, and scanty urine. Body Fluid deficiency may also lead to dry cough, constipation, and other Dryness conditions.
Deficiency can occur suddenly - say after massive blood loss or after a profuse depletion of fluids through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea - or it can be gradual as a result of other imbalances in the body, such Yin deficiency or pathogenic Heat. Either way, hydrating the body is of the utmost importance! Drink plenty of water - possibly with a bit of salt added to it - and consume cooling and hydrating foods like watermelon and "brothy" soups. Acupressure points like KD6 and SP6 can also help, as can stimulating points on the Lung meridian.
Excess Body Fluid
On the other hand, Body Fluid can also be in excess, the most obvious manifestation being edema. Edema is often yin in nature and usually ties into deficiencies in Qi and Yang. (If the body does not have the heat and energy to circulate fluids properly, they're not going to go anywhere!) In this case, the issue isn't that someone is drinking too much water - water consumption is still important - but rather that the body isn't metabolizing fluids as it should. Eating warming foods and stimulating acupoints KD7, Ren6, ST36, SJ5, and SJ10 can help in addition to following Western medicine practices like elevating the feet and wearing compression stockings.
Excess Body Fluid doesn't have to be as obvious as edema. The pathogenic factor Dampness is also included in this category, and as our post dedicated the subject explained, this pathogenic factor is involved in a wide variety of conditions and can be rather insidious.
Phlegm is a secondary pathogenic factor, meaning it's a result of another internal disharmony. It can be in the form of how we use the word in Western culture - basically a congealed Dampness that's stuck or coughed up from the lungs - but it can also be less tangible, impairing circulation through the meridians, clouding the sense organs, misting the mind, and more. ST40 is one of the key acupoints for Phlegm, and activating the meridians that correspond to the issue areas is also a good idea. (Think the Lung meridian for respiratory Phlegm, the Heart meridian for the mind, etc.)
If you think you're presenting with any of these imbalances, acupuncture can help! We'd love to give you more targeted tips to get your body back on track at an appointment, but if you're not in the Dallas area, any other Licensed Acupuncturist should be able to treat these Body Fluid patterns as well.
That being said, Western medicine also has its place, especially when it comes to fluid issues. If you've had a massive loss of fluids, see a doctor as an IV may be necessary before you start TCM treatments. If you have edema, a doctor should check that it is not a sign of a serious issue, such as kidney dysfunction or cardiac weakness. Be smart about your health and make the most of the various medical models available to you.
Kathleen Ketola is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.