The Superpowers of Stomach Qi
"You can't connect the dots looking forward;
you can only connect them looking backwards.
So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
This approach has never let me down,
and it has made all the difference in my life."
- Steve Jobs
As I begin the adventure of establishing a holistic medical practice, I am reminded of that old phrase we have often heard: "Trust your gut." And what exactly does this mean? What does my gut have to do with my mental decisions?
The invaluable importance of the stomach to our overall wellbeing is emphasized in Chinese medicine. The Spleen is paired with the Stomach as a Yin/Yang pair; together they control the flesh and the limbs, and correspond to the following:
Season: Long summer (end of summer)
Climate Condition: Dampness
In addition to the relationship with food, the Stomach also has a strong influence on mental health. An Excess of Stomach could lead to anxiety, hyperactivity, mental confusion or hypomania. So correcting any imbalances could lead to a more focused mind and calmer state of being.
In the ancient text the Nan-Ching, the Stomach Qi (energy) is considered the base that nourishes all organs and also provides protection for the body from climate changes. In the Five Element Theory, the Earth phase is in the center, and the other phases are held in orbit by the Earth's gravitational force, by Stomach Qi. The energy of the other elements flows through the Earth, and only by doing so "can the Elements replenish and be replenished by it."
From this seasonal relationship, the Stomach Qi will be affected by barometric pressure and temperature changes, or changes in the gravitational field (full moon, new moon, high or low altitude, air travel). Conditions that could result from an imbalance include allergies, flu, rheumatic arthritis, and ulcers.
And so the ancient Chinese had an understanding of how our bodies and minds are so interconnected, and emphasized that nourishing our gut is central to keeping us well and treating many illnesses.
Western science also acknowledges the relationship between the gut and our mind, more objectively identified as the enteric nervous system. Nicknamed as our "second brain," this system has more than 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system, and can control gut behavior independently of the brain. The vagus nerve is key in conveying that feeling of butterflies in our stomach. Ninety-five percent of the body's serotonin is found in the GI system, and serotonin is a neurotransmitter closely related to many neuropsychiatric balances, including depression and anxiety.
With this knowledge, I am now ready to trust my gut, and see the future unfold. When I am relaxed, clear, and centered, then I trust my decisions and move forward.
Hadhazy, Adam. "Think Twice: How the Gut's 'Second Brain' Influences Mood and Well-Being." https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/ Scientific American, February 12, 2010.
Manioca, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Elsevier Limited, 2005.
Matsumoto, Kiiko, and Euler, David. Kiiko Matsumoto's Clinical Strategies: In the Spirit of Master Nagano Vol. 1. Natick, MA Kiiko Matsumoto International 2007.
O'Conner, John, et al. Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text. Eastland Press, 1981.