We can frequently note changes in the inner workings of the body by examining its outer parts. Your body tells a story. By observing changes on your tongue, on your face, or in your pulse, and by analysing other symptoms you may have I can develop a good idea of your healing potential and the nature of your problems. Obviously, not all problems can be diagnosed in this manner. That is why a combination of conventional and Traditional Chinese medicine provides a much more comprehensive view than one method alone. For example, if you came to me with fertility concerns I would feel your pulse on both arms, look at your face, examine your tongue, and then ask you about symptoms you may have. I would evaluate your history and analyse any conventional diagnosis you may have had. But your tongue, pulse and face will provide me with most of the information I need to know.
The Tongue
The tongue is truly a remarkable organ, this part of the body is rich with blood, and the colour of the blood shines very close to the surface. The tongue is richly supplied with nerve and taste receptors. Salivary glands are standing by just underneath the tongue to moisten it in order to mix with food so the food begins to be broken down before it gets to the stomach. Since saliva contains water, electrolytes, mucus, and enzymes, it can change the appearance of both the tongue and coating, depending on physiological changes taking place within your body that might change the composition or consistency of the saliva. By observing the tongue, I can see how your whole body is functioning and detect imbalances in different systems of your body.
I divide the tongue into three distinct parts. The first part is when I look at the tongue itself. Analysing the sides of the tongue and look for any tell-tale signs of teeth marks, which may indicate oedema or swelling in the body. Ulcerations of the tongue may indicate that your body is fighting some kind of inflammation. The colour of your tongue tells a lot about the strength of your body, especially regarding blood production, blood flow, and the immune system. A normal tongue is pinkish-red with a certain shine. When the tongue appears pale, it may be a sign of anaemia or of a weakened body. When it is red, it may indicate hyperactivity in different systems of the body. When the tongue has a tinge of purple, it may be an indication of pain, congestion, or blockages in the body. The second aspect of the tongue that I would look at is its coating. A normal tongue coating is usually very thin, moist, and clear. A healthy coating means that proper salivary secretions with enzymatic content are taking place in the body. If you have a thick coating, it could mean that there is an imbalance in your digestive system. If your tongue coating is thick with a dirty white colour, it usually means your digestive system is suffering from an overgrowth of bacteria in your intestinal flora, mostly candida.
Candida is a fungus that belongs to the yeast family. It grows in mucus membranes – mostly in the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, intestines, and vaginal areas – along with many other microorganisms that help us to break down foods, toxins, and bacteria. But when candida is out of control, it can cause different kinds of fungal infections, especially in patients whose immune systems are compromised. One of the most common yeast infections is Candida Albicans, but there are many others. If this is a chronic situation, it means that you are either overeating or that your body is not able to assimilate the food your are putting in your body and your body has become inflamed, causing dysfunction in the intestines. If you do have an overgrowth of Candida I will be able to guide you on how to re-establish the bacteria to a healthy level, outlining a specific diet and taking supplements that both kill the Candida and increase your levels of healthy bacteria.
If your tongue coating is thick and yellow, this might mean that some form of inflammatory or infectious activity has been going on in your lower urinary tract or reproductive system. At the opposite extreme, if the coating is stripped so that your tongue is mirror smooth or is dry or peeled, this indicates dehydration in your system, in which case essential fluids need to be replenished. The third aspect of examining the tongue is by regional analysis. Different areas of the tongue represent the functioning of different areas of your body. The tongue is divided into four regions: front, middle, back and sides. The front part of your tongue reflects the organs and systems of the upper part of the body, mainly the respiratory and nervous systems. Any changes in this area might point to common colds, flu, upper respiratory infections, sleep disorders, or even changes in the mental state. The middle part of the tongue reflects the centre of the abdomen, mainly our digestive system. Changes in this area of the tongue can be an indication of trouble in the digestive and absorption functions of the body. The sides of the tongue represent the flank or side areas of the body, mainly the liver and spleen. These organs have to do with the detoxification and circulation functions of our body. Changes in this region can indicate fluctuating toxicity levels in the body. A darkening of this region can also mean poor or changed circulatory function, which can be reflected by symptoms of pain or other discomfort in the body. The back region of the tongue represents the lower region of the body relating to the bladder, reproductive system, and large intestines. A peeling coating in this particular region can mean endocrine weakness or chronic lower back pain. A thickening or a yellow coating in this region of the tongue could mean constipation or a urinary tract infection.
All this information, just from asking you to stick out your tongue!
The Pulse
The pulse is basically the palpable sign of the flow of blood and other fluids through an artery. When you are sick, the rhythm and quality of your pulse can change in subtle ways. By differentiating these subtle details, I can detect changes inside your body, especially relating to how a disease is progressing and how your body is fighting disease. Understanding such changes becomes useful in determining the best course of intervention or support for your body, and it is particularly important when dealing with infertility issues. By placing three fingers across the radial artery on your wrist and by palpating three distinct depths of pulse, I can sense imbalances in different organ systems – imbalances that can help me determine what fertility challenge you may be facing.
There are at least twenty-seven different types of pulses. The pulses are classified depending on a combination of characteristics: velocity, width, length, depth, regularity, location, strength, and reaction to pressure. Like the tongue, the pulse under three fingers is further divided into three depths for a total of nine distinct regions on each arm. These regions reflect different parts of the body.
Reading your pulse for the first time gives me a baseline against which I can measure changes as your treatment progresses. This helps me to not only determine the course of your treatment, but it also lets me know the kind of challenges you may be facing as well as the progress of your treatment. For example a thready pulse, where the width of the pulse is very narrow, like a thin thread, suggests a weakened endocrine system or a lack of blood, a lack of circulation, or a decreased haemoglobin level. A wiry pulse, where the tension of the pulse may be tight, might indicate your internal medicine is blocked. If you have strong hormones, you may have a slippery pulse, where the pulsating through my three fingers feels like ball bearings slipping through my fingers effortlessly. By comparing pulses as your treatment progresses I can usually perceive changes and differences that will enable me to adjust my treatments and maximise treatment results.
The Face
Your face gives us different clues to your health condition. Colour for example, if you are pale, it shows anaemia or that you are having issues with blood flow somewhere in your body. If you face is red and flushed, it indicates there is increased blood flow. If you facial colour has a blue-green hue, this might indicate that there are certain areas in your body that have congestion blockages. It may also indicate pain. A sallow, yellow colour is associated with malnutrition, which is commonly seen in more underdeveloped countries. A swollen face may indicate an array of problems. Puffy eyes or cheeks could indicate problems with water retention, and more importantly problems with your urinary system. Swelling, tightness, and tenderness near your jawline could mean you are clenching your jaw whilst you sleep. Tense sleep is not good sleep. And good sleep is what you need to maintain good hormone secretions to ensure healthy brain chemistry. If your face is emaciated, that tells me your body is in a weakened state. Even your facial expressions reveal volumes about your physical, mental and emotional health. Are you happy? Sad? Angry? Frightened? As you know, your emotional state can have great effects on your health.
Syndrome Patterns
Traditional Chinese Medicine approaches dis-ease using a method called syndrome patterns. This approach is based on a holistic view that includes both the disease mechanism and the patients’ reaction to the disease. Starting by taking a note of a patients’ signs and symptoms. These symptoms are usually placed into contrasting categories: Is the body deficient (reacting weakly to the disease) or in a state of excess (reacting strongly)? Is the condition one of heat (with the body showing symptoms like sweating, fever, flushing) or of cold (cold hands, cold feet, a chill)?
The next step is to determine which organ systems are reacting to the disease. Syndromes are names after the organ function system rather than the organ itself. For example the kidney organ function system dominates the functions of a persons inherited constitution, their reproduction, and their excretion of fluid. Therefore the kidneys organ function system can include coding such as DNA; the endocrine system such as the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, and adrenal gland; the reproductive organs such as the ovaries, testes, fallopian tubes, uterus, and lower reproductive tract; and the fluid excretion system such as the kidneys, bladder, and lymphatic system.
Once symptoms are noted, we seek to find a pattern. For example, kidney yin deficiency means that the kidney organ function system is affected, with mostly heat symptoms showing that the body is not putting up a strong fight against disease. Kidney yang deficiency means that the kidney organ system is affected, with mostly cold symptoms that show the bodies endocrine system is in decline.
The liver organ function system tells a different story. This includes the functions of detoxification, ensuring that all systems of our body are working smoothly. This organ system can therefore include such organs as the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, spleen, and even the nervous system. Liver qi stasis means the body’s systems (qi) are not functioning properly and the body is strongly fighting the disease (stasis is an excess condition).
Blood stagnation indicates that the blood circulation is not smooth; there is an interrupted flow. The actual flow of blood may be stagnant or the blood may be too thick.
Phlegm-damp congestion indicates that the body’s waste products have caused some obstruction. This waste could be the result of either normal physiological functions or of infections and inflammations. In infertility, this pattern is seen frequently seen in tubal obstructions, where fluid or scarring is left from prior inflammation. It can also be seen in obese patients, where the extra fats in the body are considered a burden and drag the body down, much as waste products do.
Once I have diagnosed your condition this is when I would carry out a treatment according to your syndrome pattern.