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   Oct 10

Healthy Aging: The Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

Although the risk of disease and disability clearly increase with advancing age, poor health is not an inevitable consequence of aging.

Many of the illnesses, disabilities, and deaths associated with chronic diseases are avoidable through known preventive measures. Key measures include practicing a healthy lifestyle (for example, regular physical activity, healthy eating, and avoiding tobacco use) and the use of early-detection practices (screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, diabetes, and depression).

Throughout the middle and later years, people gradually develop signs and symptoms of aging like graying and thinning hair, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, infertility, diminished sexual function, menopause, forgetfulness, urinary and bowel incontinence, pain and weakness in the lower back, hip, and knees, reduced bone density, and increased risk of fractures.

Western medicine recognizes that some of these symptoms may be due to deficiency in sexual hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, which is why hormone replacement has become a focus of “anti-aging” medicine.

Kidney Qi and Essence

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offers a perspective on aging that is energy based. From a TCM standpoint, aging is a process of losing kidney qi and essence.

Kidney here is not just the anatomic entity of the two kidneys we have in our lower backs, but an energy subsystem called the kidney meridian. The meridians are energy channels that form a web-like system allowing qi to flow throughout the body.

One of the most important ancient texts on Chinese medicine is the “Yellow Emperor’s Classic,” which dates back to about 200 B.C. According to this book, kidney qi and essence is responsible for brain development and function, including hearing, bone matrix, and function of bone marrows, sexual function and the capacity to conceive, and regulation of the urinary tract and bowels. This meridian reflects the mental functions of will power and motivation and emotions derived from fear.

TCM medicine says that the qi and essence of the kidney is prenatal because it is inherited from our parents. Therefore, there is a wide range of differences among individuals, and the amount of kidney qi and essence within an individual is limited. The status of kidney qi and essence manifests clearly in our hair, and a deficiency of kidney qi and essence can result in grey hair or hair loss.

Menopause in a woman is a hallmark of deficient kidney qi and essence. In addition, kidney qi and essence is the major support for other subsystems causing a wide variety of symptoms.

Other factors can make one lose kidney essence faster. For example, the dysfunction of other meridians can increase the demand and depletion of kidney qi and essence, for example, poor care during pregnancy and childbirth, heavy menstruation, excessive ejaculation in men, and excess of fear.

The status of qi and essence in the meridians is checked through classic TCM techniques, such as pulse diagnosis. The primary ways TCM balances the meridians include acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and qigong.

Tips for Healthy Aging

To age healthfully, people need to protect their kidney qi and essence as early as possible. Helpful practices include maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular and enough sleep, a balanced diet, regular physical activity, a healthy sex life, and approaching life situations with less fear.

Foods that are thought to replenish kidney energy include grains, dark-green leafy vegetables (cooked), black soybeans, black sesame seeds, black mushrooms, walnuts, chestnuts, fish, shrimp, seaweed, lamb, and duck. Herbs thought to support kidney energy are ginseng, Rehmannia root, and lychee nut.

You can also learn to stimulate acupuncture points with self-acupressure. Many relaxation techniques and energy exercises can positively affect meridian balance. We particularly recommend mindfulness-based meditation, tai chi, and qigong. Some cultivation systems like Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) go beyond anti-aging and aim for spiritual enlightenment and eternal life.

Aging is a natural process of life, and healthy aging is achievable, particularly through integrating that best of Eastern and Western medicine. It is advisable that you have a consultation with a well-trained doctor of traditional Chinese medicine to discuss an individual plan that uses ancient Chinese wisdom. However, you should do so in addition to the care you already get from your doctors of conventional medicine.

Dr. Jingduan Yang is a board-certified psychiatrist and a fourth-generation doctor of Chinese medicine. His website is Taoinstitute.com

Source: The Epoch Times

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