About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Got Qi?

Your physical energy is a funny thing.  Not ha-ha funny, but in the sense that it does a lot more than you give it credit for.  It’s also funny in the sense that your energy can be depleted and you don’t even realize it until some kind of health bomb blows up in your face.

In Chinese medicine, your energy might also be called Qi; however Qi is much more than energy. In the broadest sense, Qi is the motivational force that affects everything in the universe. It’s the force that guides the planets in our solar system and the movement of atoms on a microscopic level. Everything has Qi, including inanimate objects. It is also the driving energy behind any change or transformation.

Energy and Chinese medicine

In addition, Qi animates matter. In this context, Qi might be considered the life force of all living things, but also the physical energy that gets you out of bed in the morning.  And when your Qi is low or depleted, you may simply feel like your energy is…low.  You know, those moments when you’re just too tired to do one more thing, or those days when you get home from work and just crash.

As an extension of this concept, Qi takes on a number of qualities in your body. When it’s low, there are subtle signs and health weirdnesses that indicate you’re down a quart of Qi.  That’s because your Qi has a lot of jobs.  For example:

Qi is warming.  If you struggle to stay warm, your Qi is likely to be low.  A good indicator of this is if you grab a sweater to go anywhere, even in the summer.

Qi is protective.  People who seem to catch every cold or flu that’s going around are often puzzled as to why that’s happening to them.  The answer is that the protective aspect of their Qi is down, probably because they’re spending their energy on something else.  Some likely culprits are stress, overwork, and lack of adequate rest.

Qi is transforming. It takes energy (and warmth) to transform your food into nutrients and more energy.  This means a couple of things.  First, if your energy is low, you may not be digesting your food very well.  But it also means that if you’re not digesting your food well, you’re not making a whole bunch more energy.  Some signs that this is happening include: poor or sluggish digestion, feeling tired after meals, energy fluctuations during the day, and a lack of appetite.

Qi moves stuff.  This includes food through your digestive tract, blood in your vessels, and the ability to move your muscles.  One cause of sluggish digestion and constipation may be depleted Qi (see above).  In addition, circulatory issues and sore, sluggish, achy muscles may also be a low Qi thing.

Qi holds things in and up.  In your body, your organs are held up, blood is held in the vessels, babies are held in the uterus, and food is held in your digestive tract. Signs that this particular function is low include easy bruising, frequent miscarriages, chronic diarrhea, and prolapsed organs.

So, what if you’re having signs or symptoms of depleted Qi, or simply feeling totally fatigued?  Is there something you can do?  The good news is yes, there are a number of ways you can rebuild your energy.  The most obvious is to eat really good food that you can digest well and get enough rest.  You can (and should!) also enlist the help of a practitioner of Chinese medicine, who will likely suggest acupuncture and possibly an herbal formula to boost your energy.  They will also be able to help you figure out how your Qi got to be depleted in the first place.

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