Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Yin, Yang and Our Health

Maria Teresa De Donato, PhD, RND, CNC, CMH, CHom

In my January 2016 article we have considered the Yin and Yang Theory and the concept of duality it represents. In this one, we will see how this theory is applied to our health and well-being.

We should have understood by now that in Nature nothing is completely either Yin or Yang, but that everything and everybody is rather a combination of these two elements, which are present – at any given time – in different amount, thus generating a different result. Important is also to realize that when one of the two overshadows the other or, so to speak, is present in excess, it consumes the other causing a state of imbalance by determining excess on one hand and deficiency on the other. This is known as 'The Principle of Extremes' according to which when the element in excess – either Yin or Yang – reaches its climax, transforms itself in the opposite, so that, for instance, extreme cold generates great heat, and extreme heat generates intense cold.

Reaching and maintaining a state of balance is, therefore, paramount in order to enjoy optimum health and wellness. It's important to know, however, that what we call “balance” is not a standstill point that we are supposed to reach, but rather a state that can fluctuate within a certain range and which can vary from one person to the other.

The concept of the “Six Divisions of Yin and Yang” can help us to better grasp the dynamics of imbalance which can be summarized as follows:

This basically means that what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) calls “a Yin condition” is 
measured according to how cold, interior and deficient one is, while what is defined as “a Yang
condition” depends, to the contrary, on its level of heat, exterior and excess.

When applying Yin and Yang Theory to anatomy & physiology we can sum up by stating that,
physically speaking, all upper, exterior and back parts of the body are Yang while all the 
lower and interior ones along with the abdomen are Yin, and that, physiologically speaking, all 
substances can be classified as Yin and all functions as Yang.

TMC divides body's functions in two major groups:

a) zàng, which refers to five organs considered to be Yin, such as heart, liver, spleen, lung and 
kidney and 

b) fǔ, which refers to six organs viewed as Yang, such as small intestine, large intestine, gallbladder, urinary bladder, stomach and sānjiaō, with the latter referring to a triple-burner (triple warmer or three warmers) mechanism which can be identified as part of the lymphatic system. (NOTE: TCM sees the human body and the systems that make it work differently compared to Western Medicine, hence, sometimes, rather than trying to identify Chinese organs with their non-existent westerner ones, it is necessary to understand the role they play and to what they may correspond in the western system).

The activity and functionality of zàng and fǔ organs, however, are much more complex than what the above classification allows for, since each zàng teams up with a fǔ and each pair corresponds to one of the Wǔ Xing, that is the “Five Elements” (also called Five Phases, Five Agents, Five Movements, Five Processes, Five Stages and Five Planets) and which are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Furthermore, the zàng-fǔ are also linked to the twelve standard meridians (used in Acupuncture, which is part of TCM), with each yang meridian being connected to a fǔ organ and each yin meridian to a zàng organ.

The principles of heat and cold, hence of warming and cooling, as well as of dryness and 
dampness and excess and deficiency are paramount in TCM.  Most chronic degenerative 
diseases  will end up being associated with yin deficiency with the latter including 
hypoglycemia, diabetes, tuberculosis, anxiety and states of inflammation and infection 
caused by virus, bacteria, fungi, parasites and other pathogenic microbes.

Excess heat and dampness due to the overuse of rich, fatty, highly seasoned, processed, refined 
and/or junk foods which include the overuse of meat, especially red meat, eggs, cheese and 
diary products, fried and salty foods, sweet foods, along with chemicals, drugs and alcoholic 
beverages characterize, in fact, developed countries and their mostly unhealthy lifestyle habits. 
It's interesting to notice that whenever the body becomes unable to tolerate and somehow to 
counterbalance the excess it faces, it starts to fall apart manifesting signs of deficiency. Diseases 
such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis and other degenerative conditions then occur as a result of it.

In these cases bitter foods and herbs along with a detoxification program which may help to 
cleanse and purify will be very useful to getting rid of the excess, hence of the state of toxicity. 
These treatments will all contribute to the restoration of a state of balance by reducing or even 
eliminating problems such as any blockage that might have occurred and caused conditions 
such as hypertension, constipation, overweight, circulatory problems, heart disease and stroke.

Herbs such as goldenseal, echinacea, chaparral, dandelion, burdock – just to name a few – 
along with Vitamin C, increased use of raw foods, juices, celery, lettuce, asparagus, rye and 
amaranth are all recommended to fight a state of excess.

A deficiency state, on the other hand, requires working on repristinating a level of higher 
strength and energy, which can be accomplished by adding to one's own diet “sweet foods”, 
and no, we are not referring to cakes, sugar and alike, but rather to products such as rice, oats, 
millet, nuts, seeds, dates and molasses, just to name a few. The best approach to treat severe 
deficiency may require longer time and is usually associated with chronic conditions. In fact, 
while trying to repristinate a state of balance, we may want to avoid to induce a state of shock 
in the body but rather starting to gradually replace the foods which should be reduced or even 
eliminated and which contributed to the health problem in the first place.

In conclusion, although each one of us has different needs, hence in order to correct any 
imbalance a customized diet is required, there are, however, some useful guidelines which can 
be generally applied.  They include a limited consume of animal proteins (chicken, turkey and 
alike; red meat and cold cuts should be avoided especially if you suffer from any degenerative 
disease, including cancer, and/or from hypertension), eggs and dairy products but rather switch 
to a more vegetarian (if not even vegan) diet which includes primarily fresh fruits and a 
combination of raw or light or steamed vegetables, some soy products to be consumed in 
moderation every once in a while, nuts, seeds and plenty of juices, better if made by using a 
mix of vegetables and fruits, along with drinking plenty of fresh water each and every single day 
(usually between 8 and 10 glasses each day are recommended, with more to be added in case of 
overweight or sweating).  A healthy and balanced diet should also include a rotation as for the 
ingredients consumed and the use of whole grain rather than processed and refined foods.   

The table below might help you to better understand how frequent and in what amount each 
food should be consumed so that you can avoid both excesses and deficiencies and maintain 
and/or restore optimum health.


The material presented in this article is for educational purpose only and not intended as a 
medical advice. If you have any health condition you are concerned with, consult with your 
physician first. To know more about how TCM and naturopathy can help you, you can contact 

Thank you. I look forward to working with you.