In Chinese medicine, we have a principle: "If there is pain, there is impaired flow; if there is good flow, there is no pain." This encapsulates the direct experience that if anything impairs circulation to any part of the body, that part will suffer some type of discomfort. From this experience, Chinese physicians realized that if any part of the body suffers from some discomfort, this signifies an impairment of circulation of vital blood, nutrients, fluids, and nerve impulses to that part or associated parts.
(By the way, this principle applies equally to social-political and environmental disorders as well. Social-political disorders arise from poor circulation of resources, allowing some parts of the body politic to suffer deficiencies while others have excesses, creating tension and inflaming passions. Environmental disorders arise when one organism monopolizes excessive resources while other organisms suffer deficiencies.)
|High-fat blood sample. Source: Case Reports in Medicine|
Thus it seems that Western research may support the Oriental medicine perspective that an excessive intake of rich foods can produce sluggish blood circulation. The thick sluggish blood can’t properly nourish, lubricate, or detoxify the tissues, including the heart and brain. The tissues don't get enough oxygen, and waste products accumulate faster than they are removed. These internal changes reach our awareness as aches and pains and disturbances of normal function.
In line with this, Kuo et al found that fat ingestion can induce myocardial pain (angina pectoris) in patients with coronary artery disease (2). Afaq et al found that patients with excess blood cholesterol had reduced oxygen delivery to the calf muscles and consequent shorter time to claudication, which involves pain in the calves along with decreased ability to walk (3). Mattson et al demonstrated that dietary cholesterol affects serum cholesterol in a dose-response fashion; a cholesterol-free, 40% fat diet produced average serum cholesterol of 164 mg/dl; adding 126 mg cholesterol produced an average serum cholesterol of 174 mg/dl; 212 mg cholesterol daily raised serum cholesterol to an average of 181 mg/dl; and 317 mg cholesterol daily raised the average to 198 mg/dl (4). Hunter-gatherers, non-human primates, and wild animals have serum cholesterol levels below 150 mg/dl (5, pdf), showing that nature prefers a serum cholesterol below 160 mg/dl.
|Total Cholesterol In H-Gs and Wild Animals. Source: 5|
Other populations with high immunity to cardiovascular diseases also have average serum cholesterols below 150 mg/dl,
In general, according to Chinese medicine, chronic blockage of blood circulation generates heat (inflammation) in the blood, which gradually affects the entire body if not corrected.
In a healthy condition, the body controls the growth of abnormal cells. However, when the blood constantly contains excess nutrients that cells need for growth and replication (amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, etc.), and the immune system is impaired by poor circulation and accumulation of toxic wastes, abnormal cellular growth can occur unchecked, producing first benign tissue overgrowths like skin tags, moles, bunions, and so on. If left unchecked, this process eventually leads to malignant growths.
Thus, skin abnormalities herald this stage of disease. As the skin becomes overburdened with metabolic wastes, skin diseases can develop, often in a step-wise fashion from minor to major. At first the skin diseases may come and go with more or less inflammation or infection. If left uncorrected, the underlying systemic imbalance will lead next to more constant and serious disorders, generally in a step-wise fashion:
By careful observation, Chinese physicians discovered that when the body gets too hot and dry, it produces thicker, darker, more odorous secretions, and when it gets too cold or damp, it produces thinner, lighter secretions. Thus, darker, drier, concentrated, hard to expel, strong smelling, and more concentrated urine, mucus, feces, sweat, and odor all indicate a body afflicted with heat that can arise from chronic excessive intake of heating and drying, or yang (pronounced "yahng") foods (e.g. red meat, spices), and clear, copious, more watery, runny, and less odorous urine, etc. all can indicate a body imbalanced by excessive intake of cooling and moistening, or yin (pronounced "yeen") foods (e.g. fruits, ice cream). A person who overconsumes both types of foods can have a mix of both types of symptoms and signs.
Since the blood serves as the material foundation of the mind, as the blood becomes continuously and progressively sluggish and toxic, more chronic mental and emotional disorders arise, such as nervousness, oversensitivity, depression, hyperactivity, confusion, and disorientation (loss of purpose), along with an increasing sense of alienation from one’s community.