Strengthening the Center
The development and maintenance of the energy of the center of your body is one of the most important principles in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Qigong and Taoism.
According to the Five Elements theory, which is another diagnostic model of TCM in addition to the theory of Yin and Yang, the strength of the center is decisive for our health. The main function of the center is to transform the essence of the food we eat into blood, Qi and juices and distribute them throughout the body. This is how our body is nourished. The center of your body is therefore also considered to be the “root of postnatal Qi”. It is said that:
“If the center is strong, the 1,000 diseases can be cured. When the center is weakened, there is often not much hope.”
The concept of the center of the body in TCM
In the teachings of the Five Elements, the center of the body corresponds to the element Earth. The corresponding organ pair is the spleen and the stomach. From a physiological point of view, both organs are located in the middle of the body – the middle one of the “three warmers”. In terms of function, spleen and stomach hold all organs together and nourish them – just like the earth. That’s why they’re referred to as the “center”.
However, the traditional Chinese idea of the function of stomach and spleen is more of an energetic than a physiological concept. Thus the function of the “energetic spleen” in Chinese medicine is not identical with the organ spleen of modern Western medicine. Moreover, in ancient China there was no explicit knowledge about the individual glands and the function of the hormone system.
In terms of Western medicine, a “strong center” corresponds more to a well-functioning digestive system, more particularly to the proper function of stomach, intestines and pancreas.
The center of the body not only holds all organs together, but also supplies them with warmth, blood and energy. Similar to the sun in our solar system, our center is the nourishing and calming source within our body.
A weak center
If the center is weakened, there is a lack of internal body heat and energy and consequently the other organs cannot be adequately provided with these. In addition, the harmonious interaction between the organs can no longer be maintained. Malfunctions or diseases of individual organs will have a much more harmful effect on the entire organism. Another consequence of a weakened center is the development of internal dampness. This is usually accompanied by increased susceptibility to viruses and bacteria.
Many adults in the West suffer, mostly without knowing it, from a slight to severe “weakness of the center”. The most common symptoms are a lack of body heat, lack of concentration, fatigue and general weakness. The main causes are poor nutrition such as cold food and drink, too many dairy products, mental exertion and constant worrying and ruminating.
This is also due to the different views of Chinese and Western nutritional science. In the West it is often recommended to eat raw food and dairy products in order to get enough vitamins and enzymes. TCM assumes that the abundance of cold food and dairy products weakens our center – instead of building it up. The negative consequence is that the essence of the food can no longer be absorbed by the body.
Maintaining the energy of the center
Good eating habits
Gute Eßgewohnheiten sind das wichtigste Prinzip zur Stärkung der Energie der Mitte. Allein dadurch können viele Krankheiten oder Schwächen des Verdauungstraktes geheilt werden.
In TCM terms this means:
– keeping to a daily rhythm with regular meals
– lots of warm food (preferably 2-3 times a day)
– eating slowly and chewing thoroughly
– do not drink cold drinks with food, instead take clear broth or light soup, hot water or green tea.
– don’t eat when you are still upset about something
– regular breakfast, rich lunch and light dinner, the latter before 7 p.m.
– no serious or heated discussions while eating
– don’t eat until you are full
“Little habits end up creating big problems.”
– cold meals (eat a light soup with your sandwich)
– food and stimulants that generate “internal heat” such as fast food, coffee and chocolate
– an excess of dairy products, meat and potatoes
– lots of sweets
– alcohol in large quantities
– Chinese style noodle soups that warm your belly
– boiled cereals (millet, barley, or bulgur – with a little soy milk, coconut or almond drink constitute a fortifying breakfast)
– simple meals (do not combine too many different proteins and carbohydrates)
– lots of vegetables (preferably only steamed or stir-fried)
– seasonal dishes
– neutral foods which you can enhance with warm and refreshing ingredients
Acupressure for “strengthening the center”.
Stomach 36, 25,
Spleen 6, 10
Moxa: lower abdomen (Chinese: Dan Tian, “golden field”, approx. 2-3 cm below the navel), and St 36
Chinese herbs for building the center:
(the following represent only a few examples of well-known herbal formulas for the center. In case of physical complaints, we recommend a visit to a doctor or health practitioner with TCM training.)
– Huang Qi (Astragalus) and Dang Sheng (Codonopsis), important remedies for spleen and Qi build-up
– Bai Zhu (Atractylodis macrocphala) and Fu Ling (Poria), spleen and Qi construction, dispels inner dampness
If there is too much dampness in “the center”, the spleen function is disturbed and you feel “weary, tired and weakened”. Typical symptoms are: Diarrhea, chronically soft bowel movement, bloating, lumpiness, very thick tongue coating.
In this case, herbs can be taken to dispel dampness and move the Qi:
– Chang Zhu (Atractylodis lancea), dries dampness, strong against dampness in the center (spleen) and joints
– Zhi Shi, moves and regulates Qi, transforms phlegm, reduces accumulation, when there is excessive dampness