What Causes Disease?

What Causes Disease?

According to traditional Chinese medicine theories, causes are always found in dietary habits, lifestyle (work, exercise, fun), emotions, environment, toxins, constitution, trauma, or wrong medical treatment. Identifying the cause is important so that one knows how to avoid it, minimize it, or prevent its re-occurrence. Most importantly, Chinese medicine stresses balance in ones life. Too much or too little of a good thing can cause disease. Also, what is right for one person may not be for the next.


We all have emotions, and yes we are allowed to feel, this is a part of what makes us human. Emotions only cause disease when they are extremely intense, prolonged over a long period of time, and especially when they are not expressed or acknowledged.

There are basically 5 emotions considered in Chinese medicine theory: Anger (resentment, irritability, rage, bitterness, frustration), Joy (excessive excitement, extreme lifestyle), Sadness, Worry & Pensiveness, and Fear. They translate into many different signs and symptoms. The following are some common explanations and manifestations;

Anger: Headaches & painful clotted menses would be the most common symptom. Work, family, and unfulfilled desires are common causes of anger.

Joy: Prolonged excessive excitement, extreme lifestyle, or continuous pleasurable stimulation can lead to troubles sleeping, palpitations, anxiety, and other symptoms.

Sadness: It can manifest in breathlessness, fatigue, depression, & crying. In women this often leads to scanty or no menses, fatigue, respiratory issues, and more.

Worry & pensiveness: Excessive thinking, mental work, or studying can cause fatigue, poor appetite, loose stools, weight gain or loss, gas, & bloating. This commonly also leads to fear & anxiety.

Fear: Chronic fear and anxiety (also shock) most often displays as night sweating, palpitations, dryness and heat.


Excluding common colds/flu & arthritis like conditions, climate effects in 2 basic ways; 1. effecting the person via its natural characteristics, 2. exacerbating and already underlying pattern. For example; Cold contracts and causes pain and watery discharges. Dampness causes heaviness, turbidity, and sticky discharges. Dryness is obvious. Heat gives rise to feelings of heat, skin eruptions, and restlessness.


We can only expect moderate improvements in ones constitution, after-all, we are born with it. Through balanced lifestyle & dietary habits, and certain practices such as Qigong (breathing exercises), Taijiquan, Yoga, meditation, & prayer, we can expect life to be as optimal as constitutionally possible.


A proper balance between work, exercise, and rest. Too much or too little of these aspects of life cause imbalance. When one overworks beyond the point that they can keep up with the demands, the body takes from the persons Essence to keep up. Essence determines our basic constitutional strength & resistance to external pathogens (Essence governs birth, growth, reproduction and fertility, development of bones, teeth, hair, and brain, and sexual maturity).

When Essence is deficient it may cause: Slow growth in children, poor bone development, infertility, habitual miscarriage, mental retardation, bone deterioration (osteo), premature graying, hair loss, and tooth loss, Poor sexual function, impotence, weakness of knees and back, nocturnal emissions, tinnitus, & deafness, Poor concentration & memory, dizziness, tinnitus, empty headed feeling, Weak immune system, always catching colds/flus, chronic rhinitis & allergic rhinitis (hay fever).

In particular, excessive mental work will damage the Spleen. Excessive physical work will also affect the Spleen and Kidneys. Also, excessive weight lifting can injure the lower back, jogging can stagnate Qi in the knees, and tennis/golf/writing the elbows.

Sexual Activity

‘Normal’ amount of sexual activity is entirely dependent on the person’s state of health, constitution, and strength of Essence. Therefore it should be adjusted accordingly (i.e. age). Lastly, an unhappy sexual life can cause emotional issues (discussed earlier).

Dietary Habits

Food and air give us life. Some simple ideas to follow:

Organic foods: due to all the toxins in our foods, organic should be the choice whenever possible.

Quantitative and qualitative aspects of diet: overly strict diets may cause malnutrition, so will eating disorders. This will weaken the digestion and manifest as a wide array of physical conditions, even weight gain. Over-eating, the more common problem, also weakens the digestion causing bloating, gas, fatigue, and ultimately weight gain.

Too much Cold & Raw foods: in some can cause damage to the digestion. The argument of raw having more nutrients than cooked foods becomes irrelevant when a person has weak digestion and therefore trouble digesting raw uncooked foods.

Too much Sweet: may wreak havoc on the pancreas and insulin levels (diabetes) causing loose stool, bloating, vaginal discharge, and centralized obesity.

Too much Spicy: unless culturally adjusted, curry, lamb, alcohol, beef, lobster, and many hot spices) causes Heat usually resulting in bitter taste, heartburn, thirst, and possible low sperm counts.

Too much greasy: impairs digestion and can lead to sinusitus, foggy mind, & heaviness.

Some other important guidelines to follow: relax while eating, chew food well, and eat at regular times.

What Causes Disease?

Author by Dr. Spence Pentland

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