Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken our world by storm, impacting our daily lives, the conduction of business, and impacting the finances of many from lost jobs to a declining economy. COVID-19 has become a catchphrase of sorts, overtaking our thoughts and our every move, instilling fear in many people. Now, while this virus can inflict much harm upon many, if allowed, there is more truth that is not being discussed or revealed in this matter or others very similar to it. As humans, we are susceptible to many things if we allow them, and in that, not only are we responsible for that which we create but in seeing this, we may realize we are also in complete control.
Our minds are powerful tools that can either work for us or against us, in all things, whether if this is health or otherwise. We can create empires or we can create mass poverty. When it comes to disease, the mind is ever-present and can often dictate the outcome, which is a well-known fact to any observant doctor. A therapy can be prescribed, but in truth, the outcome is dictated by the patient, not the caregiver. For some, when we discuss the mind, we also raise the topics of belief or faith, which is very important, as the outcome in any circumstance is dictated by that which we put our faith and belief into. However, this faith or belief, the mind, and thought or perception invades all aspects of our being and with that, the outcome in all situations.
Science and Logic
Let’s look at hard science, as for many this is a tangible concept which we can grasp and accept. In order for a disease to overtake your body, whether if this is an infectious disease or a crippling joint condition, the body must be out of balance on some level and therefore more susceptible to invasion. In a state of health, your body is in balance, as is your mind and spirit. They are in harmony. When not in harmony, the body can be like an unsteady tower of blocks, susceptible to injury or implanted thought, waiting to crumble to the ground.
In many instances of disease, based on research, it has been shown that this imbalance is reflected in an improper immune response, whether if that be a lack thereof or an over-active one. Either can result in the compromising of health and open the door to an infectious condition or a degenerative one. This immune response, your immune response, is dependent upon you because you are the driver of that body or vehicle. The choices you make in diet, lifestyle, exercise or lack thereof, all impact your immune response. Medications you may be taking also may play a role with many suppressing the immune system in order to alleviate another condition. Even your thought patterns impact your immune response, as indicated by the stress response and influence of hormones.
Plainly speaking, you dictate or have the power to dictate how strong or healthy your immune response is through your choices. This is supported by research and common logic. The health of your immune system is not dependent upon your doctor or any other person but solely rests upon you as the caretaker of your body.
In seeing this fact, which is plain logic, you then have to step back and assess the overall state of our general well-being as a society or as a world. You can look at facts and see that more than likely we are the unhealthiest bunch of human beings right now than ever in history. We are overweight and obesity is on the rise, dramatically impacting not just adults but now children. Our consumption of processed foods is on the ever-increasing climb, as is the development of newer chemicals and additives to our food supply. As a society, we do not exercise and look to the easiest method of getting around, avoiding things like walking or hard physical work at all costs, having robots mow our yards, vacuum our homes and order our foods. We live behind computers, encased by earphones, addicted to screens and instant communication. Chronic health conditions from diabetes to cardiovascular disease and cancer are on the ever-increasing rise. Medications are consumed like candy with many having 2 or more prescription medications taken per day, which is not only in adults but children as well. Anxiety, fear, and depression impact a large percentage of people on various levels, which leads to more medications and an overall state of ill-health and lack of well-being.
These are facts, medical facts available to anyone for the asking. A research paper need not be read, as the truth is evident just with an observation of yourself and those around you. If you can see and admit to these problems, you can then see that our body, our immune system, and our overall state of health is not the best. Our state of mind and the choices we make impact the immune response on many levels. We live in a heightened state of stress and research has told us for decades that this state is not a healthy one. Your immune response is a defensive barrier of protection and if it is weak or compromised in any way, ill-health is not too far behind.
Is it truly a surprise to see an infectious disease, such as Coronavirus (COVID-19), grab such a deep foothold on our society and our well-being?
Balance and Health
As a doctor, I like to explore all facets of health. I am not a personal believer in medications as we have come to know them, being a ‘cure-all’ or the panacea that they have become. I do believe they have a place in health and offer great assistance when applied properly, but in our current times, they have become relied upon too much. I recall back in my days of practice, we had many medications to choose from, including generics and many brand name medications. It seemed like every few months, there was a new drug released and a drug representative not far behind pushing and promoting that medication. We were told this new drug was better and more effective when in truth, the medication really offered no benefits above the standard medications we were already using in our patients. In some instances, the new medication was just a modification to an existing drug, offering new hope or improved efficacy. The truth is for many, there was just a higher price to pay for benefits that could have been achieved with a generic or an already existing medication. In looking back at those times, I remember telling one drug representative that I could stock our pharmacy with a small handful of generic medications and likely benefit over 80% of our patients. There was no need for anything fancy and the medications that had been around for decades were my tried and true remedies.
What became evident to me as a doctor and a physician for my own body, was that health was not achieved through medication. That medication could assist us in crossing a bridge of sorts, regarding health, but in the long-term, true health was achieved through other methods. I could assist a patient through surgery, but the body still had to heal and recover. That was not up to me as a doctor. I could prescribe an antibiotic for an infection, which could help to reduce bacterial numbers or load, but again, true recovery was up to the patient.
As the saying goes, “the doctor applies the bandage, God heals the wound.”
As a part of my training, as a result of further understanding, alternative medicine became a big part of my practice. In truly studying and understanding alternative medicine, whether if that is Ayurveda or Chinese, you begin to realize the true scope of the body and where health truly originates. You begin to realize, as with anything, health is achieved through balance and disease is created out of disharmony. You can erect a skyscraper hundreds of floors into the sky, but if even one piece of that building is not created perfectly and supported, it will impact the entire structure. In truth, we are a 3-part being; mind, body, and spirit. All three aspects intercommunicate and support one another, however, this opens the door for a discussion on spirituality, which we will avoid for now.
The point here is that your health, your well-being, is dependent upon many factors and essentially relies upon balance and harmony. If one thing is out of balance, then instability is present, and thus, health can be compromised. Let’s look at this from a few scenarios.
First, let’s take our minds, in which we have many thoughts, often thousands and thousands per day. In truth, you are what you think, and this statement has been established by many over the years from Yogis to past politicians and world leaders. We live stressful lives, which are self-created by the demands and fast paces that we have created. This fast pace leads to more thought, more worry, and more anxiety, all of which negatively impact your health by itself. Then, this mode of thinking, being fast-paced, becomes almost unconscious and without thought. We are not paying attention to ourselves, let alone that which is around us and as a result we don’t take time for ourselves and the proper care of the body which we have been given. We are ‘on-the-go’ and thus, we eat on the go, we drink on the go and we react on the go. There is not much thought being given to what is being put into that body of yours, nor how it could impact your well-being, both mentally and physically. It’s really like getting older. One minute your twenty years old and the next your fifty. Time flew by and you weren’t even paying attention. Your health can be the same way. One minute your young and vibrant, and the next crippled and on medications. What happened? Simply put, you weren’t paying attention.
Second, balance also comes from within your body. In the world of Chinese medicine, there are 5 vital substances, which when in balance support health. These substances are Qi, Yin, Yang, blood, and Jing. These are five aspects of your health that interact and relate to one another and support well-being. If one is out of balance, the other can be negatively impacted. Qi relates to energy within the body, vital energy, which supports immune health and overall cellular function. It is an energy which is gained through the air you breathe and the food you consume. This energy recharges, energizes, and can restore the body. Yin is not one thing by itself but is a compilation of aspects of all things. It has a general quality of being cooling, quiet, moisturizing and soothing, in addition to others. Yin is found in food, but also found in nature, in thoughts, and activity. Yang is the opposite of Yin, being more heating, drying, more energizing, more active and vibrant. Yang is also found in food, nature, in our thoughts and activity. Blood is essentially ‘blood’ as we know it, being a substance that supports health, transfers oxygen and nutrients, and aids in the repair of our bodies. Jing is like an internal essence, an energy of sorts, which supports the body on many levels. Jing is not something one can acquire, but it is something given to you at birth and is easily depleted over time resulting in loss of health. Jing is almost like an internal battery of sorts, and if relied upon too much, will result in a draining of reserves on many levels. The more the other 4 substances are out of balance, the more one relies upon Jing to get through tough times.
Jing, much like Yin and Yang, is stored in the kidneys, as believed in Chinese medicine, although they each permeate the entire body. If any of these it out of balance, others are impacted. Sound hokey? A little crazy? Well, let’s dive deeper and see if we can make some connections.
Qi, Yin, and COVID-19
As a doctor, I tend not to get too deeply involved with details of disease. We can define a disease in many aspects, further detailing events that take place, almost creating a story within a story. When we get too involved in details, we tend to miss the bigger picture and often the cause of the problem. I am well familiar with Coronavirus as a doctor, but have purposely avoided the current news trends and publicity. In light of this, I have to admit that I was unaware of the presenting clinical signs of COVID-19, which was by choice. Most diseases, when evaluated, have a pattern behind them, regarding which set of individuals is more susceptible. Those individuals generally have similar health characteristics which may make them more likely to contract a specific illness. Like type II diabetes, as an example, tends to primarily impact those heavier individuals, being overweight, with an often sedentary lifestyle and improper eating habits. When my wife gave me a rundown of the presenting clinical complaints of COVID-19, a few things became obvious.
First, we have an infection which has gained a foothold in the body. This is an invasion of sorts and when the invasion is successful, it indicates that first the host’s immune response must be compromised in some shape or form. This immune response would be related to the concept of Qi in Chinese medicine as outlined above. More specifically, it would be a Qi-deficiency by definition. A Qi-deficiency is not just evident in an improper immune response but is generally evident by seeing other clinical signs in that patient. These may include reduced appetite, low energy levels, fatigue, loose stools or poor digestion, and even fluid accumulation within the body on various levels. Given that Qi is acquired through the food we eat, including our digestion, and the air we breathe, and how we breathe, it is easy to see that our choices can impact Qi and result in a deficiency of sorts, lowering our immune response. Is it not interesting to see how many people complain of ‘adrenal fatigue’ or overall exhaustion in today’s society as well as the high incidence of the common cold or other simple infections in the general population. This is all reflective of Qi deficiency, which impacts the immune response and overall body energy. Interestingly enough, in Chinese medicine, much emphasis is placed upon the kidneys, of which the adrenal glands are related, noting that too much physical or mental work can deplete this organ system. (See note above on where Jing, Yin, and Yang are stored in the body)
Second, given the current nature of COVID-19 or Coronavirus, it is apparent that it is creating a dry cough rather than a moist one associated with phlegm and congestion. This is relevant and signifies a few things to be related to an imbalance within the body. In truth, our body creates mucous as a course of natural health. This mucous coats tissue linings from our mouth to our lungs and our digestive tract. It soothes and protects, and helps to bind up invaders such as bacteria or viruses, eliminating them from our body. Thus, in many colds, your body produces more mucous. It is a protective mechanism of sorts. A hassle and annoyance for sure when in excess but needed to a degree. It is usually self-limiting for most healthy individuals. For others, the mucous and congestion persist and are signs of imbalance within the body, being an excess condition, usually related to digestion and Qi on some level. A lack of mucous or phlegm in cases of COVID-19 could imply that the immune system is not working and the natural defense mechanism is not in place. This goes along with a Qi deficiency as mentioned. The lack of mucous and the overall presence of dryness in the body also implies imbalance at a core, which may be opening the door for the infection or compromise. The dryness in the body indicates that there is a deficiency of the Yin aspect and often an overabundance of the Yang aspect. This creates imbalance and then impacts Qi, health, and immune function.
Let’s dive deeper.
Our fast-paced society leads literally to an overheating of the body, which is an aspect of Yang, being warm in nature. This fast-paced society produces heat in the body, which if allowed, will literally dry up the moisture in the body and even deplete our energy, or Qi. In addition, as noted above, these aspects of Yin and Yang are present in the food and nature which we consume and surround ourselves with overall. Many of the foods we eat are hot in nature, full of spices, chemicals, and additives which are heating to the body. Our drinks are often very stimulating, being coffee or caffeine loaded drinks to get us through the day. These are all heating, stimulating, Yang related items, and many of our food choices are not nutritive in the least, truly supporting overall health and balance. The need for these items to get you through the day also signifies a loss of internal energy or Qi. All in all, we are living on the edge, in need of stimulating items and consuming them by the truckload. It is not just in food but in our activities. We need constant stimulation and entertainment. Many do not know how to turn it off, slow down, and just kick back with a good book. This can throw our body out of balance, too much Yang, not enough Yin, which then creates that dryness, that on-edge personality, and the clinical problems that come with it.
Yin deficiency is evident by a dry mouth, dry throat, dry eyes, constipation or hard stools, stomach burning, dry skin, thinning hair, and even reduced menstruation in women. It is also associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health conditions. When Yin is deficient, there is imbalance in the body. It could result in something simple such as dry skin or scalp, but over time, it can result in greater consequences, impacting overall health and the immune response because all things are related.
These are observations in just hearing of the symptoms of COVID-19 and when a Google search is done, it is evident in China that they are combating the condition by restoring balance within the body. This is done by rebuilding the Qi and restoring the Yin aspect, with the end goal of creating balance within the body. This is not done through medications but in the use of foods, herbs, and lifestyle changes. Medications may be used as secondary items of support in the short term, but in the long-term, gains are made through other avenues and choices. This concept of balance and restoring health through restoration of balance is certainly not new but sadly is not looked upon with the importance that it deserves.
Awareness and Choices
Your health is not just dependent upon one thing and it certainly is not a result of a deficiency of some medication in the body. Health is a result of choices and with that awareness. It is also about balance as all things are in this world. Right now, in our society, COVID-19 is high on our radar. If we pay too much attention to it, you can become consumed on many levels. Before you know it, you might believe you have the disease, which would not be uncommon as outlined in the concept of psychogenic illnesses. This is the power of the mind, your mind, and my mind.
In seeing the mind and the power of it, it is also easy to see how we can become consumed with a certain train of thought, which permeates our daily lives. We not only drive about town and go to our jobs unconsciously, out of habit, but our other choices become self-automated without much attention. We don’t eat properly. We don’t exercise. We don’t communicate face to face and interact. We don’t build our spiritual faith and an internal knowing of who we are. Simply put, we are on autopilot and things just pass us by without much forethought. Then, our mindless state of being can be brought to a screeching halt by some worldly turmoil, disease, or event. We often then blame others or look to others to resolve the issue for us, when in truth, only one person is responsible.
We should view these events for what they are, a sign of something bigger. We should look at these events as ones in which we are not a pawn or victim, but a full participant with choices. Become too deeply ingrained in any condition or situation and you can become it. See it for what it is and you see opportunities not just for a change but an opportunity for self-realization as well.
Author: Tom Schell, D.V.M., CVCH, CHN