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GUTS AND BOLTS: Understanding the 5 Viscera

Important things first. When I did an image search for the word “viscera” to find a picture for this post, the overwhelming result was this:

Apparently, Viscera is a professional wrestler who enforces the evil agenda of the Ministry of Darkness. Note the "gothic" look he has cultivated: white-out contact lenses, a bleached mohawk, and form-fitting, bedazzled leather.
Apparently, Viscera is a professional wrestler who enforces the evil agenda of the Ministry of Darkness. Note the “gothic” look he has cultivated: white-out contact lenses, a bleached mohawk, and form-fitting, bedazzled leather.

 

What I was actually looking for was this:

These blokes and their partially-exposed viscera stop for a friendly game of poker.
These blokes and their partially-exposed viscera stop for a friendly game of poker.

In Traditional Chinese medicine, the 5 viscera (Wu Zang)  include the heart, the spleen, the lungs, the kidneys, and the liver. When we talk about these organs in the context of TCM, we are talking about a wide and interrelated set of functions that include the physical organ as well as the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects associated with that organ. We are NOT referring to your organs from a Western medical perspective. In other words, if we talk about treating congestion in your liver, we are not implying that there is anything physiologically wrong with your liver that would show up in a lab.

So, next time you overhear your acupuncturist say “Okay, Joffrey Baratheon, we’re going to work on clearing fire from your liver, you sinister rat!”

Little dude has some serious liver fire.
Little dude has some serious liver fire.

you will know that “liver fire” is a term used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and that we are not implying that there is an actual flame coming from the organ that sits in the right upper quadrant of Joffrey’s abdominal cavity.

Though the TCM perspective of the body differs in many ways from the Western perspective, the two systems actually complement each other quite nicely – even some of the functions associated with particular organs sometimes overlap within the two systems. Here’s how I explain the differences and similarities between Eastern/Western medicine to my patients – olive oil and balsamic vinegar surely hold their own space in your kitchen cabinet, right?  But mix them together you’ve got a simple vinaigrette! If life is like a box of chocolates….then whole health is like making a tasty vinaigrette!

Over the next month I’ll post all kinds of amazing information about your guts! We will review the 5 viscera, and I’ll explain how these major organs experience imbalance.  I’ll answer the most common questions I hear in the clinic, like “What are signs of imbalance?” and “How did this organ become imbalanced?”  I’ll share all kinds of creative ways to restore balance when you feel outta whack (before you even have to see your doc, or your acupuncturist). And of course, I promise to go on some ridiculous tangents that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject since we must always keep things interesting and helpful, but never overly serious.

The goal of the next month of posts is simple –  I want to help you understand your body so you can be proactive about nurturing yourself into a state of balance that feels good to you. It’s the best kind of healing, really, when your spirit and your earthsuit make nice and work together so you can better ride the big surf without falling from your board.

The most tubular metaphor for life as we know it.
The most tubular metaphor for life as we know it.