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Financial Worries Create More Issues with Liver Disease

Worrying about our economy could intensify physical woes for people with liver disease. Until the American dollar rises, Traditional Chinese Medicine may help relieve your worry-related symptoms.

Because of the problematic U.S. economy, a majority of Americans have already had to make changes to their lifestyle or are worried about doing so. Unfortunately, the added stress placed on the body by relentless worrying can trigger some new, unsavory symptoms in those managing chronic liver disease.

There is little doubt that today’s financial climate is filled with uncertainty. According to an April 2008 USA Today/Gallup Poll, 73 percent of American consumers are worried about rising food prices, with nearly half of those polled reporting that food inflation had caused a hardship for their households. According to the poll of 1,016 adults, food prices ranked just below record-high gasoline prices in consumer angst – with 80 percent of respondents claiming energy prices as worrisome. Accompanying the rise in daily living expenses, the sharp drop in housing prices, rising unemployment rates, flood of home foreclosures, losses on Wall Street and the recent collapse of several large banking institutions, all contribute to people worrying about money.

Emotions Affecting Health
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), emotions and physical health are intimately connected. While Western medicine recognizes the interaction between the physical body and emotions, it does so differently than TCM.

· Western Medicine – In Western medicine, the brain is at the top of the body-mind pyramid. The emotions affect the limbic system within the brain, where nerve impulses travel to the hypothalamus, then to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve centers of the brain until the message finally reaches the internal organs. Thus a nerve impulse, triggered off by an emotional upset is transmitted to the relevant organ. From this perspective, the influence of emotions has a secondary role as a causative factor in disease.

· TCM – The TCM view differs because the body-mind relationship is not a pyramid, but a circle of interaction between the internal organs and their emotional aspects. Thus, TCM appreciates emotions as an integral part of a person’s internal health. This relationship means that an excessive emotion and the organ it affects most are inseparable.

About Worry
According to TCM experts, worry is one of the most common emotional causes of disease in modern society. Compounding the effects of worry, a preexisting imbalance like liver disease makes those affected even more prone to the physiological effects of worry.

From the TCM perspective, worry congests and then weakens a person’s digestive system. This translates to worry creating a spleen energy deficiency.

It is important to note that when discussing organs (like liver or spleen) in TCM terms, the organs themselves don’t necessarily have pathology. Rather, their energy systems are out of balance.

When worry affects the spleen, the following symptoms are likely to appear:

· Fatigue
· Epigastric discomfort
· Abdominal pain and distention
· Loss of appetite
· Loose stools

Worry and the Liver
The energetics of the liver are closely related to the digestive system. When the liver energy is congested (as often is the case in chronic liver disease), the energetic overflow commonly harms the spleen. Thus, a spleen weakened by excessive worry is more likely to be overacted on by a congested liver. Practitioners of TCM refer to this common pattern as ‘Liver attacking the Spleen.’

When worry exacerbates the disharmony of the Liver attacking the Spleen, some additional symptoms may appear such as:

· Irritability
· Rib pain
· Alternating constipation and diarrhea
· Flatulence

Whether administering acupuncture, massage or herbal therapy, those who practice TCM have many tools to correct this common liver/spleen disharmony.

Interestingly, one of the formulas TCM practitioners use to correct a liver/spleen imbalance is Sho-Saiko-To (SST). While there are several formulas used for Liver attacking the Spleen, SST is preferred for those with chronic inflammatory liver disease along with digestive disorders. This formula fits because SST primarily focuses on liver health while also containing effective components to strengthen the spleen.

Having congested liver energy from liver disease predisposes someone to a liver and spleen imbalance. Anything to further weaken the spleen’s energetics will push this pattern into effect. Excessive worry is no exception. If you find yourself experiencing a disproportionate amount of financial worries lately, you are not alone. And if that worry seems to accompany chaos in your digestive system, you can now identify its cause. By easing liver disease’s strain on the liver while simultaneously strengthening the spleen, Sho-Saiko-To or other another TCM modality may be useful for getting through these worrisome, financial times., The Importance of Xiao Chai Hu Tang, Yong Ping Jiang, DOM, PhD, Retrieved October 5, 2008, Acupuncture Today, May 2003., Rising prices, flat paychecks worry consumers, Jasmin Aline Persch, Retrieved October 5, 2008, Microsoft, August 2008., Poll: Food costs a major worry for consumers, Sue Kirchhoff, Retrieved October 5, 2008, USA Today, April 2008.

Maciocia, Giovanni, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, New York, NY, 1989, 129-132.

Maciocia, Giovanni, The Practice of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, New York, NY, 1994, 213-214.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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