Lurking Latent Pathogens
Gu Syndrome of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Each of us is exposed to a host of pathogens each day, may they be viral, bacterial, or chemical in nature. In a state of good health, we are able to respond quickly and correctly through our immune response or other avenues of elimination when these pathogens enter our bodies.Our body is designed to help keep these pathogens and toxins from reaching the interior of our body so that damage to organs is prevented; toxins are ushered into fat tissue, fever erupts to expel viral infections, or our bodies expel bacteria quickly and efficiently through our large intestine all in an effort to keep us well.
But what happens if our bodies are too weak to appropriately rid the pathogen in a timely manner? Or what if we are exposed to a large amount of chemicals that our body cannot naturally detox through the liver, kidneys, and skin? Or if the pathogen is so virulent that it penetrates our healthy body leaving us too weak to expel it? What happens when pathogens go deeper and become lodged in our tissue? These become latent or lurking pathogens and produce symptoms that don’t go away, or more commonly, come and go over many years. They can include chronic disorders such as Epstein Barr and Lyme disease, but many are unnamed or unrecognized. This leaves patients with chronic pain, lassitude, or any number of symptoms that are not easily explained.
- Apply the Metal Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Large Intestine 4
- Apply the Wood Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Liver 3
- Apply the Earth Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Stomach 36
- Apply the Metal Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Lung 7
Liver Imbalances and Lurking Pathogens
The liver is dynamic in its ability to move Qi in all directions in the body. When liver function becomes constrained, there is a tendency for the liver to become “heated”. Not only does the liver function become impaired, but the liver overacts on other systems. It can affect Heart function and cause insomnia, as well as Spleen function and Large Intestine functions causing digestive difficulties.
With Liver Qi constraints, there is typically an emotional imbalance causing frustration, easy anger, and even depression. Even those with latent pathogens can typically tolerate the Liver soothing herbs in our Free and Easy Wanderer formula.
Liver Damp Fire and Gu Syndrome
If Liver Qi stagnation is not addressed in a timely manner, then the Liver can continue to heat up. If there is Internal Dampness present, the two can combine to create Damp-Heat with symptoms such as red weeping rashes, inflamed joints that worsen with wet weather, or explosive BM’s.
Detoxing for Environmental Toxins Lodged in the Tissues
Trying to rid the body of toxins lodged in organs and muscle tissue is much more complicated than a simple detox after Spring Break in college. You will need to work on the back-alleyway of detoxification, first being the lymphatic system. You can get lymph fluid moving with herbs such as our Central River formula. If there are any indications of internal Dampness, you must clear it with herbs that are drying because Damp accumulations will block the toxins from flowing out of the tissue. Consider Restore the Middle Way formula (if Dampness is present and there is not a latent viral infection), Free and Easy Wanderer formula, Lymph Cream, and Central River formula.
Qi Deficiency and Lurking Pathogens
Patients suffering with latent pathogens often experience bouts of severe lethargy. Their energy can become so depleted that they cannot hold down a job or care for their families on a consistent basis. It is likely that a Qi deficiency played a part in the body’s inability to eliminate the pathogen in the first place. According to TCM, if you do not have adequate Qi, you will not have adequate Wei Qi (comparable to immune system resistance).
Unfortunately, it is tricky using Qi tonic herbs which can strengthen latent pathogen and worsen the condition. In Chinese medicine, there is a saying that loosely translates to “Don’t feed the thief when he is in your house”; this explains why those with Chronic Fatigue have trouble taking Qi tonic formulas without feeling a worsening of their symptoms. On the other hand, if the body does not have adequate Qi, the body will not have enough strength to expel the pathogen. This is where herbs become vital in clearing the body completely of the pathogen. With viral pathogens, pushing the virus out of the body before trying to regain strength is essential for completely eliminating the deep boring infection. Treating the root of the problem, rather than masking symptoms, allows for long standing relief and the gift of wellness.
Internal Dampness and Lurking Pathogens
Imagine a sticky substance like phlegm adhering to every cell in your body. Most of us think of phlegm as something that is restricted to the respiratory system, however, given the right conditions, phlegm can become present throughout the body. In the case of fibromyalgia (FMS), a pathogen is often lodged in the muscle tissue causing stagnation and pain. This is one of the factors that make FMS so difficult to treat since internal Dampness is stubborn and takes time to clear. Western medicine does not generally recognize or have a strategy for clearing Dampness from the tissues.
Gu Syndrome Self-care Strategy
Chinese medicine is a complicated theoretical system that is not a quick study. This pattern of disease is one of the most complicated and difficult patterns of imbalance in the body to comprehend and to treat; it is understandable if you feel confused by the information presented here for the lay person. Additionally, it is perplexing that one would require Qi to expel pathogens but possibly cannot tolerate Qi tonic herbs during during the initial months of self-care.
Before attempting to tonify Qi with herbs, spend several months utilizing a bath foot daily that contains diaphoretic herbs such as our Lurking Pathogen Therapeutic foot soak. You can also add in Free and Easy Wanderer formula if Liver Qi Stagnation is present and/or Central River formula for lymphatic congestion to better drain toxins from tissue. Additionally, utilize the acupressure points as described above. You can also apply the Earth Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Spleen 3 and apply the Water Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Kidney 3 several times per day to bolster Qi without the use of herbs.
Another common cause of latent pathogens is incorrect treatment protocols of viral infections. According to Chinese medicine, a cold or flu is treated by releasing the pathogen to the exterior; part of this process includes opening the pours by using diaphoretic herbs that produce sweating. If an exterior pathogen is not treated properly, it can become lodged in the interior of the body. This unresolved virus can lodge itself in the muscle tissue, or, more seriously, in the organs of the body. Interestingly, antibiotics are very “cold” in nature and cold causes contraction. When antibiotics are used in the presence of an exterior pathogen the pathogen cannot move to the exterior. Anti-biotics should be avoided if possible, but they are sometimes life-saving so one may be grappling with yet another "catch-22" situation while attempting to resolve this condition.
Again, patterns of disease do not get much more complicated than addressing latent pathogens according to Chinese medicine, and you may not completely clear the pathogen on the first pass. You will know the pathogen is still lingering when you attempt to consume Qi tonics and the symptoms re-appear. While Gu syndromes require a huge amount of work to eliminate them from the body using Chinese medicine, there aren't a whole lot of other promising ways to address this chronic health malady.
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Manheimer E, Cheng K, Linde K, et al. Acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010;(1):CD001977. Accessed at https://www.cochranelibrary.comon February 24, 2016.
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Dr. Browne's Shared Insights and Experiences
A woman in her late 20's came to me with a laundry-list of health complaints including extreme fatigue and muscle pain. She had been diagnosed with Lyme disease and had undergone two rounds of antibiotic treatments without resolving the matter. We decided to concentrate on expelling the pathogen rather than running down each of the symptoms initially. For four months she applied self-acupressure and took my organic Free and Easy Wanderer formula while receiving weekly treatments.
At this point we felt as if she had expelled the pathogen; the tell-tale sign of lurking pathogens which are little red dots on her tongue had faded and she was beginning to notice some improvements. We put off scheduling more treatments as the holidays were approaching. I did not see her again for many months. I thought that she may have given up on the natural treatment strategy as many Gu Syndrome patients do; it takes a lot of energy to pursue natural care for this tenacious condition, and Qi energy is not something these patients posses in the early stages of treatment.
In late March I saw her name on my clinic schedule to my delight. When she arrived, I barely recognized her! Rather than a pale, sallow complexion, this young mother of two was radiant and bubbly with excitement. She explained that each week of the last four months she slowly kept progressing as all of the symptoms fell away one by one. She had been able to rebuild her business and was now able to fully participate in her family life. She even went back to her MD to test for Lyme which had cleared her blood according to this Lyme specialist. She came in twice for an herbal prescription and balancing, but I gladly told her that she no longer required weekly treatments. We were both pretty pleased with the outcome!