In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), obesity is considered an excess accumulation of Dampness in the body. Qi Deficiency and Yang Deficiency have an impact on the Spleen and Kidney functions to metabolize water according to TCM; these leads to Internal Damp accumulation. Liver Qi Stagnation with emotional disturbances or stress can also cause Qi Stagnation and accumulation of Dampness.
Spleen Qi Deficiency and Weight Loss
Qi deficiency and Damp accumulation are due to Spleen’s inability to transport water. Spleen controls the muscles and deficiency will lead to flaccid muscle tones. Feeling of heaviness is the combination of weakness of the muscles together with accumulation of Dampness.
Other symptoms include:
- Feeling of heaviness in the body – This is indicative of Internal Dampness.
- Fatigue - Spleen’s inability to transform food into Qi energy results in low energy.
- Perspiration – Perspiring without physical excursion is due to the body’s inability to control the opening and closing of the pores because of Qi Deficiency.
People that tend to gain weight even with little food intake would fall under this pattern. This is attributed to over accumulation of Dampness and fluids in the body interfering with metabolism.
Kidney Yang Deficiency and Weight Loss
In the Yin Yang theory of Chinese medicine, Yang energies are the warming qualities of the body. Possible indications of Kidney Yang Deficiency:
Kidney Yang Deficiency is the primary cause of Dampness accumulation in the body as it cannot warm up the Spleen Yang so that it can properly transform and transport fluids.
Liver Qi Stagnation
Liver Qi Stagnation and Blood Stagnation blocks the activities of the Spleen to metabolize and
transport water freely in the body. As a result, Internal Dampness accumulates. Symptoms of Liver constraints include:
- Tightness of the shoulder and neck
- Rib tenderness and distension
- Irritability, short temper
Stomach Heat and Weight Loss
Prolonged Liver Qi constraints that are left untreated for an extended period of time can lead to Liver Yang rising associated with excess heat in the body. This heat can consume Yin and lead to Stomach Yin Deficiency with symptoms of hunger sensations, food cravings, or sweet cravings frequently throughout the day, even shortly after eating. Other indications of Stomach Heat would include:
- Strong hunger
- Foul breath
- Constipation with dry stools
Hormonal Imbalances Leading to Weight Gain
Many women experience weight gain as part of their PMS symptoms, or during menopause. In Chinese medical theory, there is no endocrine system technically. However, TCM is excellent at addressing all types of hormonal imbalances including peri-menopausal symptoms, PMS, infertility, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and PCOS. When hormonal imbalances are treated with Chinese medicine, Liver imbalances and Kidney Deficiency are central and addressed as described above.
The following are important factors causing obesity according to Chinese medicine:
- Ancestral Qi or a familial disposition to weight gain issues: This is often a genetic disposition to Spleen Deficiency or Kidney Deficiency.
- Improper Dietary Habits: Those who eat a lot of greasy or fatty foods, sweets, or refined foods are likely to accumulate Dampness in the body.
- Spleen or Kidney Deficiency: These two organs are directly responsible for metabolizing water in the body. When either or both the organs are impaired or deficient, Internal Dampness can accumulate in the body.
- Emotional Factors: Prolonged emotional constraints, unresolved anger, and stress create Liver Qi Stagnation obstructing Qi flow in the body and create stagnation, which impairs the Spleen and Kidney’s functions to transport and dispel water. Dampness accumulates as a result.
- Lack of Exercise: Insufficient movement of the body leads to Qi Stagnation and Blood Stagnation, which results in Damp accumulation.