In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there are five elements that create movement and change. We can use the elements to categorize energetics, seasons, diseases, body types, emotions, and more.
Fire: hot and flares upwards
Earth: give birth to all things
Metal: descend and clear
Water: cold and flow downward
Wood: grow and flourish
In this medicine, the mind body connection is undoubtedly emphasized. Imbalances effect both our mental processes and physical wellbeing. Stress is a great example of this. Susan is constitutionally an earth. She is a hard worker, but overthinks everything she does. She cares a lot about who she might offend in her line of work as a social worker and tends to care for others before herself. This causes her to carry on a lot of stress and from the accumulation of worry it has become a big trigger for her IBS (GI issues are an Earth type of disease because it corresponds to the Spleen and Stomach organ systems). Knowing the type of element you are or yourself in general and the way you operate can help you to create constructive habits to live the day to day without the angst.
Are you wondering what element type you are? Keep in mind we hold traits of all elements. It is possible to resonate with multiple types, but usually will have a leading one.
F i r e
Main organ is the heart that has the job of making sure that all the other organs are functioning cohesively; as the heart supplies blood throughout the body. Heart is also where your mental spirit (Shen) is housed. Along with Heart, the Pericardium, Small Intestine, and Triple Burner belong to Fire. Fire types are the life of the party because they are sociable, but they also enjoy having alone time and being with themselves. Because of this characteristic, they are good at making and holding boundaries. On the flip side, Fire types can be superficial making it hard to make deep genuine connections and easily vulnerable.
Basic need: love, warmth, joy
- Have the ability to give and receive compassion and love in varying aspects that are appropriate to each relationship.
- Being too open can lead to extreme vulnerability and sensitivity (easily hurt/offended by rejection)
- Joy and sadness are the two main characteristics of emotions associated with fire and can fluctuate between the two irrationally.
- When fire types are mentally blocked, they have a challenging time thinking clearly and prioritizing.
- anxiety, panic attacks, mania
- poor concentration and memory
- poor sleep, unable to sleep
- Find something that makes you feel loved. Don’t focus too much on pleasing others and making them happy unless that is something that truly brings you joy, cheering others up.
- It’s okay to not relate to everyone, being overly open can lead to sharing more than you should.
- Be aware of what you want from others and what they want from you in that relationship.
- hot spices
E a r t h
Spleen and Stomach are the organs of Earth that give stability and nourishment. When well-nourished and secure Earth types are well centered, often caring and sympathetic toward others. But because they are such great nurturers their boundaries get muddled and may over nourish others when it’s not needed or neglect themselves by not asking for help when they need it.
Basic need: support, nourishment, care
- Their ego is centered and able to respond well as receiving support and nourishment.
- When well supported and nourished they in turn are able to support others around them including empathy and care.
- Can feel like they are not getting enough support, sympathy, and understanding. This can cause them to feel that their needs are insignificant versus others and resist the care they seek.
- Thoughts and ideas can become unclear or they might not have the energy to carry out great ideas.
- Over-thinking and worry are the emotions Earth types hold when in imbalance they can worry about everything under the sun or end their day in bed with ruminating thoughts.
- poor or excessive appetite and when there is an appetite it is for junk food
- stomach pains/bloating
- weak arms and legs
- poor concentration
- fatigued and desire to rest
- Know that your needs are equal to others.
- Prioritize those who are in need of your care & make time for yourself to prevent from spreading yourself thin.
- Reflect on what you need versus what you want and how to achieve that.
- Take time to pause and nourish yourself whether it be with people you enjoy surrounding yourself with or a hobby.
- refined carbs/processed foods
- iced drinks
M e t a l
Associated with the lungs and large intestine. These organs function as our immune system and help to remove waste (sweat, tears, etc.). The metal type carries themselves very well even when they are going through challenges. They are also high energy. But they can also be overcritical of themselves and others.
Basic need: recognition, acknowledgment
- Takes the time to process misfortune/challenges and move forward.
- Lives life experiences and relationships with gratitude making them feel worthwhile and satisfied.
- Tend to feel like they are missing something and unsure of what or that they are missing out on something that can easily lead to regret. #fomo
- Grief is the associated emotion of Lung types, when in a state of imbalance they may have a sense of grieve for certain events or times in their lives or not process grief appropriately making it an ongoing problem to face.
- Can have a challenging time making connections with others leaving them feeling misunderstood and isolated.
- low immune/sick often ( flu, cold, infection)
- shortness of breath, weak voice
- daytime sweating
- chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Love yourself, love yourself, love yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to others, it’s okay to be vulnerable.
- You’re human, show your amazing self...flaws and all.
- When it seems like there is a mountain of a task to climb, re-frame your outlook as it’s okay to fail, fail for growth, and find a support system.
- red meat
- bitter foods
W a t e r
The Kidneys and Bladder are the organ systems associated with water, controlling water storage, and metabolism within the body. Kidneys also have the role of holding essence which can be described as our genetic makeup and reproductive system. Water types are go-getters and determined individuals. They are able to move with the flow like water while exercising their strong will. As a contrast, Water types can be pessimistic and have a challenging time building trust with others.
Basic need: safety, reassurance, stability
- Great analysts that take the time to evaluate situations and will re-evaluate. They will assess risks and find ways to avoid or address conflict.
- Listens to their instincts and avoids putting themselves in undesirable situations. They make for good survivalists as their ability to respond to threats efficiently.
- When there is a lack of the ability to assess risk and respond to that, fear starts to control. Fear is the emotion associated with water types and this may include anxiety, panic, phobias, and dread.
- We all have fears, but for Water types it can be debilitating and hinder daily life and the choices they make.
- Trying new things aren’t ideal for them or they will take a while to achieve goals.
- ear issues (hard of hearing, early deafness, ear infections)
- spinal/joint pains/weak bones
- low back pain
- cold sore knees
- chronic edema
- premature hair graying or loss
- It’s natural to feel threat and feel fear, take time to assess the best way to handle the situation.
- Risk can offer positive opportunities.
- Sort through the things that you enjoy doing and what you want to engage in and what you want to stay away from. The anticipation of certain scenarios can ease the mind when it actually happens.
- frozen and raw foods
W o o d
Associated with the organ systems of the Liver and Gall Bladder. They carry on the ability to organize, plan, and decision making. If you’re a wood and balanced, you know what you want in life and have a strong sense of direction. In contrast, Wood types can be over assertive and too much attention to detail that they forget the true intention.
Basic need: boundaries and structure to grow
- Great leaders because they can be productively assertive.
- They thrive in whatever they are doing and get things done with their skills to be organized and structured.
- Frustration and anger can easily escalate making it difficult to adapt to their environment (work/life), structure, and boundaries.
- Doubtful and indecisive is the other side of wanting to be angry or irritated, but not wanting to be. This is a lack of being able to express yourself and storing it away for another time.
- nervous, timid, lack courage
- eye issues (blurred, floaters, pterygium)
- headaches - moody (irritated, repressed anger, overwhelmed, stressed)
- muscle tension/spasm, muscular weakness
- menses issues (pain, lack off, heavy flow)
- Envision and create goals to focus on.
- Be mindful of other’s points of view and be understanding of others.
- Forgiveness may be hard but can be very necessary for moving forward.
- processed foods
- high-fat foods