Most children’s complaints revolve around a central key issue – DIGESTION.
Children’s Delicate Digestive Systems
In Chinese medicine pediatrics, children are not seen a miniature-adults. Their bodies are physically and functionally immature, according to Chinese medicine, and need special care and treatment. Their digestive systems, including their bowels, are seen as delicate and not yet complete. Many ancient Chinese texts remind us of this fact over and over and caution parents and practitioners to treat children as the beautiful, developing humans they are.
“Children’s flesh is fragile, their blood scanty, and their qi weak.” Nei Jing (Inner Classic)
As a result of their delicate digestive systems, diet is the most important cause of most children’s diseases. Children under age five are believed to have weak digestion and most common diseases such as these result from poorly digested food:
Children are easily damaged by foods they eat, or do NOT eat!
Process of Digestion According to Chinese Medicine
To understand why children’s weak digestion leads to illness, it is important to first understand how Chinese medicine describes the digestive process.
Very different from a western concept of digestion, according to Chinese medicine, the process of digestion is similar to distillation.
The Stomach is like a vat used to ripen food. This pot, the Stomach, sits on a stove, if you will, called the Spleen.
The Spleen provides the heat necessary to draw the essence from food and drink to nourish the body. The Spleen sends the food and drink essence, known as Clear Essence and Grain Qi, up to the Heart and Lungs. In the Lungs, the essence merges with Air or Pectoral Qi to become Normal Qi which creates a healthy, balanced state in the body. In the Heart, the essence becomes Blood.
Qi and Blood Created from Digested Food
Qi is the motivational force for all transformation and movement in the body. Think of cells changing, fluids moving, etc. Blood moistens and nourishes all tissues of the body. If Qi and Blood are not in sufficient amounts and do not flow smoothly, the body cannot function. It cannot make more Qi or Blood, it cannot repair damage, it cannot defend against disease.
A happy digestive system will keep babies and children healthy!
Waste Removed from Digested Food
The other part of the distillation process of the Stomach and Spleen is to let go of the Turbid – in other words waste. Waste has to be able to move downward to be excreted through urination and defecation.
How Babies and Children Develop Digestive Issues
What does this mean for babies and children? They have a hard time separating the Clear and Turbid efficiently and completely. Even though a baby or child may eat, they may not be able to separate and draw as much essence as needed from the food. That is why a baby needs more sleep than an adult. It also means that it’s easy for food to get stuck in a baby’s or child’s excretion system.
If the Stomach and Spleen cannot do their jobs properly the Lungs, Heart, and full digestive system struggle and illness results.
If the Turbid food gets stuck in the stomach and intestines, it creates more problems, further obstructing the flow of food and essence. Symptoms at this level include:
If enough material gets stuck, the middle section of the body (the triple burner, which includes the Stomach and Spleen), a state of dampness results. This state results in a wide range of symptoms, including:
The Spleen creates the phlegm when it cannot separate the Clear and Turbid essences effectively. Other problems arise in the body when the phlegm moves and begins to accumulate in the Lungs. The flow of Qi is inhibited symptoms such as these result:
Now you can understand why children most often have respiratory and digestive illnesses!
We are creating online courses that cover infants’ and children’s health in more detail. We will provide recipes to keep children healthy, remedies for when children do get sick, and lifestyle recommendations for all four seasons.
Dr. Juli Kramer earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, with a cognate in Counseling Psychology and her M.A. in Psychology. She has a diploma in Chinese Medicine Nutritional Therapy, and certificates in Chinese medicine from Dr. Zhang Yifang, Shanghai World Hospital, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. With over 30 years of experience as an educator, Dr. Kramer founded Radiant Shenti to teach people how Chinese medicine (TCM) can help them lead healthy, happy, and long lives.
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