Understanding Body Constitution 

Understanding your body constitution Chinese medicine TCM

 March 19, 2021

By  Juli Kramer, PhD

Chinese medicine healthcare is based on looking each person's body constitution, and other individual factors. This personalized approach can help you figure out how to be your healthiest self for a long and happy life.

Genetics and lifestyle choices

Your body constitution results from inborn factors that begin at conception. Your lifestyle choices, or acquired factors, also play a significant role. You might think of your body constitution as the relationship between genetics and lifestyle choices.

For example, your genetics, which are set at conception, never change. However, environmental conditions and lifestyle choices can change your body constitution. For example, factors such as seasonal changes, diet, exercise, stress, exposure to illness, and living conditions play an important role.

Chinese medicine practitioners have written a great deal about body constitutions for millennia and research continues today. You can learn more about the TCM concept of body constitution in What is your Chinese medicine body constitution type?

Understanding and managing your constitution will allow you to feel less stress and have more energy.

You will understand what foods are best for you to eat and which types of exercise and stress reduction techniques will bring your body into a balanced and healthy state. 

What are the types of body constitution?

Constitution refers to your relatively stable physique, psychology, and physiological functions. These characteristics determine your susceptibility to illness and disease. They can also determine if you have a strong immune system for better health.

Let's start by looking at the big picture. Body constitution is divided into two primary categories: normal, or healthy, and poor, or sickly.

A normal body constitution refers to someone with: 

  • Good physical strength
  • A glowing complexion
  • A healthy appetite
  • Sound sleep
  • Smooth urination and defecation
  • A normal pulse
  • Freedom from excess or deficiency of yin, yang, qi and blood. 

On the contrary, a poor constitution means a tendency to suffer from deficiency or excess conditions.

To illustrate, these deficiency and excess conditions make up the different body constitution types. The following terms are ones you will most commonly encounter:

  • Normal, or Neutral (Yin yang harmonious) (Not a poor health condition)
  • Hot
  • Yin deficiency
  • Yang deficiency
  • Phlegm damp
  • Qi deficiency
  • Qi stagnation
  • Blood stasis.

Below you will find a brief summary of the characteristics of each different type. You will also be able to link to pages with more details. Learning more will help you understand your body and learn how to care for it with patience and loving kindness.

Balanced constitution

Normal or neutral body constitution
  • Yin and yang harmonious
  • Physically fit
  • Emotionally stable
  • Sleeps well
  • Healthy appetite
  • Energetic
  • Healthy and heals quickly when sick or injured
  • Radiant complexion
  • Can easily adapt to their environment
  • Even-tempered
  •  Learn more about a balanced constitution

Hot constitution

Hot damp body constitution TCM Chinese medicine
  • Sturdy body
  • Dry mouth
  • Often complains of a bitter taste in the mouth
  • Sensitive to hot temperatures
  • Prone to have acne on the face and neck
  • Feels fatigue and heaviness in the body
  • Aversion to warm and humid weather
  • Prefers cold drinks
  • Likely to be over assertive
  • Tendency to feel angry
  • Learn more about a hot constitution

Yin deficiency

Yin deficiency
  • Has hot flushes in the chest and palms, even with a normal body temperature
  • Frequent night sweats
  • Tendency towards emaciation
  • Problems with sense organs (To illustrate, ringing in the ears, dry eyes, dry throat)
  • Often has freckles
  • Dry stools and constipation
  • Aversion to hot and dry weather
  • Unstable moods - can be in an excessive good mood sometimes and then broody and irritable
  • Learn more about a yin deficiency constitution

Yang deficiency body constitution

Yang deficiency body TCM
  • Sensitive to cold and wind
  • Cold extremities in upper and lower body
  • Haggard and pale
  • Often listless
  • Frequent joint pain
  • Thinning hair
  • Aversion to cold and humidity
  • Often complains about cold hands and feet
  • Often feels ill after eating cold food
  • Anxious with a tendency to sadness
  • Introverted and quiet
  • Learn more about a yang deficiency constitution

Phlegm damp constitution

Phlegm damp
  • Tendency to be overweight
  • Profuse phlegm in sinuses, chest, and elimination channels
  • Tendency to high blood pressure, diabetes, gynecological diseases
  • Easily fatigued and drained of energy
  • Bloated
  • Sensitive to damp weather
  • Prone to sebum secretions on the face and head
  • Often craves food high in fat and sugar
  • Patient
  • Learn more about a phlegm damp constitution

Qi deficiency

Qi deficiency TCM
  • Pale or sallow complexion
  • Underweight
  • Often breathless
  • Catches colds easily
  • Sensitive to changing temperatures
  • Weak immune system
  • Easily fatigued - sweats easily with little physical activity
  • Usually takes a longer time to recover from illness
  • Feelings of uneasiness
  • Overthinking and worry are common
  • Learn more about a qi deficiency constitution

Qi stagnation body constitution

Qi stagnation constitution Chinese medicine body constitution
  • Depression
  • Fragile emotions
  • Frustration
  • Moodiness
  • Feeling like you have a lump in your throat
  • Body pain
  • Digestion problems
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Impotence
  • Light red tongue with a thin white coating
  • Wiry pulse
  • Learn more about a qi stagnation constitution

Blood stasis body constitution

Blood Stasis TCM body type
  • Cannot tolerate cold or windy weather
  • Dry, itchy, rough skin
  • Dull complexion
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Thin, visible find blood vessels in the eyes
  • Either overweight or very skinny
  • Frequently bruised from unknown causes
  • Prone to abnormal growths in the body
  • Prone to forgetfulness
  • Irritable

Body Constitution Assessment

Don't know your body constitution? Take the assessment to learn how you can achieve optimal health.

Juli Kramer, PhD

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.

What's something new you learned?

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}