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Here's a list of Yin Deficiency Causes. They probably don't cover absolutely all roots of the problem but once you understand the basic idea you'll know how to recognise them.
The overall idea is this. When you're driving your car and you notice your fuel reserves are getting low, your behaviour changes.
Wherever you were going gets to be less important. Finding somewhere to fill up becomes imperative.
If in addition you realise oil levels are low, there's a danger the engine may stop.
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Suppose the battery fluid levels are low too. That means it can't re-start the car so easily, nor recharge itself properly.
And the clutch fluid, the brake fluid and the oil in the wheel hubs?
Now the screen-washer liquid reserve is empty, the roads are dusty and you can't see where you're going.
Besides, you've drunk all your water and you're thirsty. You're tired, anxious, fed up, impatient, becoming erratic.
This could be trouble! Drying out; over-heating; not being able to start; not being able to get home to rest (that's you, the driver!).
In your body, in Chinese medicine these Yin body fluids are what are called your Blood and your Essence. You may not be aware of it at the time, but you use them up by the bodily equivalent of driving too far in alien, dry territory in a badly maintained car, with no reserves and no get-home-safe get-out clause.
Overwork is one of the main Yin Deficiency causes.
Of course, it depends on your training, upbringing, genetic makeup, experience, age, energy, strength, prior health level and so on: in effect, your susceptibility.
Overwork takes many forms:
The problem is that you won't notice signs of Yin Deficiency as it develops: yin deficiency causes weakness slowly and insidiously.
When you're healthy but overworked, a few days off to rest, perhaps even just a weekend, may be enough to put you right. This is because all you've used up are fuel supplies that can be quickly replaced by rest and diet. (Proper rest and sleep replaces Qi. A good diet replaces the Blood.) Taking the car analogy, you can quickly replace the fuel ie the petrol, the gas.
But gradually you find you need to stay in bed for a few hours every weekend to recover.
Crane's Gibbet On Blue Sky
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Or you find that your ability to concentrate weakens. In fact you won't admit this to begin with.
Instead, you'll start to day-dream more - blue skies! - to surf the internet when you should be working. You'll find long sentences and paragraphs more taxing to comprehend.
You'll find you forget the names of protagonists in books or TV series, or that you don't grasp their significance.
This builds up over a period of years.
It doesn't usually happen overnight (though there are occasions when this happens, see below.)
Taking the car analogy, what's happening here is that you've started using up not just the fuel, but the oil and the coolant. In a car, of course, you can replace them, so the analogy breaks down, but many drivers still take the car to the garage for this and get it done when the car is serviced. That servicing is a bit like getting treatment for the causes of Yin deficiency.
You'll notice that by overwork as one of the yin deficiency causes I mean mental work more than physical work. Overworking physically (such as too much jogging, walking, dancing, heavy lifting, or repetitive actions such as in tennis or hair-dressing) will usually affect Yin reserves only after a longer period of time. Initially they deplete Qi and Blood, and cause Qi Stagnation and Blood Stagnation.
Growing too fast isn't usually listed as being a cause of Yin deficiency, but I've noticed it occurring, usually in the form of Blood deficiency, in many adolescents.
Adolescence is when your body's genes demand growth at the same time as you are challenged to develop -
All these amount to overwork! Fortunately, our genes seem programmed to cope. Perhaps this adolescent 'stretching' is what our genes need to fulfil their potential. However, it's still overwork, and when treating adolescents I've found an awareness of the likely effect on yin deficiency often conducive to good treatment.
Bit of technical stuff here. Pre-Heaven reserves are those you were born with, that you can increase only over years of living in a way conducive to good health, and that you use up as you age.
Post-Heaven Qi comes from your diet and is created mainly by your Spleen and Stomach. This you can replace at every meal, if you Stomach Qi is in good condition and you eat good food sensibly.
The trouble is that as you continue overworking and not giving your body time properly to replace Post-Heaven Qi, it starts dipping into Pre-Heaven reserves. These are your Yin reserves, your body fluids. Yin deficiency causes include over-use of these deep reserves.
Or, to use an analogy I heard the other day,
So when you overwork for a few days you go into overdraft on your current account.
No problem, a few days rest and you're back in balance!
However, when you overwork and keep overworking for much longer than usual, you have to dip into your deposit account. This takes a longer rest, or period of recuperation, and perhaps some treatment, to get into balance: in other words to replace your savings from your current account. But you can still get back to normal.
However, if you always overwork, or massively drain your energy, then you dip into your Jing reserves, your inheritance. Now you could be in trouble! This is not so easy to mend. In fact, your body will probably produce symptoms of Yin deficiency and you may be stuck with them unless you get early help, and possibly not even then. But good treatment may stop them worsening.
When Yin reserves are low, rest won't be enough to replace them.
Well ... if your condition isn't too far gone, and you can live for a while on a desert island with all your needs catered for - and not too much sex, I'm afraid, see below - perhaps you can recover.
But even then it takes time.
To replace depleted Yin, you'll need a long period of rest, reduced work-load (preferably none), better living habits, plenty of good food, mild exercise. And you'll also need not to be too old, because as you age you use up your supplies of Yin and your ability to replace it.
In fact, beyond a certain stage, admitting that what you do might be one of your yin deficiency causes will be very difficult. Someone else may have to point it out to you.
If you're in the habit of taking stimulating drugs or caffeine in quantities that make you over-alert, that over-alertness itself can drain your yin reserves becoming another yin deficiency cause.
You'll know when you develop yin deficiency symptoms.
Severe heat, as in a fever, depletes your Yin reserves.
All the more so if you have a series of fevers, or a continuing feverish disease, such as malaria, where you sweat again and again.
Even one very strong fever can quickly weaken someone with low Yin reserves. You sometimes see this in children who having had a very depleting fever take years to get back their strength. For them, severe heat is definitely one of the main yin deficiency causes.
The same can happen to old people, of course or indeed to anyone - but it's very noticeable in small children who may have tremendous vitality (Yang) but still have bodies (Yin) sometimes too small or frail to compensate for the power of their Yang energy.
Sorry about this one: yin deficiency causes definitely include too much of what we'd nearly all like more of - sex!
Q. What is too much?
A. When you find the next day that
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Sex for men here means ejaculation.
For women it means loss of body fluids related to the genital system. For example, it could mean major loss of blood at or between menses or at childbirth.
For women it could also mean having too many children close together, but only if this is depleting: some women are blessed with rugged constitutions which seem to grow stronger through and after every pregnancy.
Does it mean loss of sexual fluids in women? Well, it might, in extreme circumstances - perhaps in some sex workers. But this would probably be accompanied by over-work, lack of sleep, exhaustion and so on, which themselves might lead to Yin deficiency.
As most people know, sex is a good way to clear Qi Stagnation! But too much sex leads to Yin deficiency and Yin Deficiency causes Qi stagnation in certain circumstances.
It seems you can't win ...
Just as over-use of them depletes your resources - your Yin resources - excess Yang conditions can drain your Yin reserve's capacity to bring you back to balance.
Here are a few examples, the first being an example of overwork or, in this case, constant exposure to Yang conditions:
1. During the 2nd World War, warships escorted flotillas of merchant vessels bringing supplies from the USA to Britain. Enemy U-boats and sometimes battleships sank as many of these supply vessels as they could. The escort flotillas had the job of stopping them.
A typical flotilla might be many miles in length and breadth and bad weather could destroy the formation. This meant that escort vessels had to chase off to where they thought the 'lost' ships might be. Radar was rudimentary in the early stages of the war and a large part of the Atlantic lay beyond the reach of air cover, making such chases often hazardous and futile.
Sometimes these escort crews worked under extreme conditions in states of constant anxiety for extended periods of time without proper rest. One ship Commander did this for probably longer than anyone else - five years with hardly a break. When he became senior officer for a whole escort group of destroyers he continued to do his job but eventually realised he couldn't continue. He had enjoyed the challenge of his job in the early years but, as he wrote:
"already I was beginning to look backwards to a time when I imagined that things had been better. We had all been living at such a pace, burning ourselves up, that perhaps we were already developing some of the characteristics of the elderly." (My italics.) ['Escort - The Battle of the Atlantic' by Commander D.A.Rayner, D.S.C. and Bar, V.R.D, R.N.V.R. Pub by William Kimber, London 1955: page 219]
"Burnt out, feeling elderly" are often sensations of those who have exhausted their Yin resources.
2/ 'Over-excitement' and conditions approaching 'hysteria' are other forms of Yang excess and are frequent yin deficiency causes.
At the time they can be enormously pleasurable!
Indeed you may crave more. Think of those addicted to extreme forms of pleasure such as from sex or watching terrifying movies or the thrill of anticipation.
Each of these takes you to a high state of excitement - very Yang.
Of course, depending on the nature of the activity, it may or may not involve movement. If it does involve movement, preferably full physical movement that moves Qi around, allowing Yang to expend itself naturally and turn properly into Yin, then it promotes health - although even here, continued for too long it can exhaust Qi followed by Blood followed by Yin.
But if movement is denied, the tension build-up exhausts Yin. Then these Yin deficiency causes lead to symptoms of Yin deficiency.
Yin deficiency causes take many forms and the above is really only a summary. You may be able to think of additional manifestations of these yin deficiency causes when you look at people's lives.
If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.
If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.
Please note! The Kindle editions are less easy to read! Although the paper editions cost more, they are much easier to read and to refer back and forth to the contents and index.
Here are some of the books Jonathan has written:
Still only one comment, though personally I think this is my best book so far.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine!
No comments yet: just published. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
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