But … Cold can also be an External Cause of Disease
In Chinese medicine it is called an ‘external pathogenic factor‘. This means that it invades you from outside, and that your body tries to keep it at a distance from its essential inner Energy Organs, your ‘zang-fu‘ organs like your Heart, Liver, Kidneys, Stomach, Pancreas, Lungs and so on.
Nearly 2000 years ago an observant Chinese doctor produced a theory called the Invasion of Cold in Six Stages., still as useful today as it was then! His theory explains what your body does as Cold invades, both in terms of symptoms and how serious they are – and what to do.
The rest of this page is a gentle introduction to the first of those six stages.
Your body defends itself as far as possible by putting or containing the symptoms in the acupuncture channels – usually the limbs and joints – away from the vital organs in the torso.
Cold can, however, penetrate those vital inner organs when the body’s defence system is damaged, perhaps by
If your body cannot defend itself, at the start Cold may attack its surface areas, its muscles and sinews, frequently starting with your head, shoulders and neck. These are your more yang areas, where your body mounts its first defence.
Depending on where you have weakness, it may then invade, for example, your
Of course, once it’s reached inside like this, it has become Internal Cold, about which read more below.
If you think about what it is like to get suddenly intensely cold, you’ll recognise some of the symptoms in the list.
Often you don’t want to move much – except to shiver – and you like or crave warmth.
Mentally, it often makes you fearful and tense.
If you also have Qi stagnation, the Cold and Qi stagnation will reinforce one another.
Depending on other factors you could also have sneezing or shivering, for instance if Wind invades at the same time. (And yes, what is called Wind-Chill can certainly cause it. Read more about Wind Chill here.)
People with strong constitutions can become intensely restless and some feel terrified that they are about to die.
Both Wind and Cold can invade quickly where your defensive-qi (this is roughly the equivalent of your immune system from the Western medical perspective) cannot prevent it.
Their penetration into your body can be stopped if caught early on.
Do not overlook or disregard this as a cause of disease! it can arrive unexpectedly, such as
If appropriate action is taken immediately, such as covering up, or wrapping up well or taking a hot bath, the body may expel or overcome it.
By then the body may have even changed it into ‘Heat‘ symptoms, (masking the original cause) in a desperate attempt to contain or combat it. You might recognize this in the ‘burning’ skin around an arthritic joint.
With the correct treatment, if that Heat can be expelled, it is possible that the patient will then experience a period of coldness again, at which time appropriate treatment would be needed, possibly the opposite of the treatment for symptoms of Heat. (In other words, having successfully treated to clear Heat, you then need to treat to clear Cold – often with Heat!)
Depends on what you have available. If you are otherwise in good health, what to do? (Apart from getting out of the Cold, of course! And out of damp or wet conditions, too.)
Various kinds of treatment for Cold once you have been invaded?
Warning: Any form of external warmth, including moxibustion, may take a while to register with your nerves if you are feeling frozen. Until you get a return of some feeling in your skin, you could easily burn. Take Great Care! And this is even more important if you or the patient is old. An older body’s nerves work less efficiently: be sure to warm them up before applying external warmth.
Please realise that no matter how good the treatment you receive, it won’t work for long if you go out and get cold again, especially if you eat Cold Foods.
You MUST make sure what you eat is warming. So… no cold salad, no cold fruit, no chilled food, no raw food, no ice, no ice-cream, no gin and no chilled lemonade etc.
Just eat food that has been cooked and is warm when eaten. But don’t overeat! Your energy is depleted by cold, and this includes your Stomach energy. Small amounts of warm food, over a period of time, are digested better. (Check our page on Stomach Cold and Deficient for more on this!)
Avoid Cold Food and Eat/Drink Warm Food.
Further reading? If this has whetted your appetite, there are many more pages on this site to consider, or why not consult our acupuncture study reading list?
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