Latent Heat
The Terrorist Cell that Lurks Within

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Latent heat occurs when your body fails to clear a pathogenic factor.

What does this word ‘pathogenic’ mean? Illness-generating.

In orthodox medicine pathogenic factors are viruses and bacteria, toxins and poisons, trauma and, to a certain extent and depending on whether your doctor agrees with the viewpoint, stress and emotional factors like grief and anger.

In Chinese Medicine there are many causes of disease, both external, like invasion by 'wind-heat' or 'wind-cold' (roughly equivalent to viruses and bacteria) and trauma, and internal (including emotional factors).

To use some more of the expressions in Chinese Medicine, where an individual’s 'Kidney qi' is plentiful, it will produce adequate 'Defensive energy', and if his 'Lung qi' is working properly it will ‘spread’ that Defensive qi properly over the surface of the body.

(That more or less means that where your health's constitution is strong, it will have the potential to defend itself, and if your metabolism is working properly, your body will deploy that defence where needed. The Chinese terms like 'Kidney Qi' etc are fairly precise and help the acupuncturist decide exactly how to apply treatment. By the way, you could have weak Kidney Qi and yet have perfectly healthy kidneys! Kidney energy is only partly related to your kidney organs.)

When attacked by a pathogenic factor a healthy body will vigorously defend itself and after an acute episode it will eject the pathogenic factor from the body.

At that point, given rest and time to recuperate, the body returns to equilibrium and health.

However, what if the body’s defensive energy is not up to a strong defence?

Here the pathogenic factor penetrates beyond the initial defence line and provokes symptoms at a deeper level.

For example, someone catches a cold but instead of developing a fever, (for example with shivers, obstructed nose with phlegm, sore throat etc,) his body fails to keep the disease at that level but lets it sink in further. He starts wheezing asthmatically.

From the cold and throat, the first line of defence, the barrier has now moved inwards to the Lungs. This is harder to cure without treatment whereas had the ‘cold’ been kept in the nose and throat, normally the body would have repelled the invader after a few days.

Alternatively, the invading pathogenic factor continues to cause mild ongoing symptoms that weaken the body. See ‘ 'remaining pathogenic factor' for more about this.

A Terrorist Cell Within

However, sometimes the invader arrives and takes up residence without your immune system (your resident defence force) apparently knowing about it.

This is like members of a terrorist cell that enter a country and establish themselves as normal citizens. Living unobtrusively while they await the call to arms, they prepare for action. Because the country’s police and intelligence agencies are unaware of them, no alert is raised.

It’s also like a house where the occupants aren’t aware that they are harbouring an arsonist who, given the right stimulus, will set the place alight.

How Does this invasion happen?

There are various ways this ‘invasion’ can happen.

As explained above, the first is when, for instance, a pathogenic factor like a ‘cold’ is caught but fails to materialise: there is an invasion of wind-heat or wind-cold that the body fails at the time to fight off with strong reactions like shivering and fever.

Another is when a series of emotional ‘blows’ are absorbed but not repulsed properly. For example, perhaps the individual has to live through quite impossible circumstances that build up an inner rage which, though controlled at the time, awaits a stimulus to release it.

Or perhaps a series of deaths casts the individual down badly. He continues as normal for a while until a new trigger of some kind releases them and they emerge as heat, inappropriate behaviour or illness.

Think of it like a compost heap which, long-forgotten, has dried out.

But now it's summer, and given the right stimulus, it can easily ignite, burning up and potentially damaging surrounding tissues.

Sunlight concentrated through a small piece of broken glass, perhaps, or even just a stray match.


Copyright Barbara Reddoch

Dreamstime Stocks

Immunization is another source of this. Ideally after an immunization, since the body has been invaded by what seems to the body to be a toxin, there should be a reaction: a fever and/or a rash of some kind.

If no such reaction occurs, the invasive force has penetrated to a level beyond the reach of the normal defensive forces.

Another source is what I’ll call residual heat. This affects older more often than younger people. All of us absorb foods that aren’t properly or fully digested. Normally we eliminiate them via our stools or by urination or perspiration. All of us, over life, have accidents that cause minor damage.

Normally our bodies repair themselves but if our lifestyle is such that we absorb more than we expel, then ultimately we’ll be carrying around an extra load of pathogenic factors.



Why are they pathogenic? Because our bodies are organic, they gradually cook things. Things dry out or fester:

  • Old injuries eventually dry out joints causing ongoing pain
  • Damp in the body turns into phlegm
  • Arteries and veins ‘fur’ up.

All these have the potential to erupt into inflammation and pain and other more serious complications, given the appropriate conditions.

Of course, in many older people such ‘appropriate conditions’ never actually do occur, so their systems carry an ever-increasing load of residual factors, their bodies dry out and can’t keep operating properly, and they move around more and more slowly. (Eventually we all die!)

Related to residual heat are circumstances where the symptoms of a disease have been suppressed, perhaps by treatment with medication, but the underlying disease has not been addressed or cured.

In such a case, the underlying disease may return, possibly in another form at a later time, given the right trigger.

And sometimes the appropriate conditions for latent heat to erupt do occur.

The Original Idea behind Latent Heat

The original idea the Chinese had for Latent Heat applied the idea to ‘Cold’ which they said entered in the winter, then turned gradually into Heat which came out in the Spring.

Why would Spring do this? Because Spring is when temperatures are increasing, winds are increasing and our bodies are buffeted more by changing circumstances. These are signs of increasing Yang energy. Bear in mind that, although China experienced terrible ongoing wars and disturbances which at times produced terrible hardships, their Daoist philosophy also gave them great respect for the changing climactic effects of the different seasons.

So in Spring, the Chinese argued, if there were sources of Latent heat ‘hiding’ in the body, then they might erupt when external climactic factors triggered them.

Normally a trigger would be another external invasion by wind-cold or wind-heat, or just heat. Also, after a winter’s rest, the defensive energy may have been partially replenished and so can begin to defend itself.

But because it isn’t fully replenished by the rest or because suppressive treatment is applied, our Defensive-qi doesn’t mount a proper defensive action and can’t properly expel the sources of latent heat, which then exhaust it, leading to a new status quo and ongoing exhaustion.

However, in our experience, you don’t have to wait for Spring to set it off. It can occur at any time of year, sometimes from trying circumstances and even after a holiday when your defensive energy has recovered.

When this occurs, you may suddenly develop enormous tiredness as the latent heat sources rise up and absorb all your defensive energy, leaving very little for your career or life.

The Four Levels of Disease

In Chinese medicine, the theory that is most appropriate for Latent Heat is that of the Four Levels of invasion of disease.

  • Outermost Level: the Defensive-Qi level
    On the outer, Defensive-Qi level, the pathogenic factor is kept on the outside. Exact symptoms depend on the kind of reaction (wind-heat, summer-heat, damp-heat and dry-heat) but in general there is fever and aversion to cold with what is called a 'floating' pulse. Latent Heat is prevented if the disease penetrates no further.
  • Qi Level
    When a disease penetrates to the next level, the Qi level, there is a higher fever which persists for longer, and more malaise. The pulse in most cases is no longer floating but remains rapid and fairly big, slippery or full.
  • Nutritive Qi Level
    At this level, there is mental confusion, delirium or restlessness and the pulse is 'fine', or 'thin', and still rapid.
  • Blood Level
    At the deepest level, the Blood level, the pulse remains rapid and is either thin, fine or wiry. There is still fever, sometimes high, but behaviour is now more bizarre, with mania, irritability, twitching, fainting, tremor and convulsions.

As can be seen, as the disease penetrates, the body mounts a defence at various levels. At the deepest level, the defence is on the mental level with continuing unresolved fever.

Taking immunization, ideally the body defends itself at the Defensive-Qi level. Failing that, Chinese medicine considers that the vaccine toxin passes, unnoticed, to the deepest ie Blood level, where it may turn to Heat or Damp-Heat in due course, possibly much later in life when the originating cause has been long forgotten.

Summarising So Far

Latent heat arises when the body doesn’t expel a source of illness. This can arise from – for example:

  • Invasion by wind-cold or wind-heat not dealt with at the time
  • A build-up over time of repressed emotions
  • Immunisation not properly reacted to at the time
  • Suppression of the symptoms of a disease
  • The detritus of life and the many injuries our bodies learn to endure and which can, in the right circumstances, become sources of disease

Often the latent heat turns into a more visible form or heat, such as a rash which, embarrassing and unpleasant though it may be, is much better on the outside of the body than festering inside.

Alternatively, the latent heat may affect us mentally causing psychological symptoms, anxiety, fears, sudden rages. It may trigger other destructive processes in the body, usually of a drying, thickening nature that prevents proper circulation of blood, prevents the normal functioning of the Spleen, Stomach and Lung energies, with compromises in movement, nerve impulses and/or mental acuity.

How to avoid Latent Heat?

Don’t let Latent Heat happen in the first place!

  • After any acute disease, give yourself time to rest and recover properly
  • Eat foods that are appropriate to your metabolism
  • Learn to express your emotions properly, not letting yourself become paranoid, vindictive, spiteful, wasted by grief or worry, or revengeful. Even if expressing emotions is difficult, learning to recognise them as they seek to bat you around like a hurricane can sometimes forestall disaster.
  • Avoid immunisations if possible and if you must be immunised, do so only when in excellent health so that your body reacts properly to them
  • Avoid multiple vaccinations against which the body cannot mount an effective exterior defence and which, by their quantity or frequency, invade the body to a deep level
  • Avoid treatments for illnesses that suppress the symptoms without curing the underlying disease. (This is very hard to do with modern medicine which is extremely good at suppressing symptoms.)
  • Finally, avoid foods that are bad for you; eat well and regularly; take plenty of exercise to enable your body to stay fit, repel illness, burn out toxins and cope better with stress.

Old Age Disease

As you age, keep active, socially, mentally and physically and maintain an active interest in life.

Tai Qi and Qi gong are exercise regimes that provide much more than just gentle stretching movements to help the mind and body maintain health. They help foster what the ancient Chinese called ‘Essence’.

This essence is the source of life: keep it healthy, use it sparingly and it will keep you fit into old age.

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Click here to get back from Latent Heat to Theory.
Internal Causes of Disease
External Causes of Disease

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