Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Large Intestine

Here is another sneak-peak at my Eastern Medicine Course. 

This study of the 12 main meridians in Chinese acupuncture is a fascinating study. The Chinese medical orientation that is used is to first study the functions of the human body by describing the energy systems behind those functions. These insights are typically more important from a diagnostic and treatment perspective than the study of the actual physical organs. This was probably because trial and error over thousands of years showed that if you treated the energy system well, then the physical body repaired accordingly. This ties in to the general physics principle that “energy goes first, matter follows.” 

For example, in Western physiology, a study of the large intestine is fairly uneventful from the perspective of its functions and any ramifications it may have on the rest of the body. Yet dynamic systems theory tells us that anything that happens with the large intestine will have ramifications throughout the body. Once we look at the concepts behind the meridians, which move throughout the body, we see how many of those ramifications can be implemented. This becomes even clearer when we learn that the normal pathways we see drawn on acupuncture charts for each meridian are only a part of the picture. For example, the large intestine meridian appears to flow from the hand, up along the arm and finishes in a place next to the nose. A casual observer would wonder why the meridian that controls the large intestine would have a pathway like that when the large intestine is in the lower half of the body. The reality is that there are many long, and dynamic, internal links and secondary meridians that, when you take into account of all the main meridians, would amount to literally hundreds of internal meridian pathways. It should also be noted that the meridians are not channels of energy that look like the lines on the charts that we see. There are no spaces between the meridians flowing up the body because each meridian occupies a broad area so it looks like a broad band of energy instead of a line. Collectively this means that the meridians, if drawn properly, would appear to cover the entire surface area of the body. It also means that even internally, meridians are in some way contacting every cell in the body. It now becomes obvious that each meridian controls far more than the organ associated with it. Therefore a study of the meridians of acupuncture can give us a more detailed understanding of all the physiological and psychological interactions that take place within the whole body mind system. This knowledge is invaluable to anyone who wants to see the total picture and take a holistic, dynamic systems theory approach to healthcare. It should be noted that all the basic courses in the BodyTalk System are based upon integrative dynamic systems theory. 

The Large intestine controls the transformation of digestive wastes from liquid to solid state and transports the solids through the rectum.  It plays a major role in the balance and purity of bodily fluids and, via the meridian system, assists the lungs in controlling the skin's pores and perspiration. Coupled with the lungs by way of the Metal element, the large intestine depends on the lungs for movement via the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm, which works like a pump to give impetus to peristalsis by regulating abdominal pressure. Hence, good breathing habits help to keep the bowel function regular. Conversely, congested lungs can be the result of sluggishness or blockages in the bowel. 

The emotion attributed to the large intestine and lungs is grief. Grieving is a way of processing life by allowing us to let go of the issues and memories associated with the cause of the grieving we are undertaking. For example, the grieving of the death of a loved one facilitates the release of the factors that involve strong entanglement with that person. The large intestine takes this to the next level. Its form of grieving is quite specifically the process of “letting go.” The concept of “letting go” does not really have to involve grief in an active way. Instead, it is more about the concept of letting go, or going with the flow, of life processes. If we have control issues, this can help produce and “anal-retentive” personality. This then leads to a tenancy to want to control, and hold on to aspects of our life. The end result can be alternating constipation and diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and bowel deterioration later in life. 

The large intestine and lungs are strongly associated with the skin. They control the functioning of the skin and can account for many skin disorders such as eczema or chronic sores, keratin buildup, blemishes, etc. There is a strong relationship between asthma and eczema. When a patient has this combination you will see that during winter the asthma dominates and the skin improves. Conversely, in summer the eczema gets much worse, and the asthma improves. A great example of the organ/Meridian relationship can be seen in the case of a patient of mine who presented with an extremely painful “tennis elbow.” It had been present for over a year and he had extensive treatment, including acupuncture, physical therapy, and everything else he was recommended. The pain had grown to be so severe that he could no longer let anyone even touch his skin in that part of the arm. During my initial consultation I asked about the functioning of his large intestine. He was surprised by the question, but did admit that he had major problems with constipation. He had to take laxatives when he hadn’t passed a bowel movement for 5 or 6 days a time. I explained that his particular tennis elbow problem was due to the chronic blockages in his large intestine. I pointed out that his tenderness on the elbow was specifically over the area of influence of the large intestine meridian. There was no need to treat, or go near the tennis elbow. Instead, I referred him to a nurse practitioner who specialized in colonic irrigation. I heard from him 6 months later, when he wanted treatment for a whiplash. He then told me that his “tennis elbow” completely cleared up within three days of the colonic irrigation. Psychologically, the yang large intestine and its yin metal element partner, the lungs, are the body’s main means of eliminating impurities at all levels. So besides eliminating the obvious in the form of toxins and wastes from our food, they are also very involved in the release of emotions, and negative thinking processes. Problems with the large intestine meridian develop into anal retentive, controlling, and obsessive personalities. Once both the meridian and the organ have been addressed with techniques such as BodyTalk, we will usually see changes in both the physiology and psychology of the patient.


  1. Thank you John for your experience and clarity. As a CBP and student of yours, these articles cultivate the perspective I need to be of benefit to my clents. Namaste

  2. This is such a great article! I look forward to sharing it with my clients so they may have more clarity about how these issues that are showing up in their sessions are related. Thank you!

  3. Thank you so much, John. Looking forward to seeing you in Toronto.