The Fire Element:

How the Heart, Blood Circulation, and the Small Intestine Can Play a Role in Mitigating Premature Aging

In traditional Chinese medicine, each of the five elements is governed by a pair of organs which are, in turn, driven by the energy of its element. Chinese medicine has observed that a balance of the pairs of organs is required for optimum health. It makes total sense that to hot fiery Summer, for example, Chinese medicine ascribes the element of Fire. Fire’s pair of organs is the heart and small intestine.

The heart regulates blood circulation and balanced blood circulation (neither too much nor too little blood flow) very much promotes a healthy-looking complexion. The right amount of blood circulation is actually soothing, cooling, and hydrating to the body and skin. This is why people with very healthy blood flow—people with a lot of natural rosy color in their skin—don’t seem to age as quickly as other people. The heart has dynamically pumped red blood throughout the body in a balanced way, providing oxygen and nutrients so necessary for more youthful skin and tone.

Arterial and venous blood are tightly channeled and activated by the pump-like heart that ceaselessly forces and distributes about three quarts of blood throughout the body. Signs we are out-of-balance with Fire energy are either excessive or insufficient red blood circulation with quite visible consequences in the appearance of the skin: either we are too pale, or the skin is too ruddy looking, red, irritated, sensitive, allergic, or blotchy. This excessive Fire energy (too much blood circulation and heat) is a form of inflammation, and it indicates that yin energy needs to be encouraged and yang Fire needs to be cooled. If allowed to go unchecked to become chronic in the body, this excessive Fire energy can cause damage, even premature aging.

The small intestine is energetically yang and is closely connected to the heart. (Their structural material is very similar.) It is the small intestine that provides our blood with the nutrients and oxygen that are pumped throughout the body to all of its cells.

The small intestine is responsible for receiving materials for further digestion and for making the body thrive. It separates, sorts, and absorbs the vital nutrients we require.

Sources of excessive Fire energy and what to do about it

In addition to heredity and the sun’s radiation, excessive Fire energy in the body be caused by electromagnetic radiation from electronic equipment in our homes and places of work. This can lead to oxidative stress resulting in cellular degeneration and thus premature aging.

Oxidative stress also damages the cells’ powerhouse structures—the mitochondria—that create energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). Free radicals break down the mitochondria resulting in a decline in energy production equated with aging.

An axiom of traditional Chinese medicine is: “Heat destroys the chi.” When we’re unable to produce enough chi energy the body lacks the right amount of energy to function well. (Read our blog on oxidative stress and how it relates to aging here and our blog on chi energy here.)

The body's structure is yin, which represents substances in the form of skin, flesh, fluids, and blood. Yang on the other hand represents function and movement.

Chinese medicine tells us that youthfulness is being in a state of abundant yin energy. This yin energy protects the body from too much Fire energy which is yang.

Yin energy declines as we age making us more vulnerable to the imbalance of Fire energy which shows up as heart, cardiovascular and digestive issues. This is also why we see aging people experiencing tissue dehydration, wrinkles, and lack of tone.

So how do we encourage the balance of Fire energy, especially during hot Summer?

Try your best to avoid excessive activity during the warmer Summer months. Especially if you’re older, don’t overheat yourself and don’t cause yourself to sweat excessively.

Today’s modern technology- and stress-based society is cultivating too much Fire energy in our lives. A certain amount of Fire energy is absolutely necessary but surely not too much. By literally toning down the yang active energy of life a little bit and embracing our inner quieter yin aspect, this can begin to help us attain Fire energy in balance. It will support our having a body that’s full of the vitality we associate with youth because blood flows and energy grows when in better balance.

Lightbody, Stuart T. Acupuncture Understood: Rediscovering Traditional Five Element Healthcare. Singapore, World Scientific Publishing Company, 2014.

Franglen, Nora. The Simple Guide to Five Element Acupuncture. United Kingdom, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2013.

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