frequently asked questions

Check back here as we add to this unique body of knowledge through frequently asked questions.

Seemingly common or "inconsequential" conditions—especially those related to menstrual problems—are frequently ignored by many women of all ages as "normal." They are, in reality, internal messages signaling an energy dysfunction that could progress to breast cancer.

According to TCM theory, energy dysfunctions or disorders can directly or indirectly cause breast cancer. In this ancient medical system, prevention is the best cure. To support breast health, it is important to recognize the signs and signals the body sends that can lead to the root cause of breast cancer. By paying attention to these, you can help prevent minor health issues from becoming catastrophic illnesses.

When balance and harmony are maintained and Qi or vital energy runs smoothly through the six meridians related to breast health, then true health can be achieved.

I suffer from PMS every month. How does TCM relate this to breast cancer?

TCM understands that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a symptom of a deeper condition regarded as a Liver-function disorder. (Note: TCM's understanding of an organ goes beyond its physical role to emotional and spiritual aspects as well.)

While the physical liver itself may be fine, the manner in which it performs its assigned tasks (e.g., smooth blood flow), is not fine. PMS has a wide range of associated problems, including different types of headaches—especially migraines—nausea, constipation, loose stool, anger, depression, mood swings, among others.

The root cause of these seemingly unrelated conditions is the same—Liver energy stagnation. As long as the Liver function disorder is not fixed, these problems will remain. Eventually, the invisible can turn to the visible, that is, energy stagnation has the ability to manifest itself physically in the form of breast tenderness, lumps, cysts, etc. Treating PMS symptoms each month with medications may alleviate discomfort, but only masks a deeper condition that can cause health issues later.

I get frequent headaches, especially in the front forehead area. According to TCM principals, what do frequent headaches mean?

According to TCM theory, six different meridians run up through the head area. Energy stagnation in one or a combination of these meridians can theoretically cause 720 different kinds of headaches (6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 720). Your headache is unique to you. It’s different from your friend’s, or your husband’s, etc. That’s why often one medication will work for one person and not another. You each have a different headache!

To effectively treat a headache, it is essential to identify which organ is out of balance. For instance, headaches on either side of the head relate to the Gallbladder; headaches in the front upper forehead area relate to the Stomach. Headaches at the top of the head are associated with the Liver. While taking painkillers may alleviate headaches temporarily; they do not address their root cause. They can mask more serious problems that can emerge later, but are rarely related to the organ that is sending a message of imbalance.

Now that I’m undergoing chemotherapy, I often experience night sweats. What does that mean from the TCM perspective?

Sweating at night indicates that your body’s yin energy is deficient. This means that at nighttime your body’s energy cannot control the normal opening and closing of the pores in your skin. One of the key principles of TCM is that the body has two types of energy—yin and yang—that must work in harmony. Daytime energy is considered yang; nighttime energy is yin. If you have more physical discomfort in the daytime, your body’s yang energy is deficient or is not sufficient enough to handle normal daytime tasks. The reverse is true if your problems occur at night.

If you experience night sweats during chemotherapy, radiation, or tamoxifen therapy, this means that the treatments are having a serious effect on your yin energy. Adding foods like clam juice or oyster juice to your diet can help. Adding ginseng in any form can also help. Special classical Chinese herbal formulas can help alleviate this problem and ease you through these treatments. Today in China, these herbal combinations are in widespread use in conjunction with Western-type cancer treatments

I suffer from constant mood swings. How does this compromise breast health?

If you suffer from frequent moods swings, particularly before your period, or at menopause, or after cancer treatments, two key organs are affected. Your Liver energy is stagnating and your Kidney energy is low or deficient. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very successful treatments for these kinds of problems. Taiji, yoga, meditation and relating to nature’s energy through meditative, slow walking can help you regain your emotional balance. It’s important at this time to support both of these organ systems.

My job is pretty crazy. I tend to work through my lunch hour, but lately I’ve noticed I’m having stomach problems. What does TCM say?

We live in the age of multitasking, but according to TCM, working and eating at the same time is not a healthy habit. For instance, reading or working on the computer, each requires their own energy source and draw Qi, or life force, from different organs. If you do both at the same time, then your digestive system does not get sufficient energy to do its own job. Without sufficient energy, you may not be able to gain maximum nutrition from the food you’re eating while you’re busy multitasking. If this is a constant way of life, then you can literally unbalance the normal functioning of your Stomach. Eventually, you may experience stomachaches after eating. About 50 percent of breast cancers appear in the upper outside quadrant of the breast area; this is precisely where the Stomach meridians run, so it is critical to keep energy flowing smoothly through the Stomach meridians and keep the organ functioning well.

I eat a lot of raw vegetables and salads, but lately, I’ve noticed some stomach problems after I eat. Can TCM provide any insight?

The Stomach’s nature is warmth-loving. It "loves" to receive warm things like soup, tea, etc. If you constantly eat or drink cold foods or beverages, you are going against its nature; you can unbalance the Stomach’s natural function and cause it to perform sluggishly. If you eat and drink cold things during your menstrual cycle, your Liver and uterus might attract cold energy that, in turn, can cause cramps, an irregular cycle, or other types of female problems.

Many Westerners believe that eating raw vegetables provides better nutrition. TCM believes raw vegetables, which mostly come from the ground, carry a cold essence that is not naturally good for the Stomach’s healthy function. Even though you might gain a little more nutrition from raw food, you will expend more energy to digest it. If you cook a vegetable slightly, you may loose some nutrition, but you will save a lot of energy that could better be diverted to supporting your Stomach function or help with healing. Simply immersing raw vegetables and salad ingredients in hot water for just a few minutes before eating can help minimize the cold energy of these foods.