Cold hands and feet suggest qi deficiencyCold body extremities can be regarded as signs of disharmony in physiological processes, often suggesting a Yang or qi deficiency in different organic areas. Such deficiencies are mostly related to spleen, pancreas or kidney dysfunctions. These organ groups play an important role in the production and distribution of qi (specifically Yang) to the four extremities of our body.
This principle applies more to women than men since women are more affected by the coldness syndrome. According to traditional Korean medicine theory, females are Yin and males are Yang, which means women have a cool physical condition and men have a hot one. Due to the combined causes of the physical and seasonal conditions, women have more Yin energy in their bodies, and so are more sensitive to cold than men. Additionally, the female body is subjected to a monthly cycle, starting from puberty and continuing until menopause. These hormone-driven cycles not only influence physiological processes but also the emotional sphere. It has been proven that emotional downs, frequently felt during menstruation, prompt the autonomic nervous system to constrict the peripheral blood vessels, thereby restricting blood circulation and consequently lowering body temperature in the extremities. In other words, as blood flows around the body, it carries warmth to the various organs. Bad circulation is one causal factor of coldness syndrome. If the patients have coldness in the feet, hands, waist or other areas, they may have a slowed or blocked blood flow.
There are a few other reasons for ineffective blood circulation. Women’s blood vessels are usually smaller than men’s, so less blood flow naturally brings them less warmth. Furthermore, either gender may suffer from constricted blood vessels after a prolonged period of psychological stress. Another factor is blood quality. If the blood is clear and healthy, it flows smoothly through the vessels; however, if the blood contains too much waste or fat, it becomes sluggish and viscous. Finally, optimal blood circulation requires optimal heart function. Unfortunately, due to the less physically demanding nature of the modern workday, the average modern human’s heart functions sub-optimally. Weak heart muscles pump the blood ineffectively.
To prevent or treat the cold hands and feet syndrome, cardiovascular activities such as running or skipping are advised. Warming foods matter. These include porridge oats; all winter root vegetables, such as turnips, garlic and onions; barley; soups; stews and casseroles; and chili sauce. In addition, warming teas, such as ginger, ginseng and cinnamon, are wonderful for stimulating the Yang production in our bodies. In the case that a more profound treatment is needed, an oriental medical doctor would prescribe herbal remedies according to the personal needs of the individual patient. These remedies are quite effective in boosting the function of certain organs and therefore optimizing blood circulation.
And, as a general rule, it is important to keep the lower body warm, from the kidneys to the feet. As the old proverb goes, “As long as the head is cool and the feet are warm, you won’t need a doctor.”
Raimund Royer is Medical Director of the International Clinic at the Jaseng Hospital of Oriental Medicine.