If you have ever had an acupuncture treatment or been to see a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner, you would have been asked quite a few questions that probably seemed irrelevant. You may be there for stress or insomnia, or perhaps headaches or knee pain so what does it matter how frequently you go to the bathroom? You may expect questions about your appetite and diet, or how many hours you sleep or your exercise intake but thirst? Do you prefer cold or hot beverages? Do you even drink enough or too much?
There aren’t many right or wrong answers (unless you live exclusively on a diet of cigarettes and pizzas and chocolate milk). In my practice I’ve encountered people who drink water like clockwork, people who know they should drink more water but don’t, people who aren’t really thirsty but feel bad that they’re not drinking 1.5liters of water and people who drink when they feel like it.
A recent article talks about our relationship with water, specifically the ones who advocate rules like drinking 8 glasses of water a day. And it turns out that it’s all terribly inaccurate and that we should relax and reach for the water when our bodies tell us to, rather than drink water for the sake of drinking. What we often forget is that the food we consume also contains water, and all those cups of coffee and tea all contribute to our daily intake.
In TCM, thirst is just a symptom manifested due to a syndrome or condition. It’s less “do you drink enough liquids?” and more “is there a deficiency of blood or yin or too much heat in the body consuming the yin or too much yang?” To help me get to the bottom of the problem I ask many questions and one of them would include thirst, but even that isn’t so simple. I want to know if you:
- Don’t feel thirsty
- Feel thirsty but don’t feel like drinking anything
- Have a dry mouth but prefer to hold water in your mouth rather than drinking it straight down
- Prefer to drink cold or hot beverages
- Feel really thirsty but drinking a great amount makes no difference.
I’ll bet most of you have never given this much thought to thirst, but this among other questions, helps me get the full picture of the state of your body and what is causing the imbalance. Imagine your body as a pot on the stove. Rather than letting it boil dry or constantly adding in more water, TCM tends to think “how can I turn down the heat?”
Your body has ways of telling you when things aren’t going well, we just need to listen.
The Mayo Clinic in the US has a factsheet about water consumption which is nicely balanced.
Photo credit: Greg Riegler via flickr
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