There are many reasons that the lungs become susceptible to sickness. The lungs often become weak due to damage caused by a serious illness, especially if the illness was never completely resolved. Many people report that they were rarely sick until they got one bad cold or flu, and now they are sick often. This is because the integrity of the lung tissue was compromised through the illness-causing a person to be prone to reoccurring sickness. A Chinese medicine view is that the “Qi” of the lungs and the “Wei Qi” defense was damaged, causing the lungs to be vulnerable to external pathogens. There can also be lung weakness in individuals who have or have had asthma, had a serious illness when young, exposure to toxic environmental pollutants or molds that damaged the lungs or have a constitutional lung weakness through their family line. If a person has a tendency to get frequent colds/flu and they also have poor diet and lifestyle habits, it will further increase the possibility of ongoing, or prolonged illnesses (esp. during the cold season).
Another reason for lung weakness that is often overlooked stems from the grief that is unexpressed or over-expressed. In Asian medicine, the lungs and grief are seen as interconnected. The lungs are weakened by excessive grief that is unexpressed and held in the body, as well as by grief that is prolonged and over-expressed. It is important that emotions such as grief are expressed to an appropriate extent, so that this emotion does not become stuck in the body, or become an overdeveloped pathway. On the flip side, as recognized and worked within Five Elements acupuncture, an individual with a constitutional lung weakness can have a propensity towards excessive or deficient grief, hopelessness, and/ or weeping. Often times the individual with lung weakness will demonstrate a concave chest, to varying degrees. Opening the chest through breath work, walking up steep hills, doing regular chest opening exercises, as well as finding supportive avenues to work with grief, can be helpful in reestablishing the health of the lungs.
Chronic bronchitis, which is a tenacious cough with phlegm that is deeply-seated in the lungs (at times with concurrent infection), can also be caused by lung weakness due to the reasons mentioned in Part 1. More often, however, this sort of cough is due to inappropriate diet, lifestyle, and/or treatment of a cold or flu. It is important to avoid raw or cold foods/drink, as well as to avoid dairy, wheat, and sugar when sick. These foods create more phlegm and can prolong sickness. If the individual already has a cough with a lot of phlegm and they consume these foods, it can potentially create more dampness that further lodges the phlegm into the lungs. Smoking while sick can also deepen phlegm into the lungs, damage the lung tissue, and make a person prone to reoccurring sickness. Sleeping outside (which is an issue with homeless individuals) and leaving a window open while sleeping (especially when living close to the ocean where dampness rolls in at night) can cause a person to be prone to a cold with increased dampness and/or phlegm and can also make bronchitis worse and harder to remedy. This is because the body is especially vulnerable to the environment while sleeping and dampness can easily enter the body. If an individual has tenacious and thick phlegm, it will be difficult to resolve without treatment with acupuncture and/or herbal medicine. If this sort of phlegm is not resolved, reoccurring and/or prolonged sickness is more likely to occur.
If an individual is susceptible to reoccurring colds and flus or has chronic bronchitis, it is important to consult a practitioner of acupuncture or herbal medicine, rather than attempt to treat the condition on their own. The treatment that is custom fit to the individual’s unique condition will have the best results. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are able to support a person’s unique constitution and treat combinations of signs and symptoms, such as: strengthens lung weakness, treats colds/flu, treats lung weakness with reoccurring sickness, treats lung weakness with a tendency towards phlegm and/or a deep cough, prevents and can end the cycle of reoccurring sickness, speeds up the healing time of an illness, and more. These treatments can have a longstanding benefit on the overall health and function of the lungs. There must be compliance with the appropriate diet and lifestyle as recommended to support the effectiveness of treatment.