Ever wonder why some physical complaints seem to pop up at a certain time?
Understanding the Nutrient Qi Cycle or Cycle of Tides might be helpful.
Qi (pronounced “chee”), a key concept in Asian medicine, is as immaterial as a thought or as dense as a table. Ever changing, Qi moves from material to immaterial and vice versa, sometimes very quickly and sometimes very slowly. When looking at the body, there are many flows of Qi, and we identify and name each based on what it is currently doing–its function rather than its structure. Learn more about Qi.
The Nutrient Qi cycle is just one of the main flows of Qi in the body. This rhythmic flow circulates Qi, Blood and Fluids in an orderly 2 hour sequence from one organ channel to the next throughout the entire day. Understanding this flow can be helpful in creating greater wellness and in identifying disharmonies that seems to happen at a particular time. Whether you wake up every morning at 3 am, or feel tired at 2 pm in the afternoon can be an indicator of an imbalance in this flow.
In the Nutrient Qi cycle is the energetic flow that occurs along the 12 primary channels or meridians in a constant ebb and flow. The cycle begins at 3 am starting in the Lung channel flowing as follows:
Small Intestine: 1-3pm
San Jiao: 9-11pm
Gall Bladder: 11-1am
Let’s look at some possible patterns—
Lungs: 3-5am– Wonderful time to get up and breathe or meditate (5ish). It is not uncommon for people with Liver and Lung issues to pop awake at 3am, simply because the Qi is having difficulties jumping from Liver 14, below the nipple line on the chest to Lung 1 below the clavicle. Coughing may be worse at this time for those with allergies, asthma, bronchitis or coughs from colds or chronic lung conditions.
Large Intestines: 5-7am–If Qi is flowing smoothly, ideally you would have a bowel movement before starting the rest of your day.
Stomach: 7-9am–Nutrient Qi is at its peak in the Stomach and Spleen channels from 7-11, this is the best time of day to absorb nutrients–so don’t skip breakfast. Even western nutrition recognizes that the digestive metabolism is stronger in the morning. The food that you ingest in the morning should be utilized to fuel you through the day, otherwise you ask your body to pull from stores it may not have. You may also potentially set the body up to hoard (gaining weight and fat) because the system isn’t sure when you are next going to nourish it. The Earth organs (Stomach and Spleen) really, really like you to have a routine.
Spleen: 9-11am–Having a lack of appetite in the morning is an indicator of disharmony in Stomach and Spleen, often with a pattern of phlegm. However, skipping meals in the morning can lead to blood sugar imbalances that lead to serious health problems. If this is one of your patterns, get in with your Chinese medicine practitioner to start improvements right away. BTW–the Spleen rules the pancreas in Chinese medicine.
Heart: 11-1pm–Peak of the day, and the most energy is in your Heart channel. You may see patterns of nervousness and anxiety for those with Heart patterns.
Small Intestines: 1-3 pm–Those with Small Intestine Qi deficiency (lack of digestive vitality) may notice a decrease of energy at this time.
Bladder: 3-5pm–Bladder imbalances may be worse during this time of day.
Kidney: 5-7pm–As the root of both Yin and Yang in the body, Kidney disharmonies often show themselves strongly during this time of day. Kidney Yin deficiency may present as hot flashes, menopause symptoms, low grade fevers. Kidney Yang deficiency, and you are wiped out, tired, no energy to run on…even your digestion will get slow and sluggish. Can you have Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang deficiency at the same time? Yep. If one is deficient, the other will be, however, one is usually more dominant than the other. Chronic fatigue, diabetes, thyroid and adrenal exhaustion are patterns of Kidney Yin and Yang deficiency.
Pericardium: 7-9pm–Pericardium patterns include relationship issues, anxiety, nervousness and insomnia.
Triple Burner: 9-11pm–What’s the Triple Warmer? The San Jiao (Three Burning Spaces) reflects the interaction of Upper Burner (Lungs, Heart), Middle Burner (digestive organs) and Lower Burner (Kidneys, Bladder). It’s a regulator, plays apart in the immunity and shows up in post viral patterns like mono, hives and chronic fatigue.
Gall Bladder: 11-1am–Gall bladder patterns in Chinese medicine look very different than in western medicine. It’s the primary player in post viral conditions (mono, hives, shingles, etc), heavy phlegm, allergies and digestive issue where there is a problem assimilating fats. Gall bladder patterns often ebb and flow between hot flashes and chills.
Liver: 1-3am–Gall bladder’s best buddy. If the Liver is stagnate, as he likes to get, the Gall bladder will suffer too. Those with highly congested, hot, angry or stagnate Livers may pop awake with their mind chattering at them. Time to smooth things out.
To be clear, there is Qi flowing in each channel constantly. The Nutrient Qi cycle simply shows one particular ebb and flow of Qi. Sometimes we have too little in a channel showing a deficiency, or the channel hordes the Qi creating a pattern excess. Either condition means that a channel before or after the channel will suffer. When one channel is peaked the energy in another channel will be at its weakest and these can be fantastic indicators of where to focus treatment. Amma therapy and other forms of Chinese medicine are excellent at helping to regulate the flow of Qi from one channel to the next along the Nutrient Cycle and the pattern. A skilled practitioner will be able to identify the pattern in pulses as one of entry and exit blocks–the pulse literally reveals which channel is in excess and which is deficient.
We can also break the clock into two general categories–Yin time and Yang time. As a general rule, Yang time corresponds with when we should be most active. It equates to work, movement, doing, transforming and heat. This time of day is from 7am-7pm. Yin time of day picks up at 7pm and runs until about 7am. Yin time is when we should be more quiet, resting and doing restorative activities–including sleep. Doing too many Yang activities during Yin time of day will damage the Yin. Just like being too restive or not moving during the day will actually damage Yang.
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