Youth is considered the time when we are at the pinnacle of health. Our bodies are healthy and strong. Yet adolescents and young adults face a myriad of health issues that often go unchecked. The teenage years are a time of significant change and transition, a time when it is easy for the body to become unbalanced as physical growth and hormone fluctuations contribute to both mental and physical disorders.
Disorders such as acne, body image issues, insomnia and other sleep problems, depression, sports injury and eating disorders are common health problems among young adults. Chinese medicine has proven successful at treating these ailments and their symptoms and at helping teens to transition into a healthy and lively adulthood.
Acne, one of the most prevalent and disrupting of teen ailments, is attacked at its root through Chinese medicine. Acne is defined as a common inflammatory disease of pilosebaceous glands. The top three patterns of acne in Chinese medicine are:
- Lung Heat with Heat in the Blood – Heat upsurges to the face, causing pimples and heat and pain in a localized area. The effected zone will appear red with pusy eruptions.
- Damp Heat in Large Intestine and Stomach – Red, swollen eruptions will appear on shiny, oily skin. Pus, itchiness and pain will also be present.
- Spleen Dysfunction with Damp Phlegm – The spleen is unable to transport dampness, which turns to phlegm, which then turns to heat. A dull, red complexion, deep eruptions and slow healing with heavy scarring are will result.
Chinese medicine offers explanations for why different types of acne occur and creates complete treatments for these types. Of the at least six causes of acne, toxic heat is the easiest to treat, and most herbal formulas for acne fix this type. Diet and herbal formulas are the most common treatment options for acne.
Another teen health concern is obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15 percent (9 million) of American children and teenagers ages six to 19 are obese, while another 15 percent are at risk. These numbers are triple the amount from 1980. Obesity, which means the body is 20 percent above its ideal weight, is a serious issue that can lead to more complicated mental and physical health problems.
The treatment of obesity is of growing concern to Chinese medical practitioners in the West. The fundamental prescriptive methodology is bian zheng lun zhi – to base treatment on patients’ personal pattern discrimination. In this way, Chinese medicine addresses an individual’s metabolic reasons for being obese. For teens struggling with obesity, Chinese medicine practitioners can tailor a treatment plan using Chinese medicinals, acupuncture and moxibustion, and diet and lifestyle modifications.
Other body image concerns affect teens and can lead to the disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, which are distortions in perception of one’s weight and body shape. Adolescent and young adult women are especially susceptible to worries such as these. Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture, addresses both the emotional and physical aspects. Treatment is aimed at restoring energetic flow and function, especially to the digestive system, which, when damaged by these disorders, impedes recovery.
Mental and physical relaxation through acupuncture, as well as the personal care involved, address the emotional scars left by eating disorders. Depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, insomnia, social withdrawal and irritability are eased when the body and mind are brought into balance. The system of balance inherent in Chinese medicine carries over into the diet and nutrition systems, helping nourish the body in ways that are beneficial to the individual. Chinese medical nutrition plans can help teenagers feel more positive, healthy and balanced, which are important aspects of a healthy body image.
Poor sleeping patterns often exacerbate the mental pressure many teens face. Changes in the body’s internal clock, brought on by puberty, can lead to Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. This sleep disturbance can make night owl behavior normal, and later morning sleep desired. While teens need between nine and nine and a half hours of sleep per night to help the body properly repair cells, release growth hormones and strengthen the immune and nervous system, many teens fall far short of this number.
Studies have shown that some sleep disorders may be due to a deficiency of endorphins. Acupuncture is a useful therapy for this deficiency. During acupuncture, patients tend to become drowsy or fall asleep, possibly because of increased levels of central nervous system endorphins. Acupuncture balances deficiencies or surpluses in qi, which can disrupt sleep, and can help teens to regulate their body’s internal clock.
Attention Deficit Disorder is yet another ailment that impedes healthy functioning in teenagers. Chinese medicine addresses hyperactivity and frenetic symptoms, but also stimulates the organs in the body that control these symptoms internally. Although herbal treatments, acupuncture and massage do not have the immediate and dramatic impact of Western medical treatments, it treats the root of the problem. Acupuncture point stimulation affects neurotransmitters and messenger molecules, through which brain functioning can be changed. Again, balance is key, and Chinese medicine methods help patients to first achieve and then maintain the balance needed to overcome a variety of disorders.
A healthy lifestyle is a pillar of Chinese medical theory, the maintenance of which takes practice. Cultivating balance and harmony in the mind and body at an early age will ease major transitions in life and lead to a healthier, more stable existence.