Years ago when I worked in Cleveland, I’d stare out the office window at a sunny spring day. Ecstatic to finally have warm weather, I’d rush out at lunchtime without a coat – it looked warm after all – only to find it was still cold. It’s behaviors like this that are one of the reasons why the winter-into-spring turning point of the seasons is one of the two most vulnerable times of year for colds and flu. For this reason, I’m choosing to discuss Cold Stagnation in this blog. In April, there is often still a chill in the air. While we want it to be warm outside and so dress more lightly, generally it’s still frigid, particularly with wind, and so this is one of the times of year when cold can penetrate or congest more easily.
Cold itself tends to contract like ice. It causes a person to hunch over or curl up in order to minimize exposed body surface and maintain inner warmth. With lack of heat, activity in all forms slows. Coldness is characterized by:
- lowered metabolism
- feelings of coldness, severe chills, aversion to cold and craving of warmth
- pale complexion, anemia, poor circulation, low blood pressure
- weakness, lethargy, slowness, somnolence
- poor digestion, poor appetite
- lowered immunity
- diarrhea or loose stools, frequent and copious clear urination, night time urination
- fluid retention, no thirst or sweating
- weak senses
- timidity, soft voice, quietness
- few body odors
- clear to white mucus, stools, urine or vaginal secretions
- achy pain in the joints
- frigidity, impotence, infertility
- all hypo-conditions such as hypothyroidism, hypo-adrenalism or hypoglycemia
Signs of Cold Stagnation
Coldness impedes circulation, causes contraction and slows activity internally. If there’s Cold in the body, eventually it leads to other forms of stagnation or it depletes the inner fires. Cold Stagnation can be acute or chronic. If acute, it usually causes severe pain; if it’s chronic, you may not even be aware of its presence except for perhaps feelings of coldness in the affected area. Cold Stagnation is sometimes called “Full Cold.” Full Cold only exists a short time because it quickly consumes the Yang, turning into Yang Deficiency (Empty Cold) instead. Pain from Cold Stagnation is generally severe, but not fixed or stabbing, and it’s alleviated by warmth and pressure. Cold Stagnation often combines with Damp to form Cold-Damp Stagnation as well. Pulse and Tongue: Pulse: The pulse is slow (less than 60 BPM); deep and tight. Fewer than four beats per complete breath (60 beats/minute) indicates Cold:
- slow and empty designates Yang Deficiency
- slow and full indicates Cold Stagnation.
Tongue: pale with a thick white coat (acute); pale with a thin white coat (chronic) Cold Stagnation in the Upper Warmer: Feelings of coldness in the head, arms, chest and back; pale complexion. Cold Stagnation in the Middle Warmer: “Cold” indigestion; anorexia; diarrhea Cold Stagnation in the Lower Warmer: Cold abdomen, legs, and/or feet; impotence; frigidity Cold Obstruction in the Channels: Pain in the joints and/or muscles with feelings of coldness Stagnation of Cold in the Liver Channel: In men: straining of the testes or contraction of the scrotum; fullness and distension of the bladder area with pain that refers to the scrotum and testes In women: shrinking of the vagina; pain alleviated by warmth Cold Obstructing the Large and/or Small Intestines: Abdominal pain alleviated by heat and pressure; loose stools or diarrhea; if the Cold invades the Large or Small intestines, the pain is sudden and severe; diarrhea with pain; feeling of cold and cold sensation in abdomen This is an acute condition from the invasion of Exterior Cold into the Large Intestine that occurs usually from sitting on cold and wet surfaces for prolonged periods, exposure to very cold weather, or from having the abdomen insufficiently covered. This happened to our son one day when he was about 8 years old. He had been playing outdoors von a cool day when suddenly, he ran inside and rolled on the floor, holding his abdomen and crying with pain. When I felt the area, it as cool to the touch and so I applied heart. Very quickly the pain dispersed. Cold Invading/Obstructing the Stomach: Sudden pain in the epigastrium, feelings of coldness with preference for warmth, vomiting of clear fluid, worse after drinking cold fluids that are then vomited Cold Invading/Obstructing the Uterus: Infertility; miscarriage; leucorrhea; pain and cold feeling before or during period in the lower abdomen referring to the waist and back with the pain alleviated by warmth; scanty dark red menstrual blood with clots
Causes for Cold Stagnation
Factors that can lead to Cold Stagnation are: Pathogenic Influences: Wind-Chill invading the skin, channels, Stomach, Intestines, or Uterus. Emotions: Inward behavior, passivity and dullness can all be signs of Cold Stagnation. Diet: Excessive intake of cold drinks and foods, including the following:
- Refrigerated foods and drinks
- Raw foods, including salads
- Iced drinks
- Frozen yogurt, ice cream, popsicles, etc.
- Most fruit juices
- Crabmeat and shellfish
- Soy milk and tofu
Lifestyle Habits: Not wearing sufficient clothing for the weather, bear midriffs, standing or sitting in cold environments (like concrete floors and basements). In Part II, we will discuss treatments and therapies for Cold Stagnation. However, if you feel cold just by reading all of this, I suggest you immediately get up and – you got it: MOVE! While you certainly may be tired of reading this repeated suggestion by now, movement is still one of the great keys not just to circulating Qi and Blood, but also to warming the body and dispersing Cold Stagnation.