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Lungs and Emotions

Traditional Chinese Medicine has long recognized the connection between the Lungs and emotions. I first learned about this from a teacher who described developing asthma suddenly, as a healthy adult, after his mother died. Apparently it's not uncommon to develop adult-onset asthma after losing a family member.

I've seen a mother develop sudden, extreme pneumonia after a miscarriage, during a mild California spring. She didn't know how to talk to her husband about it, so she was holding all the grief in, and she became so sick and weak she couldn't feed herself.

I've seen mothers develop bronchitis after they take kids to college. One mom described how she "couldn't shake this bronchitis" and she "usually didn't get lung illnesses" and "she'd been taking care of herself." So I asked her what had been going on in her life, and she mentioned dropping kids off at college, and how she was down to just a couple of kids at home, after years of a very full house. She said the quiet was weird, even though it was easier to keep the house clean. I asked her if it's sad to see them off.

Tears came into her eyes. "It's hard, yes. Can that really cause bronchitis?" I explained the connection between feelings and lungs, and told her to give herself some time to grieve, drink lots of water, take some immune support, and be easy on herself. Next time I saw her, a couple of weeks later, she was on the mend. Realizing what was contributing to her illness was a big relief for her, and of course acknowledging feelings often takes the punch out of them.

Another woman lost her husband of many years unexpectedly in an accident, and a week later she couldn't breathe. When her family took her to the hospital, her lungs were filled with fluid, though she tested negative for any kind of infection. (They ended up monitoring her until the fluid subsided.)

During one pregnancy I hit a low point in my energy and mood around 34 weeks, which is common due to the nutritional demands of the baby at that point in pregnancy. There were lots of loose ends that I realized wouldn't be resolved by the time the baby came, and I guess I had hoped for this more than I realized. A conversation with a candid old friend brought the situation into sharp focus, and I couldn't kid myself with optimism. I came home from that camping trip wiped out, with what seemed to be instant bronchitis or walking pneumonia - low-grade fever, no energy, painful cough. It was easy to see how my feelings had contributed, and I let my midwife know. I took the strongest herbs in my cabinet for a few days and put myself on bedrest until got some energy back.

Next time you find yourself with a lung illness, consider whether your feelings are part of the mix, and take it easy if you can.

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