Causes of Disease by Travis Clarke

When aiding people in overcoming illness and improving their health and wellbeing it’s important to the Chinese medicine practitioner to investigate and deduce the cause(s) of the ill-health.  Our role not only involves applying our diagnostic and therapeutic skills to resolve an issue, but we must also educate patients in understanding why illness has taken hold, and what they can do moving forward to avoid and eliminate these causes in the future.

This is where the cooperation and partnership between practitioner and patient is so important.  To truly adhere to the fundamental ethos of preventative medicine, practitioners need to be able to encourage and support patients to make the diet and lifestyle changes that are required to eliminate causes of ill-health.  These changes will cultivate on-going positive lifestyle practices that will support, improve and maintain superior health.

Underlying this effort is educating people in understanding what diet and lifestyle factors may be causing and/or contributing to their current health challenge.  This is a vitally important aspect of treatment, but it can prove to be quite tricky.  You see, Chinese medicine recognises and emphasises the impact that these factors have in a far more significant way than Western scientific medicine does.

Thankfully, in recent years our Western medical system has started to recognise that diet, lifestyle and mental emotional states do actually impact our physical health, but unbelievably, this has not always been the case.  This recent realisation only scratches the surface of the deep, centuries old understanding of these influences and connections that Chinese medicine has developed.

While the influence of the foods we eat on our health is now well accepted, Chinese medicine also explores the health impacts of both the external environment we live in (weather, seasons, and indoor environments) and the internal environment we exist in (our mental emotional state), which are not so well understood by the mainstream.

Chinese medical theory recognises several classifications of the causes of disease, all of which can significantly give rise to imbalance within the system causing illness to develop.  It’s important to make changes to any of these factors that are identified by your practitioner as causing or contributing to a current health issue.  The following is a summary of the significant factors that cause and contribute to disease;

External factors – which are described as the various climatic influences that impact our health.  These include wind, heat, cold, damp, and dryness.  These influences can originate naturally in the form of the local weather and seasons that we are exposed to, or artificially within the internal environments that we create for ourselves living indoors.


Constitutional & Lifestyle factors – this refers to our constitutional make-up and genetic health, as well the obvious things such as diet, exercise, over-exertion, exposure to toxins, parasites and poisons, medication/herb/supplement use, trauma, sleep health, excessive sexual activity, and excessive or incorrect treatments.


Internal factors – these describe the view that the physical body and the emotional state are not separate, but fundamentally interact in a ‘circular’ way, influencing each other’s state of balance and health.  Five significant emotions form the basis for Chinese medicine’s understanding of the emotional state, with each being assigned to an ‘Organ system’ in accordance with the theory of the Five Elements.


Anger is the emotion of the Liver (Wood) system and includes frustration and suppressed emotions.

Joy is the emotion of the Heart (Five) and can injure this system when experienced in excess such as over-excitement.

Worry or Pensiveness is the emotional state of the Spleen (Earth) and includes over-thinking, excessive mental work or studying.

Sadness is the emotion of the Lung (Metal) system and can include depressive states.

Fear is the emotion of the Kidneys (Water) and also includes states of chronic anxiety and acute shock or trauma.


Please appreciate the significant role that our emotional health plays in our wellbeing and recognise that emotional ill-health will most definitely translate into physical illness and disease.

If you strive to prevent illness and build and enhance superior health your Chinese medicine practitioner’s understanding of how these factors can impact you is an extremely useful resource to draw upon.  By reviewing how these factors influence you in a personal and particular way, you can be guided to make changes that can prevent the development of ill-health and help build ongoing physical and emotional wellbeing.

Take care.


Travis works Monday and Thursday from 9am-2pm and Tuesday and Wednesday from 2pm-8pm.

138 Tanti Avenue, Mornington, VIC

03 5973 6886

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