The 5 Elements & Your Health - Earth

Today is the start of the year of the Earth Dog, but there are actually five different types of Dogs based on the five elements of Wood. Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. You’ve most probably heard of these elements, but how do they influence you and your health?

Rooted in nature’s seasons, 5 Element theory allows us to classify people into element types. As microcosms of nature we have within in us all 5 Elements, but as with nature our inner climate has a hierarchy of elements. Identifying this interplay is what allows your acupuncturist to diagnose and treat you. It also gives you tools to better understand and maintain your own health and those of your friends and family.

In Chinese Medicine, 5 Element theory underpins your acupuncture treatment. As soon as a new patient enters my treatment room I mentally gather information. How do they move? What body shape are they? What tone is their voice? So the list goes on as you provide data that I can use to better understand your element or constitution type.

Each element has a host of associations, but for our purposes, they relate to an organ pair. For example, The Spleen (SP) and Stomach (ST) belong to the Earth element. If Earth is your dominant element then you may manifest some characteristic symptoms when out of balance. But don't worry (an Earth type tendency!) there are things you can do for yourself to regain your equilibrium...

Read on to find out how you can identify your dominant element (s) and discover some self-help tools including dietary advice, acupressure and yoga...

Is Earth Your Main Element Type?
With Earth as your dominant element, you may be diagnosed by your acupuncturist with one of the most common patterns of imbalance that I see in my clinic, Spleen Qi Deficiency. Factors such as poor diet, irregular eating patterns (i.e. skipping breakfast, eating late) and stress all deplete your digestive strength or energy (qi). This may manifest in physical symptoms such as poor appetite, bloating (especially after eating), fatigue, weight gain, heavy lower body and loose stools. You may crave foods that taste sweet, only making matters worse! Emotionally, obsessive thinking, worrying and feelings of insecurity may arise.  As I explain to my Earth type patients who have difficulty settling their minds and struggle with their meditation and/or mindfulness practice - nourish your Earth element to calm your mind.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Lifestyle Tips…
but first some theory on the meridian pathways
Your qi flows through pathways or meridians which,  like rivers,  have a start and and an end point.   Knowing where the Spleen and Stomach meridians travel will help you make sense of the acupressure point and yoga posture I recommend later.

Image showing the start of the SP meridian in yellow at SP1, SP 2, SP 3, SP 4, SP 5

The Spleen meridian runs from the outside of your big toe nail at SP 1, along the inside of your foot, up the inside of your leg, up the abdomen and ends at the bottom of your ribs. Interestingly, a bunion is referred to by acupuncturists as ‘sugar toe.'  It lies around SP 3 on the SP meridian – indicating a weakness of the Spleen energy.  As such, traditional acupuncture treatment would include regulating the Spleen.

Image showing the end of the ST meridian as it travels down the thigh from ST 32 ending at ST 45.

The Stomach meridian starts just below the eye, travels to the jaw bone, the collarbone then travels deep to connect with the stomach. It resurfaces near the pubic bone, travels down the front of the thigh, finishing at the nail of the second toe, next to the big toe.

Dietary Advice - How to Eat to Nourish the Earth Element
Be kind to your digestive system and follow the saying, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper.”  Eat most of your food during the day when your digestion is most efficient.  If you eat just a few hours before bedtime undigested food will simply stagnate in your stomach over-night.  Other guidelines according to Chinese medcine are: don’t over-eat, chew your food well, don’t snack or nibble between meals (as your digestive system benefits from a rest).  Avoid raw and cold foods (incl. drinks) if your digestion is weak.

What to Eat If you are one of my regular patients then you may already have a SP Qi Xu & Damp diet sheet which broadly details foods to include and avoid to support your digestive health. 

Acupressure to support the Earth Element
Point Name: SP 6, Spleen 6, San Yin Jiao (in Pinyin)
Location:   Four fingers above your medial/inner ankle bone. Line your fingers up with the middle of the tip of your ankle bone. Slide off the bone (tibia) onto a tender spot.  In the image below SP 6 can be seen at the intersection of 3 crossing lines.  These lines depict the Liver (LV), Kidney (K) and SP meridians.  This is such an influential point as it is the meeting point of these 3(Yin) leg meridians.  San Yin Jiao translates as 3 Yin Intersection.

Acupressure: hold or gently massage for 1 minute. This point can be tender!
Benefits: nourishes the Spleen and therefore supports your digestion and calms the mind - may help with poor appetite, loose stools, fatigue, worry
Caution: not to be used during pregnancy as may induce premature labour

Yoga to Support the Earth Element
Yoga postures that help restore Spleen/Stomach balance are those that target the SP and ST meridian pathways as detailed earlier- the inner legs, anterolateral side of the legs, abdominals and chest area.  This pose can be held for up to 3 minutes.

How to get into the pose:
Start on your hands and knees.  Step one foot between your hands. Walk the front foot forward until the knee is at 90° above the ankle. Slide the back knee backward as far as you can. You may keep your hands on either side of the front foot, on your knees or a block.  If you feel discomfort in your back knee you can place a blanket under it to soften the surface. You should feel a deep stretch down the front thigh of the back leg.


This is just a snapshot of the Earth type to hopefully encourage you to do your own research or book in for a full traditional acupuncture diagnosis and treatment. The lifestyle advice is the kind that I might give you as my patient. Acupuncture, as I said, is so much more than simply needles. Diet and appropriate exercise such as yoga, all help to support you in achieving your optimum health.

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