Are you especially sensitive to the cold, and do you often feel sluggish? You may have yang deficiency.
Yang nature represents motion, heat, brightness, expansion and vital energy of the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), yang deficiency is one of nine body constitutions — a unique combination of structural, physiological, and psychological features. This could determine how susceptible we are to certain diseases and illnesses. Those features can include everything from age and gender to diet and lifestyle habits — even the time of year. Though not all the factors that contribute to your body constitution are changeable, once you know which type you are, you’ll know how to ease your discomfort from the root.
Yang Deficiency: the Tell-Tale Signs
Do any of these physical characteristics and temperaments sound familiar?
Common physical characteristics of yang deficiency are:
- Cold hands and feet
- Cold feeling in the stomach
- Discomfort after eating cold foods
- Pale and swollen tongue
- Discomfort in windy, cold, and humid environments
- Excess throat secretions (e.g., phlegm with white sputum)
- Lower back pain or soreness
- Poor digestion
- Loose stool, especially in the morning
- Pale skin
- Marbled effect on skin
Common temperaments and other non-physical attributes of yang deficiency are:
- Quiet personality
- Sensitivity to low temperatures
- Sensitivity to noise
- Low confidence
- Frequent cynicism
- Lacking in creativity
Possible Causes of Yang Deficiency
Yang deficiency is considered to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors — environmental meaning, anything outside of one’s DNA, and genetic factors include inheriting yang deficiency from parent(s) and/or the mother’s health conditions experienced during pregnancy. Environmental factors that contribute to yang deficiency are unhealthy lifestyles, Yang energy can also be depleted by long exposure to cold temperatures, indulging in too many iced-foods and drinks, over-working (at work as well as at the gym), under-working (minimal workout) and chronic stress.
Possible Links Between Yang Deficiency and Health Conditions
Yang is a driving force of the body’s biological activities, and TCM researchers have found that the clinical manifestations of yang deficiency resemble those of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in Western medicine. Unlike regular fatigue, CFS is characterized by “a persistent (or relapsing) debilitating and clinically unexplained fatigue that leads to a substantial impairment in functional status [and] a profound disabling fatigue for at least 6 months.” Evidence suggests mitochondrial dysfunction may be involved in the development of CFS with yang deficiency.
Yang deficiency, specifically spleen yang deficiency, is also linked to western medicine diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome, chronic gastroenteritis and hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
Restoring Your Balance with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
If you are yang deficient, you are deficient in energy that is responsible for warming and activating in the bodily functions, so you should stay away from foods that are “cooling” or “cold” in nature. Yang-nourishing foods that warm the body include:
- Grains & nuts - Quinoa, sweet (glutinous) rice, wheat germ, brown rice, chestnuts, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts, cashew
- Fruit - Cherry, Durian, logan, peach, raspberry, strawberry
- Vegetables - Leek, garlic, mustard greens, chives, pumpkin, okra, onion, scallion, sweet potato
- Meat & Poultry - Beef, lamb and venison
- Seafood - Anchovy, lobster, mussel, trout
- Drinks - Fermented tea, Black tea or Red tea such as Puerh tea, Earl Grey or Rose
- Herbs and spices - Basil, black pepper, caper, cayenne, chive seed, cinnamon bark, clove, dill seed, fennel seed, fenugreek seed, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, sage, savory, spearmint, star anise, turmeric, thyme, white pepper
Your day-to-day lifestyle and habits can also play a big role. Here’s what can make a difference:
Warm up with time in the sun
Activate your yang with natural exposure to Vitamin D in the early mornings or later afternoon for at least five to ten minutes. You can also give your eyes a “sunbath” — take off your sunglasses or regular eyeglasses, close your eyes, and simply face the sun for ten minutes.
Makeover your home
Feng shui, sometimes referred to as "acupressure for the home," can be used to correct yin and yang imbalances. Hope Karan Gerecht, author of Healing Design, recommends adding warm colors like yellows, oranges, and reds to your home, incorporating bright lighting, making sure fabric patterns and furniture have straight and angular lines, and hanging artwork with “earthly representations,” especially tall mountains.
Start a new hobby or project
Did you know that retirees have the tendency of becoming yang-deficient? External stimulation, activities, ambition, and accomplishments tonify yang, so if you notice your daily activities dwindling, consider seeking out a new challenge by signing up for a class or even watching a few YouTube tutorials to learn about a craft or skill you’ve always been curious about.
Make sure you’re staying warm on chilly days — wear gloves and warm socks, and don’t forget to keep your stomach warm too. You can even find special belly wraps that protect against the cold.
Skip the raw veggies
Raw veggies like baby carrots and cucumbers make an easy and healthy snack, but you may wish to stay away from them if you’re yang-deficient. Raw vegetables from the fridge carry two different types of “cold” energies — temperature-wise, they’re chilled, but they also take more energy to digest than cooked food.
Ease up on coffee and other stimulants
When you’re feeling sluggish and zapped of energy, it’s tempting to rely on coffee or energy drinks to regain that fiery yang vitality you’re missing. However, relying on these too much could deplete your body's natural ability to generate yang, thereby creating more problems.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Finding your balance is an ongoing process. Don’t put too much pressure on any single one of these tips — try what speaks to you, listen to your body, and adjust as needed. Reaching balance isn’t a one-and-done deal for most people. Follow your natural ebbs and flows, adjust your lifestyle and nutrition as needed, and your body will thank you.
Want to know your constitution? Take our quiz to find out!