There was an interesting article in the NY Times Magazine Sunday about a study demonstrating that exercise diminishes anger. The columnist, Gretchen Reynolds, points out that exercise is long known to improve clinical depression. In this study, University of Georgia men were better able to control their anger after exercising than when they didn’t exercise. The researchers didn’t test stress hormone or brain chemical levels, though they suspect serotonin is a player here, as low serotonin levels are thought to contribute to mood disorders.
Chinese medicine has known about the relationship of exercise on anger and depression for several millenniums. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, the Liver is responsible. The Liver system in Chinese Medicine has the function of moving our Qi (pronounced ‘chee’, or energy) throughout the body, through the meridians (channels) and organs. When we get angry, we tighten up. This constriction prevents the liver qi from moving, exacerbating the anger in a vicious cycle. As qi stops moving in the body, physical depression ensues, leading to mental depression.
The remedy is to keep the liver qi moving, and exercise is important to doing so. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas also move liver qi to prevent anger and depression. I’ve successfully treated hundreds of patients with liver qi issues, and find they respond well to TCM. These liver qi issues can lead to physical problems, such as hypertension and migraine headaches when the stuck liver qi looks for an escape valve, and shoots up to the head. Digestive problems, such as acid reflux, ulcers, GERD and IBS are often due to liver qi not moving in the digestive organs. The stuck qi accumulates heat as it sits in the G/I area, the heat causes acid reflux, GERD and ulcers. IBS is due to the erratic movement of qi, stuck during stress, then moving, causing alternating constipation and diarrhea, related to the emotions. KB