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Body Fluid

Body fluid is a collective term for all the normal fluids of the body. These are saliva, gastric juice, intestinal juice and the liquids in the joint cavities, as well as tears, nasal discharge, sweat and urine.

Formation and distribution of nody fluid

Body fluid is formed from food and drink after its digestion and absorption by the spleen and stomach. The distribution and excretion of body fluid principally rely on the spleen's function of transportation, the lung's function of dispersing and descending and regulating water passages, and the kidney's function of controlling urination and separating the clear and the turbid. Of these three organs, the kidney is the most important.

The twenty-first chapter of Plain Questions explains the formation and distribution of body fluid by saying: " After food enters the stomach, the qi of food essence and water is transmitted to the spleen, which spreads it to the lung. The lung regulates the water passages and transmits the qi of water to the bladder below. The qi of water then spreads in four directions and travels along the meridians of the five zang organs." When talking about the sanjiao as the pathway of body fluid, the eighth chapter of Plain Questions states: "The sanjiao is the irrigation official who builds waterways."

In addition, fluids sent downwards from the stomach continue to be absorbed by the small and large intestines. A part of the fluid, after passing through the spleen, lung and sanjiao, is excreted from the skin and hair as sweat. Another part of the fluid is sent downwards to the bladder via the waterways of the sanjiao, and excreted from the body as urine, with the assistance of the qi of the kidney and bladder. Acted upon by all these zang-fu organs, body fluid reaches the skin and hair on the exterior, and penetrates the zang-fu organs in the interior, thus nourishing all the tissues and organs throughout the body.

The formation, distribution and excretion of body fluid is a complicated process resulting from the co-ordinated activities of many of the zang-fu organs, especially the lung, spleen and kidney. Pathological changes of these organs may consequently affect the formation, distribution and excretion of body fluid. For example, if there is insufficient formation or excessive loss, body fluid may be damaged or consumed. A disturbance in distribution of body fluid may lead to its accumulation, resulting in retained fluid and oedema, or the formation of phlegm.

Pathological changes of body fluid may, in turn, impair the functions of many zang-fu organs, for example invasion of the heart by retained water produces palpitations; retention of fluid in the lung results in cough with asthmatic breathing; dryness of the lung due to consumption of body fluid leads to unproductive cough; dryness of the stomach causes thirst; and dryness of the intestines leads to constipation.

Functions of body fluid (Jingye)

Body fluid moistens and nourishes various parts of the body. There are noticeable differences, however, in the nature, form and location of different types of body fluid. Clear and thin fluids are referred to as "jing," whilst thick and heavy fluids are known as "ye." "Jing" is distributed on the muscular surface, and has the function of warming and nourishing the muscles and moistening the skin. "Ye" is stored in the joints and orifices and has the function of moistening the joints, strengthening the brain and marrow and nourishing the orifices. As both "jing" and "ye" are normal fluids in the body and are derived from the same source, the qi of food essence. They may be transformed into each other. Generally they are referred to together by the term "jingye" (body fluid).

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