Your journey to better health

The Large Intestine: Transformation, Change, and Letting Go

Transformation. Change. Letting Go. Moving On. These might not be words that come to mind when you think of the Large Intestine. But they are just as connected to that system as are our bowels and our digestive health.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Large Intestine lately.
This might seem a weird thing to say, but I’m an acupuncturist, so I think about the body and its systems and functions a lot. I also had someone close to me recently need to have colon surgery to remove a precancerous lesion. This put the intestines at the front of my mind. But more than the physical organ inside our bodies, I’ve been thinking about the energy system that supports that organ and its functions.

The Basics
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Large Intestine energy system, like all of our systems, is defined functionally as opposed to anatomically. It is defined by the role the energy plays in the body, not by a physical organ or tissue. However, the Large Intestine system actually correlates fairly strongly with the actual physical Large Intestine organ in our bodies. (This is not always the case.) The Large Intestine energy system (“Da Chang” or “Great Intestine”), is in charge of functions in the body such as receiving waste material from the Small Intestine system, absorbing fluid content, and excreting the waste.  Understandably, we often treat the Large Intestine system when patients present with symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, or lower abdominal cramping.
This is where most of us stop thinking about the Large Intestine, if we think about it at all. But Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches us that the Large Intestine energy system is SO MUCH MORE than just regulating our bowels – and it is when we can begin to understand these other aspects that we can actually affect real change in our health.
Internal Relationships
First off, the Large Intestine energy is paired with the Lung energy. We can therefore support the Large Intestine energy when treating a Lung pathology, such as an acute or chronic cough. Many times people get sick with a cold and then it transfers to their digestive system. This can at least in part be explained by the relationship that exists between the Large Intestine and the Lung. The Qi of both the Large Intestine and the Lung needs to descend to be healthy – when Lung Qi doesn’t descend, we cough. When Large Intestine Qi doesn’t descend, we get constipated.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is all about relationships. The Large Intestine energy also has a special relationship with the Stomach energy, in that they are both designated as “Yang Ming” or “Yang Brightness”. Yang, as we have mentioned, is the active, hot, fiery, expansive parts of our being. (As opposed to Yin, which is the passive, watery, cool, inward parts.) Yang Brightness, as the name implies, are strong Yang energy systems. This means that they are easily affected by heat. This heat may be generated by long-term patterns of stagnant energy, a poor diet, or physically or emotionally toxic environments. The Yang Ming designation also means that we can effectively use these systems to clear pathological heat from the body. Some of the best acupuncture points in the body to clear excess heat are on the Large Intestine meridian.  One of the ways to clear excessive heat (such as a high fever) with herbal medicine is to use herbs that stimulate the Large Intestine to promote a bowel movement and bring the fever rapidly down.

Emotional Well-being
Now to the most fascinating part of the Large Intestine energy system. As you may know, Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the interaction and connection between the physical, mental, emotional, and psycho-spiritual aspects of human existence. Pathology in any given energy system can manifest in any of these levels, or multiple levels. An emotional imbalance in the Large Intestine energy could manifest as chronic constipation, but it could also manifest as an emotional tendency to not let things go. Or chronic constipation could lead to certain destructive patterns of negative emotions. These aspects are not separate and distinct, but different manifestations of the same core imbalance.
The Large Intestine energy’s number one function in the body is to let go of those things that don’t serve us. Physically, it lets go of waste after our upper digestive system has taken all the necessary nutrients out of the food we eat. On an emotional level, the Large Intestine does the exact same thing. Healthy Large Intestine energy allows us to let go of patterns of negative thinking, destructive emotions, and spiritual blockages that we create that prevent us from being our best.  When the function of the Large Intestine energy is compromised, people have a hard time moving on from difficult situations, or hold very tightly to emotions they know are harming them. This holding on can also manifest as an unwillingness to share emotions or be open with others – the phenomenon of “bottling up” emotions for years very often leads to chronic constipation.
As mentioned, the Large Intestine is a Metal element. Metal is associated with the emotion of grief. We frequently see grief damage the Lung system (the other Metal energy center) – a common example is when someone comes down with pneumonia or bronchitis or even a common cold after losing a loved one or the loss of a relationship. But grief can effect the Large Intestine, too, particularly when one becomes attached to the grief itself, or too attached to a memory to move on.
This attachment indicates Large Intestine energy involvement, for other negative emotions, too. A pathology in the Large Intestine energy may make one too attached to anger, or fear, or possessiveness – and manifest as an inability to make a change.
The Huang Di Neijing, one of the oldest texts in Chinese Medicine, speaks to the spiritual and emotional importance of the Large Intestine: “The Large Intestine is the official of the transmission of the Way, change and transformation emerge from it.”  Change and transformation come from being open to the new, and ready and willing to let go of the old. There is only room for new and positive transformation when we are able to move on from the patterns that hold us to where we are now. And it is the health of the Large Intestine energy that allows us to do that.

19 Comments to The Large Intestine: Transformation, Change, and Letting Go:

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Jo on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 2:03 PM
This was a very useful article for me to read, and had exactly the information that I was looking for. It really helped me. Thank you Marcie!
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Vanessa Ugatti on Thursday, November 28, 2013 5:12 PM
I just absolutely love this article, Marcie. It all makes complete sense to me and realising that the large intestine represents transformation, change and letting go, I know that I must get my gut problems sorted out once and for all. If I lived in MA, I would definitely come and see you. Sadly, I'm in the UK, so a long way away. Thank you again and Happy Thanksgiving! God Bless Vanessa
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Marcie Griffith on Tuesday, December 03, 2013 6:00 PM
Vanessa, thank you for your comment and your call. It made my day. (And I figured out the bug that wouldn't let you post.) I wish you all the best on your healing journey.

Vanessa Ugatti on Thursday, November 28, 2013 5:13 PM
I just love this article, Marcie. It totally resonates me and I'm hoping that it will be the final spur to sort out my intestinal/emotional challenges. Thank you. Vanessa
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Margaret on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 4:13 AM
I concur with Vanessa, thank you for the article and words and wish you were in the UK.

Sabina on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 4:51 AM
Thank you for the interesting article. One additional question: I have always had a tendency to loose stools (I'm assuming I've perfectioned the art of letting go?) but lately I'm often waking up between 5-6 am feeling reeeeally hot (but not sweating), so I'm assuming I'm experiencing excess heat in the Large Intestine meridian and organ. Stools are the usual... Can you help me get a vlearer picture of what is going on please?
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Judith on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 10:04 AM
This is a wonderful, very helpful and enlightening article but it did not really mention loose stools. I am no doctor or health practitioner but I have read a lot of books and one I go to in emergencies is Our Earth Our Cure by the now deceased French naturopath Raymond Dextreit. He states that in his experience he has found chronic diarrhea to usually be caused by long standing constipation and the extra water in the colon is a protective measure by the body to release this waste. Sometimes the constipation is not recognized since the patient is so used to not eliminating waste as frequently as the body needs to. Please forgive me if the is information is not perfect but I saw that you asked a question that was not answered on the site.

Monica Leibson on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 7:57 PM
What a great article Marcie! I am an acupuncturist in Michigan and have been in practice for 8 years. I was brushing up on the lung and large intestine connection as I prepare for a lecture I'm giving regarding the gut and our immune system. Great insight!
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Linnea Haley on Friday, July 11, 2014 11:59 PM
Thank you so much for this article. It is helping me see, hear, feel and know the relationship between my lower stomach cramps/intestines, the rice protein/detox supplement 10th of 21 days, and the emotional letting go I hope to experience in my process of A Beauty Way on this evening of a full moon early tomorrow morning. I am in such appreciation and gratitude for the support of this article. I go now to sit on the ground in my backyard, in the full moon energies, breathe and pray to be willing to let go of all that needs to die/transmute and transform. May All Relations let go, give back and receive exactly what is for their highest potential in peace, gentle ease, and harmony for the good of ALL ONE. Blessed Be. Selah.
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Alexandra Hogan on Friday, November 07, 2014 11:30 PM
Wow, this article resonates a lot with my current situation. I've been constipation for the past four days after finally deciding to break up with my boyfriend of 4.5 years. I'm struggling to face the fact that it's truly over and holding on to everything we once had. Thank you for this article!
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Vincent on Saturday, January 31, 2015 9:35 AM
Hi. Ive found this article very inciteful. I have friends and family who I wish I could help with certain emotional problems with clear links to this energy blockage. I have a local acupuncturist who is amazing I wish I could speak more with and learn. Thank you.
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steve on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 10:30 AM
Great article. How does one let go of trapped emotions? Is there any good content one this? :)
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Laura Randmaa on Friday, March 20, 2015 6:37 AM
Very interesting article. Thank you for that. But what about diarrhea? Do you have any comments?
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Marianne on Monday, June 22, 2015 6:25 AM
Thank you for this post, it is quite insightful. About 3-4 years ago I had a root canal in a tooth connected to the large intestine meridian. The tooth was taken out about two years ago, but I can track my chronic constipation issues beginning to approximately this time when my tooth was first treated. I've gone to many doctors (naturopaths mostly), TCM and acupuncturists, etc., yet still no real progress with the constipation. I would hope I may ask how one can try to heal or bring this meridian back into balance (even with the tooth missing)? I already did acupuncture for half a year twice a week, with the acupuncturist focusing on releasing excess heat in the large intestine but it only helped temporarily. Would greatly appreciate any tips to further look into! :)
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Martina on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 2:19 PM
Amazing article. Thank you, Marcie. This is exactly what I have been looking for, giving answers to many questions of mine.
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Rachael on Saturday, January 30, 2016 2:49 PM
I think I've always "known" this to be true. Thank you for putting it in writing though. In a way it helps to validate my perceptions of myself.
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Trish on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 3:09 PM
Thank you for this article Marcie. I have been struggling with a parasite in my intestine for 6 months (blastocyctis hominis, treating naturopathically &through diet) while living in southeast asia working in a stressful and fulfilling human rights role (I am Australian), lost my brother to cancer 2 months ago, 4 weeks after he was diagnosed, had a precancerous lesion removed during a colonisopy 1 month ago and since then have experienced chronic constipation. I am sure my inability to recover is related to my emotional state. I was recently told I have yin deficiency and lowered immune response and have been searching for answers to move back towards good health. I was so grateful to read this.
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Marcie on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 7:15 PM
Hi Trish, thank you for your comment and I'm so sorry to hear about everything you are going through. Best of luck in your healing journey!

Nisshani D. on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 4:37 AM
What an absolutely fantastic article. The Devi clinic I am affiliated with in Sri Lanka just began a monthly newsletter, and our focus was was on the the LU(LI) meridians due to the torrential Monsoons we are experiencing in this part of the world. Lots of deep spiritual insight on workings of the metal channels. Thanks, I will be incorporating some of your insights in our newsletter.
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