Special constitution is one of nine body constitutions in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM practitioners believe that we each have a unique combination of structural, physiological, and psychological features. This could determine how susceptible we are to certain diseases and illnesses. Those are also attributable to age, gender, diet, and lifestyle habits — even the seasons of the 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.
Also known as special diathesis, special constitution has fewer identifiable physical characteristics relative to the other eight TCM body constitutions – there are a few, but the most obvious identifier is one’s sensitivity to their surroundings and/or allergens. In other words, you are easily triggered by irritants or sudden changes in your environment, and those allergic reactions might just have to do with your body constitution.
Special Constitution: the Tell-Tale Signs
Do any of these physical characteristics, temperaments, and other attributes sound familiar?
Common physical characteristics of special constitution are:
- Panting from the changes of external environments (i.e. allergens, temperature, humidity etc)
- Nasal congestion
- Sneezing and runny nose (unrelated to flu)
- Develops scratches or rashes easily
- Easily fatigued
Common temperaments and other non-physical attributes of special constitution are:
- Sensitive to seasonal changes
- Sensitive to smells
- Prone to allergies
- Gets nervous or anxious easily
- Sensitive to humidity changes
Possible Causes of Special Constitution
So, how does one end up with a special constitution? For those with one of the other eight TCM body constitutions, genetics and environmental factors could be equal culprits. Causes for special constitution, however, skew towards one’s genetics – most people with this specific constitution are born with inherent susceptibilities, e.g., hereditary diseases or sensitivity towards allergens. In fact, research has shown that allergies typically involve a genetic component. In other cases, you can develop a special constitution after pregnancy or a health battle that significantly weakens your health, thereby making you more sensitive to environmental changes. On the other hand, the over-processing of food or products can lead to hypersensitivities.
Possible Links Between Special Constitution and Health Conditions
Relative to those with other body constitutions, those who have a special constitution are more likely to develop skin problems (e.g. eczema), allergies, and asthma as they are typically more sensitive to environmental allergens. They are also more likely to develop allergies towards certain types of drugs, so we’d suggest consulting a physician before taking any new medication.
Restoring Special Constitution with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
If you have a special constitution, you may want to reduce your intake of shellfish, lamb, beef, buckwheat, fava beans, spicy food, alcohol, and strongly brewed teas – just to name a few. Generally speaking, this body constitution is more sensitive than the other TCM body constitutions, thus it’s best to follow a light, well-balanced diet of easily digestible food and drinks. The balance of food can improve the immune system and healing of your skin. Skin is the major organ in the body to protect us from allergens. Some food that fit the bill include:
- Grains & nuts - Glutinous rice, oats, brown rice, purple rice, chestnuts.
- Fruit - Apple, apricot, lemon, red date, coconut, pears
- Vegetables & legumes - Carrot, yam, corn, sweet potato, mushroom, leafy vegetables, chestnut, snow fungus
- Meats & dairy - Fish (except for carp), tofu, egg
- Herbs & spices - Ginseng, reishi mushroom, astragalus, cinnamon
Your day-to-day lifestyle and habits can also play a big role. Here’s what can make a difference:
Reduce exposure to allergens
With a sensitive body constitution, you may wish to reduce your exposure to common allergens as much as possible. Using an air purifier would be helpful, as would avoiding taking outdoor walks when pollen season is in full swing. When looking for a pet, consider hypoallergenic breeds! Taking extra precaution when making life’s big and small decisions will help.
Maintain good hygiene
It is especially critical for special constitution types to keep clean and maintain good hygiene. At home, use a duster and vacuum regularly, and change your blankets and bedding often to reduce dust mites, which could easily trigger an onslaught of allergy symptoms.
Watch what you eat
Diet is an important component of one’s well-being, and it is especially true for those with a special constitution. Food and drinks that are known to elicit reactions, e.g., spicy food and shellfish (in particular, crab, shrimp, and lobster), should generally be avoided.
Exercise regularly to built up immunity
Exercising helps build up one’s immune system, which for those who are more susceptible to allergens, tend to be weaker. Taking outdoor walks and light jogs are great for your health, however, be aware during seasonal changes and spring months, especially in areas where airborne allergens are present – otherwise, you might end up with a sneezing fit! Indoor activities such yoga are also recommended to keep you nimble. When practicing yoga, spend time focusing more on the downward dog pose. This pose focuses on the arms and shoulder meridians, which can improve heart and lung functions. Increased function of these organs can help fight against allergies, viruses, anxiety and trouble sleeping.
Remember, our body constitutions aren’t fixed
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.