What is a constitution?
In ancient Chinese medicine, there are five types of constitutional assessments. Some people consider our constitutional assessment to be as permanent as our genetic identity, while others recognize that we are made up of all five elements to various degrees.
The five elements that make up the Chinese constitutions are water, fire, earth, metal and wood. Each element is also coupled with an organ in the body: kidney, heart, spleen, lung and liver, respectively.
Understanding individual constitution is helpful in determining how variables--like climate, food, medicine and social interaction--will affect our health.
Unless we are actively acting on balancing the five elements, there is a strong tendency toward one element over the others, which predisposes us to certain ailments. Diseases and injuries, for example, are caused by imbalances of the five constitutional elements in the body. With animals, knowing their constitution is beneficial in determining an individualized treatment plan.
Similar to its fluid-like nature, water constitutions tend to "go with the flow." However, pets in this category might also be "wishy-washy" with an anxious demeanor and tendency to hide. As water is linked to the kidneys, it makes sense, then, that fear is known to cause renal complications.
When water constitution is in abundance, acidity may result, causing brittle bones and edema. Chihuahuas are typically known to be water animals.
Fire individuals tend to be passionate and energetic. Conversely, fire deficiency can lead to sluggishness from feeling burned out whereas fire in excess is characterized by high stress. Pets struggling to balance fire within them might experience restlessness or heart distress. Labrador retrievers are often associated with this element.
As the name implies, earth constitutions tend to be more down to earth. Elemental earth individuals are usually motherly and nurturing. Golden retrievers are often categorized as such.
In Chinese medicine, the spleen is associated with digestion as food is said to nurture the body. This means that those with an imbalance of earth in their system tend to have stomach upset. Now it makes sense when you hear people tell you not to worry or you'll get an ulcer!
Metal pets are guarded, likely to shield themselves from experiencing grief or discomfort. Due to its association with protection, metal is linked to the immune system, specifically with the immune-mediating mucous membranes that line the lungs.
It is not uncommon for metal patients to be frequently treated for coughing, asthma and other signs of respiratory distress. Greyhounds, who lead routine and regimented lives, are mostly viewed as metal types.
Wood individuals are usually assertive and go after what they want, sometimes harboring anger. When this element is weakened within the body, depression and fatigue can set in. Rottweilers, who like to communicate with their mouths and be in control, typically fall under this constitution.
When the elements are out of whack, holistic medicine can help line them up again. Acupuncture, which is aimed at restoring qi throughout the body, is an incredibly powerful tool for balancing the body's constitution. Nutrition, Chinese herbs and flower essences are especially helpful forms of treatment.