The Small Intestine is one of the 5 Yang organs and is located in the middle of the abdomen connected to the stomach at the top end and the upper large Intestine at the lower end. Connected to the tissues, the tongue, throat and governed by a pair of meridians known as “the absolute fire meridians” the small intestine controls the way in which people absorb both food and information and is at its peak of activity between the hours 1pm – 3pm.
The main function is to separate the pure from the impure matter. It is connected to the element fire and colour red, the season of summer and the emotions of excitement, joy, love, hate and laughter, the small intestine is also indirectly affected by emotions such as anger which cause the Liver Qi to stagnate.
After digestion and absorption of nutrients and some of the water, the small intestine transmits the waste to the large intestine, this is known as “separating the lucid from the turgid” in TCM, these are the two parts of the process. The digesting function of the small intestine relies on Spleen Yang, its transporting and transforming actions of the food, therefore diseases due to disorder and imbalances of the small intestine such as anorexia, swollen belly and looseness are generally treated as “dysfunction of the spleen” and it uses Kidney Yang for transformation of fluids and certain patterns are linked to Kidney Yang deficiency. Too much cold and raw food can cause the small intestine to accumulate Cold and likewise an excess of spicy food may cause Heat to accumulate. Symptoms may include rapid full pulse, abdominal pain and sudden hearing loss and the tongue is red with a swollen tip and yellow coat.
On the physical level, if the small intestine is absorbing water into the body normally then the quality of the urine is normal and the bowel movements are normal form, however if an imbalance or “dysfunction of the spleen” occurs then the results may be sloppy waste and scarce urine or constipation and frequent urination.
Imbalances of fire element may show emotionally as excessive and inappropriate laughter, sleep problems and people are prone to jet lag and speech problems. Anxiety and stress may be a precursor to this pattern.