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What are the different body constitutions in TCM?

The constitution of each person is influenced by congenital and acquired factors, and this varies from person to person. In the other words, the body's metabolism, functioning of organs and organ structure all combine to determine our susceptibility to pathogenic factors.In TCM, there are five different types of physical constitutions: neutral, yin and cold, yang and hot, phlegm and dampness, and dry.

Yang and hot type
  Individuals have a sturdy body. They often feel hot, experience dryness of the mouth, prefer cold drinks when thirsty, have a reddish complexion, are easily annoyed, and tend to suffer from insomnia. They usually discharge scanty urine of a dark color, and have hard stools. Upon examination of the tongue, it appears red with a yellowish coating, or may have no coating at all. Such individuals are very sensitive to high temperatures.
Yin and cold type
  Individuals have a frail body. They usually feel cold, have an aversion to wind, and their limbs are cold. They prefer hot or warm food and drinks, are reluctant to speak, get easily tired and have a pale or whitish complexion. They usually discharge clear urine frequently, stools are soft, and tend to suffer from diarrhea easily. Upon examination of the tongue, it appears pink and bulky with a whitish coating. Such individuals are very sensitive to cold temperatures.
Phlegm and damp type
  A person of this constitution perfers sweet food. They experience heaviness in the body, dizziness, and tire easily. They look fatigued and sleepy in day time, and snore easily during sleep. Such people have a low metabolic rate. They tend to become overweight or bloated due to retention of water. The person may look fat but is drained of energy. The tongue looks moist and bulky, and is covered with a greasy coating. Such people are very sensitive to damp weather.
Dry type
  Individuals belonging to this constitution feel thirsty easily and experience dryness in the eyes, throat, lips and skin. When common flu is prevalent, they will usually have a cough without mucus. Such people tend to be skinny and do not put on weight easily. Their common complaints are itchy skin, nose or eyes, and constipation - all due to lack of lubrication. They are very sensitive to low levels of humidity.
Neutral type
  This type of person does not have any of the above complaints. They look healthy with normal skin color. They have proper appetite and sleep, and do not feel hot or cold easily. Their urine and stools are normal. The tongue is normal upon examination.

It should be emphasized that in reality, people usually have a mixed physical constitution, for example, cold and dry, damp and hot, or cold and deficient. Therefore, it is difficult to classify one type individually as more than one type of constitution may be present. When planning a balanced diet, it is necessary to mix different flavors and energies according to the individual's needs. Embracing Chinese dietary advice is a process to shift to a more balanced diet. It does not mean you should restrict your diet; you may give up some foods but you will find a whole variety of foods you may have never tried before.


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5. Cooling the Summer with Food: An Introduction to Medicinal Foods by Yanfang Wang, M.D., Ph.D. http://newcenturynutrition.com
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Written By:
Dang Yi (黨毅) MD PhD
Professor, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine; Visiting Professor, Middlesex
University, London, UK; Vice Director, Gourmet Food Institute of Health Care and Nutrition of Beijing, PRC.
Raka Dewan, Integrated Chinese Medicine Holdings Ltd.
Rose Tse, Integrated Chinese Medicine Holdings Ltd.