It’s almost a newborn’s rite of passage.  A baby can’t escape having its looks scrutinized to determine what he/she got from whom.  Grandma’s nose, Dad’s eyes, Mom’s mouth, Grandpa’s ears, and on and on.

What we never consider is that maybe a baby inherits someone’s constitutional imbalance as well.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Well, when consulting with patients, it is not uncommon to hear things like, “I get migraine headaches just like my mom used to.”  Or, “I remember my dad having the same exact lower back pain I’ve been dealing with.”  Or, “My kids have horrible allergy problems just like I do.”

How is it possible that conditions like these are passed on from generation to generation?  After all, we’re talking about symptoms here, not looks and physical traits.

When you begin to understand where symptoms come from, one explanation becomes abundantly clear.

First of all, remember that the symptoms themselves are not the problem.  They are a product of the underlying cause and they also serve as your body’s warning system.  For a certain symptom pattern to be passed on from parents to their children, there must be a common underlying cause triggering the outward symptom.  The channel system in Chinese Medicine explains and illustrates the root causes of symptoms.

When we look at the distribution of the channel system, it is quickly apparent that each of the channels supplies energy to a specific organ and part of the body (here is an example of the stomach meridian).  If a channel is blocked, that part of the body will not get the necessary blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to your cells.  This causes inflammation.  On a cellular level, your mitochondria provide “power” to your cells and also govern cellular detox and renewal.  The mitochondria are very susceptible to oxidative damage and inflammation.  Because of their important role, when mitochondria malfunction in the body, many illnesses can get their beginning — and that begins with symptoms.  By tracing symptoms back to their origin in the channel system, examination often reveals that parent and child have many of the same patterns of imbalances and tend to develop similar patterns of symptoms and signs. 

Interestingly, Western research is also proving this notion of symptomatic expressions via genetic coding.  A mother’s traumatic experience is coded into the genes and passed on to children en utero, i.e., trauma can be inherited, as a few TedX talks inform us as well as studies on Holocaust survivors and Dr. Christiane Northrup’s daughter, Kate, chronicles in her blog.

Symptoms aren’t inherited, but rather the pattern that produces those symptoms.  To continually treat the symptom is useless in the long run.  A very effective strategy is to correct the underlying cause (channel imbalance) with acupuncture and herbs and let the symptoms take care of themselves.  Another effective strategy is practicing mindfulness.  Journaling, meditating, and getting therapy brings awareness to these patterns and can help shed light on the origins of the symptoms.  Practicing empathy on yourself or your child will help to break these patterns.  Exercising, eating Real Foods and detoxing (when merited) are other forms of breaking this pattern via the removal of energy blockages and unwanted substances from the body.  This allows for mitochondrial repair to occur on the cellular level.

Twenty-five percent of a person’s health and constitution is passed on through genetics, but 75% is created post birth.  Therefore, even with a propensity to certain genetic traits, illnesses and symptoms, there is much that can be done to reverse or repair the channel imbalance and resulting mitochondrial dysfunction.  A child who inherits “clumsiness” from a parent will eventually develop the bumps and bruises that come with it.  The point is that he doesn’t inherit the bruises, but rather the propensity to develop them.  Simply put, work on correcting the clumsiness, and the bruises go away.

The network of systems in the human body can be challenging to navigate when you only consider Western medical practices, which tend to isolate body parts.  The channel systems in the practice of Chinese Medicine are not limited to a particular organ or body part, but rather allows for the inter-relationship between all the systems of the body.  As you can see, Chinese medicine is well-equipped to identify the root causes of inherited illnesses and to provide ways to heal them.