Why are identical twins so different?

Have you ever wondered why identical twins, who have the same genes, are so different?  Well, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has an answer for you! 

TCM has a the term known as ‘constitution’.  Constitution refers to the natural state of the body before illness occurs.  Knowing your constitution is useful because it allows you to know what to expect from an illness.  For example, if you start to begin to feel sick with the common cold, what is the common trajectory that happens next for you?  Will you break out into a sweat and develop a fever with a sore throat?  Or will you become chilled with muscle aches, a stiff neck, and a headache?  By having an awareness of your constitution, you don’t have to “just deal with it” and suffer through a cold.  Instead, you can act quickly and receive acupuncture or take Chinese herbal medicine that is designed specifically for your constitution at the moment where you start to feel “off”.  The constitution can help determine anything from the path of the common cold to susceptibility of more serious illnesses, such as a stroke or cancer, for example.  By having this awareness, a person can realize their own strengths and weaknesses and prevent diseases from occurring through diet and lifestyle modification.

So, the next question is: What determines one’s constitution?  In TCM, we believe there are two branches that create the entire constitution.  The first is the innate constitution — Essentially, this is our inherited health that we receive from our parents.  In other words, the innate constitution is our genetic makeup.  In the case of identical twins, their innate constitution is the same.  The innate constitution determines our body’s strengths, weaknesses, and appearance.  It is what determines things like why one person may become sick more than another, why one person is tall and another is short, why one person tends to lose weight while another gains weight easily, etc.  Since these are the genes that are passed on to us from our parents, this is difficult to alter.  However, by learning about our innate constitution, we can learn to live better with what we’re given through making appropriate dietary and lifestyle choices. 

The second branch of the constitution is called the acquired constitution.  The acquired constitution refers to the way the body develops, interacts, and defends itself from the environment based upon the air, food, and drink that the body takes in.  The acquired constitution is impacted by the dietary and lifestyle choices that we make.  The acquired constitution is what differentiates identical twins from one another.  One of the five modalities of TCM is dietary therapy.  TCM values eating based upon your constitution, as well as eating to combat any disease processes that are occurring in your body.  TCM believes that one’s diet can prevent and cure diseases.  The air that we consume also affects the constitution and should be considered as a possible pathogenic factor that is causing disease.

Other factors, such as emotions, trauma, disease, and lifestyle, can change a person’s constitution.  Emotions are able to change a person’s health and cause disease processes to begin.  Each of the seven basic emotions (grief, anger, anxiety, pensiveness, fear, joy, and fright) affect the body differently.  In excess, any emotion can cause specific diseases.  Therefore, emotional balance is essential to preventing illness.  Trauma that fails to resolve, such as an old fracture that still causes pain, or even the common cold that you just “work through” and have frequent recurrent colds afterwards, can alter our constitution.  An unbalanced lifestyle, such as excessive activity or excessive inactivity, can weaken one’s constitution and cause disease.  “Everything in moderation” is a very valuable saying to live by!!  As a TCM practitioner, I educate my patients so that they are more equipped with knowledge and tools to remain well.  

At its root, TCM is preventative.  This means that, as a TCM practitioner, I assess your constitution and treat based upon my assessment.  By using your constitution to guide treatment, I strive to keep your body strong and healthy before you become sick.  This decreases the likelihood of a potential illness from occurring.  When you do begin to become sick, I have an idea of the path that the disease is going to take, even before symptoms appear.  By remaining well and receiving regular maintenance acupuncture appointments anywhere between once a month to once a season, your body will remain strong and have enough energy to fight off illnesses.   

Remember — It’s a choice to stay well!!  I’m here to help give your body the boost it needs to stimulate your immune system so that you remain healthy and happy!! : ) 

Be Well!