What is the Fourth Meridian?

The Fourth Meridian is the spleen meridian. It is associated with digestion, assimilation, connection and grounding. This is the story of how it came to be that I named my business after this meridian, and why I am passionate about acupuncture and holistic health care.

In school we learn the regular meridians in order from 1-14. Why is it ordered in this way? From my understanding, if you read “The Spark in the Machine” it may have a close relationship with the way your body is formed from the point of conception…but we won’t go there today. The specific order of qi (chee) flow through the body, the corresponding organs and relationships between meridians, their yin yang pair, their order, Chinese medicine theory, and everything else in between is pretty much drilled into our head from day one of school. The fourth meridian is most important to me because it shot my life on a trajectory that I could’ve never imagined.

The fourth meridian is the spleen meridian. It’s main function is in proper digestion, the transformation and transportation of fluids, assimilation of nutrients into our body, and also functions in building blood through the food that we eat. If this organ/meridian is suffering from a deficiency, so too will your digestion- you will have symptoms such as bloating, gas, loose stools, low energy, heaviness of the limbs, and general lethargy. You may suffer from overthinking or worry, or a feeling of being ungrounded. In it’s extreme forms, it may manifest as IBS, Crohn’s, or ulcerative colitis. And that is exactly what I was diagnosed with at the age of 20. Ulcerative colitis. I had no idea what it was, how to treat it, and how it would change my life forever. I remember feeling very alone, embarrassed and isolated because it affects the colon, and thus the main symptoms are urgency and frequency of bowel movements with severe pain and cramping, blood, and mucus. I didn’t know anyone else that had been diagnosed with this disease, and so didn’t have anyone to talk to and didn’t want to try to find someone due to my shame and embarrassment.

Due to the stresses in my life leading up to this point- a history of disordered eating (a mixture of anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia since the age of 13), a recent brain surgery, the stress of a new home and university, combined with my overthinking/worrying mind and chronic ungrounded-ness, my spleen qi was weakened to a point where it couldn’t handle it anymore. I had IBS symptoms for years before it crumbled into an autoimmune disease. After dropping out of university to make sense of it all - the brain surgery, my newly diagnosed ulcerative colitis, and my new reality…and then trying to go back to university for one year and being so ill I could barely sit through a class without leaving 3-4 times to go to the bathroom, I decided I needed to change my life or I wouldn’t be able to make it through. I decided I was going to study Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. At first, it was so I could use it as an undergraduate degree to get into Osteopathy school, but after only a couple months of attending school, I knew that this medicine would be in my life forever. The biggest turning point for me was when I began getting regular acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment shortly after beginning school. The combination of these treatments soon took my 20-25 bowel movements a day with severe pain, urgency, cramping, blood, and mucus to around 3 bowel movements a day and minimal pain. I finally felt like after 3+ years of suffering, there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel. I then went to a Chinese Medicine Doctor in town who had somewhat specialized in the treatment of digestive disorders- he himself had Crohn’s disease and managed it through diet, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine. After our meeting he advised me to go on a “caveman” diet- one that consisted of eating 1 lb of sashimi (raw fish) a day, eating only cooked vegetables low on the glycemic index, drinking bone broth, taking various supplements to heal my gut lining, and staying away from any drinks other than water. Miraculously, after only 4 days on this new diet, I began menstruating again. I hadn’t had my period for 4 years, and I was convinced (and still am) it was not a mere coincidence. After 5 weeks on the “caveman” diet, my ulcerative colitis had gone into remission without the use of any pharmaceutical drugs, I did it purely on changing my diet, acupuncture, and supplementation. I remember that first week of no symptoms and having only 1 bowel movement a day I could do nothing but cry - not because I was sad, but because I was so happy to have my life back again. I had forgotten what it felt like it to not be trapped by such a debilitating disease that comes with shame, embarrassment,

and a lot of mis-understanding from others. Because you can’t actually see the disease, a lot of people think that you’re okay. I remember in the first few years I would always be bailing on plans or friends because I didn’t have the energy, or I was too worried about having to go to the bathroom so much with other people around. Most of my friends and family members didn’t even know I had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Fast forward to 8 months later, I had a period of heightened stress from the dissolve of a relationship, and my colitis was back. This time, I thought I might research more into different types of diets and which could potentially “cure” me.

I found David Asprey’s “Bullet Proof Diet” and I followed it religiously for 1 month. This diet consisted of strict intermittent fasting, ketogenic dieting, and foods and cooking methods that were low on the inflammatory scale. Long story short, I was symptom-free with no drug intervention for FOUR YEARS by simply following his diet outlined in his book for four weeks with no cheating. If I hadn’t gone through this experience, there would’ve been so many things I would’ve never learned.

Where I’m at now, living and learning from this disease for almost a decade, thinking back on this story, as I write I can’t help but tear up. I almost feel sometimes that I was somehow meant to go through all of this to teach me something deeper. I still deal with the fluctuations in my autoimmune disease, going in and out of remission sometimes for years at a time, but I don’t know if i’ll ever truly be “cured.” That’s not really the point for me anymore. This disease, which has everything to do with the falling apart and building back up the spleen qi, the Fourth Meridian, has taught me things I could’ve never imagined.

And so, I couldn’t help but name my business after my story, because it means something to me.

I hope to live my life and practise acupuncture and Chinese Medicine with more empathy, understanding, and compassion for everyone who walks through the door because of my experience. My hope is that this story inspires you to do whatever you can do to heal, seek help, and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you to all the Chinese Medicine doctors, Naturopaths, Western Doctors, Osteopaths, and the friends and family that have helped me along the way. A special thanks to my partner at the time when my disease was at its peak, I couldn’t have done it without you. This has been something I have kept private for almost a decade, but I think through sharing there is healing. Thanks for reading!

Kristina Adams, R.Ac

Fourth Meridian Acupuncture & Massage

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