Function of the Triple Burner Son Jiao

In TCM, the triple burner (sanjiao) is likened to the "official responsible for irrigation and control of waterways" in a feudal state. The NeiJing describes the triple burner's main task as the creation, transformation, and movement of body fluids (jin ye), with an emphasis on digestion and excretion.

The triple burner coordinates distribution and movement of the different types of qi to ensure continuous support of organ networks and enable unobstructed movement of qi. Disorders appear as accumulation of fluids, such as edemas and urinary retention.

In Western perception, the triple burner reflects the anatomical division of the body into three parts, described in historic texts such as the Nan Jing (The Classic of Difficult Issues) and the Ling Shu (second part of the Huang Di Nei Jing: The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine).

The Upper Burner: Heart, lungs, pericardium, upward from diaphragm

The lungs unite ancestral qi (zong qi) with gu qi (drum qi) to form true qi (zhen qi), which flows in the channels, and distribute true qi through the body. Lungs and heart use qi to "breathe life" into the blood (xue) of the upper burner. The lungs disperse fluids as a "fine mist" that moistens skin and muscles. The upper burner controls upward movement and defense qi.

The Center Burner: Spleen, pancreas, stomach, between diaphragm and navel

In classic texts, the center burner is often compared to a boiling kettle, or a fermentation barrel that absorbs food as "foam" and processes it. Stomach and spleen are responsible for proper transformation and transport of food. This process separates "clear" (qing) from "turbid" (zhuo). The spleen moves clear qi into the upper burner. Turbid qi is sent downward through the stomach. Once food has been transformed, the flow of essential qi (jing qi) derived from clear food is directed upward, toward lung and heart. This system provides the body with the main share of renewable qi as well as with blood (xue) and body fluids (jin ye), which are moved along from there. The center burner is central to Chinese nutrition: An appropriate and sufficient diet strengthens spleen qi daily and protects the energy resources of the kidney network. The quality of food provided to the center burner determines the body's entire energy store, as well as quality and quantity of blood and body fluids.

The Lower Burner:

Liver, kidney, bladder, and intestine, downward from navel

The lower burner is usually described as a "swamp" or "sewer." Its main function is the transformation and excretion of fluids and waste products. The flow of qi is directed downward.

B Methodology of Nutritional Therapy

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