Every year we recognise that we have gotten older and notch another birthday. After a few birthdays, we look back and we realise that we are physically different to how we were before. At some point during those years our bodies changed internally. Maybe we feel older, maybe we get more tired, maybe we put on more weight.
This is recognised in Oriental medicine as a transition cycle. It is thought that the body goes through transforming change regularly during our lives. For women, the body changes every 7 years and for men every 8 years throughout your life.
This is based both on our genetic inheritance and lifestyle choices and were seen by the ancient Chinese as a quantifiable substance stored in our kidneys/adrenals. We'll call this Qi for the purposes of this article.
So when girls reach 7 and boys reach 8 they usually have strong kidney Qi and have permanent teeth and hair on their bodies.
The next change is at puberty. Although this has been coming earlier due to unhealthy diets and lifestyles, for girls this is 14 (7 multiplied by 2) years old and boys at 16 (8 multiplied by 2) years old. The female cycle comes first which is why girls reach puberty before boys.
When women reach 21, their kidney Qi peaks, body development stops and wisdom teeth grow. But for men, body development stops at 24.
A woman reaches her physical peak at 28 years old with strong muscles and bones, and thick, well-conditioned hair. This would be the ideal time to have a baby. A man’s body reaches its peak at 32 with strong and powerful bones and tendons.
That I'm afraid is the top of the mountain. From now on we go downhill.
At 35 years old a woman’s body starts to decline in kidney Qi and the initial signs of ageing (sallow face, wrinkles or hair loss) can be seen. Men start this 5 years later, at 40 with hair loss, greying hair and looser teeth.
More signs of aging can be seen at 42 years old in women such as facial sagging and gradual whitening of hair. At 48, men start losing Qi from the upper body and their face will start sagging and hair become more grey.
At 49, a woman’s body is at menopause and the ability to menstruate and give birth stops. This was seen as the body preserving the stores of kidney Qi to ensure there is enough in the later years.
At 56 years old both men and women start feeling older as their liver Qi degenerates, leading to joint problems; and kidney degeneration leads to a lack of vitality.
Then for both men and women it is a case of preserving kidney Qi so that as they get older, they keep their health. In general women live longer than men because their reproductive ability shut down earlier so preserving precious Qi.
Of course this is a generalization. Everyone is different depending on what we inherited from our parents at birth – and how we take care of ourselves at each stage of the cycle.
So in summary:
Before 28 (women) and 32 (men): You are young and healthy, and you have lots of Qi. But don’t abuse it. You’ll need plenty in reserve later on. So develop healthy habits and avoid the unhealthy ones, such as smoking, excessive eating, and excessive drinking of alcohol, fizzy drinks and coffee.
After 35 (women) and 40 (men): It’s time to take extra care of yourself. Do regular exercise, eat food which will strengthen and nourish your body, listen to your body when it is tired and avoid too much stress.