Regardless of your views on Traditional Chinese Medicine or other alternative medicines, there is at least one undeniable truth when it comes to the human body. The human body is its own ecosystem. It has its own delicate balance which must be maintained in order to remain in a state of good health.
While we all learn the principles of homeostasis in school, it can be a more delicate balance than we realize. A simple excess of bacteria can cause fever and illness. The body reacts to the imbalance and attempts to correct it. The human body is, after all, designed to heal itself. It just needs a bid of a nudge now and then.
In terms of TCM, a state of imbalance and stagnation can result in internal conditions that are actually suited to things like infection, illness, and pain. It becomes a domino effect because everything in your body is connected, and when one aspect is deficient the other is in excess. You can think of the principles of yin and yang. They are coexisting complementary forces that balance each other out (ideally, at least).
The interaction of all living and nonliving things are what comprise an ecosystem. Now, by nonliving things, I don’t mean your bag of Cheetos (which likely no longer has Cheetos in it). Animals, plants, water, light, heat, and dirt all have a role to play, and they work together. Take the role of scavengers or detritus feeders, for example. The breakdown of organic material is something that must be dealt with.
You know those bugs and creepy crawlies that you don’t like? They have an essential role to play in the decomposition of organic matter. The role of predators and scavengers is crucial in maintaining a proper balance between animal populations and the environment that sustains them. Herbivores rely on plant-life for their sustenance. Carnivores hunt herbivores, generally going for the weak, ill, old, and even young, controlling the population. Without predators, the herbivore population would explode, and the environment may not be able to sustain them.
The bottom line is balance.
Balance in the Human Body
In TCM, we think of the body system in terms of the flow of energy, or qi. You can even think of it as a river ecosystem. While the water flows smoothly, the health of the river is maintained, but what if there is some obstruction that impedes the flow of water? That water will eventually become stagnant, with an overgrowth of algae that can travel downstream and affect the river system farther down.
A better analogy is perhaps a man-made ecosystem: a fish tank. Most people have either had a fish tank or knew someone with one. Do you remember what the tank looked like when the pump stopped working? Algae takes over pretty quickly when the flow of water stops, and it is not solely the movement of the water. There is a filtration system. Likewise, in the human body, we have organs and other body systems that are affected by the flow of qi. Depending on where the flow is obstructed or stagnant, it can affect the health of specific organs within the human body.