The Gray State of Health: Signs of Suboptimal Health Condition

We often go to the hospital every time we can’t endure an uncomfortable feeling, like cold or cough. However, usually, doctors don’t provide a believable diagnosis, saying that: ‘you are just stressed; just rest.’ This is because modern medicine only determines diseases by the presence of specific pathogens–biological, infectious agents that cause illness to its host.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), however, assesses one’s overall state. It believes that these ‘lenient’ signs lead to a body imbalance that hasn’t develop into an illness or disease, yet. This state is called the suboptimal health status (SHS). Should you pay attention to this condition? What are the signs of it? How to deal with it? Let’s figure it out here.

What is suboptimal health status (SHS)?

Suboptimal health status, which also referred to as sub-health or subhealth,   is nicknamed as the ‘new killer of the 21st Century’ by a few medical practitioners. Also, the World Health Organization described this condition as the ‘gray state of health.’

This gray state of health or subhealth occurs when every tested chemical and physical index is found negative by advanced medical equipment, but the person tested has remained unease or even in pain.

Considering that a person’s health condition is an ongoing, changing process; this process starts from being healthy, sub-healthy, and end up unhealthy. Hence, theoretically, subhealth is between health and illness.

When your body is in a sub-health status, your organs will undergo degrading and aging processes. Slowly, your body will deteriorate. You will have immunity breakdown and will be prone to sore throat, low-fever, fatigue, hormonal imbalance like irregular menstruation, concentration and memory loss, and other illnesses, which will become worse if neglected.

Have you been experiencing ‘mild’ symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, cold, constipation, frequent urination, or hair loss? Then, you’re in a sub-health condition. Modern medicine will typically prescribe you with antibiotics. On the other hand, the following is what TCM says.

Note: When discussing the TCM system, we capitalize on the first letters of each body organ as we’re talking about an organ’s functional system, rather than the organ itself.


Sleeping difficulties are mainly caused by Heart Fire. According to TCM’s philosophy, Fire is considered the most yang energy. If energy is disrupted and Fire cannot flow properly, Fire will cause excess heat that may disturb one’s body and mind, resulting in what we call as inflammation.

Resentment, anger, frustration, depression, poor eating habit, and less rest contribute to this built-up heat. As you notice, the heart function in TCM incorporates the features of psychology (emotion) and the nervous system in biological sciences.

Hence, the TCM treatment for insomnia focuses on clearing the heat, mitigating the damages from emotional tensions,   and calming your spirit. Here are the foods you should eat and avoid when experiencing insomnia:

  • Eat calming foods 1-2 hours before going to bed such as cherries, pineapple, bananas, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, lemon balm tea
  • Eat cooling foods such as navy beans, pears, apples, cucumber, avocados, beet, melon, chard, summer squash, lemon, yogurt, and teas like valerian tea, chrysanthemum tea, and lophatherum herb tea
  • Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, pizzas, and steak before bedtime


Having the feeling of being either stressed or irritated commonly happens to what studies described as Liver Qi Stagnation. This prevents the Liver from carrying out its functions, including the regulation of emotions, effectively.

In TCM, the function of the Liver is to move the Qi (energy). It likes to move forward in life in a dynamic and creative way. If energy will be stuck nor be released, it will explode, causing us to have a bad temper, headache, migraine, and blood pressure–the common causes of being irritable.

The following is the list of foods that are thought to relieve Liver Qi Stagnation:

  • Fruits – cherries, kumquat, red or black dates, coconut meat
  • Vegetables – sweet potatoes, squash
  • Seeds/beans – mustard seeds, caraway seeds, red beans
  • Meat – chicken
  • Herbs – oregano, garlic, spearmint
  • Spices – turmeric, sweet basil, saffron or greens powder



Lung Qi or Yi Deficiency might be the reason why you have a runny nose in the morning, afternoon fever, coughing, hoarseness, dry nasal cavities and throat, and warming of palms and soles.   Other symptoms include a weak immune system, asthma, spontaneous sweating, or weak or breathy voice.

In TCM, the Lungs are easily damaged by pathogens like wind, cold, and heat; hence, they must be in a good environment. Lung Qi (i.e., low energy) is compromised by unexpressed or prolonged sadness or grief, lack of exercise, poor posture, and physical overexertion; whereas, Lung Yin is damaged by inhaling tobacco, bronchodilators, and steroids.

A healthful diet with the following foods should be applied in one’s lifestyle to have a balanced Qi and Yin:

  • fermented foods like kefir, kimchi or sauerkraut
  • healthy, energizing fats like salmon, avocados or coconut oil
  • lightly cooked nuts, vegetables, of fruits
  • adaptogenic herbs like ginseng


Digestive issues, like bloating, bowel movement difficulties, and gastric pain, maybe the results of Spleen Qi Deficiency. The Spleen system includes the entire digestive system, including a few parts of the circulatory system. When the area of Spleen becomes damp and cold, the flow of Qi will be blocked, causing the digestive system not to function properly.

As Spleen is weakened by damp and cold food, avoid raw, cold, and cooling food, as well as overeating and eating at irregular intervals. Instead, warm and dry food with mild spices and seasoning work best for it. To strengthen Spleen, consume the following:

  • Herbs like ginseng, astragalus, codonopsis or jujube dates
  • Root vegetables
  • Beef
  • Warm food and warming spices like ginger, cumin, and black pepper


Nowadays, most people tend to ignore these health clues that need a tune-up. Also, what modern medicine considered normal and mild symptoms, such as having flu, a runny nose, and dry mouth, is abnormal and unhealthy in TCM’s perspective. Worse is these ‘lenient’ signs may even mean more severe illness.



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Written by HealthStatus Crew
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus teams with authors from organizations to share interesting ideas, products and new health information to our readers.

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