Lung Phlegm with
both Lung and Spleen deficiency

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'Lung Phlegm with both Lung and Spleen deficiency'! What a mouthful! Well, you could call it 'Lung and Spleen deficiency with Phlegm in the Lungs' but that's worse.

This syndrome is becoming more common. In fact, nearly everyone who often works at a desk or a computer is susceptible to it.

This syndrome is also an example of Chinese medicine taking its gloves off and getting stuck in!

Here, three separate syndromes combine. Two of them are deficient and one is excess. That means you have to treat the condition in the right order or you may make it worse.

Usually, in Chinese medicine, you clear the excess condition first because the deficient syndromes can't recover until the excess syndrome sitting on them has been removed.

For example, if snow falls on your car, pinning it down, you'd remove the snow before trying to move your car.

ID 23249386

Igor Stevanovic

Lung Phlegm with both Lung and Spleen Deficiency

Normally, Lungs and Spleen work closely together to keep energy moving round your body and to clear the garbage. 

The Lungs' main purpose is to control, or 'govern' the Qi, your energy.

For example,

  • wherever you are sitting as you read this, you could probably get out of the building without needing to eat or drink anything. But ... 
  • if it's a large building, unless you are very good at deep breathing, you probably can't exit the building without at least taking one breath. 

Your ability to move, your energy, is almost entirely governed by your Lung energy, at least in the short term.

Put another way, you can probably survive for several weeks without food, and for some days without water.

You'll die within 4 minutes without air. 

The Spleen's main function is to transform one thing into another (say food into blood, or phlegm into fluid) and then transport it to wherever it's needed or has to go.

Because of its vital functions in digestion, the Spleen and Stomach energies work very closely together: each affects the other, which explains some of the symptoms below.

In fact, it goes further, because in Chinese medicine, where the Lung channel (or meridian) actually starts is deep in your upper abdomen, more or less in the area of the stomach. For practical purposes, you can say that you Lung qi starts in your Stomach. If one is upset, often so is the other.

Symptoms of Lung Phlegm with both Lung and Spleen deficiency

  • shortness of breath
  • chest feels heavy, oppressed
  • sensation of phlegm in the lungs
  • tired, exhausted
  • weak voice: it's an effort to talk for long
  • phlegm in the throat and larynx makes speaking difficult
  • need to keep clearing the voice to speak
  • coughs from weakness and phlegm
  • phlegm white and watery
  • averse cold conditions
  • low or absent appetite
  • abdominal distension or discomfort when or after eating
  • weariness
  • no strength: the body feels heavy, tend to be obese
  • pallor
  • loose bowel motions
  • easy sweating without obvious cause, especially in daytime
  • not much thirst
  • snores
  • prefers lying down except that phlegm may force you to lie propped up
  • can be dizzy
  • frequent colds and coughs
  • Tongue: pale with teeth marks on the sides
  • Pulse: slippery, soggy and empty


Posture and Breathing

  • Sitting hunched over books or the desk or working in an environment that prevents full expansion of the lungs. 
  • Too much travelling by air can also affect our posture and breathing, especially if the seats don't let us breathe fully and the long hours sitting or waiting don't let us exercise enough.
  • We need to get out of breath regularly to force our lungs to explore their capacity. 
  • Ageing is a problem. Not only have we less energy, or we use it up faster, so getting out of breath is less common or comes with exhaustion, but our spines tend to shorten and bend forwards, cramping our lungs, which can't expand as much as they did.
  • Sometimes having too much work to do means that we never leave our desks, or only for short periods when even short bursts of intense physical sport may not be enough to compensate for long hours of bad posture.

Overuse of Voice

Public speakers, actors, teachers, sergeant-majors who have to shout loudly, can all in time exhaust their Lung Qi, making them susceptible to this syndrome.

Smoking and Bad Air

Smoking eventually weakens our lungs, and our Lung energy then can't support our Spleen energy. We cough, we get tense more easily, we worry more and gradually our energy decreases.

Not just smoking tobacco does this, but inhaling bad air, air that is full of dust and chemicals and pathogens also damages our lungs.

Eventually habitual smokers find they can only take a full breath when smoking, so dependent are they on tobacco. Gradually they become asthmatic.

Stress, Worry

Speaking under strain, or when under intense observation, or working when anxious, causes stress which in Chinese medicine often appears as Qi stagnation. This easily impedes Spleen and Lung Qi.

Lack of Exercise

Not exercising the body properly tends to weaken it. Muscles, governed by the Spleen, don't develop, tissues grow lax. This means that Blood doesn't flow properly and stuff builds up in cavities: Phlegm and Damp. As tissues grow lax, we get abdominal distension and snoring. In due course our joints become easily sprained, our backs hurt or are easily 'put out', and as other syndromes begin to appear, we get phlegm in our eyes and bags underneath them.


If we don't eat enough of the right foods, and we do eat too many of foods that damage health, our Spleen cannot supply the Blood needed to keep us healthy. Read Nutrition.

The Spleen's energy works best with foods that are classified in Chinese medicine as having a warm energy. These include spicy foods and most forms of animal protein.

The Spleen functions less well, and may be damaged by too many foods with a cold energy, such as raw foods, chilled foods, iced foods, salads, fruits, and uncooked vegetables. It also functions less well when you eat too much sweet food, including sugar, honey and sweeteners: that means puddings, cakes, biscuits and refined flours: also anything that, when eaten, quickly turns into sugar in your digestion, including white bread, white flour, white rice, potato.

Over-eating can produce a similar result. Too much food for our needs can exhaust our body's capacity to digest it properly, leading to Damp and Phlegm.

Alternatively, eating a good diet, but not exercising enough, can weaken our Lungs and Spleen.

Still not finished! What is called 'irregular' eating habits damage the Spleen. These include hurried meals, snatched snacks, eating while working or driving, eating at odd times, big meals before sleep and so on. Our genes have provided us with leeway, so we can all eat irregularly from time to time and no harm results. 

Problems come when we regularly eat irregularly!

Combining our Bad Habits ...

Modern life in the West inclines us to the bad habits listed above. So Lung Phlegm with both Lung and Spleen deficiency is becoming more frequent. We may not be working physically as hard as our genes were used to, but we are straining our genes in other ways. 

What can You do about it?

Re-read the list of causes above and consider how you can adopt better habits.

  • Posture
  • Breathing
  • Voice
  • Air
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Food
  • Eating habits

Then ...

  1. If you seek treatment from an acupuncturist, he or she will almost certainly view your Phlegm as the main problem to begin with. If you don't improve your diet, eating habits, exercise and posture, your Phlegm will remain, hard to shift. Successful treatment depends on you improving your habits.
  2. Once the Phlegm is cleared (and your acupuncturist may use a range of techniques to shift it, including the kind of back massage that old-fashioned physiotherapists used to give people, plus cupping, guasha and needles) then he or she will be able to treat your Lung and Spleen deficiencies more easily.
  3. Chinese herbal formulae can help greatly, when prescribed according to your individual needs.

List of various Lung pages and Lung Syndromes here

Find an Acupuncturist!

If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.

If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.

Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

Please note! The Kindle editions are less easy to read! Although the paper editions cost more, they are much easier to read and to refer back and forth to the contents and index. 

Here are some of the books Jonathan has written:

Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress

Yin Deficiency - Burnout and Exhaustion

Yang Deficiency - Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

3000 years of Chinese being stressed, and at last, here's a book showing how all that experience can help you!

By the author of this website, it explains in simple English how to use stress to improve and enhance your life.

For the Latest Reviews of 'Qi Stagnation', click here!

NB You can also order 'Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress' from your bookseller.

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