Nervous Stomach Anxiety


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Nervous Stomach Anxiety? This page is for you! The Chinese get this too, and for the same reasons as you!

But they don't call it 'nervous stomach anxiety'. Those are words we use when we feel anxious in our abdomen, particularly in our upper abdomen, the area above the belly button and below our ribs.

People say they feel one or more of the following -

  • anxiety with 
  • 'butterflies' in the epigastrium (ie above the belly button)
  • gas, gurgling in the intestines
  • burping, perhaps
  • flatulence ie 'wind' going downwards = farting
  • difficulty swallowing

These symptoms can go on to include:

  • nausea 
  • reduced appetite...
  • ...but sometimes the urge to eat more to quell the anxiety
  • cramping pains or contractions in the abdomen
  • burning, bursting pains, along the path of the large intestine
  • need to loosen clothes
  • dry mouth 
  • spasms 
  • diarrhea
  • constipation

Anxiety can come with many other possible symptoms, including changes in your

  • breathing, (eg hyper-ventilating, sighing, holding breath)
  • heart rhythm, (faster, often with raised blood pressure )
  • perspiration (clammy hands or face, sweaty arm-pits)
  • circulation, (cold feet and fingers, headaches, heat flushes)
  • muscles (eg cramps, tightness, trembling, aching)
  • ... with an increase in your need to pee (urinate) or shit (defaecate), often suddenly and inconveniently
  • ... and longer term, if anxiety continues you may feel unable to achieve sexual fulfillment, which brings ...
  • ... lowered self-confidence.

Why do you get Nervous Stomach Anxiety?

Fundamentally in Chinese medicine, the reason for nervous stomach anxiety occurs because of an imbalance between 'yin' and 'yang'. (Rather than make this page too long, I invite you to click on my page on balancing yin and yang.)

  • An excess of Yang energy makes things hotter and faster: perhaps more exciting, but less restful.
  • A deficiency of Yin energy makes you more easily disturbed, excitable and restless, short on reserves.

Putting these together you may understand that too much yang, especially when it goes on and on, is exhausting. Your reserves, which you can recover by leading a calm life, with good nutrition and time for rest and sleep, get exhausted by too much yang. 

When your yin reserves are exhausted, you are even more susceptible to yang disturbances, you often can't sleep properly and you become more prone to tremble with fear. Eventually, if it gets really bad, you become unable to react properly. In fact, your personality goes to pieces.

You see this in people after extreme situations such as after shocks and explosions, both of which are very yang, or sudden accidents.

You also see it in what happens to people who have had to work for months or even years in positions of responsibility under impossible demands, which exhausts their yin.

You see it, too, in people whose bodies have been wasted by drugs.

War and extreme, prolonged, stress are common causes. Depending on your constitutional strength and your circumstances, there are lots of other causes. They include lack of sleep, perhaps from caring for others including wakeful children, frequent changes of shift pattern, especially between night and day shifts, frequent changes of time zone without time to recover, and so on.

Sometimes, this leads on to either 

However, Chinese medicine is much more subtle than that! It explains individual symptoms of nervous stomach anxiety much more specifically. Years of experience and thought that have gone into making Chinese medicine what it is. This means that it can generally suggest a way to deal with the problem.

How it explains your symptoms of nervous stomach anxiety depends on the symptoms you have. 

Chinese medicine explains everything in terms of Qi, which translates badly as 'energy'. Once you get the idea of what they mean by it, you'll start to appreciate how Chinese medicine thinks and works.

Let's take some of the nervous stomach anxiety symptoms that you may have. Suppose you get

  • a fluttering in your upper abdomen, just below your ribs ('butterflies')
  • dryness in your mouth
  • tightness or constriction in your throat, so hard to swallow
  • your heart pulse can be felt strongly

When you think about it, you may realise you have other symptoms too, such as sweaty palms but cold hands (in spite of being sweaty), tightness in your neck, and so on.

All these are various kinds of excess Yang Qi because they are either

  • moving (eg fluttering: movement is a sign of yang)
  • dryness (yang dries out your yin ability to moisturise)
  • yang rising up, uncontrolled by yin, so yang qi pushes upwards to your throat, tightening it
  • yang pushes up into your chest more than it should, causing a stronger, possibly faster pulse

Perhaps you know someone who, in the same situation, could remain calm, unruffled. It could even have been you, were it not for being unable to sleep well since someone rammed your car.

That lack of sleep, plus the shock, has upset the balance of yin and yang in you. Your yin energy has not recovered and your yang energy is slightly out of control, like a bunch of naughty schoolchildren in a classroom when the teacher leaves them alone for a few minutes.

Getting more specific about Nervous Stomach Anxiety

When you lack good sleep, your body can't restore what is meant in Chinese medicine by your 'Blood'. Click the link to find out more, but their concept goes much further than the Western medical concept of the red stuff in our veins that we call 'blood'.

For example, if you've ever seen someone losing blood fast, perhaps from a wound or hemorrhage, you'll recognise how their personality begins to go to pieces, they lose their poise, their character and resilience, all of which, in Chinese medicine, are stored in the Blood (capital B).

Heart and Kidney

In Chinese medicine, the Heart 'rules' the Shen, which (badly) translates as Mind. If our Mind is disturbed, so may be our Heart. That can carry through to our heart, giving us heart flutterings, for example, with anxiety.

But the Heart energy is balanced by the Kidney energy. (Actually, in Chinese medicine, the Heart sends its Qi and Blood downwards, and the Kidneys send their moisture upwards but let's just say they balance one another.)

If the Kidney energy doesn't balance the Heart, the Heart energy may become unstable. That can lead to anxiety, palpitations and flutterings. It can eventually lead to high blood pressure and a range of other symptoms which you can read about here.

Heart and Liver

Your Heart is also very influenced by your Liver.

Your Liver energy is disturbed when you get frustrated, or have to take too many decisions closely together, or can't get rid of stress and/or anger. Liver Qi stagnation is typical.

Then you may also get signs of Liver Yang or even Liver Fire.

All these produce nervous stomach anxiety too.

Heart, Spleen and Stomach

The Shen - you 'Mind' - 'lives in your Blood'. (Remember, this is Chinese medicine we're talking about! Tell this to a - Western medicine - doctor and s/he'll look at you in a peculiar way!)

If your Blood is deficient, or Stagnant, it can't live there comfortably.

It gets 'nervous', and you get flutterings.

At a deeper level, you may have symptoms of one of the most important 'extra-ordinary' vessels, called Chong Mo.

That can certainly lead to flutterings as part of your nervous stomach anxiety.

That set of symptoms often comes with other symptoms, which in women often arrive with painful periods.

But they can come for anyone, male or female.


Nervous Stomach Anxiety:
What to Do!

If you are a tobacco smoker, or other kind of drug taker, using the drug to calm the nervous stomach anxiety, why does it work?

It works, at least in the case of tobacco, by stimulating your Lungs to send energy DOWN.

This is why smokers take their first few puffs deeply. After the drug has taken effect, they ease off and may even forget the cigarette. By then, the tobacco has stimulated the Lungs to send energy downwards, which steadies the various kinds of energy problems mentioned above.

Of course, we all know what the secondary effects of smoking can be.

Due to Heart and Kidney imbalance

  • Yoga, with emphasis on the breathing, really helps
  • If you can't do yoga, take regular walks outside, enjoying the fresh air, and go for longer walks on your days off work
  • Meditation is good. So is prayer. Do either regularly.
  • Learn exercises to strengthen your abdomen and back

© Mj23 | Dreamstime.com - Woman Practicing Yoga Dancing Photo

  • Gentle dancing is great!
  • Make sure you get good sleep
  • Make sure you get enough rest and holidays
  • (Most of the above help strengthen your Yin energy.)
  • Assertiveness training helps regulate your Yang energy
  • Read Gallbladder: this can help steady your Yang energy
  • Gentle, stimulating massage is good.
  • Acupuncture is GREAT.

Due to Heart and Liver

  • Learn to spot when your Qi is stagnating. I've written a book about it, which (...ahem...) gets good reviews.
  • Take plenty of exercise, enough to get you out of breath regularly. Often physical sports that take your mind off frustrations are particularly good for you.
  • If very frustrated, you may benefit from firm massage on your back.
  • Acupuncture is really good at helping with Qi Stagnation.
  • Try to ease up on having to compete all the time, or be better than everyone else, or always first.
  • Vigorous dancing is good.

Due to Heart, Spleen and Stomach

  • Although suggestions made above for Heart and Kidney or Liver may help, if your Blood is deficient hard physical exercise won't be good for you and might make you feel faint.
  • You need to address your nutrition, and your body's ability to digest and absorb what you eat. What you eat will in due course make a huge difference to your health and nervous stomach anxiety.
  • You may benefit from supplements but realise you must take them for some time usually before you notice benefits.
  • Just as important will be to learn to eat regularly - good food, of course - taking it slowly to eat, chewing well, leaving time to relax or walk about a little afterwards, and ...
  • ... not to rush food, nor eat it while working nor driving nor snatched between tasks, nor if angry or upset and ...
  • ... not to eat big meals when tired.
  • Sleep is also important to help you recover your Spleen and Stomach Qi.
  • Take life a little more calmly and slowly. Rest more.
  • You'll enjoy light massage that is calming but not deep. It can be particularly pleasant done on your abdomen.
  • Acupuncture and advice about food, and possibly herbs, very often improves digestion and Blood.
  • Counselling, or talking to an understanding friend, can often allay anxieties. (But don't become reliant on them for support! They have their problems too.)

Pain from Nervous Stomach Anxiety

Eventually, if you do nothing about it and the cause continues, you'll start to get pain, which might - from your Western Doctor's point of view - be caused by a number of conditions, some serious, particularly if they start suddenly.

From the Chinese point of view, acute pain is nearly always of an excess of Yang, and treatment would be to soothe this. There are many things an acupuncturist can do about Excess Yang.

But if the pain is milder or more chronic it may (also) be from deficient Yin. So this would be looked at as well. Bear in mind, that if deficient Yin is the cause, it can take longer to get better, because your body has to be helped to become more resilient, having been 'worn down' by problems over a long period.

You may also have to confront the situation that causes your anxiety.

Always the aim is to balance Yin and Yang.


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. But ... there is no paper edition of Yang Deficiency as yet.

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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