Lung Qi Deficiency: tiredness after a bug!

Exhaustion - Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

Key Learning Points

  • Your Lung Qi manages your immune defence
  • After a cold, it may be weaker, giving you Lung Qi deficiency
  • If so, here’s what you perhaps did wrong
  • Find out what to do right!

Lung Qi deficiency occurs after a bad cold or a bout of bronchitis, for example. But there are many other ways of getting this syndrome. Click here to find out more about the Lungs.

If you’ve got it, you’re usually absolutely exhausted.

Symptoms of Lung Qi Deficiency

People vary, of course, but if you have this syndrome, you’ll probably have at least some of the following symptoms, the main ones being in bold:

  • mild cough, probably aggravated by exertion and cold.
  • shortness of breath. This means that you easily get breathless from slight exertion, such as walking, talking or climbing steps. This is a common symptom of Lung Qi deficiency.
  • your voice lacks its normal strength and vibrancy. You may have to keep clearing your throat to speak if you also have Lung Phlegm. When speaking, you soon run out of puff, and you may find that you can’t maintain volume, so your voice gets quieter and quieter as you speak.
  • you prefer not to speak too much because it’s exhausting
  • sweating: for no reason that you can think of, you find yourself perspiring, even when you are doing nothing. This is more common during the day.
  • your nose runs: either a clear or a white runny, watery, liquid, often occurring when your are tired or cold, or in the wind or a breeze, especially if it’s cold. This occurs when you have what is called Empty-Cold, due to a lack of Yang Qi, especially a lack of Kidney Yang Qi.
  • aversion to cold conditions, cold weather, cold air, cold water.
  • complexion – ie colour of your face – is often pale but quite a bright pale/white colour.
  • exhausted! Tired. Can be sleepy. May need frequent short sleeps or rests. You dislike hurrying.
  • Pulse: ’empty’, especially in the Lung pulse position, which is over the radial pulse in your right wrist crease. However, other pulses can also be empty or weak.
  • Tongue: usually pale, often with small transverse lines in the Lung area of the tongue, (which is just behind the front, or tip, of the tongue).

Frequently Ill?

Frequently getting ill with bugs suggests Lung Qi deficiency
Always got a bug? Maybe Lung Qi deficiency! Photo by CDC

A frequent tendency to catch colds or coughs is another sign of Lung Qi deficiency. You probably take all sorts of ‘over-the-counter’ remedies and vitamins to stop yourself getting colds so often.

In Chinese medicine, your Lung Qi – energy – controls or manages your defensive energy. With Lung Qi deficiency, your defensive energy will be weak. Then you become more susceptible to exterior pathogenic factors such as the Wind and Cold.

You could have this even though you take lots of nutritional supplements, vitamins, minerals and so on. That’s because it’s not primarily a nutritional issue, but an energy – qi deficiency.

(You may like to know that your Lung channel (meridian) starts in your stomach area and connects with your large intestine, which helps to explain what we now know more about, that your gut microbiome contains maybe 80% of our immune system. So having a healthy digestion helps your lungs work better, and vice versa.)

How do you get Lung Qi Deficiency?

There are a number of ways Lung Qi deficiency can happen, explained further below and on succeeding pages:

  1. When an acute respiratory condition has failed to clear, possibly because it received the wrong treatment, Lung Qi Deficiency is a frequent sequel. For more on this, see below.
  2. Constitutional lung weakness brings, almost by definition, a tendency to Lung Qi deficiency. (Constitutional? Inherited respiratory weakness, or parents who smoked heavily especially during your pregnancy, or a family history of tuberculosis – just some examples.)
  3. Bad lung habits, of which there are many, definitely predispose you to Lung Qi deficiency. (Bad habits? Bad posture, too much sitting, especially sitting hunched; smoking; lack of exercise; not knowing how to breathe properly; living in stale air or air that doesn’t circulate; wearing tight clothes that inhibit free breathing …)
  4. Emotions that weaken your Lung Qi (The main emotion that affects the Lungs is long-term grief – a sense of loss allowed to continue to your detriment, but also worry; anger and frustration, if suppressed, can also injure your Lung energy.)
  5. When one of your other energy organs – zang-fu – is weakened, and cannot support your Lung Qi. (The main zang-fu organ for this is your Spleen though any of them may work to your Lung’s disadvantage.)

Remains from an acute respiratory attack

Chronic mild cough can be from Lung Qi deficiency
Cough – Photo by Annie Spratt

After suffering an acute respiratory illness, such as a cold, cough or bronchitis, if you are too weak to clear it or you receive the wrong treatment, it remains behind in shadow-form.

Usually, given the right circumstances, a healthy body can shake off a cold after a few days. If someone says they still have a cold they caught some weeks before, they are probably describing Lung Qi deficiency.

Nowadays our bodies have many ways to combat the symptoms of acute illnesses. These symptoms include

  • pain
  • irritation
  • itch
  • soreness
  • blocked or runny nose
  • ongoing phlegm or extra mucus
  • streaming eyes
  • headache
  • tension
  • sneezing
  • coughing and often …
  • fever which acute illnesses provoke.


Modern Medicines and Lung Qi Deficiency

We have anti-inflammatories, analgesics and medicines to reduce our fevers, pain and discomfort. The thick head and blocked nose the illness gives us can be cleared with other medications. Modern medicine is powerful and wonderful.

However, the symptoms our body produces are its chosen ways to kill and banish the bug. By preventing our body’s natural defence system from working in the efficient way it has evolved, we lay ourselves to a deeper invasion by the bug, and a more lasting set of symptoms.

Why? Because the body tries to keep where it defends itself as far from the vital centre as possible. After all, if your country is being attacked, you would prefer to keep the invader at your borders rather than let him into your capital city.

When the invader gets to your capital city, he has successfully chased your defending army until their backs are to the wall. It would have been better to keep the fight far away from the centre.

That’s what you body tries to do when it puts all your symptoms in your nose and throat, your head and shoulders. These are the upper, outer, more yang-like places, where your body first joins battle.

The faster the bug achieves entry to your lungs or to your system, the harder it will be to expel.

Those first few hours …

Those first few hours or days when your body is generating symptoms, eg severe shivering and fever, intense and uncomfortable though they may be, are when it is generating the appropriate army of white blood cells to go out and demolish the invader.


Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay


Fever is not all bad!

Also, the fever speeds up your metabolism and weakens the opposition. After all, when the bug first gained entry, the temperature was just right for him. Raising a fever is like suddenly putting him in the middle of the Sahara on a hot day: he wilts! But your army is used to this and benefits from the heat.

If your body can produce that fever and keep it for long enough to kill the invader, you’ll recover quickly and may feel better than before.

Modern medicine suppresses your defenders


Photo by pina messina on Unsplash


Unfortunately, modern medicine works on the basis that symptoms are bad, so does its best to suppress them. This means that if your fever is suppressed and where your body would prefer to keep the battle – on the outside, or at least as far from the vital centre as possible – is breached, you’ll suffer the disease for longer and it will be harder to clear. When you stop your body’s natural fever-defence mechanism from working, you prevent the fever. That lets the bug pierce through your armour.

Chinese medicine describes this process of suppression as being the ‘wrong’ medicine. Antibiotics are powerful medicines, too often used for mild conditions (mild in the sense that they are localised, acute diseases with a limited time-frame – not mild in the sense that the symptoms are pleasant!).

This means that our bodies don’t completely clear the invader as their design has evolved to do. Then you get suppression and potentially a remaining pathogenic factor.


Antibiotics make it more likely you’ll get sick again, soon!

There are other consequences from using antibiotics. They are efficient killing machines, and wipe out your defence forces as much as they kill the invader.


If 80% of your immune system is in the tube that starts in your mouth and ends at your rectum, the same tube where your antibiotic pills go, is it any surprise when you quickly get ill again?


One of the most important ways to boost your immune system is to avoid weakening the bugs that are on your side! And most of them are in your gut.


Antibiotics aren’t fussy! They just kill the lot, bad or good.


In Chinese medicine, the Lung acupuncture channel starts in your Stomach! In its travels it includes your throat, your large intestine, your trachea and bronchi as well as your lungs. Because it starts in your Stomach it is intimately affected by the health of your gastro-intestinal tract.


Antibiotics are beginning to fail

Nowadays, we give antibiotics to animals to prevent illness and to boost productivity. When we eat those animals, we ingest some of those antibiotics: not good for our immune systems!


Also, for many years we’ve used antibiotics as a first line of defence. The bad bugs have learned how to cope with them and now antibiotics have stopped working in many serious illnesses.


So we are getting back to where we were before antibiotics were discovered. In fact we are worse off, because many of us have lost effective resistance to the bugs and because through intensive farming the food we eat is not as nutritious as it used to be.


And now the bugs are more ferocious and there are lots more of them.


What’s more, according to a report in the New Scientist (17 Aug 2019 – page 14), other drugs also encourage gene swapping between antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That means they boost the bacterias’ resistance to antibiotics. (Research led by Yue Wang at the University of Queensland in Australia.)


Such drugs include “ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, the lipid-lowering drug gemfibrozil, the beta-blocer propranolol and iopromide, used to produce better X-ray images.”


Avoid Medication if possible!

But even painkillers and other medications should, ideally, be avoided in non-serious acute illnesses.

person holding white and gray digital device: welcome a fever!
Fever has benefits! Photo by Mufid Majnun

If possible, welcome a fever! If your body can mount an effective fever, your cold will go much faster.

For more about antibiotics and how to help your body cope without needing them, click on antibiotics.

For a supplement that the author of this site uses and to which he attributes not getting a cold for seven years, click here.

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How to help yourself, after the cold

The following are for Lung Qi deficiency, for example, after a cold:

  • If you catch a cold, try not to use medication, of any kind.
  • After the cold, take probiotics BUT take them with warm water. Try to get the probiotics that are in the form of powder, taken with warm water. Probiotics made from dairy food have a very cold energy and may prolong any phlegm you have. Probiotics are even more important if you have taken antibiotics during the cold.
  • Pre-biotics are important, too: these include onions, leeks, asparagus, jerusalem artichokes, barley and oats – all cooked, of course. These provide foods your good bugs like.
  • After the cold, rest for a few days, keeping warm. Frequent short sleeps – naps – are good. Go to bed extra early for a week.
  • Don’t return to the gym or your former hectic rate of life until you feel better.
  • Try not to talk, let alone sing, too much. Speaking uses up Lung Qi. When well, you don’t notice this. With Lung Qi deficiency you need to conserve your resources.
  • Wrap up well. Cold air may make you cough. Keep warm.
  • Eat foods that are warm, not chilled, iced or raw. This helps your Spleen and Stomach energies work in your favour. For more about food, click Nutrition.
  • Avoid dairy foods, raw foods, junk foods, and sweets and sugar: the latter may give you a quick burst of energy, but you burn up more than you store, making you more tired afterwards. Dairy foods, on the other hand, prolong the phlegm in your nose, throat and lungs: better avoided. Raw foods take more energy to digest. While you recover, eat cooked, warm food.
  • Take your time over eating. Chew well. Relax!


Good food helps promote gut health, helping lung qi deficiency

Here are some more things you must do for Lung Qi deficiency

  • Avoid junk foods including sweets and sugar that give you a quick burst of energy. (OH! Did I say that already?)
  • Putting the right foods into you is vital in any lung qi deficiency diet! Read nutrition and warm foods. Chew well!
  • Add ginger to food for at least a week. Try herb teas containing ginger root.
  • Drink plenty of warm water but not so much that you need to pee every half-hour.
  • As you improve, take very gentle exercise, such as short walks, increasing their length as you grow stronger. Fresh air is excellent unless you let it chill you.
  • Make sure you maintain good posture so that you lungs are un-constricted. Sit erect, and every half-hour take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Resist the temptation to rest at your computer, because this nearly always predisposes you to bad posture, closing your lungs. Likewise, lying on a sofa, half propped up watching TV, because this too prevents your lungs from opening up.
  • Avoid damp, cold conditions.
  • Avoid rooms where there is no throughput of clear air. A room that is too warm may be pleasant but it will be humid, and bugs love warm damp places (like hospitals!). It is better to wear slightly more and keep warm that way than wear too little in a warm room with no air circulation.
  • Wash you hands carefully before putting them anywhere near your mouth, nose or eyes. Many people catch colds from viruses on their hands, picked up easily from touching contaminated surfaces. If you have Lung Qi deficiency, you have, by definition, low immunity, and are susceptible to further invasions! Equally, make sure the food you eat is well cooked and the utensils are clean.
  • If you don’t recover quickly, see an acupuncturist or a herbalist. I have often treated Lung Qi deficiency and it responds quickly unless there are complicating factors or there is a remaining pathogenic factor.

Deficiency syndromes:

Full or Excess syndromes:

Interior syndromes of the Lungs

Shared syndromes


Click to read about acupuncture points along the Lung channel.

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