Nutritive and Defensive Qi Disharmony

Photo by Jovana Askrabic on Unsplash

This Nutritive and Defensive Qi disharmony happens when the Chinese medical equivalent of your immune system (the Defensive Qi) can’t reduce its activity during sleep (the Nutritive phase).

Your Nutritive Qi – Ying qi

If you want to know what kind of Qi – energy – is stimulated when an acupuncture needle is used, well, you’ve found it – your Ying Qi. 

This ying qi – Nutritive Qi – comes from the food you eat and the fluids you drink. 


Healthy Food for gut health and healthy ying qi
Healthy Food Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash


Its job is to regulate the smooth working of your Yin energy organs  or Yin zang-fu (these are your HeartSpleenLungsKidneys and Liver) and to moisten your Yang zang-fu (your Small Intestines, Stomach, Large Intestine, Bladder and Gallbladder and Three-Heater). 

It works closely with your Blood and your blood vessels, and connects everything up via the acupuncture channels, through which it circulates.

Although it circulates all the time, it becomes active, at least in its nourishing and repairing roles, when you rest and particularly when you sleep. So if you can’t or don’t sleep well, it can’t repair your body properly. What happens? You become tired and more easily damaged and susceptible to frustrations and illness.

(So if you’re receiving acupuncture treatment, make sure you’ve eaten something beforehand. It needn’t, in fact it shouldn’t be a huge meal – but you do need something. Otherwise, acupuncture won’t be so successful. Oh! And please don’t replace food with caffeine! Caffeine – your coffee – isn’t food! To find out more click on coffee.)


Your Defensive Qi – Wei Qi

Ideally, your Defensive Qi (Chinese name – Wei Qi) circulates in your acupuncture channels during the day. At night it ‘submerges’ during sleep. That’s when your ying or Nutritive Qi takes over and during sleep, re-nourishes your body and mind.

Policeman with gun - symbol for Wei qi
Alert defence measures – Photo by Alexandru Silitra on Unsplash

Where does this Defensive Qi circulate? In Chinese medicine, the Yang area of the body, where it circulates, is in – or just under – the skin, and in the parts that move the body, the muscles. This is the external – outside area.

(Just to remind you … Your Nutritive – ying – Qi is what feeds and repairs your body, and circulates in the internal energy organs, being a Yin area.)

What does Defensive – wei – Qi do? If working properly, it defends and protects you from what are called external pathogenic factors, the chief of which are – Chinese concepts again – Cold, Wind, Damp, Heat.

But it does more than that, because it is also feeds these outer areas and keep them warm. So it manages the temperature of your body.

As part of this heat-regulating function it has another very important function. This is to open your sweat pores when you need to cool down. Also, to close them when you need to keep warm. You sometimes find people who sweat all the time or when there’s no reason for it. In that case, their Defensive – wei – Qi is probably not functioning properly.

This defensive Qi does not enter the acupuncture channels, and is mainly managed by your Lung Qi. (So read the link to understand why you should cultivate lung health!)

With low defensive energy, you easily catch colds

Consequently, with Lung Qi deficient and Defensive Qi is low, you’ll often feel cold. Also, you’ll be prone to catching more diseases, including colds.

However, how resistant you are to disease – your wei qi – depends also on your Jing-Essence and Kidney Yang. When either of those is weak (check the linked pages) you’ll also have low powers of resistance.


Guard Dogs Running Amok symbolise Nutritive and Defensive Qi Disharmony

Think of it like this. Suppose you have a house with a garden round it.

In the garden you keep several large ferocious dogs who roam around, barking vigorously at anything that moves.


Over-excited guard dogs unable to calm down symbolise Nutritive and Defensive Qi disharmony
Guard dog – Photo by Shumilov Ludmila on Unsplash


They can roam at any time within the grounds though they normally sleep at night, but on this occasion they are over-excited. Maybe you forgot to feed them?

So they tear around, frenziedly barking, generally running amok, and preventing your sleep.

(Of course, this could be because you’ve caught a cold, or similar. You get lots of symptoms as your defensive energy puts up a fight, keeping you awake. Lots more about this under six stages, and four levels. But suppose you haven’t caught a bug and you still get the symptoms mentioned? That’s this nutritive and defensive qi disharmony we’re talking about.)

Acupuncture Points to Open Doors

In Chinese medicine, there are acupuncture points which in effect, calm the dogs down and help them to find their kennels, leaving you in peace. These points lie along acupuncture channels where you feel disturbances, like headaches or tension.

In this syndrome the Yang can’t enter its rest-state so remains in its Yang state.


Symptoms of Nutritive and Defensive Qi Disharmony

Because the Yang gets ‘stuck’ in its Yang state you get this nutritive and defensive qi disharmony:

  • you can’t close your eyes so you can’t fall asleep
  • if you do get to sleep you find it difficult to remain asleep
  • lots of dreams
  • headache
  • a sense of pressure in the head, often coming up from the chest
  • intolerance of drafts and wind
  • Pulse: wiry
  • Tongue: possibly redder tip


This nutritive and defensive qi disharmony syndrome is hard to diagnose in Western medicine.  You will probably have tried many medications.

In theory at least, Chinese medicine does have an effective treatment for it, which I’ve used quite successfully from time to time.

Re-balancing any nutritive and defensive qi disharmony is important, because otherwise your system will be too yin or too yang, so unable to repair itself properly. 

That means you’ll feel a bit ‘wired’ or restless and more prone to disease.

Acupuncture points used for this include points to open the doors, let the dogs run free and find their kennels.

Return from Nutritive and Defensive Qi Disharmony to Insomnia.

Click to get back to Syndromes.

Jonathan Brand colours

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