Stomach and Spleen Deficiency

Almost everyone thinks they have Stomach and Spleen deficiency sooner or later. They’re probably right what with diet, worry, work and the environment!
Qi Stagnation book cover
You can learn more about Qi Stagnation and stress in our book on stress.
Fatigue is a result one Stomach and Spleen qi deficiency
Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

Stomach and Spleen Deficiency? I expect you’ll decide you have this when you’ve read this page. Almost everyone thinks they have the symptoms, sooner or later. I’ve just read it through again myself and pretty well convinced myself I have it too!

Short-term, you often know why you get it.

Those of us who don’t get this syndrome may have other problems, but having a secure digestion is for them a major blessing.


Yellow Cake, not good for Stomach and Spleen
Junk food to sink your Stomach and Spleen!


You’ll make more sense of this page after you’ve read the pages on Stomach and Spleen which tell you what they do, from the point of view of Chinese medicine.

Symptoms of Stomach and Spleen Deficiency

  • abdominal distension, especially after eating
  • epigastric discomfort
  • tiredness
  • lack of appetite
  • loose stools
  • lack of taste
  • pallor
  • weakness of legs and arms
  • lethargy and lassitude
  • hypochondria: worrying, not least about your health
  • walking upright is an effort, you prefer to stoop, sit, or lie
  • Eventually, your body tends towards obesity
  • Pulse: the Stomach/Spleen position on the right wrist in the middle position feels ’empty’
  • Tongue: your tongue is pale


Why do you get Stomach and Spleen deficiency?

There are four main reasons for this, see below, but any number of contributing factors. If you click and read Stomach and Spleen first you’ll understand more.

The main thing to realise is that the strength of your Stomach and Spleen is vital to your health. Through them comes the food that keeps you alive.

If your Stomach can process what you eat properly you’ll live. Otherwise …(!)  … well, you won’t necessarily die but you’ll be harder to cure.

Stomach and Spleen Qi deficiency makes you more susceptible to many other syndromes. Working well together they put energy – Qi – into your system. 

Without Qi, you get sick, as your immune system can’t do its work.

Please take care of your digestion! What would a worm be without its digestion? We and the worms are related, though it’s easier to see this in some people than in others. 


1. Diet

This covers not just the quality of food from a Western medical point of view but, from the Chinese perspective, Nutrition, and also how you prepare and eat food:

  • the kind of food you eat and its quality
  • how well cooked is the food you eat: Chinese medicine frowns on too much raw or cold – worse, chilled or frozen – food and drinks – even beer! It prefers not too much fruit or salads. Cold foods and drinks damage your Spleen function and stop it transforming what you eat into Blood and Qi.

photography of person holding glass bottles during sunset

  • concerning cold liquids, better to sip them in small quantities at a time so as not to ‘extinguish’ your Stomach ‘fire’
  • how much you eat (should be not too much, but enough)
  • how well you chew what you eat
  • diets usually lead to Stomach and Spleen deficiency, as may eating too little for your needs
  • how regularly you eat
  • how relaxed you are when you eat: working or rushing, or eating too fast eventually causes Stomach Qi stagnation and then Stomach and Spleen deficiency. Many people eat at their desks nowadays: not good!
  • except in certain conditions it is better to eat regular meals and not to snack or continually shove titbits into your mouth. Continually grazing on food can lead to a condition called Retention of Food.
  • sweet food in excess causes Stomach and Spleen deficiency, as does empty food, ie food lacking nutritive value or full of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, even though these kill bugs and parasites. Cold sweet food like ice-cream – well…! How unfortunate that people with Stomach and/or Spleen deficiency nearly always have a sweet tooth!

variety of ice creams
Photo by Lama Roscu
  • reading when eating gradually leads to Stomach Qi deficiency: this becomes evident only after years of it, so is hard to attribute.


2. Emotions

Our emotions have a huge effect on our digestion.

For instance, eating when worried, sad, angry or tense interferes with our Stomach and Spleen energies. That leads to Stomach and Spleen deficiency.

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3. Mental effort

Your Stomach and Spleen are the main energies in your body that deal with thinking. (There’s a saying, ‘Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest‘ a topic.) Over-thinking, ie worrying, weakens Stomach Qi.


Studying and mental effort can lead to Stomach and Spleen deficiency
Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras
  • Working mentally for too long at a time
  • Many different topics or projects, one after the next, done with great concentration
  • Not taking a break from work often enough
  • Having several jobs in different places, requiring you to rush between them, seldom getting enough time to eat in a leisurely manner
  • Over-thinking, constantly analysing situations, or continually brooding over matters, including obsession, weakens your Spleen function
  • Always reading, especially textbooks: but any continued or very frequent reading habits will eventually lead to Stomach and Spleen deficiency
  • I also think that sitting for ages watching TV, working, or playing games (including online) leads to Stomach and Spleen deficiency. (This also causes other syndromes such as Qi stagnation and Blood stasis). It is important to get up and change what you do, and move around regularly.
  • Writing website pages too much. (… Ahem!)


4. Environmental factors

The weather and temperature of your surroundings can affect your digestion.

Cold in particular can invade or disrupt your digestion. See under Stomach Cold invasion.

Damp particularly damages your Spleen. You could be exposed to this either by the weather, or by sitting on damp ground, or getting wet and not drying off and warming up properly afterwards. I have had patients who didn’t really get better until they moved out of their damp houses or repaired the leaks.

Cold damp weather can lead to Stomach and Spleen deficiency.

Keep warm and dry!


green tree on green grass field during daytime
Photo by Jay Wennington



Consequences of this syndrome if untreated or corrected

If your body doesn’t get the nutrition it needs, it falls back on what is called your jing-essence. Theoretically this makes you grow older faster! But you won’t notice it at the time.

In the meantime your body doesn’t function properly and one or more of the following syndromes is likely:

  • Damp as the Spleen fails to keep it at bay
  • Phlegm as, without proper food, garbage builds up (not technically an accurate explanation)
  • yin deficiency of either Stomach or Spleen



If you’re still with me, you should be more aware of why you have Stomach and Spleen Deficiency!

If you do nothing about its causes the syndrome will remain with you and eventually lead on to other conditions, see above under ‘consequences’ no matter how much treatment you receive!

Still, this is such a common condition that Chinese medicine wouldn’t be worth much if it couldn’t treat it.

Fortunately it can. How?

  • Tonify Stomach and Spleen Qi


Yup, that’s it.

How? – perhaps you ask?

Acupuncture to treat Stomach and Spleen deficiency
Moxa on needles
Moxa/moxibustion on needles

  • Herbsa galaxy of Chinese herbal formulae. Some of them don’t taste too bad. 


Don’t forget, a major part of YOUR cure is in YOUR hands.

Here are various Stomach syndromes (all part of TCM theory):

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