Stomach Cold and Deficient: you get weak and tired

Tired and Pale From Cold food

Key Learning Points

  • What are the symptoms of this debilitating Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome?
  • I’ve often had it, and it’s been my own fault! Yes – chilly tummy or cold tummy!
  • How do you get rid of it?
  • What should you do next?

Stomach Cold and Deficient is a syndrome in Chinese medicine that explains what happens when you either don’t eat enough protein or do eat too much cold food – though there are other causes.

It can be low-grade and chronic for years then lead on to more serious conditions. I’ve noticed it often in vegetarians who habitually eat only raw food such as fruits and salads. For them, a  few small changes can often transform their health.

What are the symptoms of ‘cold-tummy-syndrome’ and what can you do about it?


Goat Cheese Salad: looks good but not if you have Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome!

Symptoms of Stomach Cold and Deficient

I’ve had this Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome (a cold belly or chilly tummy) many times, so I know all about it! And I can tell you, it’s been my own fault each time! So I do know what to do.

Here are the typical symptoms, though after the main list I’ve added a few more, familiar to me and to patients who’ve had it too.

The main or most common symptoms are these – you’ll probably have quite a few of them:

  • your stomach area, or epigastrium, will feel uncomfortable
  • your stomach area or epigastrium will hurt a bit: this is a mild ache, not a strong pain usually
  • loss of appetite: you won’t feel hungry, although see below for more on this
  • lack of thirst: you won’t feel thirsty, although see below
  • not usually much nausea, although you may find fluids come up unexpectedly: if so the fluid will probably be clear and without the usual strong searing acid or bile taste 


Celeriac Soup - nourishing as you improve from Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome
Celeriac Soup recipe (recipe below), nourishing and warming for a cold belly/chilly tummy!


  • if you have anything to eat or drink, you’ll want it to be warm, which will help the discomfort, but to start with don’t use the super-healthy soup shown above. Instead, start with the recipe given further down this page. Then get someone to make you Clogstoun Congee!
  • Any food (remember to chew it very thoroughly before swallowing it to make it easier to digest) will probably make you feel better unless it is frozen, chilled or just cold. So, only cooked, warm food for you!

Arms, Legs, Body and Face in Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome

  • you’ll feel cold, especially your legs and arms
  • your arms and particularly your legs will feel weak
  • you’ll feel tired and fatigued, even though you’ve done nothing much
  • your face will look pale: but don’t rush to the mirror! Facial pallor occurs in other syndromes, not just Stomach Cold and Deficient!
  • you will probably like mild pressure on your stomach
  • you’ll like your stomach being gently massaged or rubbed
  • Pulse: your pulse will be ‘slow’ and ‘weak’. It will probably be classified as being ‘deep’, not a reference to the mysterious and fascinating profundity of your character I’m afraid but to the depth and pressure needed to detect your pulse
  • Tongue: its colour will be pale and it will be very moist


The above symptoms are the main ones, but there are others:

  • tendency to stoop – standing upright is an effort and hurts your stomach
  • preference to hold your stomach area, or to stand with your arms crossed, so that your epigastrium is protected and pressed – usually you like this pressure
  • worry about your health
  • you feel delicate – you dislike being pushed or jostled whereas when in robust health you probably don’t notice. For instance you won’t like being driven along roads with rough or pot-holed surfaces
  • your stomach is cold to touch, or you have a stomach cold feeling, even if it’s not cold to the touch; or your stomach feels cold inside – maybe your stomach is always cold?
  • preference for warmth on your stomach (eg from a bean-bag or a hot water bottle)
  • you’ll like warmth on your back too
  • more bed-clothes and extra blankets on your bed feels good
Warm bedclothes for Stomach Cold and Deficient
Warm bedding – Photo by Annie Spratt
  • you move more slowly than usual.
  • easily exhausted and weakened by exertion or climbing stairs or hills.
  • dislike of cold air.
  • you’ll prefer to sit rather than stand.
  • you may prefer to sit up slightly when in bed.
  • stools will be loose and without much odour: this symptom doesn’t necessarily come with Stomach Cold and Deficient, but is common with Stomach Qi deficiency which often accompanies it.
  • you may pass plenty of not very smelly wind: a ‘polite’ fart!
  • phlegm in your throat or nose, probably colourless and runny or white. You may need to clear your throat before speaking.
  • You will probably prefer company or, at least, someone nearby.
  • Make sure your room has a supply of fresh air. Fresh air breathed deeply helps you digestion. Or go for a short walk (well wrapped up, of course)!


If severe …

If severe, you may get palpitations, with your heart not pumping regularly, because this ‘Stomach Cold and Deficient’ syndrome will be creeping into other syndromes including Qi stagnation and Blood Stasis, or Heart Blood stasis caused by Heart Yang deficiency.  You can definitely do without that!

Other syndromes which you often get at the same time, or lead to Stomach Cold and Deficient:

Sorry, we’re not done yet! There are various other syndromes in Chinese medicine that often come with this chilly tummy syndrome, and may even lead to it.

The main ones are:

The Main Causes of Stomach Cold and Deficient

Apart from the four syndromes mentioned above, the most easily recognised two factors causing this Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome are:

  1. Food/diet
  2. Weather

Food is probably the main cause of ‘Stomach Cold and Deficient’

There are two parts to this. You could have one or both.


Watermelon Platter: definitely not good for Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome
Photo by Amanda Lins on Unsplash


  • Most likely: you have been eating too much food or drink that is cold, iced, chilled or frozen. It may have been raw, too. For example, in summer you may have eaten too many salads, too much fruit, and drunk too many cold or iced drinks – not to mention all those iced sorbets and ice creams. And if you do this in winter, well, the syndrome will just happen sooner. Sometimes bad meat causes this too.
  • Possibly you have taken too much stimulating food like coffee, dark chocolate, strong black tea, even if taken hot.
  • Less likely: you have eaten too little good, nourishing food. What does that mean? It means a range of foods that cover all your nutritional needs, especially protein, and without too much junk. It can mean, depending on your constitution, not enough food that is cooked and warm to the touch when eaten. Read my page on Nutrition for more on this.


Weather can also cause Stomach Cold and Deficient


Foggy Forest - cold and damp
Photo by Lukas Neasi on Unsplash


This comes down to Cold again. If Cold invades your Stomach (cold belly, chilly tummy) you can get a syndrome, already mentioned, called Stomach Cold Invasion. That can lead on to a condition of chronic ‘Stomach Cold and Deficient’, the syndrome discussed on this page.

How might this Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome happen? Here’s how it happened to me. My wife wanted to try Clay-Pigeon Shooting. If you don’t know what this is, it’s using a 12-bore shotgun to shoot clay discs that are hurled out by a machine. They fly a little like real pigeons and drop to the ground around 40 – 90 yards away unless your shot pulverises them.

So, on a mountain-side with occasional flurries of icy snow: freezing weather. A lot of standing around. I thought I was wearing enough but after three hours I suddenly got very cold, and even a warm whisky failed to heat me up. We then had to drive for three hours to get home, by when I was VERY cold indeed, even with the car’s heating on full.

I was shivering and with many of the symptoms set out above. This was during the Christmas holidays, and so I had to treat myself.

Eventually doing the sensible things, and taking the right herbs, got me better. But each time I get the syndrome it seems to last a little longer if I don’t catch it early. NB I hadn’t eaten anything cold that day or the previous few days, and until this happened had felt well.

So, if it can happen to me – and I’m supposed to know something about it! – it can happen to you.

(Actually, this is somewhat similar to an invasion of Full-Cold.)

Jonathan Brand colours

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What should YOU do about Stomach Cold and Deficient?

Very simple, once you’ve worked out that you have this cold belly/chilly tummy – Stomach Cold and Deficient syndrome:

Warmth helps Stomach Cold and Deficiency: round firepit field with fired charcoal - warmth for Stomach Cold and Deficient
Heat assists Stomach and Spleen energies to digest food better. Photo by Vincent Camacho

Warmth and Warm Beanbags!

Do it yourself. With moxa, (but be careful, CAREFUL, read the page on moxibustion first!!!) warm Ren 12 and Stomach 36.

All right – maybe not? OK. See an acupuncturist for this.

But there’s lots you can do as well, such as (speaking from experience, here, remember!):

  • Take warm food and drink, not raw or cold or chilled or iced or frozen
  • CHEW WELL! It’s amazing what a difference this can make!
  • Wear more both when in bed and when up
  • Turn up the central heating
  • Get into a hot bath and stay there until your forehead starts sweating
  • Use a warm bean bag
  • In bed, wear more than usual, and take your warm bean bag (and preferably a warm partner) with you. Apply the warm bean bag to your abdomen or back, as desired. Be careful not to burn yourself!
  • Men! No Sex until you’re better! Because sex drains your yang energy! (See Jimg-essence for more.)
  • Avoid fruit and raw or cold food or drink – I hope that’s obvious by now? Also avoid alcohol, except as below.
  • With Stomach Cold and Deficient, stay indoors, but make sure you have fresh air in the room (because this helps your Lungs make Qi which then helps your Stomach back to health. Also, your Lung acupuncture channel starts in your epigastrium, at an important point for your digestion, called Ren-12). So, fresh air and a warm room.
  • Drink warm teas but not coffee because coffee, although yang, drains your yin resources leading to yin deficiency, which I’ve written a book about.

Home-made ‘xiao jian zhong tang’ for Stomach Cold and Deficient

Make yourself a warm ginger drink as follows:


Cinnamon Malt Onion Ginger: excellent for Stomach Cold and deficient
Basic recipe for Stomach Cold and Deficient


  • For the basic recipe for Stomach Cold and Deficient you need a few slices of ginger root, a small onion or a shallot, a stick of cinnamon and a teaspoonful of malt, (failing which brown molasses-type sugar). 
  • Cut up the onion or shallot and put it plus the ginger slices and cinnamon in a saucepan with two mugfuls of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from the heat, add the malt. Hold your nose and sip it. Nobody said you’d like it. Chinese herbs don’t work because you do or don’t like them. Keep up supplies of this through the day, and night if necessary, making sure you take it warm, not cold. 
  • If bored, add a little ground pepper or some nutmeg or cloves or mulled wine and turn it into a kind of Austrian Gluwein. This will cheer you up, if nothing else!
  • (Note for the know-alls! This recipe is my adaptation of xiao jian zhong tang using equivalents that might be found in many kitchens. The cinnamon isn’t as powerful as that used in the Chinese recipe, which also has bai shao – paeony root, zhi gan cao – licorice root and da zao – special Chinese date. I’ve used onion instead, as it is sweet, warming, a little pungent, and warms both the epigastrium area and the Lungs. It also helps to dispel phlegm.)


Celeriac Soup

Another soup that most people with a cold belly or chilly tummy (ie Stomach Cold and Deficient) often like is this celeriac based soup, made with vegetable stock, celeriac, celery, a leek and other vegetables like spinach and fennel root.

celeriacs on black wooden crate
Soup made from celeriac is wonderfully nourishing and warming.

Rather than repeat the recipe, you can find it under vegetable recipes. It’s a good soup for cold, wintry weathers, warming and nourishing.

What next should you do?

Take it easy!

Although this may not have seemed much, you’ve been ill.

Your Stomach and Spleen-Pancreas working jointly are the daily basis for your energy and blood which together with other parts of your body keep you healthy and strong. When your Stomach Qi is low, you are more susceptible to disease and over-strain, physical or mental.

When your Stomach Qi is down, as with Stomach Cold and Deficient, it takes a few days to recover.

You need small amounts of nourishing food.


This condition is not unlike the condition of vata in Ayurvedic medicine from India. For this vata condition they recommend warm, sweetened milk. Take it last thing at night – but not too much, otherwise you’ll be up and down to the toilet all night to pee, getting colder each time! In Western countries, there’s a well-known commercial powder called Horlicks, which you make a drink out of with hot milk. This is similar, though I think it has too much sugar in it.

During that time …

  • keep warm, 
  • eat warm foods. Make Clogstoun Congee, which is easily digestible and full of energy;
  • don’t over-exert, 
  • rest more,
  • get lots of sleep, and 
  • try to avoid big worries and stress. Worry and anxiety test and drain your Stomach and Spleen energies more than almost anything else apart from cold food and damp conditions. I treat many people who are ill predominantly from worrying under stress.



Stroll on a green field in warmth - good for Stomach Cold and Deficient
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash


  • as you get better, go for walks in fresh air (and sun if available) but dress warmly when outside. Stop walking before you get tired or cold.
  • avoid speaking loudly or for too long, let alone singing. These test your Lung qi, which is also rooted in your Stomach. 
  • address deficiencies in your diet. If you habitually eat no protein, you should search for a range of alternative, acceptable protein foods. Also, foods have energies, about which you can read under Nutrition.  Learn more under Cold Foods (which you should avoid) and Warm Foods (which, cautiously, you need more of.)
  • you may wonder about taking supplements. I suggest you avoid supplements to start with, or take only very small quantities. The one I prefer and use is made of natural foods, dried and powdered, taken with water – warm, of course! so you can easily vary the amount taken. However, my recommended supplement is not the cheapest and if you buy it I shall make a small amount of money. It does, however, come with huge amounts of research behind it which you can read about before purchasing.
  • As you get back to a ‘normal’ diet, avoid eating huge meals to begin with. Always chew well before swallowing.
  • Continue taking a warm wheat bag or hot-water bottle to bed with you for a few days. 

Stomach Syndromes

Here are various Stomach syndromes which can combine with other syndromes:

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3 Responses

  1. Hello sir,
    I suffer from stomach cold and tried the celeriac soup, 2 hours later my scalp was so itchy.
    Could you explain me the link please?
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    1. Hi Moha, Probably you have a sensitivity to something in the soup you made. If so, depending where on your scalp got itchy might point to which channels were affected. Most probably it was your Gallbladder channel as that covers the largest area of your scalp, adnd if so, your Liver and Gallbladder were affected by something eaten which had the effect of increasing one of the forms of your Liver yang, resulting in the itch. Hope this helps.

      1. Well the soup was made of celery root alone and a pinch of salt, so there is only one culprit here.
        But what you told me is interesting about the liver GB scalp connection.
        After some research I found that it was a detox reaction from the liver.
        My next pee confirmed it as it was white and thick, and I know that this happens when you have toxins released and cleaned out by the lymphatic system.
        Thank you for helping me.
        Have a nice day!

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