Key Learning Points
Nowadays with modern medications, Stomach Fire‘s symptoms seem easy to manage. You almost certainly think you’ve got it under control with antacids or modern medicines like omeprazole. However, I don’t believe this really cures it. You may end up with other symptoms – see below.
Here’s how to understand your condition and what to do about it.
When these symptoms first began you probably ignored them: they were mild, occasional and only after some kinds of food. The symptoms were easily remedied by taking antacids.
Time passed and you probably had more worries. Also, you began to notice foods that did suit you and foods that did not.
Now you began getting pain more often. Your doctor prescribed medicine for heartburn and to prevent or repair a gastric ulcer.
You were told to take the medication regularly, not just when in pain. And it works! No pain – Great! But sooner or later you notice symptoms again as the heartburn returns. Eventually you need additional medication or a higher dose of your doctor’s medicine.
Worse, his medicine will bring additional symptoms. Some of them are listed on the packet and some of them are peculiar to your interaction with the medicine.
Read more on this at Primary and Secondary actions.
So on this page I try to show how Chinese medicine might approach your problem. It may suggest changes in your diet which you probably know about, plus changes in other areas of life.
Were you to consult a practitioner of Chinese medicine for your Stomach Fire, either a herbalist or acupuncturist, usually any side-effects would be short-term and easily adjusted for in the next treatment – unlike many Western medicines.
Stomach Fire’s symptoms cannot be ignored! (By the way, you don’t need all of them to qualify!)
Stomach Fire can change as it worsens. If you have Stomach Fire symptoms, be reassured, it usually takes a while for the worst of the symptoms to appear, if they appear at all. And then, only with a continuation of strong causes over a long of time.
But in Chinese medicine, the potential is there.
There are two main causes: food and emotions. One can fuel the other. However, sometimes you find someone who eats all the wrong foods but leads a very calm and placid life, so the emotional symptoms don’t develop.
The foods you eat are making you ill. Please don’t be insulted! Foods can make you hot or cold – read about the energy of food under Nutrition.
With Stomach Fire you are suffering from heat – you can feel the burning! Probably you are eating, or have eaten in the past, too much food that is classified as heating.
To discover which foods are heating, go to Hot Foods.
Bear in mind, however, that very concentrated foods, or eating your food in a concentrated pattern (too much food in a short period of time) can also provoke heat as your body strives to cope.
From the Chinese point of view, this is not a balanced intake of food over the day.
Also, of course, apart from herbs, most foods in Chinese medicine are more watery than people in the West are used to, or like.
For example, if you read up my page on Clogstoun Congee you’ll realise that grains, cooked the way explained, can carry far more water into your system than eating comparatively ‘dry’ foods then drinking lots of water.
Although a small number of people get cold when angry or frustrated, usually strong emotions are heating:
You may think this doesn’t apply to you, but concentrating on one subject for long periods, whilst not moving around much, amounts to stress from ‘over-thinking’. This would have a heating effect.
These, and other strong emotions except easy laughter, cause Qi stagnation especially Stomach Qi stagnation. Qi Stagnation causes Heat which produces Stomach Fire.
Also producing Qi stagnation, with consequent tendency to Stomach Fire:
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If you have only one of these as a cause (ie either a heating diet OR Qi stagnation-producing emotions) Stomach Fire will take longer to appear.
Unfortunately, if stressed we tend to gravitate towards heating foods, so the syndrome arrives faster. (Think of all the packets of crisps, biscuits, and fat-coated foods you enjoy when relaxing – probably with a nice glass containing alcohol! – all heating!)
And people who eat heating foods are more easily stressed.
So, usually, both exist as causes.
You probably already know about antacids. Many of these are based on bicarbonate of soda, which you can buy from your grocery as a powder and is much cheaper than the pills pharmacists like to sell you.
But taken frequently, antacids, which contain various minerals, easily unbalance your body’s metabolism. For example, excess sodium – as salt or as a bicarbonate – may eventually raise your blood pressure.
Aluminium, often used in antacids, is thought to be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. And maybe constipation too.
If you are taking antacids more than three times a week, you probably should see a doctor – or an acupuncturist!
Various drugs control, or suppress, how much stomach acid you produce. They include cimetidine (Tagamet), omepraxole (Prilosec/Losec) and ranitidine (Zantac). The technical name for these is ‘protein pump inhibitor‘.
Every medication under the sun has both a primary and a secondary effect, albeit not noticed initially.
“In an editorial, Ian Forgacs, of King’s College Hospital in London, said the drug may not be as benign as doctors believe. The drug group may be playing a part in increased cases of pneumonia, and it may also be doubling the risk of hospital-acquired infections such as C. difficile.” (Source: British Medical Journal, 2008; 336: 2)
In other research done by the University of Nottingham UK, ‘people taking the ulcer drug omeprazole face a 10-fold increased risk of developing gastroenteritis caused by the bug campylobacter, now a more common stomach infection than salmonella.’
Why do you tend to get more infections if you take one of these protein pump inhibitors? Because they suppress stomach acid, which is a potent protection against infection! Your gastric juices kill bugs! So if you suppress stomach acid, you get more bugs.
Western medicine realises that mental stress, especially chronic stress, can lead to physical problems. Hence your doctor prescribes ‘anxiety medication’ to help you worry less: it’s ‘anti stress’! Basically he does anxiety treatment ie to reduce anxiety. If you get high anxiety symptoms you’ll almost certainly have Stomach Qi Stagnation, which leads on to Stomach Fire. (However, there are many types of anxiety disorders, and not all of them produce Stomach Fire. Find out more at our page on acupuncture and anxiety.)
Ultimately (the secondary effect) this anxiety medication suppresses your yang energy, leading in time to a form of yang deficiency: you gradually become less reactive to life, which slows you down, possibly retarding how you respond to events. This may help make you more relaxed but in some situations could endanger your life.
If your condition was diagnosed as being due to Stomach Fire, (but notice that burning in your epigastrium could also be due to other syndromes, such as Stomach Yin deficiency or Stomach Qi Stagnation*), the correct treatment is to
That’s not so easy by yourself! See an acupuncturist!
*Stomach Qi stagnation often comes from or reinforces depression and then you’ll need – probably first – acupuncture for anxiety and depression. This would include acupuncture for Spleen Qi deficiency. In one way, the treatment helps you understand how to reduce internal inflammation.
As regards stress relief activities – ways to reduce stress – read our page on Qi Stagnation and Stress: what to do to relieve stress.
What YOU can do is reduce the foods that make it worse.
Changing one’s diet is not easy, but if you gradually remove one thing at a time and add something better (eg less peanuts and meat, and more green vegetables) your Stomach Fire condition will have a chance to improve.
I suggest you do not suddenly abandon eating all the foods mentioned on our page on Hot Foods, in favour of green salads!
While theoretically this might be right, and has been known to work, the more attached you are to your current diet, the less likely you are to keep to a new diet. So, change gradually!
For example, start by eating one meal less daily of fried or deep-fried food and add some – or more – green vegetables to your diet.
Whichever way you choose, chew well. Also:
Very difficult to change these in yourself except over time or with help. Try you must! Or you must give up something before something gets you!
Regarding the effects of stress, resentment, anger, frustration etc, if your condition is diagnosed as due to Qi Stagnation, acupuncture can almost certainly help. Try it!
Other things to do:
Here are various other Stomach syndromes (which can also combine with other syndromes). The main ones to watch out for, if you have Stomach Fire, are marked with an asterix (*):
Check my collection of books:
Too much food with the Salty taste in Chinese medicine will make you ill. But you need some! Which foods do they mean?
The spicy taste in Chinese medicine adds lightness and energy to your diet, helping your lungs work better. You need some, but not too much!
Foods classified as having a sweet taste in Chinese medicine are vital for health. But too little or too much ‘sweet’ food leads to disease.
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