Bad breath? Burning guts? Thirsty? Red tongue with dirty yellow coating? Stomach Fire is what you've probably got.
You almost certainly think you've got it under control with antacids or modern medicines like omeprazole. I don't believe this really cures it and it may give you other symptoms - see below.
Here's how to understand your condition and what to do about it.
When these symptoms first began you may have 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, but you also had clearer likes and dislikes regarding food.
Now you get pain more often so your doctor prescribes medicine for heartburn and to prevent or repair a gastric ulcer.
You're told to take the medication regularly, not just when in pain. It gets rid of the pain - Great! But sooner or later you will notice other symptoms, either as the heartburn returns mildly, needing additional antacids 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!
Stomach Fire can change in several ways as it worsens. If you have Stomach Fire symptoms, be reassured, it usually takes a while, and a continuation of strong causes over an extended period of time, for the worst of the syndromes to appear, if they appear at all.
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 symptoms never really develop much.
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.
Although a small number of people get cold when angry or frustrated, even they will find that the effect of strong emotions that stress and tense you up are heating:
Also producing Qi stagnation, with consequent tendency to Stomach Fire:
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.
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 - whether 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.
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, Forgacs, of King’s College Hospital in London, says 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, more bugs.
If your condition was diagnosed as being due to Stomach Fire, (burning in your epigastrium could 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!
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 Hot Foods in favour of green salads.
While theoretically this might be right, and has been known to work, the more fixed you have become on your current diet, the less likely you are to keep to a new diet. So, change gradually!
Whichever way you choose, chew well. Also:
Stress, resentment, jealousy, anger:
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 Stomach syndromes (which can also combine with other syndromes):
If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.
If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.
All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)
('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)
If, having read one of my books you can write a review - preferably positive - that would help others decide whether to read it.
You can put your review on Amazon or, on this site, here.
And if you think it was terrible?
Well, let me know so I can improve it for the next person. (Ideally let me know before cursing it in public!)
Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.
Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine!
Three Reviews so far. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
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