Stomach Heat

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My experience of Stomach Heat? In my late twenties and early thirties, before I got into Chinese medicine, I had a job that paid well but which I didn’t enjoy. I found it very stressful, and it involved a lot of commuting: usually for two hours twice a day. This gave little time for social life. (Mind you, we didn’t use the word ‘stress’ in those days! Probably most people felt it, but I don’t think anyone talked about it. You just got on with it.)

I got, gradually, what I now recognise was Stomach Heat. The symptoms were similar, though not identical to those listed below. For example, I also had some (now recognised as) irritable bowel problems and Lung Damp Phlegm. I don’t remember much regurgitation or nausea and certainly had no vomiting after eating, but I was very hungry, often felt hot and ate huge amounts of fruit to quench my thirst.

So I didn’t get it badly. That may have been because I realised I was tense, somewhat ‘hyper’, and over-sensitive to events. To reach a better state I studied and practised Zen Buddhism fairly intensively for around ten years, with the Buddhist Society in London.

Stomach Heat people often need to meditate.
Meditating helped dissipate Stomach Heat

This involved various practices, the main one being daily meditation. I think this probably helped to keep me sane and centred. It was during this period that I started studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Learning acupuncture necessarily involved treatment with acupuncture, which also helped greatly. In fact, it helped so much that I found I didn’t need to meditate anything like as much.

And, of course, the symptoms of Stomach Heat disappeared.

Typical Stomach Heat symptoms

  • Pain in your epigastrium, from your stomach area. This is below your ribs in the centre-front, above your belly button. Often sore if you press it. The pain is burning.
  • Thirst, almost unquenchable, for cold fluids, chilled or with ice. This may ease the pain, but often for a short while only. Mouth usually feels very dry.
  • Hunger – excess – mainly for cold foods, though for warm foods too. Food does help, for a short while but it may want to come up again, see below.
  • Stools are difficult to pass, being dry and hard. May smell a lot.
  • Breath smells horrible: foul!
  • Regurgitation – sour, acidic stuff comes up your throat, probably with burping. Can burn your throat and windpipe. Most unpleasant. Worse if you lie flat: better to lie propped up.
  • Nausea – you feel you may vomit soon after eating. Lying down flat after eating makes this worse.
  • Mouth ulcers inside your cheeks.
  • You are restless and hot. Hard to settle to anything. You worry about your health. You wear less than other people, prefer loose clothing and like frequent movement.
  • Tongue: red, especially in the centre. Thick yellow coating.
  • Pulse: fast. ‘Overflows’ in the right middle position.


Other Stomach Heat symptoms, less common but not infrequent:

  • Spots on your cheeks, in the area beside your nose and more or less directly under your eyes.
  • Rash on your throat
  • If this continues for a while, your toenails may discolour, especially the nails of your big toe and the two toes next to it.
  • Pain in your forehead
  • Preference for chilled colas and sodas.
This is what Stomach Heat people crave!
Desire for Chilled Colas and Sodas
  • Irritability
  • Loud voice
  • Craving for ice cream. Though initially cooling, its secondary effect is warming, so doesn’t help but that doesn’t stop you wanting more!
  • Desire for alcohol, to relax. Alcohol makes the symptoms worse, though if taken as beer, it takes longer for the exacerbation to occur. Wine and spirits make things worse, faster.
  • Over-acquisitive for money, possessions, experiences.
  • Eats too fast, often without proper chewing. ‘Wolfs it down!’ Speedy eater.
  • Over-eaters often put on weight round the middle. But even thin people get this.


Who gets Stomach Heat

  • Typical type is the type A personality. Pushy, demanding, competitive.
  • But I’ve seen the symptoms in babies and infants and in people who are much less pushy, just stressed. In which case, the originating pattern may be Stomach Qi stagnation arising from Qi Stagnation: stress.
  • Such stress arises from frustration, bitterness, antipathy and anger; being required to do more than there is time available for it.
  • Quite a few women get this when their (usually male, I’m sorry to say) partners don’t shoulder or share the burden of bringing up young children.


Other Stomach Heat causative factors include diet.

  • In particular, a diet full of heating type foods (see our page on Hot Foods) makes you more susceptible to Stomach Heat. Such foods are fatty, greasy, spicy, alcoholic and often include meat, especially roasted meat or meat impregnated with spices or preservatives. Food fried in fat is particularly bad. This includes battered, deep-fried food. (Green vegetables have a moderating effect on this ‘hot’ type diet, but in my experience, people who eat the above types of hot food don’t waste valuable time eating vegetables.)
  • Tobacco. Smoking tobacco is heating, especially of your lungs. Your Lung acupuncture channel has its internal ‘starting’ point in your epigastrium, your Stomach area. So if your Lungs are overheating from tobacco, they easily pass on that heat to your Stomach.
  • I suspect that vaping will cause this too, even vaping with supposedly cooling flavours like mint.
  • Possibly there is an inherited predisposition.
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What might happen next?

If the condition of Stomach Heat continues unchecked – and you may be sure the patient will have been trying a range of ‘over the counter’ medications, including sodium bicarbonate, and – from the doctor – something like omeprazole, eventually Stomach Heat becomes more acute, leading to either Stomach Phlegm Heat, Lung Dryness or Stomach Fire.

All these syndromes are heating. The heat exhausts yin energy, leading to Stomach Yin deficiency or Stomach Blood stasis:

  • With Stomach Yin deficiency you get milder symptoms, caused by thinning of the buffer mucus and fluids that protect the walls of your stomach organ from its acids. Any food makes the pain worse, whereas with typical Stomach Heat, food does temporarily ameliorate the pain. Read more about this under Stomach Yin deficiency.
  • With Stomach Blood stasis, you have a much more threatening picture. People with this soon see their doctors.


Aim of treatment for Stomach Heat

  • Clear Stomach Heat
  • Regulate the Stomach qi to descend properly again


Acupuncture for Stomach Heat


Acupuncture for Stomach Heat

There are effective acupuncture points for this, many on the Stomach channel, its partner channel the Large Intestine channel, or on abdominal points related to it.  For example:

  • Stomach 44, 34, 21: in  severe cases, even St45: also St42, 41
  • Large Intestine 4, 11
  • Ren 11, 13
  • Sp 15
  • Bl18, 21


As Stomach Heat eases, regulate and nourish Yin via Blood with Stomach 36, Spleen 6 and Ren12, for example.

Herbal treatment for Stomach Heat

Da cheng qi tang is the basic formula but tiao wei cheng qi tang and qing wei san are other possibilties, the latter having a more yin nourishing action.

What can YOU do to help yourself?

The aim of treatment is to clear the Stomach Heat and strengthen your Stomach’s ‘descending’ energy, so you don’t burp or vomit.

So, you ask, what can you do? Easy!:

  •  Sort out stress – perhaps move job? Discuss matters – firmly – with your partner?
  • Read our page on Qi Stagnation: what to do to relieve stress, which may play a part in causing your Stomach Heat. Note, there, our suggestions for remedial action!
  • Avoid hot foods – so no more deep-fried battered food, for a start!
  • Reduce – no actually – STOP alcohol. Though relaxing at the time, it is heating. To understand more, read our page on Primary and secondary actions: drugs, herbs, foods.
  • Eat more slowly, chewing well. This can take  practice, and forbearance when you are hungry. Try to eat in congenial company, taking time over the meal and afterwards.
  • Eat more vegetables: green especially. See our page on nutrition.
  • Get yourself some nice relaxing massage, regularly, to help your body unwind its stress and heat. There are many types, ranging from reflexology to Indian head massage, shiatsu to ‘Swedish’ therapeutic and Thai body massage. Don’t be shy! Among the best I ever had was from an Australian working in the north of Scotland where I was giving a seminar, and I’ve no idea how he would describe what he did, but he was highly recommended, and rightly so.
  • Take up meditation


Even so, if your Stomach Heat is advanced, you’ll need treatment too, failing which be prepared to wait while the changes you’ve made to your life take effect.

Caution: Western drugs like omeprazole do clear the symptoms, but they don’t seem to mend you because when you stop, symptoms often return. This page suggests ways and treatments that may have longer-term benefits.

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