It could follow unwise eating the day before, or from too much alcohol, or while having some other problem that has affected our digestion. Whatever the cause, we’ll feel under the weather and a bit depressed.
Some will eventually feel a bit weepy; definitely sorry for ourselves!
There’s a tight little band of symptoms that turn up frequently, and then there are other symptoms that depend more on your particular genetic makeup. So you may not get all the symptoms mentioned. Probably the most important ones are those in bold.
Mood: somewhat low. Easily discouraged. Lack confidence in yourself. If this deficiency is chronic, you may also be depressed.
no taste ie can’t taste flavours (may also have no sense of smell, though this depends on other factors)
loss of appetite: just not hungry. In fact, the thought of food may make you feel a bit sick, especially the thought of fatty or rich food.
loose bowels. They may not smell much, but when they appear, they are runny. Sometimes you have to get there quickly because of fear of losing them prematurely.
a sense of tired or weak legs. Difficult to ascend stairs or hills: doing so means you have to breathe more than usual, or take more frequent rests. Sitting down after exertion is a pleasure. Getting up is an effort.
tiredness in the morning, even after what seemed a good sleep. This tiredness sometimes improves a bit from around 11am onwards though you remain somewhat tired, and eating a big meal makes you more tired.
Pulse: all the pulses are often a bit empty, or weak, especially the Stomach pulse, which is on the right wrist at the middle position over the radial artery.
Tongue: pale. In other words, the colour of the body of the tongue is pale, not just the coating. (If the tongue’s body remains pale but the coating is yellow, that suggests not just Stomach Qi deficiency but also some Heat in the Stomach.)
Causes of Stomach Qi Deficiency
Nutrition and Diet
What you have been eating is often a major cause of Stomach Qi deficiency: poor nutrition, in other words, not getting from what you eat the nutrition your body needs is a cause. This may be because the foods you eat are poor quality, lacking in vital nutrients your body must have for health, such as protein and vegetables.
You may be eating an excellent range of foods, but just not enough of them for your needs. This often happens when you try to get fit, and start taking much more exercise than before, but don’t increase what you eat. Strenuous sports, including football, rackets, weight-lifting, long-distance running and so on, require more food. People growing fast need more food. And it could apply to people on special diets.
How you have been eating is another cause. If you eat too fast, or when on the run, or don’t leave time after eating to digest food before returning to work, all these can contribute to your stomach being unable to extract what it needs. Your stomach needs regular food, like a baby. It needs time to digest it, and work, including mental work, often prevents it from performing properly.
Weakness from chronic illness
Qi – your energy – is stored in various ways. If you aren’t fit and able to create and store it from your diet and lifestyle, you’ll be depleting your long-term deep reserves.
Those reserves are usually needed to keep your system running smoothly in the background.
If you’ve been ill for a long time, your reserves will be low, so there won’t be enough of them to keep the Stomach Qi working properly. (Imagine the oil in a lamp running low so that the light flickers weakly, only just remaining alight.)
After serious illnesses that have drained you, it is common to have deficient Stomach Qi.
Eventually, because the Stomach and the Spleen organs work closely together, you may also get Spleen syndromes, like Damp or Phlegm.
Treating Stomach Qi deficiency
There is a whole lot that can be done, for example with acupuncture, moxibustion and with herbs. But although these will help you feel much better, in the long-term you have to back this up with better habits, or you’ll be wasting your money and fall back to where you began.
Here are some examples, but you or your acupuncturist will be able to think of more!
Eat food at orderly intervals, giving your digestion time to rest between meals, and don’t eat large quantities of food when tired or late at night just before sleep
address the causes of any ongoing anxieties or worries because these weaken your Stomach and Spleen Qi.
Eat slowly, chewing well
Make sure you eat nutritious food, preferably newly cooked using good quality raw foods: it should feel warm and comfortable in your stomach!
Eat food warm, not cold
Avoid ice, chilled, or cold foods, even if they have been cooked
That means no ice-cream! No icy-cold drinks, including, unfortunately, gin and tonic with ice, and no chilled beer or coke – just some examples!
Cut out sugar and sweet foods/drinks, and foods that quickly turn into sugar in your blood, such as white bread and alcohol (and, I would add, foods that have artificial sweeteners to make them sweet – for a non-Chinese medicine reason, see Dr Mercola’s many pages such as here – diabetes – and there – weight-gain – on the subject.)