Stomach Qi Stagnation: How to Disturb Digestion!

Junk food, a frequent cause of Stomach Qi stagnation
Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

Stomach Qi Stagnation is what happens when you often eat on the go, especially when you’re tired or upset or stressed.

Modern life! Aren’t we lucky? We have all these wonderful gadgets which save us physical work and inform us about everything.


Too much information leads to Stomach Qi stagnation
Smart phone – Photo by Neil Soni on Unsplash


Also we have phones which, and it’s only a matter of time, will be wired into our heads. So we’ll be thinking about what is going on all the time.

And … we’ll always be at someone’s beck and call!

So we shan’t have time to sit and vegetate, to chew the cud like cows. We’ll be always on the go.

So we’ll all have Stomach Qi stagnation. That’s very good news for pharmaceutical companies!

Quick, go and buy their shares! They have drugs that ease your pain and inflammation. Even better, once you start taking them, you won’t want to stop – they provide relief!

In the UK we get television advertisements for just this kind of problem. Somebody is making good money!

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Stomach Qi Stagnation

When you have Stomach Qi Stagnation, you won’t necessarily have all the following symptoms. As your condition worsens, you’ll find your get more of them. So at the start you hardly notice any problems.

  • Distension, swelling, discomfort in the upper abdomen (the epigastrium).
  • Pain in the epigastrium. The pain can be bursting, stretching, slightly burning.
  • Burping and belching. When bad, this can be very embarrassing. (Remember, however, that in some cultures, a good belch after a meal is considered polite: that’s different!) How smelly your belch is depends on how much Stomach Heat there is, the more so if you have Stomach Damp Heat. Belching and the following symptoms happen because Stomach energy should descend when healthy, but when stagnant, it goes the wrong way: up!
  • Hiccup: often an early sign that you have eaten too fast or swallowed something too quickly, or out of time with your breathing. It can also follow eating too much at a time.
  • Nausea. Now your symptoms are moving to the next phase. You might describe this as queasiness or a feeling of uncertainty in your stomach: for some, loss of appetite or doubt or insecurity about appetite.
  • Vomiting. While Stomach Qi stagnation is by no means the only cause of vomiting, it is not uncommon. It usually follows nausea but if you’ve been ignoring nausea for some time, you could surprise yourself by suddenly bringing it all up.
  • Pulse: if you know what to feel, the wiry quality is found on the right wrist in the middle position, ie the Stomach pulse.
  • Tongue: if severe, your tongue may be red on the sides about half way back.


Causes of Stomach Qi Stagnation

There are two main causes of this syndrome.

  1. Emotions that interfere with your digestion (these affect the Liver Qi too, which is then said to ‘attack’ the Stomach.)
  2. Poor dietary habits


Emotions can cause Stomach Qi stagnation
Emotions – Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash


Any strong emotion can affect your digestion. It depends on your particular make-up and background. Some people have ‘cast-iron’ stomachs and don’t seem affected by anything, though even they will succumb eventually if they lead stressful lives.

  • Frustration which continues to affect you during meals
  • Tension when eating
  • Discontent or dissatisfaction while eating
  • Moodiness while eating or digesting
  • Rancour during eating or digesting
  • Anger, irritability, vexation, indignation

All these emotions will make things worse if you also have bad dietary habits – see below.

Poor Dietary habits

I would say that most patients I see have poor dietary habits. Perhaps those who have retired are able to live so that their days are more steady and calm, with regular meals and time to digest afterwards – but those who still work have poor dietary habits.

So just about everyone else in Edinburgh, where I work, rushes their food. Often they eat


Photo by Kevin Lanceplaine on Unsplash
  • while working, or
  • while driving, or 
  • at their desks, or 
  • when holding work meetings, or
  • when hurried or
  • as they read or
  • while walking or 
  • while standing or
  • when sitting in a scrunched position, such as on a sofa, so not allowing their insides room or
  • when cross or upset
  • by snatching food, sandwiches or snacks as they work
  • and then, after eating, exercising too vigorously too soon


None of this would matter much if they did this only occasionally! Humankind has been evolving for hundreds of thousands of years.

Our genes must allow for grabbing the occasional snack as we run from hungry reptiles.

But not all the time; not every day; and not without resting after eating; not in a constant low state of anxiety.

If you take a lot of coffee, that can worsen matters too! Initially it provides some yang energy, so stops you feeling sleepy after your meal. Eventually it seems to hurry food through your system, so you become dependent on it for regular bowel movements. Unfortunately is creates a tension in your system, unhelpful for digestion.


What goes wrong next?

Consequences of doing things the wrong way – Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

With Stomach Qi stagnation, other things start to be affected.

Any kind of Qi stagnation can eventually lead to Blood stasis, firstly in this case in the Stomach – Stomach Blood stasis.

All that stagnation builds up pressure, and that pressure leads to Heat, leading to Stomach Fire.

As food stops being digested properly, the Spleen is affected, which leads to the formation of Phlegm. You may notice this in people who have to clear their throats before speaking.

But even if things don’t get this far, you’ll feel under par, and start thinking about supplements to keep your energy up.


Better habits to reduce Stomach Qi Stagnation

One habit that helps is to have a good breakfast before going to work.

Chinese medicine asserts that your main meal should be breakfast because your Stomach energy is most active in the morning. 

(There’s lots of evidence from Western science supporting this.

‘Our bodies are more sensitive to insulin in the morning, meaning the postprandial spike in glucose falls faster after an early meal than after one late in the day. As a consequence, front-loading your daily food consumption is likely to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. It is good for gut health and digestion too.’

“Gastric emptying and overall gut motility are faster and many enzymes, peptides and bile acids are higher in the morning” says Leonie Ruddick-Collins at the University of Aberdeen, UK.” New Scientist 11 January 2020 p37.)

One excellent breakfast food is Clogstoun Porridgee. Prepared and eaten the way described on that page, you’ll get abundant energy through the morning, and better resilience mentally and physically.

Also, reduce coffee and similar stimulants. They speed you up but also – eventually – they drain you and you will need more and more to maintain the same kick.

People eating and having fun
Eating in relaxed company aids digestion and Stomach functions.

Best, sit down and eat with good friends or relaxing family, far away in mind from work and life pressures. Though not always so easy, these days!

Eating in this kind of good company helps our Pericardium (one of our zang-fu energy organs) which is said to protect the Heart. It also has a steadying effect on the digestion.

In the evenings, eat early and then, if hungry, have a small snack (a few nuts, for instance) before going to bed.

Please read our pages on Nutrition and Supplements for advice on how and what to eat!

Meditation for Stomach Qi Stagnation

Meditation for Stomach qi stagnation
Meditation helps clear the mind and regulate habits.

Meditation – and prayer and contemplation – help to clarify and prioritise your needs and control bad habits.

It has been practised for millennia to help us manage our emotions. So it helps with Stomach Qi stagnation.

It’s worth doing, even if for only 5 minutes a day!

Stomach Syndromes

Here are various Stomach syndromes (which can also combine with other syndromes):

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