Stomach Qi Stagnation

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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. 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 as the condition develops you might find you hardly notice a problem at the beginning.

  • 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
  • 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


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

  • while working, or
  • while driving, or 
  • at their desks, or 
  • when holding work meetings, or
  • when hurried or
  • while reading 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, if not millions, of years.

Our genes must befit us for snatching the occasional snack as we run from hungry crocodiles.

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. Often it seems to hurry food through your system, so you become dependent on it for regular bowel movements. But is creates a tension in your system, unhelpful for digestion.

What goes wrong next?

When our Stomach Qi stagnates, 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, meaning Stomach Heat, or worse, 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.

Eventually this can produce Stomach Phlegm-Fire.

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

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

Also, reduce coffee and similar stimulants.

Best, sit down and eat with good friends or relaxing family, far away in mind from work and life pressures: not 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.


Meditation, and other forms of contemplation can help us clarify our priorities and harmonise our emotions. They can be strong medicine!

For benefit, you often need to do them for only a few minutes every day. But they do need regular practice!

Stomach Syndromes

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

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Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

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.)

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Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress

Yin Deficiency - Burnout and Exhaustion

Yang Deficiency - Get Your Fire Burning Again!

Yuck! Phlegm! How to Clear Your Phlegm ...

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.

Seven Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (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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