Stomach Yin Deficiency: poor appetite and fullness

Nachos, sometimes a possible cause of Stomach Qi deficiency.

Stomach Yin Deficiency is frequently mistaken for a kind of stomach ulcer, for which people take medication they may not actually need.

Stomach Yin Deficiency Symptoms

By the way! … You don’t need all these symptoms to qualify for having Stomach Yin deficiency!

  • Poor appetite, no desire to eat, or very mild hunger
  • Fullness after eating
  • Dry stools and constipation
  • Pain in the epigastrium: either dull or mild & burning
  • Mouth and throat dryness, worse later in the day
  • Desire to sip only small quantities of fluid, or sometimes prefers warm fluids in small amounts
  • A sensation of warmth in the afternoon (this comes from Yin deficiency in general, not just from Stomach yin deficiency)
  • Tongue: centre is peeled or without coating, or with rootless coating
  • Pulse: in the right-hand middle position the pulse quality is ‘floating-empty’

Causes of Stomach Yin Deficiency

1/ Poor nutrition.

Nutrition is a big subject. What suits one person may not suit another.

Our background and culture influences what we eat and in some countries a deficiency in an important nutrient may be made up another way.

For example, Vitamin D may be low in the diet of people in an equatorial country but because they get so much sun, their bodies manufacture it through the skin. If they go to live in a country without much sun – but continue to eat with their culturally inherited food patterns – they’ll get Vitamin D deficiency. Read our page on Nutrition for more on this.

2/ Poor diet.

Diet is different from nutrition, although they’re connected.

Instant food - depletes Stomach Yin!

By diet we mean the foods you eat, which for health need to be balanced in both quality, quantity and ‘energy‘.

What does ‘energy‘ mean? Well, for example, some foods are very heating, others very cooling. Too many heating foods (such as fried or roasted with lots of fat in them – think crisps and battered fish for example) will eventually deplete the Stomach’s Yin reserves. Food should be our first medicine – a fact recognised in Chinese medicine 2000 years ago!

3/ Poor eating habits

These include

  • Eating when tired, or
  • Missing meals, or
  • Eating in a hurry or
  • Eating too late at night or
  • Thinking about work when you’re eating
  • Eating while you work
  • Working while you eat
  • Snatching mouthfuls as you drive
  • Eating when upset, or arguing, or in emotional disarray
  • not a complete list … but realise that your mind and stomach are closely allied, each affecting the other


These are all factors in modern Western life. We’re always in a hurry so we seize food as and when we can, we eat it while running or working at the computer or on the bus.

On any one occasion this doesn’t matter, so doing this only rarely doesn’t matter.

But there is a long-term depleting effect when you do it again and again, or habitually.

4/ Returning to work immediately after eating, or eating  too soon after working.

This matters because our bodies work with energy – Qi. We use Qi to do things. If you’re working – using Qi for that – there’s less Qi to digest food, and the thoughts and actions you have when working may themselves disrupt the smooth action of Stomach Qi, leading both to Qi Stagnation and to Yin deficiency, mentioned above.

5/ Prolonged Worrying.

Worrying eventually leads to Stomach Yin deficiency

Worry, over time, eventually weakens both Stomach Qi and Spleen Qi. With less Stomach Qi, your Stomach has to call on its reserves, eventually leading to a Stomach Yin ‘shortage’ ie deficiency.

6/ Constitutional

Some people are born with weak constitutions and begin to get Stomach Yin weakness very early in life.

7/ Fever

High fever can deplete fluids in the body, including Stomach Yin reserves. Normally a period of rest soon restores these reserves, but not always.

8/ Medication.

Soon after Western medicine arrived in China, Chinese doctors began to look at the energetic action – energetic in terms of their action in Chinese medicine – of drugs used in Western medicine.

Antibiotics, for example, are nearly always COLD in action, depleting Yang. (We’ve got a page explaining how antibiotics work in terms of Chinese medicine, what their long-term effects often are and what you can do about it.)

Long-term depletion of Yang will eventually weaken Yin too.

  • Some ‘social’ drugs are yang, heating, they ‘speed’ you up.
  • For a while they make you feel wonderful, powerful, like Superman!
  • Afterwards, for a while you feel burned out – a form of yin deficiency. That can lead to Stomach Yin deficency.

9/ Too much coffee or caffeine!

For more about this, click on Coffee!

Too much coffee depletes yin, leading to Stomach Yin deficiency!
Coffee, to keep you going! Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

10/ Not taking time to CHEW food properly!

This is a bigger problem than you may think.

Digestion is one of your body’s most energy intensive processes. Chewing hugely increases its efficiency, meaning there’s more energy for you to enjoy.

Chewing breaks food into smaller lumps, exposing more surface area for your Stomach acids to work on.

What’s the maths?

  • A lump of food 2″ by 2″ by “2: ie 2 inches per side has volume 8 cubic ins and surface area 24 square inches. (actually quite a big lump, but bear with me …)
  • Chew it into bits one tenth of the side, ie 0.2″ by 0.2″ by 0.2″ and the volume of each morsel will be 0.008 cubic inches and its surface area 0.24 sq ins
  • So that lump becomes  1000 morsels each of 0.008 cu ins.
  • Combined, those 1000 morsels now have a surface are of 1000 times 0.24 = 240 sq ins
  • 240 sq ins is 10 times the surface area of the original lump.
  • So your Stomach yin fluids can now access 10 times as much of the food as compared with before chewing it!
  • That makes your stomach much more efficient in breaking it down.


Do your maths for Stomach yin deficiency!

Chewing well means your stomach works more efficiently, so is less likely to become exhausted, and yin deficient. The result? You have more energy, more reserves!

Your mouth is where food first meets your body. As you chew, glands in your mouth release saliva, which starts the digestive process making it easier for your stomach and intestines.

The sensory nerves in your mouth tell your stomach what to expect, so the longer you keep chewing the more prepared your stomach becomes.

Smaller morsels become mush more easily than larger lumps and that mush is more easily digested through the walls of your intestines into the nutrients your body needs.

Other reasons for chewing properly?

  • Stomach acids destroy most bugs and pathogens like moulds before they enter your intestines. Not chewing increases the likelihood of these pathogens getting through which means you are more likely to get bloating, indigestion and bowel problems like constipation.
  • Chewing is a vegetative process, calming your intestines and helping them to move food mush through smoothly.
  • Chinese medicine says that chewing increases your sex drive! Well, it would, wouldn’t it because more nutrients are absorbed, some of them going you know where!

How many times to chew?

This depends on the food. How easily does chewing turn it into mush?

  • Meat is harder to digest so chew it more, into tiny pieces if you can! Maybe 20 – 40 chews per mouthful.
  • Fruit, like pears and apples, is soft and easily becomes mush, so may be 5 – 15 chews. Make sure you eat the skin (washed, of course! – to remove chemicals and dirt) which provides fibre for your intestines to grip and shift along via peristalsis.

What’s a little list like that got to do with me, you ask …

Of course, you read that little list of Stomach Yin deficiency causes and thought, blah-blah-blah, I’ve heard it all before and it doesn’t apply to me because –

  • I know lots about nutrition so take extra vitamins and minerals to compensate for ANY deficiency! (Yes, but it’s your Stomach that has to digest them, and if it’s not working properly your vitamins may be wasted!)
  • I only work late three days a week as a rule, so at weekends I take care to relax properly. (Working late three days a week sounds pretty habitual to me so … maybe you should look at that!)
  • The medication I take is for burning pain, so that’s not a deficiency – right? (Burning pains more often than not indicate yang excess – inflammation of a sort. Over time your body’s yin resources run down as they try to battle – balance – this excess yang. Pain relief tablets stop your mind from ‘feeling’ the pain and inflammation, but it’s still there and you should see someone or seek advice to get it ‘mended’. Otherwise, it may worsen or go deeper.)
  • I have to get back to work after eating, otherwise I don’t get paid, so this nonsense can’t be right. (That’s confusing two situations! Rather like saying I drive on the road because it’s not green.)
  • Fasting is known to prolong life so regular meals shorten life, right? (If you fast enough to live longer – assuming fasting definitely DOES prolong life, and  I’m not sure this applies to everyone – you probably won’t have enough energy to work productively, so you’ll need to eat more anyway if you want to work.)
dehydrated fruit, looking like brown stones, a drain on yin reserves
Photo by The Creative Exchange

Concentrated Foods and Powders

  • I eat a lot of concentrated foods, dried fruit, tablets and powders so that gives me nutrition faster, right? (Well, to produce those powders the original food was probably mushed and possibly boiled producing a liquid, which is what your stomach expects and can handle, just like what you’ve swallowed after chewing something well. Because this dehydrated powder (or dried fruit) lacks fluid, the fluid to digest it must come from your body. This eventually dehydrates your body, starting with your Stomach Yin reserves, the subject of this page. The same goes if you eat a lot of dry food, like pizzas, biscuits or toast, from which the water has been boiled or baked or toasted off. Even quick-boiled rice can be deficient in water: see Clogstoun Congee for how the Chinese might prepare it. They claim their method of preparation ‘locks in’ more moisture making it much more easy for your body to re-hydrate and replenish its yin reserves: see also Yin Deficiency.)
  • OK Clever! What if I drink lots of water when I eat my pizza or dried fruit? Does that compensate? (Possibly, if you chew your pizza into minute portions as you go, sipping water as do so. But even here, lots of water doesn’t always equate to well-hydrated food and, if you drink too much water, it could douse your Stomach and Spleen Yang energy, its ‘fire’. So now you have to read our page on Spleen yang deficiency! And there’s another issue – the concetnration of sugars or sugar-like substances in the dried fruit and pizza. That could be a problem too! Sorry!)


If you have symptoms of  Stomach yin deficiency, take note! One or more of the above causes applies to you, whether you agree or not!


Yin Deficiency Causes in general

But that’s not all. Read about the more general or common causes of Yin deficiency here. They, too, may contribute to Stomach Yin deficiency.

Other kinds of Yin deficiency …

Other organs have Yin deficiency too. You can get symptoms of more than one of them at the same time:


What to do about this deficiency?

Even the right foods, eaten right and in the right circumstances won’t cure Stomach Yin deficiency overnight.

Good habits reduce Stomach Yin deficiency

But persistence pays off and eventually your energy will recover and you’ll feel much better, better at fending off bugs and more in control of life.

Not all the following suggestions apply to everyone – of course! – but some will help you.

Let’s get out of the way probably the most important one! Unfortunately, it’s the one most of us won’t easily accept, and even if we accept it, won’t find it easy to adopt. But please don’t ignore it!

It’s the one about working when eating. By working I mean doing something at the same time as eating. It could be reading, driving, exercising, hurrying, writing, typing ..! Also, re-starting work immediately after eating.

Have a think. What could you be doing that takes energy from the process of eating and digesting. Consider – your body is made up of what you have eaten, good or bad. If you don’t allow it to digest properly, it’s almost the same as putting bad food into it.

However, for most people, eating in agreeable company is beneficial to digestion.

There’s a reason for this. If you’re familiar with the Five Phase or Five Element theory, the Pericardium is the ‘mother’ of the Spleen. Good company allows the Pericardium to function better, which helps it ‘nurture’ better its child the Spleen which, together with your Stomach, digests your food.

So, to reduce Stomach Yin deficiency, what else?

1/ Stop eating ‘dry’ foods.

Dry food needs moisture to mix with Stomach fluids. That moisture comes from Stomach Yin. That leads to Stomach Yin deficiency – YOU!

What are dry foods? Examples are toast, pastry, pizza, dry, almost gritty porridge … I don’t know what’s in YOUR typical list of temptations, but those are in mine! Then you smother the toast in butter to ‘moisten’ it. But butter, though an excellent food in many ways (of course, you understand it must be organic from grass-fed cows, with bells round their necks from heavenly pastures in the high mountains, hand-milked by beautiful young maidens with exquisite fair complexions … sorry, got carried away…) is heating.

Too many hot foods, see next below, dry out Stomach Yin.

2/ Hot foods

Hot foods are those that have a heating effect in most people. Read more at Heating Foods. Heat warms, right? If you keep heating something, its liquids evaporate, right? That dries. Drying uses up yin resources, like Stomach Yin.

3/ Beware too many Cold foods

But don’t eat Cold foods too much.

Eat food when it’s warm. If you eat too many cold foods, or foods that have a cooling effect, your Stomach, which needs a warm environment to do its job, won’t properly digest its contents.

Eventually, your core warmth resources will be depleted and you’ll start getting signs of Cold and Yang deficiency. (There is an exception – Stomach Heat. But believe me, you don’t want that, let alone Stomach Fire). And, yes, you could have both Yang-deficiency and signs of Stomach-yin deficiency.

In addition, many people suffer from Stomach Heat together with Stomach Yin deficiency: in fact, among stomach ulcer sufferors, this is common.

4/ Other causes of Heat.

And cut down on anything else that has a heating effect on you. Could be medications, drugs, coffee (did you click on that link to coffee? Please do!), caffeine, many stimulants, spices …

5/ Eat Moist Wet Foods

Start eating more moist dishes, ie Wet Foods, for example Clogstoun-Congee.

Ready to eat clogstoun congee, great for Stomach yin deficiency situations!
Clogstoun Congee going into its bowl!


6/ Nutrition

Please read our page on Nutrition, and then, in time, read the books recommended there. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Here, though, are foods, (some already mentioned above) that usually nurture Stomach yin: steamed rice, steamed millet, porridge, congee, soups and stews – long-cooked with root vegtables added, zucchini, cooked butternut and pumpkin squash dishes, mild and bland foods …

7/Fermented food

Start eating more fermented foods but before you take too many of them, please realise most of them have a cold energy.

So eat them with other foods that are cooked and warm when you eat them. And you don’t need many fermented foods at a go – perhaps just a few teaspoonfuls per meal.

8/ Time

Finally, take more time over food. And relax a bit. Increase your yin level. In time it supplies yang energy for life and relaxed confidence. … Yin and Yang.

Treatment for Stomach Yin deficiency

Besides the list of suggestions above, with things YOU can do to help yourself …

  • Many kinds of treatment developed in Asia can help yin deficiency.
  • Acupuncture, for example, has hundreds of ways of balancing yin and yang within you.
  • Herbs are not foods, but they help change the way your body works. Both Western and Chinese herbalism have formulae for yin deficiency, though they call it different things.
  • Many forms of massage help to calm and steady your body, and likewise your mind. Having a calm mind certainly helps you to develop a calm body, and with it adequate supplies of yin.
  • Meditation and other mental exercises can also steady the mind and with it, your body.
  • Various physical movements, though not aimed specifically at Stomach yin deficiency, can benefit it. Yoga, Tai Chi, Walking by the Sea …
Tai Chi instead of interval training
Senior Woman doing Tai Chi – copyright Dreamstime

From Stomach Yin Deficiency click here to return to our Home Page.

Or from Stomach Yin Deficiency go to general Yin Deficiency.

Jonathan Brand colours

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4 Responses

  1. Dear Jonathan,

    Thank you again for this very helpful article. If I eat dry food but drink (e.g. water) during my meal, does it have the same effect than eating moist food? If it’s not the same thing, may you please explain me why it is different?

    1. Here is what I understand, trying to use Western Medicine terms.

      Moist food is already hydrated, by definition. So it is soft and as it squelches around in your intestines, releases nutrients into blood via portal vein along with the moisture: easy for your metabolism to regulate.

      Water drunk alone may or may not be what your body needs at that moment and so may be absorbed or not, but if absorbed and in excess may be shunted directly to your kidneys and bladder. Less easy to regulate.

      Water swallowed with a meal: depends, but taking the idea to the extreme, if you swallow dehydrated powdered protein, for example, plus water, I think your body would find it harder to manage than if you soaked the powder in water beforehand for a while, then either cooked or swallowed it. Dried seaweed, for example, needs to be hydrated properly before cooking it.

      Many foods we eat are dry eg pizza, bread, toast. Preparing and cooking them dries them out so although we may eat lots of them, our bodies don’t receive the moisture needed to regulate fluid levels.

      Drinking lots of water, from the perspective now of Chinese medicine, may tax Kidney yang, even if drunk warm. Also, it cools Stomach Yang.

      Of course, the fitter you are, the less quickly you’ll notice problems which originate from often eating dry food, or drinking too much water. But like everything else, it’s not the last straw that breaks the camel’s back, it’s all the straws that came before: the last straw is the one that triggers the problem.

  2. I laughed reading the causes of ST yin deficiency
    *eating while working
    *working while eating
    isnt it the same thing ? 😀

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