Well why? Why does my stomach hurt?
(By ‘stomach’ we mean the area above your belly-button and below the central arch of your ribs. If you normally call the whole of your abdomen your ‘stomach’ then we mean upper stomach pain.)
Even if it doesn’t hurt it may cramp, flutter, make noises, or bloat.
Chinese medicine has 10 basic ways of explaining what goes wrong in your abdomen. Once you understand them, you’ll see what can be done, and what you can do to help. But first, what about that WHY?
By the way, where is your Stomach?
Your stomach organ lies at the front of your body partly under your lower ribs and partly in the area of your upper abdomen.
Of course some people say ‘why does my stomach hurt’ when they actually mean elsewhere in their abdomen.
On this page we sticking to your upper abdomen, the part above your belly-button in the arch formed by your ribs. Behind that lies your stomach organ. This is your ‘upper stomach pain’.
As in Western medicine, in Chinese medicine there are many possible reasons, but here’s a summary of the things you may be able to do something about. So, ‘Why does my stomach hurt’?
So read on for some answers to ‘why does my stomach hurt’!
To manage strong emotions you may need help, or to talk to someone.
Or you may find meditation helpful. But you need to do it for a while before you find yourself in a situation of strong emotions. There’s not much point trying to learn it the day you are waiting for your exam results!
Why does my stomach hurt?
It’s hard not to think, isn’t it? While you’re awake, your brain goes all the time, with thoughts and emotions that swill around, changing your equilibrium from minute to minute.
Over-thinking is a big problem nowadays. Even if not actually worrying about something, intellectual work for too long exhausts your Stomach Qi and may upset our Spleen Qi too.
That leads to changes in appetite and digestion, but also poor bowel action and eventually poor circulation, sometimes with the beginning of varicose veins.
People who sit at desks or computers to work are very prone to this. Their job requires them to stare at a computer all day, not moving much except arms.
That’s not what our genes evolved at all for our physical behaviour! We have inherited bodies that need physical activity to function. We NEED to walk and run, to stand and sit, to lift and stretch. Then we get tired and our Stomachs ‘know’ exactly what to do.
When you are young, learning and studying, you should also be taking vigorous exercise regularly to counteract all this sitting and its consequences.
As you grow older, exercise can become harder to maintain as responsibilities and worries weigh us down.
But we should make at least some exercise, even if just regular walking for 30 minutes, a priority. Otherwise, you’ll still be wondering why does my stomach hurt!
If you work at a desk, get up every half-hour for a short walk. Set an alarm for this!
Visit the loo, walk round your desk, stretch, bend and flex your body; spring up and down on your toes.
Don’t just sit there and eat something! That makes it worse! Then you’ll definitely say Why does my stomach hurt?
Worry is like over-thinking, but worse. It brings tension as well. So you get many of the problems of over-thinking, even when physically active because Chinese medicine recognised thousands of years ago that worry ‘binds’ the Stomach.
The word they used is actually ‘stagnates’ and it’s the Qi in your Stomach that stagnates.
As such, it can’t digest properly and it prevents Qi moving smoothly along the many pathways of your Stomach channel, straining your appetite, lowering your energy and weakening your legs.
That means you get problems like those mentioned above under ‘over-thinking’, but worse.
Worry comes in many forms.
Of course, everyone has the occasional worries, just like our ancestors: leaky caves, no woolly mammoths, too many woolly mammoths, no clothing, sodden clothing, rapacious neighbours, toothache, cold, flood, heat and famine.
So our bodies are designed to cope. But they were also designed to move around, to work physically. Not just to sit.
In a bigger sense, if we don’t like what we’ve got, we can move on. People leave jobs and move to new areas. The moving involves worry but it brings solutions too.
In the past, our forbears could always move on if something worried them too much. Mass migration happened in the past, is happening now and will always happen.
Probably it should keep happening for continued health, so our genes mix and our descendants are blessed with better adaptability…
… otherwise they too will say Why does my stomach hurt?
“Why does my Stomach hurt?”
Until recently, many doctors believed that medication would solve all health problems. They thought food important but nothing like as important for health as their medicinal drugs.
Recently the dean of an important medical college admitted that in some seven (7) years of education they devoted no more than one day to teaching their student doctors anything about nutrition. And that was probably spent teaching how to recognise someone with poisoning caused by eating only carrots. (Yes, it happens.)
In all the talk about food nutrient quality, something the ancient Chinese noticed has been overlooked.
“Why does my stomach hurt after eating those foods?”
The ancient Chinese
They thought that what you swallowed could make or break you! But almost as important …
Many of us live in houses with roofs that keep the water out and the warmth in. We enjoy fast food and the ability to prepare food fast.
We also enjoy frozen foods and drinks. When the temperature around you is warm, the warmth of the food you eat doesn’t seem important.
The ancient Chinese must also have asked ‘Why does my stomach hurt?’ They lived in a climate that could be very warm in the summer, and very cold in the winter, with no central heating in their houses – just a warm fire if they were fortunate.
The Chinese noticed that people often got sick if they ate cold or iced food or drink. Of course, if you were healthy, fit and in good energy this didn’t arise. But if you were sick or tired, it might.
And the food’s temperature made a huge difference if you were cold.
So as a general rule, they said don’t eat food that is cold or iced or chilled, especially if YOU are tired, cold or ill.
Why? Because, your Stomach is a warm, damp environment for a good reason. That’s exactly the right environment to digest food.
If you eat something too cold, (or dry), your Stomach has to work harder. That’s fine if you are in good health; probably not a problem. But if not … ‘Why does my stomach hurt?!’
Cold must have been a major cause of illness, because they spent a great deal of time thinking about it, and classifying foods so that they knew which foods were appropriate for every condition – and also which were inappropriate.
They noticed other things about food too.
That means, make sure it is properly prepared and cooked, and eaten while the food is warm. (Again, if you’re fit and healthy, you can break these rules occasionally!)
For more about food, click Nutrition.
For vitamins and minerals, click Supplements.
For foods that, even if cooked and eaten warm, tend to be cooling read Cold Foods.
For foods that, even if eaten cold, tend to be warming, read Hot Foods.
“Why Does My Stomach Hurt on these days?”
Well it may be because, too often, I eat food the wrong way!
If you’ve ever watched cows eating, you’ll know they like a calm, unhurried life. They eat grass then chew the cud. They take their time. If you make dairy cows run, their milk production suffers.
I don’t know what happens if you make beef cattle run all the time, but I’m inclined to believe that they get thin and scraggy: not suitable for the chef!
Treat your Stomach like a big strong cow. It likes proper food, regularly, with time to digest. Then it will pass on to you its huge strength and endurance.
Otherwise you’ll know ‘why does my stomach hurt?’.
“Why does my stomach hurt?”
In Chinese medicine, the environment you inhabit can make a big difference to your health. In a way, we’re gradually realising this.
We know that warm, humid conditions like in
… can all be breeding grounds for germs and viruses.
One sneeze, and everyone breathes your bugs!
Mostly, such poorly ventilated atmospheres affect our lungs first. But the condition of our lungs has a huge effect on our stomachs. (As you may have read above, your Lung channel starts in your stomach! Because of this, the condition of your Stomach energy has a very direct energy on your Lungs, and vice versa.)
You need air to digest food: not at the first stage but later, as your blood picks up oxygen on its last stop in the lungs before your heart sends it hurtling round the system to revitalise your body – including your stomach.
Eventually, poor air gives poor digestive powers.
Eat in a well-ventilated area and sit upright when and after you eat, so you don’t compress your chest or upper abdomen.
And where you eat also makes a difference to how hygienically your food is prepared, as we now know from all the E Coli problems we have now.
Probably in the past healthy people’s stomachs were more able to cope with E Coli and the like. We eat food that is too clean sometimes and so we lose the ability to cope with a bit of dirt.
So make sure you eat in a clean place.
Otherwise you’ll say ‘Why does my stomach hurt?’
Why does my stomach hurt today?
Especially in cold or very dry weather.
Cold weather can upset it because it makes you cold, diverting energy from your stomach to keep you warm.
Worse, if you are cold and you’re eating cold food, your stomach is going to have to really labour properly to digest what you eat.
Too much dry food can also upset your stomach. It needs moisture and warm, humid conditions to work efficiently.
Similarly, dry weather, especially warm dry weather, depletes your body’s fluids, in time reducing the humidity in your stomach. (Of course, a day or two of dry weather doesn’t matter much, unless you are ill or over-tired!)
Fortunately, nearly everyone feels thirsty in warm dry conditions, so the situation rights itself quickly. But if you’re stuck in a desert, hot and dry, you need your water and, tempting though it may be to drink it ice-cold, your stomach would probably prefer it if you sipped slightly warm water.
Other kinds of weather can affect your digestion too, but less obviously, or more indirectly. For instance:
Seeking help from acupuncturists people don’t all just say Why does my stomach hurt?!
Many conditions can be explained by Chinese medicine. Have a look round this site! But if you’re not sure where to start, why not throw yourself in the deep end and try acupuncture-theory?
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