Stress and frustration can “stagnate Qi” in TCM terms. But what is Qi? I asked it myself as a student, I get asked it as a practitioner. It’s a difficult one.
I have become happy with the definition of Qi being the energetics of a particular organ, system, body. Not quite translated to “energy” but similar.
Everything has its own characteristic Qi, from rock to ocean to human. Each Organ of the human body has its own particular quality of Qi, which manifests as that Organs vitality and capacity to function.
When Qi is deficient we mean it is under-functioning. When Qi is strong we mean everything is working as it should.
When the Qi moves freely our lives “flow” easily. We adapt to change and process difficulties. When Qi is Stagnant, any aspect of harmonious flow and rhythm can be affected. We may feel constrained, frustrated, indecisive or depressed. Physically we may experience uncomfortable digestion, irregular or painful menstruation, headaches, tenderness between the ribs or all kinds of pain.
How do Stress and Frustration Make Us “Stagnant?”
The usual trigger is emotional – we may feel stress and frustration, anger or resentment. There is usually a degree of stifling the expression of these feelings: instead of “letting it all out,” we “keep it all in.”
This pattern of Qi stagnation often leads to physical manifestations. For many of us, the origin of a physical problem is in a much earlier psychological struggle that we have buried and often forgotten about. IBS for example, often has emotional roots.
The role of the Liver in Chinese medicine is to smooth the flow of Qi through the body and mind, so many patterns of Stagnation are connected to the Liver – Liver Qi Stagnation
Recognising the symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation:
- Feeling wound up
- Depression, brooding
- Volatile moods
- Frequent sighing
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Sense of oppression in the chest
- Belching/sour regurgitation
- Abdominal distension
- Hypochondrial pain (below ribs)
- Premenstrual symptoms – breast tenderness
- Irregular/painful menstruation
- Uncomfortable digestion/IBS
- Dark, dry or cracked nails
- Bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in eyes
A person will probably not have all of these symptoms but you will probably be familiar with more than a few if you tend towards Liver Qi Stagnation.
This requires movement, both physically and emotionally. At the physical level this can mean anything from dancing, gym classes, brisk walking, running, zumba, swimming…… you get the idea……anything that gets us breathing deeper and faster. Definitely not sitting in front of the TV or being on social media all evening!
Emotionally it may mean shifting a mindset, seeking therapy, establishing a therapeutic ritual.
Creative projects also help – painting, singing, sewing, yoga, taichi.
Dietary approaches to help shift Liver Qi Stagnation
- Eat lightly and simply
- Use pungent herbs and spices that aid digestion- basil, cardamom, coriander, clove, chives, fennel, garlic, onion, watercress
- Try not to make meals too complex in terms of food groups
- Keep sugars and fruits separate from meals eg avoid having them as desserts
- Avoid having dairy with meat
- Avoid too many different proteins in one meal
Meal ideas for Qi Stagnation
- Cabbage, carrot, and fennel soup
- Carrot and coriander soup
- French onion soup
- Watercress soup
- Sauerkraut/horseradish (use a side to any meal)
- Lemon rice
- Lemon chicken
- Roasted pepper and avocado dip
- Avocado & watercress with poached egg
- Stewed apple with cinnamon
Try this little gem as a great liver cleanser
- Every morning have a large glass of warm water with lemon or cider vinegar
So, as you can see, there are a wide variety of symptoms that can point towards a disharmony of the liver. The liver has a great many responsibilities in the body, so keeping it in good health is important both physically and emotionally.
The other thing to remember is that having prolonged feelings of anger or frustration that are repressed or unexpressed can damage the Liver, and the opposite is true as well. A deficiency in the Liver can leave you prone to feelings of anger or frustration. You’ll know your liver is healthy the next time you are in a stressful situation and you don’t blow your lid!!
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