- over-consumption of hot and spicy foods
- over-consumption of meat
- regular alcohol consumption
In traditional Chinese medicine the cause for “heat and fire in the Stomach” is over-consumption of “hot foods". (1) "Hot foods" are all spicy foods (with the exception of mint and its family, turnip, radishes), all meats (with the exception of pork), walnuts and some seeds. “Hot drinks" are coffee, wine, and spirits. Cigarettes are also hot in nature. Thus regular smokers, regular alcohol consumers, meat fans, and spicy over-eaters are likely to have "Stomach heat" or "Stomach fire".
If the heat in the Stomach is not addressed it will eventually burn the fluids of the Stomach and lead to a condition known as Stomach Yin deficiency. Stomach Yin deficiency is rather chronic condition, while Stomach fire is rather acute.
- dry mouth
- Stomach yin deficiency symptoms - dry mouth and throat, dry stools, thirst with no desire to drink, lack of appetite, epigastric pain
- Stomach fire symptoms - burning pain in the Stomach, constant unsatisfactory hunger, sour regurgitation, nausea, swollen, painful or bleeding gums, bad breath, thirst with desire for cold drinks
As heat is drying in nature Stomach heat dries out the fluids of the Stomach manifesting in thirst, dry mouth, and constipation. In the cases of “Stomach Yin deficiency”, where the dryness has become chronic, there is dry mouth and throat (especially in the afternoon - the time governed by Yin), dry stools, and thirst with no desire to drink. There is no appetite and people often feel full after eating small amounts of food as there is not enough stomach juice to process the food. There is often epigastric pain and the chronic heat may manifest in some afternoon fever. (1)
In the case of “Stomach fire” the Stomach pain is rather severe and burning. As the energy of “the fire” quickly engulfs/digests the food there is constant and unsatisfactory hunger. Since the nature of the fire is to flare upward the natural downward flow of the Stomach Qi becomes disrupted and rebellious, manifesting in sour regurgitation, nausea, and sometimes vomiting after eating. The Spleen/Stomach partnership opens into the mouth, thus Stomach fire manifests in swelling and pain in the gums, as well as bleeding gums. As the heat induces smell there is bad breath. The thirst is severe with desire for cold liquids. There is also constipation (the heat has parched the fluids).
In both “Stomach yin deficiency” and “Stomach fire” the treatment principle is to cool Stomach heat and nourish the Stomach lining and stomach fluids. Heat causing foods and drinks mentioned in the Cause section need to be avoided. Foods with cool and moistening nature should be selected.
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(1) Maciocia, Giovanni (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Nanjing: Harcourt Publishers Limited
(2) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books
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