Hunger, Dragons & Digestion in Chinese Medicine


Hello, Again! You’re still with me? I’m so happy that you’d like to read more about Chinese medicine and gastrointestinal complaints. Are you here for the first time? Welcome! Make sure to catch up by reading the first four articles in the series : part 1, part 2, part 3 & part 4 are ready for you…

One thing that we have yet to explore in our time together has been the Stomach! And certainly, in Western and Chinese Sciences alike, a GI series would be remiss without a journey into the Stomach.

Remember a few articles ago, when I talked about the difference between the Organ Systems we refer to in Chinese medicine and the western biomedical notion of the organs themselves?

This is important and relevant to our discussion today. Remember, Organ Network theory in essence, accounts for the entire “personality” of an organ. It’s sort of like understanding how each organ in your body relates to itself and how it speaks to the rest of your body too. If you haven’t, head back to that article so this makes even more sense!

The Stomach organ network is associated with receiving and absorbing, it’s elemental association is primarily Earth and it also has a Metal aspect to it.

Something that we haven’t really talked about yet is the animal associations with each organ – for the dragon chinese medicine acupuncture stomachStomach it is the Dragon! So, think of all things dragon (including fiery breath) and you’ve got it!

The Stomach is also dry – it has to be, in order to receive and be the first in line to begin the transformation process. That said, the Stomach dislikes an overly dry environment. Remember how the Spleen and Stomach are closely related? It will make sense why now.

The spleen, having a damp nature (but remember, liking warmth), and the Stomach, having a dry nature (but needing to be cooled), were meant to be – they balance dampness and dryness both in themselves, and in the body.

So, what does this actually look like in YOUR body?

The Metal aspect of the Stomach makes its desire to go downward. When in pathology, the Stomach does a U-Turn, and goes up. A common pathology of reversal Stomach qi is indigestion, stomach reflux, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Think about it, those of you that have experienced this, recall the hot, dry, burning feeling that goes up the esophagus, and sits in the chest? That no matter how much water you drink, or cold beverages you chug it doesn’t really go away. Sounds a lot like the Stomach Organ Network’s personality to me – hot, dry, and fiery!

As always, in Chinese medicine we are never only talking about the body in its anatomical aspects, we are always talking about the transformation from energy (thoughts) to matter (reflux in the chest).

A clear example is the personality that the Stomach has – it always wants more. It want’s to be filled up, dry, hot, and transforming. The phrase, “I am hungry,” takes on a whole new meaning here.

The Stomach contributes greatly to the “hunger” that we all have for life.

chinese medicine acupuncture hunger stomachIt’s like that feeling that you have when you’re excited about what you’re going to be doing that day – and you wake up with a “hunger” for it. This is good, but as with everything we want to see balance. We can see a lot of Stomach pathology in the desire to have more and more – and the feeling of not having enough.

This is common in much of today’s culture and sets up the Stomach’s desire to get stronger and stronger; this can be pretty dangerous. In example, untreated GERD can lead to more complicated presentations (esophagitis, strictures, Barrett esophagus) this unchecked fire and dryness can really be damaging.

In all aspects of health, but specifically with Gastrointestinal complaints, what we decide to eat really matters.

Foods that can cool and moisten a dry and unruly Stomach are: grapes, peaches, celery, spinach, pears, tangerines, grapefruits. Do you crave any of these foods? Sometimes our bodies can naturally lead us to things that will lead us back to health AND simultaneously ameliorate symptoms – it’s fascinating!

If you find yourself experiencing any of these types of symptoms and are interested in finding out more, get in touch! Also, stay tuned for one more article in this series, exploring the relationship between the Stomach and the Heart.

Written by Melinda Wheeler, LAc

My care is personalized and tailored to each individual. Through my studies and training, I have developed many techniques and tools to treat anyone, no matter their ailment or injury. Whether you have identified symptoms of physical pain, emotional instability, or you aren’t quite able to put your finger on any form of dis-ease, but you want to try acupuncture and/or Chinese medicine, come and see what we can accomplish together for the betterment and evolution of your well being!