Upper Abdominal Discomfortaccording to TCM

What is Upper Abdominal Discomfort?

Upper abdominal discomfort is a commonly reported symptom that encompasses a range of sensations including mild pain, a feeling of unease, or discomfort in the area above the navel and below the chest.

This condition can manifest as a vague, intermittent feeling of fullness or an uncomfortable pressure that might not always be related to eating or specific activities. It's a symptom that can vary greatly in intensity and duration, often leading individuals to seek medical advice to understand its underlying causes.

How does TCM View Upper Abdominal Discomfort?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) interprets upper abdominal discomfort through the lens of energetic imbalances and disruptions in the flow of Qi (energy) and Blood within the body. Unlike Western medicine, which often focuses on specific organs or systems, TCM considers this symptom a reflection of broader disharmonies that could involve multiple organs, particularly the Stomach and Spleen.

Identifying the precise pattern of imbalance is essential in TCM, as it determines the treatment strategy, emphasizing the holistic nature of this medical system.

Root Causes of Upper Abdominal Discomfort in TCM

TCM attributes upper abdominal discomfort to several potential causes, with Qi Deficiency and Yin Deficiency being prominent among them. Qi Deficiency, especially when it affects the Stomach and Spleen, can lead to symptoms like epigastric discomfort, lack of appetite, and generalized fatigue, suggesting a diminished capacity for Qi to maintain digestive functions.

Yin Deficiency, marked by Dryness and insufficient cooling fluids in the body, also manifests as epigastric discomfort alongside dry lips and a preference for sipping liquids. These patterns underscore the intricate balance required to maintain digestive health and comfort.

Explore below more details about what might cause Upper abdominal discomfort according to TCM.

  • By Syndrome
  • By Organ
  • Qi Deficiency
  • Yin Deficiency
  • Summer Heat
  • Stomach
  • Spleen
Detailed description of the cause

Qi Deficiency

Qi Deficiency in TCM is like running low on battery power. Qi is the vital energy that powers every function in your body. When there's a Qi Deficiency, it means your body doesn't have enough of this essential energy. This can make you feel tired all the time, weak, or even cause shortness of breath. It's similar to how you feel when you haven't had enough sleep or nutritious food. Your body just doesn't have the energy it needs to perform at its best. Unlike modern medicine, which often focuses on specific physical causes for fatigue and weakness, TCM views Qi Deficiency as an overall energy depletion that affects your entire well-being, and it seeks to replenish and balance this vital energy.... see more

Qi Deficiency Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Discomfort

Common Symptoms: Lack Of Appetite Weak Limbs Diarrhea Loss Of Taste Slight Abdominal Distension After Eating Generalized Fatigue General Weakness Pale Face

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Lack of appetite, Slight abdominal distension after eating, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Pale face, Weak limbs, Diarrhea, Upper abdominal discomfort, Loss of taste... see more Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan | Si Jun Zi Tang | Shen Ling Bai Zhu San | Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang
Stomach Qi Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Morning fatigue Si Jun Zi Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Yin Deficiency

Yin deficiency in TCM is a pattern of disharmony characterized by a depletion of the body's Yin energy, which represents the cooling, moistening, and nurturing aspects of our physiology. This condition often arises from factors like chronic stress, overwork, insufficient rest, or prolonged illness. Symptoms of Yin deficiency can include a sensation of heat, especially in the afternoon or evening, night sweats, insomnia, a dry mouth or throat, and a red tongue with little coating. There might also be a general feeling of restlessness or irritability. Since Yin is essential for balancing the body's active and warm Yang energy, its deficiency leads to a relative excess of Yang, manifesting as heat or dryness symptoms.... see more

Yin Deficiency Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Discomfort

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Lack of appetite, Xerostomia, Preference for sipping, Dry stools, Dry lips, Nausea, Generalized fatigue, Upper abdominal discomfort, Loss of taste... see more Shen Ling Bai Zhu San
Detailed description of the cause

Summer Heat

"Summer-Heat" in TCM is a unique concept that refers to a pattern of disharmony often associated with the hot summer months. Imagine the intense heat of summer stressing your body, like being in a sweltering, humid environment for too long. This can lead to symptoms like feeling overheated, excessive sweating, a feeling of irritation, and sometimes even nausea or dizziness. In TCM, this condition is thought to arise from the external environment's heat affecting the body's internal balance. It's similar to how we might feel uncomfortable and out of sorts on a very hot day. ... see more

Summer Heat Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Discomfort

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Summer-Heat Uncomfortable sensation in the epigastrium, Fever, Aversion to cold, Perspiration, Headaches, Feeling of heaviness, Upper abdominal discomfort, Irritability, Thirst... see more Qing Luo Yin | Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Stomach

In TCM the Stomach is regarded as the "sea of nourishment," pivotal for digesting food and transforming it into Qi and blood. It works closely with the Spleen to distribute these essential nutrients throughout the body. When the Stomach is out of balance or malfunctions in TCM, it often leads to digestive problems such as bloating, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, or a feeling of fullness. There may also be issues like acid reflux or a sour taste in the mouth. Emotionally, an imbalanced Stomach can contribute to excessive worry and overthinking, reflecting the TCM belief that physical and emotional well-being are deeply interconnected.... see more

Stomach Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Discomfort

Common Symptoms: Lack Of Appetite Loss Of Taste Generalized Fatigue Weak Limbs Diarrhea Slight Abdominal Distension After Eating General Weakness Pale Face

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Lack of appetite, Slight abdominal distension after eating, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Pale face, Weak limbs, Diarrhea, Upper abdominal discomfort, Loss of taste... see more Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan | Si Jun Zi Tang | Shen Ling Bai Zhu San | Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang
Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Lack of appetite, Xerostomia, Preference for sipping, Dry stools, Dry lips, Nausea, Generalized fatigue, Upper abdominal discomfort, Loss of taste... see more Shen Ling Bai Zhu San
Stomach Qi Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Morning fatigue Si Jun Zi Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Spleen

In TCM the Spleen plays a vital role in digestion and transformation, converting food into energy and nutrients, and overseeing the distribution of Qi and Blood. It's also crucial in maintaining the health of muscles and limbs and ensuring the blood remains within the vessels. When the Spleen malfunctions in TCM, it can lead to a variety of issues such as digestive disorders, fatigue, weak muscles, bloating, and a feeling of heaviness. It can also cause a pale complexion, poor appetite, and a tendency to bruise easily. Emotionally, a Spleen imbalance is often associated with excessive worry or overthinking, reflecting its role in the interplay between physical and mental health.... see more

Spleen Patterns That Can Lead to Upper Abdominal Discomfort

Common Symptoms: Lack Of Appetite Generalized Fatigue Loss Of Taste Slight Abdominal Distension After Eating General Weakness Pale Face Weak Limbs Diarrhea

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Lack of appetite, Slight abdominal distension after eating, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Pale face, Weak limbs, Diarrhea, Upper abdominal discomfort, Loss of taste... see more Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan | Si Jun Zi Tang | Shen Ling Bai Zhu San | Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang
Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency Epigastrium discomfort, Lack of appetite, Xerostomia, Preference for sipping, Dry stools, Dry lips, Nausea, Generalized fatigue, Upper abdominal discomfort, Loss of taste... see more Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

TCM Herbal Formulas for Upper Abdominal Discomfort

To address upper abdominal discomfort, TCM prescribes specific formulas based on the identified patterns of disharmony. For Qi Deficiency affecting the Stomach and Spleen, Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan and Si Jun Zi Tang are recommended to strengthen Qi and support digestive functions.

In cases of Yin Deficiency, Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is suggested to nourish Yin and restore moisture. Additionally, for discomfort arising from Summer-Heat, Qing Luo Yin, with its cooling properties, is used to clear Heat and alleviate symptoms.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address upper abdominal discomfort, organized by cause and by formula type.

  • By Cause
  • By Formula Type
  • Qi Deficiency
  • Yin Deficiency
  • Summer Heat
  • Formulas that tonify qi
  • Formulas that dispel summer-Heat and clear heat
  • Formulas that dispel summer-Heat and augment qi

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Discomfort Caused by Qi Deficiency

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Si Jun Zi Tang Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency, Stomach Qi Deficiency
Shen Ling Bai Zhu San Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency
Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency
Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency

All Formulas Recommended for Upper Abdominal Discomfort Caused by Summer Heat

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Qing Luo Yin Summer-Heat
Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang Summer-Heat

All "formulas that tonify qi" recommended for upper abdominal discomfort

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Si Jun Zi Tang Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency, Stomach Qi Deficiency
Shen Ling Bai Zhu San Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency, Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency
Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency
Sheng Yang Yi Wei Tang Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency

Acupoints for Upper Abdominal Discomfort

Acupuncture, another cornerstone of TCM treatment, utilizes specific points to address upper abdominal discomfort effectively. Weizhong BL-40, located at the midpoint of the popliteal crease, is particularly noted for its ability to cool the Blood, clear Summer-Heat, and ease discomfort.

This approach, focusing on restoring balance and ensuring the free flow of Qi and Blood, illustrates TCM's comprehensive strategy in treating symptoms by targeting their root causes.

See more details below about Weizhong BL-40, an acupoint used to address upper abdominal discomfort.

  • By Meridian
  • Bladder Channel
Weizhong BL-40

Weizhong BL-40

At the midpoint of the popliteal crease, between the tendons of biceps femoris and semitendinosus muscle.