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If you’ve ever had a fight with your partner, you might just know how the above statement relates to what was going to be a romantic evening at a restaurant (that had a 2 x month reservation list).

“I’m not hungry”, you hear from your partner after the entree has been served up following several minutes of silence.

You think about all the possible responses that might echo some empathy, whilst helping you dive into the divine food that stares at you, without seeming uncaring. But eating in front of your other half as they swelter in anger, you decide, is not a smart choice. 

The emotions have subdued the appetite. 

Let’s dive into the world of how emotions can affect óur Gastrointestinal homeostatic balance.

The organs of the body have obvious physiological effects and functions in the body. The Kidneys have influence over water levels in the body, blood pressure, toxin excretion and nutrient absorption. The Liver has influence over Glucose metabolism and also secretes bile for fat metabolism.

However in Chinese Medicine each organ also has a particular emotional component attributed.

For example, the Kidneys are the storehouse of willpower, determination or “ZHI”. The depleting emotion of fear, when in excess, can affect the Kidneys “Yang”, or function. 

The Liver on the other hand houses the “ethereal soul” and is known as the “hun”. The emotions related to the liver are frustration and anger and a healthy liver creates a feeling of decisive action and assists the body by providing a free flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body.

Now that we’ve talked briefly about what emotions are related to these organs, let’s go deeper about how this might affect our digestive systems on a day to day basis.

According to energetics, the emotion of fear has a downward moving nature in the body, it descends. Some people might notice that before doing something super scary, like public speaking, that they feel the need to rush to the toilet. That’s the descending energy coming into play and affecting the digestive system.

The Liver on the other hand, is responsible for the “free flow of qi”. Just think of ‘qi’ as blood and oxygen, which needs to flow freely throughout the body. 

The Liver is responsible for the “free flow of qi throughout the body”. 

If the liver is not functioning at a high level, then that free flow becomes harder, which might lead to “stagnation” of “qi”. What does that stagnation show up as physiologically? Anger, frustration, Sighing (deep breaths), feelings of hypochondrial fullness / distention, feelings of lethargy.

It also presents physically as tightness, pain, raised shoulders.

And if you also think about how much of the energy production comes from what the liver does (bile for fat metabolism and glucose regulation), when certain emotions are impacting the body, then one must wonder how that is affecting the efficiency of the liver, which is a rather important aspect of energy production.

There is one diagnostic pattern in Chinese medicine called “Liver Qi invades the Spleen & Stomach”. There can be belching/burping, feelings of hypochondrial fullness, alternating loose stools which may have similar traits to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Excessive stress can begin to take its toll on the organ associated, therefore leading to negative swings of its related organ, in this case the Liver. And there lies the vicious cycle of us essentially “poisoning” ourselves with negative emotions that only deplete our energy.

And this stress can sometimes have direct effects on the function of the stomach and spleen, a situation sometimes called “Liver invading the Spleen”.

This pattern on a symptomatic level looks a bit like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, alternating stools from loose to constipated, along with things like pain or bloating.

We can also look at the emotional states that we should be in when we are eating.

We want to be emotionally calm, in a safe and quiet space. We also want to be eating at similar times each day.

So, the Liver when cool and calm, provides the body with a steady and smooth supply of Qi, which means the emotions are stable. That then means the Spleen is not in danger of being affected by excess heat, frustration, anger. 

Coupling that with supporting the Spleen with quiet, relaxed and regular feeding, provides the added support of increased nutrient absorption, which reinforces blood production, of which the Liver circulates freely.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is all about balance.


Hobart Acupuncture Practitioner – Tasmania

1: Liver attacking the stomach:

2: – Image Credit

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