Stress Caused Problems

Stress Caused Problems That
Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Treat

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), stress stagnates the energy of your liver. Once the liver’s energy is stagnated, this affects nearly every other organ and speeds up the aging process.

This page explains which health problems can arise from stress. Please view the Stress Caused Problem Chart for more information on the relationships between stress on the liver and other organs.

The most important thing you can do is get a quality acupuncturist’s help at the early stages, before stress leads to more severe health problems. We hope after you read this page, you can do yourself a favor and take care of your health – the most valuable asset in your life!


Stress causes toxins to build up in the liver itself and along the Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin pathway. This lowers the body’s ability to detox overall and leads to a variety of seemingly unrelated health problems.

In Chinese Medicine, hair growth is governing by the liver. A build-up of toxins can cause hair to fall out. Of course, anemia also can cause hair to fall out.

When an organ’s function is abnormal, the organ displays an “emotion.” The liver’s emotion is anger. The liver’s yang raises, also causing high blood pressure. If blood pressure is too high, it can cause stroke.

When liver energy is stagnated along the liver meridian, meridian energy (qi) that passes through the stagnated area will generate heat. Too much heat will become “fire” in Chinese medicine (this doesn’t mean flame will come out!) the fire dries out the moisture in the eyes (in TCM, the liver opens to the eyes) and causes dry eyes. A stagnated Liver Meridian of Foot Jue Yin also causes grinding teeth and tightened muscles in the temples, which can be painful. It also causes weird dreams or nightmares (if it’s getting worse). The heat can generate “wind” which causes tremors and/or muscle spasms. The excess heat can also create an environment for bacteria or viruses to survive. This can lead to herpes zoster (single) or UTI (urinary tract infection).

The liver moisturizes and nourishes tendons. When Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin energy stagnated, it can neither moisturize nor nourish tendons and tendons will tighten up. Tendons also can pull muscles to be tightened up. This causes pain and can also reduce a person’s range of motion.

Moreover, the Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin passes through the breast and uterus. Stagnation in the breast can cause breast abscesses. Stagnation in the uterus can cause qi and/or blood stagnation that leads to PMS, menstruation disorders and/or uterus cysts that could develop into tumors later. Prolonged, the stagnated qi and blood can cause fibroids. The fibroids and/or cysts can cause infertility if fibroids are located inside the uterus. Also if a person is pregnant and under severe stress, she can have a miscarriage.

The Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin passes through hypochondria, the stagnated qi can induce hypochondria pain.

The stagnated Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin follows an energy cycle throughout the day. At around 1:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m., plenty of energy flows through the Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin and it can cause restless sleep. If you find you wake up often at this time of night, TCM can be very helpful for you and may help prevent liver cancer. As western medicine said, liver cancer is a silent killer, and it’s important to pay attention now to any small health problems before they evolve into serious, life-threatening problems.

The stress-induced, high-toxin blood becomes more acidic. The blood cells stick together and carry less oxygen.  When the kidney filters this blood, the kidney senses that there is less oxygen carried, and it releases EPO – a protein – that causes the spine to produce more red blood cells. This leads to too much blood in the body, a disease known as polycythemia.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use herbs and acupuncture to make the red blood cells more alkaline and not stick together, ultimately solving the root problem of this disease. Western Medicine treats polycythemia with chemotherapy.


Stress has a big impact on digestion. Stress causes some people to lose their appetites and lose weight. Others overeat and gain weight.

Let’s recall the five elements picture:

5 elements relationship
5 elements relationship

According to TCM, stress causes the liver to “invade” the spleen, which lowers the spleen’s function and efficiency. The spleen’s “emotion” is worry – and it shows. Patients will have a “motor mind” and over-think everyday problems, making it hard to fall asleep and eventually, inducing insomnia.

When the spleen is weak, it functions less and the body absorbs fewer nutrients. This causes constant fatigue. If iron absorption also weakens, anemia will develop. Anemia often causes dizziness, which occurs when a person stands up quickly.

As mentioned earlier, stress also causes the blood to become too acidic, which causes stasis and reduces oxygen flow. Acidic blood can make the tongue color purplish also cause a mild enlargement of the spleen, called splenmegaly in western medicine. If we resolve the blood stasis and acidity, splenmegaly disappears.

The Liver Meridian of Foot Jueyin, when its energy is stagnated, can also affect the stomach, causing nausea, vomiting and heartburn. My worst case of this was a male patient who could not swallow any food and water for more than 24 hours. After I soothed his liver energy flow, he could eat and drink again.

If the liver “invades” the spleen and stomach, stomach energy flow will be also weak. When wind blows toward the face, the face will be paralyzed and becomes  Bell’s Palsy.

In Chinese Medicine, the spleen is responsible for metabolism. If the spleen’s function is impaired, this could cause high cholesterol and/or triglycerides and/or glucose (diabetes), or in less severe cases cravings for sugar or water retention in the muscles. Extra water in the muscle can hold more toxins in the muscle and cause muscle pain.

If the water is in the blood vessels, it causes severe fatigue that even one stroke of golf, he/she will feel tiredness. Prolonged, it can cause aneurysm. If the water is in the tongue, it makes the tongue enlarged with teeth marks. In the worse case, can bite the tongue when close the jaw.

Also, spleen retains blood flowing within blood vessels and holds all organs in their positions. A weakened spleen is linked to non-stop uterus bleeding (although not all cases of uterine bleeding are related to the spleen yang deficiency) or other kinds bleeding and/or prolapsed organs.

In the intestines, stress can cause constipation or diarrhea or even IBS (irregular bowel syndrome that’s alternated constipation and diarrhea).

If the liver “invades” the lungs and spleen, this can lead to sagging, baggy eyes and or swelling in the upper limbs. Of course, eye bags are caused by a variety of factors and the liver invading the spleen is one of many potential causes.


When liver energy is too stagnated, it can overflow to the Gallbladder Meridian of Foot Shaoyang. This causes the Gallbladder Meridian of Foot Shaoyang to stagnate too.

The Gallbladder Meridian of Foot Shaoyang passes around the eyes and ears, causing pain in the head – migraines.

Heat generated from the stagnated meridian can become “fire,” that can cause nightmares if it disturbs shen (spirit). When fire generates “wind,” it can cause muscle twitching or restless leg syndrome. Moreover, the heat dries the moisture in the Gallbladder, leading to gallstones.

TCM successfully treats most gallstones. TCM uses acupuncture to crush the stones if they are not too small, and uses herbs to “melt” the stones and wash them out. TCM does not support surgical removal of the gallbladder. According to TCM, the consequence of gallbladder removal could be liver cirrhosis (bile has nowhere to go) and indecisiveness; the gallbladder is responsible for helping people make decisions.

When the stagnated Gallbladder Meridian of Foot Shaoyang causes a patient to grind teeth at night, it causes TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder). TMJ can be treated by either acupuncture or herbs or both.

Massive amounts of energy pass through the Gallbladder Meridian of Foot Shaoyang from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Therefore, any gallbladder-related problem will get worse during this time and it will disturb a person’s sleep.


The liver is located under the diaphragm. Once its energy stagnates, it affects the diaphragm and reduces lung capacity, leading to shortness of breath and asthma. In order to expand the lungs cells (alveoli), patients will crave spicy foods (the lung’s nutritional taste). However if too much spicy food is eaten, the extra heat from the spicy food can be pushed out off the skin become acne on the face or red spots all over the body.

When the stress and the lungs heat released as well as the lungs function come back, the acne and the red spots disappeared and the patient will be no longer craving for the spicy foods.

In TCM, a weakened lung is linked to dry skin and other skin problems. The lungs delivery energy (including moisture, nutrition and defensive energy that can pushes all kind immunity materials to flow with the energy) flows to the skin. A weakened lung also leads to phlegm in the lungs and even sleep apnea if spleen is also under deficiency.

Phlegm stays in the lungs plus the body heat, it holds toxins either from outside that entered from nose breathing or from lungs metabolism with the nutrition inside the lungs, in addition, lungs cannot control the pores opening well, outside pathogens (cold, wind, summer heat, dampness, dryness and fire) can bring bacteria and virus inside the body easily, that can cause frequent flu and the worst cases, pneumonia.

In TCM, lungs are the upper body’s “water gate.” If spleen is weak that leads to hold more water in the body along with lungs weak cannot control the water to let it not go to the upper part of the body, besides sinus, the extra water inside the lungs can goes to the upper limbs to cause swelling hands or even arms and/or go to face to cause swelling face or eye bags.

This is the sinus that after surgery, the clotting from the surgery looks like the problem be fixed. However, after all of the fluid flow channels be rebuild up, the sinus comes back!

If lungs capacity goes down, that cannot push the contaminated air out off lungs during exhaling, there is the lung type asthma – difficulty to breath out.

The lungs have highest energy flow at 3:00 a.m. -5:00 a.m. If the meridian is out of balance, this high energy flow will cause sleeplessness.

The lung’s “emotion” is sadness. When the lungs are weak, this emotion will reveal itself to you.

The phlegm builds up in the lungs can change a person’s personality to be afraid to deal with the other people. We call it “Autism”. If we ride off the phlegm in the lungs, the autism will go away.


Any kind of prolonged emotion goes to the heart eventually. The heart’s “emotion” is joy. When the heart is not functioning well, the patient’s emotions will be “not happy” and the patient could have a bitter taste in the mouth.

The heart hosts shen (alertness, spirit). A person has mental disorders if she/he cannot host the shen. At night, the shen needs going back to heart to rest, but, now, it can’t. This causes the person to wake up often through the night.

The energy stagnated in the heart can cause heart “fire” which leads to a hot chest and red tongue tip. In the most extreme cases the person needs ice to cool it down. On the other hand, stagnated energy also impairs water flowing along the Heart Meridian of Hand Shaoyin, causing heart palpitations and swollen ankles (swollen ankles can be caused by injury also).

Prolonged stagnation in the heart blocks energy flow, weakening heart pumping strength and causing a host of other heart and/or whole body problems.


When prolonged stress affects the kidneys, this causes high blood pressure or anything that the patient experiences worse between 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. such as red eyes (if liver and gallbladder also under fire), swelling legs (due to poor circulation on the area below kidneys), and low sexual drive (if the kidney’s “essence” drops, the spleen cannot absorb enough nutrition regardless how good you eat and how much you eat, ultimately inducing low sperm count for males). Stress on the kidneys can also cause dark circles under the eyes, urination problems, and incontinence.

Due to Kidneys generate bone marrow and bone marrows make the bone and brain. It can cause short term memory loss or in severe case, dementia or any other worse situations. We cover this in the menopause.

Kidneys hold the primary “yang” for the whole body. Impaired kidney function can lead to allergies, sensitivity to the weather and/or environment, asthma, and diabetes which is marked by profuse urination.

In TCM, the kidney also controls hair color. When a person’s kidney is deficient, it leads to more grey and white hair.

On another hand, long term stress also can cause high blood pressure.

Learn how to Reduce Stress 1.


  1. Alcohol, coffee, soda, chemical foods additives, processed foods, going to bed late, drugs, artificial sweets and any other chemicals significantly amplify the negative effects of stress-caused problems.
  2. This web page does not cover ALL stress-caused problems. This is a highlight of some of the most common problems according to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

If you have stress, you can try self-healing by learning from A Wealth of Health to avoid your situation getting worse.

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© 2011 Frieda Mah, L.Ac. 2012 Revised

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