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What Is a Qi Deficiency? (Plus, Some Ways To Reverse It!)

Restoring your body's healthy flow of Qi is the key.


From planning summer get-togethers to running errands, life can get pretty hectic. After completing all of your to-do’s, rest and relaxation is probably the only thing on your mind. You may think menopause is the reason for your increased fatigue and decreased energy levels. But another factor could be to blame: Qi deficiency. 

We spoke with Kiele-Jael Stanton, a certified health-supportive chef and culinary guide, to learn more about this deficiency (and how to restore it with food).

What is a Qi deficiency? 

Qi (pronounced “chee”) is a concept within traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that’s existed for thousands of years. “Qi can be translated as [vital] energy, material force, energetic matter, or the life force that exists within you. It is ever-changing and ever-evolving in the body,” Stanton explains to Woman’s World.

It’s important to maintain healthy levels of Qi because it impacts your energy levels. “The body’s Qi directly affects your organs and your health, teetering on either excess or deficiency,” she adds. “Simply put, a Qi deficiency means low energy in your body.”

What causes this Qi-related health issues?

Life stressors such as poor diet, emotional imbalances, and overexertion may cause a Qi deficiency and stagnation in organs from the spleen to the liver. TCM practitioner Christopher Hafner, LAc, describes how the body’s overproduction of Qi could lead to a reverse effect. “When Qi is in excess, it can cause stagnation and obstruction,” he writes for the University of Minnesota.

How do I know if I have Qi deficiency?

Stanton reveals a few symptoms that are commonly linked with this deficiency. “A general Qi deficiency may cause fatigue, a weak pulse, and overall illness,” she notes. 

Research published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences lists other signs of a Qi deficiency. These include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • A swollen tongue with teeth marks on the side
  • Spontaneous sweating

Speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. In the meantime, you can start taking steps to naturally treat your Qi deficiency.

How do you treat a Qi deficiency?

Simple lifestyle tweaks go a long way toward balancing your body’s Qi. Here are four suggestions from the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine on reversing a Qi deficiency:

What foods are good for reversing a Qi deficiency?

Eating a healthy and balanced diet helps regulate the body’s Qi production. Stanton recommends adding the below nutrient-rich foods to your daily diet.

  • Bone broth: Marrow stock or bone broth is made from simmering animal bones and connective tissues, which contain a protein called collagen. This protein is an essential building block for healthy bones, skin, hair, muscles, and blood flow. 
  • Ginger: In a 2020 study, ginger extract’s anti-inflammatory compounds, including 6-shogaol and 6-gingerol, were credited with reducing congestion, drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness, and constipation in participants with hay fever. Add ginger to your everyday meals or sip ginger tea to improve your Qi.
  • Stewed greens: Stewed greens are warming, easily digestible, and full of vitamins and nutrients. They also have an alkalizing effect on the body, neutralizing excess acidity that can otherwise lead to inflammation. Collard greens, spinach, and dandelion greens are smart choices. 
  • Steamed rice: Rice contains fiber, which helps ease digestive problems and helps balance Qi deficiency in your stomach and spleen. Brown rice, specifically, has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels in adults with diabetes – a necessary benefit to avoid feeling very tired.
  • Nettle tea: Nettles are a good source of iron. Not getting enough of this mineral leads to a condition called iron deficiency anemia (when there’s a lack of healthy red blood cells). This common type of anemia involves symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Incorporating healthy, vitamin-rich foods to your diet is a smart move no matter your wellness goals. As always, talk to your doctor before embarking on any changes to your health regimen.

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