Can gallbladder cause headaches

Is There a Link Between Headaches and Gallbladder Problems?

Ask a doctor if she thinks that there is a connection between getting headaches and gallbladder problems, and you’ll likely hear, “There isn’t much of a link.”

Headaches are usually not listed as a symptom of gallbladder problems, nor does a connection between the two appear to be a popular research topic, judging by the lack of such articles in medical research databases.

But ask someone who practices Eastern medicine, a practitioner who looks at the body in a different way, and you’ll get a much different answer.

Eastern medicine practitioners recognize the “gallbladder headache,” and believe that gallbladder problems can be related to certain headaches.

The Gallbladder Meridian

In Eastern medicine, all of your internal organs — your gallbladder, your liver, your kidneys, and so on — are thought to be connected to channels inside your body known as meridians. And the gallbladder meridian runs along the side of the head.

According to David Canzone, doctor of oriental medicine, and an acupuncturist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the gallbladder “is an organ that functions in a system, meridians are seen as an outlet for the energy of these organs.”

Canzone says these meridians are similar to what Western practitioners call neuropathways. “So if you have gallbladder problems, an energetic blockage, it’s going to show up in the corresponding neuropathway, or meridian,” he says.

With acupuncture, “you can release the built up tension in the gallbladder meridian,” says Canzone. “If you can relieve that tension, you can relieve that headache.”

Can Acupuncture Cure a Headache or Migraine?

Headaches and migraines can be treated with acupuncture when patients seek alternative medical treatment. During acupuncture, needles are inserted into the skin along meridian pathways in an effort to release blocked energy and restore balance.

A clinical trial published in April 2017 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that acupuncture significantly reduced the frequency of migraines. The study consisted of 249 participants between 18 and 65 years old who experienced migraines without aura two to eight times per month. Participants used diaries to record the day the migraine occurred, the severity of their migraines, and any medication intake over a four week period. One-third of the participants were given 20 acupuncture sessions and their results were compared with those from a sham acupuncture control group and a waitlist of equal size. The participants who received true acupuncture reported less painful and less frequent migraines compared with the waitlist and sham acupuncture groups.

“In this study they targeted some of the points along the gallbladder pathway,” Canzone says. “Simple headaches are also treated using the same acupressure points.”

How Do I know if My Gallbladder Is Out of Whack?

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of gallbladder complications include:

  • Sudden pain in the upper right or center of the abdomen
  • Sudden pain between your shoulder blades or in your right shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • High fever

Canzone finds that the most common symptom of gallbladder problems is pain in the upper back, where the gallbladder meridian crosses through the area between the neck and the shoulder. “If you have something going on in that nerve pathway and you have muscle tension in that part of the neck and shoulder, you could see that as the cause of a headache,” he says.

But he also says that people can have gallstones (a buildup of bile in the gallbladder) and never experience headaches, while others with gallstones develop gallbladder-related headaches.

Negative emotions, alcohol, and other abused substances can heat up the liver, and since the liver is in line with the head and the eyes, heat can travel from the gallbladder up its meridian pathway, causing a headache.

When and Where to Seek Treatment

If you’re having sudden, severe, or persistent headaches, your first line of defense should be to contact your primary doctor. In some cases, headaches can be symptoms of serious conditions that require medical treatment.

Similarly, if you are having symptoms of gallbladder problems, such as severe pain in the right side of your abdomen or pain in your upper back, schedule a check-up with your medical practitioner to rule out serious problems and get treatment, if necessary.

If your headaches are ongoing and your doctor has ruled out other medical problems, a licensed acupuncturist may help to relieve your pain.

Additional reporting by Calley Nelson

Deadly Symptom: Sudden and Increasing Pain in the Upper Right of Your Stomach
The Condition: Gallstones

From This Episode:

The Little Couple’s Cancer Scare

The gallbladder is one of the body’s smallest organs. Located right below the liver, it collects bile, necessary for the digestion of fat, and releases it into the small intestine. When excess cholesterol is present in bile, stones can begin to form in the gallbladder – leading to excruciating pain, infection and other complications. Infection can spread to the liver or pancreas and can be deadly if left untreated. When infection occurs or, in more extreme cases, when the gallbladder bursts, surgery is necessary. Seek immediate help if you feel this pain, which can be accompanied by a fever. to learn more about keeping your gallbladder healthy.

Deadly Symptom: Blurred, Shaded or Double Vision
The Condition: Diabetes
Aging can cause vision changes, but these symptoms are distinct. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people ages 20 to 74. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage all the blood vessels in the body, including those in the eye. Damaged vessels can not deliver blood to the eye. As new vessels begin to replace the damaged ones, they begin to crowd your field of vision, shading it like the branches of a tree. These new vessels can also hemorrhage. If you notice blurred, shaded or double vision, go to your doctor immediately. These symptoms are reversible and further damage is avoidable if you get your sugar levels under control.

Deadly Symptom: A Persistent Headache
The Condition: Cerebral Aneurysm
People who have had an aneurysm have described the pain as the “worst headache of their life.” An aneurysm is a ballooning of the blood vessel. If you feel an intense headache, it could mean that a blood vessel has ruptured, which is fatal 40% of the time. If you have high blood pressure, you are at increased risk for a cerebral aneurysm. If you are menopausal, the drop in estrogen is also a risk factor.

Seek help immediately if you feel this pain or any of these warning symptoms:

  • Pain above or behind the eye
  • Neck pain
  • Numbness on one side of the face

to learn more about the different kinds of pain caused by headaches, and the right and wrong way to treat them.

Deadly Symptom: A Leg Cramp That Won’t Go Away

The Condition: Deep Vein Thrombosis

A cramp, pain or tenderness in the leg can be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This pain is a sign that there is a clot in the leg, which can travel to your lungs, where it can block an artery. If this happens, it can stop your heart and you could die in minutes. Symptoms include pain or swelling in the calf, pain behind the knee, or pain or tenderness in the thigh.

DVT is most likely to occur after sitting for long periods of time, especially during air travel. Other risk factors include family history, and taking estrogen medication like the pill or hormone replacements, as side effects already include blood clots. DVT is preventable; get up or move as often as possible, especially when on a plane (and avoid alcohol when flying). to learn more about how estrogen medications put you at increased risk for DVT.

Deadly Symptom: Bleeding Gums

The Condition: Leukemia
In a healthy person, the blood components operate normally: red blood cells deliver oxygen, white blood cells fight infection, and platelets clot the blood. But in a person with leukemia, or cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system, there is an elevated number of abnormal white blood cells that don’t function properly. As a result, there aren’t as many platelets and blood does not clot as it should. People with leukemia will bleed and bruise more easily. Other symptoms include nosebleeds, fever, night sweats, and weakness or fatigue. A doctor can diagnose leukemia with a blood test.

Deadly Symptom: Shortness of Breath

The Condition: Asthma
An asthma attack is caused by the tightening of the muscles around your airways, inflammation of the lining of the airways, and thick and excess mucus production. A combination of all three will give rise to asthma symptoms including shortness of breath, which means that less air is getting to your lungs. At a critical level, this can stop your heart. If you experience asthma symptoms, talk to your doctor and avoid asthma triggers like allergens, pet dander, cold weather or emotional upset.

Dr. Oz’s #1 Symptom You Should Never Ignore: Persistent Nausea

The Condition: A Heart Attack
Although chest pain is the most common symptom in both men and women, many women experience vague symptoms that are not immediately attributed to a heart attack.

Why would persistent nausea, one of the most surprising symptoms, be a sign of a heart attack? It’s due to the medical phenomenon of “referred pain” – when pain is perceived at a site adjacent to or distant from the actual area of injury or illness. The heart has no actual nerve endings to feel pain, so it sends signals to the spine, which then send signals to the rest of the body. Ninety-five percent of women who had a heart attack said they felt one of the below symptoms up to a month before the attack. The key is to recognize the symptoms, as well as their frequency and severity.

Here are symptoms of a heart attack that no one should ever ignore:

  • Pressure, tightness and squeezing pain across the chest
  • Pain radiating down the arm, shoulders, jaw, neck, and back, particularly on the left side
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, sweating, weakness, overwhelming fatigue
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Headache, blurry vision, lightheadedness, feeling faint
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as indigestion, nausea and vomiting
  • Coughing and palpitations

If you are experiencing these symptoms and feel that you are having a heart attack:

  • Call 911 and say “I’m having a heart attack.” Have someone drive you to the emergency room if an ambulance can not get to you in time.
  • Chew an aspirin; this can reduce damage to the heart muscle.
  • Lie down.

for more on what women should know about heart attacks. for more on preventing heart attacks.

What are the most common gallbladder problems?

Share on PinterestThe gallbladder is found just below the liver. Its job is to store bile used to digest fat.

Some common gallbladder problems include:

Gallstones, or cholelithiasis

Gallstones are solid masses of cholesterol or pigment that can be different sizes.

They occur when high levels of fat and bile cause crystals to form. These crystals may combine over time and expand into stones.

Stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball and may or may not cause symptoms.

Common bile duct stones, or choledocholithiasis

Small tubes transport bile from the gallbladder and deposit it in the common bile duct. From there, it is moved to the small intestine. Sometimes, gallstones can lodge or form in the common bile duct.

Most often, these stones begin their life in the gallbladder and migrate to the common bile duct. This is a secondary stone or a secondary common bile duct stone.

If the stone forms within the duct itself, it is a primary stone, or primary common bile duct stone. These are less common but are more likely to cause an infection than secondary stones.

Gallbladder cancer

Gallbladder cancer is very rare, affecting less than 4,000 Americans per year; but if it does occur, it can spread to other parts of the body.

Risk factors include gallstones, porcelain gallbladder (described below), female gender, obesity, and older age.

Inflamed gallbladder, cholecystitis

Acute or sudden cholecystitis occurs when bile can’t leave the gallbladder. This commonly happens when a gallstone obstructs the tube that bile uses to travel into and out of the gallbladder.

Chronic cholecystitis occurs if there are recurrent acute attacks.

When the bile duct is blocked, bile builds up. The excess bile irritates the gallbladder, leading to swelling and infection. Over time, the gallbladder is damaged, and it can no longer function fully.

Perforated gallbladder

If gallstones are left untreated, they can lead to a perforated gallbladder – in other words, a hole in the wall of the organ can develop. Perforation also occurs as a complication of acute cholecystitis.

This breach in the gallbladder’s wall can allow leakage of infection into other parts of the body causing a severe, widespread infection.

Common bile duct infection

If the common bile duct becomes blocked, it can lead to an infection. This can be treated if it is caught early; however, if it is missed, it can spread and develop into a severe, life-threatening infection.

Dysfunctional gallbladder or chronic gallbladder disease

Repeated episodes of gallstone attacks or cholecystitis may damage the gallbladder permanently. This can lead to a rigid, scarred gallbladder.

In this case, symptoms can be hard to pinpoint. They include abdominal fullness, indigestion, and increased gas and diarrhea.

Gallstone ileus

Gallstone ileus is rare but can be fatal. It occurs when a gallstone migrates to the intestine and blocks it. Often, emergency surgery is needed to clear the blockage.

Gallbladder abscess

Sometimes, a patient with gallstones will also develop pus in the gallbladder; this is called empyema. The condition can produce severe pain in the abdomen. It can be life-threatening if it is not treated.

Individuals with diabetes, reduced immune system, and obesity have an increased risk of developing this complication.

Porcelain (calcified) gallbladder

Porcelain gallbladder is a condition where, over time, the muscular walls of the gallbladder develop a buildup of calcium. This makes them stiff, limiting the gallbladder’s function and increasing the risk of gallbladder cancer.

The word “porcelain” is used because the organ becomes bluish and brittle.

Gallbladder polyps

Polyps are a type of growth that is typically benign (noncancerous). Smaller gallbladder polyps often do not cause any problems and rarely produce any symptoms. Larger polyps may need to be removed.

Gallbladder meridian (foot shao yang) Pathway

Known as the ‘Honorable Minister’, the gall bladder is in charge of the ‘Central Clearing Department’. It secretes the pure and potent bile fluids required to digest and metabolize fats and oils, and its energy provides muscular strength and vitality.

It works with the lymphatic system to clear toxic by-products of metabolism from the muscular system, thereby eliminating muscular aches and fatigue. In the Chinese system, the common tension headache is caused by obstruction in the gall-bladder meridian, which runs up over the shoulders and back of the neck to the top of the head and forehead. Hence such headaches are usually accompanied by neck and shoulder tension.

The gall bladder governs daring and decisiveness. In Chinese, the word for ‘daring’ is da dan (‘big gall’). The English language also acknowledges this psychophysiological relationship with the phrase ‘a lot of gall’. An old Chinese adage states: ‘The gall bladder is daring, the heart is careful’, which reflects the stimulating generative influence of Wood to Fire.

Passage with points

The meridian originates from the outer canthus (GB 1) ascends to the corner of the forehead curves downward to the retroauricular region runs along the lateral neck to the shoulder turns back and traverses down to the supraclavicular fossa from there descends along the lateral aspect of the chest passes in front of the axilla goes through the free ends of the floating ribs reaches the hip region (GB 30).

The branch arising from the retroauricular region enters the ear comes out and passes through the preauricular region arrives in the posterior aspect of the outer canthus.

The branch from the gallbladder runs inside the hypochondriac region comes out from the lateral side of the lower abdomen near the femoral artery in the inguinal region from there runs superficially along the margin of the pubic hair goes transversely into the hip region to meet the previous branch then descends along
the lateral aspect of the thigh and knee goes further downward along the anterior border of the fibula passes in front of the lateral malleolus follows the dorsum of the foot terminates at the lateral side of the tip of the 4th toe (GB 44).

Passage without points

The branch arising from the outer canthus runs downward to ST 5 meets the triple warmer meridian in the infraorbital region passes through ST 6 descends to the neck enters the supraclavicular fossa, where it meets the main meridian.

The branch from the supraclavicular fossa descends to the chest passes through the diaphragm connects with the liver enters its pertaining organ the gallbladder.

The branch from the dorsum of the foot springs from GB 41 runs between the 1st and 2nd metatarsal bones to the distal portion of the great toe terminates at its hairy region, where it links with the liver meridian.

The Gallbladder

Healing The Gallbladder with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

In Chinese medicine, the Gallbladder has many important functions. Firstly, it has a very close relationship to the Liver. The Gallbladder is a Yang organ and the Liver is its Yin organ partner. The Gallbladder stores and excretes bile, governs decision making and planning, controls the sinews and effects dreams. On a deeper emotional level, the Gallbladder is responsible for our passion for life, inspiration, action and assertiveness. When we are having problems being assertive, making decisions or following through, are lacking passion, feeling timid or uninspired, we are experiencing an imbalance of the Gallbladder. When the Gallbladder is balanced and its energy is flowing freely, we are happy, healthy, assertive and passionate.

In TCM, organs are categorized as either Yin or Yang. Yin organs are defined as organs that produce, transform, regulate and store fundamental substances, such as Qi, Blood and body fluids, and in general, the Yin organs are not empty cavities. They are function versus form. The Yin organs in TCM are the Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs and Kidneys. The Yang organs are organs that are mainly responsible for digestion and for transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Usually, they are organs with empty cavities, and have a connection to the outside of the body. The Yang organs in TCM are the Gallbladder, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Bladder and San Jiao (Triple Burner).

The Gallbladder is unusual in the sense that it is the only Yang organ that does not have direct contact with food and drink, or a direct connection to the outside of the body. Because of this is also considered an extraordinary organ.

Just as in Western medicine, the Gallbladder receives bile from the Liver which it stores until it is needed in the digestive process. When the Gallbladder releases bile, it is considered to be regulated by the energy of the Liver, or Liver Qi. When digestion is smooth, so is the Liver Qi. The Gallbladder also needs the Liver Qi to be able to release its bile smoothly. If this relationship is impaired, it can adversely affect digestion and cause problems like vomiting, regurgitation, belching and hiccups, which are all symptoms of rebellious Stomach Qi.

It is common in the modern age to see many patients who have had their Gallbladders removed because of gall stones and other problems. In ancient China, the organs were never removed. That has remained the thinking in Traditional Chinese Medicine today, and if a patient is having problems with their Gallbladder, the practitioner of TCM would always explore dietary options, herbs and acupuncture, and possibly cleanses before considering surgery as a last resort.

Why Do So Many People Have Problems With Their Gallbladders?

So, why do so many people have problems with their Gallbladders? It is a good question. I believe that one reason is diet, and the other is stress. These are 2 of the things that affect the gallbladder the most. Another, in Chinese medicine, is the emotions. Each organ in TCM is associated with an emotion. And the Liver/Gallbladder’s emotion is anger. Now, experiencing emotions is a healthy part of life and one of the things that make us human. But in TCM, the philosophy is that not having a healthy emotional life is just as important to our health as eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping your Qi strong (your immune system) so that you can fight off pathogens. The effect of anger on the Liver/Gallbladder works 2 ways.

1. If you repress anger, hold it in and never express it, it will eventually hurt the Liver/Gallbladder and cause imbalance, which will lead to disease.

2. If you are experiencing unusual levels of stress because of things going on in your life (a traumatic event, death, an illness, breakup of a relationship), or stress at work, and/or are eating badly (lots of greasy, fatty, rich or spicy foods), then eventually, the Liver/Gallbladder will become impaired and can cause an excess of anger which can manifest in symptoms like red face & eyes, irritability, angry outbursts, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and migraines. These are symptoms of Liver Fire (excess heat in the Liver).

So, How Can You Take Care of Your Gallbladder?

Here are some things that you can do to keep your Gallbladder healthy and happy.

1. Avoid Greasy, Fatty, Rich or Spicy Foods

Sharp abdominal pains after eating these types of foods points to Gallbladder stones and other problems. Because the Gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile which helps break down fats, you want to keep intake of these foods to a minimum and not overload your Gallbladder.

2. Express Emotions Freely

This may be easier said than done, but any stagnation or blockage in TCM is what causes disease and pain. This includes emotions, so it is important to have a healthy emotional life, and always try to express what you are feeling instead of allowing it to build up. Emotions specific to Gallbladder are anger (frustration, resentment, etc..) associated with its partner, the Liver. Emotional changes such as depression (which is considered anger turned inward) can also point to a Gallbladder imbalance.

3. Eat Foods Grown Locally and in Season

This is a big one in Chinese Medicine, and, if you look at history, it is the way we are designed to eat. Our digestive systems have evolved to digest the foods that people ate once we were able to leave our nomadic roots and start farming. People only ate local foods that were in season. With the recent proliferation of air travel, we have been spoiled by being able to have whatever foods we want, any time of the year (strawberries in winter, blueberries in the tropics, mangoes in the far North…). And although this is wonderful, it is not the way our digestive systems were designed, so we are overloading them with too many kinds of foods at all times of the year.

In Chinese Medicine, nutritional therapy is a huge aspect of the medicine. What better way to heal the body than to use the food that we eat 3 times a day? In TCM, every food has a temperature, that interacts with your body, adding heat, cold, or keeping it neutral. Foods also all have healing properties, so the Chinese felt it very important to eat the proper foods when they became sick to help rebalance them so they could recover. I will include a list of some foods beneficial for the Gallbladder at the end of this article.

4. Exercise. Keep Moving!

The Gallbladder meridian runs bilaterally along the body starting at the outside corner of the eye (at the end of the eyebrow) and runs along the side of the body, ending at the corner of the nail bed of the 4th toe. Therefore, any exercise that stimulates the sides of the body are beneficial for the flow of Qi and to help remove any blockages in the Gallbladder organ and meridian. Side stretches are ideal. There are many Chinese internal as well as external martial arts that are excellent for mind, body and spirit. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are 2 examples of internal martial arts that are beneficial for moving Qi in all of the meridians, as well as strengthening the body and the mind. Kung Fu is a bit more rigorous, but has an emphasis is circulating Qi throughout the body to maintain physical and mental health. Movement is the most important aspect for keeping your Qi from stagnating, so if Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Kung Fu are a bit more physical activity than you are used to, just simple things like walking are a wonderful way to keep Qi moving.

5. Be Kind to Your Gallbladder in Spring

Spring is the season related to the Gallbladder, and its partner the Liver.
The Spring element is wood, the taste, sour and the colour is green. So you can imagine after a lengthy winter, the new bright green shoots of plants breaking through the ground representing new life after a long, cold slumber. This is the reason that it is especially important to give the Gallbladder and the Liver a rest from things like caffeine, alcohol and other intoxicants during this time. It is also beneficial to cleanse these organs by drinking lots of water and eating things like fresh greens to nourish the Gallbladder and Liver, especially in the spring.

6. Know What Time It Is

In Chinese medicine, every organ is seen to have 2 hours out of every 12 where its Qi is at its peak. The time when the Gallbladder’s energy is its most abundant is between 11pm-1am. During these 2 hours, it is helpful if you can refrain from drinking alcohol or other intoxicants, as they place unnecessary stress on the Gallbladder. It also helps the Gallbladder if you can rest the body as much as possible in these 2 hours.

Foods that are beneficial to the Gallbladder

  • Broccoli
  • Rocket
  • Beetroot
  • Oranges
  • Jasmine tea
  • Green tea
  • Radishes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne (this may seem contradictory, but Cayenne is very moving for qi. Just remember, moderation!)
  • Dill
  • Chive
  • Cardamom
  • Lemon
  • Dandelion root
  • Licorice root
  • Kumquat
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Peppermint tea
  • Chrysanthemum tea
  • Tea with orange peel

Foods that hurt the Gallbladder

  • Deep fried food – (Greasy)
  • Alcohol – (Damp)
  • Spicy foods (remember moderation is important!)
  • Hot foods – Foods that are considered “Hot” in TCM are:
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Curry

If you are experiencing any Gallbladder symptoms, or have been told by your doctor that you should consider surgery, I encourage you to seek out a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and explore the non surgical options to re-balance your body and heal your Gallbladder.

The wonderful thing about Chinese medicine is that it was developed to be a system that focuses on prevention. That is why, it is not only the oldest medical system on earth, but it teaches an entire way of life, teaching how to live in harmony with nature, eating with the seasons, moderation in work and play, exercise and emotional wellness. By practicing these basic principles, the Chinese believe that you can maintain optimum health so that illness never has a chance to develop.

The Gallbladder : Chinese Medicine Living

This adorable gallbladder from I Heart Guts

Meal Programs

The mind and the body are inseparable.

Ancient Eastern civilizations have long understood the way our mental and spiritual bodies inform our physical nature. Western science too has begun to understand the interdependence between the emotional and physical body: we know the ‘gut’ acts as our second brain and stress is toxic.

In fact, every organ corresponds to the energy of a certain emotion, and every disease stems from an imbalance in an organ or its meridians (energy channels). This is a fundamental idea in Chinese Medicine. Many times a physical disorder linked to a certain organ actually stems from an imbalance in the emotion associated with that organ. The reverse could be true: an imbalanced organ can heighten the specific emotion experienced by an individual. It can become a vicious cycle.

All emotions are inevitable, physiologically normal and will not cause disease when they arise in daily life. Chinese medicine only considers emotions as pathological when they are repressed, contained, or expressed intensely, often, without control, or out of context.

Specific herbs and foods with each organ’s correlating energies can be used to appropriately strengthen, tonify, and detoxify the organ to help even the scariest emotions to pass through easily! Likewise, the more we decide to participate in our emotional lives through awareness exercises like journaling and meditation, the more we can help treat the energetic organ systems.


Grief is the emotion of the lungs and the large intestine, organs associated with the metal element. Loss of any kind will often trigger a cold, a feeling of being energetically drained, and difficult bowel function. Grief can stay with us for a while, and can go unresolved until we decide to release it. When grief is unresolved and becomes chronic, depression and an inability to ‘let go’ of things can arise from this lung Qi Deficiency. This could eventually interfere with lung function and oxygen circulation. Since our lungs control the flow of energy in our bodies, it’s important that we give ourselves space to deal with painful events rather than stifling them!

To Balance: pungent flavoured and/or white colored foods and herbs. Onion, radish, mustard greens, daikon radish, scallions (white part), almonds, white meat, white rice, white beans, white mushrooms, gingko nut, white mustard seed, angelica root tangerine peel

Reduce: eggs, dairy, rich, processed or fatty foods that cause congestion


Fear is the emotion of the kidneys and the bladder, organs associated with the water element. It is a normal adaptive emotion, but can become chronic when we ignore it. Kidney issues often arise when we are dealing with fear, such as a change in life direction or unstable living conditions. When we experience extreme fright, our kidneys struggle to hold qi and we can quite literally pee our pants. Involuntary urination like this is often seen in ‘stage fright’.

To Balance: salty flavoured and/or black colored foods and herbs. Black beans, walnuts, black sesame, mushrooms, water chestnuts, seaweed, blackberries, black tea, psoralia root, lotus seed, stephania root

Reduce: cheese, salt, heavy meat, sugars, excessively cooling foods


Worry is the emotion of the spleen and the stomach, organs associated with the earth element. Too much pensiveness, worrying and insecurity can weaken our ability to digest. When we are anxious, we find it hard to digest and accept a situation or life event. Lack of trust and ease towards the experiences and the foods we take in to our lives will make it impossible for us to digest them. This can make us feel tired, lethargic, and unable to concentrate: a bit of a paradox, too much mental stimulation can actually cause mental heaviness. A week spleen can also be the cause of stubborn weight problems!

To Balance: sweet flavoured and/or yellow, orange, brown colored foods and herbs. Root veggies! Carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, parsnip, squash, chestnuts, fig, taro, liquorice root, ginger root, jujube date, astragalus root

Reduce: meats, cold, raw, and all frozen foods, iced drinks, excess refined sugars


Anger is the emotion of the liver and the gallbladder, organs associated with the wood element. Emotions like rage, fury or aggravation can indicate that this energy is in excess, and when we experience these emotions consistently, our liver can get further damaged. At this point, headaches and dizziness can be common. An imbalanced gallbladder can be caused by longstanding feelings of repressed anger, such as resentment, frustration, and irritability. Avoiding outbursts of anger will protect liver and gallbladder health.

To Balance: sour flavoured and/or green colored foods and herbs. Dandelion greens, beetroot, green bell pepper, peas, sprouts, bok choy, string beans, cabbage, zucchini, mung beans, avocado, citrus, barbat skullcap, fo shou, milk thistle, Chinese wolfberry fruit

Reduce: soft dairy, crabmeat, buckwheat, alcohol, fried foods, peanuts, and excess citrus


Joy is the emotion of the heart and the small intestine, organs associated with the fire element. When we experience true joy and happiness, we are nourishing our heart and small intestine energy: we feel mentally clear and able to process experiences. When we are lacking joy in our lives, the heart suffers and we can feel stuck, mentally chaotic, and have difficulty sleeping. Mania or obsessive joy can indicate excess scattered heart energy, and can be the cause of severe mental emotional disorders. Over stimulated heart energy could also cause agitation, insomnia and palpitations. Even the good emotions can be out of balance!

Reduce: excess spicy foods, chocolate, sugar, salt, vinegar, garlic


Anxiety can have one of 4 origins according to TCM:

If related to the lungs and large intestine (metal), qi blockage can provoke shallow and irregular breathing or even holding of breath. The large intestine can be detrimentally affected by anxiety, making one more prone to issues like ulcerative colitis and IBS.

Kidney and bladder (water) issues could also be at the root of this emotion. Our adrenals regulate our stress response and when adrenal problems become chronic, they can cause anxiety. TCM recognizes the adrenal glands as the same as the kidneys. Anxiety can also be caused by disharmony between the kidneys and a blazing heart fire, in this case rapid heart palpitations are experienced.

Anxiety can stem from liver (wood) imbalance too, when longstanding anger and irritation goes unresolved. In this case anxiety manifests as nervous tension, irritability, and insomnia.

Anxiety from excess worry and pensiveness stems from spleen and stomach (earth) imbalance. This can cause stomach swelling and bloating after eating.

General anxiety aids: cooling foods to build yin, celery, tofu, valerian, chamomile, plums, tangerine, liquorice, ginseng

Reduce: caffeine, stimulants, alcohol, cinnamon

*Chinese herbs are usually more effective in formulas than alone. Always check with a trained TCM physician before taking anything new. Foods should not be restricted to these suggestions, they are simply a guide!

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *