Qi stagnation is mostly associated with dysfunction of the Liver. From a biomedical point of view, the liver is the detoxification factory of the body and all substances that enter the gastro-intestinal system initally pass through the liver. The liver processes and metabolises natural and synthetic compounds. With the ever increasing load of synthetic substances (preservatives, coloring agents, pharmaceuticals and so on) in the modern diet, the liver is often overloaded. This can contribute to some of the symptoms we recognise in TCM as Liver qi stagnation.
The liver can be affected by the ingestion of too much food or by eating too frequently, before the previous meal has been processed. Even though the primary organ of digestion is the Spleen, it is the Liver that regulates the timing and distribution of resources to the Spleen, so that it can function efficiently. Overloading the Spleen will have a knock on effect on the movement of Liver Qi.
Astringing and congesting foods should be avoided if there is Liver qi stagnation. Foods which have a mild pungents, dispersing nature should be favored. Patients should eat less (leave the table feeling as though they could continue eating) and take the last meal in the late afternoon or early evening. Turbulent or volatiel emotions at meal times are especially detrimental, and meals should be eaten in a calm and relaxed environment.
Recommended proportions for alleviating Liver qi stagnation
The emphasis of the diet should be towards vegetable matter, with plenty of greens, yellows and reds, complemented by the pungents, dispersing items noted above. Lightly spice foods, such as curries and Asian style dishes help circulate the qi. Carbohydrates and proteins should be secondary, together constituting less than half the diet.