Irritability Is a Sign of Liver Problems—4 Ways to Improve Mood and Nourish Organs

Liver qi stagnation happens when the liver is injured by depression and anger, resulting in stagnation of qi (vital energy). (Shutterstock)

Modern medicine has proven that mood is closely related to health. For example, depression can cause various chronic diseases. Negative sentiment and pressure can cause autonomic dysfunction. Moreover, mood can influence disease recovery speed.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has discovered that different moods can affect the organs and overall health. TCM has a way to regulate mood for the patient to achieve holistic health.

Irritability Could Be a Sign of Liver Problems

A female patient went to ShangXi Chinese Medicine Clinic for treatment of insomnia and menstrual disorders. In the clinic, she told the director, Yu Ya-Wen, that she was often angry with her husband due to family issues, which not only caused disagreements but also destroyed her health. She blamed herself for this.

Yu found that the patient was suffering from liver qi stagnation, causing an endocrine imbalance, which led to anger over trivial matters. Yu told the patient not to blame herself too much and told her that poor health would also affect her mood. Later, the female patient, through endocrine regulation, not only had her periods normalized, but also became emotionally calm and less irritable.

Liver qi stagnation is a general term for the symptoms that occur when the liver is injured by depression and anger, resulting in stagnation of qi (vital energy).

Human Emotions Influence 5 Major Organs

The earliest book on TCM, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, mentions that the seven emotions affect the functions of different internal organs: anger hurts the liver, happiness hurts the heart, sadness hurts the spleen, grief hurts the lungs, and fear hurts the kidneys. Each of them exhibit different symptoms.

1. Anger hurts the liver.

TCM believes the liver is in charge of the smooth transportation of qi, blood, and fluids in the entire body. The concept of the liver is not just a single organ but a system, which includes the endocrine system and reproductive system. These are all under the liver’s control.

Irritability and mood swings can negatively influence the qi in the liver. Guo Shifang, director of Guo Shifang CTM Clinic, said, “people in modern society have high pressure and many people have liver issues.”

If the qi in the liver is stagnated, it can negatively influence the body and mood.

Take depression for example. Zhu Enli, the director of Cheng En Chinese Medicine Clinic who often treats such patients, pointed out that people suffering from depression experience serious liver qi stagnation, resulting in persistent low mood.

A female high school student came to the clinic because she was unable to go to school due to depression. The patient’s liver was cleared through acupuncture and medication, and she returned to school two to three months later and was able to take the college aptitude test.

Liver Qi Stagnation Can Also Cause Cancer

Guo Shifang, who has many years of clinical experience in treating cancer, observed that most breast cancer patients have emotional problems, and their liver qi is also blocked.

new meta-analysis in 2022 found that negative emotions, such as depression, anxiety, and other psychological factors, greatly affect the incidence of breast cancer. Depression increases the incidence of breast cancer by 30 percent, and the risk of breast cancer is 1.59 times higher in people with negative emotions.

In addition, dysautonomia is also related to the liver. Yu Yawen pointed out that autonomic dysregulation is usually caused by liver qi stagnation, and the liver will affect other internal organs, which will lead to a variety of symptoms.

The liver is the master of tendons, and liver qi disorders can easily cause tendon pain, cramps, or swelling and pain in the rib cage. If liver qi turns into fire, inflammatory problems will occur in the head and face or above the chest and diaphragm.

2. Elation hurts the heart.

People all think that being happy is good for health, so how could “happiness” hurt the heart?

The “happiness” referred to by TCM is extreme elation and extreme excitement. These can cause heart qi stagnation and people will suffer from chest congestion and dizziness.

Jonathan Liu, a professor of TCM in Canada said, it is normal for humans to have various emotions. Moderate emotions do not hurt the body. But extreme emotions are not good. For example, someone wins the lottery and becomes elated. This could raise their blood pressure, and even cause heart disease.

There were cases recorded in history about extreme elation hurting the heart. Modern people enjoy social activities, which can easily bring other problems. People are easily influenced during social gatherings where they may engage in excessive drinking and smoking, which can be very harmful to the body.

3. Sadness hurts the spleen.

Modern medicine considers the spleen to be part of the immune system and is related to the liver. TCM believes that the spleen is related to the digestive system.

Oftentimes, when a person worries excessively about something or misses someone, he or she won’t be able to eat much. TCM believes that worrying, missing, or thinking too much can influence the normal functions of the stomach and spleen, and cause constipation or diarrhea. In addition, TCM believes that stress and emotions can also influence the intestines and stomach.

Guo Shifang pointed out that if the spleen and stomach are unable to maintain their normal functions due to such emotional effects over a long period of time, it will increase the risk of tumors in the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and other organs related to the digestive system. The spleen is also involved in blood glucose recycling, which also affects blood glucose stability.

4. Grief hurts the lungs.

When people feel sad, crying can release stress and emotional pain, which is good for their health. This is because the oxytocin and endorphins released during crying can help relieve physical and emotional pain.

However, excessive grief is a different story. This is because when people are sobbing, inhalation and exhalation are relatively short. It will affect lung function. Long and smooth inhalation and exhalation can benefit the lungs.

In TCM, the lungs are in charge of the qi mechanism and regulate qi and water. Frequent crying impacts the lungs’ function. Poor cardiopulmonary function can lead to wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, edema, and skin symptoms over time.

Yu Yawen said she often sees women who worry too much and experience persistent sadness. As a result, the spleen and lungs are damaged.

5. Fear hurts the kidneys.

In Chinese medicine, the “kidney” is associated with emotions such as fear, as well as with endocrine, bone, spine, bladder, and water. From a Western medical perspective, there is also a connection between fear and the kidneys. When people feel frightened, the kidneys release adrenaline.

People with bad kidneys are not only prone to back pain or frequent urination but they are also easily frightened. Yu Yawen said if children grow up being beaten or scolded, their kidney qi will be affected, and their personality will be timid. She often sees girls in their 20s with cold hands, feet, and pale faces. Even a little loud noise is enough to make them jump from fright. This is related to the lack of qi and blood in their kidneys.

Although different emotions correspond to different internal organs, they will affect each other. Yu Yawen pointed out that the emotions of happiness, anger, and sadness affect the movement of qi and blood in the body, and lead to dysfunction of the internal organs, such as endocrine, immunity, and qi and blood disorders, causing rapid aging.

4 Simple Ways to Improve Mood and Organ Health

Under normal circumstances, people can regulate their emotions, and prevent them from getting out of control. However, people who are more depressed have poor qi and blood circulation and are less likely to self-regulate their emotions. It is important to know that if you find yourself with emotional and mental health problems, psychotherapy is not the only option because sometimes it is the body that has a problem that affects emotional control.

Yu Yawen said that it is very important to use acupuncture or medicine to improve the qi and blood circulation, and restore the normal functions of internal organs.

During everyday life, there are also ways to regulate emotions and improve organ functions.

  • Eat well, sleep well, and excrete normally.

Yu Yawen said, “for a human being, eat, sleep, and excrete are three very important routes. If one of them is blocked, the internal organs will not be balanced and they will influence the mood.”

Poor sleep results in bad health and a bad mood. This is common for modern people. But people tend to ignore the fact that food can affect the spleen and stomach and thus influence the mood.

Modern medical science has also discovered that food is related to mental health. A study published in 2020 in the British Medical Journal said, healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, can lead to better mental health. Poor diets (such as refined carbohydrates), can cause obesity, diabetes, and poor mental health.

Foods with therapeutic effects can improve these conditions. In Chinese medicine, people with a poor spleen and stomach can eat the Four Spirits soup and take probiotics to regulate their intestines.

People with bad lungs can make tea with yellow astragalus and pink ginseng, or consume autumn pear paste.

Lotus seeds, cherries, and mulberries are all good for the heart. Blueberries are good for the heart and kidneys. Red wolfberries are good for the liver and kidneys. Chinese yam is good for the lungs, spleen, and kidneys.

  • Listening to alpha wave music.

Alpha wave music not only relieves emotions, but also has a good soothing effect on physiology.

study found that listening to alpha wave music for 30 minutes each day stimulates the brain to produce more alpha waves, resulting in soothing effects physiologically.

  • Drinking herbal teas.

Fragrant herbal teas are soothing for the liver and can eliminate liver qi stagnation.

Guo Shifang said he would advise patients affected by liver qi to abstain from caffeine and spicy foods, and drink herbal teas instead, with lavender and fuchsia roses being the top choices.

  • Inhaling essential oils.

Smelling and inhaling essential oils affect the limbic system of the brain, which in turn relieves emotions.

There are many types of essential oils, and Yu suggests that when one wants to improve the mood, one can use spices or citrus oils, such as sweet orange and bergamot essential oils.

When one is angry, they can use pine woody essential oils, or calming lavender.

Important Notice: This article was originally published at by Camille Su and Health 1+1 where all credits are due.


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