Dietary Therapy for Qi Deficiency

By Natalie S. - Sep 5, 2018 8:11:00 AM

What is Qi Deficiency?

Qi deficiency is a common condition in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It describes a lack of the vital substance qi, and can result from chronic illness, poor diet, long-term emotional stress, or a generally weak constitution. 

Some of the most common symptoms of qi deficiency include:

qi deficiency
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Loose stools
  • Shallow or difficult breathing
  • Spontaneous sweating

Qi is made by combining the nutrients from food with oxygen from the air. Within your body, these come together to create a form of energy which can easily be used and stored by your cells, tissues and organs. Therefore, eating well is one of the best ways to stay healthy and ensure that you have a plentiful supply of qi.


Dietary Therapy for Qi Deficiency


It is important to eat a balanced diet based on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and starchy vegetables. These provide a steady supply of energy throughout the day and help to reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks.

These should be combined with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. According to TCM, the fresher a food is, the more qi it has. This is why it is important to choose locally grown, in-season produce when available.

For protein, choose organic, unprocessed meat or seafood which is in its natural form (e.g. chicken breast rather than nuggets). Eating in this way will ensure that you are getting the maximum amount of qi from your diet and help you to keep disease at bay.

In addition to these basic guidelines, you can incorporate more foods into your diet that are especially good for qi deficiency.

Some of the best foods for qi deficiency include the following:


  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Squashes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams


  • Cherries
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Longan


  • Almonds
  • Coconut


  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice


  • Eel
  • Mackerel
  • Octopus
  • Sardines
  • Trout

Animal Products

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Goose
  • Ham
  • Rabbit
  • Venison


  • Garbanzo beans
  • Lentils
  • Soy products (tofu, tempeh etc.)

Herbs and Spices

  • Ginseng
  • Licorice
  • Sage


  • Microalgae (e.g. chlorella, spirulina)
  • Molasses
  • Royal jelly



Getting the Most from Your Meals

In addition to eating more of the above foods, it is important to pay attention to the way in which you eat. By following the TCM guidelines for good eating habits, you will ensure that your digestion is working at its optimum level and that you are extracting as much qi from your food as possible.

Firstly, you should avoid foods which are processed, high sugar, high fat or deep fried. Not only are these foods low in qi, but they are also difficult to digest and can put an unnecessary strain on your Stomach and Spleen.

From a TCM viewpoint, you should also avoid too many cold or raw foods. This is because your body has to waste precious energy on warming them up, making the digestive process less efficient. The ideal foods are soups, stews and congee as these are warm, soft and easy to digest.

Eat regularly and avoid skipping meals. Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day by TCM practitioners, as the digestive organs are said to function best in the morning. Eating a good breakfast will also ensure that you have enough energy and focus to get you through to lunch without binging on coffee and donuts. Eat your evening meal as early as possible and stick to something light. Heavy meals, eaten late in the evening can be difficult to digest and leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

It is also important to sit down and eat rather than grabbing a quick bite on the go. The whole process of smelling, tasting and enjoying food aids digestion, so take time to really focus on your food and avoid eating at your desk or walking down the street. Chewing each mouthful well is another way to improve your digestion and get the most from your meals.

Cooking methods are also very important. In Chinese cuisine, most foods are cooked lightly by stir-frying or steaming. These quick cooking methods ensure that food retains more of its qi, whereas boiling vegetables or overcooking food can cause nutrients to be lost. 

New Call-to-action


Leave a comment