Fatigue, through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Written by Bonnie Bird, Acupuncturist (BHSc). See more about Bonnie here.


Causes of Fatigue in TCM

Fatigue may be experienced in varying levels and depending on the pattern of imbalance may occur alongside a variety of symptoms.

There are many factors which may contribute to fatigue in Chinese medicine. Some of these include stress, illness, inadequate or disrupted sleep, poor diet, and overindulgence of stimulants (sugar, coffee, alcohol etc).



This is the organ system that controls digestion; the transformation and transportation of food essences, Qi and fluids. The Spleen controls the ascending of Qi, controls the blood, and nourishes the muscles and four limbs.

The Spleen can be weakened by constant worry of pensiveness, irregular eating habits, and improper diet such as excessive intake of sugar, simple carbohydrates or other damp forming foods such as dairy.

Out of balance- heaviness in the limbs, foggy head, poor memory, easily bloated, loose bowels.

To balance- smaller meals more regularly, easily digestible (more cooked foods, yellow vegetables), avoid excess cold (salad/smoothies), reduce sugar intake, meditation and other stress relieving hobbies/activities.


This pattern may represent constitutional weakness or chronic fatigue. The Kidneys govern growth and development, the reception of Qi, and houses the will power.

Out of balance- poor memory, low back ache, joint pain, knee issues, ringing in ears or poor hearing, lacking motivation or easily discouraged, breathlessness or asthma especially upon exercise/movement.

To balance- rest, avoid excessive cold, consume salty foods such as seaweed or kelp, avoid stimulants (coffee, sugar, alcohol).


The Lungs govern Qi and respiration, control the skin and the space between the muscles and skin, and regulate all physiological activities. They are also affected by grief and sadness, as well as external pathogenic factors which may cause respiratory issues.

Out of balance- irregular sweating, shortness of breath or shallow breathing, fluid retention, easily catching colds/flu.

To balance- dry body brushing can strengthen the outer defences and protect from pathogenic invasion as well as promote fluid movement, diaphragmatic breathing exercises to cleanse and strengthen Lung function, journaling or spending time with loved ones to help move through grief and periods of sadness.

Blood Deficiency

This can relate to either the Heart or Liver organ system.

Blood deficiency can be related to improper diet (low protein/fat intake, restricted eating), excessive exercise, heavy menstrual bleeds, anaemia, chronic impaired digestive function etc.

Heart Blood deficiency- anxiety, palpitations, restless sleep, difficulty finding words when speaking, easily flushed chest or face, cold hands, feeling of weakness in the body, pale or dull complexion of the face.

Liver Blood deficiency- dry eyes or other eye issues, tension in shoulders unrelieved by massage/stretching, poor muscle recovery or cramping, fatigued after exercise

To balance- blood building foods such as oats, rice, beetroot, cabbage, dark leafy greens, artichoke, avocado, black sesame, almonds, kidney or adzuki beans, small amounts of red meats or daily bone broth, black strap molasses.

Chinese herbs and acupuncture are also great for supporting blood production. Balanced diet and eating habits, as well as balanced exercise which generates energy rather than depletes.

Yang deficiency

This relates to the overall heating/activating force in the body.

Out of balance- lethargy, depression, heaviness in body, tired despite resting, excessive need to sleep, sensation of cold in body or sensitive to cold (environment or food/drinks), weight gain or difficulty loosing weight, loose bowels, easily bruising.

To balance- warming foods and spices, small amounts of exercise/movement to generate yang (15 minute walk), keeping body warm, avoiding cold foods and drinks.


Bonnie Bird.

Bonnie is an Acupuncturist (BHSc) with a special interest in women’s health, pregnancy support, injury and pain relief, as well as mental/emotional well-being and nervous system support. Bonnie completed a Bachelor of Health Science in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in 2016 and now provides her services across two locations on the Gold Coast. To see Bonnie at Goodkind Wellness Studio, head to her website here.


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In the spirit of reconciliation, Goodkind  Naturopathy acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of our country, the Yugambeh language group and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.


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