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What is “Heatiness” and why is it important to seek balance this Lunar New Year Season?

TCM Treatments & Theory


There are many factors for feeling feverish or ‘heaty’ (发热/上火) during the Spring Festival. They can be divided into external and internal factors.
Getting ‘heaty’ is the layman’s understanding for having ‘excessive internal heat’ symptoms in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).



External (Environmental) causes of Heatiness


1. Spring is the season of Bloom and awakening

It is Chinese belief that Spring is the season where plants bloom and, unfortunately, diseases also strike (“百草回芽,百病发作”). It is said that old underlying ailments mostly tend to return during the Spring season as well. 


Why is it that diseases recur in the Spring?

In the Spring, everything awakens from its slumber, and this includes our bodies, which will encourage Yang and Qi energy to grow. When Yang energy is sufficient, it will flush out the impurities in the body and drive the pathogens out of the body, which causes it to manifest as diseases.


When Yang and Qi energy grows in excess, it may also cause disturbance to the liver, gallbladder and stomach (肝,胆,胃), causing them to gather ‘internal heat’ (内热). This results in excessive ‘heatiness’ as well (发热). The liver and gallbladder organs in TCM theory are associated with the Wood elements, while the stomach is associated with the Earth elements.


Furthermore, the countries on the equator, Singapore being one of them, has a relatively hot climate during the Spring festival, and will also have fickle weather. When the human body is poor and not optimal at adapting to these fickle climate changes, it is difficult for the body to maintain balance and stability, and getting ‘heaty’ is the resulting symptom that occurs when the human body has imbalanced Yin and Yang energies.



2. Consuming excessive “Heaty” Foods resulting in Excess Yang Energy

Many “health advocates” frequently consume Yang-type or Yang boosting foods during this spring season. Yang boosting foods may include tonic, antlers, red ginseng, longan, ginseng, and red meat such as pork or beef.

This may promote the body’s excess yang to manifest as anger or heatiness.




Internal (Intrinsic) Causes of Heatiness



1. Excessive Suppressed Negative Emotions:

Negative emotions refer to feelings of anger, depression, worry, tension, desire, etc. If these emotions are kept inside for too long, without a proper, it can lead to heatiness as well. As our society’s rapid pace causes people to study and work under increasing pressure, more and more people are feeling emotions of anxiety and stress. Feelings of stress is further exacerbated especially during the pandemic period, causing even greater pressure, due to environmental factors such as inflation, unemployment, feeling of being quarantined, etc.



2. Increased consumption of ‘heaty’ foods:

During the Spring Festival, we often serve and consume fish and meat, snacks, sweets, bakkwa, etc. Due to the season’s festivities, we tend to feast together and celebrate. Fast food, high-carb foods are common, such as burgers, roast beef, fried chicken, desserts, pizza, spicy mala hot pot etc. However, the more unbalanced the diet, the easier it is to get “heaty”.


Above are some of the few common reasons we get ‘heaty’ symptoms. During the Spring Festival, we also notice that there will be more than the usual number of patients coming to us with fever symptoms. With the addition of Omicron this year, we fear that even more people will get ‘heaty’.


This post is a part of a three-part series, you can read the other parts here:

Heatiness Part 1 – What is Heatiness & What Causes Heatiness

Heatiness Part 2 – What is Excessive Heat & How to Treat it

Heatiness Part 3 – What is Heat Deficiency & How to Treat it


We hope the tips shared in this series help to explain how to diagnose and treat ‘Heatiness’ from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. If you notice these small methods above do not improve your condition, it may be due to more complex factors not addressed in these articles. You may need to consult a TCM physician so that you can properly diagnose the root cause.