We can sense a change coming, it’s not quite autumn but the summer’s warmth and light are dwindling. The leaves are beginning to change colour from green to warm hues, the grains are nearly ready to be harvested, and there is a sweet ripening fragrance in the air. In Chinese medicine, these colours, smells and nourishing qualities are also associated with the spleen. Late summer is the season of the Earth element; the spleen.
In Western medicine the spleen is thought of as an organ which helps the immune system by producing lymphocytes (white blood cells) and helps to remove old blood cells. However in Traditional Chinese Medicine the spleen’s qi main functions are different. It is a yin organ, and its main function is transforming and transporting food qi (the way we synthesize and utilise our food). Its paired yang organ is the stomach. Digestive issues are related to the spleen and stomach.
We have all felt butterflies in our stomach when we are worried. Psychologically the emotion of worry is also related to the spleen, along with overthinking. Both these emotional qualities, when in excess, damage the function of the spleen and can affect you physiologically by slowing down metabolism, resulting in difficulty in digesting food, lethargy etc. The spleen is also responsible for holding blood within the vessels. Spleen qi deficiency is often the cause of bruising easily, having difficulties with the blood not clotting, nose bleeds or blood in the stools. The spleen is also responsible for strengthening our muscles, if it is weak we become tired and weak.
We live in an environment which is constantly bombarding us with information, from televisions, computers, phones, work, and personal worries. We usually multitask all of this information which is draining to our spleen.
There are many ways to support the functionality of the spleen. This is particularly important as this time of year as we need a healthy immune system ready for winter, and plenty of energy to get through the cold, dark, wet winter months.
Top Tips For Keeping Your Spleen Tip Top
Avoid Ice In Drinks And Cold Or Frozen Foods
The spleen and stomach are responsible for digestion. When you eat cold foods in excess, such as ice cream, food straight from the fridge, and certain raw/ uncooked foods, the spleen has to generate extra energy (qi) to warm the food prior to being able to metabolise it, which can lead to spleen qi deficiency, which then can cause ‘damp’ in the body leading to weight gain and further digestive issues.
Eat Nourishing Foods
Skipping meals weakens your spleen qi. Eating at regular times is beneficial for your digestive system. There are five flavors in traditional Chinese medicine. The spleen is associated with the sweet taste, liver with the sour, heart with bitter, lungs with pungent, and kidneys with the salty. Foods which are sweet in nature nourish the spleen, some of these sweet food types include: Oats, Whole grain rice, Potatoes, Barley, Millet, Spelt, Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Yams, Squash, Carrots, Mushrooms, Cherries, Grapes, Figs, Dates, Tofu, Black Beans, Broad Beans, Yellow Lentils, Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Rabbit, Goose, Duck, Pheasant, Eel, Mackerel, Herrings, Tuna, Lobster, Mussels, Shrimp, Pine nuts, Walnuts, Chestnuts, Pistachios, Butter, Goats Milk/Yogurt, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Dill Seeds, Fennel Seeds, Garlic, Ginseng, Licorice, Royal Jelly.
Roasted foods along with root vegetables have warming properties and are also very nourishing for the body especially at this time of year.
Foods That The Spleen Dislikes
There’s nothing wrong with being a little naughty now and again but eating these foods in excess, negatively impacts your spleen. Dairy, Wheat, Cold Drinks, Deep Fried Foods, Fruit Juice, Refined Foods, Processed Foods, Sugar and Sugar Substitutes, Coffee, Alcohol, Peanuts, Bananas, Avocados.
It’s important not to rush meals, and to chew your food thoroughly, this helps to generate enzymes which break down the food, helping your spleen and stomach digest food easier.
Be aware of your actions and do one thing at a time. Multitasking is a great skill, but when you are being bombarded with stimuli whilst eating, it weakens your spleen qi. When you eat watching television, studying or catching up on work, this is slowing down your digestive process. Being more mindful of your food can also give you a deep appreciation for the food you have and you begin to enjoy it more. Being fully aware of your food and how nourishing it is for your body has a positive effect.
Take time out and get away from stressful multitasking situations which are draining on your spleen. Go for a walk, leave your phone at home, sit quietly, meditate, just half an hour a day will make a huge difference to your life, and in the way you feel. You will feel calmer, more at peace, and your spleen will love you for it.
Some of the Signs Associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency
- Low appetite
- Bloating after eating
- Stomach Pain
- Diabetes and Hypoglycaemia
- Undigested food in the stool
- Weak limbs
- Difficulty waking in the morning
- Sallow complexion
- Loose Stools
- Easily Bruises
- Nose Bleeds
- Prolapsed Organs (hemorrhoids, uterus etc.)
- Varicose Veins
- Excessive Worrying
- Obsessive behavior
Some signs of a Deficient Spleen Qi leading to Internal Damp
- Stuffiness of chest and upper region of abdomen
- Feeling of heaviness in the head
- Cold limbs
- Weight Gain