Traditional Chinese medicine considers that the Spleen is one of the most important organs within our body. Many chronic and difficult health problems (such as oedema, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, hair loss, iron deficiency, irregular periods, infertility etc) can be due to a disorder of the Spleen function.
It is important to understand how the Spleen works within our body, and initial signs and symptoms that can indicate Spleen disorders. Early intervention can help to prevent future health problems.
Note: in this article our discussion of the Spleen refers to an organ system in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, this is not the same spleen organ as understood by western medicine anatomy and physiology.
1. How does the Spleen work for your body?
The Spleen dominates digestion and helps with bowel movements
Spleen is responsible for the transportation of the food and the water we digest. If the Spleen is weak or dysfunction occurs, it will affect certain areas of the digestive system including the Stomach, Small Intestines and Large Intestines.
This can cause the following symptoms: bloating especially after eating or drinking, constipation, sluggish bowel movements, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, fatty or sticky stools.
The Spleen dominates water metabolism and assists with weight loss
Spleen helps to transport fluids throughout our bodies and assists with excreting excessive fluids.
If Spleen weaker or disorder our body will retain more fluids and following symptoms can occur:
Oedema, especially on the arms, legs and abdominal area and puffy face. Gaining weight easily or difficulty in losing weight. Feeling of heaviness in the body.
The Spleen dominates certain circulation issues and assists with quality and circulation of the blood
It is common to see many clients with circulation issues resulting from Spleen Qi and Spleen Yang Deficiency. This affects the quality of the blood, and lack of circulation. The following symptoms may occur: Iron deficiency, low blood pressure, scanty periods, pale face and lips, cold hands and feet, lack of energy, pale nail beds, craving sweets.
2. What diet or lifestyle choices assist with Spleen function? What should you avoid to protect your Spleen?
Food and drinks: the Spleen doesn’t like “cold”
Cold temperature food or drinks affect Spleen function. Avoid consuming large amounts of cold fluids or fruit at once, especially in the Winter months – this overloads the Spleen which causes bloating and sluggish bowel movements. We encourage clients to drink warm foods and drinks especially in the winter months or cold days. Examples of warming drinks include ginger tea or pu er tea (Chinese tea).
Environmental factors: the Spleen doesn’t like cold and dampness
Coldness and dampness affect the Spleen function (affects Spleen Yang and Qi), certain symptoms we have discussed can be helped by choosing suitable environments for living – ie sunshine, warm and dry conditions. Ensure you make time each day to exercise in the sunshine, avoiding exercise in the rain or damp conditions and in water (swimming may not be suitable).
The Spleen doesn’t like over-thinking
When we mentally over-think this will damage the Spleen Qi. Spleen Qi will slow down and this affects our bodies by feeling tiredness, bloating, heaviness. I recommend regular breaks from sitting at a desk and concentrating to encourage physical movement (ie 10-15 minutes every 1-2 hours).
The Spleen likes the following foods
If you are displaying symptoms mentioned above please include the following foods in your diet:
- Spring onions
For further diet recommendations, please see our diet therapy articles.
3. How does Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture help your Spleen?
1) If you have Spleen symptoms mentioned in this article, please contact us for an appointment convenient to you, and we will check your body with Traditional Diagnosis method including tongue, pulse signs and symptoms. This will allow us to find the underlying cause of your symptoms.
2) Principle of treatment – we will set up principles of treatment to specifically address the underlying causes of symptoms. The treatment may include acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal medicine, cupping or scrubbing.
3) We will give you individual suggestions incorporating diet, lifestyle, exercise etc to keep your Spleen and body healthy.
Remember: the Spleen is responsible for transportation within our body, it is like a central train station for our city. When the Spleen is healthy it will make our whole body run smoother.