Why is your Spleen so important according to Chinese medicine?

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:

  • Ginger
  • Spring onions
  • Onions
  • Mandarin
  • Lamb
  • Prawns

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.

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11 Responses to Why is your Spleen so important according to Chinese medicine?

  1. Marci Kangas 15 October, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I was wondering the difference of TCM Spleen and the Western medicine Spleen? What organ are you speaking of in TCM theory vs Western medicine theory? A bit confusing! Marci Kangas

    • Ping Ming Health 15 October, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      Thanks for your question Marci, in general all of our articles refer to “organ systems” in Chinese medicine theory. This is a common source of confusion as the Chinese organs (and their respective functions as understood by TCM theory) are named the same as Western anatomical organs. To clarify, the Spleen, and “Spleen Qi” as mentioned in this article refers to the Chinese medicine Spleen system and its functions. It has the same name, but it’s not the same as the physical organ that’s inside our bodies (which is investigated by Western medicine anatomy and physiology).

  2. Missy 22 January, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Thank you for that very helpful article. I think I have all those symptoms, and I couldnt work out why I was putting on so much wait and getting bloated very quickly. Since I started to eat only warm foods and drinks incl ginger and onion, and chilli, my digestion and metabolism have increased greatly. Thank you!

  3. Pat Bennett 29 October, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Every other article I have read on this subject say bananas are NOT good for spleen energy. Please explain. Thank you Pat

    • Ping Ming Health 10 December, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      Dear Pat, thank you for your question. From our diet therapy books, we cannot find any reference to bananas being specifically not good for the Spleen. Bananas are amongst the first solid foods given to babies and easily digestible. They are also suitable for elderly people with high blood pressure and dryness. Bananas are cooling in nature and over-consumption may not suit people with Cold or Spleen Yang Deficiency symptoms (cold pain alleviated by warmth, cold hands and feet, undigested food in stools). An important distinction to recognise is that un-ripe and ripe bananas have different properties. A semi-ripe banana is astringent and useful for stopping diarrhoea, whereas a fully ripened banana is very lubricating and can assist with constipation. For anyone with digestive weakness, we would suggest eating only ripe bananas. You could also steam a banana to reduce its cold nature.

  4. Lizzy B 8 January, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    What if you don’t have a spleen? Mine was removed when I was nine years old. I am rarely sick, so it doesn’t affect me with regards to fighting off infections. However the constipation, weight gain, insomnia and craving sweets definitely fits me. Will acupuncture work for me since I do not have a spleen?

    • Ping Ming Health 19 January, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

      Dear Lizzy, thank you for your question. In our articles we refer to the Chinese medicine “Spleen” channel system which has particular functions and symptoms relating to it. Having your spleen organ removed does not mean you can’t be treated by Chinese medicine, it is also the same for some people who have had their gall bladder removed. We suggest you can visit an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner for a consultation and diagnosis.

  5. Darren 17 November, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

    Could u please let me know is pregnancy possable when the spleen has been removed

    • Ping Ming Health 11 December, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

      Hi Darren, yes it’s possible to be pregnant without a spleen!

  6. Imalia Sullivan 29 November, 2016 at 6:06 pm #

    I beg to differ, the spleen does not like Banana’s, they are too damp and should be avoided in winter or if the spleen chi is deficient.

    • Ping Ming Health 11 December, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Imalia, we agree with you! Bananas are not suitable for people who have weak Spleens.

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