Modern Western culture has everything – technology, hygiene, comfort, but what price do we pay for our luxury lifestyles? We are frequently overstressed, overworked, overtired and always worrying. Our food is increasingly depleted of essential nutrients (filled with excess sugar, preservatives, artificial colour, flavour enhancers and sprayed with toxic pesticides). No wonder our bodies struggle to absorb the few nutrients we actually manage consume. This impacts inevitably upon our health, especially the often overlooked spleen, which is responsible for transforming food and drink into Qi and blood.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and your Spleen
According to many centuries of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), spleen imbalances lead to tiredness, easy bruising, varicose veins, bloatedness, sallow complexion, eating disorders, digestive and bowel problems, loose stools, worry, poor memory and concentration. On a more positive note, when our spleen element is in balance we possess the ability to concentrate, our intention is positive and focussed.
The ancient Chinese physicians observed that the spleen is susceptible to ‘dampness’ and living in damp conditions has a detrimental effect on the spleen. As the liver and the spleen are physiological ‘neighbours’, when the energy of the spleen is weak, the liver energy rapidly ‘attacks’ and depletes it. The stomach is the spleen’s yang counter-part and is also very sensitive to spleen imbalances. This liver – spleen – stomach connection is often the cause of digestive discomfort and TCM has some effective, natural solutions for this.
Throughout the twenty four hours of each day, every two hours each of our twelve organs experience an abundance of qi, known as the Qi cycle. The time of day associated with an abundance of spleen qi is 9-11am. In order to nurture our spleen, and allow it to fulfill its function of extracting the essence from food, it is best to treat breakfast as the most important meal of the day, and to eat a simple dinner early. Also regular, light meals, eaten slowly and without excessive flavouring help the spleen digest nutrients efficiently.
The spleen meridian begins bi-laterally at the inner big toenail and runs up the inner legs, ending mid way along the sides of the rib cage. An acupuncturist will insert acupuncture needles into this meridian if there is an imbalance, in order to encourage the spleen qi of the body to realign itself. It is also helpful to practice some gentle muscle toning exercise upon rising, to prevent the spleen qi from becoming constricted.
Late Summer Season:
Late Summer is the season related to the spleen, the element is earth, the taste is sweet and its colour is yellow. In order to maintain productive spleen energy, try not to let the spleen qi become too ‘dry’ or too ‘wet’ (sometimes likened to the earth when it rains and turns to mud). Eating the following beneficial foods is a perfect place to begin balancing your spleen.
Foods which nourish the spleen include:
Carrots, rice, barley, squash, pumpkin, parsnips, apples, ginger, garlic, cardamom
The spleen is involved in blood production, however, if one does not exercise poor quality blood results and weight problems follow. Abdominal muscle strengthening exercises are essential to keep the spleen functioning well. A gentle regime of sit ups and thigh toning (as the spleen meridian runs up the legs) squats will benefit your spleen.