Been overworking yourself lately? Haven’t been eating right? Sleeping late? Well congratulations, that’s a great recipe for inducing what is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as Spleen Qi deficiency. What is thaaaat you ask? Well lets find out.
From a Chinese Medicine standpoint, the spleen energetically controls the the digestion and intake of foods consumed. It can be likened to the basal metabolic rate through a bio-medical perspective. It is partnered with the stomach, and both play a role in digestive activities in the upper half of your body. It also plays a role in muscle strength, blood production, and water metabolism.
From a bio-medical physiological standpoint the spleen actually plays a role in immunity, red blood cell destruction, and as a blood reservoir1.
Spleen qi deficiency is usually one of the first signs of an internal disorder in Traditional Chinese Medicines. Symptoms can vary, but based on my experience, as well as from the book Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibution, symptoms may include tiredness and fatigue, indigestion, a reduced appetite, and constipation.
Seeing this in the clinic often, I must say there are some tips that I’ve passed along to my patients which can have a positive impact in our overall help in the short term and long run.
1. Stop Stressing
You may hear this a lot, but it is the truth. When you have much on your mind then it affects every aspect of your life. Constant worrying will affect your digestion and eventually affect your overall health. Also yin and yang theory dictates that when one side is affected, the other side will be affected as well. So other organs such as the lung qi or the liver qi will be affected, which can end up having a snowballing effect on the body for years to come. Keep things positive no matter what and remember if your’e ever down, there is only one other direction, which is up.
2. Do 30 Minutes of Walking a Day, 5 Days a Week
Walking is a great exercise because it’s easy to do, it’s enjoyable, and can help your body get into a relaxed state. Don’t over strain yourself if you cant do it all at once. In fact, I enjoy breaking my walks up into 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 later on in the day. Exercise can make a world of a difference in your health condition, and I’ve seen people with great nutrition habits skip out on the exercise and that’s a big missing component in achieving optimal health.
3. Eating Foods That Are Easily Digestible.
In Chinese medicine theory, we promote warmth in many ways, and eating warm meals is one of those. Soups are great for boosting the spleen qi since the’re light and can be digested quickly. Steam vegetables are great, and having a warm breakfast can boost up your energy for the day.
Greasy and sweet foods are not your friends. Great to hang out with once in a while but they’re the type of friends that’ll get you in trouble.
Is it wrong to have something cold when it’s blazing hot? No. But common, sometimes here in society we just go waaay overboard and just go with the flow. Ice cold drinks year round? Especially in winter? If you want to slow down your qi extremely the the stuff your digestive system with the coldest foods you can find (don’t do that, I was being sarcastic). It’s not a good slow down either.
4. Eat in peace
When was the last time you enjoyed a quiet meal without any distractions? As acupuncturists in school we learn that eating while distracted can have a negative affect on the digestive qualities of your spleen qi. Watching TV, working on the computer, eating while driving. We all have been victims to these habits, and is anyone perfect? No. But being aware of it and giving ourselves time to enjoy our meals will pay off big in the long run.
5. Do some Qi Gong
I had to bring it up! What is Qi gong? It is comprised of breathing exercises that are thousands of years old developed in China. Qi gong masters are known to have excellent health and vitality. Tai Chi is a slow moving meditative form of Qi gong, hence many of the benefits are overlapping. However, Qi gong gives you a chance to focus on really synchronize your qi and breathing. Can you build your qi up? Yes. Can you move your qi? Yes, and actually you have all types of qi moving all the time. So Tai Chi Chuan and Qi gong go hand in hand, and practicing both is recommend to achieve the maximal health benefits.
Building good habits can be a huge benefit in life. Usually a person who is active will remain active. Same concept as in newtons first law of motion, an object in motion will stay in motion.
How do you know if you have spleen qi deficiency? Only your acupuncturist could tell you that..and your diet.
Please do not self diagnose yourself and go see a licensed acupuncturists for health related concerns.
1. Thibodeau, G. Patton, K. Anatomy and physiology. 2003
Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibution, Cheng Xinnong, 1999
Photo Credit Top: © Julien Tromeur