About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Names and identifying details have been changed on any person described in these posts to protect their identity.

The Chinese Spleen and Your Digestion

The following is an excerpt from the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health:

Think of your Chinese Spleen as the organ system that takes in nourishment and turns it into energy.  It turns food and liquid into Qi and Blood.  Your Spleen also receives emotional nourishment in the form of ideas and possibilities and turns them into opportunities and action.


Your Spleen accomplishes the process of digestion by sorting and separating, transforming, and nourishing.  After its paired organ, your Stomach, has broken down what you have eaten, your Spleen separates the solids from liquids and the nutrients from waste.  It then transforms the nutrients into Qi and Blood, which are sent on to the rest of your body.  The strength of your energy and the nourishing quality of your Blood depend on the healthy functioning of your Spleen.


Another job of your Spleen is to hold things up, or hold things in place.  It is your Spleen that keeps blood within the vessels, holds up organs, and keeps substances in their proper place.  A weakening of this function might result in easy bruising, prolapsed organs (organs sinking downward), heavy menstrual periods, or chronic diarrhea.


Your Spleen nourishes your whole body, but it nourishes your muscles directly.  If you have strong, flexible muscles with good tone, you can thank the health of your Spleen.


The sense associated with your Spleen is taste, which is the first step in the digestive process.  As such, your tongue is the outward manifestation of the health of your digestion.  The appearance of your tongue offers your practitioner of Chinese medicine a great deal of information not only about the state of your digestion, but also your overall health.


Your Spleen corresponds to the element of Earth and the season of late summer.  The Earth in the context of a farmer’s field is the source of food that your Spleen digests, and harvest time, typically late summer, is the most nourishing time of the year.  Your Spleen is also associated with the color yellow, which is the color of the Earth in many parts of China as well as the color of many of the nutritious fruits and vegetables that are harvested at the end of summer.


The emotional function of your Spleen is similar to the process of digestion. The emotional aspect of your Spleen is responsible for receiving and processing information, experiences and ideas.   The ideas are “digested” or sorted and transformed into actions, intentions, plans, or goals.  Other ideas are stored for later consideration, and the less useful ones are forgotten.  Clear thought and acting with focus are signs that the emotional aspect of your Spleen is healthy.


When the process of sifting and sorting of ideas becomes overactive, worry is the result.  Just like a cow in the pasture chewing its cud, worriers tend to ruminate over the same idea again and again.  For some people excess worry has the potential to become anxiety, in which the sorting of ideas spins out of control, causing insomnia, fuzzy thinking, or even panic attacks.


Spleen pathology on the physical level is mostly related to poor digestion and its effects.  Gas, bloating, rumbling, nausea, or the sensation of food not moving are all associated with a weak Spleen.  Loose stools, diarrhea or in some cases constipation are also related to poor digestive function of your Spleen.


Fatigue is one of the results of a weak Spleen, as food transformed into Qi by your Spleen is the source of energy in your body.  Feeling tired after eating, widely fluctuating energy levels, shortness of breath and poor energy in general can be indications that your Spleen isn’t up to par.


If the transforming function becomes impaired, your Spleen may not metabolize liquids very well, and dampness may accumulate.  In a farmer’s field after a heavy rainstorm, the fallen rain should soak into the ground and nourish the crops.  However, if the field is saturated, the rain will sit on the surface, make puddles and get boggy.  In your body,  the poor transformation of liquids creates dampness that can manifest as overall heaviness, fluid retention, diarrhea or loose stools, bladder or vaginal infections, and excessive weight gain.


While your Spleen is prone to dampness, its paired digestive organ, your Stomach, is prone to dryness and heat.  When your Stomach heats up, it acts a little like an engine in overdrive.  An insatiable appetite is the primary symptom of heat in your Stomach, but other symptoms of Stomach heat may include heartburn and sores in your mouth.


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