You’ve just finished a great meal, and you’re really full. But you push your plate back and your next thought is, “What’s for dessert?” No matter how stuffed you are after a meal, there always seems to be a little room for something sweet. What’s with that?
According to Chinese medicine, there’s a logical explanation for your sweet tooth, and it has to do with the workings of the Spleen organ system. In Chinese theory, each organ has a physical place in the body, but it also has an energetic component, and the functions of an organ can be physical, emotional, or symbolic. Each of the Chinese organs are also related to a specific element (fire, water, etc.), season, color, emotion and taste.
So back to the Chinese Spleen. Your Spleen is considered the organ system that governs digestion. It’s responsible for taking food in, digesting it, and then turning it into energy, blood, and nutrients. The taste related to the Spleen is sweet. This means that a little bit of sweet food is nourishing to your Spleen (i.e. good for your digestion). However, too much sweet food can be damaging.
What does that mean? In ancient China, where these theories originated, foods that were considered sweet included fruits, dates, root vegetables, and some grains. Today, sweet foods include flourless chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, and Snickers Bars. Back in the day, the Chinese would have a mildly sweet food after a meal to help with digestion. Today, we crave sweets because we’ve been eating sweets and all kinds of other foods that are processed, modified, injected with hormones, and hard to digest in general.
We crave and eat sweets as a form of self-medication. When our digestion is out of whack, we crave sweets as a way to put things right. However, the sweets we eat are so sweet, it just makes things worse.
This is not to say that anyone with a sweet tooth is unhealthy, and brings us back to the dessert issue. We have a mild craving for something sweet after a meal as a way to aid the digestive process.
But what if you crave sweets 24/7? That’s your body’s way of telling you to get your diet cleaned up and your digestion in order. Start by limiting the amount of sweets you eat (I know, hard–but doable). You can also help things along by limiting processed foods, eating mostly fruits and cooked vegetables, whole grains, and a little protein. Over time your incessant sweet cravings will diminish — and you’ll feel healthier, too.
For more information on Chinese digestive theory, check out Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health