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What's a Spleen Friendly Diet - and Why is it SO Good?

If you’ve ever visited a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner, you’ve likely heard the term ‘Spleen friendly diet.’ We’re all mad for this - but what exactly does this mean? And why is it so important? 

Before we dive into specifics, let’s have a look at the significance of the Spleen in TCM. Like most things, it’s important to have context. 

A little bit of spleen background

According to Chinese Medicine, we have 5 Yin/Yang organ pairs:

  1. Liver/Gall Bladder

  2. Heart/Small Intestine

  3. Spleen/Stomach

  4. Lung/Large Intestine

  5. Kidney/Bladder. Each of these is linked to one of the 5 elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. When the elements are in balance, we ourselves are in balance. And when they’re not… well, that’s where things get interesting.   

The Spleen, and related Earth element, act as a director for all of the other elements. You might think of the Spleen like a mail distribution centre—all the mail comes in, and the distribution centre needs to ensure it gets where it needs to go as efficiently as possible. According to TCM, our Spleen works in a similar way, receiving everything we ingest; transforming the food into usable, useful substance for our body to fuel itself with; and then transporting it where it needs to go.  

Now imagine what would happen to your postal service if the distribution centre stopped working—it’s similar to what happens in your body when your Spleen isn’t functioning properly!

Keeping the balance

Now that you have a basic understanding of why the spleen is so important, let’s dive into how you can eat to keep it functioning well.  

Less raw foods, more warmth

Minimise raw salads and foods as they take a lot of energy to process. Instead, try to eat warm, easily digestible foods that are easier on your system. Better yet, make sure they’re nourishing and full of vitamins like cooked root veggies (yellow root veg are especially good as yellow is the colour associated with the spleen). In summer you can roast your veggies and toss them (cooled) into a salad. Add some cracked black pepper for warmth.

Room temperature, not ice cold

Avoid cold drinks—even in summer! Ice cold drinks are hard on your digestive system. Room temperature water is ideal as it’s more easily absorbed. If it’s really hot (as is often the case during Australian summers), you can add one or two ice cubes, but also add a slice of ginger to diffuse in the water, which will help to keep the thermal properties warm. Ginger’s also a great addition to your juices.

A little sweetness

Add natural sweetness—not refined sugar. The flavour associated with the spleen is sweetness, so load up on sweet flavours found in nature. Apples, sweet potatoes, even a little bit of raw honey will be beneficial for the Spleen. 

Ice Cream is not your Spleen’s friend

Lay off the daily ice cream. I know, this one hurts. But sugar, cold and dairy are 3 of the ‘evils’ of Chinese medicine. It’s okay as an occasional treat, but too much will cause dampness and sluggishness in your digestion. Definitely not Spleen friendly.

Spleen Friendly Foods - dig in!

So what exactly should you eat? Here’s a list of specific Spleen friendly foods, but just because it’s on the list doesn’t mean you should eat unlimited amounts of it. Everything in moderation.  

  • Meat:  poultry, lamb, beef

  • Fish:  salmon, tuna, shellfish

  • Fruit:  apples, apricots, dates, figs, delish cherries, peach, plums, red grapes, dried fruit such as raisins

  • Veggies:  cabbage, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato

  • Grains:  amaranth, oats, millet, polenta, rice

  • Nuts/Seeds:  peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sesame, walnuts

The brilliant thing here as well is that a Spleen friendly diet isn’t anything crazy or new - it agrees with much of the current Australian health guidelines too! Bingo.

While Spleen friendly diets are usually a good thing, it’s important to note that all of the above is generalised. If you’d like to learn more about Spleen friendly foods, or to discuss a personalised dietary therapy, book in with our acupuncturist, Stella Parker!

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