2 The Point — Your Splendid Spleen


  “You’re right, a spleen is a strange thing – we technically don’t need one, but maybe spleens are kept in our bodies in case we mutate or evolve, and if we grow wings or tentacles we need to have the spleen in place in order for them to work.”  — Douglas Coupland, The Gum Thief

Indeed, the Spleen is a unique organ that is absolutely a part of our lives involving a multitude of great biologically enhancing mechanisms and at the same time, completely unnecessary… aka – we can, if we must, live without one… tentacles and wings aside.  (that would be a whole other article…) Today’s article will go into a bit of detail as to how Traditional Chinese Medicine approaches the organ system known as the Spleen.  With the holidaze approaching we all will be overly tempted into eating far more than a usual “day in the life.”  So here’s some food for thought in light of all the recent holiday gluttony… While western medicine takes stock in isolating each system/organ into their own specific particulars, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tends to look at the interconnected unique whole that comprises a weave of connections into spiritual, mental, physical and emotional matrix.   The Western view of the Spleen’s functions – an overview: 1).  Blood storage 2).  Immunity/defense – production of lymphocytes, monocytes, and  plasma cells 3).  (old) Red blood filter; recycles/filters iron Several diseases that are recognized in Western medicine that involve the Spleen are:  mononucleosis, splenomegaly, lymph disorders, Hodgkin’s disease, AIDs, anemia disorders, and depressed/impaired immunity. The Spleen System’s functions as viewed in Traditional Chinese Medicine: — The Spleen “governs” transformation and transportation of food and fluids in the body. — The Spleen extracts the “pure” energy from what we eat and drink and transforms it into qi/energy that our body then may use to function.  If our Spleen functions are functioning low/weak, a person may experience bloating, fatigue, poor appetite, diarrhea, reflux. — The Spleen “controls” the blood — The Spleen is in charge of assisting the body keeping the blood circulating in the body and energetic pathways known as meridians.  If there is a weakness in this function one may experience bleeding issues such as bruising easily, blood in stool, spider veins. The Spleen dominates the muscles and four limbs: This is basically saying that the Spleens role in providing nourishment throughout the body can be most noticed in how well the muscles and limbs function in a strong, toned and healthy manner.  If there is weakness or visual sallowness of the skin, the Spleen is not functioning optimally. The Spleen “opens” into the mouth and “manifests” on the lips: When a person has a healthy appetite and good sense of taste, the Spleen is functioning well.  If a person suffers from low appetite, low/no ability to taste differing flavors, then the Spleen functions are impaired.  Likewise, a healthy Spleen may be “seen” on the lips through rosy, full, and moist lips are a sign of balance.  Dry, cracked and/or pale lips present fluid metabolism issues/overall Spleen weakness. The Spleen raises the Qi: The Spleen qi creates a lifting effect along the midline of the body to help keep organs in place, prevent organ sag/prolapse. The Spleen rules Thought: The Spleen influences our ability to think, concentrate, focus, study, and memorize.  A person who has a weak Spleen feels fuzzy headed, and lacks the ability to perform mental tasks with precision and clarity and efficiency.   Excessive worry drains the Spleen energies. SO HOW DOES ONE MAINTAIN A HELATHY SPLEEN? A moderate lifestyle and diet (aka no pendulum effect of extremes) will lead to a more harmonious function internally which leaves us with vibrant energy, a strong body, and perhaps most importantly a calm and balanced mind with clear thinking, balanced emotions and a feeling of ease.  Acupuncture, moxa, dietary counseling, herbal/supplemental support, and exercise can all help balance this system. But if you’re like me, I’m sure you want some bullet point suggestions, so here goes: — Do sit and eat and chew plentifully throughout your meal. — Do not eat on the run — Do drink plenty fluids — Do not drink ice cold fluids ( the Spleen dislikes cold) — Do be mindful while you eat. — In other words, don’t be watching TV, playing video games – being distracted. — Do eat soups as they are generally warming and nourishing — Do not eat too many raw/cold foods. — Do enjoy what you eat. — Do not over eat/eat too many sweets. Spleen tonifying foods/spices:  beef, chicken, turkey, tuna, cherry, date, papaya, persimmon, pineapple, carrot, ginger, garlic, pumpkin, sweet yam, winter squash, corn, oat, millet, quinoa, sweet rice, garbanzo, soybean, pistachio, walnut, filbert, black pepper, royal jelly, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg. Please note:  Overconsumption may lead to disharmony.  More is not always better. Hopefully you enjoyed your holidays.  Alooooha! (Kim Gitzel, LAc is a licensed acupuncturist at 2 The Point Acupuncture located at 83 Maikai St.  Hilo, HI 96720.  She offers complimentary consultation/examinations.  Call to schedule.  808-938-3970  or visit www.hiloacupuncture.com.)

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