Log cakes, Christmas cookies, rum and syrup soaked fruit cake (my favourite!) is everywhere.
Usually I don’t have a sweet tooth but I know many of my clients have difficulty cutting down on sugar. They even say that sugar is as addictive as heroin…. I think it’s a little extreme to say that it is as addictive as a drug but yes it can be very addictive.
“The reality is that quite simply the brain’s rewards system and the circuits that control eating behaviour are the same ones that respond to drugs of abuse…While it is true that a liking for sweet things can be habit-forming it is not addictive like opiates or cocaine”
From a TCM perspective, sugar cravings are all about the Spleen.
In a biological spleen, it filters the blood by recycling old red blood cells and also helps fight certain kinds of bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis. But in Chinese Medicine, it represents the whole digestive system together with its partner- Stomach to process, transport and transport food into energy. It also controls the nourishing & nurturing aspect of your emotions. Spleen is affected greatly by overthinking.
Interesting fact: You can live without a Spleen but you’ll be more prone to infections.
Every element and organ is associated with a taste. The Spleen is particularly affected by sweet flavor. Small amounts of mildly sweet food can help to balance the Spleen, but too much of added sugar every single day will damage your Spleen – leaving you to crave sugar.
Unbalanced Spleen will lead to yo-yo Sugar Cycle.
If you often crave sugar, it’s a sign your Spleen is stressed. Sugar craving is only 1 symptom.
To check if your Spleen is stressed, here are some of the other symptoms that you might have.
Loose stools / diarrhoea
Feeling light-headed, shaky, or irritable between meals
Feeling tired or sleepy after eating
Bruise or bleed easily
Obsessive, over thinking
Insomnia (always thinking at night)
Pale, swollen tongue
Excess phlegm or nasal congestion
Feeling groggy in the morning
Fatigue that feels heavy, especially in the arms and legs
Do you have more than 6 symptoms that apply to you? Read on to find out how you can help your Spleen to feel better.
Lets see what the Spleen does from a TCM perspective.
Spleen’s Rule: Transportation and Transformation
You are what you eat, is old news. You are what you absorb. Some people eat alot but don’t put on any weight because they cannot absorb all the nutrients/calories.The Spleen’s main job is to transform the food into qi and blood for the body. A Spleen that is functioning well will have a good appetite, strong digestion, and full of power! In TCM model of nutrition, there is post and pre-natal.
Pre-natal is what you’re born with, you got it from your mama. The post-natal is the acquired nutrition which is influenced by emotions, exercise and eating habits. Spleen being the Earth element, it is considered to be the centre and hence the most important element to turn that post-natal into usable viable power.
Bye bye Dampness & All rise to clear Essence
Image a food steamer. When you put food in and turn on the steamer, the power is like the Spleen. It helps to cook the food by heating up the water into steam. If your Spleen is weak, there is no power to transform the water into steam, leaving all the water in the steamer (your body) and leaving the food uncooked.This water left in the steamer is similar to dampness in the body. This dampness will result in sluggishness, heavy body,puffy eyes, water retention, poor digestion (no heat to “cook” the food), diarrhoea,etc.
The Spleen likes dryness and hates dampness. So if you keep eating damp forming food such as ice cream, rich creams, oily food, the Spleen will take its toll.
Spleen is also transports and raises clear essence to the rest of the body. This rising is the action of bringing nourishment up and also to the lifting effect to ensure that the organs are in place. Without the “push up”, the organs will “sink”, leading to prolapse of uterus, bladder, hemorrhoids, etc.
Spleen’s job: Transport & Transform. Nourish & Nurture.
( I call it the T&T + N&N function)
Gatekeeper of the Blood
The Spleen is the gatekeeper that serves an important role in keeping the blood circulating inside the body and meridians. If your Spleen is weak, you will see signs such as easy bruising, blood in stools, heavy menses, menses that doesn’t stop after 7 days, uterine bleeding and other hemorrhages.
Nourish muscles & limbs
Remember the T&T function I mentioned earlier? After transformation of food into energy,nutrition is transported to the muscles, arms and legs to be exact. Failure to do so can lead to weak limbs (wobbly arms and legs), atrophy and general fatigue as your muscles are unable to keep up with daily activities.
Perfect shade of lipstick
I can’t live without lip balm. You know your Spleen is not functioning at its optimum when you have dry and cracked lips all the time. In TCM, the Spleen opens up to the mouth and manifests itself to the lips. If Spleen Qi is weak,it is unable to send the fluid and nutrition to the lips, thus the dry and pale lips.
House of Thoughts
The emotion related to the Spleen is overthinking, worry and a spirit called “Yi”. How you act and react in your daily activities are based on past experiences and values in life. All your fear, anger and actions are often influenced by a conditioned response. And when there is weakness in Yi, it can make you rigid and do repetitive actions. I don’t think there is anything wrong with living the same scheduled life, but if it inhibits you from trying new experiences in life or affect you to chase a good opportunity then you may want to take look at your Spleen function.
Whooo! is the Spleen.
Who? Yes, you- that oval shaped organ sitting on the left side of your body.
In TCM, each organ is associated with a healing sound. The sound for Spleen is “Whoooo”(like “Who” are you). Making this sound create a vibration that acts like a mini internal massage for your organs.
Here’s how you do the massage.
Find a quiet space with a comfortable chair.
Sit upright and place both hands on your stomach.
Take long and gentle inhale.
When you exhale make a gentle “Whooo” sound.
Imagine that you are guiding the qi upward from the outer sides of the big toes, up the inner-legs into the abdomen to the stomach, then into upper chest where it divides into two branches:
To the throat and under the tongue.
To the inner arms down to the inside tips of the little fingers (links to Heart meridian).
5. Then inhale again. Do six times. Keep your focus in the stomach, spleen and abdomen area.
I like to say Whoooo and also say the name of other things bothering me when I’m exhaling.
“WHOOOOO… Instaaaaaa….. OT (overtime)…. ” #woohoo
Happy Meal for Spleen
Spleen love warm food that is easy to digest. Think of a hot bowl of soup or stew after playing in the snow. If you’re in a hot and humid tropical country like Singapore, try to cut down on ice cold drink, ice creams, cooling herbal teas such as chrysanthemum or mung bean drinks. Here’s a few ingredients that you can add into your diet:
Sweet potato (purple or yellow)
Dates or Jujube
Brown Rice or oats (cook softer or as a porridge)
Warm garnishes: Ginger, spring onions, garlic
Sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds
5 Herbs for your Spleen
Bai Zhu – #1 SPLEEN CHOICE
#1 herb for Spleen! Tonifies the Spleen and augments Qi. Dries dampness and promotes water metabolism. Bai zhu ranks high in the pantheon of TCM herbs and is actually considered being equal of ginseng. An old TCM aphorism states “Ren shen in the north and Bai zhu in the south,”indication the powerfulness of both herbs.
Dang Shen – THE TONIFIER
Some call it the “Poor man’s Ginseng”. But it does a good job of tonifying Qi and Blood especially for Spleen and Lungs. Ginseng is heaty and is stronger at generating Qi; America Ginseng is cooler can also generate Yin (good for nourishing the depleted fluids); Prince Ginseng is neutral and is not as strong as American Ginseng.
Huang Qi – QI BOOSTER
This yellow herb tonifies Qi and is a key herb to boost immunity. Strengthens the Spleen and raises the Yang Qi of the Spleen and Stomach; Promotes urination and reduces edema, Promotes the discharge of pus, generates new skin and expels toxins. Add some into your tea or chicken soup.
Shan Yao – YIN YAM
Tonifies the Spleen, nourishes Stomach Yin and stops diarrhea. Tonifies Lung and Kidney too. Fresh yam contains mucus protein that helps to lower blood sugar.
Chen Pi- ORANGE LIFT
This fragrant herb can mildly moves Qi to prevent stagnation. It can also bring the Qi downwards to stop vomiting, hiccup, burping and cough.It improves transportation function of the spleen and dries dampness and the transformation of phlegm.
5 Acupuncture points for a Happy Spleen
Spleen (On the ear)
Ear or auricular acupuncture is the stimulation of acupuncture points on the ear surface to treat health conditions in other areas of the body. To stimulate the point, you can buy ear seeds ( magnetic, or vaccaria seeds placed with adhesive plaster) and stick on the point. Use your thumb and index finger to press and massage 1 to 3 minutes everyday until it feels sore.
SP 3 (Tai Bai)
On the inside of the foot, in the depression behind the big toe, the junction of the red and white skin (in the middle of the thickness of your feet).
SP 6 (San Yi Jiao)
On the inside of the lower leg, 3 cun (4 finger width) above the inner side of the ankle bone, behind the tibia bone.
ST 9 (Yin Lin Quan)
On the inside of the lower leg near the knee, in the depression of the lower border of the head of the tibia bone.
ST 36 (Zu San Li)
On the front of the lower leg, below the knee, 3 cun (4 finger width) below the lower border of the knee cap, one finger-breadth (middle finger) from the edge of the tibia bone.
Thank you for reading!