August Is Spleen…AKA Pancreas (Somewhat)…AKA Digestive Energy Month

2279397714_8c3897ce73ByBill Kennedy

I love this picture! I have no idea what the owners of the cafe were thinking when they chose this name but it makes COMPLETE sense when thinking in a Chinese medicine way.  Here’s the reason why: In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), your spleen is directly involved in digestion. (Digestion as in food, as in what you get at a cafe. Neat huh?) Digestion, you might ask, yes, let me explain.  In most cases, the Mandarin translation of an organ’s name corresponds to the English word and understanding, for example, lung translates as lung, heart as heart, gall bladder as gall bladder and so on. Where all this naming becomes interesting is when acupuncturists talk about your spleen. There is the organ we call the spleen (which you can read about here) and then there is part of your digestive energy that Chinese medicine calls your spleen. Your “Chinese spleen” corresponds mostly to your physical pancreas but also includes some of what western medicine says is the responsibility of your small intestine and your stomach. Translation: your “Chinese spleen” is an important  part of your digestive energy and August is the month you can do something terrific for this most interesting energetic system.

Together with your stomach, the spleen creates what is called the central balance of the body. Stomach qi goes down. Spleen qi ascends. When this reverses, a body can experience nausea, vomiting, hiccuping- when it’s a reversal of stomach qi and diarrhea, gas and undigested food in stools when it’s a reversal of spleen qi. The stomach likes a moist environment while the spleen likes a dry environment. Many of the common foods of a mainstream American diet create a damp environment for the spleen. Alcohol, fried foods, high glycemic foods, dairy and sugar all create damp so keeping these foods to a minimum, especially if your spleen is already weak, is one of the best things you can do for it. Also, not eating too many raw fruits and vegetables can be helpful. I already hear the gasps of horror over this comment. Although there are MANY wonderful things about raw fruits and veggies, the body has to expend alot of energy to warm up and digest these high-fiber foods and if your spleen is compromised in any way, you want to make digestion and absorption easier not more difficult. Does that mean that TCM wants you to cook your veggies until they are limp and gray? Of course not! Wok-ing is a great way to have flavorful veggies without losing nutritional value.

Here’s a great formula for keeping your cooked food nutrient rich and also easier to digest:

Time x Temperature x Water= Decreased nutrition

It’s an inverse relationship. The longer the time, the higher the temperature, the greater the amount of water- any or all of these will lead to decreased nutrition. Wok-ing food means little time. It means slightly high temperature but with little to no water. Your veggies retain a slight crunch and their vibrant colors. Check out this cooking method to do something kind for your spleen.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce or otherwise). Call the office if you are looking for more spleen tips!

Check out the other months and their organs here.

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