However, the spleen makes up an important part of our immune system. Proper functioning of the spleen is more important now than ever, due to the pandemic.
It’s also one of the primary organs that determine our overall health and wellness from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective. Read on to learn more about spleen function and how to keep it healthy.
Spleen Function, Explained
The spleen is found in the upper left side of our abdomen. More specifically, it’s located next to our stomach and behind our left ribs. It is the size of a human’s fist and resembles either a shoe or a very large coffee bean.
Some of the spleen functions are:
pathogensout of our blood
- Removing old and damaged red blood cells
- Controlling the level of blood cells (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets)
Because of its functions, our spleen is an integral part of the immune system. Some people are born without a spleen, while others have to have it removed because it’s either ruptured or enlarged. A swollen or enlarged spleen is caused by several factors, one of which is malaria.
A splenectomy, or an operation to take out the spleen, may be needed when these problems occur.
Spleen Function, According To TCM
Despite its status as a non-vital organ, the spleen plays a huge role in TCM. The spleen is known as the source of the “acquired constitution” because it produces qi. Qi is the very energy that substantiates life.
Previously, we’ve talked about the spleen’s place in the immune system. TCM, in the meanwhile, sees the spleen as the organ responsible for digestion and assimilation processes inside our body.
Together with our stomach, our spleen transforms the food we eat into nutrients. The spleen then transports it upward to the heart and lungs, where it would later be distributed throughout the body. This ascending function is one of the features of the spleen qi.
In contrast, stomach qi has a descending feature. It works downward to discharge undigested food out of the body. Both the ascending and descending motions of the spleen qi and stomach qi complement each other to complete the digestion process.
Spleen Qi Deficiency
What happens when your spleen function is off? According to TCM,
Because the spleen delivers nutrients to the body, a deficiency in spleen qi would cause a lack of nourishment. This, in turn, would make a person feel tired.
Other symptoms of spleen qi deficit include loss of appetite, bloating, loose stools, breathlessness, a yellowish complexion, and “teeth marks” on the edges of the tongue.
When the spleen fails to transform body fluids and carry them to be transported throughout the body, they will accumulate and create dampness.
Some of the symptoms are bloating, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, heaviness in the limbs, a thick greasy tongue coating, loose stools (when dampness occurs in the intestines), and vaginal discharge with a foul odor (dampness in the female genital area).
As mentioned above, our spleen also deals with our blood. Therefore, a weak spleen qi could cause bleeding problems such as bruises, bloody stools or urine, and purple spots under the skin.
How To Improve Spleen Function
Here are some things you can do to support proper spleen function:
Limit Raw, Cold and Spicy Foods
Too much of these foods are dangerous to the spleen and has the potential to create dampness. Certain foods like processed foods, alcohol, sugars and dairy products can cause dampness in the spleen to accumulate further.
In addition, it is said that larger intakes of cold drinks could damage the spleen and disturb the digestion process. As the body needs to warm our food before it gets digested, cold drinks would delay this process.
Eat a Healthy Diet
This is probably the most obvious way to take care of your spleen and maintain a healthy digestive system. Eating well means not overeating and chewing properly. It also means avoiding distractions at mealtimes.
We’re already used to watching television, playing with our phones, and even working while eating. Although it’s hard, try to focus only on what’s on your plate to improve your digestion and the passage of food in the body.
Consume Herbs That Boost Spleen Function
TCM believes the herbs that help to improve spleen functions are white atractylodes, astragalus, ginseng, codonopsis, cordyceps, Chinese yam, and licorice. Other herbs, like poria, barley seeds, and hyacinth beans, can help to reduce dampness.
Meanwhile, taking a supplement containing the
Whether as part of the immunity or digestive system, it’s clear to see now that your spleen function is much more significant than you might think. Taking care of it as you would a vital organ is the key to our overall health and wellness.
This is an adaptation of an article, “TCM: Understanding the Role of the Spleen”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.