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The spleen from a TCM perspective

The Spleen’s role in the body is significant to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The Spleen from a TCM point of view is not synonymous with the Spleen in Western medicine. It has various physiologic functions such as governing the transportation and transformation of both food and water (it transforms food into nutrients which is the source of Qi and Blood), it controls the up bearing of Clear Qi to the lungs and heart, controls the blood, muscles as well as mental activities such as thinking, focusing, concentrating and memory.

The organ is linked with the element ‘earth’, the colour ‘yellow’, and the season of ‘late summer’ (the last month of summer). This is the point of transition from yang to yin, between the expansive growth phases of spring and summer and the inward, cooler, more mysterious autumn and winter seasons.

“The earth element, represented by the spleen-pancreas, regulates the ‘centre’, that which is constant, from where it harmonises the effects of the four seasons” – Inner Classic

The transformative function of the spleen is easily damaged by high and frequent intake of raw, cold and overly spicy foods as this can result in dampness accumulation. If dampness in the spleen is already present, certain foods like dairy products, processed foods, alcohol, sugars and sweeteners are said to exacerbate the situation.

To attune with the seasons, choose some foods for each meal that is harmonising and represent the centre. These can be mildly sweet foods, yellow or golden foods and foods known to nourish the centre. Some examples are corn, carrots, cabbage, chickpeas, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, rice, peas, rockmelon, tofu, soybeans, millet, amaranth and peas.

Other tips to support your spleen:

Implement healthy eating habits: Meals are important, and eating your food should not be mixed with work, reading or TV. This may inhibit the passage of food through the body and affect digestion.

Eat in moderate amounts: Overeating can result in an overworked spleen and food stagnation. The spleen does not have sufficient time to empty your stomach before your next meal, which may lead to feel bloating and fatigue.

Chew your food well: At least 30 times for each mouthful! This reduces the workload for your digestive system as food is absorbed easier.

Avoid cold or chilled beverages: Too much cold drinks can damage the spleen and the body will take time to warm up the food before it gets digested.


Macciocca, G. (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A comprehensive text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Churchill Livingstone, New York.

Pritchard, P. (2003). Healing with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition. North Atlantic Books, California.