In Chinese medicine, spleen qi refers to the life energy associated with the spleen network. Practitioners of Chinese medicine do not think only of the abdominal organ that Western medicine calls the spleen. The spleen network is a better name for the organ in Chinese medicine because it relates to the flow of energy in the body and the entire digestive process. A qi deficiency means there is not enough qi flowing to the spleen, which leads to an impaired ability of the body to generate qi from food. Changing your diet may help, but always discuss dietary changes with a doctor.
Foods to Eat
Eating foods called yang tonics are helpful for a spleen qi deficiency because they warm the spleen and improve energy flow. A few examples are basil, cloves, dill and fennel seeds, garlic, dried ginger, nutmeg, pistachios, raspberries, and shrimp. Also, foods that taste pungent and sweet are favored by the spleen and help qi to circulate. These include carrots, cayenne, jasmine tea, orange peels, peppermint tea, and radishes.
Foods to Avoid
A diet for a spleen deficiency calls for the avoidance of certain foods. You should not eat a lot of sugar or salt. Avoid milk, cheese and other dairy products, seaweed, citrus fruits and juice, tofu, salads, salt, millet, and undercooked grains. Do not consume pork, wheat products and foods containing gluten, roasted peanuts, products like beer that contain yeast, bananas, saturated fats, and oily or fried foods.
How to Prepare Foods
Generally, cooked and warm foods are better for your spleen, but limit the amount of cooked fruits you eat. Avoid iced, chilled, frozen, and raw foods. Cold and uncooked foods require your body to use qi to warm and digest the foods. When you have a spleen qi deficiency, you do not have the excess energy to spare.
Causes of Spleen Qi Deficiency
Eating cold foods frequently damages your spleen qi. Depriving yourself of food, worrying about what you eat, working too hard, and not exercising also contribute to a qi deficiency. A spleen qi deficiency may manifest as fatigue, weakness of the arms and legs, a weak pulse, bloating, sallow complexion, a pale-colored tongue, reduced appetite, nausea, or loose stools. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your physician, as these could indicate any number of ailments.
Sample Meal Plan
A meal plan for spleen health may include oatmeal cooked with pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a pinch of cinnamon, or brown rice baked with almonds and raisins with cardamon for breakfast. Lunch or dinner may include hummus with steamed vegetables, or steamed Brussel sprouts with broccoli, brown rice and cooked beans, or pumpkin soup. You can drink ginger tea with honey or flax seed milk with warming spices, such as nutmeg, cardamon and cinnamon.
- Traditional Chinese Diet Therapy: Factsheet #2; Diet Guidelines for Spleen Qi Deficiency; James Saper; 2006 (pdf)
- Brian Carter's Pulse of Oriental Medicine; Anxiety, IBS, and Coffee; Brian Benjamin Carter, MSci, LAc
- Brian Carter's Pulse of Oriental Medicine; Diet Therapy for Spleen Qi Vacuity Dampness; Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.