What Is Spleen Qi Deficiency and What Diet Helps?

In Chinese medicine, spleen qi refers to the life energy associated with the spleen network. Practitioners of Chinese medicine don't 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.

Enjoy healthy balanced meals that focus on whole-grain carbs and veggies for spleen qi deficiency. (Image: Manuta/iStock/GettyImages)

A qi deficiency means there's 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 your doctor.

Foods to Eat

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine specialist James Saper, R.TCM.P., 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 qi deficiency calls for the avoidance of certain foods. You shouldn't eat a lot of sugar or salt, and you should avoid coffee, milk, cheese and other dairy products, seaweed, citrus fruits and juices, tofu, salads, salt, millet and undercooked grains. In addition, don't 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 and Meals

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 don't have the excess energy to spare.

It's recommended that you eat small, frequent meals and that you take your time to savor every bite. Food balance is also important in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of spleen qi deficiency, and most of your plate should be filled with healthy carbs and vegetables, with less emphasis on meats.

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 a 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 Brussels sprouts with broccoli, brown rice and cooked beans, or pumpkin soup. You can drink ginger tea with honey or flax seed milk and warming spices, such as nutmeg, cardamon and cinnamon.

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