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The Spleen: Digestion, Absorption, Immunity and Integrity

The Spleen is similar in structure to a large lymph node about the size of a small fist and is positioned in the body at the upper left quadrant of the abdomen in the area of the 9th-11th rib.  Western medicine describes the Spleen as an organ that is part of the lymphatic system and thus is an important immune system organ.

Chinese Medicine Perspective

Although Chinese Medicine (CM) does not disagree with this perspective, CM has some different aspects to the Spleen and its functions.

The Ling Shu Chapter 8 (a classic acupuncture text) states:

“The Spleen—Stomach holds the office of the graneries and issues the five flavours”

This quote points to fact that in CM the Stomach and Spleen have a very close relationship, working together to accomplish the digestion, absorption and transformation of food into blood and qi (chi). CM describes two major sources of qi: pre-heavenly qi, which is the qi inherited from our parents, and post heavenly qi which is the end product of the mixture of the digestion of food mixed with air from the lungs.

What Is the Spleen Responsible For?

The Spleen is responsible for the transformation of water and food into the qi and blood of the body and ultimately into post heavenly qi.  When the spleen is functioning well a person has a good appetite, strong digestion, they will feel strong and energetic. When this Spleen is weak, physical symptoms including bloating, reflux, fatigue, diarrhoea, poor appetite cold extremities may be present.

The Spleen has an important role in keeping the blood circulating within the blood vessels as well as the meridians.

When the spleen is weak this function will become impaired showing up as bleeding disorders such as blood in the stool, hemorrhaege, uterine bleeding and bruising easily.

Practitioners of CM will gather information from the person's symptoms, they will also utilize other methods of diagnosis within CM to deepen the diagnostic investigation.

The Spleen has a sphere of influence on our health other than digestion, absorption and immunity.

How To Recognise Spleen Disharmony

When a person has a Spleen imbalance, it is common for that to show as a slightly yellow complexion with a waxy, shiny texture.

According to CM philosophy, when the Spleen is weak there will be a strong tendency to worry, to be ingratiating or overly sympathetic.  There is also the tendency to crave and eat too much sweet damp producing food, which ironically will damage the Spleen further.

When the Spleen is strong and in balance, virtues such as empathy, trust and integrity will be displayed.

The pulse which represents the Spleen (right wrist 2nd position deep) will reveal a weakness or “slippery” quality.

The tongue may be swollen, wet or have teeth marks along the edges, all of which indicate that the body is not transforming fluids, which almost always implicates the Spleen to some degree.

Palpating the abdomen in the area which relates to the Spleen or other points on its channel can reveal blockages which need to be cleared. When a Spleen disharmony is diagnosed, the practitioner will choose appropriate points on the body which will directly or indirectly treat the disharmony.

There are many great ways to treat the spleen, by warming it.  These include:

  • Consuming more 'warming' foods such as warming herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger and turmeric.
  • Eating more hot foods and foods with a warm thermal nature, such as soups.
  • Avoiding cold foods like ice-cold drinks and ice-cream.

When the correct treatment and points are given, an immediate effect is felt by the person such as more energy or clarity for example. With regular treatment, the body will respond by re-creating harmony and balance.

For an in depth analysis of your condition, visit one of our Sydney Acupuncture centres for a full consultation and treatment. We are located in Bondi Junction and North Sydney.

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