Foods to strengthen the Spleen & beat fatigue

In my last blog I wrote about the main digestive organ in Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and how it is linked to fatigue. As promised, here are some suggestions on how to strengthen the Spleen with food.

Each organ in Chinese Medicine is associated with a particular flavor and that of the Spleen is sweetness. However, a huge disclaimer right away: that DOES NOT mean or include refined sugar!!! As a matter of fact, sugar is among the most important things to avoid when trying to strengthen the Spleen. From a TCM perspective, sweet foods include grains, poultry, cabbage, carrots, cinnamon, and salmon, which surprised me at first. But then I realized that I was thinking about sweetness from a western perspective where sweet mostly means sugar has been added. So, naturally sweet foods are supportive of the Spleen but refined sugar is detrimental!

What else is harmful to the Spleen?

  • Excessive consumption of cold foods and beverages including iced water or sodas; ice cream or other frozen treats; raw cold foods including salads (esp. during the colder winter months). Cold dampens our “digestive fire” and our body has to work so much harder to first warm up what has been ingested before it can start breaking it down so it can be absorbed. Even a lot of fruit has a cooling nature and among the most cooling are pineapples, bananas, watermelons, lemons and oranges.
  • Excessive consumption of dairy, including yoghurt, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, ice cream….yeah, the ice cream has a really bad wrap because it includes all three ‘evils’…sugar, dairy and coldness! Dairy creates a ‘damp’ environment which the Spleen really doesn’t do well with.

So what can I eat to strengthen the Spleen?

Here’s a list of things that your Spleen will like:

  • Meat: poultry, lamb, beef, venison
  • Fish: trout, salmon, tuna, shellfish
  • Fruit: apples, apricots, dates, figs, sweet cherries, peach, plums, red grapes, dried fruit such as raisins
  • Veggies: cabbage, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato
  • Grains: amaranth, oats, millet, polenta, rice
  • Nuts/seeds: peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sesame, walnuts
  • Sweeteners: always in moderation!! Maple syrup, barley malt, raw honey, raisins, molasses, raw cane sugar
  • Spices: aniseed, fennel, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon

When you start making some of these changes, observe how you feel after eating and monitor your energy levels throughout the day. Often various disharmonies are at play at the same time, so if these changes aren’t making a difference for you, it may be that other organs are out of balance requiring additional food therapies. Getting a full nutritional evaluation by a practitioner of TCM can be a good place to start when considering dietary changes.