We are currently in the 18-day period (October 21 to November 7) which occurs between the energetic seasons of Fall and Winter according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The element associated with this season in TCM is Earth.
In previous blog posts, we talked about best eating practices for this season and how the spleen is yin organ of the pair of organs associated with the Earth element and the Earth energetic season. The yang organ of Earth is the stomach.
What is the spleen anyway and what role does it play in the body?
The spleen is part of the lymphatic system and plays several very important roles in the human body:
- In moms-to-be, the spleen begins producing the embryo’s blood cells gradually leaving the job to the mother’s bone marrow.
- It captures malfunctioning, abnormal or old red blood cells and expels them.
- It recycles iron in red blood cells to create new healthy red blood cells.
- The spleen controls digestion. It assimilates your food’s nutrients (also known as food essence or jingwei in TCM) which are then conveyed throughout the body via lung, heart and blood vessels.
- It absorbs water and then transports it through the body via lung, heart and urinary bladder to maintain normal water metabolism.
- It helps to protect the body from infections by producing white blood cells (macrophages and lymphocytes) which travel to the infected parts of the body.
- The spleen produced antibodies which help fight infections.
- Lymph fluid* passes through the spleen where germs and other foreign bodies are captured by white blood cells.
- Spleen is actually involved in mental activities. It affects intention which can be weakened by mental strain. Mental turmoil, poor memory, and irritability may be a result of an impaired spleen energy.
- When the spleen or functioning normally, it is able to promote the energy required by muscles and limbs and the body exhibits vitality.
- Spleen participates with the other energies of the body which it irrigate and moisten.
If you’re concerned your spleen might need some support, here are some simple actions to take:
- Assist your digestive process by chewing your food well.
- Refrain from drinking fluids while having a meal.
- Try not to drink cold beverages and if you must, have some warm tea first.
- Eat lots of living whole foods.
- Avoid overeating.
- Nourish the spleen with sweet grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise most especially the abdominals and thighs because the spleen meridian runs up the legs.
* Lymph: a colorless fluid containing white blood cells that bathes the tissues and drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream
Source: Liu, Yanchi, Kathleen Vian, and Peter Eckman. The Essential Book of Traditional Chinese Medicine. New York: Columbia UP, 1988. Print.