We are at the end of the Spleen/Stomach "time of year" – actually the Spleen/Spleen time – meaning that digestive and metabolic issues can be especially strained now. Every organ system "rules" about two and a half months of the year during which its energy should flourish. In addition, the last half-month of each season is also a Spleen time regardless of the organ system, thus Spleen/Spleen now. This will shift into Lung time about mid-September. Until then, digestive issues are up for many.
It’s amazing to me how people come into my clinic at the same time of year with similar health issues that match whatever organ "season" we are in. It’s no different now, as from about mid-August to mid-September, people frequently complain of diarrhea, low appetite, poor muscle strength or tone, loose stools or diarrhea, tiredness, inability to focus or concentrate, low vitality, bloating, gas, a need to clear the throat after eating, post nasal drip, runny nose, an inability to lose weight now, or obsession or brooding. These are all signs of Deficient Spleen Qi, Deficient Spleen Yang and/or Spleen Dampness.
When the Spleen is weak, other problems arise as well; as Ayurveda states, digestion is "the key to health." When Spleen Qi is deficient, the body not only doesn’t build sufficient Blood or Qi but also doesn’t supply them adequately to the organs or tissues.
Digestive issues can have great impact on our lives. I have a patient in his 20s, who after eating at a fast food restaurant just once, got colitis with diarrhea that lasted for over five years. He couldn’t date, work, or socialize because he didn’t dare leave his house for frequent need of the bathroom. Another patient could only eat eight foods because of her Crohn’s disease. Still another man in his 20s was up every night from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux), which greatly impacted his schoolwork. A different patient had gluten sensitivity, which limited his food intake tremendously. Many other patients can’t lose weight no matter what they try, even eating low-caloric diets of fruits and salads. I successfully treated all of these conditions with diet and herbs that focused mainly on strengthening the Spleen along with any other presenting patterns.
I’ve even seen people dash to the emergency room thinking they were having a heart attack while in actuality, they were experiencing acute Food Stagnation. I’ve talked with emergency room nurses about this and they say when an obvious heart problem isn’t present, most doctors start with a digestive medication to see if this alleviates the symptoms, which it often does.
In general, the Spleen is responsible for assimilation and transportation of nutrients throughout the body (metabolism). As this occurs on all levels, Spleen Qi not only controls food and fluid metabolism but also cell respiration and other similar metabolic functions. The Spleen rules the muscles, flesh and limbs, keeps the Organs in place and the Blood in vessels, opens to the mouth and manifests in the lips. The Spleen hates to be Damp, as this interferes with its ability to transform and transport food and fluids.
A weak Spleen causes poor digestion, low appetite, gas, bloatedness, acid regurgitation, loose stools or diarrhea, undigested food in the stools, malnutrition, weakness in arms and legs, fatigue, poor muscle development, edema of abdomen, hips and thighs, blood spots under the skin, easy bruising, lack of sensation of taste, prolapsed organs, frequent bleeding, abdominal distension, obsession, worry, and anemia. The tongue has scallops, trembles, may be swollen and has a thicker coat if there’s Dampness or Food Stagnation. The pulse is weak or minute.
These are the typical Spleen patterns found:
Stay tuned for Sept. 21 when I'll describe food and herbs for treating Spleen imbalances.