Spleen Function & TCM Guide
The Spleen, which is one of the main components of the lymphatic system, is located underneath the diaphragm muscle.
It is a very important organ in TCM, unlike many a view that it can be “safely” removed even without a good cause!
Yes, the Spleen (or even the appendix or tonsils) may not be “needed” to sustain life, but in the eyes of TCM, it is more than just an organ, it is an energy system.
Thus, removing them is like tossing out your smoke detector because it’s making too much noise!
The main Spleen functions include:
• governing transformation and transportation
• controlling blood, muscles and four limbs
• opening into the mouth and shows its health on the lips
• controlling the rising of chi
• pairing with the Stomach
The main Spleen function is to help the Stomach in digestion by transforming and transporting Gu Chi from food and water, and separating the waste.
Combining Gu Chi with Kong Chi from air, the Zhong Chi or Pectoral Chi is formed. If this Spleen functioning is compromised, poor appetite, loose bowel movements, bad digestion, malnutrition, bloating, and other digestive discomforts will ensue.
Transform and Transport
The next important Spleen function is is the transformation and transportation of body fluids and secretions. Like the Lungs, which govern water passages, the Spleen (and the Kidney) too is involved in water metabolism.
Just like earth (Spleen) mutually promotes metal (Lung), the Spleen raises clean body fluids to the Lung, where the clean fluids are separated from the cloudy (turbid).
The clear fluids then nourish all the Zang Fu organs, internally; and moisten the skin and body hair, externally.
The cloudy fluids are then transformed into sweat and urine to be excreted through the sweat glands and Kidney respectively.
The malfunction of the Spleen (or if your Spleen has been removed!) can therefore interrupt the transformation and transportation functions.
The result is below par body performance to utilize all the nourishment available in food and water.
Not only this, the formation of Dampness can also occur.
“Chill” Dampens Spleen Function
The Spleen “dislikes” dampness; it “prefers” dryness. Thus, too much icy cold drinks can damage the Spleen and subsequently impairing digestion.
Keep the Spleen active and healthy (and manage those worries) and the retention of fluids will likely be kept at bay.
Muscles will be well-built; the limbs, strong; appetite, good as the mouth is able to taste; and lips, rosy and moist. 🙂
Otherwise, be prepared for some sticky phlegm, excessive salivation (and even decreased salivation), abdominal distention after meals, swelling (edema), cold limbs, lassitude, diarrhea, and other “swelling and fullness” symptoms.
The Blood Governor
As previously mentioned, the Spleen, like the Heart, Liver and Lung, has a close affinity with the blood.
The Spleen controls the circulation of blood and make sure it (the blood) stays where it is supposed to be, inside the vessels.
In order to do this effectively, the Spleen uses Nourishing Chi (Ying Chi) from the food essence (food and water).
Nourishing Chi, as its name implied, nourishes the blood.
Unlike Defensive Chi, which travels outside the meridians, on body surfaces; this chi travels within the blood vessels and meridians providing vital nourishment to the blood.
The failure for the Spleen to function at its peak controlling blood manifests in various types of hemorrhagic diseases.
Excessive menstrual bleeding, uterine bleeding, hemotochezia, bloody urine, purpura, pale complexion, lassitude, pale tongue proper, and a thready weak pulse, all can be seen as weak Spleen chi symptoms.
Up Goes the Spleen Chi
While Lung chi descends, spleen chi ascends. Any mischanneling of chi spells trouble. Failure of the Spleen to raise chi may result in belatedness and diarrhea.
If Spleen chi descends, more serious consequences may occur, such as long-term diarrhea, and even prolapsed of internal organs. So the Spleen does not only hold the blood, but also the organs!
The ultimate aim in TCM is to regulate chi flow to its original “equilibrium” state in the five Zang organs. Among these five, it is said that the Spleen is the hardest organ to regulate, BUT if you are able to do it, you will have grasped the key to health and longevity!
The Stomach is the Spleen’s paired organ. Its main functions are receiving and decomposing food and drink.
While the Spleen likes it dry, the Stomach prefers dampness; that is why it is also known as the “sea of water.” The difference is what makes this pair of organs so closely related.
The Stomach receives food while the Spleen transports nutrients. The Stomach moves things downwards while the Spleen moves things upwards. Hence, when a Spleen function is disrupted, causing chi deficiency, uneasiness can also be felt in the Stomach.
If Stomach chi fails to descend, it will give rise to symptoms such as fullness, putrid belching, regurgitation, nausea, vomiting, hiccough, abdominal pain, etc.
Supplements for the Spleen
The emotion of the Spleen is pensiveness. Thinking too much only adds to your worries. Not only your appetite and digestion are disrupted, your brain and your memory too will be affected.
When the Spleen lacks chi energy, nutrients and fluids will not be efficiently transformed and transported from the Stomach, and subsequently, the whole body will be lacking in essential chi.
What else? The muscles (even those on your face and those lining the blood vessels) become weak; and preventing blood from “escaping” becomes a tedious job!
Seriously, nutrient imbalance or nutrient deficiency is not something you’d want to joke about! Don’t put your Spleen in such a pathetic state.