The spleen is a fragile organ that plays an important role in maintaining internal energy, good digestion and stable body weight. Called the “digestive fire” in traditional Chinese medicine, with the onset of winter it is an essential resource that should be nourished with warming foods.
Avoid cold foods
Foods that are too raw or too cold — excessive quantities of raw vegetables or food straight from the refrigerator — which snuff out “digestive fire” should be avoided. In particular, green salad and raw vegetables with a high water content can facilitate swelling and the accumulation of cellulite.
On the other hand, herbal teas or infusions after meals can promote good digestion. Foods that tone up the spleen are: dates, grapes, pears, potatoes, cucumber, carrots, melon, cereals, liquorice, honey, cinnamon and aniseed.
Avoid sugar and fat
Excessive sugar which overworks the pancreas is not good for the spleen. It is important to avoid foods that are “damp”: alcohol, fat, fast sugars and excessive quantities of dairy products — for example, “fromage blanc,” which has a moisture content of 80%.
Avoid erratic eating patterns
The spleen is sensitive to erratic eating habits and can be weakened by skipping breakfast, copious or late dinners, and snacking.
Eat more whole grains and pulses
Metabolism and breakdown of red blood cells into bilirubin and amino acids. (Shutterstock)
Moderate quantities of cereals and pulses sustain good spleen function. Rice, wheat, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, lentils, dried beans, chickpeas and peas of all kinds should be eaten everyday. They can be accompanied by generous portions of vegetables, and sensible portions of meat or fish.
With regard to vegetables, give priority to earthy, sweet, seasonal, yellow and orange colored roots and vegetables like carrots, parsnips, squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Remember to unwind
If the spleen fails to respond to a good diet, it may be overburdened by stress, insufficient exercise, excessive worry, illness, or a climate or environment that is too damp. The main symptoms of poor spleen function are: indigestion, cold limbs, fatigue, loose stools, and edema. Traditional Chinese medicine speaks of Qi and Yang deficiencies caused by the spleen.
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