Functions of the Stomach and Spleen
A Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) doctor and a western medical doctor perceive the body somewhat differently. Each organ according to TCM has its own set of functions. Some overlap with the western functions, and some are entirely different.
One thing that is important to think about, is that when an acupuncturist talks about your organs, they are talking about them in terms of the way they were trained to make a diagnosis. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something biologically wrong. It means that according to the ways an acupuncturist was trained, that particular organ could be part of the overall pattern that is leading to specific symptoms and signs.
According to TCM, one of the main functions of the spleen is to transform and transport energy and fluids from food. When your spleen is healthy it sends excess fluid up to the lungs, where it will be vaporized and expelled.
The energy of the stomach is descending in nature so excess fluid and food waste will be sent downwards to the excretion organs. If stomach energies rebel, the energy moves upwards instead of downwards, causing nausea, vomiting and excess gas.
When the energy of the spleen is weak instead of ascending the Qi (or vital life source according to TCM) sinks downwards resulting in lethargy, excess dampness and phlegm - and in extreme cases, prolapse of organs.
Stress, overactive liver, illness and pregnancy are all potential causes for stomach Qi ascending.
Things like overthinking, excessive work habits, and even eating while working, are potential causes of spleen Qi sinking.
Stomach 36 - Zusanli
The stomach and spleen are also responsible for powering the muscles. So, to maintain physical strength, I will often use acupuncture point Stomach 36 in the treatment room!
It’s just below your knee. It’s known to treat digestive issues, it can support your immune health and even expel “pathogens” from the body. I had a teacher in acupuncture school who used to burn stomach 36, he would take moxa herb and actually burn and scar the acupuncture point Stomach 36 (ST-36) every winter so that the point is continuously activated, fighting off pathogens all through the cold and flu season. ST-36 is also great for fatigue.
Zusanli is the chinese name for this point, the translation means ‘leg three miles’. If you're running and you've run out of muscle power you can massage point ST-36 and get another three miles. This point is all around an amazing point for overall well being.
When you’re feeling tired and fatigued - even if you have brain fog, another acupuncture point Spleen 3 (SP-3). This point can be used in conjunction with ST-36.
An acupuncturists super-simple guide to keep your spleen strong
Avoid damp, sugary, greasy, cold foods. Eat warm, dry foods, herbs, warm drinks. You do not need to worry about this too much in the summertime, but always be mindful about warming the digestion and stoking the digestive fire. You don't want to dilute the digestive fire by adding too much yin, water, and too much dampness. Your digestion is the first point of generation of your physical chi, for your body, for your mind, for your life and for your dreams.
You may also have an imbalance of these acupuncture organ systems if you answer yest to any of hte questions below:
● Do you get sweet cravings?
● Have you got any food insensitivities?
● Do you get bloated after meals?
● Do you find it difficult to get up in the morning?
● Do you have physical or mental fatigue?
● Do you get loose stools?
If you have at least two or three of the above I would highly recommend the suggestions above - and a visit to your acupuncturist. Give us a call and we’ll see if we can strengthen that spleen of yours.
● Rots and ripens food
● Origin of fluids
● Produce blood from the energy of your food - lack of energy can be a sign that your spleen is out of balance.
● Controls the blood vessels, and it’s been thought to prevent hemorrhage and bruising - If you bruise easily it's a sign that your spleen is a little bit weak.
● Helps prevent your organs “upright”, and from prolapsing - prolase according to TCM is thought to stem from a spleen disturbance.
● Houses clear thinking - so if your spleen is out of balance, your thoughts may not be as clear and your thinking muddled.
● control of muscles - weak muscles and atrophy can be a reflection of an imbalance.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.