Spleen and Stomach nourishing foods

Updated: Jun 23

The Spleen and Stomach are associated with the Earth element, sweet tasting foods and the colour orange/yellow in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The Earth element is predominant in Autumn as well as at each equinox (seven days prior to and after each equinox). During each of these times in the year it is considered beneficial to eat Earth nourishing foods (listed below) and to avoid anything that can slow the Spleen or Stomach (discussed below).

In terms of function, the Stomach rots and ripens food according to TCM theory, whilst the Spleen takes the nutrition and fluids from the food and sends these up to the Lungs and Heart via the blood. These functions can be impaired or even harmed in a number of ways:

1) Diet

Our busy lifestyles often lead to poor dietary choices, eating on the go or even skipping meals. The effect is to deplete the Spleen and Stomach which leads to digestive issues and fatigue. Over time the nutrients and fluids in the Blood diminish, referred to as Blood Deficiency in TCM.

2) Emotions

Anger and frustration. These initially affect the Liver which, in turn, affects the Stomach and/or Spleen as the Liver is responsible for sending Blood to organs. Emotions can also cause the direction of Qi (energy) to be altered, which leads to reflux, nausea and vomiting.

3) Overwork and/or Overthinking

Overwork depletes the Spleen as does overthinking. The Spleen is in-charge of the Yi (the Sprit-mind). When we are focusing on analysing or understanding, our Yi separates information to break it down in order to understand it as well as helping to discard irrelevant information; students and those who have analytical jobs often have a depleted Spleen which manifests as digestive issues, tiredness and a craving for sweet foods.

Helping your Stomach to digest food

The Stomach can become less effective at rotting and ripening food if we always skip breakfast, considered an important meal in TCM, as the Stomach has the most energy (Qi) between 7 & 9am. Eating mainly cold and/or raw foods also affects the Stomach as it needs to work harder to digest these foods. The Stomach likes moist food so if you do want toast in the morning have it with soup or foods which add moisture.

Aim for a warm breakfast and large, warm lunch. A snack between lunch and dinner. Dinner should be the lightest meal in the day as a heavy meal will sit in the Stomach for longer and this can affect sleep. Eat in a relaxed environment when you can focus on your food, enjoy it and chew it properly. Reading, watching TV, checking your phone, working or surfing the net, whilst you eat divert Qi from the Stomach.

Foods to include in your diet to strengthen the Spleen & Stomach

Incorporate foods which are orange or yellow in colour, slightly sweet, cooked/fermented and warming:

Veg: Carrots, cabbage, onions, pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potatoes, peas, yams,

Fruit:-warmed or cooked: apples, apricots, peaches, plums, dates, figs, raisins, cherries, grapes, papaya.

Nuts & seeds: hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachio, sesame, flax, almonds, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower.

Carbs: brown rice, amaranth.

Herbs and spices: coriander, cumin, fennel, dill.

Teas: jasmine, nettle, fennel,

I have excluded meat and fish out of respect to vegetarians, vegans and those who exclude certain meats for religious reasons. If you would like to get the list of meats, fish and dairy I will be posting a separate post shortly and will pop the link in here.

Foods to LIMIT:

As mentioned above, try to avoid raw food and opt for cooked foods only if possible. The Stomach needs to work harder to digest raw and cold food, which means even more Qi is needed for digestion. Our amazing bodies spend a great deal of time extracting energy and nutrients from food in order to provide Qi so that we can function. Qi is valuable! If you do want a salad, eat it alongside warm, cooked foods. Take a few mouthfuls of the warm food first.

Cold drinks as these lower the temperature in Stomach.

Tomatoes, salads, cucumbers, limit intake of fruit (pineapples, watermelons, bananas) and dairy.

Refined carbs and sugar.

Foods to AVOID:

Energetically hot foods (chilli, alcohol, garlic, ginger, paprika, pepper), fatty/oily/greasy foods and VERY sour foods.

Citrus fruit/juice, salty foods, roasted peanuts, bananas.

Foods out of season. …….UNLESS your acupuncturist has asked you to include foods to strengthen other organs.


Butternut squash soup in Autumn

Sweet potato and carrot soup (no added cream)

Mushroom soup.

Stir fried mushrooms as a side dish.

Snack on sweet chestnuts, pine nuts, Chinese red dates (jujube), raisins, almonds in winter only as these are warming.

Porridge made with oat milk for breakfast. Sprinkle with sunflower, flax or raisins.

Hummus, steamed veg and roasted butternut squash.

I would love to hear about recipes or ways in which you have included Stomach and Spleen strengthening foods. Pop these in the comments box.

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