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Spleen and Stomach nourishing foods

Updated: 5 days ago

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 (listed below).

In terms of function, the Stomach 'rots and ripens food' according to TCM theory i.e. it breaks food down and gives it a good squish so that nutrients can easily be taken from the food. The Spleen then takes the nutrition and fluids from the food and sends these up to the Lungs and Heart via the blood. This role can be impaired or diminished in a number of ways:

1) Poor diet

Our busy lifestyles often lead to poor dietary choices. Eating on the go or even skipping meals means we can run on reserve. This, eventually, depletes the Spleen and Stomach which in turn 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 initially affect the Liver. The Liver then overacts and so impairs the Stomach and/or Spleen. Emotions can also change the direction of Qi (energy), sending Qi in the wrong direction which leads to reflux, nausea and/or vomiting.

3) Overwork and/or Overthinking

Overwork and overthinking both deplete the Spleen as this organ is in-charge of the Yi (the Spirit-mind). When we are focusing, analysing or understanding, our Yi separates information to break it down to help us 'digest' the 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. Breakfast is considered an important meal in TCM, as the Stomach has the highest level of energy (Qi) between 7 and 9 am. Eating mainly cold and/or raw foods also affects the Stomach as it needs to warm up food before it can start to digest it; this requires more energy. The Stomach finds it easier to digest moist food so it dislikes dry food. 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. It is very important to 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. A lack of focus whilst eating also means that we are more likely to overeat as our brain is too occupied to notice that the Stomach is now full.

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


Before undertaking any change in the foods you eat please speak to your GP/dietician/consultant if you are pregnant or are on any medication as some foods can interact with medication or exacerbate medical conditions (including high/low blood pressure).

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

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

Raw foods: 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 lower the temperature in Stomach.

Summer fruits when these are not in season. Eat seasonally whenever possible.

Food combinations as ideas on what to eat:

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 and in moderation as these can cause constipation.

Porridge sprinkled with sunflower, flax or raisins. If you have a particularly weak digestive system, porridge should be avoided. Opt instead for a savoury meal.

Hummus, steamed veg and roasted butternut squash.

This post has been written by Yasmin Hodge, an acupuncturist based in London, in line with Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice provided by your doctor.

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