Spleen and food digestion in Chinese medicine

In modern medical science, the spleen is the largest immune organ and the storage of blood. But in traditional Chinese medicine, the spleen plays an important role in the digestive system, and it is also related to the circulatory system.

The energy of sustaining the functions of the spleen is called spleen-Qi. In traditional Chinese medicine, the spleen is an important organ that promotes the digestion of food, the absorption and delivering of nutrient substances and water, controlling blood in vessels, and keeping the normal positions of internal organs.

This article explains the role of the spleen in the digestive system according to the theory of traditional Chinese medicine.

Digestive system in Chinese medicine

Food is decomposed by stomach, and is delivered to the small intestine. Small intestine separates the clear from the turbid. The clear substances are nutrient substances and necessary water, which are absorbed by small intestine. The turbid substances include waste and supernumerary water. Waste is delivered to large intestine and is excreted as stool. Supernumerary water seeps through a channel which is named triple-Jiao into the urinary bladder, and is excreted as urine.

The digestion and absorption of food are activated and promoted by spleen-Qi. The spleen delivers nutrient substances and water to nourish other organs, the head and limbs. In the heart, nutrient substances and water form blood. In the lungs, nutrient substances and water together with Qi from the air of the nature form Zong-Qi. Zong-Qi is the important part of the Qi of the human body, and it is the energy that promotes many physiological processes of the human body.

Deficiency of spleen-Qi influences Qi and blood of the body

If spleen-Qi is deficent, spleen can’t efficiently promote the decomposition and absorption of food. Meanwhile, nutrient substances and water can’t be efficiently delivered.

Nutrient substances can’t be efficiently delivered, leading to the decrease of the formation of Qi and blood. Water can’t be efficiently delivered, leading to the formation of pathogenic fluids like dampness and phlegm. Therefore, the patient feels dizzy and tired. His abdomen has the feelings of distention and oppression. His stool is loose, or he suffers from diarrhea.

Influence of spleen on muscles and limbs

Nutrient substances and water are delivered by the spleen to muscles and limbs. When spleen-Qi is sufficient, muscles are nourished, so arms and legs are strong. But if spleen-Qi is deficient, muscles will lack nutrition, leading to weak arms and legs. The serious deficiency of the spleen-Qi can cause flaccid limbs, even leading to the inability to move. Because the role of spleen in delivery of nutrient substances and water, the spleen is described as governing the muscles of the body.

The spleen is a very important organ in traditional Chinese medicine, so therapists always advise people to take good care of the health of the spleen. However, in the modern medical science, the spleen may be even removed surgically. So, please don’t confuse the spleen in traditional Chinese medicine with the spleen in modern medical science.

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