Soup for the Spleen.
Yes, that title is correct. In TCM class, I learned all about the importance of feeding the SPLEEN in addition to the stomach. Remember that the TCM spleen is not equivalent to the Western medicine spleen.
The TCM spleen is responsible for:
- Governing the transportation and transformation of food
- Keeping blood in blood vessels
- Housing the intellect (which we use for thinking, studying, focusing, memorizing, and concentrating)
- Controlling the muscles and limbs
Other notes on the role of the spleen:
- The spleen needs to be functioning well for the patient to fully heal. If the patient isn't digesting food well and absorbing all the nutrients, the body won't be as nourished and energized to heal the particular health problem.
- The roles of the TCM spleen explain why when you eat better, you think better (the spleen controls our digestion and our intellect, when digestion is working well our body focuses its energy on thinking).
- Sugar (in excess) damages the spleen, however a wee bit of sweetness actually helps the spleen and thus digestion. This is why we crave sweets after dinner, even when our meal was big and we are full. Having a very small amount of dessert or something sweet after dinner is actually good for digestion (too big of a dessert will impair the spleen and digestion). Think a square or two of dark chocolate, a small homemade cookie or square. Molasses is awesome because it is sweet but also contains lots of nutrients, including calcium and iron. Just a bit of sweetness will spark the spleen, priming it for digestion.
- A raw foods diet is hard on the spleen as it takes away too much energy to digest all those raw foods that are full of roughage and require lots of enzymes to break them down.
- In the Winter months, we should be eating easy to digest foods in order to conserve our energy and preserve our immune system during the colder and more cold/flu laden months (note: while you are digesting the immune system is not quite as sharp). Also, as the body temperature is warm, it is easier to fill it with warm food so that it doesn't have to expend energy heating the food up to body temperature. As such, we should be eating lots of soups and stews as they are warming, nourishing, hydrating, and are predigested as they are cooked. I won't give you a recipe for a soup or stew because the easiest way to make stew/soup is to take all your favorite veggies and protein sources, throw them in a pot with some herbs and spices of choice, and then simmer until cooked. It is as simple, delicious, and nutritious as that!
Image source here. Seriously, how adorable are plush organs? ;)