Note: In traditional Chinese medicine the Spleen is referred to as the collective work of some organs and systems participating in the digestion rather than the anatomical organ spleen. To get a better grasp about the concept of the Spleen please review the introduction material “The Spleen in Chinese medicine” in the Physiology chapter.




Yellow Leaves For Spleen


  • over-consumption of cold and raw foods
  • excessive eating and eating large amounts of food
  • exessive consumption of proteins
  • protein - deficient diet
  • late night eating


The Spleen has the difficult and very complicated task to transform the food that we eat and the fluids that we drink into nutrients, blood and energy, and transport them to the remaining organs and body tissues for nourishment. This requires a lot of energy on its own to take place. To get this energy the Spleen needs to work in a warm and dry environment as cold temperature and damp environment have the nature of slowing things down and making things sluggish. Thus over-consumption of cold foods and raw foods (which are cold in nature) slow down the complicated work process of the Spleen and “take away from its energy”.  Regular consumption of ice cream, ice drinks, and generally foods straight out of the refrigerator, as well as raw fruits and vegetables, is a major cause for the Spleen to become deficient.

Excessive eating and eating large amounts of food is another cause for the Spleen to become deficient. The food that we eat takes a lot of time to be processed therefore eating lots of food at a time overloads the Spleen.  Continual high quantity and irregular eating will eventually wear the Spleen down.

Eating too much proteins, especially meat, is also heavy on the Spleen. The meat is the food that stays the longest in our stomach and takes the longest time to be digested and absorbed.

Although regular overeating and over-consumption of proteins wears down the Spleen the other extreme also leads to Spleen Qi deficiency. Eating too little or eating a protein-deficient diet does not provide enough energy for the Spleen to function and support itself.

Late night eating is another cause for the Spleen to become deficient.


Note: To understand the term "Qi", thus to get a better grasp about the following pathology, we encourage our readers to review the short material "What is Qi" in the Vitality chapter.




  • poor appetite
  • feeling tired after eating
  • general tiredness
  • weakness of the limbs
  • sallow facial expression
  • gas and bloating
  • abdominal distention
  • loose stools


  • Spleen Yang deficiency symptoms - watery stools with undigested food, coldness in the abdomen, cold hands and feet
  • Spleen Qi sinking symptoms - prolapse of the stomach, uterus, and anus


When the Spleen becomes deficient the appetite decreases. Thus a major symptom of a deficient Spleen is poor or no appetite. Another symptom  is feeling tired after eating. The healthy norm is to feel refreshed and energized after meals. Fatigue and sleepiness after meals indicate a deficient Spleen.


Tired Woman For Spleen


General tiredness is another typical symptom of Spleen deficiency. The Spleen is unable to perform its transformational duty (to transform food into blood and energy), leading to a general energy deficiency and lassitude. The muscles and body tissues are not being sufficiently nourished therefore weakness of the limbs may be also experienced. As there is not enough blood produced the facial complexion may become sallow and the tongue may become pale.

Other symptoms of Spleen deficiency are digestion related – gas and bloating (specially after meals), abdominal distention, and loose stools. If the Spleen Qi is deficient for longer periods of time and the condition is allowed to worsen, the Yang of the Spleen (the warming principle) will eventually also become deficient, which will lead to “deficiency of digestive fire”. Symptoms of deficient digestive fire manifest in watery stools (rather than loose stools), which often contain undigested food. As the warming principle is deficient there will be cold signs in addition to the digestive symptoms. Such are coldness in the abdomen, cold hands and feet, and swollen and wet tongue with teeth marks on the sides. (1)

A prolonged Spleen Qi deficiency may also lead to what is called “Spleen Qi sinking”. The main manifestation of this pathology is prolapse. As one of the functions of the Spleen is to “hold things in place” a chronically deficient Spleen may lead to prolapse of the stomach, uterus, and anus. Urgent and frequent urination is another sign of “Spleen Qi sinking”.

One of the functions of the Spleen is to "hold the blood in the vessels". Thus a deficient Spleen may sometimes manifest in bleeding such as blood in the stool and/or urine, bleeding from the uterus, blood spots under the skin, purpura. 




The strategy for treating a deficient Spleen is to fuel the Spleen with energy. Adding warm and mildly sweet foods to the diet is the way to do that, as warm temperature and sweet taste promote energy.


Yellow Squash


If you want to read the rest of this article and learn the foods and acupressure points that are healing for this condition (as well as watch the instructional acupressure point location videos) you can do so by subscribing to the Customized options of this project. To learn the other benefits you will get as a subscriber click here.



(1) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Book


Related Articles:

Dampness in the Spleen

The Spleen and the emotion pensiveness

The Spleen, the season late summer, and foods during late summer that benefit the Spleen

Herbs that tonify Qi and benefit Spleen Qi deficiency

Herbs that treat dampness and benefit dampness in the Spleen

Herbs that clear heat and dry dampness

Heat and Fire in the Stomach

Cold in the Stomach

Rebellious Stomach Qi

Stagnated Stomach Qi

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