What Having A Spleen Qi Deficiency Really Means
From the perspective of Western medicine, a spleen Qi deficiency might sound something like a nutritional deficiency that adversely affects the functioning of the spleen, the organ which, as a part of the immune and lymphatic system, acts as a filter for the blood, stores white blood cells to help fight infection, and restores old red blood cells. That doesn't explain what a Spleen Qi deficiency is however. There is no such thing as a vitamin Q, and Qi is not a symbol that will be found in either a list of nutrients, or in the Periodic Table of the Elements.
To understand what a Spleen Qi deficiency is, one has to go East, or participate in one way or another in the martial arts, yoga, or the study of Chinese medicine. It's in Chinese medicine where you'll find the real meaning of the term.
Life Forces And Networks - Qi is best described as being a Life Force, or an energy force that travels throughout the body. In the martial arts, Qi is often considered to be centered in the belly, in Chinese medicine, it resides in the Spleen. The Spleen (with a capital S), as defined in Chinese medicine, is not the same as the fist-sized organ that is a physical part of our anatomy and resides just below the rib cage. In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is more like a function, one that involves in one way or another most or all of the organs in the body. Not only that, but the Spleen controls or regulates our mental and emotional processes, as well as our physical processes. The Spleen is where our Life Force and our source of energy resides. We are not talking about a spleen Qi deficiency then, but a Spleen Qi deficiency. The former makes no sense, while the latter (capital S) does. One way to look at the Spleen is to think of it as a kind of “network”.
The closest most Westerners come to understanding something about the Life Force, is when they participate in kung fu, karate, or yoga, or anything else that focuses on what is referred to in yoga as “mindfulness”. Others may have a hint as to just what a Life Force might be if they watched the initial episode of Star Wars - “May the Force be with you”.
What A Qi Deficiency Does - A Qi deficiency causes the Spleen to become weakened. A weak Spleen gives rise to a number of symptoms, all of which are very real, even if we may not fully understand what Qi is. A weak Spleen can result in feelings of weakness and fatigue, a loss of appetite, and bloating or swelling. It can also cause feelings of not being “grounded”, or having a floating sensation. The situations we face and the environments we find ourselves in can often lead to a weak or weakened Spleen, which to the Western mind roughly translates into experiencing a lack of energy or “get-up-and-go”.
Treating Or Preventing A Weak Spleen - Just knowing what a Qi deficiency can cause isn't really all that helpful. What is helpful is knowing how to go about nourishing the Spleen so it isn't allowed to become weak. Even though the Spleen isn't a single organ, nutrition is one answer. After all, nutrition plays a vital role in building up the blood, and the blood isn't an organ either, though most of our body depends upon healthy blood.
In Chinese medicine, nutrition plays an important role, because if there is a Qi deficiency, the ability of the body to convert food into energy is impaired. Digestion is one of the functions the Spleen controls. The list of which foods can help to treat a Qi deficiency, as well as those foods to be avoided, is rather specific. The desirable foods do not make up a complete diet, but rather should be included in the diet. While most of these foods are to be eaten raw, the diet should also consist of warm or cooked food, while food that is chilled or frozen should generally be avoided. We're all familiar with how much good a bowl of hot chicken soup can do for us when we're not feeling well, as opposed to a bowl of ice cream. A helping of stew that has been slow cooked is another good choice.
Foods that are best for you when addressing a Qi deficiency include rice, steamed vegetables (especially Brussels sprouts or broccoli), plus garlic, ginger, and cayenne, and jasmine, peppermint, or ginger tea.
Foods to be avoided, besides cold foods or cold drinks that have just been taken out of the refrigerator, include what are referred to “damp” foods, which include most dairy products. Damp foods, like milk, don't need to be avoided completely. After all, milk is a healthy drink, but it should be taken in moderation.
Even though the Western mind may have a little trouble at times in understanding what Qi is all about, or what the Life Force is all about for that matter, the concept of a Spleen Qi Deficiency makes quite a bit of sense.