Worry, Anxiety, the Earth Element and Your Spleen
Do you frequently feel worried and anxious in everyday life? You are not alone. Anxiety is the number one mental health issue in Australia. It can affect us at all ages and stages of life, and when excessive, it can be debilitating. According to Beyond Blue, one in four people – one in three women and one in ﬁve men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In 12 months, over two million Australians experience anxiety.
This blog is the next in the series, The Emotions, Organs and The Five Elements. This time, we will look more closely at the emotions of worry and anxiety and how these relate to the Spleen.
The role of the spleen
In East Asian medicine, worry is related to the Spleen and the Earth element. The Spleen also plays a vital part in our digestive system. Its role is to transform food into vital nutrients and transport those nutrients to the rest of the body. So the Spleen ensures proper digestive function. Excessive worry and overthinking can tax the Spleen, so it can’t do its primary job of digesting food.
The earth element and the spleen
As stated so beautifully by Professor Neil R. Gumenick in Acupuncture Pathways for Healing:
The Earth generously provides the nourishment we need to live and thrive. The Officials of Earth within us receive the drink and food we consume, make it into a proper digestive mixture, and transport its essence to fuel every organ, function, and system.
Depletion of the spleen
Prolonged deficiency of the Spleen leads to an accumulation of fluids and dampness, weighing you down physically, mentally and emotionally. This further weakens the Spleen system, impairing our capacity to think clearly and focus and making us susceptible to worry. When we are worried about being in a state of anxiety, we find it hard to digest and accept a situation or life event. This can make us feel tired, lethargic, and unable to concentrate.
Signs and symptoms of spleen qi deficiency
Do you experience these signs and symptoms? Your Spleen may need support.
· poor digestion
· low appetite
· acid reflux
· loose stools
· undigested food in the stools
· weakness in arms and legs
· poor muscle development
· abdominal distension
· blood spots under the skin
· easy bruising
· lack of sensation of taste
· frequent bleeding
· excessive worrying and anxiety
Treatment of spleen deficiency
1. One thing at a time
Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task in our modern, often frenetic world, but this further burdens the Spleen, leading to even greater worry. Give your Spleen the space to do one thing at a time. Whether you’re eating, reading, or working, try doing just that one thing and nothing else. You’ll have improved digestion and less worry as a result.
2. Simple massage
A simple massage technique strengthens the Spleen, resolves excess dampness and calms the spirit. It’s located on the medial side of the foot, just distal to the base of the first metatarsal bone. Massaging this point is a great way to give yourself a mental break and alleviate unnecessary worry and overthinking.
Cooked and warming are best-loved by the Spleen. Examples of warming foods to feed your Spleen include:
· Cooked Vegetables: squash, zucchini, pumpkin, yams, leeks, onions, chives, mustard greens
· Fruits: Apricot, Cherry, Chinese Red Dates, black dates, Guava, longan, lychee, mandarin orange peel (dried), cooked peaches, raspberries
· Nuts: Coconut meat, Coconut milk, chestnut, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts
· Spices: Caraway seed, basil, black pepper, chilli peppers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, ginseng, turmeric, nutmeg, and rosemary
· Grains: rice, oats
· Proteins: chicken, lamb, ham, venison, shrimp, mussels and prawns.
Avoid raw foods when supporting a healthy digestive function of the Spleen. Uncooked foods are very cooling, and your body must heat up food to your body temperature for the Spleen to extract the Qi from the food. If you have a so-called Spleen qi deficiency, eating raw food will take up your body’s energy to perform other functions. Little food is appropriately digested when the food is heated up, and you are more apt to have digestion problems.
Feed your Spleen instead with warmed and nourishing foods like soups, stews, and stir-fries with warming vegetables and spices. Great fluids include ginger tea, room temperature beverages or bone broth.
4. Acupuncture and support from East Asian medicine
Acupuncture can be beneficial for regulating emotions and calming the mind. A trained East Asian Medicine practitioner will be able to assess spleen qi and come up with a proper treatment plan for you.
By using a variety of treatments, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion (heat therapy), cupping, tui-na massage (Chinese style therapeutic bodywork), and nutrition, well-being is restored.
How Ondol Clinic can help
At Ondol Clinic, we offer a holistic approach to health, empowering you to lead your best life.
If you would like to explore how to feel healthier, worry less, improve your digestion and calm your mind, please contact us here at Ondol Clinic to discuss your needs, get your questions answered or book an appointment.