According to TCM theory, the spleen is responsible for generating Qi (energy) from the food you eat; thus, a diagnosis of spleen Qi deficiency means that your body’s digestion and ability to generate Qi is compromised.
The digestive process can be compared to a pot of soup sitting over a fire. The body’s metabolic “fire” cooks the ingested food, which makes it easier for the body to extract nutrients from it and convert it into energy. To prevent Qi deficiency it is best to consume foods that are slightly cooked. By lightly cooking food, you preserve the nutrients, and also ensure that they are readily digested and absorbed.
Some general recommendations for preventing Qi deficiency include eating smaller meals, eating more frequently, enjoying meals by sitting down to relax (rather than while working, or watching the news, for example), and chewing thoroughly so you can both savor the flavors and adequately stimulate the digestive process.
For spleen Qi deficiency, the ratio of food groups should be as follows:
40-60% complex carbohydrates, like grains, root vegetables
30-40% cooked vegetables
Foods that Benefit Spleen Qi
Cooked whole grains, rice, oats, roasted barley, sweet rice, spelt, millet
pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, yams, parsnips
Corn, peas, onions, leeks garlic, turnip, mushrooms
chickpeas black beans, kidney beans, fava beans, walnuts
chicken, beef, lamb quail, goose, rabbit
mackerel, tuna anchovy, perch, eel, catfish
black pepper, fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, molasses, rice syrup, barley malt
dates, figs, cherries, stewed fruit
Foods to Restrict or Avoid
Salad, raw fruit, citrus, wheat, sprouts, wheat grass, raw vegetables, tomatoes, spinach, swiss chard, seaweed
tofu, dairy, nut butters, high oil foods, overly sweet food, refined sugar, high doses of vitamin C, chocolate, cold food like ice cream or smoothies, iced drinks
Clinical Handbook of Internal Medicine, Vol. 2. MacLean & Lyttleton. University of Western Sydney: Australia. 2002.
Chinese Dietary Therapy. Liu, J. Churchill Livingston: Edinburgh.1995.
The Healing Cuisine of China. Zhao & Ellis. Healing Arts Press: Vermont. 1998
This factsheet is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is meant to complement rather than substitute for a consultation with a qualified TCM practitioner.