Nutrition Guidelines for Spleen Yang Deficiency

According to TCM theory, the spleen is responsible for generating Qi (energy) from the food you eat; thus, a diagnosis of spleen yang deficiency means that your body’s digestive strength and ability to generate Qi is significantly 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. With spleen yang deficiency, this “fire” is weakened and unable to perform this function properly. To address yang deficiency it is best to consume foods that are cooked. Food that is warmed is readily digested and absorbed, and allows your body to preserve its yang energy.

Some general recommendations for spleen yang 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 yang deficiency, the ratio of food groups should be as follows:

40-60% complex carbohydrates, like grains, root vegetables

30-40% cooked vegetables

10-20% protein

Foods that Benefit Spleen Yang

Cooked grains, soups, rice, oats, roasted barley, sweet rice, spelt

parsnips, sweet potatoes, onions, leeks, pumpkin, squash, carrots, yams, carrots, peas, garlic, turnip

chick peas, black beans, walnuts, chestnuts

lamb, beef, chicken, mackerel, tuna, anchovy, prawns, shrimp

black pepper dry ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, rosemary, turmeric, star anise, nutmeg, fennel, molasses, rice syrup (in moderation), malt (in moderation)

dates (in moderation), stewed fruit

Foods to Restrict or Avoid

*Spicy meals that can make a person sweat should be eaten in moderation to avoid dispersing the digestive system’s fire.

Citrus, wheat grass, raw fruit, raw vegetables, sprouts, salads, tomatoes, spinach swiss chard, soybeans, tofu, soy milk, dairy, nut butter, high oil foods, strongly brewed green or black tea, seaweeds, refined sugar, vinegar, high doses of vitamin C, peppermint, 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