Most of us are worriers. We worry about our friends, our parents, our children. We worry about our finances, the housework, our diet, our weight, funny little aches and pains. We worry about offending people, the economy, and politics. This can’t be good for us. So much worrying is, well, worrying.
In Chinese medicine, one of the syndromes I see most often in my treatment room is the one that causes worry. The syndrome is called Spleen Qi Xu.
The Spleen (with an uppercase ‘S’) in Chinese medicine refers to much more than the physical spleen (lowercase ‘s’). In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is responsible for rational problem-solving and for empathy. When the Spleen goes out of balance, so too does our concern for others and our cogitation. We get caught in a fruitless thought loop as we try to solve all problems out of concern for the wellbeing of ourselves, other people and the world in general.
When your Spleen works well, you can feel empathy with others, use logic to come up with the best available solution, and then stop thinking about it. In short, the more you look after your Spleen, the less you will worry.
6 ways to look after your Spleen
1. Think less. Concentrating for long periods of time exhausts the Spleen, so it is important to take a 10-minute ‘brain break’ for every hour of brain work you do, like working on the computer, studying, processing information, and so on. Anything that allows your brain to switch off will help, like going for a short walk, tending to a plant, or just staring out of the window.
2. Sit less. More than 2,000 years ago, the Yellow Emperor’s physician declared that “too much sitting injures the Spleen”. One of the functions of the Spleen is to regulate blood sugar, and recent studies show a strong correlation between diabetes and sitting for prolonged periods. So, if you are an habitual sitter, get up and move about, lie down, stand up – do anything but sit!
3. Drink Oolong tea. Oolong tea has long been used as part of Chinese healthcare to support the Spleen’s function of regulating blood sugar. In fact, a study published by the American Diabetes Association found that “Oolong tea may be an effective adjunct to oral hypoglycemic agents in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.” Anyone who enjoys a good quality Oolong will attest to its instant worry-stopping capability!
4. Eat regularly and moderately. The Spleen likes regularity and moderation, and how and what you eat can have a big impact on your Spleen. So, eat regular meals at regular times, avoid eating large meals after 6pm, chew your food well, stop eating before you feel full, and focus on simple meals with few ingredients.
5. Eat your food warm. The Spleen does not cope well with cold food, so avoid chilled food and drinks, and eat soup and stew instead of salad. Cook your vegetables, and avoid excessive raw fruit. Ditch cold foods like ice cream, yogurt, bananas and cucumber.
6. Eat Spleen-friendly foods. These include barley, broad beans, cabbage, carrots, celery, cherries, chestnuts, chicken, coriander, dates, figs, maize, millet, oats, oyster mushrooms, parsnips, peas, potato, pumpkin, rice, small amounts of honey, and sweet potato.