Understanding Fibromyalgia Part 4 - Nourishing the Spleen
The spleen is the central organ in keeping our digestion and hence blood strong.
In order to nourish the spleen we simply have to obey a few rules about healthy eating; these aren't your typical rules about limiting fat and sugar though, more so about improving the quality of your eating.
Appropriately enough these rules are just like your grandmother taught you:
- Eat regularly, those mealtimes (breakfast, lunch and dinner) have a name for a reason so try and stick to them! Although snacking makes the spleen stronger in the short term - think energy boost- it makes it weaker in the long term. The spleen loves regularity and will reward you with energy, stable moods and no hunger pangs when you provide it.
- Eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch and a pauper at dinner. This is probably the rule that is most broken in our modern culture. The English fried breakfast used to be King of the Breakfasts but died a death when it was decreed 'unhealthy'. However, so long as the ingredients are good, there is no reason not to have this in the morning. The Spleen's energy peaks in the morning and so it is able to deal with the kind of food onslaught that a proper fried breakfast provides. Eating such a meal in the evening, however, tends to overwhelm the spleen and as a result it creates Dampness (see Part 3).
- Avoid white and yellow foods, aim for brightly coloured but especially orange foods. This is another ridiculously simple rule which also hits the mark. Orange foods such as sweet potato, pumpkin and oranges (not juice) are all good for the spleen/pancreas and also help diabetes. They do this by providing a slow release of sugar packed with antioxidants. White foods (bread, rice, potatoes) release sugar very quickly making it hard work for the spleen and yellow foods (such as cheese, fried foods, chips, batter) are fatty and so encumber it.
- Make sure all food is well cooked. Avoid raw food, milk and wheat (use spelt instead). Make life easy for the spleen by beginning the digestion process by cooking it. Although some nutrients are lost in cooking this is more than compensated for by the ease with which the rest are available for absorption. Scientists know that at the same time that man started cooking his brain size also dramatically increased: this is because there are more nutrients available for the same amount of food.
- Exercise. Studies show that brief spurts of exercise for as little as 20 seconds (e.g. running for the bus) are actually better than hours on the treadmill. These clear the lymphatic system out and help the Liver and gallbladder in aiding the digestion.
- Qi gong exercises and acupuncture. Qi gong is a great way to keep yourself well, there are a simple series of exercises here. Acupuncture from a physician trained in Chinese medicine can also help in keeping the spleen and pancreas running smoothly.
Fibromyalgia is a constellation of symptoms that doesn't really have a clear cause in Western medicine. Understanding it though the prism of Chinese medicine allows us to see it as a problem of Dampness (brain fog, lethargy) and Blood stagnation (pain) caused predominantly by a weak Spleen. Treatment then revolves around strengthening the Spleen and the rest of the person.
I hope this series of articles has helped you in both understanding, and treating fibromyalgia.
If you would like to see Dr Dan Keown for a consultation, or to discuss if acupuncture and Chinese medicine may help in your case, please contact him here