So I went and had acupuncture.
I use to go religiously and then I just stopped. Can’t tell you why. I like to think I was listening to my body telling me it needed a break. Well, that’s the answer I’m going to hide behind anyway.
My decision to go back was made after reading a blog post from a fellow AIP’er who spoke about her personal success with using the autoimmune protocol diet in conjunction with acupuncture. She highlighted her lucky ability to visit the acupuncture clinics located within the training schools where final year students get to practice on clients – allowing her to keep costs low.
It got me to thinking – I have a school with a clinic attached right around the corner from me.
Needless to say, I booked in!
What I discovered on my first visit = I have a Spleen Qi Deficiency.
What the hell is that, I hear you ask?
My very basic understanding is that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), when they speak about the Spleen , they’re technically referring to the Spleen AND Pancreas. This is simply known as the “TCM Spleen”. This TCM Spleen is responsible for digesting the food we eat and converting it to energy. It is responsible for providing our body with warmth and vitality as well as energy for our immune system.
Unfortunately, chronic illness, prolonged stress, antibiotics, unhealthy eating habits, cold weather and the consumption of cold/raw foods can overwork and damage the Spleen, causing da da daaaa ….. Spleen Qi Deficiency.
This condition can be characterised by loose stools, fatigue, decreased immunity and cold hands and feet, as well as a weakened digestion system (think bloating and gas). Ding, ding, ding!
It affects our ability to deal with stress, and will often lead to physical and mental stagnation including a slow metabolism. Ding, ding, ding!
So how can we protect our TMC Spleen and optimise our digestion?
Eat Warm Foods | Consuming warm and cooked foods helps decrease the work load put on our digestive system. Where possible, avoid raw, cold foods which are more difficult to digest. Think of cooking as a “pre-digestion” step.
Foods to Include | Try eating raw ginger or drinking apple cider vinegar before each meal, or adding warming spices to your cooking, including black pepper*, ginger, cardamom* and cinnamon, which all help to increase our Spleen's ability to digest properly. Pungent foods can also help with digestion, such as onions, leeks, fennel and garlic. (* Not AIP approved spices).
Eat Slowly + Mindfully | Take the time to relax whilst eating and properly chew your food, as this lightens the load on our digestive organs. It seems the Spleen likes a regular meal schedule with a break from digesting in between – so constant snacking or grazing unfortunately can make Spleen Qi deficiency worse. Also be careful to avoid overeating.
Carbohydrate-Rich Vegetables | Seasonal, cooked root vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, turnip and pumpkin are easily digested and nurturing to the digestive system.
Small Amounts of Protein | If Spleen Qi deficiency is already present (like me), it is suggested to try eating smaller amounts of protein at meal times, as this can help regenerate our Spleen's ability to digest and absorb food. It can also be helpful to minimise or completely avoid pasteurised dairy products as they are generally considered Spleen-weakening foods.
Avoid Drinking with Meals | Not only does liquid dilute stomach acid and make it harder for our body to break down food, it also overwhelms the spleen qi. Drinking beverages at room temperature (and not iced) is also a great step to take.
Abdominal Massage | Light abdominal massage stimulates spleen qi and eliminates stagnation. Either standing or sitting with your spine straight, place your right palm on your upper abdomen. Inhale fully and gently and as you exhale, massage the abdomen with your palm, moving in a clockwise direction. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
As with everything written in this blog, no one size fits all! Listen to your own body and find what resonates and works for you. That’s what I do!