It may be spooky season, but it’s also “spleen season” - in Traditional Chinese Medicine, that is!
From the TCM perspective, humans are a microcosm of the universe. This means that what’s happening in nature is reflected in our bodies, including seasonal changes. Each season is associated with an organ, and nourishing that organ helps us embrace the season feeling strong, supported, and balanced.
While the spleen tends to fly under the radar, it deserves a moment in the spotlight - this organ does several important jobs to keep your body thriving. Thankfully, Joe DelGiodice, our resident acupuncturist and nutritionist, is full of wisdom on how to nurture the spleen for a healthy and harmonious autumn.
Fall: A powerful time to strengthen the spleen
Because the spleen acts as a filter for your blood, protecting your body from old, damaged cells and any invading germs, it’s an important part of your immune system. It also plays a role in digestion, helping to break down and distribute nutrients from the foods and fluids you ingest.
While it’s always a good time to strengthen any of your organ systems, now is the most powerful time to focus on the spleen. When the spleen is in balance, it brings about smooth digestion, mental clarity, and physical energy. In this state, you’re able to move through life with efficiency and ease. You might notice that your tasks for the day seem to flow in a synchronized and aligned way.
The spleen is like Mother Earth, providing harvest and stability for all of the other organs. Of course, this means it can become worn out quite easily. An overtaxed spleen can show up as brain fog, digestive issues, exhaustion, excessive work habits, and ‘monkey mind.’ With weak spleen qi, your thoughts might feel muddled or pensive. That’s where the role of food as medicine comes in!
Eating to nourish the spleen
At Hudson Healing Arts, we always recommend eating seasonal foods to naturally support your immune system. Now is the time to move away from raw, cold foods, and nourish the yin element with warmer foods. This includes drinks, too - Joe encourages people to drink licorice root tea, rooibos tea, and green tea to help strengthen the spleen.
Joe shares that an unbalanced spleen craves sweetness, but what it really needs is whole foods that are mildly sweet. Think sweet potatoes, yams, and carrots rather than any processed sugars. Here’s what else he recommends:
● Butternut or acorn squash
● Apples and pears
● Orange peppers
● Fingerling potatoes
One of Joe’s favorite snack recipes for early fall is to slice Japanese sweet potatoes into the shape of steak fries, spread organic horseradish on them, and then bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. He shares that orange, yellow, and gold foods are all wonderful for the spleen, especially root vegetables. This is because they’re grounding and nourishing, which is exactly what we need after a long summer of being on the go and in the sun.
“Over the summer, the season provided warmth. Now, we have to prepare to provide it for ourselves. What comes up must go down, so after an active summer, it’s time to get grounded,” he says. “This time of year is all about getting strong for late autumn and winter, which is lung season in TCM. Nourishing your body now will help strengthen your immunity for the cold days ahead.”
Because we’re getting less solar energy from the sun, it’s also a great time to get your bare feet in the sand, soil, or grass to absorb the energy of the earth. Even sitting against a tree for a quiet moment can provide a sense of grounding. Joe recommends going to bed earlier in the evening to begin preparing your body for a healthy winter.
Self-care for the spleen
According to Joe, little acts of self-care all add up and can make a big difference for the spleen. This means being gently mindful about things like eating well, setting boundaries, getting fresh air, and giving yourself more transition time in the day so you don’t have to rush. Acupuncture is also beneficial, especially when it comes to stimulating points that have a direct connection to the spleen (although acupuncture is always personalized to the individual).
“Remember, it’s not just ‘spleen care’ - everything is connected,” he says. “The spleen does so much for the other organs, so when we nurture it, there’s a positive ripple effect. It’s also very closely involved with the lungs, which comes after the spleen in the seasonal flow of energy.”
At Hudson Healing Arts, we’re always here to support your wellness journey. Click here to check out the full list of holistic healing services. Here’s to a healthy, happy autumn!
Hannah Chenoweth is a Hoboken-based conference producer and freelance writer who enjoys covering all aspects of health and wellness.