Main Indications of Spleen Qi Deficiency

It is not necessary to have all of the indications of Spleen Qi Deficiency, but rather a few symptoms would suggest a pattern of Spleen Qi Deficiency:

Chronically tired

A feeling of being “stuck” in life

Poor appetite (but may overeat for emotional or mental reasons) 

Loose stools (but may also be constipated)

Undigested food in stool




Abdominal distension and tenderness, especially after meals

Dull stomach pain


Craving sweets, especially after meals

Overweight without over eating

Underweight without the ability to gain

Weakness, weak muscles, dull achy pain in muscles

Teeth marks on the edges of the tongue

Prolonged menstrual bleeding

Varicose veins

Easy bruising


Difficulty waking up in the morning

Obsessive worry or “obsessing”

Lack of empathy

Causes of Spleen Qi Deficiency


An excessive consumption of cold and raw foods, including excessive juicing or a raw food diet, can damage the Spleen’s function of transformation and transportation leading to Spleen-Qi Deficiency. Over eating, eating before the previous meal has been digested or eating heavy, thick and sticky food items can lead to Spleen Qi Deficiency.

Spleen Qi deficiency is common among poorly nourished people, including those who are malnourished due to a diet of refined, highly processed food.

Emotional strain

Over-thinking and worry may weaken the Spleen and lead to Spleen-Qi deficiency. Alternately, Spleen Qi Deficiency will cause overthinking.


Prolonged exposure to dampness, such as a humid climate, can weaken the Spleen and lead to Spleen-Qi deficiency. This weakness of the spleen is apparent during a damp summer, when the appetite diminishes and the stools take a softer form.

Chronic disease

Any long-term disease will tend to weaken the Spleen and lead to Spleen-Qi Deficiency. This is the reason why Dampness and Phlegm are a frequent consequence of chronic diseases, as Spleen-Qi is weakened and this leads to the formation of Dampness or Phlegm.

Dietary suggestions for Spleen Qi deficiency:

The strategy for treating a deficient Spleen is to fuel the Spleen with energy. Adding warm and mildly sweet foods to the diet is the way to do that, as warm temperature and sweet taste promote energy.

Foods which correct deficiency include most complex carbohydrates and certain animal products. Such foods are basically sweet and warming.

Grains such as Basmati rice, brown basmati rice, brown rice, sweet rice and pounded sweet rice (Mochi), millet, rolled oats and rolled spelt are excellent. Well-cooked rice is one of the best gradually acting spleen-pancreas tonics.

The carbohydrate-rich vegetables: Carrot, rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, winter squash, sweet potato, yam and pumpkin.   

Pungent vegetables and spices such as onion, leek, garlic, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg.

Legumes like garbanzo beans and peas can be difficult to digest and may cause gas, intestinal problems, irritability, and unclear thinking. Best avoid legumes until Spleen Qi is recovering. Later on however, there are techniques for preparing and eating legumes that alleviate most problems. (Click here to a link for improving the digestibility of legumes).  

Small amount of certain sweeteners and cooked fruits: rice malt, barley malt, molasses, cherry and date.  

Small amounts of animal products prepared in a soup or congee may be helpful: mackerel, tuna, halibut, anchovy, beef, beef liver or kidney, chicken, turkey, or lamb. Butter and Ghee are the only recommended dairy product.

Digestion is better with eating simple meals and by chewing the food well.  Inadequately chewed food imposes a heavy burden on the spleen. Small meals, whenever the appetite appears, are recommended. Be careful to avoid overeating, eat only to the point that your stomach is ⅔ full. All food should be at least moderately well cooked.   

The spleen likes a regular meal schedule and needs downtime when it is not called upon to digest and absorb food. Constant snacking will make spleen Qi deficiency worse.

Pay attention to your posture during and after eating. Sitting in a twisted or scrunched up way impairs blood flow and thus the function of the digestive organs.

Since the spleen is in charge of all three: mental activity, muscle activity and digestion, it is crucial to eat attentively and refrain from any other mental or strenuous physical activity during meals and soon after,  in order to keep a high blood supply to the digestive organs.

As the spleen governs the muscles, one way to tonify the spleen is to exercise. It is important not to overdo it though. Light exercise between meals on a daily basis (especially stretching and walking) is very important and will strengthen digestion in the long run.

Foods to restrict in spleen qi deficiency

Sugar or too many very sweet foods

Sweet flavor moderately consumed serves to boost the function of the spleen-pancreas, but taken excessively it has the opposite effect and will weaken it.  In addition, the sweet flavor is inherently dampening, leading to the generation of excessive fluids and phlegm. Avoid sugar, including high fructose corn syrup and agave nectar. White flour products such as white bread, pasta and sticky sweet pastries should be consumed carefully or avoided.

Uncooked foods, cold and raw foods and drinks

The process of warming up cold food absorbs a fair amount of the body’s digestive fire. Think of cooking as a”pre-digestion” stage.  By cooking the majority of your food, you are significantly lighting the load on your spleen so it does not have to work as hard to extract nutrition from your food.

Dairy products

Dairy are generally considered spleen weakening foods.  Minimize the consumption of pasteurized dairy products and for some these items should be completely eliminated from the diet.

Overeating and fatty diet

Large meals and rich foods should be avoided; Unhealthy fats, such as hydrogenated fats, fried foods and most vegetable oils.  Nuts and seeds are eaten in small amounts. Care must be taken not to push the liver to a state of stagnation and excess. Liver excess is a cause of spleen-pancreas weakness.  

Spleen tonifying habits

On a mental level the Spleen will majorly benefit by counteracting excessive thinking and excessive mental work (including too much studying). Worry is another emotion, which impairs the Spleen. Creating a habit to take frequent “mental breaks” from work, school and thoughts is a good start.

Movement is very important for the over-thinking mind.  Mild physical exercise, as mentioned, such as walking outside, mild yoga practice and any Eastern practice or martial art such as Tai Chi or Qigong, which involve certain postures and gentle movement with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation is excellent.

Another way to calm down the mind is meditation through which we can experience the sensation of being free and liberated from anything that preoccupies our mind. Learning techniques through which we can observe our thoughts as an outside viewer and learning not to identify and become our thoughts can be very helpful.   

Take a Nap! Another excellent habit is to Power Nap.  Taking 10-15 minutes of daytime sleep, just enough time to reload without the burden of heaviness associated with a longer day time sleep, will reset the system from daily preoccupation, boost memory, cognitive skills, creativity and energy level and will bring clarity and focus.

The pattern of Spleen Qi deficiency is central to all other Spleen dis-harmonies, as all other Spleen Deficiency patterns are a variation of it. If Spleen Qi Deficiency is not properly treated, it can lead to more serious patterns of imbalance. Spleen Qi Deficiency is the precursor to all Spleen imbalances and the symptoms above would be included. Therefore you will have the above symptoms at the onset of all of the following spleen patterns.


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