Since we have been in this COVID-19 quarantine, many people have told me they have had major cravings for cookies, cake, or anything sweet.

An explanation from Traditional Chinese Medicine

One explanation is that we turn to sweets, a comfort food, in difficult times because they satisfy a psychological need.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also offers an explanation as each organ system has a color, an odor, and a flavor.  The spleen system’s flavor is sweet. In TCM, the spleen, pancreas, and stomach comprise an essential aspect of the digestive system that receives food and transforms it into nutrients that our body needs.  The spleen system also produces and regulates the blood. 

The spleen and stomach represent the “earth element” which is our center and helps to balance all the other systems.  The earth (soil) gives life and sustains us. When the earth element is functioning properly, the rest of our organ systems are stronger.  When it is weak, it affects us physically and emotionally.

What happens when my spleen is deficient?

Since we are currently going through an unsettling and uncertain time, our center-the way in which we understand our world, is challenged.  This is the perfect time to strengthen our spleen system to avoid its becoming off-balance. Some symptoms of a weakened spleen include: cravings for sweets, lack of appetite, abdominal distention (bloating), diarrhea, and fatigue.  Emotionally we can feel anxious, worried, have repetitive thoughts (rumination), and a lack of concentration.

How can I strengthen my spleen?

  • Limit cold foods (ice cream, drinks with ice) because they can weaken the spleen 
  • Cook chicken soup, and use warming spices such as garlic, ginger, and onions
  • Eat vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and make sure other vegetables are cooked in vapor or sauteed (instead of eating them raw)
  • Limit the amount of dairy you eat (milk, cheese)
  • Cook foods that are easy to digest (lentil and chickpea stews, etc)
  • Chew food thoroughly and try not to do anything else while you eat (such as reading)
  • Try not to drink while you eat (do it 30 minutes before or after)

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