For one thing, on the physical level, the Chinese medical view includes something like the actions of the pancreas.
More important is the purpose and function of the Spleen.
(By the way, notice that when we’re talking about the Chinese concept of the Spleen it has a CAPITAL S. When we discuss the spleen organ, as per Western medicine, it has a lower case ‘s’.)
Calling it your ‘Spleen’ function might actually be confusing, because the modern (Western medical) understanding of the spleen (lower case) is quite different form the Chinese medical view. We could call it something else of course but would then need to justify that instead. In the next paragraph I try to explain the Spleen’s function in ways that are easier to grasp – I hope!
Whereas the Heart (capital H, meaning the Heart energy as viewed in Chinese medicine) is seen as the place where we have our being, from where we direct our lives, the ultimate ruler of where we go in life, the Spleen is the chef, bottle-washer and house-keeper: not very grand you might think!
Someone has to be in charge!
But without someone to cook and keep things tidy, everything goes to pieces.
An army marches on its stomach (as Napoleon apparently said): it can’t fight unless it’s fed and if it’s not fed it doesn’t feel like fighting.
People with weak Spleens certainly don’t feel like fighting.
The Spleen energy function actually provides us with far more than the physical process that you’re interested in with acupuncture for weight loss. The Spleen governs your thinking – meaning the ability to think things through.
This is like a housekeeper. He or she (let’s say she) organises the housekeeping, checks things are done properly and thinks through what is needed in the future for maintenance and smooth running. Concerned with tidiness, cleanliness, storage, proper methods, food and nourishment, even morale to some extent, she is the bedrock around which the rest of your organism revolves.
Spleen Fat Buster
If your Spleen is out of balance, you’ll be unable to concentrate, your mind will flit around aimlessly, you’ll try this diet then that one, you’ll binge-eat and you’ll get obsessive about things, not least that you never seem to have enough energy. Unless you have (acupuncture) treatment to get your Spleen fat buster working properly again, treatment will be a waste of your valuable time and money.
Like a housekeeper, your Spleen fat buster transports good Blood everywhere throughout the body to nourish and strengthen it, and then removes the garbage. Garbage includes ‘fat’.
The Vital Spleen Role in Making Blood
However, we haven’t got to the making of good Blood yet.
First the Spleen receives what comes from the Stomach. Then it has to turn it into ‘food-essence’.
Remember, these terms are near-enough how ancient Chinese described what happens. They didn’t have our sophisticated scientific traditions. Even so, the word ‘essence’ isn’t a bad attempt. That essence is what we now mean by the nutrients extracted through the walls of your small and large intestines to provide the building blocks for your blood.
(These Chinese ideas originated some 3000 years ago when they lacked our modern scientific acumen and knowledge. But don’t ignore what they observed and suggested: it served them well for 3000 years. That is rather longer than the bare 200 years we’ve been developing our scientific knowledge of the body in the West!)
So, nowadays we would ascribe to the Spleen what, in the Western view, the small intestine, the gall-bladder, the large intestine, the spleen, stomach and liver do, and some of what the kidneys do too. Put together this is the process of turning what comes from the stomach into blood.
In Chinese medicine, each of these has its own functions. Some of them do relate to the digestive function, but even so, what the Chinese meant by the Spleen energy function is generally more important.
The Spleen may be in charge, but there are other players
Of course acupuncture for weight loss may need to consider treatment on your Small Intestine, your Gall-Bladder, your Large Intestine and other Organs or channels too. They’re all important and together they help your Spleen fat buster do its job.
Our blood, in Western medicine, contains almost everything needed to keep us healthy. It feeds and repairs all our tissues and it bears a considerable part of our immune system. It also carries enzymes and glandular secretions to wake us up, get us ready for battle, make us feel interested in sex and so on.
That’s not what the Spleen on its own does: for that the food-essence has to go through several further stages.
Since we’re talking about acupuncture for weight loss here, let us stick with the Spleen’s digestion of food function.
The Spleen, with the Stomach, transforms food into food-essence.
Of course if the Spleen fat buster energy is out of balance, this won’t happen. It won’t be able to transform food and liquids, it won’t move them around and fluids and substances (including ‘fat’) will build up. Not treating your Spleen fat buster during acupuncture for weight loss will waste even more of your valuable time and money.
One way these waste products can build up is in ‘dampness‘. This gives a tired, heavy, sore, stiff feeling either all over or in specific joints and muscles.
That’s when you get bags of fluid building up, abdominal distension, belching, epigastric pain, loose stools, puffy joints, puffy eyes, puffy face, oedema, and eventually this can turn, in effect, to surplus flesh: fat. (To be strictly correct, that’s not what actually happens but that’s what it looks like. And of course, you feel very unfit.)
However, this can also happen without dampness occurring first. If your Spleen can’t ‘transform and transport’ the fluids (including your Blood) round your body properly, they’ll build up and then you get phlegm. (Actually, both your Lung and your Kidney energies participate in this, but it’s mainly your Spleen.)
Think of that housekeeper again. If she’s ill, the staff don’t tidy and clean as they should, they grow lazy and slapdash. They may hide the true picture for a while by cutting corners, but eventually the sham is exposed and the whole organisation slows down.
Others look on and silently think: this house has gone to seed.
Of course I’m not suggesting that everyone carrying excess fat has these problems.
Some fat people remain very energetic but if their Spleen function is out of balance, something will show.
The Spleen fat buster function is just as important as the Stomach function when using acupuncture to reduce body fat.
When you are changing what you eat – as when you are dieting – your digestion has to learn new tricks.
Your Spleen is what learns. If you’re planning to use acupuncture for weight loss, please make sure your acupuncturist pays attention to your Spleen!
Once food-essence has been produced from food, it is sent by the Spleen to the Lungs.