Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Put the pancreas aside and let's talk Spleen

And specifically Spleen Qi Deficiency.

Have I put you off already with the weird Qi word?

I hope not.

I hope you know me well enough by now, some of you at least, to know that I love good food. I'm not a great believer in faddy food trends but rather favour well-made food with real ingredients.

So, I am not about to get all weird on you all.

Let me tell you the story ...


I am a MamaPancreas called Jules.

I am a good pancreas and do a great job but I am tired.

Always longing for just a bit more sleep; not much, just a bit MORE than I am getting.

Since Frank started pumping insulin I and my sidekick Andrew have been doing more BG tests than ever and have been testing at 10pm, 12 midnight and 2:30 for around six weeks.

Those times make it hard to get sleep in between and have both tended to stay up until midnight every night.

This shouldn't be too bad but I was feeling really tired.

More than usual.

Add to this the general waking up suddenly every morning with a four and a half year old landing on me like an eagle swooping down on its prey, and the subsequent long days of mamalife.

I felt like I was walking through treacle.

Wading through life.

I hadn't expected to be skipping exactly but less backward drag in the heavy feeling legs and arms would be good.

So I decided to take restorative action and eat lots more salad and make green smoothies and pink smoothies, and eat raw food as much as possible.

You see I have a soft spot for craft blogs, and all these amazing women with their Waldorf children who wake up singing and bake bread together whistling and never watch TV, were drinking green smoothies and bleating on about how great they felt.

I swallowed this, wanted the light feelings and was dazzled by the idea, the mere smidgen of the idea of being LESS BLEEDIN' TIRED!

For the last three or four weeks I have included lots and lots of smoothies in my diet, lots of salads, lots of raw things.

OK, I still craved milk chocolate and gave into those cravings sometimes and I have been eating bread a lot too, to the exclusion of other starches, but let's be clear: I have been eating lots of salads and loads of fruit.


Then came last Thursday.

My sometimes day to do my own thing.

The day when heroic hubby sometimes steps in for me to do my own thing.

After a fruit and yoghurt breakfast I drove joyfully out to meet my Knit&Natter group at the tea room at the Tiptree jam factory, knitted sitting in the sun, nattered and then left bang on time to drive home as I knew I'd have lunch alone.

A huge salad and a green smoothie were made.

Spinach and oranges and red onions and pine nuts and cucumber and feta cheese were in the salad.

Mango and banana and apple and more spinach were in the smoothie.

I ate the lot whilst sitting on the bench in the garden in the sun.


I felt smug.

I was treating my body well.

I would feel so much better soon.


Cut to eight fifteen that evening and I was putting Frank to bed.

He is in his little wooden bed next to my big one and as he drifts off playing alphabet games with me I felt more weary than ever in my life.

My very bones felt tired.

I was face down on the double bed slurring my words Frank fell asleep and I slept too.

This is sometimes normal, this falling asleep with one's child, but believe me when I say this felt different.

There was no feeling of "I'll just have a nap".

I was pole-axed.

I woke at 9:45 just in time to do the ten o'clock test.

And then my tongue felt sore.

It felt really tender. So I stuck it out at myself in the mirror and saw a tongue but with these weird teeth marks, like scallops, down the edges.

Weird, maybe it's a sign of tiredness, I thought, and padded over to the laptop to look it up.


Ah me, I know what you're probably thinking.

The Internet.

Don't go on the internet for medical stuff. It will overload you.

Well, it didn't.

I was fine but I did startle my husband by laughing and snorting madly for long minutes at a time.


A tongue with indentations down the side is, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a sign of Spleen Qi Deficiency.

Fair enough, "But what does that even mean?" I hear you cry!

Here it is (and I am only kind of summarising what I have found out after a week on line, I am no expert in this):

In TCM Spleen Qi Deficiency can develop when a person is or has been stressed for a long time, is not rested sufficiently and has extensive worries either real or imagined.

Sound familiar?

It is a result of the body's resources becoming drained and of "dampness" and "coldness" and foods that create damp and cold in the body (as viewed by TCM) being consumed in large amounts.

Symptoms can include tiredness, heavy limbs, weight gain, sore tongue with indentations, weak muscles and thus sometimes prolapses and hernias.

Foods that worsen this condition were listed on quite few sites and they were ALL, without exception, the foods I had been eating and had been increasing in my diet:

Raw foods, salads, iced drinks, smoothies, cold water, wheat based bread.

I kept laughing because even the bloody pine nuts were mentioned!

EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING, I had consumed that day had wiped me out.

The theory is that cold and raw foods take extra energy for the body to process them as they have to be heated by the body to body temperature before it can extract the goodness from them.

I had always thought raw was always always preferable to cooked.

It seems not in certain cases, such as mine.

I would have loved to be cynical here but what I had eaten and how awful I was feeling just slotted into place.

By chance I hadn't eaten Spleen supporting foods but had eaten Spleen depleting foods.

To the letter.

It was a strange experience reading those papers and visiting those sites and seeing that maybe I wasn't so bad at no sleep as I'd thought.

Maybe nurturing my Spleen Qi would be of benefit because I'm not up for buying supplements or tonics when good food and some sleep and exercise should be good for all of us, right?

The next morning I began eating more cooked and warm foods:

oatmeal and maple syrup, rice cooked with milk and cinnamon, rye toast and honey, stewed apples or pears with maple syrup for breakfasts.

Soups and stews, and herbal teas like ginger tea for lunches.

More soups and stews, warm stir fries and sweet potatoes baked in their jackets for dinner.

Sweetness is needed and natural sweet flavours like maple syrup and dates and figs are good for this Spleen Qi Deficiency apparently.

Eating these has helped my chocolate cravings be less strident.

I am eating hardly any raw foods.

Just for a while, almost as an experiment.

It feels quite maverick in contrast to the raw foods, green smoothie, spring cleansing blogs I'm reading.

And the verdict?

After a full-on weekend and a really massively busy week this week so far and continuing until the weekend (hubby working two jobs this week, Frank out for the count with a fever today, Jack coming to sand the floor in the dining room on Thursday so it has to emptied etc etc - ie.LIFE!)?

The jury is out long term but in the short term I am feeling so much less tired.

I promise you I am sleeping no more at all but just feel normally tired rather than pathologically exhausted.

I know nothing really about Traditional Chinese Medicine and its recommendations but I am going to look more into it.


Here are some links :

I was going to ask you to let me know what you think, but I reckon you'll do that anyway!


  1. Well..... fascinating!

    The only time I have used TCM has been when my first baby was breech and a friend who was an accupunturist and Chinese herbalist gave me a free session and some herbs to make a tea with. I felt as if my womb had turned into a washing machine and the baby turned within a few hours.

    It makes a kind of sense. Maybe I'll have to try. Any lunch would be better than the paltry banana I managed today. More energy would be lovely.

  2. That's fascinating, Anna. I honestly have noticed a difference and mostly in a kind of gentle way, like not having too bad a slump between three and four in the afternoon. I like the food too although it does make me think of invalid food!

  3. Jules, I know nothing of this, we are so American in our diet. It probably sucks. You sound so healthy with the raw and the smoothies. I am glad you figured it out and are coming around. In your honor tonight I am eating an Oreo cookie. Raw.

  4. That'll TEACH YA! Stop being so damn "healthy" Jules! LOL. Bummer on the exhaustion. I hope you will continue to feel better. It is tough...the lack of sleep. I just pound coffee like it is booze.

  5. I am laughing here..laughing because this sounds EXACTLY like something I would do..laughing because of the comment about the craft blogs (which I stopped reading for a while btw because they were making me feel so flawed!) I have several good friends who are trained in TCM. I think it is really interesting and I find that much of it is very accurate and helpful. XO!

  6. I am cracking up! That would so be my luck too. Trying to do right and being SO SO WRONG! I like the new diet...it seems "warm" and fuzzy! Hope you see sleep soon! ((hugs))

  7. Makes complete sense to me. Build someone's strength with a good hot meal and many hot cups of tea! It's an old wives tale and these things had their roots from somewhere - the truth. What's with the smoothies? That's what seems silly to me because it's doing the body's work before you consume it, so eat it hot to be comforted but leave the lumps in and let your body use some calories to digest them, thereby controlling weight gain. "The body is a furnace." That's my humble opinion anyway. x x x x x

  8. Fascinating. And you get to eat comfort food and feel good about it! Glad you've figured it out and are feeling (relatively) rested!

    Thanks for your kind comment on my blog. Not the wrong thing to say at all. I guess I was needing some support without really wanting to put my family's personal lives out there in blogland. I really appreciate your concern, even when I'm being vague.

  9. I love your blog so I gave you an award.
    Come on over to my place to get it!

  10. I'm blown away. I never would have guessed that raw foods would mess with your Qi. How disappointing! Hope you're feeling better these days!