Are you one of those people who constantly crave sweet foods? In Chinese Medicine the flavour you crave shows an imbalance within your body. From five-element theory, we know that the sweet flavour is related to the spleen.
In Chinese Medicine the spleen has a slightly different function to western medicine, in TCM it is related strongly to the stomach and controls digestion. A good spleen function means nutrients can be absorbed transformed and transported in the blood stream. The spleen is also said to have a strong role in immunity, this is more similar to the idea of the spleen from a western perspective.
If your digestion is not at its optimum you will lose nutrients through poor bowel motions; without nutrients your body cannot create enough energy, fatigue will result. Bloating, weight gain and fluid retention are also associated with a spleen disharmony. Other cases may include an underactive thyroid, diabetes, insomnia and oedema.
It makes sense that if the ‘sweetness’ and nutrients from food is not absorbed energy production in the cells mitochondria will be hampered. The quickest way to create energy in the body is via the breakdown of simple carbohydrates; hence, in spleen disharmonies we crave sweet foods and carbs such as cakes, pastries and lollies.
If the above symptoms seem like something that resonates with you and you have a bit of a sweet tooth, remember, your body is trying to tell you something. It craves what it needs. The key is to provide balance. So to support your spleen use the Chinese 5 element theory and choose healthy foods that are slightly sweet and the colour yellow.
Get rid of simple carbohydrates and packaged foods with high concentrations of sugar and preservatives, instead, try naturally sweet foods in small quantities such as dates, fruits, prunes or licorice. Poached pears with cinnamon act as a naturally sweet food that is moistening yet balanced with the spice of cinnamon. Alternatively, try cooking pears in the oven with the core removed and instead stuffed with sultanas.
As with all of the 5 flavours in Chinese medicine, moderation is important. Specifically with spleen disorders, exercise is also important. However, importantly, exercise to the point of exhaustion worsens the spleen condition!