Earth Qi for the Pancreas Stomach & Spleen
The earth element in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) governs the stomach, pancreas and spleen organs. Earth as an element is located in the centre and is associated with stability and being grounded. This is mirrored in TCM as the stomach, pancreas and spleen are central to health.
The pancreas and spleen are yin organs and are paired with the stomach as a yang organ. The spleen is seen as the same organ as the pancreas in TCM, as they are responsible for the same functions. The stomach meridian travels from the eyes, around the mouth and jaw, down the neck, torso, outer legs and over the feet to the tip of the second toe. The pancreas and spleen meridian travels from the big toe, upwards over the inside leg, groin, around the abdomen and side ribs to underneath the arm.
The spleen is responsible for a variety of functions:
- Tissue: Muscles.
- Body Part: Mouth.
- Function: Digestion.
- Transforms the nutrients from food and liquids into energy, blood and Qi.
- Controls damp.
- Contains and holds the blood within the blood vessels, helping prevent burst blood vessels.
- Controls the four limbs.
- Controls the raising quality, helping prevent organ prolapse and bringing Qi up to the head.
- Analytic thought processes.
The potential symptoms from a deficient stomach, pancreas and spleen in Traditional Chinese Medicine are:
- Digestive problems.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Loss or excess of appetite.
- Loss of taste.
- Eating disorder.
- Bloating or excess of gas.
- Changes to bowel movements e.g. diarrhoea.
- Allergies and intolerance of food.
- Water retention.
- Dry or cracked lips.
- Pale lips.
- Excess of mucus and phlegm.
- Weight gain.
- Difficulty losing weight.
- Physical and mental fatigue.
- Muscle weakness.
- Loss of muscle tone.
- Heaviness in the limbs and muscles.
- Muscle pain.
- Easy to bruise.
- Emotional problems.
- Excess of worry.
- Feeling sluggish.
- Brain fog.
- Cloudy mind.
- Unable to concentrate.
- Insomnia from over-thinking.
- Excess of care giving.
- Poor boundaries.
- Gynaecological problems.
- Heavy or light menstruation.
There are many different types of stomach, pancreas and spleen deficiencies within Traditional Chinese medicine, associated with the five element theory and the meridian channels.
The earth element and stomach, pancreas and spleen organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine are associated with the following emotions:
- Positive: Openness, justice, fairness, trust
- Negative: Brooding, mistrust, worry, anxiety
Rather than the emotions relating to a psychological brain state, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the spleen is associated with specific emotions. To bring these emotions into balance, the spleen is supported and strengthened using the five element theory.
The following table explores the many Taoist trigram associations with the stomach, pancreas and spleen
|5 Element Theory||The Earth Element|
|Numbers||2, 5, 8|
|Associations||Settling, Mature, Gathering, Stable, Harvest|
|Season||The Transition between Seasons|
|Direction||Centre, South West, North East|
|Yin or Yang||Neither, Centre|
|Stage of Life||Maturity|
|Organ||Stomach (Yang), Spleen & Pancreas (Yin)|
|Material||Brick, Ceramic, Pottery, Terracotta, Clay, Jade, Timber, Rock, Stone, Granite, Marble, Crystals|
|Form||Low, Long, Flat, Square, Rectangle, Plateaux|
|Colours||Yellow, Brown, Beige, Tan|
|Yin (Feminine)||Compost, Sand, Soft earth|
|Yang (Masculine)||Clay, Rock, Stone|
3. Separate Heaven and Earth
- Health: Opens chest area, helps respiration, relaxes tension in shoulders, back and abdomen.
- TCM: Regulate Yin Yang of the spleen, stomach.
- Movement: Maintain the hips and shoulders facing forwards. Rise out of a kua squat as the hands separate and rotate, one lifting up and pressing a flat palm to the sky above the shoulder, and one lowering down and pushing a flat palm to the ground next to the hip. This action expands the trunk. Lower the palms down whilst sinking into a kua squat.
- Spine involvement: Maintain an upright spine with equal opposing force in the palms that stretches the spine. Qi is drawn through the body to the Lao Gong and the central Jia Jii acupuncture points.
5. Rotate Waist like a Bear
- Organ: Strengthens the stomach, pancreas and spleen.
- TCM: Qi circulation in abdomen, spleen and stomach. Strengthen the kidneys by stretching around the waist.
- Health: Strengthens and relaxes the waist and lower back muscles. Through the hand postures and massaging body movements this aids digestion, constipation, elimination and appetite.
- Key Movements: Focus on creating a vertical circle that is driven by the waist, with the hands, arms, shoulders and head all following your waist movement. Through the rotation, the trunk follows an expansion and compression movement. The lower body is relaxed and centred.
6. Swaying like a Bear
- Organ: Strengthens the stomach, pancreas and spleen.
- TCM: Qi circulation in the spleen. Nourish and stimulate the liver and kidneys, regulates emotions and strengthens bone marrow.
- Health: Strengthens and relaxes the waist and lower back muscles, hip joints, leg muscles. Stimulates the function of the upper and lower abdomen.
- Key Movements: Focus on creating fluid stability in the lower body, moving your centre of gravity forwards and backwards in a squatting stance. The waist drives the rotation of the body, which creates the swaying arms, helping to expand and compress the internal organs.
7. Earth Energy
TCM: Female energy and pelvic area
Key Movements: A whole body movement that incorporates spine lengthening flex and extension, with deep breathing and a full range of motion.
Stillness Practice for the Stomach, Pancreas & Spleen
To nourish your stomach, pancreas and spleen through meditation, there are a variety of ways to practice. From abdominal breathing techniques where you visualise colour, emotions to a healing sound. The following practices will help to nourish and support these organs.
Health: Activation of the natural relaxation response when breathing correctly at 5 breaths per minute or less. This switches the body into a neutral state, softening negative emotions (e.g. brooding, holding on and that relate to the pancreas and stomach organs), releasing happy brain chemicals and relaxing the physical body.
Key Movement: The lower abdomen, side ribs and lower back expand on the inhale and relax on the exhale. The diaphragm must engage during deep abdominal breathing to ensure the body is set up to relax. Shallow chest breathing would mimic the stress response and induce physical stress reactions.
- Hover your hands palms facing the body on lower left of your ribcage.
- Smile down to the pancreas, spleen and stomach by the lower left of your ribcage, filling with love and the colour yellow.
- Imagine the function of the pancreas, spleen and stomach working easily and thank them for their hard work in maintaining a healthy digestion.
- Breathe in a golden yellow mist into these areas in your body.
- Breath in the emotions of openness, justice, fairness and trust.
- Exhale a grey mist, leaving your nose to exhale into the clouds.
- Breathe out the emotions of brooding, mistrust, worry and anxiety.
- Start with hands resting on top of thighs, palms facing upwards.
- Bring the hands to the stomach area.
- Inhale and circle your hands out to the front and back into just under your rib cage, hold you breathe a little and breathe out making the sound as you push you hands into this area under the ribcage and up a little.
- Lean forward as you do this.
- Exhale ‘Whoooooooo’ like an owl, feel it in the vocal cords, said like the word who in whisper.
Take you stillness meditation practice into an energising standing posture. Choose your pose, from embracing a tree stance to earth energy, all stances are welcome. Continue the inner smile practice to nourish and strengthen the stomach, pancreas and spleen by visualising breathing in the colour yellow, or a warm yellow light into the stomach area under the left ribs. All to recycle the emotions associated with the earth element.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the earth element and the stomach, pancreas and spleen are strengthened by the following foods:
- Sweet taste and flavour.
- Warm foods.
- Whole grains.
- Drying foods and spices to reduce moisture/damp e.g. ginger, cinnamon, pepper.
- Ripe fresh fruit.
- Sweet tasting vegetables e.g. sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, turnip, swede, mushrooms, beetroot, sweetcorn, tomatoes, butternut squash.
- Sweet tasting natural foods e.g. dried fruits, nuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, mung beans, adzuki beans
- Raw or cold foods.
- Animal milk as they may cause an excess of damp and phlegm.
- Difficult to digest foods e.g. fatty, starchy, greasy, highly processed, as these may cause an excess of moisture/damp.
- Sweet unnatural foods that are processed e.g. refined sugar, white flour.
- Poor eating habits e.g. eating fast, missing meals etc.
- Over indulging in a sweet tooth.
Please speak with your doctor prior to starting a new exercise programme. This article is for information purposes only and must not be taken as medical advice.