What the heck does maple syrup have to do with Stress, Sugar & The Spleen?

Finishing boil of Maple Syrup to 220 degrees.

Finishing boil of Maple Syrup to 220 degrees.

Stress and the city

Living in Brooklyn or anywhere in New York City can be described in a lot of ways; big, cramped, beautiful, dirty, busy, exciting, convenient, noisy, fun, and probably an infinite amount of other adjectives. But one thing is for sure, there is no getting around the demand that this kind of living puts on your body, mind & spirit. Don’t get us wrong, we love the city! That is why we have made it our home; right here on Union Street for the past 10 years, and more to come!

The point is to try and be mindful of creating balance and to ease this burden. Claim quiet moments for yourself to breathe and reflect, seek the serene green spaces available in our beautiful parks -and if you can manage it - try to take breaks, even small ones, out of the city. Shake things up with different experiences outside of the hustle and bustle.

Sugaring Rush

One of our team members and her S.O. did just that over the weekend! An adventure in the Catskills to play outside in the brisk clean air, to work with their hands, land and nature, and to try their hand at making maple syrup! (She shared some pics of the process, check them out on Instagram! @gardenacu)

Dear Sweet Spleen

The Spleen plays a very important role in the body. While we understand its anatomical function from a conventional view, the function of the spleen is very very different according to Chinese Medicine. Spleen Qi deficiency is a common pattern among many of us city dwellers. Our qi (energy) and organ functions are impacted by many things we have some control over such as what we eat, how we sleep, how we respond to and metabolize constant stressors and how we process certain emotions. The Spleen and Stomach organs work together in TCM...ok, this is a lot to get into, let’s get back to the sweet part!   

Every TCM organ is assigned certain properties such as a time of day, emotion and flavor among others; the flavor of Spleen is sweet. Too much sweet damages the Spleen, but small amounts can be beneficial. Sweet in Traditional Chinese medicine is pretty different from American sweet though. For example, in China, their sweets are usually made of "sweet" beans or corn. So the idea of refined sugar being in so many foods here is baffling and not helping us out any. Many Chinese herbs that tonify Spleen are a little sweet. If you really need a sweet fix, fruit, (real) maple syrup and raw honey are better options, but remember, it must always be in moderation!

Lots of foods are considered sweet in TCM and Lotus Root Acupuncture captured this perfectly:

 "Sweet foods can be divided into two groups: sweet foods that are neutral and nourishing or warm and nourishing, these include meat, legumes, nuts, dairy products and starchy vegetables; sweet foods that are cooling, these include fruits, sugar, honey and other sweeteners, as well as potatoes, rice and apples. Energetically, the flavor sweet is tonifying and goes to the Spleen and mind (yi); excess injures the muscles."

What else damages the spleen?

Dampness tends to accumulate after the spleen is damaged but can also be introduced by your environment and diet. Staying away from fried and greasy foods is a good idea as well as heavy dairy. Consuming alcohol, cold beverages, cold raw foods and processed foods (including refined sugar) put a lot of extra stress on your spleen as well as over eating, not chewing properly, eating while working or standing or too late at night. Bitter foods such as bitter leafy greens, rhubarb or radicchio can help to dry dampness.

Remember how I mentioned certain emotions are tied to each organ? The Spleen’s emotion is worry. Too much worrying, pensiveness, excessive focus, anxiety...will all contribute to spleen related TCM pathologies. But you don’t have to take our word for it! Connections between the spleen, anxiety and what happens in the body are starting to be explained by conventional studies.

How much is too much? Determining Moderation

If 30% or more of your combined daily caloric intake consists of cold or frozen drinks, cold/raw foods (uncooked veggies for example), alcohol, dairy, processed foods, take-out/restaurants and sweets - you are in the zone of needing to cut back. Sometimes this can be a little hard to figure out, but keeping a food diary can help you get a sense of what you are actually consuming. Nutritional counseling and monitoring are always a part of our WS-TCM approach.

What are some general signs of Spleen Imbalances? Here’s a list!

  • You feel tired, weak or lethargic

  • You experience tummy issues like abdominal distention, indigestion, gas/bloating, loose stools or constipation

  • You have a poor appetite

  • Your symptoms are worse in the morning

  • You may experience menstrual irregularities

  • You get headaches a lot

  • You have general body pains

  • You suffer with IBS, Crohn's Disease, Fibromyalgia and some other auto-immune disorders

If you experience any of these symptoms, this is your body speaking to you and letting you know that something is off. Our approach, WS-TCM, can help get to the root cause.

Want to learn more? Check out our videos on Dampness and Nutrition! They’re oldies but goodies.