Rumination, transformation and the Earthy connections in your digestion


Exploring the many manifestations of gastrointestinal disease in Chinese medicine with you continues to be a very fun and exciting process for me. Last week we talked about the Lung and getting entrapped by grief and pain and how that impacts us. The week before that we discovered a little bit about how Chinese medicine looks at the Earth element, and what the Lung and Spleen have to do with your digestion.

Today, I want to talk a little more about the Spleen like we did last week for the Lung. We’ll investigate the question, how does the Spleen’s primary emotion, rumination, really make life and digestion a challenge?

There are so many different ways gastrointestinal (Earth) issues plague other aspects of our lives outside of simply our digestion.

This can be explained by one of the core tenets of Classical Chinese medicine – as above so below. This means that the processes and the ongoings of our individual bodies are emulating, or mimicking, larger patterns that we can see clearly in the world and environment around us! Essentially, think of it as each of us as being little earths ourselves walking around and mirroring, the processes of nature.

So, why does Earth (or why do gastrointestinal issues) plague other aspects of our lives? Because the process that the Earth is undergoing (one of life, transformation, death) is the exact same process that is happening inside of us! It’s as if the Earth is trying to teach us, nothing is a “thing”, it is all a process!

This strong influence the Earth has on us is also exemplified in the clinic – no matter what folks are coming in for, there is frequently an Earth imbalance that is also contributing to what they are experiencing.

Okay. I am getting too excited at all the connections!

Let’s circle back to where we started: the Spleen and rumination. I am delighted to report that when you look up rumination in the Oxford Dictionary you will find: 1. Think deeply about something. 2 (of a ruminant) chew the cud. The example sentence states then, “goats ruminated nonchalantly around them.” Even the definition (and etymology) of the word ruminate takes us back to digestion!

So what is rumination trying to teach us about digestion? That rumination and digestion are related – and further, that we should consider the relationship of rumination to digestion. In a sense, rumination is another form of digestion. By ruminating, we are digesting our thoughts, experiences, and memories. That said, rumination without transformation or resolution will most certainly muck up the whole process.

One thing that is incredibly important to remember here is that the Spleen is injured by cold. Therefore we can logically extend that the Spleen needs to be warm (if it can be damaged by cold). How can you cook in a pan that is not hot? We also know from Chinese medical theory that the Stomach and Spleen are Earth organs, and that these things called “transformation” and “transportation” come from there.

When the ancient texts point us toward “transformation” they are not simply talking about transformation of food!

They are speaking to the transformation of information, of stimulus, of everything that comes into our bodies through our sense organs. The Spleen is injured by cold – it needs to be warm to transform. Basically, over-thinking and rumination snuff out the pilot light of your own transformation! A compromised pilot light damages not only digestion, but potentially keeps us from moving forward, changing behavior, transforming, ultimately this can negatively impact our lives.

Interestingly enough, I would argue that the opposite is also true. Sluggish digestion, and the inability to nourish ourselves via food impacts our ability to change our thoughts.

As acupuncturists, we account for this, we readily understand the relationship between these types of energetics and the way this can affect the substance, tissue, and matter of our bodies.

If someone does not have this Spleen warmth generating the processes of their body they can be needy, suspicious, insecure, and readily seek warmth from others. Because they are not generating their own warmth, they can become dangerously codependent and forget, never realize, or have a terribly hard time believing that they are the only ones that will truly be able to generate their own fire for themselves!

Spleen deficiency matches this pattern, presenting with: fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, loose stools (sometimes with undigested food in them), poor appetite, pale lips, feelings of coldness, and bruising easily.

It’s true that living in a society that breeds a constant state of stimulation and plenty of things to ruminate over means that many of our spleens are impaired. We can help! Come see just how much of a positive effect Chinese medicine can have on not only your bowels, but your mind! Thanks for stopping by to read this post!

Written by Watershed Team

We believe that healthy, thriving people are the foundation of a strong, just and joyful society.