GLUTEN gives me Spleen Qi Deficiency

“Gluten has never affected me.”, I once said to my health practitioner.  I was seeing a naturopathic doctor because my period had ceased to come back after going off the pill.  She was putting me on a whole body cleanse and removing gluten was one of the suggestions.  I’ve heard of gluten intolerance and celiac, but I didn’t have any of the symptoms (or at least I didn’t think I did).

This was 10 years ago, the year before I decided to become an acupuncturist.  Not only did she help me regulate my cycle she also inspired me to study Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Nourishing Meals gluten free bread

Homemade gluten free bread

I never doubted removing gluten was essential for those who experienced negative symptoms from eating it; I just never thought I was in THAT category.  Bread was a staple for me.  I used to say as a child that I would be happily be a prisoner eating bread and butter all day (obviously as a child I would delineate such a thought, plus in my mind the bread was a crusty French baguette with real creamery butter).  For me, bread made me feel good: it filled up my stomach, was neutral to eat, and satisfying.

As a student and a practitioner, I would randomly take gluten out of my diet for a few weeks as part of a cleanse.  I would always feel good during the cleanse and then eventually go back to my typical diet.  Even though my diet was and is fairly clean and nutrient dense I had many symptoms of Spleen Qi Deficiency.

spleen qi deficiency symptoms

Some common symptoms include:

  • low energy
  • bloating
  • gas
  • loose bowel movements
  • weak immune system
  • overthinking and worrying
  • feeling cold
  • bruising easily (also hemorrhoids)
  • shortness of breath

I figured being a student/new practitioner/new business owner/new mom was contributing to my symptoms; I never suspected the gluten.  As I was creating Yin Yang Diet, I decided to take out gluten while I developed recipes.

I took it out 100% – drill sergeant, bad ass, type A style – because the truth was I always cheated a little in the past.

Orange Cranberry Breakfast Scones - gluten free

Orange Cranberry Breakfast Scones – gluten free – Qi Deficiency Diet

What I noticed was small, yet dramatic, my Qi Deficiency started going away.  The most notable symptom was a reduction in gas.  I think it was my husband who pointed it out to me. lol!  Over a couple of weeks my gas reduced bit by bit until it entirely went away.

I used to wake up in the morning with a flat stomach, by the evening time I would be bloated and gassy and I would be a stink monster all night long.  

This is classic Spleen Qi Deficiency.

I noticed my bowel movements firmed up, energy became more steady throughout the day, hemorrhoids lessened and even my worrying, obsessing, and overthinking decreased.  But the progress of these symptoms were subtle.  It wasn’t overnight.  The most notable was the gas and the rest got better over the course of a few months.

I was shocked.  Seriously.  I thought gluten was my friend.  I loved it and surely thought it loved me.

My patients and friends had more obvious and immediate symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, feeling hung over, depression, foggy thinking, headaches, joint pain, and swelling/edema.  I experienced none of those.  I still don’t.  I can eat gluten and feel fine, but if I eat it daily the first thing that comes back is bloating and gas (which my husband does not miss).  After awhile I begin to feel slightly sluggish, kind of *off*, and eventually the Qi Deficiency symptoms begin to pile on.

Hummus beef burger - gluten free - Qi Deficiency Diet

Hummus beef burger – gluten free – Qi Deficiency Diet

If gluten can negatively impact our digestion (did you know that gliadin proteins – a component of gluten – temporarily cause leaky gut in ALL humans) and we are eating it regularly it’s possible to experience some unpleasant symptoms.  Especially if we have a predisposition to having digestive issues and perhaps we’re eating non organic and GMO foods that take a toll on our digestive health.

If you have stubborn Qi Deficiency symptoms (take QUIZ here) try taking out gluten 100% out of your diet for a month and see what changes.

Even better, bring your body into balance with our Qi Deficiency Diet, which uses food as your medicine.  Eating foods that are considered “warm” in properties, healing to the digestive system, and energy building will help you achieve results faster.  Plus all of the recipes are 100% gluten free.


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4 Responses to “GLUTEN gives me Spleen Qi Deficiency”

  1. Patrick March 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    I’m a Chinese medicine practitioner who was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance (IgG allergy confirmed through blood testing) long before I started studying CM. When I stayed away from gluten my symptoms improved but if I indulged in more than occasionally my symptoms returned.

    It wasn’t until I went to China and got treated for my spleen deficiency that I actually got cured of my gluten intolerance. These days I only avoid gluten occasionally and always for a reason (for instance, did you know gluten, among other foods, should be avoided when treating Guizhi Tang patterns – it’s right in the Shanghan Lun!).

    In conclusion, gluten intolerance is definitely wrapped up with spleen deficiency but I hesitate to conclude that it causes spleen deficiency. Exacerbate? Absolutely. But it won’t cause the pattern on its own nor does its exclusion alone lead to a root cure.

    Great stuff Tara, thanks for creating more conent for our profession!

    • Tara Akuna March 6, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

      Patrick thank you for your message. I love hearing your connection with sp Qi def and gluten. You know cause and effect is so hard to prove, but exacerbate yes I agree. I had no idea about gluten and Guizhi Tang patterns; you need to write about this and share it with me!
      I removed gluten from all of my diet plans because I’ve seen that it helps facilitate the healing with all patterns.

  2. Hebergement web June 30, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    Here are some general spleen strengthening pointers. These are things that everyone should do, but especially those of us at higher risk for spleen qi deficiency. Basically, if you re stressed out, chronically ill, and have some digestive issues, you could probably use some spleen strengthening.


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