It is time to let go of winters storage and let your spring energy shine! Spring brings with it feelings of rising expansion, growth, and activity. It is a very active time of year with strong and abundant energy. Use it to your advantage; be creative, make plans, and play! This is a time of rebirth and rejuvenation.
In Chinese Medicine spring is associated with the Liver and it is the time when its energy is the strongest. Understanding the energetic and structural functions of the liver enables us to keep it well nourished and healthy so that it can maintain balance within the body. Liver imbalances most frequently show up with symptoms such as menstrual irregularities including PMS, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, fatigue, low sex drive, infertility, erectile dysfunction, emotional lability, skin problems, and allergies.
A commonly encountered Chinese proverb is said that when our Qi is flowing there is no pain and when our Qi is stagnant there is pain. The main energetic functions of the Liver are to keep our Qi or vital energy and emotions flowing harmoniously, and to store and cleanse our blood. When out of balance, the Liver Qi has a tendency toward stagnation; meaning the Liver is unable to maintain harmonious flow of Qi in the body which leads adverse emotional and physical manifestations. Stress and repressed emotions of frustration, anger and resentment greatly impact the Liver and are the most common causes of Liver Qi stagnation. Some other common cause of Liver Qi stagnation are over-working without adequate rejuvenation and restoration, deficient diet and lack of physical activity. Long standing Liver Qi stagnation also leads to feelings of depression, constant resentment and frustration. Commonly, the Liver is over worked and underpaid. We do not consistently do our mental and physical hygiene to support the Liver so that it can support us. When the Liver is in harmony it helps us to set, plan and attain goals, express our emotions in an effective manner, have flexibility in life and make decisions easily.
In Western physiology a healthy functioning liver is essential to our overall health in preventing inflammation and maintaining hormonal balance. On a structural level the liver is our primary detoxifying organ. It is responsible for cleaning up and filtering out environmental pollutants and toxic chemicals that enter the body, preventing them from causing problems. When these substances, know as endocrine disruptors are inadequately cleared from the body they will create inflammation by accumulating and most commonly pose as hormones in the body.
The second most important detoxifying organ in the body is the colon. It is essential to be having regular and satisfying bowel movements. Gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea are all symptoms worth paying attention to and figuring out the cause. These can all be symptoms that your digestion is compromised and negatively impacting the health of your liver, which will ultimately lead to inflammation. There are many ways to maintain bowel health including adequate intake of Probiotics via foods and supplements, consuming a diet high in fiber and eliminating any ‘trigger’ foods that disrupt your digestion.
Keeping the liver healthy will also help with seasonal allergies by detoxifying the body of environment pollens and pollutants so that they don’t become excessive. An accumulation of environmental allergens can make our immune system over reactive due to being bombarded with “invaders.” These invaders cause the immune system to respond by producing excessive histamine leading to symptoms such as excessive sneezing, watery, itchy and red eyes, and runny nose.
Below are suggestions for ways of keeping your liver healthy and functioning efficiently and supporting your “drainage system.” Living and eating clean and simple will help to free up the liver and fight inflammation so that it can detoxify our bodies to maintain overall health and balance. Getting rid of systemic inflammation allows us the ability to listen and connect to our bodies in learning what fells good and nourishing to our bodies and what does not.
8 Ways to Nourish Your Liver and Restore its Balance
vStay active- moving your qi will make you happy! Ideally be active outside-be amongst the beauty of spring, blooming flowers, singing birds…The lungs are also detoxifiers; with exhalation we release harmful chemicals and gases from the body. Exercise can induce sweating which is another way of detoxifying via the skin.
1) “Lively up yourself” (Bob Marley) - Be creative, dance, sing, do art, listen to music…all ways of moving your Qi! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyFmNPoDbDU)
2) Express yourself! Do your mental hygiene. As mentioned above the liver is very susceptible to emotional stagnation and repressed emotions such as resentment and frustration can have a negative impact on its functioning.
3) Connect with the world around you-come out of hibernation and into spring. Socializing is an effective and rewarding way to keep our spirits high and energy flowing.
4) “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates)-some foods and herbal cleansers to support a healthy liver include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lemon, hawthorn fruit, red dates, milk thistle seeds, dandelion, mint, mung beans, green beans and peas, burdock root, bitters, chlorophyll, chlorella, greens-green vegetables and fruit in general. Pungent foods (a little goes a long way) such as ginger, spring onions, horseradish, black pepper, radish, chamomile. In moderation these will help the natural detoxifying function of the liver without extreme side effects. We are looking to support the liver versus shock it. Unless you have been diagnosed with liver disease, with gentle guidance and support the liver should be able to restore balance and function optimally. Eat simple, clean and light-we no longer need to store resources to make it through winter. Briefly cook vegetables before eating, rendering as much of their nutrients as possible. Buy organic. Avoid processed and refined foods that will only put more work on the liver. Purchase wild caught fish, free-range and organic poultry, and grass-fed meat without additives such as nitrates. Avoid alcohol and caffeine-use only in moderation as the liver is responsible for processing them and in excess they compromise the livers ability to detoxify the body.
4) Dry Skin Brushing-to help rid the body of harmful toxins. The skin is the largest organ in the body and our first line of defense. Dry brushing can keep it healthy and functioning optimally. It stimulates the lymphatic system which plays a vital role in our immune system health. (http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/healingtechniquesdry_brushing_technique/)
5) Clean living- We cannot always avoids toxins in the environment, but when possible it is imperative to avoid chemicals that cause endocrine disruption/hormonal imbalances. Over the counter hygiene products, house hold cleaners, plastics and pesticides are among the common culprits. Refer to the Environmental Working Group website for up-to-date and detailed information regarding clean living guidelines. (http://www.ewg.org/)
6) Chill out and relax! -Stress management is essential to keeping the liver healthy. Taiqi, qigong, meditation, restorative yoga, gentle exercise such as walking. Don’t get caught up in spring’s energy-take it slow and remember to engage in restorative exercises from time to time.
Jessica Cerasoli, Licensed Acupuncturist at Elevate Wellness Center