Spring! It is the long-awaited change of winter to spring. Seeds sprout, flowers bloom, and the sun warms the earth. There is a sense of renewal and new life all around.
While winter was a time to conserve energy and reduce activity, spring is a time of regeneration, new beginnings, and a renewal of spirit.
Spring is the ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation for overall health and well-being. As spring is represented by the wood element and includes the liver and its complementary organ, the gallbladder, these two organs are usually the primary targets for springtime cleansing and health regimens.
Organs: Liver, Gallbladder
The liver filters over a liter of blood every minute. It is responsible for detoxifying, nourishing, replenishing, and storing blood. It also acts to energize the blood by releasing stored sugar, and it recombines amino acids to create the protein our bodies need to grow and repair tissue.
Anger, irritability, hay fever, itching, digestive difficulties, and frustration are all signs that our Qi is not flowing smoothly. This is referred to as Liver Qi Stagnation, one of the most common imbalances treated by Eastern medicine practitioners in the United States.
Be mindful of the word ‘detox’. Most symptoms are expressions of liver Yin deficiency so nourishing the Yin would be the best way to bring it into balance.
In the case of excessive symptoms like red hot pimples, painful muscles or ligaments or digestive difficulties involving pain some may be tempted to ‘cleanse’ the Liver with herbs and fasting. Be aware however, that most people have impaired digestion and starving it or giving the body only cold raw juices will not improve this, nor will herbs be very well digested. Instead, most excessive situations will respond to nourishment.
What to Avoid
Although we like to concentrate on Nourishment, the Liver certainly responds to some foods and non-foods negatively. So in Spring especially, avoid:
- refined sugar
- caffeine including chocolate
- alcohol and other stimulating drugs
- chilli and garlic stimulate Liver Fire, avoid if you have these sypmtoms
- food additives of any kind
- vegetable oils other than olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and palm kernal oil
- Deep fried foods, even in traditional fats, attribute to Liver Fire. These should only be consumed in the cooler months
Put Some Spring into Your Step
According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth flowing of Qi (energy) throughout the body. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. So, for optimum health this spring, move your Qi!
Stretch – The liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Incorporate a morning stretch into your routine. Try yoga or tai qi.
Eye Exercises – The liver opens into the eyes. Although all the organs have some connection to the health of the eyes, the liver is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for extended periods of time and do eye exercises.
Eat Green – Green is the color of the liver and of springtime. Eating young plants – fresh, leafy greens, sprouts, and immature cereal grasses – can improve the liver’s overall functions and aid in the movement of qi.
Taste Sour – Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the liver’s qi. Put lemon slices in your drinking water, use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing. Garnish your sandwich with a slice of dill pickle.
Do more outdoor activities – Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that liver qi stagnation. Try hiking or take up golf.
Enjoy milk thistle tea – Milk thistle helps protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury.
Get Acupuncture treatments- Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help improve the overall health of your liver as well as treat stress, anger and frustration, which are often associated with liver qi disharmony.