acupuncture, traditional chinese medicine, herbs
Liver and Spring Cleansing Protocol:
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Liver functional system is associated with the Spring Season and the element of Wood. The Liver is considered to be the master organ of healing in the body and described as “the root of all endurance”. A healthy Liver system allows us to keep our physical and emotional energy alive and well. It is the strategizer and the planner, it is the system that gives us the ability to continue even in the face of adversity, the ability to “keep hope alive”. The Liver also plays a key role in healthy and restorative sleep, which is when our bodies do most of the healing work. It is said that the Liver “stores the blood” at night when we rest and it is where “the life force is stored”so having a healthy Liver system is key to a good night’s rest.
The Chinese Zodiac animal, the Ox, is also associated with the Liver, with its qualities being the ability to do hard work, to endure, to push against the grain and its symbolism in the Chinese written language is strongly associated with the female archetype of hormonal and reproductive power with women’s ability to give birth and overcome that difficulty.
The Liver is the most complex biochemical organ in the body and is very susceptible to environmental factors that will interfere with the Liver Blood and its role in our overall health. Thus, it is important to give the Liver as much support as you can through daily dietary choices but it is also a good practice to do a gentle Liver cleanse once per year, in the Spring..
In TCM we have a diagnostic pattern called Liver Heat, which is another way of saying “Inflammation” or that “toxins” have built up in your system. As such, our diagnosis of Liver Qi Stagnation with Liver Heat is where we want to start with any recommendations regarding the Liver and cleansing for the Spring season. Spring is the season when the Liver becomes more active and as such when the days get longer, the trees and flowers start to bud out and the desire to be out in the sun and exercising is heightened. This is the best time to start a cleanse and will be best supported by the energy of the Spring season.
Liver heat is caused by Liver Qi Stagnation, which is when Qi and blood are not circulating properly, so the stagnation or “stuckness” over time leads to heat in the body, or a build up of toxins and inflammation and decreased detoxification function. From an emotional standpoint, the heat causes irritability and quickness to anger. From a physical standpoint, it causes the symptoms of feeling hot often, red cheeks, tight muscles, sensitive to smells, a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth, restlessness, headaches, and generalized inflammation in the body that will exacerbate any pain you already have in addition to affecting your gut health, emotions, and your sleep.
Food Recommendations and Food Prep
We recommend that everyone start their day with a warm or hot mug of water with fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice. The sour flavor of the lemon aligns with the Liver and thus stimulates the toxins that your Liver worked hard to clear out during the night to be expelled through a healthy bowel movement. After drinking your warm lemon or lime water, wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything else (besides water).
You will want to eat cooked cooling and soothing foods that include the bitter and sour flavors. Examples of these foods are: lemon, orange, tangerine, apple cider vinegar, bitter greens, cucumbers, celery, dandelion, broccoli, mung beans, swiss chard, chickweed, lightly steamed vegetables, soups, stewed fruits, green tea, and seaweeds (especially kelp or spirulina). For the citrus fruits, you can squeeze them into warm or hot water.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs can also help support your Liver through a Spring Cleanse. The herbs you need depend on your individual diagnosis and are different for everyone. If you would like additional support through your cleanse, feel free to ask us what formula would be appropriate for you.
Stir frying or steaming vegetables is great for this pattern of imbalance and the goal should be to make vegetables 40% to 60% of your diet in general with this pattern of imbalance, but during the cleansing period, you will want to aim for vegetables and fruits being closer to 80%. Specific foods to clear Liver Heat are: rice, oats, millet, celery, spinach, swiss chard, cucumber, lettuce, asparagus, eggplant, Chinese cabbage, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, alfalfa sprouts, mung bean sprouts, dandelion leaves, watercress, bamboo shoots, carrots, water chestnuts, pears, watermelon, plums, crab, clams, kelp, and peppermint.
What to avoid during your cleanse: avoid overly rich foods such as dairy, eggs, pork, fatty foods, spicy foods, such as chilies and wasabi, coffee, chocolate, excess red meat, veal, oils such as margarine, canola oil, soybean oil, or other industrial oils, peanuts, fried foods, artificial preservatives, artificial colorings, artificial additives, preservatives, sweeteners and processed foods (breads, pastas, or anything not in its natural state), high fructose corn syrup and corn products in general, soy, cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational stimulants.
After your cleanse:
To best support the Liver in general, and continuing after your cleanse, it is best to eat smaller meals, eating until the stomach is only ½ or ¾ full. Avoid hard to digest foods, such as fried foods, excess dairy and meat, hydrogenated fats, excess spicy foods, excess caffeine and alcohol, industrial oils, and processed foods in general. Increase Omega 3 fats and decrease Omega 6 fats to decrease inflammation. Omega 6 fats that you want to avoid are vegetable oils and seed oils, such as soybean, safflower, canola, etc. Corn is extremely high in Omega 6 and is important to avoid in all forms: corn, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, corn flour, etc. Omega 3 fats will help to offset inflammation so you will want to increase these; examples are: fish (especially salmon), walnuts, olive oil (but do not heat this oil, but add to your food after already cooked), chia seeds, avocados, flax seeds, 100% grass fed beef, spinach, brussel sprouts, hemp seeds, and walnuts. If you are having trouble getting the amount of omega 3s you need, consider supplementing. There are many different supplement forms so it depends on your individual need, but in general RPM from Systemic Formulas is a wonderful version of an omega 3 supplement.
Stress and Emotions:
Stress is a huge aggravator of Liver Qi Stagnation, so learning to manage the stress of life (although easier said than done) is key to this pattern. The emotional state is seriously affected by the Liver's function of "Flowing and Spreading" Qi. When it flows normally, emotions are more even (less up and downs). When the spreading of Qi is impaired or the circulation of Qi restrained, there will be emotional depression, frustration, repressed anger, and physical symptoms. One of the best remedies for the Liver is walking, especially out in nature and in the trees. Breathing fresh air into your lungs, being among plants and vegetation, and getting in movement are very beneficial for the Liver’s job of facilitating the free flow of Qi. Also, sitting in silence for just 5 minutes a day can facilitate huge shifts in your life. When you are sitting, FEEL 3 things you are grateful for. Gratitude is the key to emotional and physical health. Clearing your physical space is also important in the Spring. Get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy or no longer serves your current physical reality.
Let us know if you have any specific questions or would like more assistance through your Spring cleanse using acupuncture and TCM herbal therapy. We are here to support you!
Call 928-856-0656 to schedule an appointment or Click here to schedule online!
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