The Liver – Keep it Flowing
The trees are budding, the daffodils blooming. Rain, wind, sunshine. Nature is waking and bursting through the slumber of winter.
In Chinese Medicine, Springtime is liver time, and the signature of the liver is flow. So… just what do I mean by that?
The liver is a tremendous organ. It produces bile which helps digest fat. It filters the blood and detoxifies chemicals and hormones and moves them into the intestines. It helps make new blood cells. It processes cholesterol. It breaks down sugar storage to produce glucose for energy in times of need. It moves things.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, it also moves emotions: particularly anger and frustration. If you are not expressing these feelings then the liver energy stagnates and can lead to problems like depression, premenstrual syndrome, digestive issues, gas and bloating, headaches. If you are overexpressing anger, it is a sign of too much heat in your liver and can lead to high blood pressure, throbbing headaches, ringing in the ears, red face, red eyes, and trouble sleeping.
Our environment is wrought with toxic substances. From the pesticides and glyphosate on the foods we eat, to the medications and products we use in our everyday life, to our own internal environment – our gut microbiome, our hormones, our neurotransmitters, we are constantly needing to transform and eliminate them. And while our kidneys, lymphatics, skin, and lungs assist in these processes, the liver does the majority of the work.
Toxins are transformed first by a group of cytochromes p450 enzymes that may create more toxic metabolites. Having adequate antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E can help protect cells. They are transformed into fat and water SOLUBLE compounds which are moved out through the bile and into the intestines. If your liver is taxed, then this process may be hindered. It can be likened to taking the garbage from your house and leaving it on the curb during a garbage strike. If no one picks up the garbage it collects there.
Ways to help your liver during phase 2 include eating lots of cruciferous vegetables, drinking clean water, avoiding alcohol, and taking digestive bitters.
The final step, phase 3, is binding the toxins up in your intestines and pooping them out. If you are not having good daily bowel movements or not eating enough fiber, the toxins in your stool get re-absorbed back into circulation.
Springtime is a good time for detoxification. This is because energy is flowing through the liver. Plants that are harvested in the spring are often good for the liver. Spring greens, dandelions, radishes, cilantro are great plants for cleansing.
Cleansing is a great way to shed some of the heaviness and lethargy of Winter. A simple cleanse is to avoid dairy, alcohol, wheat, and sugar. Eat lots of the above-mentioned vegetables, drink lots of filtered water, you can squeeze a lemon in it; clean, lean protein and clean cold pressed oils. Your urine should be light yellow, and you should move your bowels once per day. If you don’t then add in a little extra magnesium and vitamin C.
And Move!! Dance, walk, find your flow. Express feelings of anger and frustration in a good way. If you have a friend who can listen to you express feelings without trying to fix them, that is great. But a nice tree or a safe spot in the garden works too. Just say what you are frustrated about out loud. Let it flow. Let your liver move.
Feel the transformative power of Spring!
By Dr. Jennifer Means ND, LAc