A Happy Liver Helps Keep You Healthy!

In Traditional Asian Medicine, the Liver is associated with Spring, so this seems an appropriate time to check to see how yours is doing.  I don’t literally mean the liver organ as defined by Western medicine, although it is included.  What we’re exploring is the emotional-mental-spiritual-physical complex that the Liver System encompasses.

Take a look at this short list of symptoms which might indicate the Liver System is out of balance.  Note any that you are experiencing now or have that plagued you in the recent past.

o Alcohol or drug abuse o Agitation or irritability
o Allergies o Anxiousness or nervousness
o Chronic indigestion o Depression
o Distension or fullness under the ribs or flanks o Difficulty making decisions
o Dizziness o Easily angered
o High blood pressure o Emotional instability
o Insomnia o Emotional repression
o Lumps, swellings, mastitis o Explosiveness, rudeness or aggression
o Menstrual problems, PMS o Frustration or impatience
o Migraines, headaches o Impulsiveness
o Nervous system disorders o Manic-depressive
o Pain that travels or comes and goes o Moodiness
o Red or dry eyes; weak vision o Negative thinking
o Rigid, inflexible body; stiff tendons o Poor judgment
o Ringing in the ears o Resentment
o Symptoms that get worse with stress o Stress
o Tight shoulders, neck or back o Unable to keep commitments
o Tiredness o Unable to let go and move on
o Tremors, spasms, twitching, numbness

The body’s Wood Element – Liver and Gallbladder – just like Spring, begins its upward and outward yang activity as we move away from the darkness and into longer days, the greening of dormant plant life and the end of hibernation.  Our bodies are ready to cast off the heaviness of winter and winter foods and naturally choose cleansing foods and activities, if not overridden by contrary habits.  The sometimes unfortunate consequence of all this renewed movement (aka “stirring wind” and “qi rising”) is the fuller expression of Liver System imbalances, such as those in the above list.  But then Spring is also a season in which healing treatment can have a profound effect.

Luckily, with acupuncture, herbal medicine, season-appropriate food choices, a life-affirming “thought diet”, and/or a few lifestyle improvements, many people watch their symptoms melt away!  I find this particularly true for stress- and menstrual-related problems.  Chronic and severe conditions require longer treatment (and/or referral to an MD if life-threatening).

Few people realize that they don’t have to suffer endless bouts of emotional or physical pain and dis-ease.  Very few Western doctors understand the messages inherent in these physical and emotional imbalances and so will tend to focus on suppressing the symptoms alone without really addressing the underlying cause.  Prescription drugs may also exacerbate certain imbalances.  In the holistic medicine I find most effective, patient education and self-care are intrinsic to the treatment process.

Let’s say we are working to resolve a pattern called Liver Qi Stagnation (very common amongst Americans).  The patient might fair better if s/he follows dietary suggestions adapted from ancient Chinese medical texts to include modern foodstuffs, for example:

Foods to Moderate or Eliminate Foods to Eat More of
Overeating in general Onion, turmeric, cumin, basil, fennel, dill, ginger
Mammal meats, cream, cheese, eggs Cabbage, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, beets
Shortening, lard, margarine, refined oils Sprouts, romaine, seaweed, spirulina
Sweets, especially refined sugars Amaranth, quinoa, millet, brown rice
Very spicy food Cold-pressed flax oil, olive oil, coconut butter
All intoxicants, coffee Honey & vinegar or lemon juice
All artificial and processed foods Strawberry, cherry, peach

We would also take a look at the emotional picture.  Emotions themselves can cause detrimental changes to the body, especially when they go unresolved or originate from resentment, frustration, anger and greed.  Lingering or repetitive emotions (and thoughts) cause chaotic qi and overwhelm the Liver’s ability to regulate qi in a harmonious fashion, leading to illness.  Therefore, developing the ability to live in a peaceful, empowered and responsible way can be one of the most curative changes a person can realize.  Often, as the system imbalances are rectified physically, the emotional-mental shift seems to happen more easily, and vice versa!

Ready for a happy Liver and a healthier life?  Give me a call!

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