Spring has Sprung!
Coming out of the cold damp weather and transitioning into Spring, combined with warding off a respiratory pandemic, we find ourselves more heightened and enthused about our health and all factors affecting our immune systems. More importantly, we are extra curious about our body’s virus fighting capabilities and what we can do to maintain optimal health. So, on that note: Spring has sprung to the rescue! Spring is the ideal time for rejuvenation and clearing the liver for overall health and well being.
The fundamental principles upon which Traditional Chinese Medicine is based are:
- The Five Elements which refer to wood, fire, earth, metal, and water and grounded in a notion of balance and harmony.
- Yin and Yang, which describes the interdependent relationship of opposing but complementary forces believed to be necessary for a healthy life.
- Qi (Chi) meaning "life force" or "energy," is an invisible energy force that flows freely in a healthy person. The goal is to maintain a balance of yin and yang in all things.
According to these principles, all change — in the universe and in your body — occurs in five distinct stages. Each stage is associated with a particular time of year, a specific element in nature, and a pair of organs in the body. Change links together the seasons of the year, aspects of nature, and your body’s organs and bodily processes. A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine uses these principles to diagnose and treat health problems, linking specific foods, herbs, and acupuncture points to balance and restore yin and yang.
Spring for instance corresponds to the "Wood" element, which is related to the liver and gallbladder organs. The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body, and has an incredible capacity for regeneration. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. These two organs are usually the primary targets for springtime clearing of the liver.
Clearing of the liver is not to be confused with 'cleansing or flushing', a liver naturopathic method used by western medicine. Clearing involves using Chinese medicinal formulas for the preventive treatment of liver disease during Spring and provide preventive therapy based on The Five Phase Theory.
Eat to Live!
There is a fundamental difference in the Western and Chinese diet. The Chinese diet incorporates an understanding of the flavors, energies and organic actions of foods and herbs to balance the functioning of the organs in the body and maintain optimal health. In a Western diet, foods are considered for calorie, protein, carbohydrate, vitamin and nutrient content and weight maintenance.
A very clean diet, customized to your constitution (body type), which includes supportive supplements, tinctures and teas is highly recommended. An appropriate diet is more rewarding than any medicine, and without any side effects.
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 overall function of the liver 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.
Put Some Spring into Your Step!
Stretch - The liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest, then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Incorporate a morning stretch into your routine. We suggest that you practice yoga or qi gong.
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.
Engage in 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 golf.
If not cared for, the liver can become easily stagnated, negatively impacting the entire digestive system. Take the time to align your vision (liver) and execute (gall bladder) that vision: Eat green, drink herbal tea and cultivate your breath through meditation. Find healing through acupuncture.
There is always a solution. Patience, hard work, and a desire to change your health for the better will get you there. Enjoy the journey!
by Dumisani Kambi-Shamba, LAc