Eating with the seasons for optimal health: Spring edition
Generally speaking, we all feel a little more inspired and uplifted come spring time. Once you catch sight of a few buds on the trees trying to burst open and there’s a run of 60 degree days, we’re able to start thinking about shedding a layer or two and everything seems a little more possible. It’s easiest at this time of year to adopt a more positive outlook toward the future, set some goals, and let go of the heaviness and introspective nature of winter.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Liver and Gallbladder are the organs associated with this season: these are “charged with the smooth flow of energy throughout the body, storing and detoxifying the blood,” according to chinesemedicineliving.com. The Liver and Gallbladder govern the muscles, tendons and the nerves – if we can support and nourish them sufficiently, we can ensure they function at optimal health and keep the body working in harmony with the mind and spirit.
With all the new growth that comes with spring, it’s no surprise that Chinese Medicine identifies wood as the element associated with spring. The five-element theory dictates that wood represents our Liver and Gallbladder; the energy of these is at it’s strongest in spring and therefore this is the best time of year to address the health of these organs.
How the Liver works
The Liver’s main responsibility is to remove poisons and toxins from our bloodstream, create new blood for growth, and stimulate bile to assist with digestion. It is one of the hardest working organs in the body “and is crucial for the transformation of food into energy, or qi,” according to draxe.com. If you eat poorly — think fried, greasy, rich food — your liver will start to slow down and function at a lower level. We all know that alcohol can damage the liver in large amounts, alongside lack of exercise and poor nutrition, but emotions can have a big impact too. Liver energy may be suppressed in those who suffer from grief, depression and low moods. Chronic stress as a result of any of these conditions also has an impact on the proper functioning of your body’s systems, while another side affect, lack of sleep, can affect detoxification cycles.
Addressing any of these concerns or conditions through acupuncture, somatic experiencing, talk therapy, nutrition, or even just adopting a gentle exercise regime into your day, may help significantly. Moving your body more in these lighter, sunnier days allows proper circulation of the blood and puts you less at risk of becoming stagnant in nature and so susceptible to disease.
When it comes to spring cleaning the toxins from your body after the rich, grounding, earthy foods of winter, the focus should be on fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose high antioxidant foods like berries that provide electrolyte minerals that are needed by the liver. You might find you start craving sour foods; add lemon and apple cider vinegar to your meals and drinks to assist with the cleansing effect. Bitter and sour foods generally signify that beneficial enzymes are present, which all help to support the liver. Probiotic foods, bitter greens and cruciferous veggies help by providing nutrients, antioxidants and chlorophyll: this last substance plays a significant role in aiding the body’s natural elimination of toxins by increasing phase II biotransformation enzymes,” according to draxe.com.
Fresh herbs are another great way to add in anti-inflammatory ingredients. Their strong scents signify that essential oils are contained in them. These can assist with balancing the body’s PH level, while increasing beneficial digestive enzymes.
Once you’re satisfied with your cleansing efforts, begin adding things to your diet that will nourish your liver.
An anti-inflammatory diet is your first port of call. Low sugar, low toxins, high fibre foods are best. Choose organic to avoid pesticide laden produce. Foods high in antioxidants help counteract the harmful effects of stress, a toxic lifestyle and poor diet by helping the liver detoxify naturally. Asparagus, goji berries, bean sprouts and chives are all recommended by TCM practitioners for their liver health boosting properties. The consumption of liver meats is also encouraged, in particular pork liver, which the World Health Organization just listed as one of the most healthy foods to eat. You can also add in several powerful herbs; some beneficial ones known to give the liver a boost include:
Milk Thistle Holy Basil Dandelion Root Bupleurum
Consult your herbalist or TCM doctor to find out which ones might be best for you on your health journey.
To schedule a 30 minute herbal consult, call Elevate Wellness Center at 530-541-9355.
We offer acupuncture, somatic experiencing and more, and have a full Farmacy and Herbal Apothecary in store. Join us on April 26 at 7 p.m. for a free Spring Cleanse Tea Party and learn all about natural detoxing from Melinda Choy, LAc, and Misty Mcbride, LM, CPM.
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