Spring Seasonal Health
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Spring correlates to the Wood element, and the Liver/Gallbladder organ system, which plays a big role in the circulation of Qi (energy) and Blood as well as digestion. Paying particular attention to any issues with these systems during the spring months will help us to prevent illness. The Liver ensures the smooth flow of Qi and Blood around the body, it assists in digestion, stores blood, and helps us to process emotions. Stress and a sedentary lifestyle can disrupt this smooth flow and create ‘stagnant’ energy, which usually manifests as headaches, IBS, or mood swings. Spring is a great time to get moving after a restful winter and get the juices flowing. It’s a time for growth and new beginnings.
At this time, it’s important to start exercising more, but not over-doing it! The days can still be quite chilly so keep warm and stay hydrated when you’re out and about. With the renewed energy we have after the long dark winter, we can start new projects, especially creative ones. The great outdoors, ‘forest-bathing’, and gardening can all benefit the Liver system and prevent issues caused by Liver Qi stagnation.
Signs your Liver is in need of some TLC
Common symptoms of a struggling Liver/Gallbladder system (in the traditional Chinese medical sense, not the anatomical liver and gallbladder, although they do share similar roles) are:
- Headaches, migraines
- Jaw problems, TMJ, grinding teeth
- Fertility and sexual health issues
- Mood swings
- Eye issues, floaters, blurry vision
- Brittle hair and nails, dry skin
- Acid reflux, IBS, bloating
- PMS, easily irritated, quick to anger
- Depression, feeling stuck
Yoga and Qi Gong are excellent gentle exercises suitable to all levels of fitness, at any time of the year. Try this 3 minute Qi Gong for the Liver practice, or this 30 minute Yoga with Adriene sequence for a healthy liver.
Anger and frustration are the emotions associated with the Liver, and anger makes Qi ‘rise’. When we’re angry, we might feel the blood rushing to our head and get ‘red-faced with anger’, ‘blow a fuse’, ‘get hot under the collar’. Something might be ‘doing your head in’, ‘making your blood boil’, ‘blow your top’, or ‘hit the roof’. It’s easy to see why being angry might cause headaches and high blood pressure...
The Liver is responsible for our capacity for generosity and kindness, our ability to sympathise with others and let go of negative thoughts. An imbalance of the Liver energy might manifest emotionally as anger, frustration, doubt, feeling stuck in a rut, depression, mood swings, an inability to let go of negative thought patterns, and cynicism. Those with Liver issues tend to flip out over small things, get irritated very easily, and blame others for their position in life, believing that others have it easy compared to them.
With the days finally getting longer and brighter, it’s a perfect time to close the book on last year, plan for the year ahead, and make positive changes to our lives.
Some useful ways I have found to help process emotions are; journaling, meditation, and mindfulness. Acupuncture and cupping are also useful this time of year, particularly if you suffer from Liver imbalance.
Diet & Lifestyle Choices that Support the Liver
- Begin new projects and start new healthy habits
- Spend time in nature, always keep warm and layer up
- Exercise more rigorously
- Be creative
- Eat lots of greens and leafy vegetables
- Saute, steam, and lightly cook meals
- Sour foods such as lemon, pickles, and sour apples can help get the juices flowing (in moderation!)
- Eat plenty of baby leaves such as pea shoots, baby spinach, and spring cabbage
- Reduce alcohol
- Porridge; with honey, figs, banana
- Sweet potato, sauteed potatoes with eggs and greens
- Melon, grapefruit, plain bio-yoghurt
- Poached egg with spinach on wholegrain toast
- Soups; potato and leek, carrot and ginger, celery, onion
- Lightly cooked veggies, steamed spinach, boiled egg, fish with lemon
- Sauteed, steamed, or boiled dishes with; wholegrain rice, potato, beans, watercress, pea shoots, beansprouts, peas, liver, fish, asparagus, mushrooms, leafy greens, root veggies
- Seasonings; basil, fennel, dill
- Seeds, dried fruit, celery, cucumber
- Stewed apple or rhubarb, plums
- Oatmeal cookies, flapjacks with seeds, and citrus peel
- Ginger tea, lemon water, mint tea, green tea, dandelion tea
I’m no chef - so I’m always looking for delicious recipes that nourish the Liver using the foods and methods above! If you have any you’d like to share, please email them to [email protected]
Watch this great video on Spring Health by Wu Wei Wisdom, explaining all about spring and its effect on the Liver, and how you can preserve your health.