It's also the month of the year when I get the highest number of IBS, digestion and allergy complaints in clinic. Do you suffer any of the following symptoms in Spring?
- stomach pain
- acid regurgitation
- increased sensitivity or allergy to trigger foods
- skin discoloration, dark spots, flakiness, or circles
- tiredness, sleepiness, and chronic fatigue
- allergy symptoms e.g. chest congestion, sneezing, running nose, itching eyes
If so, read on, you may be in need of some serious liver lovin'!
Why the liver?
The Five Element Theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine has helped me to understand why I see so much IBS during Spring, and why I woke up this morning with a runny nose!
This theory is based on the observation of the natural cycles and inter-relationships in the environment and within ourselves. For example, there are five environmental elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood – each corresponding with certain body organs.
Spring is associated with the Wood element, which governs the liver and gall bladder. Both organs work as blood cleansers. And since they’ve been working hard all winter to keep our blood free of toxins, it makes sense that it is time to give them a much needed cleaning so they can function to their fullest. Wanting to sleep more than usual and feeling foggy-headed are signs your liver cannot function appropriately to excrete substances providing the body with energy.
Have you noticed the strong winds we've had lately? These are typical during spring. The blowing of wind in spring can over-strengthen the liver, which in turn can affect the spleen. A disharmony of the liver and spleen may be detected by observing symptoms such as stomach pain, acid regurgitation, stomach distention and diarrhea. This is because the liver isn’t producing enough enzymes to aid your digestion (or in other words: it’s a bit weighed down with toxins).
The liver plays a role in proper blood circulation and detoxification. If it cannot do that properly you will see it your skin, usually in the form of flakes and dark circles.
The flowers are out and that means allergy problems are abundant during spring. If the liver is not optimally healthy, it could affect the spleen and the lungs. Symptoms of this disharmony between organs include: chest congestion, sneezing, running nose, itching eyes and other symptoms that are associated with allergy problems.
Are you finding it difficult to lose weight, even if you exercise and eat healthily? Your liver may be too overwhelmed to produce and excrete the substances that detoxify and support healthy metabolism. It could also signal more long standing issues that are linked to the liver and need to be addressed such as sex hormone imbalances.
Other symptoms your liver needs help can include: weakened immune system, elevated LDL cholesterol levels, high triglycerides, cellulite, and poor nails and hair.
How to cleanse the liver
For all the above reasons, it is super important, especially during spring, to cleanse the liver and lungs and to bring a balance among them and other body organs. Nutrition, Western herbal medicine, Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help to accomplish this balance.
I always say our energy is constantly changing, and therefore what we eat needs to be consistently changed. Therein lies the value of intuitive eating. Similarly, the energy of the seasons affects us massively, so we should all cater our diets to the seasons.
There are many foods serving the purpose of soothing and cleansing the liver:
- green leafy vegetables, e.g kale, spinach
- bitter greens, e.g. mustard greens, rocket, watercress
- sprouts, e.g. sunflower, mung bean, alfalfa, broccoli
- vegetable juices
- green tea
Green is the colour of the liver and of spring. Green and leafy vegetables, especially if the plants are young, help by cleansing and freshening the body. They benefit the liver’s overall well-being.
Dandelion also works well as a spring cleanser. A balanced diet with a variety of juices such as citrus fruits, pear, apple, celery and carrot is very helpful. Sprouts from seeds such as beans, mung, and radish are valuable for spring use, as well. Warming spices such as garlic, ginger and turmeric increase blood circulation to the liver to give it a kick start.
- Dandelion root
- St Mary's Thistle
- Globe Artichoke
You can talk to your naturopath, herbalist, or come and see me to get a specific Spring cleansing protocol created for you. We now have fully qualified international herbalist Tammy working on site who I collaborate with to make this magic happen!
If you’re up for some work, you could always harvest the Dandelion that’s growing in your yard (or your neighbors because I’m sure they wouldn’t mind!) Eat it or make it into a tincture. Just make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals.
How to harvest Dandelion
Leaves can be added raw to salads, or steamed and sauteed with garlic like other dark leafy greens (early settlers did it, although if you eat the leaves, I recommend the early harvest for a sweeter taste).
To make dandelion tincture, harvest the root and leaves when flowers are not present. Both leaves and roots can be washed, chopped, put into a glass jar, and covered with alcohol, such as 100 proof vodka. Steep in dark cupboard for 6 weeks. Strain and save liquid. A dose is 10 – 30 drops of tincture per day to cleanse the liver.