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Spring Clean Your Liver

by Anne Gordon

Spring Clean Your Liver, Atha Wellness in Kirkland, WA

I stand in awe of all there is to learn from the wisdom of Chinese Medicine.  According to CM, each of the seasons corresponds to different ZangFu or Organs.  March heralds the start of Spring and the Liver and Gallbladder are the paired organs that relate to this season.  And with summer right around the corner, we still have a few weeks of spring to devote to some “Liver Love.”

The liver stores and mobilizes energy, produces more proteins than any other organ in the body, regulates blood flow, can regenerate itself and process all the junk we put into our bodies – both physically and emotionally. With everything that we put it through, the liver tends to be extremely forgiving, especially when it has the right resources.  It can clean both you and itself up in a matter of hours.

Your liver loves you more than you’ll ever know – so love it back by letting it have its own “quarantine”.  Spring is the perfect time to help your liver reset since not only is it the season in Asian medicine when it's in its element, but we already have spring cleaning on our mind.

One of the best things you can do for your liver is to start your day by drinking warm water with the juice of half a lemon first thing in the morning. It’s an incredibly easy body freshener that helps flush the toxins that accumulated over night when your liver was working double time to clean your blood. When fresh lemon is added to water the magic of science comes into play and the mixture becomes alkaline rather than acidic. Starting the day with a simple alkaline solution rather than something acidic, such as coffee, is the best way to quick clean your liver. 

Drinking right also means abstaining from alcohol and coffee - two things that make the liver work overtime. Alcohol is obvious; however, the reasons for coffee may not be what you think. Coffee affects your entire endocrine system and how your liver metabolizes cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, and adrenaline. Your liver is responsible for the disposal of unused or no longer necessary hormones; however, coffee competes for attention in the liver with these specific waste products. If the liver is unable to rid your body of these unused hormones, they go back into circulation or get stored in fat cells to be addressed another day. This goes for both caffeinated AND decaffeinated. Part of your spring cleaning should incorporate lemon water breaks rather than coffee breaks so your liver can catch-up.

Try to stop eating 2-3 hours before bed.  Late night eating can create stagnation in the liver and prevents our body from self-cleaning and repairing at night.  Another tip for liver (and over all health) is to stop eating when you’re 80% full.  Overeating can create a lot of pressure for both your liver and your gallbladder. 

Think light and fresh when it comes to food.  Think green.  Try including cabbages, kale, collards, bok choy dandelion greens, radish greens, and lettuces.  Whole grains like brown rice, barley, quinoa, spelt can be added to add additional fiber, without being overly processed.

As best you can avoid:  dairy, meat, refined sugar, artificial sweetners, soy protein, wheat, processed foods, and strong chemicals such as found in hair dyes, or solvents.   

Bonus!!  The liver LOVES sour foods and will also occasionally crave bitter foods as well when it’s feeling overwhelmed. When you break down most cleanse recipes, they contain a ton of the liver’s favorite sour or bitter veggies; however, be cautious when they're sweetened with beets, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, and/or pineapples to hide the taste. When sweet foods are eaten in their raw form they contain fiber that slows how quickly the body absorbs the natural sugars. (Note on juicing: If you choose to juice, you remove the fiber with a juicer, you’re eating a sugar bomb.)Not all sugar is created equal and though the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and veggies are vastly different than that found in a candy bar, your body’s glucose receptors can’t tell the difference. If you're a few days into a cleanse and suddenly eat something high in sugar, the effects can be magnified and some people experience headaches, nausea, sudden fatigue, mood swings or will start feeling shaky.

Sour foods that I recommend: 

·      Lemons/limes

·      Fermented foods

·      Kombucha

·      Blueberries

Lastly, our emotions have a very significant impact on our body, and on the Liver in particular.  There have been a number of studies over the years that clearly show that stress has a negative impact on the hepatic inflammatory response.  When you’re stressed out, so is your Liver. As part of your Liver Spring Clean, consider also adding in some meditative practices focusing on releasing pent up emotions and stress.  (I know, easier said then done!)  To help soothe the Liver, practice patience and forgiveness. Practice compassion for yourself and for others.  Guided meditations are a great way to get started with your own meditative practice.  One of my favorite apps is the 10% Happier app that offers a ton of guided meditations from world renowned experts.  Another thing that can help you release stress are just getting outside for walks in nature, walk barefoot in the grass, and just generally MOVE.  This is where yoga and qi gong can help by adding in gentle rhythmic movement tied with breath.  

Here's to your Liver Health:)  


Kirkland, Wa