According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the primary function of the liver is to regulate the movement of ‘qi’ within the body. This regulatory function is essential for the physiological actions of all organ systems, ensuring proper functioning of the body. ‘Qi’ is a unique concept of a circulating life force that sustains all living beings. This is likened to a flow of energy in the body that maintains life. Also, its partner organ is the Gall Bladder!
1. Eat your greens. Leafy, upward growing greens nourish the Blood and gently move your Liver qi. Winter is the time for foods with a more warming and sinking energy, to match the energy of Winter. Now is the time to start to eat foods that are cooked more lightly and for less time, to eat less heavy food (oils, meats), and to cook veggies and greens in a lighter, more healthful manner. Kale, arugula, bok choy, chard, collard greens, romaine, watercress and cabbage are great examples of leafy greens to add into your diet.
2. Exercise. What better way to help your qi move than to move! Listen to your body and follow recommendations based on your own health, constitution, etc. Honestly — walking is one of the very best things you can do for your both your body and your mind. Even 10 minutes/day makes a big difference. If walking isn't your thing, try following a workout video on YouTube, a Zumba video if you enjoy dancing or even a Yoga class. Personally, I find YouTube is great and there is definitely something for everyone!
3. Rest. Metaphorically in Chinese Medicine our “Blood” collects in our Liver at night when we sleep. What this means is that the Liver is part of what helps rejuvenate us while we are sleeping. Not enough rest leads to weakened blood, which prevents our qi from moving well (and vice versa). Weakened Liver blood can lead to more anxiety, tighter muscles, and a host of other symptoms. Resting properly at night allows our Liver to do its job better — to keep our energy circulating smoothly.
4. Massage Liver 3. Those of you who are regular patients may recognize this point once I describe it. It’s a very commonly used point on the Liver channel to help keep energy flowing smoothly and to pull it down from the head (which makes it a great point for headaches that are due to a Liver imbalance). To find it, place your foot flat in front of you. Palpate in the space between your 1st and 2nd metatarsal bones (the bones that come down from your toes over the top of your foot). Find a sore spot close to the junction where the 2 bones meet and massage this point daily.
5. Create your vision. Wood energy (Liver and Gallbladder) is about vision, both literally and figuratively. The ability to see your path ahead, not get bogged down in the day-to-day stresses, and to have a vision for your future are all Liver strengths. A Liver that is too stuck and rigid may have trouble bending in the breeze so to speak, or being flexible enough to creatively work around life’s roadblocks. Find things that help you clarify your vision — both day-to-day and your long-term goals. Things such as journaling, talking to a good friend, or meditating, are all ways to keep your Liver energy flowing and your vision strong and flexible.
6. Manage stress. Emotional stress affects all organ systems. The Liver, however, is where it starts. In fact, stress and blocked emotions are the most common causes of “stuck Liver qi” in our society. Anger, frustration, sadness, and depression can all result from stuck Liver qi, and when not expressed or dealt with appropriately, can also cause our Liver qi to stagnate further and lead to other symptoms. When we feel them in excess or we don’t feel them at appropriate times, then that indicates an imbalance. If we push these feelings aside because we “don’t have time to deal with them,” we are adding another layer to the blockages in the free flow of our Liver qi. This is where an acupuncture treatment is beneficial so smoothen the flow of qi.
7. Beware of “false” Liver movers. Alcohol, for example, will temporarily free up your Liver energy. And a drink here and there, for most of us, feels good and is not a problem. But overuse of alcohol and other drugs is a common way for some people to feel relief from emotional symptoms of Liver stagnation. The relief, however, is temporary. Instead of strengthening the body’s weaknesses so that the body learns to rebalance the energy on its own, these extreme substances cause further damage and leave the body feeling dependent on more of them to get the same feeling of relief. And remember, any extreme substance will set up further imbalance in the body, often covering up the original problem and leading eventually to more complicated physical and emotional health issues.
8. Sour foods. The liver meridian the taste is associated with a sour taste. The taste of sour foods has the function of astringe (hold together) the qi and blood, and fluids during deficiency, and to generate fluids. The liver needs yin, blood and qi to free course qi in the body and to regulate menstrual cycle of the women. A few examples of sour foods included fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, pickles or beets, as well as sourdough bread, vinegar, wheat and lemon/lime.
Stay tuned for the following seasons to keep healthy throughout the year!
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