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Spring is here!

During the Winter season, the most common statement I’ve heard is “I think I need to detox”. Although detoxing is an appropriate approach for some patients, I always refrain my patients starting any detox regime in Winter, this is because in most cases the body cannot handle the processes of detoxing (because its not always pleasant) while also trying to keep itself warm and the immune system protected. It ends up starting off on the wrong foot and most end up ditching it within a few days because of catching frequent colds and having extreme tiredness.

Are you thinking about detoxing? Then the season of Spring is the ideal time to start planning and approaching to support the Liver to detox.

In Chinese Medicine,Spring is a time when the Liver gets the spotlight. It’s a time for starting over again. In general it is responsible for storing quality blood to nourish the tendons, the state of health reflected in the nails as they are seen as the extension of the liver, regulates the menstrual cycle to ensure there’s no pain, supports the proper functioning of digestion and each organs role to do its job correctly.

At night the Liver replenishes by storing and cleansing the blood. On a spiritual and mindset aspect, the Liver stores the ‘Hun’ – our soul that gives us our sense of purpose in life. If your Liver feels stuck, you may feel stuck in life and have difficulties expressing emotions and lack the motivation to make your dreams a reality. Stagnate Liver energy can also physically present as – constipation, irritability, anger,PMS, stiffness/pain in the body, headaches particularly behind the eyes, negative thought loops, weight gain and tiredness. Detoxing would be beneficial to a person who is noticing these symptoms although it’s not limited to these mentioned above.

To be clear, in reality our body is always detoxing even if we’re not aware of it – through sweating, passing stool, urination etc. The Liver is responsible for breaking down a big component of toxins in the body including hormones and alcohol and filtering toxins from the products we absorb through our skin, breath, digestion. Although some people will say that the Liver alone is doing a sufficient job at detoxing and perhaps that anything more is just a waste of time, money and energy. This was probably once true for our ancestors, but our fast paced and excessive lifestyles means we have to be more aware of what we eat, how much sleep we get, and how we live to ensure that the Liver can function properly.  These days the lack of balance in our lifestyle actually hinders the detoxing function of the Liver so we have to instead take active steps to support this but the process can extend out to active approaches that are not just focused on our physiology through food and herbs (as you’ll see below).

Also please be mindful, not all detox programs are created equally, nor will they suit everyone, this season detoxing may not be right for you but for another it could be the ideal time.

In Chinese medicine we tailor programs for each individual given by their unique symptoms and signs, including checking the tongue and pulse.

Some patients will not benefit from a traditional detox like juicing because it will further cause depletion and weakness – the negative side effects like nausea, vomiting, frequent colds and headaches. In this instance, If you feel resistance to detox because of this reason, bear in mind, detoxing can simply be a small pocket of time carved out to take the pressure off an over-burdened body and mind – by making a small but significant adjustment – for example if you are a night owl and have issues shifting excess weight, by going to bed by 10pm the hormones that are controlling our weight are active at 11pm only if we’re asleep. If sleeping is an issued then we can focus on re-establishing a proper sleep cycle and also strengthening your digestive system. As you can see detoxes don’t have to include having only juices, shakes or just fruits. There’s other ways.

Here are some other suggestions to get the Liver feeling better:

  • The eyes and tears are connected to the Liver in TCM, if you feel any unexpressed emotions give yourself permission to let your feelings out and have good cry. Seek a counsellor and gain new tools to understand how your mind works and what your triggers are. Letting go of old thinking and being heard is sometimes better than a holiday.
  • Sour foods are great for the Liver in TCM – drinking a warm glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon juice upon waking can help with constipation. A build-up of stool will create a build-up of toxins if not flushed out regularly. If you don’t like Sour foods it means you most likely need it.
  • Cutting out alcohol will significantly take the pressure of your Liver. We all know the health benefits.
  • Although Chinese herbs are prescribed individually some common herbs to help the liver are: dandelion root (which is good for those who have skin break outs also), peppermint, fennel seeds, chrysanthemum flowers, bupleeurum, nettle, tumeric just to name a few, there’s lots more.
  • Spring is time for blanching, steaming and quick sauteing of green and coloured vegatables, peeled root vegetables and less oven baking as this is quite heavy to digest. Minimal red meats – organic hormone free poultry and local fresh fish is ok. Barely or Nettle Soup. Pickled, fermented foods are best included now.
  • Movement – walking or better yet more nature hikes to get that fresh air (oxygen flushes out toxins), swimming or slowly bringing in active cardio like skipping for a few minutes per day.
  • Although the weather may be warming up at some point during spring, avoid the cold, raw foods/fruits and iced beverages – including salads, raw smoothie bowls. If you do have salads ensure it’s with a warm soup. Smoothie’s are cold and heavy to digest causing your body to feel more sluggish, creates weakness and weight gain in the long term, if necessary, keep it at warm temperature where possible and ditch the ice and frozen fruits! *Women who are having menstrual problems please take note of this*
  • Cutting down social media – have you noticed your checking your phone upon waking? Avoid checking your phone within 2 hours of waking – instead go for a walk, drink a cup of tea watching the sun rise. Take your time to slowly shift gears from sleep to waking without rushing to full speed mode, otherwise you are going to feel more stressed. Also goes the same with preparing for bed- give yourself at least two hours to unwind and in bed by 10pm, it will help your body regenerate and re-energise especially for those who gain weight easily.
  • Is your work or the environment you spend majority of the time, starting to be more toxic? – notice how you feel about your job, how your body responds and whether this is where you want to be for another 6 months. Is it contributing to your wellbeing or hindering it? Do they expect you to work through your lunch breaks? Is it becoming detrimental and not a work life balance. Perhaps looking into following your preferred career and/or finding ways to resolve issues with your current job if you do see yourself being there long term.
  • In Chinese medicine we use cupping, acupuncture, guasha, massage and herbs to help support and detox the liver. Also with a few tweeks of lifestyle habits it can significantly improve wellbeing and provide a reset on many levels that many are looking for in generic detoxes. The number of sessions depends on where you are currently in your health, however it’s expected that just with anything, a series of sessions within a regular time frame in conjunction with lifestyle adjustments would be needed to get the substantial benefits.

As with anything in life, small gradual changes that are implemented frequently will provide better long term results and eventually becoming a way of life, rather than a temporary fix or yoyo dieting. Detoxing is the first step to realising what is no longer working for you and taking active steps to letting go of them and replacing them with something more beneficial.  All that is required is the willingness to start with one step towards the right direction, as you can see from above, it doesn’t mean going cold turkey or juice fasts.

-written by Mirjana Laskovski