Spring, glorious spring! … a time when the stored energy of winter rises up and bursts forth in a fantastic array of green shoots and colorful flowers. As animals awaken from their long winter naps or move on to summer territories we are also invited to awaken and begin a new season of growth!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the season of Spring is associated with the Gallbladder and Liver organs. The health of the liver in particular is critical for proper detoxification, digestion, iron storage, blood sugar regulation as well as the production of cholesterol, protein and beneficial immune factors. Read on to explore how you can best support these vital organs via food and lifestyle…
MEDICINE VIA FOOD:
Nature once again provides a nod to what will best serve us this season as it springs forth in new growth. We can live in harmony with this example and feel our best by following the suggestions below and eating earlier in the day to allow for proper digestion during sleep.
- LOAD UP ON GREENS – sprouts, salad and dandelion greens, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies are rich in phytochemicals that aid your body’s natural detoxification processes and aid digestion. If these are new to you, consider starting with a simple goal of including at least one fresh, green plant food each day. Many farmers markets are now open and are great sources of these nutrient dense foods. Sprouting kits are also easy ways to quickly grow your own greens at home!
- CHOOSE MINIMALLY COOKED AND RAW FOOD – Cook food for a shorter amount of time such as steaming or water sauteeing to preserve its cleansing properties. Include at least a small amount of raw food in your diet daily unless you are prone to loose-stools. If you have trouble with digestion, consider implementing some suggestions in the link below.
- LEAN ON LEGUMES FOR PROTEIN – beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of protein that also contain phytochemicals and high amounts of fiber which aid in removing toxins, feed beneficial gut bacteria, promote regular elimination and maintaining a healthy weight. Avoid excesses of nuts, oils, meats, sugars and alcohol which can make the liver and gallbladder sluggish, impeding digestion and detoxification pathways. Have trouble digesting beans? Be sure that you’re preparing them properly by starting with dry beans and soaking overnight or buying pre – sprouted products. Explore more info here to help optimize your digestion today!
In TCM, the liver and gallbladder are associated with the Wood element and the body’s tendons which are nurtured through movement. A traditional picture of the body and the Wood element in healthy states is that of flexible and resilient bamboo, bending and flowing with the wind. Similarly, we are invited to choose daily movements that promote flexibility, increase circulation and overall resilience. Focus on trying activities that bring you joy… perhaps sports, swimming, hiking, cycling, dance or a hike in nature.Purpose to set aside even a short window of daily activity to reap the benefits Need more suggestions to get started? Consider the following…
- START SMALL – If you’ve been sedentary for a while, be encouraged that even a 15 – minute walk has been shown to improve mood and mental clarity, lower blood pressure, relieve pain and improve digestion. Start with small increments of daily movement and increase as you are able!
- MASSAGE FOR THE SOLE – Foot massage is an easy and relaxing way to help increase circulation, support detoxification and bring balance to the whole body. Start by soaking your feet in warm water for 5-10 minutes followed by rolling a tennis or golf ball to massage the soles of the feet- spending extra time in the liver and gallbladder areas in the center of the feet as pictured here.
- EXPLORE YOGA, TAI QI OR QI GONG – These ancient practices are all centered on balance, flexibility and flow and have a myriad of health benefits for mind, body and spirit. Most local gyms and YMCAs offer at least one type of these classes or you can explore classes online. Keep in mind that any postures or forms that involve gentle twists and those that open up the hips and sides of the body are especially good at improving circulation to the liver and gallbladder.
A winter of being couped up, especially amidst a global pandemic, can be enough to leave many folks feeling stuck, frustrated or irritated. TCM acknowledges that these negative emotions can cause the liver and gallbladder to become overloaded and stagnant, potentially translating into physical symptoms such as headaches, poor digestion, hormone imbalance, weight gain, skin issues and overall feelings of dis-ease. In addition, to supporting these organs via food and movement, help to cultivate a mindset of kindness and peace via the following…
- GET CREATIVE! Living with a creative intention shifts the focus from old and entrenched ways and leaves space for something new to be born. Work in harmony with the new life of Spring and start a garden or do some landscaping. You might also consider taking up a new art form, learning to play an instrument, exploring photography, trying a new recipe, building that project you’ve been putting off or wherever else you creativity leads. Creativity not only helps us feel better but also translates into greater productivity!
- BREATHE IN POSSIBILITY –
Consider engaging in a simple practice of mindful breath work as follows…
WHILE INHALING SLOWLY: Focus on breathing in thoughts of possibility, kindness and peace
WHILE EXHALING COMPLETLY: Focus on intentionally releasing anger, frustration and stresses
To explore mindful breathing techniques and to further understand the benefits of proper breathing read more here.
3. CLEAN IT UP – Research indicates that folks living in clean and clutter – free environments report feeling happier, less stressed, more focused and energetic and reported more restful sleep. So this season is great opportunity to do that “Spring Cleaning” you’ve been putting off. If the prospect of cleaning a whole home is overwhelming, start small with one room, closet or drawer. Be mindful of the cleaning products you choose to use as many conventional products contain harmful allergens, carcinogens and hormone disruptors. This is also a great season to clean out your personal care products as they too often contain harmful chemicals.
WHAT ONE CHANGE CAN YOU MAKE THIS WEEK TO PROMOTE NEW LIFE AND VITALITY THROUGH FOOD MEDICINE, MOVEMENT AND MINDSET?
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