Spring is a new beginning, a time of renewal after the hibernation and heavy foods of the winter. In Chinese medicine, the element associated with spring is wood. Wood exemplifies the energy of upward growth, and new beginnings. Wood is also associated with Wind, which can burst through and overcome obstacles. It represents a time of active movement, change and progress. As anger is the predominant emotion of the Wood element, when our energy or life force is out of balance or restrained it can lead to frustration, anger and stress.

The organ associated with Spring is the Liver. Detoxifying the Liver can help our energy move freely, leading to change and transformation. Frustration can lead to a stagnant Liver Qi, where the Liver is unable to push energy smoothly throughout the body. The liver organ is connected to the eyes, both literally and metaphorically. Thus, spring is a time for new visions, goal setting, and planning. In order to make way for the new, we need to let go of the old. Hence the term, spring cleaning. In Chinese medicine, there is an appropriate time and place for everything, and if we learn to go with the flow of nature’s rhythms we have less stress and live longer.

Eating foods such as meat, alcohol, dairy, excess sugar, and processed foods or drugs place a heavy burden on our liver. Spring is the perfect time to do a cleanse or detoxification program. A detoxification program usually involves eating a simple diet (avoiding meat, dairy, bread, coffee, alcohol or processed foods) and adding in special herbs and superfoods that will detoxify our body, especially our liver.

Symptoms of Liver Toxicity

Some of the physical signs that our liver is toxic are

  • Allergies
  • Skin conditions such as acne
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Obesity
  • Fatigue
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Autoimmune diseases

Some of the emotional signs that our liver is toxic are:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • A feeling of hopelessness or feeling stuck

Detoxification Pathways

According to Western Medicine, the liver is responsible for detoxification of toxic chemicals including alcohol, toxic chemicals, and drugs. One of the most important detoxification functions is to clean up the blood. The liver receives blood from the intestine. The blood is full of nutrients but also contains toxins and other chemicals that the liver cleans up before they enter the body’s circulation. The liver also converts fat soluble toxins into water soluble substances that can be excreted in the urine or the bile depending on the particular characteristics of the end product.

There are two pathways to liver detoxification, Phase I and Phase II.  Understanding these two pathways can help you to avoid a healing crisis. During the phase 1 pathway,toxins, chemicals and heavy metals are converted into less harmful chemicals through through the induction of the P-450 enzyme. Foods and supplements  which fire up the Phase 1 pathway include milk thistle, cruciferous vegetables, B vitamins, and glutathione.

The phase 2 detoxification pathway is known as the conjugation pathway. This involves converting the fat-soluble toxic chemicals and transforming the toxins into water-soluble chemicals. Then they are passed out through body fluids as such as the bile or urine. A diet that is low in protein such as a low-fat weight-loss program can interfere with this phase. This means that your body will tend to hang onto toxins rather than release them. Nutrients that enhance phase II detoxification include blue green algae, cruciferous vegetables, sulfur containing amino acids from protein, sulfur phytonutrients from garlic and onions.

There are many different types of cleansing programs and detoxification products available but if not used correctly they can cause more harm than good, so its important to do your research and seek advice from your favorite health professional before contemplating radical changes!

Some of my favorite foods for cleansing the liver are green juices, garlic, spirulina, olive oil and leafy green vegetables.

Check back next week to learn about these and other foods and products that are exceptional for detoxifying the liver and blasting you into a healthy vibrant Spring experience!