Loving Your Liver With Nutrition – Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the time of his doctor.

~ Ancient Chinese Proverb

In this second instalment of the Liver series, we will cover how the foods we eat can heal and support the liver. The spring is the time when liver energies are at the fullest, so this is the perfect time to eat foods that support the liver as well as detoxify, letting go of things we don’t need to make room for the new things that will nourish and heal us.

Spring and the liver in TCM

In spring we begin eating less than we did in winter, consuming lighter foods and cleansing the body of the excess fats and heavier foods eaten in winter. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, a time of expansion and expression. Spring is when we introduce newly grown greens and sprouts, salty foods and pungent herbs which support the liver and help to cleanse the body.

Cleansing the body is especially beneficial in spring not only because of the liver’s function of filtering toxins, but emotionally as well – emotions like frustration, impatience and anger are associated with the liver and a cleansing of the body and emotions allows us to clear out old residues and enables us to see more clearly and move forward in life with renewed passion and purpose.

Here is a list of things associated with the liver and spring in Chinese medicine.

Yin Organ – Liver
Yang Organ – Gallbladder
Season – Spring
Colour – Green
Direction – East
Flavour – Sour
Sense Organ – Eyes
Emotion – Anger
Weather – Wind

Cooking in Spring

Cooking in spring should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures. In Chinese medicine raw foods are mostly seen to be cold in nature so some cooking is always recommended, but of all the seasons, the spring is the time food is cooked the least for its cooling and cleansing capabilities. Sautéing with a bit of high quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is the perfect was to cook food in spring and the way your liver will receive the most benefit.

greens for a healthy liver

Liver Disharmony

Of all the organs, the liver tends to be the most congested, and ironically, is responsible for the free flow of qi throughout the body. A diet high in fatty, deep fried foods as well as eating highly processed and denatured foods congest the liver and lead to disharmony, physically, mentally and emotionally. A person with a healthy liver in Chinese medicine is supremely calm, has no feelings of stress or tension, easily makes decisions and has excellent judgement.

Physical symptoms of liver imbalance include many symptoms. The liver opens into the eyes so many eye symptoms point to a liver disharmony (bloodshot eyes, floaters, vision problems like cataracts and glaucoma), tendon issues (contraction, weakness, rigidity and inflexibility), pain and distension in the sides and rib areas, vertex headaches and outbursts of anger or frustration are all symptoms of a liver disharmony.

Avocado Salad for Liver Health

Beneficial Liver Foods

  • Honey/mint tea
  • Herbs – basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, horseradish, mint, lemon balm, angelica root, prickly ash bark
  • Complex Carbohydrates – grains, legumes, seeds
  • Vegetables – beets, carrots, watercress, onions, mustard greens, taro root
  • Raw foods – sprouted grains, beans, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Fruits – lemon, lime, grapefruit
  • Bitter Foods – rye, romaine lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, , quinoa, alfalfa, radish leaves, citrus peel
  • Liver cleansing herbs – dandelion root, bupleurum, mandarin, milk thistle seeds, Oregon grape root, chamomile flowers
  • Liver detoxifying foods – mung beans and their sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, watercress, seaweeds, celery, millet, tofu, plum, chlorophyll rich foods, mushrooms, rhubarb root, radish, daikon radish

dandelion for the liver

If you are feeling like your liver might need a little extra love, then try eating some of the foods listed above, drinking some green juices (dandelion and milk thistle are particularly good) and go outside, take in the new green of the growing plants through your eyes, move your body to circulate the qi and stretch to keep those tendons limber. Your liver will love you for it. :)

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here – The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.

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