By Jennifer Ward
I became a fan of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda 20 years ago. These systems of medicine draw inspiration from nature, and offer ancient wisdom for modern life. Throughout my own journey of exploration in the fields, I’ve managed to improve my digestion, boost my immunity, banish PMS, and improve my mood. It’s since become my goal to educate others on what preventative medicine can do for them.
When I was a student of TCM and Ayurveda, my supervisor spoke to every patient about the liver, no matter what their symptoms. Supporting the liver is vital in balancing hormones, and Ayurveda considers detoxification to be a liver function too. After 10 years in clinical practice, I’ve come to value liver health very highly. Your liver is an amazing, powerful and hardworking organ!
The liver is a multi-tasking machine. It clocks in overtime in our modern world – detoxifying substances, playing a role in metabolism, regulating blood sugar levels, making bile, making carrier proteins, acting as a repository for nutrients, and breaking down triglycerides for use as energy.
A ‘stagnant’ liver (or liver ‘congestion’) can produce a wide range of negative symptoms in the body. Luckily, there are many lifestyle changes that can help us prevent and remedy this.
Ayurveda views the liver as a ‘fiery’ or ‘pitta’ organ. Excess pitta is seen as equivalent to ‘liver fire’ in Chinese Medicine, and symptoms include headaches; red, burning eyes; acne; nosebleeds; outbursts of emotions like anger and irritability; inflammation, allergies; and indigestion.
I’d like to draw on my personal and clinical experience to empower you with the know-how you need to rejuvenate your liver. Promoting liver health is about giving the organ enough rest and relaxation to regenerate. The good news is that - with the proper support - this fascinating organ knows how to heal itself!
Ways to Love Your Liver
1. Drink enough water
Sip on water and herbal teas throughout the day
2. Get enough sleep
While we sleep, our blood returns to the liver to be cleansed, with the organ actually enlarging at night. Try to get to bed no later than 10 pm to ensure that your body has enough downtime for your liver to be able to ‘digest and detox’.
3. Express your emotions
Do you have a regular practice that allows you to fully feel and release your emotions? According to TCM and Ayurveda, if the liver is impaired, it can be harder to process emotions. Conversely, suppressing negative emotions can contribute to stagnant liver ‘qi’, or ‘energy’. Talk therapy and a basic qigong tecnhique called ‘beating the pillow’ are two great ways of learning to work with your emotions.
4. Eat your greens
The darker, the better! Cruciferous veggies, dandelion greens and cilantro are all great. Cilantro actually contains linalool, which can help to cleanse the liver.
5. Add something sour
According to TCM, sour foods can help nourish the liver. Consider drinking a glass of room temperature lemon water daily.
6. Up your fibre
Are you getting 30 grams of fibre daily? In order to efficiently clean up a toxic liver, your bowels need to move. Consider taking two tablespoons of ground flax every day. You may also want to consider purgatives like soluble fibre psyllium, which can be safely used on a daily basis. Start with one teaspoon in two cups of liquid (best taken before bed).
7. Minimise your chemical exposure
Minimise your exposure to manmade chemicals and toxic compounds by choosing organic food, personal care products and household solutions wherever possible.
8. Moderate your caffeine and alcohol consumption
When you do indulge in these, try to opt for organic versions.
9. Get your sweat on
Encourage your lymphatic system to support the release of toxins through sweating. You may want to try a sauna, attend a hot yoga class, or simply do a good cardio workout.
10. Dry brush regularly
Use a natural-bristle brush to gently but firmly brush your skin in long strokes toward your heart, going over each area two or three times. Dry brushing is typically done before showering, and is said to be helpful in supporting the lymphatic system.
11. Stick to clean fats
Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and fatty fish are all good options.
12. Soak in salts
Relaxing in a bath with a cup of epsom salts is a great way to detox via your body’s largest organ - the skin.
13. Add digestive bitters
Adding digestive bitters to your daily health regime can encourage the healthy production and release of bile, support normal detoxification, and quicken digestion. Bitters help the liver to process incoming nutrients and filter impurities from the circulatory system.
14. Add ginger
Ginger can help your body to cleanse toxins. Simply add one to two inches of freshly-grated ginger root to two to three cups of water, half a lemon, and a bit of maple syrup or raw honey to taste.
15. Try acupuncture
Acupressure, acupuncture or Marma Traditional Chinese Medicine aim to relieve liver stagnation through the stimulation of specific points that target the liver.
16. Get some glutathione
Vegetables rich in glutathione – such as avocados, carrots, broccoli, spinach, apples and asparagus - help to neutralise free radicals and detoxify the liver. Increase your intake of these veggies, and let them do the hard work for you!
17. Seek out selenium
Selenium-rich foods such as oats and brazil nuts are excellent at helping to protect liver tissue from the negative effects of processing waste products.
18. Do a daily digital detox
Calm your senses and ease your nerves by scheduling some dedicated screen-free time into your daily routine.
The liver possesses a remarkable ability to heal and rejuvenate. Work your way through this checklist to love your liver today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Ward is an integrative health practitioner of Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine. The combination of both modalities equips her with a versatile and effective toolbox for assisting her clients. She started exploring the fields two decades ago, and has a special interest in dietary therapy, acupuncture, marma points, herbal remedies, body work, yoga and qi gong. For more information or to get in touch, visit www.beingelemental.com.