In Chinese Medicine, spring is all about the Liver. The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, Blood and emotions. Any time there is a blockage or a stagnation of any kind the liver is probably involved. That can manifest as anything from physical pain to digestive issues to diaphragm constriction to irritability. Liver Qi Stagnation is a common imbalance this this time of year and manifests as abdominal distention and pain, sciatica, pms, irritability, depression and headaches.

Western and Eastern organ functions are very different. But when it comes to the liver they are surprisingly similar. In Western medicine the Liver has over 400 functions which do indeed contribute to the “smooth flow” of bodily functions including metabolizing fats proteins and carbs, converting sugar to energy (or fat), and perhaps most importantly breaking down toxins and removing them from the body. These days that is a full-time job.

We are exposed to over 100 thousand chemicals a day. They are in our air, food, water, clothes, prescription drugs, personal care items, cleaning products, carpet fibers, mattresses, and more:

  • 33 carcinogens are found in house dust and 24 in the air
  • 64-80% of people have toxins in fatty tissues
  • In a recent study OCDD, styrene, 4-dichlorobenzene, xylene and ethylphenol were found in 100% of people.
  • In 1989, 5,705,670,380 pounds of chemical pollutants were released into the environment. 30 years later that number has significantly increased

Our Livers are designed to remove toxins -- but not at this level! It needs our help! We can do this by eating organic, buying an air filter, switching to nontoxic cleaning products and personal care items, cutting down on sugar, alcohol and processed foods, avoiding plastic and more, but even so I believe that once in a while a “deep clean” is in order. This time of year is the perfect time to show your liver some love. If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms it may be time for a spring cleaning:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Sinus congestion
  • Postnasal drip
  • Excessive sinus problems
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Food cravings
  • Water retention
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Skin problems (eczema, psoriasis, rashes, acne, etc.)

Cleansing is controversial. Many debate its benefits. It is overused and often done incorrectly. I myself am not a fan unless done under the right circumstances and with the right support. But if done correctly it can be amazing! I have felt firsthand the difference it can make -- I just got back from a ten-day supported cleanse with the amazing Manu Dawson of Integral Health Food. I experienced an improvement in my energy level, digestion, skin, sleep, mood and more, here are some of the basics things I learned:

1. Cleansing is a two-part process -- Phase one breaks up toxins and dumps them. And Phase two carries the toxins out of the body. It is very important to create balance between the two -- if not you are just dumping toxins into your bloodstream to circulate and cause more problems. The goal is to slow down phase one and speed up phase two. So make sure you incorporate the following:

  • Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage and all cruciferous veggies help push phase two.
  • Ellagic acid, found in raspberries, apples, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, walnuts and brazil nuts, supports phase two. An apple a day really does keep the Dr. away!
  • Green Tea Extract floods the Liver with powerful antioxidants that help detoxification. Use extract not tea --Tea is good for you but not strong enough for this.
  • Glutathione is the most abundant antioxidant in the human body and possibly the most important. It is Necessary for phase two detox. It can be found in Whey Protein or supplement.
  • Turmeric helps during detox by flooding the liver with antioxidants.
  • Milk Thistle protects the Liver from damage.

2. You need Protein -- Protein is essential. Juice alone is not enough. Your body needs amino acids to make the enzymes necessary for detoxification. Without supplementation the body catabolizes its own muscle to get them. You don’t want that! So, make sure you are getting some protein with every meal. That does not mean meat! You can get the protein from Veggie sources like Chlorella, Spirulina, Hemp or Chia.

3. Drink lots of water but not tap -- you need lots of fluids to flush things out but avoid tap water! Some of the common toxins found in tap water are: fluoride (which is a neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor. You may want to find a fluoride free toothpaste as well!), chlorine, lead, mercury, PCBs, DDT, arsenic, perchlorate (which attacks the thyroid,) dioxins and more. It is very important to avoid these while you are trying to detox them out of your system! You can also invest in a good water filter -- but do your research and make sure it is strong enough to remove all the above. A Britta won’t cut it.

4. Cleanse your mind -- In Chinese Medicine the Liver is strongly affected by stress and emotion. As you cleanse you may find things coming up -- emotions, memories, dreams…. let them go. Your body and mind are connected, and both are cleansing! It is the perfect time to let go of what now longer serves you, of what may be holding you back. You may find yourself laughing or crying for no apparent reason. Go with it!

5. Cleanse your environment -- If you are not lying on a beach in the Bahamas during your cleanse like it was, it is the perfect opportunity to give your home a good scrub too! Get rid of all that winter dust lurking in corners and under furniture. Wash your curtains, get your rug deep cleaned. Marie Kondo the heck out of your closet. Make space for new things...

6. Do it with a partner or a group -- if you can do this it really helps! The process can be tough and having someone to reach out to can help you stay the course. Things come up -- you may feel achy and feverish, tired and light headed, emotional. There will be times when you want to give up. Having a support group to check in with -- to commiserate and laugh with -- can make a big difference.

7. Get moving and get body work. -- Moving your body and getting some body work are both important parts of any cleanse. Exercise should be gentle, not rigorous -- just enough to get blood and lymph moving. Acupuncture, massage, steam room, sauna, infrared sauna, Epsom salt baths, yoga and pranayama (yogic deep breathing) all help flush toxins out of the system. Acupuncture can be helpful to balance the nervous system, manage stress, and support your liver during this process.

LouLou Piscatore