Welcome to Springtime! The organs associated with the Spring in Chinese Medicine are the Liver and Gallbladder. So this month we are going to discuss the basics of the Liver.
In Western medicine it is said that the Liver is responsible for 600 functions in the body. I have never seen a list but this could be true In Chinese Medicine when we talk about the Liver we are not talking about the Western organ necessarily because in Chinese Medicine the organs can have different functions. In Chinese Medicine the Liver stores the blood which is made by the Spleen from the food we eat. It is also responsible for the smooth flow of qi and blood throughout the body and also a smooth flow or our emotions.
As I said the season Spring is associated with the Liver. Also associated with the Liver are the eyes, the tendons, sour taste and the emotion anger.
Many patients come to me and tell me that their massage therapist, chiropractor or naturopath said to work on their liver but have no idea why or what could be wrong with them. It is just so common to say that everything is the fault of the Liver. If the poor Liver were a high school kid it would be spending every afternoon in detention and most of the time for no fault of it’s own. The Liver can be a big bully and overact on the Spleen and Stomach and causing lots of Menstrual irregularities. But not everything is the Liver’s fault.
So here is a basic break down of some common Liver patterns…the things we can rightfully blame on our Liver. This is not a 100% total complete list but it will give you an idea as to weather your Liver Meridian (not your actual organ) is out of balance.
1. Liver Qi Stagnation – This is the most common pattern I see because it is often caused by anger and repressed emotions. On the flip side Liver Qi Stagnation causes depression, irritability and moodiness so there is kind of a vicious circle that can happen. The repression of emotions causes the body to constrict and tighten causing pain in the chest, frequent sighing, a lump in the throat. When the Liver overacts on the Spleen or Stomach there can be nausea, reduced appetite, distention of the abdomen and sour regurgitation. When there Liver qi stagnates in women there can be PMS including breast tenderness, lower abdominal pain and cramping and moodiness.
2. Liver Blood Stagnation – Blood is made in the Spleen and stored in the Liver and when it gets stuck and doesn’t flow the symptoms can be dark blood clots in the menstrual cycle, irregular periods and painful periods. Non menstrual related there an be fixed, stabbing abdominal pains and vomiting of blood.
3. Liver Fire Blazing – This is often caused by an overindulgence of alcohol and fried foods. There can be a red face and eyes, angry outbursts, tinnitis, migraines, constipation and dark yellow urine. Over time a building up of Liver Yang Rising can lead to serious health problems.
4. Liver blood deficiency – This is caused often by a diet lacking in protein (The Spleen doesn’t produce enough blood to be stored) but can also be caused by hemorrhages. When a person has this syndrome there may be issues with eyesight, especially blurry eyesight and floaters. There can also be muscle tension because there is no blood to nourish the tendons. Other symptoms are brittle nails, dizziness, numbness in the limbs, muscle cramps and spasms and scanty menstruation or lack of periods altogether.
This is just a small over-view but now you know a little more about Liver patterns. So how can you keep your Liver healthy? To keep your Liver healthy it is important to stay calm, perform gentle exercises daily and avoid the over-consumption of greasy food and alcohol. Spring is the best time of year for a spring cleaning of the home and the body. If you chose to do a body cleanse are plenty of cleanses and fasts out there but don’t choose one that is too long or extreme because it will stress your body. And of course getting acupuncture always helps and you can’t get too much of that.