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How to Prevent a Fatty Liver

Spring Cleaning for Your Liver (a la TCM — Traditional Chinese Medicine)


Just as the environment adjusts to each seasonal change, so does the human body. The liver is activated in the spring, providing us the opportune time to enhance this organ’s health. Learn why the spring release of stored emotions is a powerful way to support the liver.

During the winter, we withdraw from the world to reflect, rejuvenate and rest. When the season shifts into spring, energy bursts forth, like bulbs long dormant in the colder months. As daylight lengthens, the inwardly contained energy begins to flow instead of being stored. Nature’s flurry of activity associated with spring is found everywhere, from newly composed avian harmonies to animal mating rituals. Projects sitting on hold jump to life and bodies that have been curled up on the couch itch to move. Spring is representative of transformation and growth, bringing renewed optimism, hope and life.

According to Chinese culture, humans are microcosms of the environment, and are equally affected by the change in season. The cyclical character of energy flow creates a predominance of energy in each body system during a particular season. According to Chinese medical theory, the liver and gallbladder systems are partners, and their energy is most active in the spring. It is logical then, that for individuals living with liver disease, Chinese medical practitioners put extra emphasis on initiating change after the vernal equinox.

Other holistic practitioners also recognize this time of year as pertinent to liver health. Nutritionists typically target spring as ideal for a liver flush, or liver cleanse. Eating vegetables that grow in the spring are recommended by dieticians to aid in moving winter’s sludge out of the liver. No matter what angle taken, the liver is most accessible for transformation during this season.

In addition to viewing humans as a mirror of nature, Chinese medical theory emphasizes the interplay of physical, emotional and spiritual aspects governed by each body system. Encompassing much more than the western medical model’s understanding of organ structure and function, each body system also governs emotion, cognition and spirit.

The cognitive responsibility of the liver is planning and the gallbladder oversees decision-making. When the energy in these two organ systems mounts, as it naturally does each spring, there can be two possible outcomes:

· The desired outcome is an active outpouring of creativity, productivity and release of negative patterns.
· The undesired outcome is energetic stagnation, or resistance to allowing this energy to flow.

Restricted liver energy manifests as anger, frustration, depression and irritability. Liver disease occurs or worsens when this restriction is not expressed or freed. When energy remains stuck, it coagulates, which hampers optimal body functioning. In nature, this is just like a heavy storm’s debris clogging a creek’s thoroughfare, preventing water flow downstream of the obstruction. If the obstruction is not cleared, more debris will accumulate, further preventing the creek’s inclination to flow. The inability to express spring’s active energy can lead to all sorts of illnesses including migraines, cystic breasts, digestive problems and even a progression of liver disease.

Because the energy in the liver and gallbladder systems increase in the spring, people often experience an increase in stress, anger and anxiety during this season. When an outlet for this energy is found, these emotions can be transformed into creativity, opportunity and change. Springtime is ideal to convert these difficult emotions through focusing on their movement and release. Nature provides us with this perfect time of year to spring clean our emotional accumulation. Feeling these intense emotions is the healthy first step, and indicates readiness, or near-readiness for the second spring cleaning step: release.

Emotional release can be achieved in many different ways, and each person needs to find the method that works best for them. Some methods that may be useful include:

· Engaging in physical activity
· Receiving bodywork
· Verbalizing emotions to a friend or professional
· Journaling or writing about one’s feelings
· Crying and/or laughing
· Meditation and/or visualization
· Using creativity as an emotional outlet

Regardless of the method used, finding the path to emotional release keeps the body, mind and spirit healthy. The natural instinct to spring clean our homes and environment answers our yearning to clear away the cobwebs (stagnation) left over from winter. When spring cleaning is applied to emotional health, our ability to plan and make decisions blossoms and we experience renewed optimism, creativity, hope and transformation.

From the Chinese perspective, the free flow of liver and gallbladder energy is the number one disease preventative, and the best way to guarantee health and happiness. Take advantage of spring’s manifestation in your body, and for liver’s sake, decide to do some emotional spring cleaning.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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