Chinese medicine sees the liver as the most important organ of the body; “the general of the army”. It is called the gateway to the body, and a stagnant or dysfunctional liver can be the cause of many of today’s common dis-eases.
So what does it do? The liver converts fat soluble chemicals into water-soluble chemicals so that they can then be removed from the body via the kidneys and bile. If this process isn’t functioning well, toxicity builds up in the body especially in fatty areas where it can stay for many years. The brain and hormonal glands are fatty organs and are common sites for fat-soluble toxins to accumulate. Sudden detox diets can cause these toxins to be flushed into the system, creating emotional, psychological and physical stress. It is important, if embarking on a detox or cleanse, to actively support the body in the removal of toxins, using methods such as dry skin brushing, Epsom salt baths, enemas and hydrotherapy (hot and cold showers).
Common symptoms of liver stagnation are emotional problems such as anger, irritability, frustration, depression, impulsiveness, poor judgement, negativity and impatience. Physical signs might include eye problems, lumps and swellings, menstrual problems, skin disorders, fatigue, muscular pain, chronic indigestion, and nervous system disorders.
If you feel like your liver could do with some attention (most of ours could!), diet and self care is your most powerful tool.
1). Avoid refined foods and sugar. Sugar slows down the liver’s enzymes and inhibits stomach acid.
2). Eat fresh, organic and raw vegetables. Green, orange and red vegetables are the most detoxifying for the liver.
3). Consume good fats, such as flaxseed, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, fish oils and nut oils. Essential fatty acids support healthy liver cells.
4). Fats that can overload the liver include fried foods, dairy products, hydrogenated fats, and fatty meats – avoid these during your cleanse and limit consumption.
5). Stop eating when you’re two thirds full, a good practice to get into. Avoid eating until you’re busting your buttons, this creates more work for the liver.
6). Chew your food thoroughly, really savouring each mouthful. Enjoy a state of gratitude for your food and an awareness of its health-giving properties. Avoid eating when you feel stressed or emotional.
7). While cleansing, avoid alcohol, caffeine and non-organic food which may contain high levels of pesticides, insectic ides and other chemicals.
8). A healthy liver is supported by regular exercise which has a pumping action on the organ. Take a brisk walk every day, and follow with some cleansing breathing exercises.
9). Eat bitter and sour foods such as rye, romaine lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, alfalfa, radish leaves, citrus peel and bitter herbs like dandelion root. Unrefined apple-cider vinegar, which has strong detoxifying properties, can be used if the liver is really stagnant – add 1 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp honey to a glass of water.
10). Drink a liver flush every morning:
Juice of a lemon
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of grated ginger root
Water to dilute.
Mix ingredients together and drink slowly. You may want to lie down on your right side after drinking.
11). Take your last meal of the day in the afternoon. In the Chinese ‘clock’, the liver undertakes its cleansing work between 11pm and 3am so you want to allow plenty of time to process food before that.
12). Chlorophyll rich green juices, such as wheat and barley grass can be used, as well as spirulina and chlorella (found in good health food shops), and seaweed.
13). Try castor oil packing to support your liver. Drizzle castor oil on a piece of fabric and hold against the liver. Cover with plastic or towels to protect your clothes, and place a warm hot water bottle on top. Recline and relax – you might find you end up falling asleep but it is okay to leave the castor oil pack on overnight.
14). Remember to support the body in releasing toxicity. Dry skin brush your whole body, alternate the shower between hot and as cold as you can take it, finishing with a blast of cold. Take an Epsom salt bath before bed. Note down any symptoms and changes, and be aware of the emotions cleansing will help you shift as they pass through you.
15). The focus is on eating lightly, and caring for yourself with awareness. It’s worth knowing however that the liver is wood element, connected to spring time. It might feel better to save your liver cleanse until spring when raw foods and lighter meals are more in tune with the body’s energy.