Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Spring, connected to the Wood element, is the time when the liver and gallbladder energies peak, so our diets should focus on foods that balance these organs. The liver and gallbladder are in charge of regulating a smooth flow of energy throughout the body and mind. They’re prone to congestion (aka “stagnation”) when we ingest too many poor quality fats and denatured foods, chemicals, medications, and intoxicants. An out-of-balance liver leads to indecisiveness, anger, heavy drinking and emotional rigidity. Our body may rebel with symptoms like acid reflux, PMS, irregular menstrual cycles, migraines and vision problems.
Sour Foods for Liver Health
The liver directly benefits from sour foods, especially after a winter of eating dense, oily fare. Sour foods act as a solvent to break down fats and protein. In the spring, eat more citrus, kombucha, kimchi, yogurt, tomato, sauerkraut, green apple, kiwifruit, pickles and rhubarb, to name a few. Drink a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar daily diluted in water, or lemon water to support healthy liver function.
Spring has an ascending, expansive quality (yang). Pungent cooking herbs – basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill and bay leaf – are ideal in the spring because they also raise energy.
“Detox” really just means to alkalize and cool down the body, and lighten the load on the liver. In spring, make raw and sprouted foods a bigger part of your diet. Embrace shorter cooking times at high temperatures (grilling or light steaming vs. baking and stewing). Note: if you have loose stools/diarrhea or post-nasal drip, limit your intake of raw foods as they are too cooling for your digestive fire. Green vegetables, especially leafy greens, have a bitterness that drains excess heat from the liver. Reach for collard greens, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, dandelion, watercress, sprouts, cucumbers, broccoli, wheatgrass, lettuce, spirulina, celery and asparagus.
In Chinese dietary therapy, fasting or liquid diets as a way to detox are not recommended. Detoxification is instead achieved by “veganizing” the diet, and drinking more room temperature water, broths and decaffeinated teas.
To detox, also eliminate or reduce:
- Foods high in saturated fat: lard, meat, cream, eggs, cheese. Choose all organic animal products.
- Hydrogenated & poor-quality fats: margarine, shortening, refined oil
- Chemicals in food & water
- Prescription drugs (consult physician)
- Processed, refined foods
- Avoid late eating, since the Liver & Gallbladder energetically regenerate between 11 pm and 3 am
3 Teas for Spring
Even though tea is thermally hot, it has an energetically cooling effect on the body. Chrysanthemum tea is a medicinal herb that cools the liver and brightens the eyes to help with vision problems. Milk thistle tea helps protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury. Mint tea with honey is another cooling, and energizing alternative to an afternoon cup of coffee. It encourages qi upwards during this time of increasing yang energy. We like this one.
These recipes all contain at least three detoxifying or liver supporting ingredients. Happy cooking!
“Eat in moderation. Eat food prepared appropriately for the self and the season and enjoy a long and healthy life.” -Confucius
- “Healing With Whole Foods” by Paul Pitchford
- “Chinese Nutrition Therapy” by Joerg Kastner
- “Chinese Dietary Therapy” by Liu Jilin and George C. Peck
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
What kind of liver detox do you do in the spring? Do you have any questions about this article? Please post your comments below!