I’m so happy that Spring is finally here! It’s a time of reawakening and coming into bloom with renewed energy, not only in the gardens and flower beds but in our lives too. According to traditional Chinese medicine, spring is the time in which the liver and gallbladder need to be nourished.
Although you want to take care of your organs throughout the year, it’s a good idea to provide additional support during the season that each organ responds best to. For the liver and gallbladder, Spring is the best time to cleanse and build this dynamic duo!
The liver is the body’s second largest organ (after the skin) and its major detoxifier. Think of it as the body’s master laboratory where nourishment for the entire body is stored and distributed. In addition, it has hundreds of essential functions, including the formation of blood and its cleansing and filtering, breaking down all externally-produced chemicals, as well as your body’s own hormones – all to help the body eliminate toxins and ensure its continued vitality.
The Gallbladder is a small organ that stores and intensifies the bile that was created in the liver, and pumps it into the body and bowel as needed. To have a healthy gallbladder you need to regularly consume healthy fats. On low-fat diets, or when eating hydrogenated or other highly processed fats, the gallbladder doesn’t get properly stimulated to release bile. It can then become congested with stagnant bile that’s too thick to be passed out. Before you know it, you get a little pain on the right side of your rib cage after you eat.
The liver and gallbladder work hand-in-hand, so when the liver is sluggish, the gallbladder cannot work efficiently. On the other hand, when the gallbladder is removed, the liver keeps working without the appropriately timed release of bile. Unfortunately, there are around 50,000 gallbladders removed each year in the United States.
Once your gallbladder is gone, your pancreas works harder to pick up the slack by secreting more fat-digesting enzymes. Since bile is still made by your liver, it will continually drip into your small intestine and can irritate the lining, leading to other digestive complaints and poor nutrient absorption. Some of the other potential consequences of this are liver congestion with the possibility of gallstones forming in the liver, are Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and an increased risk of pancreatic and colon cancers.
Unless there is an emergency need for removal, I would encourage everyone to look at the alternatives such as dietary intervention and gallbladder flushing to naturally preserve a vitally important organ. If you’re already without a gallbladder, look into adding supplemental bile salts to help make the most of your healthy dietary fats.
But as far as the body and its organ systems are concerned, the liver is most in focus now as springtime energies stimulate the liver to cleanse the blood and internal organs of impurities. These impurities may be due to processed foods, a deficiency in enzymes, or environmental toxins including heavy metals, chemicals, polluted air and contaminated water.
When the body is overburdened with toxins or not functioning optimally, the liver may be stressed causing symptoms such as unhealthy anger, frustration, allergies, headaches, nausea, irritability, foggy thinking, muscle tension, skin eruptions, itching, and fatigue. In women, PMS, Fibroid tumors, and endometriosis are signs of liver stress, since the liver must process excess estrogens out of the bloodstream.
The Body in Spring
Spring is a great time to flush out toxins so that the liver can do its job more effectively. I know most of you have already eliminated foods that stress the liver such as sugar, food with chemical preservatives, food coloring, etc. Now you can begin to enjoy the abundance of fresh foods that is coming into season; and when you do eat, try to eat slowly, savoring the flavors.
The body is moving right along with the yearly cycle of rebuilding and cleansing various organs and systems, whether we acknowledge it or not!
Here are some ways to support your liver and gallbladder this Spring, allowing you to feel your very best.
- Move. The liver needs movement and so do you, and it doesn’t have to be anything difficult: take a long walk observing the changes going on all around you; practice yoga, which stimulates and enhances liver/gallbladder function; implement deep breathing exercises to keep circulation actively moving.
- Hydrate. Water is the most abundant macronutrient in the body, so drink at least ½ your body weight in ounces of water (spring water or filtered, preferably) to keep it replenished. Try adding some lemon juice or lemon essential oil to give it a nice taste, and nourish the liver at the same time.
- Sleep: The liver needs to recharge so it’s important to support it by getting to sleep before 10 pm, giving the liver time to rest and replenish its energy.
- Eat nourishing foods. Foods that nourish the liver and support the gallbladder are important, and there are so many to choose from. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Beets are great for the gallbladder because they are full of betaine which thins bile and helps it freely move within the bile ducts. Try Beet Kvass, beet juice or just grating and adding to other foods for flavor color.
- Eat bitter foods such as dandelion greens, arugula, endive, radicchio and other dark, leafy greens (bitters stimulate the flow of bile in the gallbladder, helping us digest fats).
- Eat spicy foods like mustard, garlic, horseradish – all of these are great for the liver and bile ducts.
- Eat sulfur-rich foods like garlic, onions, and eggs (if you’re not sensitive to them) as sulfur activates liver enzymes that help your body flush out toxins.
- Carrots and carrot juice are rich in minerals and beta-carotene that will support and rebuild the liver.
- Enjoy herbs. There are a number of herbs that are great for liver and gallbladder health. There are also some homeopathic remedies that can be used to help stimulate the gallbladder:
- Dandelion root is a liver cleanser that gently stimulates bile flow from the liver, and is often used by herbalists to help fight fatty liver, cirrhosis, estrogen dominance and even acne.
- Sylibum marianum, also known as Milk Thistle is a great support for the liver. It helps with the detoxification of poisons such as alcohol, regeneration of damaged liver tissue, stimulation of bile production, and improved digestion.
- Turmeric, a cousin of ginger, is a powerful liver protector and even liver cell regenerator, helping to stimulate enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins.
- Black radish is an excellent lymph and liver support. It supports healthy liver and gallbladder function, encourages healthy digestion and supports the normal elimination of toxins.
- Use essential oils. Using essential oils is also a great way to balance and support the liver and gallbladder. They have many different therapeutic qualities and the liver is able to organize the oils chemical constituents to assist the body, whether it’s by supporting the hormones, strengthening digestion or cleansing toxins, to name a few. When massaged into the skin with a carrier oil, they can penetrate into the blood stream, flowing to the liver for decomposition. Some of my favorite oils for the liver are GLF (Gallbladder Liver Function), Juva Flex, Juva Cleanse™ and Ledum.
- Try coffee enemas. This is one of the best ways of cleansing the liver, the colon, and speeding up detoxification processes in the body. Coffee enemas provide a means for your liver to “dump” its toxic load of chemicals and heavy metals into the intestines for elimination.
- Use castor oil packs. Castor oil packs can be a very gentle form of detoxing and liver support when used a couple of times per week. It’s also a really great place to start for people that just can’t get their mind around doing coffee enemas.
- Try supplements. There are several main nutrients needed for gallbladder health including magnesium, sodium, iodine, sulfur, and vitamins A, C, and E. Supplements like bile salts and ox bile can also be helpful, especially for those that had their gallbladder removed already. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach – you need to know which vitamins and minerals may be lacking in your body so that you can properly supplement. This is best accomplished through a hair tissue mineral analysis.
- Try to have daily bowel movements. This is crucial for a healthy functioning liver and gallbladder. Constipation causes toxins to accumulate and stress the liver.
- Recreate order out of chaos. Go through your home and office and get rid of stuff that you don’t need; have a garage sale or give it away and create the space for the new to come in – then allow those new things into your life.
- Let go of old resentments. Grudges and resentments are indigestible and can do damage to liver energy. Practice gratitude and forgiveness, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Take a risk and try something new. Think of what you would like to try, even if it seems silly or scary. You’ll never know how successful you’ll be unless you try it. On the other hand, if you don’t try it, it may be something that you regret not doing.
Taking the time to purify your body in the spring will bring increased energy, mental clarity and balance to the entire system. The liver and its friend the gallbladder must be kept healthy for a good life of vitality and joy. If you think that you might have liver/gallbladder concerns, or if you have had your gallbladder removed and would like to talk more about how to support your body, I would love that! Together, we can make a plan to help you feel your best this Spring.