Spring is upon us and already our activity levels are increasing. It is the time to shake off the dormancy of winter and make like a little spring seed, unfurling, unfolding and growing new foliage. I mean this physically, mentally and spiritually. Our activity levels naturally increase. Our connection with nature grows as we start to spend more time out of doors. Even being in the spring sunshine makes us happy and more likely to be a good human. We loosen up energetically and we take action on many fronts.
As the body shakes off the need to store more winter weight, the appetite eases. Paired with the increased movement of Spring, it is a natural time to lose a bit of weight. It is also the best time to support the Liver as in the springtime, with the unpredictable windy weather, the liver can get quite agitated. This can stir up emotional unease such as the inability to settle or to commit to things, manic behaviour, nervousness or agitation. It is also the time for internal wind pathologies to stir, such as pulsating headaches, dizziness, cramps, twitching, vertigo, tremors, spasms, itching and more. In Melbourne, we see high levels of hay fever and sinus irritation due our geographical location, topography and vast grassy plains that kindly provide us with airborne allergens in record numbers.
Supporting the body using foods that naturally reduce the effects of wind is very effective. Include in your diet oats, pine nuts, prawns, ginger, basil and fennel in the early spring. Later on, you can add strawberry, peppermint, celery, mulberry. Black or yellow sesame seeds, sage, coconut and chamomile are also useful. Avoid Eggs, buckwheat and crabmeat if you have signs of internal wind as they can exacerbate these symptoms. Wind as a pathogen tends to move around and have sudden bursts, like a gusty day. If your symptoms come and go and move around, wind could be the root cause.
It is also the time to gradually shorten the cooking time of meals to enhance freshness and reduce the warming effects of slow cooked foods. Overeating and eating foods that are too rich or greasy can cause sluggishness, as can poor posture during eating or sitting too long after. Being mindful of these things can greatly enhance our energy and how nutrients are distributed in the body. Filling ourselves to overfull and eating heavy greasy foods impacts the liver by overworking it. The liver gets sluggish and cannot do its work effectively. Aim to eat until you are 70% full instead of stuffed to your limit. Getting up after a meal and doing the dishes or going for a walk around the block is better for sluggish digestion. It also helps if you are prone to going back for seconds your body doesn’t need by shifting your mindset.
In Chinese medicine, we attribute good liver function with the health of the tendons, the eyes and the reproductive organs. The liver is also responsible for the storage and purification of blood. Problems such as red itchy eyes, inflames tendons and toxins emerging on the skin as acne or eczema as well as a worsening of arthritis can all be due to a sluggish liver. Feelings of anger or frustration are common when the liver is not functioning well.
To ease a sluggish Liver in Spring, we focus on including foods that eliminate wind and get the energy going. Try including herbs that are pungent and moving such as watercress, dill, rosemary, cardamom, oregano and pepper. Cabbage sweet potato, carrot, beetroot, mint, cherries are also pungent. The gently warming nature of fennel, caraway, bay and dill are great too.
In clinic, we make Chinese herbal and acupuncture prescriptions based on each individual presentation and can offer more specific advice for decongesting the liver and enhancing the upward and outward flow of energy that is natural in Spring
So harness the natural energy of spring by gently modifying your diet, focus on shorter cooking times as the weather warms (but still avoiding very cold food and drink), get out and about more and move that body to throw off the stagnant energy of winter. Use moving and invigorating fresh herbs and add foods from those listed above to support your body in this season.
Written by Kim Riley who is a registered doctor of Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture and has been practicing for over six years. Kim brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in women’s health, fertility, ivf, postnatal, pregnancy, teenage hormonal issues, gut health, the 4th trimester, Endometriosis, menopause, PCOS, nutrition and Chinese herbal medicine. She has a background in working in the health foods industry and initially studied naturopathy before changing paths to Chinese Medicine. This background serves her well in her work as she integrates her knowledge of whole foods, nutrition and supplements with her Chinese Medicine understanding.