Woodford Files—Love Your Liver

The wild winds of spring are rocking the rafters as I write this column. It has been an exceptionally chaotic change of season this year – fraught with tornadoes, floods, and shifting political tides. Many folks are feeling the unsettling effects of so much turbulence, complaining of insomnia, back pain, headaches, and a generally heightened sense of anxiety.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, spring is “liver season,” a time when chi (life force) runs fast through the liver (like sap rising in trees or water running in the river). But if this chi gets stuck, it can quickly start to back up and cause myriad symptoms of toxic overload – ranging from backaches, insomnia, and headaches, to anger and irritable bowels.

I was reminded of this on Easter weekend. After stuffing myself with endless goodies, from artisanal cheeses to organic wine and free-range turkey (there’s nothing like good home cooking), I went to bed burping contentedly. But the next day I awoke with a headache, followed by a week of hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, and foggy-headedness. My Chinese medicine doctor quickly diagnosed the problem – a “hot” liver and congested gallbladder caused by too much rich food and long hours at work. Fortunately, acupuncture, herbs, and vitamins worked to clear the “toxic heat.”

Chastened, I vowed to get with a program that will keep my liver happy over the long haul, and spring is a good time to do it.

The first step is to lower my toxic load, which means reducing or eliminating dairy products, red meat, and allergenic foods (which cause inflammation in the liver and bowels). Next, I look to nature’s green pharmacy for foods and herbs that nourish and cleanse the liver. This is where cultivating a palate for bitters comes in handy, for it’s the most bitter of flavours that are rejuvenating to liver health. This month, herbalist Keith Stelling shares his favourite herbal remedies for liver flushing, and the star of the show is dandelion. Considered a weed by most gardeners, dandelion is among the most powerful of cleansers. So instead of eradicating those yellow flowers popping up around your yard, get down on your knees and taste them. Or try a stir-fry of dandelion leaves with olive oil and garlic. And of course there are excellent liver-loving herbal formulas readily available in health food stores.

Moving further south, bowel health gets the spotlight this month in Julie Daniluk’s “Fabulous Fibre” feature. Here you’ll learn of great foods that flush debris and congestion from the intestines, while creating a satisfying sense of fullness to sustain you through a busy day. Her nutrient-dense, high-fibre recipes will get your plumbing humming!

I know that many of those who read Vitality are compassionate, caring people, striving in their own way to make the world a better place. Considering the turbulence all around us right now, it’s easy to become stressed out and exhausted. So just remember one thing – in order to save the world, you first have to save yourself. Healing your body is a good place to start.

Julia Woodford, Editor ~ Vitality Magazine

(Note: Therapeutic cleansing is a vast subject. For more on this, type “detox” into the search engine on our website.)