Spring Has Sprung
Well, it’s finally happening. Spring seems to be making its appearance after all this late season cold and snow. This is a time to come out of that quiet Winter hibernation, get things moving and embrace that Spring cleaning feeling both inside and out. Fortunately, you will get some natural assistance from the environment as everything from plants to animals to even the wind starts to pick up their activity which helps to get the ball rolling. However, it is easy to get caught up in all this movement and overdo it. Here are some ways to help support your body in shedding any excess without putting extra strain on your system.
During Spring, the Liver is at the forefront, which makes sense when you talk about its role in Chinese medicine. The Liver is referred to as The General of the body, it makes sure Qi and Blood is moving smoothly through the different channels and vessels and everything is running on time. Think of the different channels and blood vessels of the body as a big subway map, there are many pieces at play and even more opportunities for backups to occur. The Liver is the main organ in charge of making sure all of this coordination happens. If something starts to go off schedule, problems can quickly start piling up.
Due to all of these responsibilities, your Liver has a big job. It is often considered the organ most susceptible to congestion due to fat intake, toxins in both our food and environment and reliance on alcohol or medication – just to name a few reasons. When the Liver is overburdened its ability to keep things moving throughout the body is inhibited, allowing for even further disruption. One of the first signs that your Liver is in distress are feelings related to anger such as frustration, irritability or resentment. If these are popping up easily and frequently that may be a sign your Liver is working overtime. On the other hand, if these feelings are repressed continuously then feelings of depression may occur causing mood swings. Other physical signs of an overtaxed Liver are frequent sighing, ringing in the ears, tightness in the ribcage area, red eyes, inflexibility, tendonitis, PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness and irregular periods. To help keep things running smoothly we have some tips to keep your system running efficiently.
It would be fitting that the color associated with the Liver and also with Spring is green. Now is the time to take advantage of all of those new green shoots popping up and fresh veggies. On the earlier side of Spring they’re a little harder to find but incorporating foods that are still warming such as ginger, oats, pine nuts, fennel and basil get things moving while still keeping your body toasty. This is also a good time to incorporate more fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi and apple cider vinegar. These flavors not only soothe your liver but add good bacteria into your digestive system helping to diversify what’s already there which can improve absorption and eliminate any excess. As we move into warmer weather take advantage of your local farmer’s markets and vegetables including one of my favorite Spring greens – dandelion leaves. It used to be commonplace to drink dandelion tea in the Spring as a cleansing drink. Now that these are appearing in supermarkets you can steep them in hot water or sauté them. If their bitter nature is a bit much for you, add some lemon and honey to your tea or include other leafy greens with your cooking to mellow them out. If you’re prone to loose stools, start conservatively as they help to drain excess from the body but you don’t want to go too far. Another flavor to focus on is sweet, and sadly this does not mean increase your ice cream intake. Foods such as beets, carrots or sweet potatoes are helpful to add in to help support your digestive system and counteract too much draining from the bitter greens.
Normally Chinese medicine is a proponent of warm, cooked foods to help aid in digestion. This helps to break down the cell walls of the food so you can access the most nutrients, especially if you suffer from digestive issues such as IBS. However, in the Spring more raw foods, such as vegetables, can be incorporated in order to help get the system moving. If you find this causes bloating or discomfort, then light cooking methods such as sautéing or quickly steaming will help. Or pair raw, colder foods with soup or bone broth to help counteract their cool nature.
The main pathological element associated with Spring is Wind. While this sounds a little like voodoo, all you have to do is step outside within the past few weeks and you will feel it in full force. Wind often combines with other pathogens such as cold or heat, bringing literal colds and sore throats and it’s probably behind why you were always told to bundle up or you’ll “catch cold”. And while it is true that whether or not you’ll actually come down with something depends on your immune system and ability to ward off surrounding pathogens, not being prepared for the unpredictable weather can help to wear you down. So even though we can all understand the desire to shed a few layers, stay wrapped up until the weather fully breaks. Wind also is associated with transient symptoms such as tremors, vertigo, migraines and itching. Issues that can disappear just as fast as they reappear and can vary from an inconvenience to extremely severe. Be more aware of triggers during this time of year and stay in moderation. While this is the time to get moving, too much movement or excess can bring on symptoms. Moderation in most things is key - but especially in Spring when you want to get things going but not take off running just yet. Think a light, refreshing breeze versus a tornado.
This is the time to go to bed and wake up early, drink alcohol sparingly, get outside, exercise and take advantage of the fresh veggies coming into season.
Tackle a few cluttered corners and take some time to just sit outside on a sunny day to breathe and clear your mind. Keep in mind though that the year’s most active time is still to come, so it’s important not to overdo it. And if you feel a little extra stressed or on edge, this is common for this time of year. As everything in nature starts to emerge, look for some extra sunlight, a little Spring romance and just spend more time outside among others it can be easy for friction to build up and tensions to run high. Deep breathing exercises, stretching and taking advantage of the cooling greens will help to counteract those feelings. Take some time to participate in an activity you enjoy that helps to keep you grounded and focused.
If you are looking for some more information on how stress affects the body and how acupuncture can help check out our blog post “This is Fine”. Here’s hoping that going forward you won’t need to ask yourself whether or not gloves are still needed… Happy Spring!