Cleanses have become very popular over the past few years. Smoothie”ing”, juicing, and soup”ing” have all been en vogue…
But, which one is right for you?
Is cleansing just a fad?
And what does it actually do for your body?
Cleansing and fasting is one of the oldest health practices in the world. Ancient cultures observed that giving your body a break from the exhausting task of digesting food and toxic substances decreased sickness and increased mental clarity. And you still see this practice in many religions and cultures around the world today.
Energetically, spring is a time of year when everything is rising from a dormant winter. The same is true in your body. This energy begins in the kidney 1 point on the bottom of your foot and earth energy rises up through the body.
If there is any stagnation of energy or toxicity- this too will rise- and cause things like migraines, headaches, seasonal allergies, anger/irritability, and your typical spring cold/flu. This time of year naturally lends itself to a cleanse.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) spring is the season that correlates to the liver and gallbladder (LV/GB) system.
The liver is referred to as “the commander”. It has the biggest job of all the organs in the body and it’s the largest detoxifying organ in the body.
Your liver filters everything from the polluted air you breathe, libations you drink, foods you eat (even organic), normal metabolic waste, etc. As you can see- your liver can be quickly congested and a cleanse can do it so much good!
- Filters your blood: all roads lead to the liver. All toxins are removed here. If the liver is congested, this cannot happen and then toxins store in the body and create chronic disease.
- Creates bile: stores it in the gallbladder. Bile is then secreted in the small intestine to break down and digests fat.
- Metabolizes hormones: converts T4-T3 (thyroid hormones) and rids excess hormones (estrogen, testosterone, adrenaline, cortisol, etc) from the body
- Produces cholesterol: look to the liver to heal heart conditions.
- Promotes flow of Qi/energy into every cell
- Regenerates itself! No other organ in the body can do this (its such an important organ!)
- Rules the morning: gives us the capacity to wake energized and inspired.
- Opens to the eyes: red eyes or veins show inflammation in the liver- like after a night of drinking- and a yellowish tint shows liver congestion from stagnant bile.
- Sour flavor governs liver: tart berries, citrus, and fermented foods are very sour and astringent. The liver loves astringency because it helps to mop up the toxic load and strengthens the organ.
- Muscle and tendons are governed by the liver: chronic muscle stiffness, cramping, or weak tendons show liver congestion.
- Creative channel is governed by the liver and gallbladder. If you find yourself procrastinating, your gallbladder is stagnate and bile is not flowing smoothly.
- Anger and frustration is the emotion of the liver. If “the commander” is over worked- receiving too much toxicity and not receiving enough nourishment- it gets angry!
- Wood element is easily egnighted. So too much liver heat causes a fiery temper, create excess heat in the body, and can damage the heart and other organs.
In TCM, a congested liver is one of the most dangerous conditions to have. When the liver is congested it creates heat. Heat rises in the body and can damage the heart and even the brain! Chronic liver heat can cause heart disease, stroke, dementia, Alzheimers, and many other diseases.
Unfortunately this is extremely common in our world today because of the high levels of toxicity and most everyone suffers from it at some level.
So this spring, let’s support and cool down our hard working livers! Below are liver supporting foods and cleanses.
Liver Supporting Foods
- Dandelion leaf and root- Dandelion has an affinity for the liver. It’s a diuretic, moves bowels (aka detoxification pathway), rich in potassium, minerals, & chlorophyll. It’s a cholagogue (stimulates bile production), antiheumatic (inflamed joints), and bitter. Bitter foods cool down liver, heart, and body from excess heat, and reduces congestion and inflammation. You can sip on Dandelion root tea during the day or before bed. I like to drink a combination of Dandelion root tea, Nettles tea (great for the kidneys) and Holy Basil aka Tulsi (calms the nervous system). This creates a soothing warm flavor and I enjoy it before bed.
- Bitter greens- Bitter is astringent and is great for toning the digestive system. Bitter foods are great for the liver and the heart. So if you love someone, don’t give them sweet, give them bitter 🙂 Dandelion greens are THE BEST for the liver as mentioned above. But all leafy greens are bitter: kale, spinach, arugula, endive, parsley, and all lettuces.
- Cruciferous vegetables- Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, kale, etc aid in Phase II detoxification of the liver. It is always good to have have cruciferous vegetables cooked so that it does not interfere with iodine uptake in the body (especially if you have a thyroid condition).
- Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, tart cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, goji, etc– Tart, sour, and astringent. This is very nourishing for all of your hard working organs like your kidneys, liver, and heart. The astringency mops up excess moisture and toxins in the liver and also “tones” your organs. When we have inflammation in our organs, they weaken and become expanded. We want them well toned.
- Tart Cherry Juice– A great cleanse for the liver is to drink a 32oz bottle every day for 5-7 days (this is not a fast, just a supplement to a liver supportive diet).
- Milk Thistle– aids in regenerating healthy liver cells and repairs damage from environmental toxins, prescription drugs, alcohol, poor diet, etc.
- Cooking methods- When supporting the liver: raw, steamed, blanched, and boiled. This style of cooking is great for the spring/summer.
*All of these cleanses are meant to be done in a designated and concise amount of time. You do not want to take these on as an every day or year round diet. This would chronically deplete the body.
- Fast- Fasting is the best way to cleanse the liver. Digesting food is a huge job for the liver so taking 3 days off does a lot of good. When you get that “hunger” feeling in your body, that is the feeling of your organs literally wringing them selves out. Of course you don’t want to do this on a daily basis but setting aside 3 days once a year is very beneficial as toxins wring out of the body. Of course water is necessary during fasts.
- Master Cleanse– Drink only water with lemon, cayenne, and a touch of maple syrup. This mixture aids in the detoxification of the organs, alkalizes the body, and stimulates the digestive system. You can do this for 3-7days.
- Juice Cleanse- These have become really popular as of late. It’s another way to minimize the work your body has to do to digest food. But you want to do this in a condensed short period of time 3-7 days unless you are treating a specific condition. People can go wrong by using juice as a meal replacement everyday year round which depletes the body. Since fiber is missing from juice, enjoy a glass of water with psyllium husk before bed to encourage healthy bowel movements in the morning.
- Vegetarian or Vegan- Eating plant based is another way to take a large burden off of your body from digesting animal meats, dairy, and grains. It is very alkalizing to the system. You can do this for 7-30days or longer when treating a condition. *If you are low on energy, feel chronically cold, or suffer from adrenal fatigue or thyroid disease, I would not do this more than a week. Warming foods and bone broths are vital for those conditions.
- Tincture Cleanse: Dandelion Root, Milk Thistle, and Celandine Tincture- This is a slow and gentle liver cleanse for 30 days. Continue to eat liver supporting foods like the ones listed above. After a few days you might experience a day of unexplained anger, heat, headache, or frustration. This is the stagnant hot energy detoxing from your system. The next day you should feel very clear!
Enjoy your spring cleanse! You liver will love you for it!