"Spring Cometh" What your Liver needs
Spring is the season that bridges the cold of winter with the hot of summer. As a Nurse, I was taught to recognize the body’s inter-workings like those of a machine: “The squeaky cog gets the oil.” As an Herbalist, I now recognize that our bodies are part of the surrounding climate, and as such, experience seasonal changes- just as our surroundings do. In spring, your body “awakens” to the warming weather and moves from the cold, congested, condensed patterns of winter- to the heat, expansion, and open patterns of summer- from Winter’s Yin to Summer’s Yang. In spring the liver is busy “maintaining balance” and regulating other body systems. In spring time, as the body awakens, the liver is called upon to generate energy that “steps up” all the body’s processes. Your liver is your largest internal organ. In fact, it weighs almost four pounds! Your liver controls over 500 body functions: The Liver is the largest internal organ in the body and has a wide range of functions- over five hundred! It metabolizes protein; metabolizes carbohydrates and stores glycogen; metabolizes lipids; synthesizes cholesterol and bile acids; initiates bile formation; bio-transforms waste, toxins and drugs; produces blood-clotting factors and other blood proteins; and it performs important immune functions. The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate itself after injury or disease. David Hoffmann MEDICAL HERBALISM
It is no wonder that it is the largest internal organ in the body- it is super busy.
What does your liver need? Greens! Here in the South, we cannot wait to snip and eat our greens. As the world around us turns green, we tend our gardens and cook our greens. We sauté them, boil them, and throw them into salads. Spring Herbs are often taken as dietary supplements- not necessarily in pill form- but as actual foods that are eaten to supplement, augment and stimulate digestion. We are supporting the liver in its monumental task to maintain body systems balance. Keep in mind that many Spring Herbs can actually be incorporated into the diet and eaten in salads (bitter greens), soups, and as “pot vegetables” – greens such as beet, dandelion, chard, kale, collards, spinach, moringa, mustard, and sorrel. Herbs enliven the liver’s ability to wake your body up to spring. There are those that stimulate and support the Liver- like Artichoke, Burdock, and Yellow Root; those that soothe digestion- like Caraway, Catnip, and Mint; those that Strengthen Blood and the Immune system- like Astragalus, Boneset, and Garlic; Herbs that cleanse the Lymph and Kidneys- like Cleavers, Nettles, and Parsley; and those that have antibiotic and antiviral effects- like Garlic, Goldenseal, and Green Tea. All the above mentioned Herbs work with the Liver in spring time to awaken your body to the demands that summer will bring.
Whether you’ve been told that you have High Cholesterol, Elevated Liver Enzymes, Fatty Liver Disease, Dysbiosis, or Diabetes; the following ideas will move you toward good health. I don’t call this a “Liver Diet,” because the word “diet” sometimes connotes a limited investment of time. You must consider that these ideas may be a life style change for you- they are not time- limited; but are for LIFE. Combining these ideas will relieve congestion in your liver; increase cholesterol elimination from the body- decreasing your blood cholesterol levels; increase natural liver function; and help you maintain a healthy-sized liver. You may dread having to make changes; or you may feel excited to try new recipes. I hope you will feel an excitement that tells you that you are on the way to a healthier LONGER life.
Let’s talk first about what your liver loves.
- Leafy Greens clean the liver. Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts (see recipe on my website for B.S. you cannot live without!) Swiss Chard, Arugula, snow and sugar peas; and all Lettuce, except iceberg, which is not “green” enough. Southern leafy greens like mustard, beet, turnip, and collard; or kale and spinach.
- Red Beets make the liver very happy. Eat one serving a day in recovery…
3 servings a week for maintenance. Think of all the fresh blood flowing through the liver. Beet juice just naturally supports liver blood.
- Walnuts decrease liver inflammation. Your liver likes other nuts, too…almonds, pistachios, cashews… And Seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin, flax, sunflower and CHIA! (See my recipe for Chia pudding and Overnight Oatmeal with Chia on the website)
- Fiber increases your liver’s secretions. Oat bran, Rice bran (notice I do not mention wheat) and BEANS… such as lima; navy; white; pinto; black, red, and white kidney; and adzuki; red, brown, and yellow LENTILS; and PEAS… such as green, crowder, and black-eyed. All BERRIES. WHOLE GRAINS such as oat, corn, rye, teff, buckwheat- which is not really wheat, brown and wild rice. FRUITS with edible peels, such as apples, pears, plums, peaches, and apricots. Many of these contain pectin just beneath the peel- very helpful with overall digestion.
- Citrus Juices- Orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime contain Vitamin C that decreases overall capillary fragility; keep blood and body fluids in their proper place; and decrease the chance of Liver Cancer. Choose juices fortified with Vitamin C.
- CRUCIFEROUS Vegetables – those in the Brassica family- with “cross-like” leafy formations like Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower (see my recipe for Cauliflower “rice” on the website) Radishes, Horse Radish (Rosemary’s FIRE CIDER! on the website) Rutabaga and Turnip, Wasabi, and Watercress.
- WATER- is the most important component to the health of our planet and to us. Drink one-half your body weight in ounces per day. More if you are working hard or exercising; or playing in the sun. Drink: When you awaken each day; before and during Meals; before and After Physical Activity; and right before you go to bed.
WATER CLEANSES, BALANCES, AND INCREASES NATURAL FUNCTION. Lack of water slows processes, increases pain/ inflammation, and decreases skin resistance to bacterial invasion.
- HERBS that help: Milk Thistle seed, Blessed Thistle, Turmeric, Astragalus, Dandelion, Schisandra Berry, Watercress, Oregon Grape, and Green Tea.* Note: Roasted Dandelion root makes a great tea that tastes like coffee.
- COOK with GARLIC and Turmeric. Garlic helps prevent liver cancer, increases your body’s ability to fight inflammation/ heart disease and boosts immunity.Turmeric is a quality anti-inflammatory that supports the liver – in fact, all digestion- and decreases joint inflammation.
What Your Liver Wants to Avoid
- Protein…strains liver function. Limit your amounts. Build your meal around vegetables.
- Fatty foods like beef, lamb, chicken skin, shortening/lard, vegetable oils- Use Olive and Coconut oil for cooking.
- Salty foods (processed or pre-packaged) pretzels, chips, canned foods.
- Sugar- like cake, pie, cookies; and bread-like foods made with flour which changes to sugar during digestion.
- Fried Foods
- Raw or uncooked shellfish- can introduce toxins.
- Alcohol- avoid as much as possible- stresses the liver unduly.
In conclusion, in spring, your body transitions between winter and summer shifting energy (chi) and body processes- from deep constricted storage to outward surface emission. Your liver is the organ most involved with maintenance and harmony during this transition. Because your liver maintains balance of so many functions, its influence is felt throughout your body. If your liver is sick; you will be sick. If your liver is healthy, you will be able to resist illness. Combining the above suggestions
will make your liver happy
and your life longer.