From Lemons to Onions
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Ayurveda is India's traditional, natural system of medicine that has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally translated means "science of life" or "practices of longevity."
The practice of yoga was developed as part of the Ayurvedic system of health care in India. In China, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced for 3,000 years and includes the work of acupuncture, shiatsu, qigong etc. Many people today use some of these forms of health care to support and enhance their regular health care practice with their own doctor. In this article I'm going to talk about taking good care of our liver because in TCM the spring is the season of the liver. This information comes from some courses I've taken in nutrition for the yogi. As always, it is important to do what is right for your body - these are just more possibilities for taking the best care of your body.
The liver is the master commander of the entire body. Everything that we take in to our system through our mouth is first processed by the liver and it decides whether these compounds are necessary for the body (if so, passes them on into circulation for the benefit of all cells), or if the compounds are important but are currently in excess in the body (then it stores them for future use, example vitamins), or whether the compound is toxic and needs to be processed and sent out the body through the bile in order to exit the system and no longer be an issue.
A functional liver meets that demands of every day and then rests at night and prepares itself for the work of the next day. When the liver becomes overworked everything becomes backed up in the system (the liver is like a bottle neck where everything has to pass through to be processed). When we make too many demands on our liver (through poor diet, excessive stress, lack of exercise) we force the liver too work over time which then depletes it and can lead to imbalances and uncomfortable symptoms such as acne, fatigue, headaches, digestive disturbance etc. Understanding where these imbalances originate can be helpful because then we can then deal with the root cause and support a healthy liver.
In TCM the liver is associated with spring. The liver is the only organ that is capable of regenerating itself (if half of it is removed for a transplant it will grow back - the liver is the only organ that can do that). When we switch seasons from the dormancy of winter to the more active, coming back to life season of spring it is a fantastic time to focus on the liver to support it and maximize it's function for the rest of the year. There are some simple nutritional tips that you can include your diet to help support liver health. There are 3 groups of food that are beneficial to the liver and so eating lots of them in the spring may be helpful. The onion family is rich in sulfer and helps the liver to detoxify compounds that are not beneficial to the body. Good foods to include are onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives. Other vegetables that help the liver cleanse include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel spouts, kale and turnips. Also, beets and their greens are great to include in the spring as they contain a compound called betane . Beets are known for cleansing the blood (deep red rich colour) and in Chinese medicine the liver stores the blood. Including lemon in your water in the morning also helps the flow of bile in your body.
Finally, in TCM spring is associated with the colour green and the tendon and ligaments in our bodies. So, it is a good time (as the ice thaws and motion comes back to our world), to get moving. Simple exercise every day, getting out in the sun and noticing the all the greens coming back all help to keep your liver healthy.