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Acupuncture and Liver Detox

42408081 - young woman getting acupuncture treatment in therapy roomIt’s always a good time to make a fresh start to improve our health, but Spring is especially good for renewal, for focusing on increasing our movement routines and improving our eating habits. Spring is often associated with fasting and cleansing traditions and we seem to naturally feel like lightening up and adjusting our diets as the season changes. Patients often ask about the benefits of cleansing or detoxifying the Liver, and what kinds of exercise might help them to lose weight and rebalance their muscle to fat distribution.

Within the five-element system of Chinese Medicine, which is a basic underlying principle in acupuncture, the Liver is associated with the power of Spring. Spring is the time of growth and arousal, when the life-force that was stored and rested over the winter is once again released. This process happens in our bodies, just as it is happening in the outer natural world. Think of the sap rising from deep below, up through the tree trunk to the upper branches to begin to awaken the parts of the tree that will soon make new leaves and flowers.

The release of this spring-like force in our bodies is the Liver’s realm, and this resurgent power is capable of flooding the body with Blood and Qi. The Liver has a regulating, coordinating role in the human body, and is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and Blood throughout. It releases energy and nourishment and guides the Qi into purposeful and graceful movement. When the Liver is functioning smoothly, we are generally free of pain and tightness, and our emotions are also relaxed.

Structurally, the Liver manifests in those parts of the body which give power, flexibility and grace in movement, such as the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. Strong and flexible
joints are essential for coordination and ease of movement. The Liver supplies Blood and through the action of its Yang partner, the Gall Bladder, it supplies Qi to the joints and helps to lubricate all movement.

The Liver system benefits from exercise and stretching. Walking is especially helpful since it brings Qi into all the muscles and tendons. Other gentle movement practices such as Tai Qi, Qi Gong and Yoga help support and develop the coordinating function of the Liver system, and helps lubricate and strengthen the joints. The Liver also needs rest and relaxation to balance its active state. It requires nourishing, clean foods to function optimally. The special flavor associated with the Liver is Sour. Sour foods stimulate the tissues to contract and release toxins. This in turn stimulates the Gall Bladder to excrete bile and help with breaking down fats in the blood. Dark green leafy vegetables added to the diet, combined with the sour foods cleanse the Liver and contribute Blood-Building vitamins and minerals to support the Liver system. Squeezing some lemon juice into your drinking water, adding a dash of your favorite vinegar onto some steamed or sautéed broccoli, kale, collards, beet or dandelion greens are traditional and very effective ways to support the Liver clearing itself. Saturated fats, over salted and processed foods, chemically adulterated and over-sweetened foods will all tend to congest Liver function. Green salads and sprouted foods will generally help the Liver.

There are many points on the Liver and Gallbladder channels which can be used in acupuncture to regulate the flow of Qi and Blood, or to tonify and nourish the Liver and Gall
Bladder organs, the Blood, and to support the muscles, tendons, joints and entire function of the Liver System.

As we head out of winter and into Spring, if you are feeling heavy in general, or sluggish in your digestive system, or having muscle, tendon or joint tightness or pain, or if your menstrual cycle feels difficult or dysregulated, it might well be that your Liver system is in need of a Spring Tune-Up! C’mon in for an acupuncture consult and treatment, and put your Liver in the best condition to support your Spring into action!

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