A few weeks ago, nature gave us northerners the first flirtation of spring. The temperature climbed to a balmy 60 degrees in Boston, where I was doing some work. My down jacket, sweater, hat, and gloves proved to be burdensome. Then, as has been the norm this winter, nature retreated, and the following day the temperature plummeted and we got more snow. Quite frankly, I was annoyed. Enough already. For so many of us in the northern hemisphere, it has been an usually cold and snowy winter. And our bodies, minds, and souls are ready for spring. That irritation I felt is associated with the liver in Traditional Chinese Medicine. When spring comes, the liver gets energized. And like me, yearning for a break from the cold, the liver wants to get on with it, too. And what is the liver’s job? Cleansing and detoxifying the blood! So this spring, I want to give you a regimen that will align you with the rising energy that is so much a part of spring and rebirth. You can support your liver by doing the following:
- Upon arising each morning, cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a cup. Add hot water and drink slowly. You can “up the ante” on this by adding a dash or two of cayenne pepper. A touch of honey or Stevia won’t hurt, but see if you can get used to an unsweetened version. The sourness of the lemon triggers nerve and hormone activation of the liver, which enhances digestion. This is also good for sluggish bowels. Avoid all icy-cold liquids for a week and re-evaluate. (My acupuncturist has given me this advice for about 20 years. And I finally decided to follow it!) Icy-cold liquids shut down the digestive fire that is key to any detox and to optimal digestion. In hot climates, they routinely drink hot liquids for their cooling effect. Let’s all try this together and see how well it works.
- Have this same lemon drink at noon. And again in the evening.
- Eat vegetables from the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnip, and collards. These contain glucosinolates, which contain sulfur compounds that help protect the liver and improve it’s ability to eliminate toxins and excess hormones. (I love Kale salads, which are increasingly available in restaurants!) Aim for two servings a day.
- Spice it up! Add turmeric, curry, ginger, and cumin to your meals. These spices are excellent for your digestion. I love to add turmeric to scrambled eggs or tofu. It’s golden-orange color is the traditional color of the robes of Hindu monks. And adding it makes me feel as though I have made my food more sacred (and delicious). Curry is good with just about any vegetable or legume dish.
- Take five CONSCIOUS BREATHING breaks per day. Stop what you’re doing right now. And do the following: Take a nice long slow deep breath through your nose. Pay attention to how your lower rib cage expands. Relax the back of your throat. Hold it for a count of five. Then slowly exhale. Repeat three times. You have just helped your body metabolize stress hormones and put your nervous system into rest-and-restore mode. Nice, eh?
- Sweat it out. Your skin is the largest organ in your body. And the health of your digestion system is reflected in the health of your skin. You can enhance the health of both your skin and your digestion with regular movement, such as a 20-minute walk after dinner or dancing to your favorite beats while you wash the dishes or clean up a room. Try a movement break after each meal. Ten minutes is fine if that’s all you have. Regular use of an infrared sauna, steam room, or a BioMat is also very, very helpful.
Choose whichever of the above speaks to you—or do ALL of them. That way, as the sap rises in the trees, and your liver wakes up, you will be in perfect alignment with the newness of spring—and the rebirth of your own body and life! If you enjoyed or were inspired by this blog, please leave me a comment on DrNorthrup.com or on my Facebook page.