Spring Health

Is it safe to say Spring is coming? Here in Antigonish we have certainly endured a snow filled winter. We may have had enough winter but mother nature has her own rhythms regardless of what the calender says. Nevertheless one day soon we will be out checking the gardens for those glorious first signs of emerging life. There is a certain feeling that comes with the first signs of spring, as if we can finally step out and allow our own rebirth to begin. The days are getting a little longer and a little warmer which in turns supplies us with a little more energy to ?begin again? just like the seeds.

The spring season corresponds to Wood in the Five Element Theory of Chinese medicine. If we pay attention to the natural world it is easy to see the Wood element in motion. The determination of the dandelion breaking through the earth, or a new born calf struggling to nurse under it”s mother, all are signs of the fierceness and power of Wood. With winter behind us we are reminded of the ability to begin again. To emerge into action with new found growth and vision. The tree is a perfect Wood symbol. Nourished by water (our winter element!) it grows endlessly under the right conditions, becoming strong and magnificent. A tree must have strong roots but must also be flexible. If roots are not deep enough strong winds can ‘uproot’ the tree, or if the tree is too rigid and fails to bend or sway in the wind, it may snap and break. The strongest trees are securely grounded and supple, they can adapt to the changing winds.

We can learn much about our own systems by watching nature. In traditional Chinese medicine Wood governs the Liver and Gall Bladder. So like the tree our Liver energy is bursting forth now in response to the change of seasons. It could be considered the official planner. Ideas and insights that may have been brewing all winter can now emerge, grow and manifest in the world. If our Liver energy is strong and unimpeded we will feel the urge to start things, a garden, an exercise program, a spring cleaning? We may feel the need to change something in our lives. The energy of Spring/Wood/Liver will support or challenge us to make that change. So like the tree we must have strong roots, yet also be able to ‘roll with the punches’ as they say. In other words if our long term plan has a solid foundation we can continue to grow despite the occasional setback. This the perfect time of year to act on that project you have been thinking about starting. Take a lesson from the tree. Stay persistent, you undoubtedly will run into strong winds, but if you remain flexible and keep adapting, you will continue to grow and thrive.

The physician who knows how to harmonize the liver knows how to treat the hundred diseases.

(Zhou Xuehai,’Reflection Upon Reading The Medical Classics’)

Simple Strategies

To improve your liver function add more greens to your diet. Green is associated with the element of Wood, hence green foods have a particular relationship with liver health.
For Chinese medicine the liver is responsible for spreading the Qi (energy). To enhance and support this function incorporate some daily stretches, this will help avoid a stagnant liver which can cause feelings of depression or frustration.

As the days get warmer be careful not to peel off too many layers of clothes and then get caught in the wind. This time of year although it is hot in the sun the wind may still be cold and remember the liver (or wood!) is susceptible to wind. For example wind invasion around the neck can result in liver headaches.

Because the liver needs to detox what you put into your body, this is great time of year to keep it clean. Overeating and processed foods are two of the biggest factors leading to liver congestion. Give your liver a break and simplify the diet with natural whole foods.