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Liver Health

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Three steps for better liver health

Fingers holding a green apple on a rainy day.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the foundation of Shiatsu, so I will be highlighting the importance of good liver health from a Chinese perspective and also from a Western viewpoint in this blog.

When a particular organ is said to have an imbalance, it is foremost important to recognise that we do not focus on that organ in isolation. Rather, we must look at the system as a whole.

The function of the liver in TCM is largely the same as in Western medicine. It stores, purifies, and releases oxygen-poor/nutrient-rich blood with proteins, fats, and carbohydrates back to the heart, where it is oxygenated by the lungs and then pumped around your body again. This could explain part of a Chinese saying: "blood has a circular movement, and qi has a forward movement."

The four important organs in TCM for producing and maintaining the quality of blood are the lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys.

Some of the symptoms that may result from a liver imbalance include:

  • PMS

  • Irregular Menstruation

  • Mood Swings

  • Muscle Spasms

  • Fatigue

  • Anger

  • Dizziness

There is a combination of three things that can be done that will help move towards minimising or eliminating these symptoms: diet, exercise, and stress management.

Diet is the first of the three tips for supporting the liver.

When I say diet, I mean a nutritional, healthy balance of food and drink, as much as possible. There is nothing wrong with indulging in a little of what you fancy from time to time, as long as you minimise the impact of products with high sugar and fat content.

You can think of it this way: If your liver has fewer toxins to filter, it is less taxing for the organ, and cleaner blood is able to move through your system, nourishing your organs, tendons, and muscles.

Studies have shown that a healthy flow of blood to the muscles of the uterus can relax those muscles and reduce menstrual cramps.

The genital area in TCM has an association with the liver, and the liver meridian, which begins at the big toe, circles the groin before ascending to the ribs.

“Tonifying and strengthening the body with herbs and medicine is not as good as strengthening and tonifying the body with foods, but tonifying the system with foods is not as good as not having to tonify at all.”

Food and Drinks

Beneficial to the Liver

  • Dark leafy greens

  • Flower Teas

  • Berries

  • Vegetables

  • Green Tea

  • Whitefish

  • Amaranth

  • Flax (Linseed)

Exercise is the second tip for supporting the liver.

Doing this is good for us in general, for the mind and body, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle. The exercise you choose does not need to be overly strenuous, but doing it regularly is beneficial. Long walks in nature, cycling, or Qi Gong are great ways to manage your health. It is also helpful for the lymphatic system, which requires movement to function, so it is able to move toxins in our system.

While doing a comfortable amount of exercise, from a TCM perspective, you are taking in oxygen (Air Qi), which combines with digesting food (Nutritive Qi). This is the building block for our blood. There is a strong connection between the lungs and the digestive system, which is made clear by the Tai Yin pairing of Lung and Spleen in the six conformations, or six levels, in TCM. This pairing is seen as one channel. Exercise brings a lot of benefits; find what works for you.

Stress Management is the third tip for supporting the liver.

This is where Shiatsu has an extremely positive effect. Shiatsu treatments help engage the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which places you in a state of rest and digest. While your mind and body are relaxed, this gives a greater opportunity for the stretches, steady pressure, and acupoints within a Shiatsu treatment to assist your body in self-regulation. When you feel safe, calm, and at ease, your organs receive the message that all is well, so they can function at their optimum. When they operate in harmony, this promotes self-healing.

Rest is ideal for your nervous system and for all your organs to self-regulate. Staying away from anything that would put your body into a state of alert, when you can, will be beneficial. It is interesting to know that your mind and body do not know the difference between real and fake danger. If you were walking down a dark road and you had all the symptoms of fear in a real situation, or if you were safely at home but playing a video game or watching a horror film, your nervous system would respond in the same way; it would send the same messages and put your nervous system into a state of fight or flight, which is draining.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress.

  • Anger

  • Unable to settle the mind and body

  • Irritable

  • Fatigue

  • Timidness

  • Withdrawn

  • Easily overwhelmed

  • Tossing and turning in bed

These signs and symptoms are linked to the Liver in TCM theory. From the TCM perspective, it does not necessarily follow that you are experiencing this because the liver is damaged. It is possible that experiencing these emotions excessively could harm the liver and frequently for longer periods than the body can normally handle, which could affect the Qi of your organs and inhibit their function.

The importance of managing stress levels and giving your whole system a chance to regularly settle down is highly recommended.

From the Western perspective, the detoxifying function of the blood from the digestive system through the liver is one part of the filtration. It eliminates excess hormones and chemicals, such as oestrogen, progesterone, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, making sure they do not return into the bloodstream. When the liver is unable to process these chemicals and hormones properly and they return into the bloodstream, an imbalance of our temperament can occur, and you may experience some of the signs and symptoms listed above.

Stress Management Tips

  • Shiatsu

  • Massage

  • A day for yourself (or as long as possible, once a week)

  • Meditation

  • A walk in nature

  • Regular rest breaks

In this blog, I have mixed the TCM perspective with the Western perspective. This is something I try not to do because they are different systems and have very different approaches, but sometimes it is nice to see the parallels.

The combination of diet, exercise, and stress management helps a great deal in supporting your liver. But please remember that these are only suggestions; you must always check with your doctor when choosing the right course of action for you.

Zen Shiatsu helps to support
and regulate your system.
While working with the physical,
It is helping the psycho-emotional
While working on the flow,
It is helping to restore
Zen Shiatsu has a holistic approach.
To maintaining your wellbeing.

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